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The Tragedy of Brittany Taylor
By Eric Burns
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Eric Burns
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAs Jane pulled into the driveway of her parents' home, she felt a sense of dread. Borrowing money from her parents was the last thing that she wanted to be doing. It was humiliating. It was like admitting that she wasn't good enough, that she hadn't lived up to her parents' expectations.
Of course, borrowing money was not the only way that Jane was showing herself to be inferior in her parents' eyes. When she was twenty, she had gotten pregnant. It's not like she hadn't known about birth control either. She'd always told herself that whenever she planned on having sex, she would make the guy wear a condom.
But not the night that had marked the end of the spring semester of her sophomore year. She'd known that she had aced the exam that would admit her into her college's business program. She'd wanted to be an accountant ever since she was in high school, and now she would be one step closer to making that dream come true.
To celebrate, she'd gone to one of her college's end-of-semester frat parties. She'd never been one to take much interest in Greek life, but a couple of her girlfriends were going and she'd known that there would be plenty of booze there to help take off the edge she'd had that whole week because of finals.
Jane hadn't been naïve about the frat guys' intentions. She'd known that their main focus was to get the girls drunk enough to have sex with them. It wasn't going to happen to her, though. She'd make sure of it.
That's what she'd thought anyway. But after several beers and shots of tequila, the hot guy flirting with her on the couch had only seemed hotter than before. It had been all about that moment for her. Nothing else had seemed to matter. She'd been horny; he'd definitely been horny. And in the empty bedroom, with them both lying on the bed touching each other, the fact that the guy didn't have a condom—or said he didn't have one just so he wouldn't have to put one on—had only seemed to be a slight inconvenience not worth any further attention, especially since the guy had promised to pull out when he came.
"Once is all it takes." How many times had Jane heard that sentence before? You smoke crystal meth once, you're hooked for life. You huff paint once, you're in diapers for life. You have unprotected sex once, you get knocked up. And still, having known that having unprotected sex could get her pregnant, Jane had still slept with the guy as though he'd actually pull out before it was too late.
Jane had woken up the next morning feeling like a fool. The guy had still been asleep, thank God. She'd quickly slipped her clothes back on and headed back to her dorm to finish packing her things to go home for the summer.
What had the guy's name been anyway? Matt? Chris? She hadn't been able to remember. She'd never thought she would have gone so low as to have had a one-night stand like this, especially not with some douche-bag frat guy.
But she'd done it. And now she'd have to live with it.
Six weeks later, she'd thrown up. She'd seen enough movies and taken enough sex-ed classes to know what that meant. She was pregnant.
She'd thought about getting in touch with the guy, but it was the summer and she hadn't even known his name. And even if she had managed to find him some way, who's to say he would have been any help? Chances are he would have just told her she was on her own and gone on with his life as though the sexual encounter he'd had with her hadn't amounted to anything more than sex. And it would have been perfectly okay for him to be like that. Plenty of guys had gotten away with it before. It was just the way the sexist world worked.
She had, however, managed to get in touch with the guy. He had been friends with the frat guy her friend Carla had been dating. Matt was his name, just as she had thought. Anyway, Matt's advice for her had been to get an abortion. He'd wanted no involvement; it would have been too much of an inconvenience to his party life. It was just as Jane had expected. There had been absolutely no use in telling the worthless prick.
Telling her parents had been the worst part. They were infuriated, especially her father. The fact that she hadn't been in a relationship with the baby's father had made it even worse. As far as her parents were concerned, she'd been sleeping around with anyone and everyone; she'd had no respect for herself or her body. She'd become a disgrace to the family.
Things had only become more heated between Jane and her parents when Jane's plans for the baby collided with her parents' plans. While neither Jane nor her parents supported abortion, their thoughts on what would be done with the baby once he or she was born had been conflicting. While Jane's parents had had high hopes that she would give the baby up for adoption and go back to school the following spring as though nothing had ever happened, Jane had insisted on keeping the baby and raising it herself. She'd known that she wouldn't be able to stand the heartbreak of giving the baby up.
In the end, Jane had been forced to drop out of college in order to pursue a low-paying, full-time job. Her parents had given her a strict upbringing and would not let their daughter get away with bringing a child into the world and raising it while not having a job or the means with which to support the baby.
It may seem that Jane's parents had been unnecessarily cruel and insensitive toward their daughter. On the contrary, her parents had wanted Jane to learn from her mistakes. They had wanted her to become a responsible mother, a mother who would put her child before herself at all times. By refusing to pay Jane's college tuition for the upcoming years, they had left her with no choice but to set aside her own needs and desires for her baby's. And while Jane couldn't help but be a little bitter toward them because of this, she knew she couldn't go as far as to hate them. She was the one who'd messed up, and all they were doing was making her take responsibility for it.
Jane had managed on her own for nearly seven years now. While pregnant with her daughter, Brittany, she had been hired to work full-time at a local supermarket and had managed to save up enough money to get her own place before Brittany was even born. A month and a half after Brittany's birth, Jane had gone right back to work, putting her daughter in daycare aside from the couple days of the week that her parents would watch her. But other than that, Jane had not relied on her parents one bit. No money, nothing.
Until now, of course. Money had always been tight, but now, with prices beginning to rise on groceries, gasoline, and other necessities, Jane saw no option but to turn to her parents.
Jane's parents were expecting their daughter and granddaughter at their doorstep. Jane had asked them for the money over the phone the night before. And now, she had shamefully arrived with her daughter to pick it up.
"Well, hello!" said Jane's mother as she opened the front door.
"Hi, Mom," said Jane as her mother stepped down onto the porch and gave her a hug.
"Oh, and look at you." Laura looked down at Brittany once she was finished hugging Jane. "Jane, it looks like she's grown a foot since I last saw her."
"Yeah, she's had a bit of a growth spurt over the past year," said Jane. She suddenly felt a pang of guilt. Her mother's words reminded her of the fact that she and her daughter hadn't visited very often in the past few years. Once Brittany had started kindergarten a year ago, Jane hadn't needed her parents to watch her daughter anymore. Brittany was able to go to after-school care until Jane got off from work. But still, Jane could have paid her parents more frequent visits. For what it was worth, they had helped take care of Brittany when she was an infant. And despite how strict they had been with Jane, Jane couldn't help but feel that she owed them some involvement in their granddaughter's life.
"Brittany, say hi to your grandmom," said Jane. She knew her daughter to be the shy type around people she hadn't seen in a while. They hadn't visited Jane's parents in going on six months now. "She's just shy, that's all," she told her mom, seeing that Brittany's eyes were still glued to the pavement of the front porch.
"That's perfectly fine," said Laura. "Well, come on in. There's no point in us standing here like this." She moved away from the entrance to allow them room to enter.
Jane nudged Brittany inside first. As she followed her into the house, she could smell the aroma of dinner being cooked. It smelled like beef stew. Were her parents going to expect them to stay for dinner? She figured they might.
"So," said Laura as she shut the door behind them. She turned to Jane. "Is there anything you think Brittany might like to do while we talk?"
Jane became a little uncomfortable. She didn't realize that her parents wanted to have a whole discussion about them lending her money. Were they going to send her on a guilt trip? They'd better not. She'd worked her butt off these past seven years. They'd better cut her some slack.
"She can just watch TV or something," said Jane. "Whatever's easiest."
"You know what?" said Laura. "I think we still have that chalk set. It would be in the basement."
"Oh, the sidewalk chalk?" asked Jane. She remembered how when she would come to pick Brittany up from work she would often see her out on the sidewalk drawing anything and everything. She'd loved that chalk.
"Yeah," said Laura. "Do you think she'd still be interested? It would be a nice way for her to get outside a little today."
Jane knew her mom to be subtle with her words. She never was fond of the idea of Jane bringing Brittany up in an apartment. She'd made it clear to Jane that Brittany should have a neighborhood to run around in, with lots of kids her age to play with. Well, Brittany had gotten that here when she was younger. But Jane wished her parents would just be satisfied for once and mind their own business. She'd proven to them that she could handle being a mother, so why couldn't they just back off? So she didn't finish college; she didn't settle down with a husband and have her daughter that way. She'd made a mistake. If only they could let it go and realize she was doing the absolute best she could as a single mother.
Biting her tongue, Jane looked down at Brittany. "Brittany, honey, do you want to play outside with the chalk?"
Still looking down at the ground, Brittany nodded her head.
"All right then," said Laura. "Well, let me go and make sure it's down in the basement. And why don't you two come on into the kitchen for now?"
"Do I hear company?" came a voice that Jane recognized to be her father's. As she and Brittany followed Laura down the hallway and into the kitchen, they saw him coming up from the basement steps.
"Hi, Dad," said Jane, walking over to her father to give him a hug.
"Hi, Jane," said her father, hugging her back. "It's good to see you again, sweetie."
"And look who we have here." Once he was finished hugging Jane, Jack looked down at Brittany, who was standing right beside her mother.
"She's a little shy today," said Jane. "Brittany," she said as she looked down at her daughter, "don't you remember Grandpa Jack?"
"Jack," said Laura, stepping in front of Jane and Brittany. "Did you happen to see any chalk down in the basement?"
"Yes," said Laura. "For Brittany to play with."
"Well," said Jack. "I really wasn't looking, but—"
"Here, I'll go and look myself." Laura pushed past Jack and headed down the basement steps.
"Well, can I get either of you girls anything to drink?" asked Jack, looking over at Jane and Brittany.
"I'm fine for now, Dad," said Jane.
"And how about you?" Jack bent down, making himself more level with Brittany.
"Brittany, do you want something to drink?" Jane asked her daughter.
Brittany shook her head no.
"Well," said Jack, motioning for the kitchen table that the three of them were standing beside, "let's all sit down."
Jane pulled out the chair nearest her. As she sat down, her father did so as well. Brittany continued to be by Jane's side. Jane figured there was no point in her going to sit down, given that she would probably be going right back outside in a few minutes.
"So how've you been, Jane?" Jack asked.
"I've been doing well, actually," said Jane. "Just financial issues, as you know."
"We've still got them" came Laura's voice.
Jane turned to see her mother coming up the basement steps. She was carrying the chalk set. "Great," she said.
Reaching the top of the steps, Laura handed the chalk set over to Brittany. "Here you go, hon. You have a good time out there."
"What do you say, Brittany?" Jane said to her daughter as she took the chalk from Laura.
"Thank you," said Brittany.
"You're quite welcome," said Laura.
"All right, Brittany," said Jane. "So why don't you go outside and play. Grandma, Grandpa, and I have to have an important discussion."
Brittany obliged, turning and heading back down the foyer to the front door.
"She's so well behaved," said Laura, walking behind Jane to take a seat across from Jack.
"Yeah," said Jane, "she's usually more of a wild child." As she heard the front door open and shut, she realized that it was now time to get down to business. She hoped to God that this would not get ugly.
"So you both know why I'm here," said Jane, bravely beginning the conversation but struggling to look into the eyes of either of her parents.
"Yes, we do, and let me ask you, Jane," began her father, "how did you manage all these years without asking us for a single cent?"
Jane, surprised at the direction in which the conversation was going, responded, "You're not mad?"
"Why would we be mad?" asked her mother.
"Because I haven't lived up to your expectations?"
"Oh, sweetie," said her mother, "that is not at all true.
You've proven to us that you have what it takes to fulfill the responsibility of motherhood. We underestimated you, big time."
"But you guys have helped," said Jane, thinking of the many times over the years that her parents had watched Brittany for her while she was at work.
"Not close to as much as we thought we would have had to," said her father.
"I'm being honest with you, Jane," began her mother. "If I had gotten pregnant at twenty and been forced to drop out of college in order to get a job that pays just over minimum wage, I probably would have lost my mind."
"Then why did you put me through it?" asked Jane.
"Anger, fear that our only child was about to throw her life away," answered her father.
"But weren't you helping to throw my life away by refusing to pay my tuition?"
"We wanted you to take responsibility for your actions," said her father. "We knew that you staying in school and your keeping Brittany, which you insisted on doing, would not have worked."
"But, Mom, you said that you guys underestimated me. If you thought I was going to be a failure by dropping out of college, then why did you make me do that?"
"Jane," said her mother, reaching out to take Jane's hand. "We never expected you to be a failure. We just didn't expect you to be as shockingly independent as you have been."
"We knew that by taking away your college education, you'd learn," added her father. "You're a smart girl. We just expected you to have some troubles along the way."
"Oh, I've had troubles," said Jane, half laughing at how pathetic things had been for her at times, how it had often taken everything she had in her not to come crying to her parents about how things had been too hard.
"Well, whatever they have been, you've handled them like an adult, because neither your mother nor I have had to get involved."
"So," said her mother in a tone that sounded to Jane like it was time to get down to the crux of the matter. "How much do you need?"
Jane hesitated for a moment, afraid of the reaction her answer would garner. "Is a couple thousand too much?" she asked. She was worried that her parents had a different amount, perhaps a much smaller amount, in mind.
"Nope," said her father. "Just let me go and get my checkbook so I can write you a check."
"Why don't you and Brittany stay for dinner, Jane?" suggested Laura as Jack headed down the foyer to his office. "I've got stew cooking in the crock pot. I think it'll be ready in about ten minutes."
"Okay, we'll do that," said Jane. She was relieved that things had gone so well. She did not expect this from her parents. No criticism, just compliments. Was the apocalypse coming soon? She couldn't be more ecstatic.
After Jane endured a few minutes of small talk with her mother, her father came back into the kitchen and handed her a check for what she could see was two thousand dollars.
"Thank you so much, Dad. I promise you I'll pay you back as soon as I can."
"I know you will," said Jack.
She got her pocket book out of her purse and put the check into it.
"Jane, why don't you go and get Brittany and tell her it's time to wash up for dinner?" Laura told her.
"Sure," said Jane, getting up from the table. She was beginning to feel hungry now. The smell of the food cooking was getting to her system.
Excerpted from The Tragedy of Brittany Taylor by Eric Burns Copyright © 2012 by Eric Burns. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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