Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay
Joshua and Hadassah decided to tell his parents as soon as possible. Gill and I both believed we needed to go to their house, just as we'd made Joshua come to ours to tell us – we, because both Joshua and Hadassah wanted Gill and me both to be with them. Now that we knew, Hadassah was drawing on us for support, and truthfully we were glad to give it. However much we might still be hurt and in shock, and angry too, we weren't carrying near the burden she was. We were the parents of the pregnant girl – she was the one who had to look people in the eye and say "I'm pregnant."
I called the Benitez' house after Joshua left, and arranged to meet them and Joshua there after lunch the next day. I would have preferred to do it immediately after church, but that would have interfered with both families' lunch, and I had no wish to do that.
I confess that I couldn't entirely focus on the sermon the next morning. William Fuentes preached that morning, as the other elders were doing more and more as the founding pastor, Tyrone Jackman, came very near to his long-awaited retirement. I fully expected him to retire within the next year, and while I would miss him – we were founding members, not that the church has a formal membership, and remembered when Tyrone had been the church's only pastor.
I'm sure that Brother Fuentes did a good job, but I couldn't tell you after the service finished a single thing he'd said. I didn't think Gill or Hadassah could have either; they both looked a bit shell-shocked, not quite a thousand-yard stare, but not a focused look either. We went to the Denny's across the street, and contrived to eat something, but though I found my plate empty I had little memory of actually eating whatever had been there.
It was, finally, time, and we drove over to the Benitez' house. Gill and I held Hadassah's hands as we went up the walk, and I pushed the doorbell with a finger that, I saw, trembled slightly. We'd known the Benitezes for half a dozen years, since they'd enrolled Joshua in Calvin Academy, and I wasn't completely sure of their flexibility. While we waited I looked around, but didn't notice whether birds were singing, or the grass was green, or Spiderman was crawling up the walls of the house.
George answered the door and ushered us in. He led us to the family room, as they called it, and showed us to seats on the sofa – Hadassah, again, between me and Gill. George and his wife, Patricia, sat in matching leather recliners, though not reclining, while Joshua stood nervously beside his father's chair. George had taken off his coat, but was still in his red tie and white shirt, and pin-striped pants. Patricia was wearing a canary yellow pantsuit, with a brooch in the shape of a dove just below her left shoulder. They were both a little older than Gill and I, for Joshua was the youngest of their four children, and George's hair was almost completely gray. Patricia's hair was brunette, but I suspected the color came from a bottle.
"We're here," I said after we'd settled in and gotten through the pleasantries, "because Hadassah and Joshua have something they need to tell you."
George looked up at his son. "What is this, Josh?"
The young man moved around so he could see his parents and they could see him. "Mother, Dad, it's ... well, Hadassah's pregnant, and I'm the father."
"What!" George exploded out of his chair, while Patricia let out a sort of wail. "What do you think you're doing?"
"I was being stupid, Dad. I was very stupid, and I got Hadassah into a bad situation, and now I'm being as grownup as I can be. I'm telling you about it, instead of letting you find out through gossip—"
"Shut up, Josh, just shut up. Do you realize what you've done to your mother?"
"I know I've hurt her—"
"You bet you've hurt her! You've destroyed her! What are our friends going to think?" George's face was red as he shouted at his son, and his hands were fists at his side.
"I know that they'll look ... look at you differently, at least for a while. But I'm worried about Hadassah—"
"Oh, can it!" George seemed to have a knack for cutting his son off. "That floozy is something we can deal with. But your reputation – our reputation—" He also seemed to think a lot more of his reputation than of his son's distress.
"George," I put in. "It's been a long time since I heard 'floozy, ' but however old a word it is, you will retract it with regard to my daughter."
"I will not. She clearly seduced my son, led him into sin, got him into a position he couldn't get out of—"
"George, you will retract that."
"I know you've got to defend her." He flipped a hand, dismissing my daughter, me, and my defense of her, and turned back to Joshua. "Young man, you'll go up to your room now and you'll stay there till I tell you to come down."
The boy went, with a look of misery on his face and his shoulders slumped in defeat. I thought he should have stood up a little harder, but George was his father, and evidently a hard one. I wasn't, however, ready to go to my room or anywhere else. "George, I have asked you to retract your description of my daughter. I'm asking again."
He sat down, while his wife wrung her hands beside him. "What will we do, George?" she asked.