“So we went out on that first date, and a second and a third. We started spending every free minute we had together. It was something I knew was special, something I knew was meant to last forever. Two months later Deon got drafted. We were ecstatic, and he proposed to me that same day. I was living every girl’s dream, as far as I was concerned, and then I found out I was pregnant.”
Yep. This was very similar to Jude’s and my story. So much so that I almost pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
“I was sure Deon was going to leave me. Why would he want to be strapped to a quirky pregnant girl when he’d just signed a huge NFL contract? I didn’t tell him at first. I didn’t want the fairy tale to end. I didn’t tell him until I started to show. I remember being so scared I almost passed out.” A few more tears leaked out of my eyes. “I told him the night after his first game. I even had a good-bye all ready to go. And you know what he said right after I told him? What the first words out of his mouth were when I told him his nineteen-year-old girlfriend he’d been with for five months was pregnant?” Sybill must have started crying along the way, too, because I felt a tear land on my forehead. “He said, ‘I always wanted a big family. I guess it’s a good thing we got started early.’” She shook her head and laughed. “Then he told me he loved me and we got married a whole month later. And, ten years and four kids later, the rest is history,” she said, sweeping her hand down at the field.
“Did you have to drop out of school?” I asked, realizing Sybill was the best possible person I could turn to for advice.
“I dropped out of school because I wanted to be with Deon and spend time with the baby. But I was able to take online courses and managed to get my degree along the way.”
“Do you ever regret it?” I whispered. “Getting pregnant? Dropping out? Giving up on your dreams?”
“Not one single day,” she said. “I’ve never regretted any of it. I don’t live with regret, Lucy. It’s poison. Did I mourn for certain things I felt I missed out on? Hell yes, I did. But if I stacked up everything I feel I missed out on and compared it to everything I gained along the way, there’s a teeny-tiny pile of what-could-have-been standing in the shadow of a never-ending tower of what-has-beens.”
I was no longer crying an occasional tear. I was a sobbing, hot mess.
“Yes, I’ve missed out on things. But that’s life, Lucy. It’s what I haven’t missed out on that counts in my book. When I look at my family’s faces, I know I wouldn’t change a damn thing if I had the choice.”
“So you’re saying I should keep the baby, tell Jude, and we should raise it together?” I asked in between sobs. I wasn’t sure if anyone had noticed the bawling girl in the corner, and I wouldn’t have cared at this point.
“No, I’m not saying that. You’re the only one who can make those decisions,” she said, “but I know when you’re ready to make them, you’ll make the right decisions for you.”
I didn’t know who or which divine entity had brought Sybill up to the skybox tonight, but I was thanking whatever it was. I felt about a million times better and a thousand pounds lighter. I didn’t have the answers yet, but I wasn’t terrified of them anymore.
“Thank you, Sybill,” I said, wiping my eyes with the back of my arm. “I mentioned I loved you earlier, right?”
“You’re welcome, baby girl,” she said, giving my shoulders one more squeeze before rising. “And I’m sending a whole lot of love right back at you. Now I really got to get to my mama before she has a nervous breakdown, but if you ever want to talk, just give me a ring, okay?”
I nodded. “Okay.”
“You good?” she said, looking around the room. The game had started, and still no one was watching. The mercy was that no one was watching me either.
“Yeah, I’m good.” For the first time this week, it was the only time I’d answered this question without lying.
“I expect to see you down with us at the next game. You got it?” she said, grabbing another cola as she headed for the door. “I need all the help I can get.”
“I’ll be there,” I said, “and I’m pretty darn good with kiddos.”
Sybill gave me a knowing smile. “I can picture that, Lucy Larson. I can picture that.” She flashed a wave before heading out.
Everyone was still busy talking about whatever was so important that they couldn’t interrupt themselves to watch the football game, and, while they were all clustered around the food table, no one was eating anything.
My stomach rumbled. Crackers and soda were not an especially filling diet. For the first time this week, I had a craving when my eyes landed on the fruit bowl. I knew I might regret it, but I wanted an apple. Popping up, I weaved through a few bodies to get to my coveted apple. I made my way back to my seat just as Jude was taking the field.
I forgot about the apple. I forgot about everything but him crouching into position. It didn’t seem possible that four years ago he’d been a reluctant walk-on high school player, and here he was, about to make his first play in the big league.
I reminded myself to breathe.
The center hiked; Jude caught it effortlessly and stalled for a couple seconds, giving his receivers time to get into position. His arm snapped back and when he released that ball, I started shouting. Cheering my head off. It had a good few seconds of hang time, but I knew it would land right where Jude intended it to land. I’d watched enough games of his to know he rarely, if ever, missed his mark.