Dad knocked on Charity’s apartment door as I began adjusting the tie around my neck. The hallway was silent save for the buzzing of a nearby light down the hall. A baby crying somewhere in a lower apartment could be heard.
“Stop fidgeting, Chase. You’re making me nervous.” Mom said. I hadn’t even noticed that I was shifting in place until then. As I scratched the back of my left leg with my right foot the door opened revealing the now seemingly towering figure that is Carl Banks- Charity’s father.
“Hey everyone. Come in, please.” He ushered us in, closing the door behind me. With a hand now clasped to my shoulder he said “nice suit.” I responded with a half, but very awkward, smile. “Donna you’re looking lovely as always.” He shook my mother’s hand and the two then pecked one another on the cheek.
“Mikey. How are ya?”
“Not bad, Carl. Considering. Working any interesting cases these days?”
“I am, but you politics- gotta keep quiet about them.”
The exchange between the two looked very relaxed on the surface but from how they were staring at one another it seemed there was an unspoken message being sent. I imagine it went something like:
“While I admire you wanting to discuss things, the fact remains: your son got my baby girl pregnant. I know how to hide bodies.”
“I understand big man. But remember- two to tango. Plus she’s older.”
“Speak your peace then get the hell out of my apartment.”
Charity came from behind a wall, shuffling into the room and approaching my parents while appearing nervous as if meeting them for the first time.
“Hi Mr and Mrs Davenport.”
“Hi Charity. That’s a cute dress. Where did you get it?” My mother said.
Charity was wearing a slinky black dress that exposed her right shoulder. Her slim figure seemed to accentuate in it. “A boutique in SoHo. Kinda pricey considering I hardly care for clothes.”
“Well it’s a good find. Maybe one day we’ll go shopping together.”
“Tha- that would be great.”
An awkward silence.
“Well, dinner is ready to serve. Hope you three brought your appetites.” Carl said then quickly disappeared into the kitchen. To save Charity from having to do it, I walked us all into the dining area. My father took one head of the table while my mother sat to his left. Charity and I sat adjacent to her with Charity taking the seat closer to the other head of the table, no doubt going to be occupied by her father.
Carl came into the dining area with a roasted duck on a platter. Setting it down he said, “honey could you grab the potatoes from the kitchen counter.” In a minute Charity left the table to come back with roasted potatoes wrapped in bacon.
“Smells delicious.” Mom said.
“I had no idea you were an iron chef, Carl.” My father said.
With a hearty laugh Carl said, “my wife and I used to cook together all the time. We would serve this dish for…special occasions. I’ve been trying to get Charity in the kitchen with me but all she seems capable of making are instant noodles.”
“Hardly a healthy meal for anybody to consume on a daily basis.” My mother said.
“Exactly what I tell her. Pass this down, honey. She’s so thin it looks as if she hardly eats.”
“And you know better than anyone that I have the appetite of three teenage boys, daddy.”
“Got that right.” I said, and felt her father’s eyes fall on me.
Just a couple weeks ago we were such good friends, too.
With everyone served Carl took a seat, blessed the meal, and then we all began digging in.
“So, Chase, since I haven’t been to any of your recent games, how are you fairing?” The question came out in an uninterested tone. His stare seemed to say “you’re lucky my daughter is allowed to even see you” but that could simply be paranoia talking.
Swallowing food I said, “after the last game you saw me pitch in I haven’t been doing so hot since. But we’re winning, and that’s the important part.”
“Think you’ll get a sports scholarship?”
That sounded like “how do you plan on supporting my baby girl?”
“I believe there have been scouts in the stands of late. Maybe. It’s a possibility.”
“More than likely. Your pitches have shown great potential, son. I think you’ll get an offer from somewhere.” Dad said with the beaming pride of a father.
“What if this baseball thing doesn’t work out? I don’t recall ever hearing you speak of a backup plan.”
“I’m sure Chase has something in mind. Right honey?” Mom said.
Six eyes fell on me. Mine fell on Charity. Hers rested on the duck at the middle of the table.
I have thought about my future. A lot. Nothing conclusive comes to mind. I hate the idea of having to choose what I’d like to do for my adult years at such a young age. I mean, there’s got to be adults who thought they knew what they wanted but once they joined the field, felt it wasn’t for them. Can you even tell an adult these things? They think we’ve got it all figured out. They were our age; they’ve got to understand the difficulty in a decision like this.
Charity was no help. She knows what she wants to do after college. She’s known for so long that it amazes me how focused on it she’s been. Why can’t I be like that?
“In any event,” Carl began. “You all came here to discuss something rather important. So let’s not beat around the bush anymore, shall we?”
“Agreed.” My mother said then turned to Charity. “I know this must be scary for you. You’re not alone, dear. We’re here to help.”
“Now, Chase has told us that there are things you’re not willing to do in these matters. We’re not going to pressure you into do anything you don’t want to. A woman’s body is her choice.” Dad said. He looked to me then Charity and finally Carl. “We would like to offer our services, financially speaking. To take the burden off you young kids. This isn’t a handout. We expect you to work to make a living. What Donna and I would like to do is set up a fund to be accessed strictly for baby expenses and so on as the child gets older.”
“But like my husband said, we expect you two to maintain work and get an education.”
Charity’s eyes shifted from my parents to her father then me. “I don’t mean to sound rude or ungrateful, but, how much money would it be? It’s my understanding that, since Chase is attending school on a scholarship, you don’t have much money.”
“I’m actually rather curious about your offer myself.” Carl said.
“In light of what’s happened my wife and I let Chase in on a secret he wouldn’t have known until after graduation. You see, several years ago I played the lottery. On a whim. And won. The sum was….substantial. To keep this a secret we lied to the school so that attention wouldn’t be brought upon Chase. I’m sure you’ve been made aware of his past…?”
“I know some. Should I do my own background check?”
My father laid the gist of the story on Carl along with parts Charity had not yet been made aware of. A heavy silence surrounded us.
“I don’t know if I could take your money.” Charity finally said. Her eyes remained locked on the duck.
“You don’t have to make a decision yet, sweetie. But please consider it.” My mother said, taking Charity’s hand and giving it a squeeze.
“I’m not so sure I’d be comfortable with my daughter taking a handout. You may not see it that way, but I can’t help but feel as much. If it were up to me Charity would have gotten rid of it right away. She and your son are too damned young for this type of responsibility. Now I understand what you two are trying to do but throwing money at the situation doesn’t make it ‘easier’. In fact, I see it complicating the matter further. But my daughter is over eighteen so I can’t make the decisions for her.”
Carl looked at his daughter. His eyes showed a sliver of hurt while the rest of his face tried to remain stone. “You do what you have to, baby girl. I’m proud of you either way.” With that, he got up from the table and disappeared towards the back of the apartment.
Getting up from his seat my father said, “think about it, Charity. It’s not something we need an answer to tomorrow. The offer stands until you’re ready. Whether that’s when you’re in your final trimester or spending the afternoon at the park with him or her. Just please consider it.” My father then made his way to the front door and let himself out.
“I’ll leave you two alone for a minute. We’ll be in the car waiting, Chase.” My mother then followed my father’s lead leaving yet another awkward silence.
“I don’t know what to say.” I said, trying to fill the void. Charity shrugged her shoulders. “What’s going through your head right now?”
“I’m still hungry.” Charity said, finally lifting her eyes to meet mine. We stared at one another until neither of us could hold the laughter in any longer. Charity’s laughter suddenly became sobbing, then full on crying.
“I’m sorry.” She said, drying her eyes with her napkin.
“For what? This is a strange situation. Hell I’ve cried a couple times myself. Don’t apologize for that. I can’t imagine what you must be going through.”
“You’ve cried? I can’t picture you crying.”
“Don’t. It’s ugly. I look like Sloth Fratelli.”
“You could never be that hideous, bubbie.”
“God I’ve missed you calling me that.”
“I missed you, too.”
The two of us got up from the table and met in front of the chair my father had just occupied and embraced. Her touch gave me butterflies even while she soaked my shirt with tears. I guess this is what love is.