The telephone rang several times. Elu had to sit down in the kitchen and hold tightly to her warm cup of tea. She was losing her nerve.
Finally the phone was answered and a woman with and older, almost cultured voice answered.
“Yes, hello, who is this?”
Elu could almost picture the old, silver haired battle-axe as Sebastian so often called her. This voice was soft, she almost sounded nice.
“Ah, yes, hello, Mrs. Van Houten. This is Elu Miller and I am…”
The woman stopped her. “I know who you are.” The voice sounded colder, more distant.
“I hate to call you this late, but…I… need…help.” She could not go on.
There was a silence on the other end of the phone. “Are you pregnant?” the older woman asked.
“Yes…yes…I think so.”
“Is the baby Sebastian’s?”
Elu stared at the phone. What? “Ah, yes ma’am it is. I mean, it is his.”
“You are sure?”
Another pause. “Well, I suppose there are always tests….” The voice trailed off. “I suppose you need money for an abortion?”
Elu stared at the phone again. Where was this woman was coming from?
“No…No ma’am no abortion. I want to have the baby.”
The voice on the other end of the line seemed to lighten. “Well, in that guess. You have insurance, a doctor?”
“No…no ma’am. I don’t have any of those things.”
“Well, of course not,” the woman replied and Elu could hear Sebastian’s voice in his mother’s tone.
“Well then, what do you need?”
Elu went on to tell the older woman that she wanted to clean up, get to a regular doctor and have a healthy baby. The woman listened quietly without interrupting.
“Alright, Elu, is it? I can get thing arranged here. Not in Scottsdale of course, too many…oh, never mind. Another place, a little less expensive. You don’t want to go home to your people?”
“No…no,” Elu thought of her mother’s face. She couldn’t bear it. “No…somewhere else.”
Mrs. Van Houten took down her phone number. “I am sorry, I’ll have to get proof from a doctor’s office of the pregnancy, okay? And, sorry about this, but I may have to have them do a test to confirm Sebastian is actually the father. Any objections to that?”
“No, no. That would be okay. No problem.” Just get me out of this hellhole and out of New York. Clean up and have this baby and I’ll do whatever lady. At this point, I don’t give a shit.
“Fine, I will get in touch with you as soon as all of that is done.” There was a click and Mrs. Van Houten hung up.
Seems to run in the family, Elu thought to herself.
A week later, Elu had been to a clinic doctor, got the pregnancy report and had them fax a copy to the about to-be-grandmother. Once Mrs. Van Houten got the report, she got busy on the phone. Elu received a plane ticket to Tucson, AZ in a few days.
She packed up what would fit in several bags, explained the situation to Jan who seemed actually relieved. That night she got on a plane to Arizona. Sebastian kept sending her messages. Elu told Jan to get the locks changed right away and the roommate confirmed she would, immediately.
“I’ll take care of the super, don’t worry about him. I’ll just tell him that Sebastian is a psycho weightlifter who won’t take his meds. That should do it.” She smiled at Elu. “Just take care of yourself, okay, Hun? And that baby.”
Elu grabbed her friend, held her close and left. She had already gotten the gold locket back from the pawnbroker and exchanged it for a long sliver necklace with a little Kokopelli dancing at the bottom.
Elu checked into the clinic. They knew about the pregnancy already and she had to meet with the doctor the first day after she checked in. The doctor, to her surprise, was a woman.
They went through all the usual exams and then sat at a big desk. The doctor on one side, Elu on the other.
“The baby seems healthy and you seem relatively healthy. Nothing some sunshine, vitamins and good food can’t cure. When is the last time you had a drink or a drug? Please be truthful. I can’t help you otherwise.
Elu told her.
“Okay, we will give you a mild sedative…” Elu started.
“It won’t hurt the baby at all, you are not far along enough yet. It will keep your heart rate down, prevent any possible convulsions and stop any pre-mature labor. You don’t want to lose the child do you?’
Elu shook her head.
“Okay, will you will have a rough few days, but I think you’ll get through it fine.”
The days were rough but Elu did get through it. She stayed at the rehab for the next nine months and gave birth to a healthy 7.5 pound little girl. When they put baby Sally in her arms, she cried. The nurse cried, the doctor almost cried and Mrs. Van Houten in the waiting room, certainly cried.
The new grandmother found Elu and Sally a small apartment in town, and paid for everything. She gave Elu a small allowance so she could pay for a babysitter. Elu planned to go back to back as a grocery cashier, something she had done before and knew. The grandmother didn’t argue but just held the baby as if she were precious glass.
Elu got a job in a local discount store and had good hours. She could get to AA meetings on a regular basis, and still be home in time for the baby. One week end, Mrs. V H, as Elu now called her, was holding the baby and playing with a little rattle. The thing she dreaded came out.
Elu had allowed the tech to take a swab from little Sally for a paternity test. Mrs. V H still had things of Sebastian at home to compare it too, and as Elu predicted, the test was a match. He was the father. Elu breathed a sigh of relief. At least that was over. Plus, the baby was fair and looked a lot like him.
“Ah…Elu…I’ve been meaning to tell you.”
At her tone of voice, Elu stopped wiping the counter and looked up. Mrs. VH avoided her eyes. She jiggled the baby over to the window and looked out. The girl knew what was coming.
“I’ve heard from Sebastian….He knows about the baby…he wants to see her.”
Elu started wiping the counter again and said nothing.
“I mean, well…” the older woman paused, “he is the father.”
“And and a no good. You said it yourself. He was a rotten son, so bad you cut him out of your will. Remember that part?” Elu was starting to get angry.
“I know, I know. All those things are true. But what if he has changed?” She stared at Elu pleading in her eyes.
Elu knew instinctively the woman wanted so much for that to be true. To not only have a grandchild but have her son back. The prodigal. Back whole and wonderful like the kid and teen he used to be. Young, handsome, popular, tanned from playing tennis and soccer. A hit with the girls and the guys too. She wanted that Sebastian back. Elu did too but in her heart of heart she wasn’t sure she believed it.
Mrs. V H got her way and sent tickets to Sebastian. The plan was that he was to stay at his mother’s ranch and just drive down to see Elu and the baby. They did have their reunion and the old heartstrings were pulled by her old love. Unfortunately, the fire had not died.
Eventually, Sebastian got a job with an insurance broker in Phoenix so he could “make money and be closer” to Elu and the baby. He tried to get her to sleep with him many times, but she held her ground and refused, as difficult as it was. She suspected that he had given up and gotten himself another squeeze when he stopped trying so hard.
It was at one of their monthly lunches at Olive Garden that Elu got some surprising news from the woman she now called, at least in her mind, her mother-in-law. Mrs. VH wanted to be called Catherine, her first name. But, Elu was still too intimidated. The older woman accepted the Mrs. VH handle without further complaint.
“Elu, I wanted to tell you about something I have done. Something for the baby.” The baby was now over a year old and looked to be holding onto her father’s blue eyes, maybe just a touch darker, and dark blonde hair. The woman beamed at her granddaughter who was actually eating with a little spoon.
The woman cleared her throat. “I have put money aside for Sally. For when she is older and wants to go to college.”
Elu paused with her sandwich. “Why, Mrs. VH, that is so nice of you. Thanks very much. How much will it be?” She resumed eating and then sipped her coke.
There was a pause. “It’s a lot.”
Elu paused again. “Well, again, thank you. But what about Sebastian? I know he told me a while back you cut him off…”
“Yes, I did. For his own good. The drinking, drugging and wild parties….I can’t begin to tell you.” She stopped and frowned. “Well, maybe I can.” Her mouth puckered a little and she sipped her ice tea.
“Catherine,” Elu used the name for the first time, “I’m pretty sure he’s not using drugs anymore. Trust me, I would know. Please don’t ask me how. And, well, he’s just drinking alcohol now, nothing else.”
Catherine harrumphed. “Just alcohol is not saying much. That’s how all the sh–, stuff started anyway.” Her mouth was in a hard, thin line. “If his father ever knew…Oh, it’s too much. I can’t expect you to understand.”
Elu stared at her mother-in-law and decided to not get her feelings hurt.
“I do understand, I have a family too.”
Catherine picked up a napkin, held it over her face, and leaned over a moment. Then she put the napkin down, seemed to gather herself up and said. “Well, if he can prove to me long enough that he is gainfully employed and has his shit together, I will put him back in the will.”
“Oh, thank you,” Elu gushed. That would be so much better!” She smiled happily, Sally started to use the spoon to beat on her metal table to get attention and both women laughed.
As they were walking to the car, Elu held Sally’s hand because the little girl insisted on ‘walking myself!” and they paused by Catherine’s car.
As Catherine was getting ready to put the key in the door lock, she turned. “I should probably tell you how much the trust is. Just in case you get the paperwork and are surprised or think it’s a mistake or something.”
Elu calmly waited. She was thinking a few thousand dollars.
“What’s one million?” Elu asked.
“The trust, Elu, the trust. It’s for one million and starts to pay out when the baby turns eighteen. It will be administered by my lawyer’s office and an insurance company. It will come to her in chunks, as she gets older.
Elu stood there, mouth open, too stunned to speak.
“Come on girl,” the old lady said, ‘how did you think Sebastian could afford all those expensive toys of his?”
“Don’t worry. The money won’t come around for a long time. She’s just a toddler now. She’ll have plenty of time to figure out how to spend it, and maybe you too. Oh, well, I’ll probably be gone by then so what do I care?”
Elu did something she never did. She hugged Catherine and cried, all at the same time.
Every six months, regular as clockwork, Sebastian proposed marriage to Elu. And, every six months, just as regular, she told him no. He had gotten to the point where he didn’t even put on the puppy eyes looks when she told him, rather, seemed to accept her refusals philosophically. Elu never told him about the trust as his mother advised her not to do so. She confirmed that Mrs. VH, also, would tell the new father nothing about the money. Elu knew that just as he kept after her for marriage, he kept after his mother to get back into her will. As far as she knew, the old lady was still holding out.
Sally was potty trained now and could go to a little pre-school around the corner. Elu had her mornings free and loved nothing better than to hit the trails and get in a short hike before she had to go to work. She loved seeing the giant saguaro, the other giant cactus on the trials. Weekends, she would take little Sally in a backpack and they would go. Her daughter loved it too. They saw wild boar from time to time; little yellow and white butterflies, cottonwood, ground squirrels and lots of other hikers.
The days were sunny and warm. Always the nosy one, Sebastian would talk on the phone to Elu and ask her what she was doing with her time. She gushed about the out of doors, the hikes, the places here where the Native Americans used to live. In the old days, before the reservations. She loved it. He told her he had started hiking too, around Phoenix ‘to get into shape’.
That was exactly how the two of them managed to be out on the tram trial on a fully moon lit night. One where the frogs croaked and the night birds cried and the water rushed down from the frosty mountain and was cold to the touch. Elu loved the paths and she loved this path. The canyon felt so old to her, comforting a familiar place. A native place for thousands of years before the white people came.
“Come on,” he told her, “You’ll love it. The neighbor will watch Sally. You need to get out and do stuff for yourself. Not work all the time.” So, she had agreed and the two of them were out together at night on this trail, usually so full of people, quite deserted this time of night. And, there she had been on the bridge. The cold, wet bridge with water rushing over the side. Close to the edge, somehow, somehow losing her footing and falling in the cold water, hitting her head.
When she was in the hospital, she slept a great deal. At first, she didn’t have any dreams and then they started. In one dream, she was sure she could hear a voice. A man’s voice, soft and low. Was that Sebastian’s voice? Maybe.
The voice came to her when she was in the water, it said in very low tones “You thought I didn’t know about the trust fund, didn’t you. You and she both, that old bitch, both thinking that pretty Sebastian was too stupid to figure it out. Well, I did figure it out and all by myself. Fuck both of you.” There was another push and the voice went away.