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The Reality of Life
“It’ll never work,” I think to myself.
I stand up from the lunch table and walk outside. I take a deep breath, trying to calm myself. Of course it won’t work. My ideas, my plans never work. Heaven help me if I began to believe they would now. The last time I’d tried something this big, it had turned out disastrous.
“Sam! Samantha!” Derek calls. I roll my eyes at his annoying persistence. “What’s the matter, Sam?” He comes up next to me.
“Nothing,” I say flatly.
“No. Something is really bugging you. What is it?” He puts his arm around my shoulders. I shake it off, not even trying to be playful like usual.
“Life. The world. Everything. You. History is a bit irritating, too.”
“Are you getting depressed again?”
“Of course not,” I lie. I’m good at that. I’ve had plenty of practice. No one can tell the difference.
Unless they know my voice well enough. Unless they’re Derek.
He steps closer to me, attempting to embrace me.
“Get away from me!” I scream at him, pushing him away from me. Unfortunately, I’m not that strong, and Derek keeps his arms around me.
I shove uselessly at his wide chest. Like I ever had a chance at forcing him to believe my lies. He was so good at detecting stuff like that.
“You can’t do that to me again, Sam. You know how I feel about you. You can’t do it to your parents, either. And what about Jason? He’ll never understand why you left him. He’s young—seven—and he knows something’s amuck.”
I stop fighting. How dare he bring up my little brother. How dare he. Derek presses his lips to my hair.
“Why do you care? What does it matter to you if I’m here or not?” I say into his jacket.
“You know how I feel about you,” he repeats. He pulls my face up to look at him.
“Yeah. But so what.
“I love you. And even though I know you don’t love me back, you know what happened the last time you tried this. You know what’s going to happen this time. Please, please, please don’t do this.”
“Fine, then. Because I live to please you, Derek Fink.” My voice is heavily sour. “My life is all about you. All hail, mighty Derek.”
“C’mon. You know it’s not like that. You remember how much it hurt you? You remember how long you were in the hospital, recovering?”
Well, he was pulling out all his nerve, wasn’t he?
I try to squirm away from him. I can’t. I give up.
“You don’t understand what’s happening here,” he continues. “You can’t possibly grasp the permanent hold you have on me. Do you not feel this?” He touched my face with his fingertips, brushing along my cheekbone.
I don’t respond. I can’t. My trachea is blocked by the air coming in gasps from my lungs. Before I have any time to think, Derek is leaning down, and I’m leaning upward.
He kisses me. I kiss him. It’s the first time in months I’ve actually felt something. Yes, I’d felt the plate burning my fingers, the frozen ice in my mouth. But this actually means something. I feel it, and it is completely worth it. I know it’s not just a lost cause to kiss Derek; I’m going to get something from him. He is going to love me. The way I have no choice but to love him now.
He pulls away with a smile on his lips.
“So you believe me now, eh?” he asks lightly.
I can’t talk. I’m utterly overwhelmed by feelings. Most of them for Derek. My hope is there, too, burrowing itself in for a long stay in my heart.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he says.
Six years later.
“Derek!” I call from the kitchen.
He comes up quietly, so I can’t hear his approach over the loud popping of the popcorn. I don’t know he’s behind me until his lips press against my neck, his arms reaching around my pregnant belly.
“Hello, beautiful,” he murmurs, turning me around to face him. He kisses me, light and sweet.
“Hey,” I say. I turn the stove off and pour the popcorn into a big bowl.
Derek takes the bowl from me. I lean back against the counter. He puts his arms on either side of me, leaning close to me. He smiles. I smile back, unable to resist his infectious grin. He is so close to me that I can feel his warm, flat stomach lightly touching my swollen one.
“You know something?” he breathes.
“Which thing in particular?” I whisper back.
“It was exactly six years, twenty-two minutes ago that our first kiss occurred.”
“Let’s not make it our last, all right?” I stand up on my toes and wrap my arms around his neck. I kiss him. He kisses me.
I think about that day while our lips are together. I remember our conversation exactly, to the T. I’d been so wrong on so many levels. So many things are different now. Then, I’d had thoughts of suicide, and now I can’t even dream of that.
Derek is the only thing that matters in my life. I am about to have our baby boy. We are in love.
He pulls away from my lips.
“You’re very good at sidetracking, you know that?” he says with a chuckle.
“But, as I was saying, it was exactly six years ago. And I know we’ve got a few months until our wedding anniversary, but I still want to celebrate this with you.”
He pulls something out of his pocket. A hard rectangle of paper is in his hand when he shows me.
“What is this?” I ask. I read the fine print slowly.
“I figured if we were ever going to go to California, why not now?” He tries to smile, but it doesn’t touch his usually happy eyes.
“What’s happening, Derek?”
“Nothing of particular importance,” he evades.
“Derek,” I whisper dubiously.
“I’m being deported in two weeks,” he says even quieter.
I’m inhaling in gasps. I’m lightheaded. I can’t breathe.
“Oh, no,” I mouth, flinging my arms around him. “You can’t go, Derek,” I plead.
“I don’t have a choice, Samantha. I’m sorry. So sorry. You don’t know how much I want to stay.”
He hugs me back fiercely.
I feel like two things have happened inside of me simultaneously.
One—my heart has been torn to shreds by two words.
Two—my baby is coming.
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