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
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 have been.
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 forgive
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 anger.
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 all
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 horse.
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
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 free will.
Seeming afraid, Kat watched me for a minute before looking away.
"W-what would you want me to tell people?" Her soft voice shook with uncertainty.
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 mind. "Or..."
"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 idea.
"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 already.
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 way.
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