Technical Difficulties Episode 10byLucyH©
From: Ryan Kane
To: Zach Hudson
Date: Sat. October 29, 2005
So Trisha wasn't kidding. I went to the midwife with her (and scored a lot of points for it, at least). She's def. pregnant. I actually agree with you though. I doubt it was a real accident. But that's not the kid's fault, is it? I've decided I'm going to do the right thing and stick around until he/she turns 18. Maybe Trisha will calm down a little when she decides she's caught me. Hope so, or it's gonna be a rough 18.5 years.
When do you get back in town for Xmas?
Zach read the e-mail twice, then picked up the phone to call Ryan and talk some sense into him. Halfway through dialing, he hung up. A call at three in the morning would wake Trisha, and she'd want to know what it was about. He hit the reply button on the screen and watched the cursor blink for a while before he realized that e-mail just wasn't the best medium for what he actually wanted to say. Zach shut the computer down and slipped a fresh sheet of white paper out of the printer. With the page in front of him on the desk, he uncapped his favorite black felt tip pen.
He wrote a passionate letter, begging Ryan to let him be the bad guy and steal him away from Trisha. He declared his love and his lust, and asked to be Ryan's boyfriend and whipping boy. At the bottom of the page, he signed, "Yours. Truly. Zach." Then he folded the page, tucked it into an envelope, and printed Ryan's address on the front. He held the sealed letter in his hands for a few minutes and imagined what it would be like to add a stamp and drop it in the mailbox. To hear it slip into the pile of mail, irretrievable, and know that in a couple of days, Ryan would finally know how he felt.
It was impossible, of course. When he couldn't resist the impulse any longer, he stuffed a towel under the door, opened the window, and turned on the hotplate. Zach held the edge of the envelope against the burner, watching the paper turn brown as the element heated up. Brown became black, and flames devoured Zach's words. He dropped the remainder of the letter onto the hotplate when he couldn't hold it anymore, and the whole thing burned to ashes.
Ryan perched on a bar stool, taking a breather after the lunch rush. The phone in his pocket vibrated. He fished it out with a sigh, and checked to see who was calling, though he already had his suspicions. Yep, Trisha again. "What's up?" he asked her, hoping she'd get to the point and leave him alone so he could relax in peace.
Trisha got to the point for once. "I need you to drive me to the hospital. Like, now."
Ryan's brain snapped to attention. "What's the matter?"
"I'm having really bad cramps. I think something is wrong. Ohmygod hurry!"
"Alright. I'll get you." He stuffed the phone back in his pocket, grinning like a madman.
Dave, the bartender, squinted at him. "What do you know that I don't?"
Ryan hopped off the stool. "When the boss man finishes reading War and Peace or whatever he's doing in the bathroom, can you tell him I left early to drive my girlfriend to the hospital? She's freaking out and she says it's an emergency."
Dave frowned. "Huh?"
"I may have just dodged a bullet," Ryan explained.
Comprehension dawned on Dave's face and his forehead smoothed out. "Uh, okay. Good luck, I guess?" At work, everyone knew that Ryan wasn't looking forward to being a daddy.
Trisha stopped speaking to Ryan after he dumped her on the way from the hospital. "I just lost our baby and you decide to rip out what's left of my heart? I am so glad I didn't marry you, because you are a complete asshole," were her last words to him that day.
"Would it have been better if I'd waited until you got up, then knocked you back down again?" he asked.
She only glared at him.
Ryan didn't mind the silence, since he was sure Trisha didn't have anything nice to say. He ran her by the pharmacy and filled a prescription on the way home. She probably had a right to be mad at him. Dumping her just then wasn't a very nice thing for him to do. He'd wanted to have it over and done with too badly to care, though.
When they got home, Trisha phoned her parents, and Ryan locked himself in the bedroom with the pamphlet about surgical sterilization that he'd picked up in the waiting room. He spread it out on the bed and studied the procedure. It didn't look fun. Ryan decided he wasn't in a rush to let anyone near sensitive parts of his body with sharp objects, any more than he was in a rush to hook up with another woman. He stuffed the literature between the mattress and the box spring, where random houseguests wouldn't find it by accident.
Ryan flopped down on the bed and closed his eyes. The Prozac his doctor had talked him into trying made him sleepy. He drifted in and out of consciousness, disoriented in a mental twilight.
He couldn't remember what day it was, what time it was, or whether he was supposed to get up and go to work. Zach spooned up with him and kissed the back of his neck. "Shh. Get some sleep. I've got you." Ryan snuggled back against him and fell asleep, soothed by the steady rhythm of Zach's breathing.
Angry hammering on the bedroom door woke Ryan up. He reached for Zach, but found only a lump of disarranged blankets. It took a moment to work out that it didn't make sense for Zach to have really been there, then remember that Trisha was still in the house and still too angry to speak to him, and that the door was locked. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be right to leave her locked out when all of her clean clothes were in the bedroom.
He opened the door. Trisha flicked on the overhead light brought a huge duffel bag into the room. She turned her back to Ryan and scooped the contents of her dresser and her half of the closet into it. Ryan got back in bed and pulled the covers over his head. Trisha dragged the bag of clothes out into the hall, threw some things on top of it, and left again, slamming the door behind her. A few minutes later, he heard her car start and pull away.
Christmas Day 2005
Ryan pressed his face up against the living room window and shielded his eyes from the glare of lamps and Christmas tree lights. He looked past the brightly lit nativity scene on the snowy front lawn, to the darker, unkempt house across the street. The silhouette of his mother's head and the back of her rocking chair were outlined sharply on the window blind; she must be watching television.
Every year since they'd moved in across the street, Zach's parents had invited Ryan, his mom, and sometimes his sister Amy over for Christmas dinner and presents. Ryan was the only one who ever went. Amy had ended up in juvenile detention before her first Christmas in that house, and Mom believed that they'd only invited her to be polite. No matter what Ryan told her, Mom insisted on staying home with a turkey and stuffing TV dinner.
Ryan felt a tap on his knee, and turned around to find Zach's cousin's little girl handing him a gift in angel wrapping paper. She'd just learned to read, and she beamed with pride. He thanked her and turned the package around to read the tag. It was a gift from Zach's parents - probably random housewares, if the last few years were any indication. He looked across the room to catch their eyes and thank them, but they were too busy talking to Zach's grandfather.
Zach waded through the obstacle course of relatives, gifts, toys, and wrapping paper on the floor to get back to his seat next to Ryan. He opened his mouth to say something, but the back door opened. Instead of saying whatever it was he'd been about to say, he leaned sideways to see who'd just come in. "Oh boy," he muttered ominously.
Ryan tried to see, but it was impossible without getting up. "What?"
Zach straightened up and rolled his eyes. "Yep."
"I'm sure we're all about to find out."