Technical Difficulties Episode 07byLucyH©
While Trisha poked around in the detritus on the lake shore, Ryan lay on their picnic blanket with his eyes closed and listened to the lapping waves and seagulls. He and Trisha had the beach almost all to themselves that afternoon in October. It was the first time since his father's visit that he'd felt really peaceful, and Ryan wanted to soak up as much of that serenity as possible before another mad week of waiting tables in an understaffed bistro.
A shadow crossed Ryan's face and he looked up. Trisha stood over him with a large wet scallop shell in her hands and a big grin on her face. "Look at this one. Isn't it nice?"
He didn't really care about shells, but managed to find something nice to say anyway. "Yeah. You don't find a lot of big ones that aren't broken."
Trisha crouched down beside him and offered him the shell. Both halves rested, closed, on the palm of her hand. "Look at it."
Ryan looked at it. "What are you going to do with it?"
"Give it to you." A gust of wind rustled the nylon of her jacket.
Ryan rolled onto his side and took the cold, wet shell with two fingers. He held it away from his body so it wouldn't drip on him. "Thanks." It dawned on Ryan that scallops don't live in lakes. Trisha was up to something, and he had a bad gut feeling about it.
"Look at how pretty the inside of the shell is."
Ryan opened the shell with trepidation, and found a man's ring - all gold except for a single diamond set flush with the band. "Ryan, will you marry me?" Trisha asked.
"Um." Ryan couldn't bring himself to say he'd marry Trisha. Not only had he been thinking of breaking up with her, but in his mind's eye, he saw Jamila following his father out the door, with her shoulders hunched. "This is a really bad time to ask."
"What's wrong? Is there somebody else?" she asked, her voice turning shrill.
"No." At least, there was nobody else he had a chance with. "Remember I told you about my sperm donor coming to visit?"
"Good grief, Ryan. You're not him." She plopped down on the blanket.
"No, but I hit him without meaning to, or even knowing I was going to do it until it happened. Sometimes it's like... I think something and I do it at the same time. It's like there's a wire loose or something."
"You've never hit me, and we've been together three years. I know you, and you're a better man. Don't let that loser spook you and keep you from living your life." She sounded desperate.
He wanted to choke her so she'd stop arguing and understand this was serious. He set the shell and ring on the blanket and sat up, hugging his knees to his chest. "Don't tell me what I'm like. You have no idea."
"I know what kinds of things you do. You're always taking care of the people you care about, not hurting them." Her eyes glistened with tears.
"Trisha, I almost got fired for losing it on a customer last month."
"He threw wine on you on purpose. I'd have slugged him."
"Well maybe you have a problem too, then."
"There's nothing wrong with standing up for yourself and other people. Nobody expects you to be a doormat."
"What if I hurt you and think I'm just standing up for myself?"
"You're being ridiculous." Tears rolled down her cheeks and she tried to mop them up with her sleeve. The water resistant material just spread the tears around, so her whole face got wet.
"I'm sorry, but I'm just not ready to make that kind of promise."
Trisha snatched up the shell and the ring and jammed them into her jacket pocket. "Whatever. Let's pack up. It's getting cold."
Ryan rolled the cooler toward the car, and Trisha folded up the picnic blanket. She looked out the window as he drove, and eventually stopped crying. They made it halfway back to town in silence before she told him, "I guess you should know - I'm pregnant."
"Fuck." It came out of Ryan's mouth as he thought it.
She burst into noisy sobs.
"Sorry. I'm really sorry. But this isn't... good. How did it happen? I mean, you're still on the pill, right?"
"I was. I stopped it yesterday," she choked out.
"And those condoms should have been fine. And I know this isn't what you wanted me to say, but I don't want kids. Not now, not ever."
"You're just upset because of your dad."
"Sperm donor. And yes. And I don't plan to get over it."
"Why can't you just stay away from those people and try to...to have a normal life?"
The car ran over a scrap of junk on the road and lurched hard. Ryan realized he was doing 40 miles an hour over the speed limit. He took his foot off the gas pedal and squeezed the steering wheel instead. "I'm not a normal person."
He felt guilty listening to Trisha cry, and tried to think of something honest he could say that would make her feel better. Nothing came to mind. "Literally my whole family is crazy. The world doesn't need more of us."
"Are you asking me to get an abortion?"
He thought about it carefully before he answered. "Yeah, I guess I am."
Ryan started to steer the car into the other lane of traffic in front of a big truck, but caught himself in time to swerve back into his lane and pull into the parking lot of an abandoned gas station.
"I want to go home," Trisha said.
Ryan shut off the engine. "I almost got us both killed a second ago. This is not okay, Trisha. It's never going to be okay. I don't belong in the gene pool.
"For chrissake. Just give me the keys. I'll drive. I hope for our baby's sake that you're going to grow up soon and stop being such a drama queen."
He pulled the keys out of the ignition and threw them at her as he got out of the car. Before circling around to get in the passenger side, he kicked the derelict gas pump and slammed his fist against it.