I suddenly notice the dark circles under her eyes. Since Lucy usually enters the room farting rainbows, I can tell immediately that something’s up.
“What’s wrong? You look like shit.” She does, but I still feel horrible when she plops down on the tiny sofa in the corner and begins to sob. Even I can’t stand the sight of Lucy crying—it’s like watching Hitler kick puppies in the rain.
“What? Tell me, you’re freaking me out,” I wail.
“I’m freaking me out!”
“How? Why?” Ugh, I really don’t do tears, but I can’t kick her out of her own office, so I move to sit beside her on the lumpy couch.
“I’m pregnant,” she whispers. I’m not sure why, as we are the only ones in the room, but I follow her lead.
“You’re what?” I whisper back, although my whisper sounds more like one of the asides in a junior college production of Macbeth.
“Knocked up. Bun in the oven. In the family way--”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. That was more of a rhetorical question.” I place my hand tentatively on her shoulder, which is still heaving with sobs. When that doesn’t seem to stop her, I pat her back a few times, like I’m trying to persuade a particularly annoying child to move along.
“This was so not supposed to happen,” Lucy moans. “Not yet. Will and I aren’t even married--”
“But you’re engaged…or, you know, engaged to be engaged,” I interject.
“Yes, but we haven’t bought a house, and I haven’t found a job, and God, his mother’s going to be furious, and my Dad, jeez…”
“Whoa, whoa…slow down, Sassypants. Let’s look at this logically, okay?” Lucy nods, still cradling her face in her palms. “First things first—do you know who the father is?”
Her snort of laughter makes tears, and possibly a bit of snot, fly from between her fingers. I reach for the tissue box on the credenza and toss it on her lap. She takes one and begins smearing mascara all over her face. I decide not to mention it. It’s so rare that I have the opportunity to look better than Lucy.
“Okay, let’s just assume it’s Will’s, at least for the time being. What does he have to say for himself?”
“I haven’t told him yet,” Lucy mumbles into her chest.
“Figures. Why bother him with the tiny detail of your knocked-up-ness?” For the life of me, sometimes I just don’t get Lucy—I’d go after Dax with a baseball bat the second I found out he got me pregnant.
“Jen, I just found out for sure, like, an hour ago. I’ll tell him as soon as I can.”
We sit silently for a few long seconds, until the sound of boots advancing down the hall paralyzes us. Shit, is that Will? What’s he doing here so early?
“Gooood morning, ladies.” Will scoots through the door with his usual lazy smile, but stops short when he sees Lucy’s obvious distress. “Hey, hey…what’s wrong here?” He kneels in front of her, a concerned look on his face, and I stand quickly—this is my cue to leave, so Luce can give Will a little refresher course on the birds and the bees.
“I’ll leave you guys to it,” I murmur quickly, grabbing my bag and a cup of yogurt from the fridge. “Have a nice talk.” I can feel Lucy’s eyes stabbing me in the back as I scoot quickly out the door and down the corridor to the much smaller, much messier office that I share with Kevin Ho. Kevin’s okay, I guess, but he’s in a constant state of eating (or preparing to eat) fried rice, which he carries with him everywhere in a yellowed, filmy Tupperware dish.
“Hello, Jennifer,” he says from behind his immaculate desk, where he’s grading perfectly stacked papers, his bowl of rice sitting at the ready. He calls me Jennifer because it’s the name listed on our office door. That’s the level of intimacy in our relationship, and I’m good with it.
“What’s shakin’, Ho?” This greeting is purely for my amusement, since it’s the way I greet Lucy ninety percent of the time. The look he gives me could curdle milk, but if I spent my life worrying about what the Kevin Ho’s of the world thought of me, I’d end up in a fetal position on the floor.
“You’ve had three students in here looking for you this morning. Your office hours started thirty minutes ago.”
“Sorry,” I sigh, even though I’m not. “I had some personal business to attend to.”
“It’s your students who deserve the apology,” he replies tersely.
“Yeah, well, I’ll get right on that,” I grouse. It’s not like my students want anything more than to grade-grub. Luckily for both of us, it’s time for Kevin to go to class.
Will, Lucy and I teach political science at Southeastern State University, in Houston, Texas. Will’s the bigwig in the crowd, with his tenure-track job and his covered parking space. Lucy just completed her PhD and is searching for a full-time teaching position. I’m still working on my dissertation, hence my office-share with Kevin the crank. If I were a bigger bitch than I already am, I might take pleasure in the fact that Lucy’s percolating ankle-biter has the potential to move me up at least one rung on the employment ladder.
But I don’t think like that.
When I’m finally alone, I spread out my grading, dig a red pen out of the second drawer of Kevin’s desk, and open the first of the several hundred ungraded research papers littering my desk. In the first page alone, there are no less than twenty grammatical errors, and a reference to Thomas Jefferson as “Tom”. I toss my (okay, Kevin’s) pen on the desk and pick up the phone to call my mom.