The Burden

4:50 AM


 As Thanksgiving loomed around the corner, Jessie's nerves were on edge. Much to her relief, her college friends had all but given up texting and calling. The strange thing about being at the top of the social strata, was how easily you could be toppled. Thankfully, with the cooler weather, her small bump was easy enough to hide under cozy sweaters and jackets. Teddy's kicks became harder and more insistent every day, but at least her situation wasn't eliciting any gossip in that direction. Avoiding all elements of a social life was easy enough, but spending a full on weekend with her family was another matter. Everyone would ask about David. 

She caught herself smiling, thinking about other holidays they'd spent with her folks. Her younger brothers would follow him around with a puppy-like admiration, even holding back most of their smart remarks in an attempt to impress him. Her father's respect was met with her mother's doting. Jessie often laughed that she was replaced as the darling of the family whenever David was around. How would they feel about him now if they knew the truth? Jessie grimaced at the thought. 

The worst part of the weekend would be the charade of happiness she knew she would have to put on. She'd finally made the appointment with Planned Parenthood for the following Monday. After a month of fence sitting, Jessie was only sure of one thing. She wanted her life back. Although she'd never stoop to asking David to come back, she missed her friends. She missed the sparkling future before her. She missed fun parties and nights on the town. A baby seemed so out of season and definitely not on the cards right now. 

As she pulled up to her parents' driveway that night, Jessie took a deep breath. This weekend was going to take all the strength she could muster. A sudden, loud thump came from the front of her car. Her teenage brother's "dead" body slid down the windshield while her other brother let out the scream of a banshee. 

"You've killed him! At last the fiend is dead!" 

"Wait what?" the zombie arose and tackled his brother onto the front lawn. 

With a laugh, Jessie grabbed her bag and got out of the car. An older neighbor walked by without a remark on the familiar scene of the boys wrestling it out before God and man. 

"Hello, Mrs. Rosenbalm," Jessie called out. 

"Happy Thanksgiving, dear!" the lady shouted politely over the ruckus. 

"See you inside boys," Jessie laughed again as the tension of the last month fled away. It was so good to be home. 

"Mom, I'm here!" She yelled toward the kitchen, dropping her bags at the door. 

True to form, her parents were in the midst of a deep political discussion, with the evening news blaring loudly in the background. Jessie stood in the doorway with a wry smile on her face as they railed about the latest missteps of the Governor. She had often said her parents' love language was politics. At last, her mother noticed her with a start. 

"Oh Jessie! I didn't see you there. Give me a hug."

As her petite mother wrapped her arms around Jessie's much taller frame, her throat welled up. What wouldn't she give to be able to tell all and not face the consequences? If they knew what she had become. Her heart gripped with sadness and shame. Turning to her father, she gave him an aggressive bear hug, holding on longer than usual. She wanted to preserve this moment in time. The only daughter of the family, completely trusted, utterly loved. 

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