by Valerie O
A short story
|“Well, your portfolio is quite impressive. I’m looking forward to working with you,” “You mean I, I got the, the job?” Henry struggled with his words. “Wow, thank you sir. I won’t let you down.” He smiled. “We should celebrate. Why don’t you meet me at Basil‘s tonight at seven. And bring your family.” “Okay, we’ll see you then.” Henry rushed home to tell his wife and daughter the good news.
“That’s great honey!” his wife Bianca replied as she threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. “I’m so proud of you!” “What’s great?” Amber, his seventeen-year-old daughter asked. “I got the job! We’re going out to celebrate. We’ve been invited to have dinner at Basil’s, that new Italian restaurant that just opened.” “Dad, I don’t want to go out tonight. Logan said he was gonna call me around eight, and…” “Okay Amber,” Henry interrupted. “I didn’t ask if you wanted to go. I said we’re going.” “I don’t want to meet some old guy,” Amber whined. “First of all Amber, he’s my new boss. Second, he’s actually pretty young. And third, you have no say in the matter. Now go upstairs and get ready.” “Ugh!” she bellowed as she stomped up the stairs. “Don’t worry honey,” Bianca reassured him. “She’s a teenager. Being self-centered is part of their development.” Henry chuckled and gave Bianca a kiss on her forehead.
They arrived at Basil‘s half an hour late, thanks to Amber. His new boss and editor in chief of the local paper, Owen Burbank, was waiting for them near the entrance. “I was beginning to think you weren’t coming.” “I’m sorry we’re late,” Henry apologized. “Our table is ready. My wife is already seated.” They followed Mr. Burbank to their table. “This is my wife April.” “It’s nice to meet you Mr. Harris,” “Please, call me Henry,” He said. “This is my wife Bianca and my daughter Amber.” “Nice to meet you,” Owen and April replied in unison. They took their seats as the waiter approached. When their drinks arrived, Mr. Burbank proposed a toast. “To Henry Harris, my new writer.” Everyone raised their glasses, and Henry’s face reddened from the attention. He couldn’t wait to start his new job.
Amber was pleasant throughout dinner, but she was back to her old self as soon as they made it home. “I can’t believe you made me go! If Logan called and I wasn’t here to answer the phone, he’s gonna hate me!” She ran upstairs and slammed her bedroom door. Henry just shook his head. “I don’t know about Logan Bianca. What happened to my sweet little girl?” Bianca took his hand, “I don’t think it’s entirely Logan’s fault. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with Amber. I’ll talk to her. It’s been a long day. Let’s just go to bed.” He followed Bianca upstairs, set his alarm for seven in the morning, and fell asleep.
Henry smiled as the alarm buzzed to wake him. A new job with new experiences waited for him, and he was prepared to dive right in. Henry was ready to leave for work by seven thirty. He went downstairs to see if Amber had left for school. “Dad, I didn’t know you were still here,” Amber was sitting on the couch watching television. “You’re going to be late. Why haven’t you left for school yet?” She stood up, “I was just about to leave right now dad.” She walked toward the door. “Where are your books?” He asked. She paused for a moment, “I left them in my locker at school.” “Didn’t you have homework?” “Yeah, but I didn’t need my books.” “Well, where’s your homework?” “Dad, seriously, what’s with the twenty questions? Do you want me to stand here and chat, or do you want me to make it to school on time?” “Alright Amber, go.” She mumbled something under her breath as she walked through the front door. Henry grabbed his car keys and tried his best to avoid the morning traffic.
Henry knocked on the door of Mr. Burbank’s office. “Come in!” Mr. Burbank shouted from within. “Good morning Mr. Harris.” “You can call me Henry sir.” Mr. Burbank laughed. “As long as you never call me sir again. I’m only twenty seven years old. It’s a little awkward. Everyone calls me Owen anyway.” Henry nodded his head in agreement. “Are you nervous about the job?” Owen asked. “No, I’m really excited about it actually. Why do you ask?” “I don’t know. You just look a little stressed.” “It’s probably because of my daughter,” Henry answered. Do you have any children?” “No,” Owen replied. “Not yet.” “Amber was such a sweet girl. Now, everything I say or do upsets her. And I can’t stand Logan, her boyfriend. I’ve only met him once, but the way she acts now that she’s dating him makes me want to,” He paused for a moment. “I don’t know. I just wish she’d find someone else. Or at least get a job. That might keep her occupied.” “I can help you with that. We just found out April’s pregnant.” “Wow, congratulations! How far along is she?” “About a month. I work long hours, so I want someone to keep her company.” “I’ll talk to Amber about it.” “Tell her, I’ll pay her twenty an hour.”
Henry decided to make a trip back home during his lunch break. He figured he could make himself a sandwich and pick up a few items for his desk. Bianca was getting out of her car when he pulled into the driveway. “Hi honey,” she said as she hugged him. “What are you doing home?” He smiled. “I came home for lunch.” “Well, we both had the same idea. How has your first day been?” “Oh, it’s been great! And get this, Owen just found out April’s pregnant and has offered to pay Amber twenty dollars an hour to keep April company.” “Really? I’m sure Amber will be excited to hear that. Let’s go inside, I’ll make you something to eat.” He opened the front door and Bianca stepped inside. She paused, “Do you hear that?” Henry listened carefully. He could hear faint rock music coming from upstairs. Bianca and Henry looked at one another. “Amber.” Henry made his way up the stairs; Bianca followed behind him. He pushed open Amber’s bedroom door, only to find Amber and Logan kissing on Amber’s bed. “Dad!” Amber shrieked pushing Logan off of her. Henry tried his best to remain calm. “Amber!” Bianca yelled. “Mom! What are you doing here?” “I’d ask you the same thing, but it’s obvious.” Henry grabbed Logan by his shirt collar. “Dad, no!” He looked Logan straight in the eyes, “Get out of my house.” As soon as Henry let him go, Logan was gone. Amber began to cry. “Dad, how could you? We didn’t do anything! We weren’t gonna do anything!” Bianca turned to face Amber, “You’re grounded.” “Mom, no!” Amber pleaded, but Bianca closed the door behind her, refusing to listen.
Henry and Bianca walked to the kitchen without saying a word. Bianca reached for a frying pan but began to cry. Henry wrapped his arms around her. “Henry,” she sobbed, “What are we going to do with her? She’s going to be eighteen in two weeks, and she’ll graduate in five months.” “Then she needs to grow up. I think she should take Owen’s offer.” Bianca nodded her head in agreement as she wiped the tears from her face. Henry made them both a sandwich before returning to work.
The drive back home was a long one. He had plenty of time to think about what to say to Amber. Dinner was already on the table when he walked inside. Bianca gave him a subtle smile and hugged him. Amber stared at her plate, twirling her fork, but not wrapping any spaghetti around it. “Let me fix you a plate,” Bianca offered. “No Bianca, it’s okay. I can do it.” He piled spaghetti onto his plate and sat down at the head of the table. “I’m done. I’m going back upstairs.” Amber said as she jumped up from her seat. “Hold on Amber. We need to talk.” She looked at her father, rolled her eyes, and sat back down. “You don’t have to be grounded anymore,” He began. “Really! Thanks dad!” “Let me finish,” he continued. “There are two conditions. First, you can’t skip school anymore. Second, you have to agree to work for Mr. Burbank.” “Work for Mr. Burbank?” “His wife is pregnant, and he would like for you to keep her company. The job pays twenty dollars an hour.” “Okay, let me get this straight. All I have to do is keep her company, and I get twenty dollars an hour?” “That’s what Mr. Burbank said.” “When do I start?”
Amber pulled into the Burbank’s driveway. The two-story home towered over her as she rang the doorbell. April greeted Amber at the door. “Hello Amber! Please, come in.” Amber, distracted by the decor, almost collided with Mr. Burbank. “Oh, Mr. Burbank, I’m sorry.” He laughed. “Don’t worry about it. We’re happy you’re here, and please call me Owen.” Amber smiled. “Oops, I almost forgot my car keys,” April said as she left the room. Owen continued, “I’m glad you agreed to the job. You’ll be paid every Friday. Today, April wants to look at nursery furniture, so have fun! And before I forget, happy belated eighteenth birthday.” “Ready Amber?” April asked. “Yes, I’m ready.”
Her first week on the job went by quickly. Amber pulled into the Burbank’s driveway and rang the doorbell. She expected April to answer but was surprised when Owen came to the door. “Hello Amber.” “Hello Mr., I mean Owen.” “April went to visit her parents today, but I have your money. I know you’d rather be with friends on a Friday night, but there are a few things you can help me with if you want to earn some money for today.” Amber thought about it for a moment. “I don’t have any plans until later on tonight, and I could use a distraction. So what do you want me to do?” Owen grinned. “Okay then. I have stacks and stacks of papers that are seriously disorganized. You can help me sort through them.”
Amber spent four hours with Owen before driving to Logan’s house. “Hey Amber!” Logan beamed. “I was wondering when you were gonna get here. My parents won’t be back until after midnight and,” Amber didn’t let him finish. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
Amber did her best to juggle school, work, and Logan for the next couple of weeks. She had just made it home from school on a Wednesday afternoon, when her mother knocked on her bedroom door. “Amber, are you going to work today?” Bianca let herself in and found Amber asleep in bed. “Amber?” Bianca said again. Amber woke up, yawned and looked at her mother. “Hi mom,” she whispered. “Are you going to work today?” Bianca asked again. “I’m so tired, and I don’t feel well Mom. Can you call April and tell her I won’t be there today?” “Of course I can. You deserve a day off. You’ve looked a little stressed out lately. And your father and I hardly get to see you anymore.” “Thanks mom.” Amber walked to the bathroom. “I’ll take a short nap, have dinner with mom and dad, and then I’ll go over to Logan’s for a little while,” she said to herself as she stared at her reflection in the mirror. She splashed her face with water and returned to her bedroom.
“I haven’t been this excited about work since, well I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about work.” Henry said at the dinner table. “Speaking of work, how’s the job going Amber?” “It’s fine dad. April’s really nice, and Owen’s really easy to talk to.” “Yeah, Owen’s a great guy. He’s the best boss I’ve ever had.” Henry took a bite of his baked chicken. “So, why didn’t you go to work today?” “I was just tired dad, and I wasn’t feeling very well.” “Oh, I’m sorry sweetie, are you okay?” “Yeah dad, I’m feeling a lot better now.”
After dinner, Amber went into the kitchen to help her mother with the dishes. “Wow Amber, you actually want to help with the dishes. You must be sick.” Amber smiled. “I help April with the dishes all the time. Why can’t I help my own mother?” Bianca gave Amber a hug. “I’ll wash and you dry.”
After the dishes were washed, Amber changed, grabbed her car keys, and drove to Logan’s house. “Amber, what are you doing here?” Logan asked after opening the front door. “I came to see you silly,” She answered. “I really missed,” A girl’s voice interrupted. “Who is it Logan?” “Amber I,” She didn’t let Logan finish. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you had company.” Amber turned to walk away. “Amber, wait.” Logan pleaded. “I never want to speak to you again.”
Henry and Bianca watched their daughter climb up the stairs in tears. “I don’t want to talk about it!” she yelled before closing her bedroom door.
It was six forty five in the morning when Bianca knocked on Amber’s bedroom door. “Can we talk now?” Amber was sitting cross-legged on her bed. “Well, you’ll be happy to know Logan and I broke up.” Amber began to cry as Bianca tried comforting her. Henry slowly pushed the bedroom door open. “I’m leaving for work. I just wanted to say goodbye.” “Dad!” Amber cried. Bianca released her, and Amber ran to her father. She hugged him as tightly as she could and whispered. “I love you.” “I love you too sweetie,” he whispered back. Amber’s sobbing turned into coughing. She ran down the hall to the bathroom and vomited. Bianca looked at Henry. “I’m going to call in today. I can’t leave Amber alone like this.” She glanced at her watch. “I know you’re worried about her Henry, but if you don’t leave now you’ll be late for work.” Henry nodded his head in agreement. “Take care of her.”
Bianca placed her hand on Amber’s forehead. “You don’t have a fever, but you look a little pale. Why don’t you get dressed? I’m going to call the doctor and find out if he can see you this morning.” Bianca scheduled an appointment with the doctor and called Henry. “How is she?” Henry asked. ”She’s still crying over Logan. She looks a little pale, so I scheduled a doctor’s appointment at ten. I’ll call you afterward.” “I’ll be waiting.”
At ten thirty, the phone rang. “Bianca, what did the doctor say? “Uh Henry, it’s Owen. Is this a bad time?” “No Owen, not at all. I was just waiting for Bianca to call.” “Is there a problem?” “Amber looked a little pale this morning, so Bianca scheduled a doctor’s appointment.” “Oh yeah, April told me Amber was feeling under the weather. I hope she feels better soon.” “Thanks Owen. I’m sorry, was there something you needed me to do?’ “Well, I wanted to see you in my office in half an hour. I should be receiving a list of new story ideas, and I need to go over them with you.” “Okay. I just want to finish the article I’ve been working on, and I’ll see you in half an hour.”
Henry was just about to walk toward Owen’s office when his phone rang. “Hello?” He answered. “Henry?” “Bianca?” “Yeah, it’s me.” “How’s Amber?” “She’s fine, but,” "But what?” “I don’t want to tell you over the phone.” “I have a meeting with Owen right now. Just tell me.” Bianca sighed. “Okay.”
Henry knocked on the door of Owen’s office. “Come in!” Owen shouted from within. Henry entered and hastily took a seat. “Is something wrong Henry?” Henry paused for a moment before answering. “Amber’s pregnant.” Owen stood up too quickly, causing his swivel chair to spin around. “What do you mean Amber’s pregnant?” “I’m going to kill him!” Henry threatened, “When I get my hands on Logan,” Owen sat on his desk in front of Henry. “Henry, calm down.” “Amber came home in tears last night. They just broke up and now this.” Owen put a hand on Henry’s shoulder. “Everything will be fine. Why don’t you take the rest of the day off?”
“I don’t want anyone to find out.” Amber stressed. “I’m gonna graduate before I start to show. No one has to know I’m pregnant. And I’ll tell Logan eventually, but not right now.” Henry remained silent. “Okay,” Bianca spoke for the both of them. “We won’t say anything about it. But I don’t know if you’ll be able to keep your job.” “Mom, I don’t want to give up my job. We could use the extra money. Besides, April’s pregnant too. She might be able to help me. What if I need someone to talk to?” “You can talk to me and your father.” “Mom, I know I can, but it would be nice to have someone else to talk to.” Bianca looked at Henry. “Dad, say something. Yell at me if you want to. Just say something.” “There’s no point in being upset. It won’t change anything.” Henry began to tear up. “Your mother and I love you very much. And we’ll do our best to help you through this.” Amber hugged her father. “I’m sorry dad,” “I know. I know you are.”
“Well Amber, let’s go shopping while we still can.” April said. She was three months away from her due date. Amber, who had graduated and was now four months pregnant, smiled at April. “Thanks April. I don’t know how I’d get through this without you.” “Well, consider me your older sister. The kind that doesn’t steal your boyfriend and has plenty of money to spend on you.” They both laughed. “Do you have a name picked out yet?” Amber asked. “Funny you should ask that,” April explained. “Even though we’ll both be happy with whatever we have, Owen and I have our preferences. I want a boy, and Owen wants a girl. Well, we decided if we have a boy, I get to choose the name. And I picked the name Damien. It was my grandfather’s name. But if we have a girl, Owen gets to choose the name. And he picked the name Rachel. I don’t know where Owen got Rachel from. He just said he’s always wanted a daughter named Rachel.” April rolled her eyes. “Whatever right. Speaking of Owen, the two of you seem to be getting along well.” “Yeah, I know. He just understands me.” Amber explained. “He doesn’t try to tell me what to do like my dad does.” She smiled, “I think he’s gonna be a great dad.” “Yeah,” April agreed. “I think so too.”
It was two in the morning when the phone rang. “Hello,” Henry answered. “Henry, its Owen. I’m sorry I called so late, but April’s in labor.” “Owen, that’s great! You’re going to be a father soon.” “Yeah, I know. I still can’t believe it. April really wants Amber to be one of the first people to see the baby. Do you think you could drive her to the hospital?” “Yeah Owen, of course. I’ll let Bianca and Amber know. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”
Owen smiled as the Harris’ appeared at the door of April’s private room, “Come in. We were wondering when you were going to get here.” April glowed as she held little Damien Burbank in her arms.
Amber was helping April change Damien’s clothes, when she felt a sharp pain. “Ow, ow!” She shouted as she placed her hand on the nursery wall to keep from falling over. Damien began to cry. “Owen, come quick!” April yelled. Owen rushed into the nursery. “What’s wrong?” “I think Amber’s in labor.” April said, trying to calm Damien down. “Take her to the hospital. I’ll call Henry and Bianca.” Owen carried Amber to his car. “You’re going to be okay.” He reassured her.
Bianca scrambled to pack a few things she thought Amber might need. “Henry, where are you going?” “I’ll meet you at the hospital,” he answered. “There’s something I need to do first.”
Amber tried to remember the breathing exercises April taught her as she experienced another contraction. “My parents aren’t here yet are they?” “No,” Owen answered. “Please don’t leave me here by myself.” She pleaded. He squeezed her hand, “I won’t.”
Henry knocked on Logan’s front door. “Can I help you with something Mr. Harris?” “Logan, we need to talk.”
Bianca backed out of the driveway and raced toward the hospital.
Amber cried out in pain as she squeezed Owen’s hand.
“Logan,” Henry began. “I don’t know what happened between you and my daughter, but there’s something you should know. This is going to come as a shock to you, but you can take the time to think about it after it happens. Right now, you need to come with me to the hospital.” Logan panicked, “Is it Amber? Is she okay?” “Logan,” Henry paused, “She’s about to have a baby.”
Bianca plowed through the hospital entrance. “Where’s my daughter? She’s having a baby!” She shouted.
Logan stared at Henry, confused. “I’m sorry Mr. Harris, but it’s not my baby. It can’t be my baby.”
“Just focus on your breathing Amber. I know it hurts, but try to focus on your breathing.” Owen coached.
“Listen Logan, Amber said she was going to tell you. Maybe she didn’t have a chance. Or she didn’t want you to know, I don’t know. But if we just stand here arguing about it, you’re going to miss the birth of your child. We have to go now!”
“Doctor, she’s fully dilated.” The nurse reported. He glanced at the nurse; then at Amber. “It’s time to push.”
“Mr. Harris,” Logan shook his head, “I never slept with your daughter.” Henry stood staring at Logan in disbelief.
“Your daughter is already in the process of delivering,” a nurse informed Bianca. “You won’t be allowed in the delivery room now. You’ll have to wait here.” “But I want to be there with my daughter,” Bianca began to cry. “I’m sorry ma’am,” the nurse apologized.
Henry rushed into the hospital ten minutes later. “Where is she?” he asked Bianca. “Mr. and Mrs. Harris?” a nurse inquired. “Yes,” they replied. “Your daughter’s delivery was a success. She’s been moved to a private room. You can go and see her whenever you’re ready.” “Thank you,” they both replied.
They followed the nurse to Amber’s room. She was sitting cross-legged on the bed, holding her baby girl. “Do you have a name for her yet?” the nurse asked. “I do actually,” Amber answered. “I’m gonna name her Rachel. I think her father would like that.”