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“Sybill, I know this might seem forward, given that I’ve met you all of a handful of times in my life, but I love you,” I confessed. “Would you mind if I sat with you at future games?”

“I’d love a little company that isn’t my mama or a spawn of mine.”

“Sweet. I’ll talk to Jude about scoring me some tickets with you, because I don’t think I can handle this Barbie brigade for the rest of the season.”

“I’m sure he won’t have a problem getting you a ticket. Deon started me out up here, too.” She laughed, looking lost in a memory. “Lord knows I love that man, but sometimes he’s just too damn overprotective.”

“I know the feeling.”

“Jude said you’ve been real busy this week, being back to school and all. How have you been holding up?”

The waterworks were twisting on. That one question could reduce me to a near blubbering mess was further evidence that I was an emotional, hormonal wreck.

“Not bad,” I said, looking away.

“But not so great either, eh?” Sybill asked.

I’d gone from being happy at seeing her to wishing she’d leave in the span of a couple questions.

“Not so great, either,” I admitted.

“So . . .” She twisted in her seat to face me. Her eyes dropped to my stomach. “How far along are you, sweetie?”

I wasn’t sure if my mouth or my tears dropped first.

“It’s all right, baby,” she said, reaching for my hand.

“How did you know?” I asked, peering around the room. No one was paying us any attention. I doubted they’d pay us any attention if I got na**d and started doing jumping jacks.

“I’ve been pregnant so many times in my life, Lucy, I can tell when a woman’s pregnant before she can.”

I stared at my stomach. I wasn’t showing. Yet. But I would be soon. The doctor had said I could expect a bump to start popping through in the next month. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret any longer.

“So?” she asked when I stayed quiet.

“I’m almost four months,” I said, feeling lighter just having admitted it to someone.

“And I take it that since Jude wasn’t bragging and going on about this precious little baby earlier, he doesn’t know yet?”

I shook my head. “Does that make me a horrible person?”

“Oh, Lucy, of course it doesn’t, sweetie.” Sybill draped her arm around my shoulders and tucked my head beneath her chin. She couldn’t have been more than ten years older than me, but the gesture was so nurturing, it was clear she’d been a mom for a while. “It makes you a scared person. A worried person. But not a horrible one. Not even close.”

“Then why do I feel like a horrible person?” I said, choking on a sob.

“Do you feel that way because you’re pregnant or because you haven’t told Jude yet?” She continued to hold me close and wouldn’t let me pull away. I stopped trying.

“Both,” I admitted.

“Can I ask why you haven’t told Jude yet?”

“I don’t really know,” I said. “I’m scared to tell him, I guess. I’m scared of what his reaction will be. I’m scared that his feelings might change. I’m scared that he might not be ready to be a dad yet. I’m scared he won’t want some fat college dropout when he’s . . .” I waved down at the field, where kickoff was getting under way. “Everything he is.”

Sybill sighed while I shed a few tears. When we should have been on our feet cheering, we were curled around each other, one trying to hold the other together.

“I know what it’s like to be scared, Lucy. God knows I know,” she said, watching the field with me. “I’m going to tell you a story. It’s no fairy tale, but it has a happy ending. And I’m something of an expert on it, since it’s my story.” She paused and took a sip of her soda. “Deon and I met when we were in college. Lord, I loved that man the moment I saw him, but . . . he didn’t exactly see me. Not at first, anyways,” she said, laughing to herself. “One night we were both at the same party and, thanks to my cousin lending me a teeny little dress and showing me what mascara was, Deon and I wound up dancing. After a few dances, we were kissing. And after what felt like a few hours of kissing, we were losing clothes and looking for an empty bedroom. We had sex that night. It was my first time, and I was kind of horrified the next morning that it had been with some guy I barely knew during a drunken, wild party.”

She was right: This definitely wasn’t sounding like a fairy tale, but I loved it. I loved her story. I loved the way her voice was all soft when she told it.

“I made it my mission to avoid Deon at all costs after I woke up that morning. And it worked. For all of a day.” She laughed. “That boy went on a crusade asking anyone in passing if they knew the girl he’d been with the night before. Of course, very few in his inner circle did, because I was a loser to their elite status. He’d surreptitiously “run into” my cousin at the cafeteria that night, and she gave him my phone number, what dorm I lived in, my birthday. Hell, practically everything but my social security number. So he shows up at my door, flowers in hand, with those huge puppy-dog eyes of his, begging me to let him take me out on a date. A real date.”

I was starting to smile at this point. God, this story was different from, yet the same as, mine and Jude’s.

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