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Unexpecting

        Nathan didn’t understand. Bree had just sat down and handed him the blue gift bag. Her eyes red, her hair knotted. He watched her curl into a ball on the couch beside him hiding her face into the sofa. “Open it,” she said through the cushion.

Nathan was flooded with panic. Anniversary? Not for another two months. “Aww, but I didn’t get you anything, love.” He said. Birthday? It’s November.

She turned her head and the words leaked out. “It’s ok, just open it.”

Oh my god she’s cheating on me. He peaked over the top of the bag. Pink rice paper buried whatever was inside.

“What is it?” He asked.

“Just open it.” She said.

        Nathan meticulously plucked each wad of paper out and set it between the couch cushions like he was storing it for later. He didn’t want to know what was in the bag. The last present she had given him was a key to her apartment, but that hadn’t made her act this way. It had made his father act just the way he expected. Down right hysterical. Nathan could hear his father, “Boy, that towheaded girl ain’t nothing but trouble,” words spat out like sunflower seeds, “Seven men? Do you really want to live with a girl that’s dated seven men? Puppy love’s what it is. You need a Godly woman.” The thought of his father chastising him made him bite his cheek. Nathan always joked that the Bible Belt was wrapped too hard around his father’s inflated head. Sometimes he had felt like he was in a cult whose number one purpose was to make him as naive as possible. Masturbation was a sin, don’t talk to queers, he didn’t even let Nathan go to school the day they talked about safe sex.

        “Did you see them?” She asked.

Nathan blinked. Bree was still in her fetal position. He looked down. Without realizing it he had taken each individual piece of the pink wrapping paper out of the bag. There were two dark objects nestled in the corner. He took the smaller of the two, picking it up with just his thumb and forefinger like it would explode if jostled too much. The wrapper was blue and silver. He didn’t even need to look at the label to know it was chocolate.

“Baby Ruth?” He said.

“Yea.” She said.

“You know I hate nuts, right?” He said.

At this she relaxed her muscles more in submission than in comfort. Her arms came out from under her and massaged the nape of her neck. Her legs stretched out and rested on the arm of the couch. Nathan could see the gold dog hair caked to the bottoms of her bare feet. She was frustrated with him. “Keep looking,” she said flatly.

Bree was getting on Nathan’s nerves. Maybe she didn’t take her pill that day. From their first date she had told him she was bipolar. He didn’t mind. His father did. Nathan could remember the night he introduced Bree to him after a putt-putt date night. She had suddenly been a bit too happy when he had made his ninth attempt into the final hole. He later pulled Nathan aside and whispered, “What’s the problem with that girl?” His father thought that the only people who were bipolar, depressed, or had any other problems with them were millennials that had been babied too much. Not Nathan of course. Nathan was raised in a strong home with punishment and consequence right around the corner.

“Well?” She asked.

“I’m…confused.” He said.

Nathan pulled out a brown sack of pancake mix. The name read: Papa’s Homemade Flapjacks. He didn’t understand why it was in there. Bree never bought them. Bree never made them. It had been a while since he’d seen them and even longer since he’d had them. His father would make those flapjacks every Sunday before church. If Nathan finished all his chores the night before his father would let him sip some of his coffee on the way to Sunday school. Even when Nathan would come home from college, his father would still make them. Until he couldn’t. One morning his father couldn’t remember how to make them. The next week he couldn’t remember Nathan. The day after that he was dead. Killed by some rapid neurological disease named after some German doctor.

Nathan’s vision blurred. “How’d you know?” he croaked.

Bree sat up. Worry splashed across her face. “I took a test, baby—are you happy or sad or…” she trailed off.

“I’m both. He was an asshole, but I miss him and it hurts to…” he sniffed. “You took a test?”

“Yea, it should be in there. Is it not?” She asked.

“I meant about my dad. I never told you about how we’d make these exact kinds of pancakes every—” Test. She took a test. Then it all came together: the blue bag, the pink wrapping paper, Baby Ruth, Papa’s Homemade Flapjacks. He looked in the bag. Empty. He turned to the cushion space filled with pink paper. He groped the rice paper till his fingers met plastic. When he lifted his hand, he held a pink and white bar. Two lines parallel each in the center.

“You’re pregnant?” He asked.

Bree’s lip tremored. She smiled pitifully. “What are we going to do?” She breathed, barely audible.

Nathan looked back at the Papa’s Homecooked Flapjacks. He smiled down at the, now blurred, container of pancake mix. He wrapped his arms around Bree, tears seeping from his eyes. “You feeling breakfast for dinner?” Her choked giggle was her answer.

Peyton Vance Author

Peyton Vance studies in Tennessee.

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