After Kat and I parted at the lake, our relationship became
nonexistent. She avoided me, and I did the same, knowing it was
what she wanted.
She was back to avoiding my eye as well, but I didn't think it
was intentional. Or at least, the motivation wasn't the same. I
knew she had too much on her mind now, to be thinking the same
way at all. On the rare occasion when she did meet my gaze, or
when I saw her watching Jenny, I hated myself a little bit more
every time, seeing the guilt and self-loathing so obviously
etched on her face.
Each time, I resented Jenny a little more too. This whole mess
was really all her fault. She'd been to blame from the beginning,
but even leaving that part out, she basically pushed me to Kat by
being so childish and spiteful. I might never have even
discovered these feelings if she was the kind of wife she should
I started staying away from the house as much as I could. During
the day, it was easy since there was always plenty of work to do.
But in the evening, when I normally spent time relaxing after
supper, I came up with projects that I had to do in the barn.
Sometimes I skipped supper altogether, taking a sandwich or
something I could easily eat outside.
I did my best to stay away until I guessed that Jenny would be
asleep. Sometimes she was, and sometimes not. At first, she'd
fake it if I came in while she was still awake, but after a
while, she realized that something had changed. Probably because
I wasn't even trying to talk to her or find out why she was upset
anymore. I honestly didn't care any longer. I didn't want to know
about the stupid things she believed to be actual problems.
She began trying to talk to me when I finally made it to bed.
Sometimes she'd be sweet. Sometimes she'd try picking fights, and
sometimes she'd try to seduce me. I guessed that she was trying
to figure out what might get some kind of a response because I
wasn't giving her one. I wasn't immature enough to outright
ignore her the way she'd done to me countless times, but I wasn't
much better. If she tried to fight, I'd quickly apologize for
whatever it was, making it obvious that I was only doing it to
appease her. If she acted sweet, I pretended not to notice. And
if she tried to so much as touch me, I didn't give her any sort
of encouragement. I did my best to discourage any kind of contact
or communication, claiming that I was tired or had a headache or
something else that she almost certainly knew was a lie.
Beyond being angry about everything concerning Kat, I was tired
of her games. If she wanted to know what was wrong, she could ask
me, like an adult. It amazed me to think that she probably had no
Although, I supposed I hoped that she wouldn't ask me. Part of me
wanted to tell her everything, simply for the satisfaction. But I
knew I could never tell her all or even most of it. Mostly for
Kat's sake, but also for hers. As angry as I was with Jenny, I
could never be quite that cruel. I would just have to be
satisfied, taking it out on her this way, and maybe one day I'd
I wasn't sure that I ever would though. Even after two months, my
anger didn't lessen. It grew. Jenny had given up trying to get a
response from me, instead looking worried and confused, and
acting more subdued that I ever thought possible.
The only thing I felt was slight vindication and that constant
I wasn't sure what to think, the day Kat slipped me a note during
lunch. She wanted to meet by the lake again.
I'd be lying if I said that I didn't hope that she changed her
mind about our agreement to keep away from each other, and what
else could she want? I doubted that she was anxious to discuss
what already happened, and if it was about anything else, she
could say it at the house.
I knew I couldn't give in to my desires ever again with her
though. It was too heartbreaking having to see her in so much
pain and carrying so much guilt. Anything more would only make it
After working for a while, I made an excuse about needing to take
care of something, and set off for the lake. This time I took a
Once I arrived, I left the horse and found Kat, standing and
staring at the lake. I had to remind myself of my resolve as I
approached. No matter what she might say or do, I couldn't give
in to anything I wanted. It was my fault that she even had
trouble with this in the first place. I had to be strong now.
"I'm surprised you wanted to see me," I said. "You don't seem to
want much to do with me anymore."
I understood why, of course, but it still hurt to be cut off so
thoroughly from her life.
When Kat turned to look at me, I knew that my guess about the
possibility of her changing her mind was all wrong. I still
didn't have any idea why she asked me here though.
"It's important," she said, not quite meeting my eyes.
"Are you okay?" There was more to her expression than pain and
guilt, I realized. Something was wrong.
"I'm pregnant, John."
The words took a few minutes to sink in, and even then I was sure
I must have heard her wrong. Pregnant? We were only together one
time. I was no doctor, but how often could that possibly happen?
Jenny and I didn't have any children, and our marriage had been
relatively good for nearly a year. I never even thought to worry
about this possibility.
Kat was pregnant? She would be an unwed mother. My best friend
and the woman I loved would be an outcast just about everywhere,
including her home, and it was all my fault. She would probably
never marry now. Andrew or anyone else. It was practically
unheard of, since most men didn't want to raise someone else's
child. The ones who wouldn't mind, probably wouldn't care very
much about the child's mother either.
I'd completely ruined her life and no amount of self-denial or
apologies or amends was going to fix it.
And then it really hit me. Kat was going to have my child, and I
wouldn't get to be his father. It was possible that this would be
my only child, and I was going to have to live on the periphery
of his life.
If things were different, this would have been the happiest day
of my life. It was the way things should have been. Instead, it
was the very worst and I'd never hated myself more.
"What are you..." Emotion was so thick in my throat that I
couldn't get the words out the first time.
"What are you going to do?" I asked after clearing my throat. I
couldn't think of anything else to say so soon. My brain hadn't
gone past the shock of learning about the baby, but she must have
given it plenty of thought already.
"What can I do? I'm going to have a baby." I hated the despair in
her eyes. This should be the happiest day of her life too.
"And what are you going to tell people?" When this became known,
it would undoubtedly shock absolutely everyone. Kathryn was
probably the last person on earth anyone would think capable of
doing this. If it hadn't been with me, so that I understood the
situation, I never would have believed she'd done it of her own
Seeming afraid, Kat watched me for a minute before looking away.
"W-what would you want me to tell people?" Her soft voice shook
I almost hated myself for even asking the question and upsetting
her more. Of course, she was wondering if I wanted to protect
myself in all of this, but I didn't care about me any longer. I
only asked because, knowing her so well, I understood that she
wouldn't want anyone to know the truth. If for nothing else,
she'd want to protect Jenny.
"Whatever you want," I said quickly, meaning it. I wouldn't care
if people knew the truth about me, and I'd gladly take care of
her and this baby for the rest of my life.
But I knew she wouldn't let me.
Her shoulders sagged slightly and she sighed in relief.
"Do you want people to know the truth?" I asked.
She looked back at me, shaking her head. "No."
"Are you sure?" I knew she would be stubborn about this. She'd
want to protect me as well as Jenny. But what exactly would she
say to people that they'd believe?
"I'm sure," she said. "It's enough that you'd be willing to do
that for me. But, for Jenny's sake, I don't want anyone to know.
Especially not Jenny."
Jenny. Of course. Everything was always about Jenny. I'd known
that she would be the reason for Kat's decision, but hearing her
actually say so made my anger flair again.
Knowing that Kat needed me, and not my anger, right now, I shoved
all thoughts of Jenny aside.
"So, what then?" I asked, suddenly wondering if she thought this
far. "I mean, people are going to wonder who..."
Seeing her surprised and horrified expression as her hand covered
her mouth, I knew that the implications hadn't crossed her mind
yet. I waited patiently as more tears streamed down her face
while she thought about it.
"Um...I don't know," she finally said. "Wasn't there someone who
left the ranch about a month ago?"
"Brent Murphy?" I asked, incredulous.
"Sure, why not?" Kat shrugged, looking at me curiously.
"I don't know. It's just..." She picked Brent? He was obnoxious
and arrogant, and I'd been only too glad to see him go. He was
only around so long because Larry insisted that he was a good
worker, and we'd been shorthanded at the time.
Kat laughed. "You're jealous of the man I picked to be the
pretend father of this baby?"
I smiled, scratching the back of my neck. I had been jealous, and
it was completely ridiculous.
She was serious again. "Don't worry. I only picked him because no
one really knows him here. And most people won't know even that
much. It's just what I'm going to tell people like Jenny."
My momentary humor was gone. "I hate to think of you doing this
all by yourself."
She glanced away and didn't say anything. I knew she was probably
scared, but she wasn't going to change her mind about telling
people the truth.
"Maybe..." Another idea came to me.
Kat looked back at me curiously.
"We can do things that way," I said, putting it together in my
"Or?" she pushed.
"What if no one knew?" If she would agree to it, and if we could
figure out the details, it would be perfect.
"What?" She asked, confused. "John, I think people might notice
something like that."
I couldn't help flashing her a quick smile. "No, I mean, what if
people thought Jenny and I were adopting a baby?"
Surprise and worry mingled in her eyes and I began to rethink my
"What...how...?" She didn't seem to know what to ask.
"What if you went away for a while and came back with the baby
that Jenny and I were going to adopt?"
"Where would I go?" She clearly wasn't sure about this.
"To my aunt Meg's," I said. "She's...well, she's a little crazy."
I smiled again, thinking of my eccentric aunt. "But she'd
understand, and I think she'd help."
Instead of giving me any sort of answer, Kat turned away. I don't
think she even realized that she was hugging her stomach
protectively. She bit her lip and stared fixedly at the ground,
looking like she wished that she could sink through it somehow.
Watching her struggle with the thought, I wondered if it was a
good idea to even suggest it. I'd only been thinking of giving
Kat a way out. I hadn't considered how hard it would be for her
to give the baby up. Especially since she obviously loved it
Of course she did. She was Kat.
But no, it was a good plan. I'd go along with anything she
decided, but she should at least consider this option. If not,
what sort of future could she possibly have? Or the baby? Life
wouldn't be much kinder to a fatherless child.
"Think about it, Kat," I said. "This way, no one knows anything.
You get to have a normal life, and so does this baby."
She could still marry Andrew or someone else, if she wanted to.
She could see the baby any time she felt like it, and he would be
considered part of a real family, with his real father. He'd have
Everything but his mother, my conscience prodded.
Kat started sobbing, and looked about ready to collapse. Pulling
her into my arms, I tried to comfort her and was seriously
rethinking the plan. If it was already so painful to think about,
how much worse would it be when she actually had to do it?
"Hey, this is up to you," I said, not sure what would be worse
for her in the long run. "It's your decision."
But I knew she already made her decision. The heartbroken sobs
she continued to cry, told me that she thought it was the only