Monday, February 28, 2011

CHAPTER SEVEN: The Who-What-When-Where-How Ronda Got Pregnant"

Ronda knows for certain when she got pregnant. And she knows exactly where she was.


It was in May, the weekend of the 13th and 14th.

They stayed at the Beach Rose, a tiny bed and breakfast tucked into a grey-shingled cottage on a narrow side street. Looking back now, she is convinced that she tempted fate. That she invited disaster by abandoning her family and spending the better part of Mother's Day weekend with her lover. Glued to Jesús for two days, naked in bed.
They left the Berkshires on Friday afternoon. She told Ben over breakfast that morning that she and Karen had decided at the last minute to go away for the weekend. That what she needed most for Mother's Day was two days of R & R. "And so we're driving up to Hyannis, just the two of us." She smiled smugly. Shrugged.

Ben sat at the table. Drained the coffee from his mug. He scratched the thin spot in his hair with two fingers.

"I guess if that's what you want." He was preoccupied, reading over a paper he was preparing for a seminar the following week. A panel discussion on Kant. The paper wasn't going the way he wanted it to. He rumpled his forehead. "But Ronda, I was hoping to take you out for dinner at least."

She stood, walked around behind him. Leaned over, casually draped her arms across his chest, laid a dry kiss on his brow. "You can take me out to dinner next weekend, honey. I'll even make the reservations. Maybe the River Inn?"

As soon as Ben packed up his briefcase and left, Ronda called Karen. Asked her if she would mind driving over, picking up Ronda just after three so that Jack would be there to see her leave with Karen. Presumably, he'd convey that information back to Ben.

When Jack stepped off the school bus at the corner, Ronda was waiting, watching nervously from an upstairs window. He opened the front door and she paraded casually down the stairs into the living room with her duffel. Jack dropped his backpack on the floor and went to the kitchen.

"I'll be going shortly, honey," she said, trailing him. "Karen should be here any minute."
Jack nodded and opened the refrigerator. "Okay, have fun."

"Thanks, honey," she said. Her stomach twisted ever so slightly. She couldn't remember a time when she had lied to her son.

"Can I make you a sandwich?" Her voice was calm but her palms were sweaty. She ran the faucet, slipped her hands into the stream of water.

"I can do it. You do realize that in four months I'll be a freshman at Vassar?" He grinned. "Go wait for Karen." He took two slices of bread out of a bag and spread one of them with peanut butter. She remained in the kitchen.

"So, Jack," she said, taking a plate out of the cabinet and setting it next to his bread. "Please tell your father that we might not be back until very late Sunday night. I mean it might even be after midnight."

"Right, Mom." He was slicing a banana now and laying the chunks side by side on top of the peanut butter.

"And also, tell him that Karen and I probably won't call. I mean, the point is we want to be all by ourselves. No responsibilities." She inhaled slowly. God was there no end to these lies?

"Sure, Mom," he said, stuffing one piece of bread into his mouth. "I think it's neat that the two of you are going away. So don't worry. Everything will be okay here."

She loaded her duffel into Karen's Saturn and sat in the front seat. It occurred to Ronda then that she ought to be feeling something. Guilt. Regret. She had been lying to Ben for months, but now she was taking another step, far deeper into betrayal.

But as Karen backed out of the driveway and proceeded to the corner, Ronda's excitement grew more and more intense and she knew only one thing: that she absolutely wanted and needed to go. That she had been swallowed whole by her desire for Jesús. That whatever guilt she felt melted in the face of this other blinding emotion.

Ever since that first afternoon in March when the two of them met at a hotel in Boston and lay together in the strip of glowing yellow sunlight falling across the bed, she knew she had to be with him.

She thought about him every day, all day and night. She lay in bed next to Ben, trying to pretend nothing was wrong. When Ben finally fell asleep, though, Ronda would stay awake for hours, her body in twinges, reliving the time she had spent cradled against Jesús.

As the Saturn made a turn onto Poplar Drive, Ronda could feel herself getting lighter. A little giddy. She and Jesús were about to have two nights and two long days together. The prospect of the upcoming weekend made the insides of her thighs ache. It made her hands tremble so much that she had to hold them together in her lap.

"Do you think Ben suspects?" Karen asked as they turned up East Dalton Ave. The plan was to meet Jesús at Betty's, a coffee shop and bakery.

"No," Ronda said, nodding nervously. "There's no way. He can't possibly know a thing." She had placed every call to Jesús from Karen's house; she had used her cell phone only to text him, and then she had erased all of the texts. She had also erased every single email, as soon as she'd written it.

Each time the two of them met, it was in a different location. Twice, she had gone to Boston, to meet him after performances. Another time, she had taken the train to his studio apartment in New York. And once or twice when he traveled to Massachusetts, Karen let them have her house.

He was waiting in the back seat of the rented car when they pulled in front of the coffee shop.

He was leaning over the guitar, running his fingers rapidly over the strings. He didn't notice Ronda until she was standing right beside the car.

"Hello," she said.

He looked up. His eyes always had the same effect on her. They sank so far into her that she felt she had no bottom. She slid into the back seat and he leaned toward her and kissed her on the mouth.

"I was just starting to compose something," he said, laying the guitar into the purple velvet lining of its case. "All the way up the parkway I had this falseta racing through my mind and I have to get it out."

As they drove the Mass Pike, he played the first CD he had ever recorded, a fiery set of bulerías that featured a cantaor and the sounds of a dancer's feet. The car was loud with clapping and the pull of strings and the sharp snap of heels and the singer's howl.

Her eyes closed.

She reached over and set her hand on his leg. He took her hand and kissed the back of each finger in turn and then set her hand inside his thigh, high up. She kept her hand there. She smiled, thinking she was back in high school, trying out feelings she hadn't had for 25 years or more.

It occurred to her then that if he asked her to, she would, without a second thought, call Ben when the weekend ended. She would tell him that she was never coming home. It didn't matter where he asked her to go. She would follow him to New York. She would go to Spain.

This post appeared on the Huff Post on Sunday, February 20, 2011.

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