MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF
A Love Story by
Diane Stark (McConnell) Sanfilippo
Chapter 5 – Our First Fight
© 2003 Diane Sanfilippo
Chapter 5 – Our First Fight
In spite of all the beautiful promises that he whispered in the throes of passion, I knew it would not be easy to tell Billy I had missed my period. After much thought and soul seeking, I decided not to tell him until I missed the second one, since by then I would have no doubts.
You have to remember this was the time before birth control pills, and it was almost totally up to the man to take precautions to avoid pregnancy. I had no idea how to do otherwise, but this was an option Billy had not exercised. He had ignored my requests to be careful, so here I was, barely eighteen and ‘knocked up’! This was the last thing I wanted to happen to me, particularly since I knew my parent’s premature marriage and my birth had been the result of pre-marital sex, but not once did I worry that Billy would not marry me.
I had worried enough for both of us about his lack of caution, but he would place his finger on my lips and say, “S-h-h-h-h-h, little girl, don’t worry, if you get pregnant we will just get married earlier than we have planned.”
I believed him and had absolute faith in his love for me, and then again, fools are born every minute too. We had taken all the obligatory steps, and had both visited the other’s parents, although not for long as neither of our homes were very pleasant to visit. I knew they would be disappointed in us, and most of all, my grandmother, my aunt and uncle, but it was too late for that now.
We continued to go to the copper mine and we continued to make love with the vigor reserved only for the young. I no longer worried, for my worst fear was already a reality. I often wondered if Billy did not sense the change in my feelings and my lack of cautionary warnings, and I could not understand why he did not question that all of a sudden, I was not so frightened about getting pregnant anymore. Instead, he gave in to his lust with carefree abandon. Perhaps he had always been ‘lucky’ in his relationships before me, but no longer – this time his luck had run out.
I now regularly missed my Spanish class since my professor had said as long as I maintained the ‘B’ curve; he did not care, but I tried to be in class at least three days each week. Fortunately, it was not difficult to keep my ‘B’ curve since the upper classmen cadets who used my homework to maintain a passing average managed to fail most tests, so the curve was low. A ‘B’ was more than sufficient for me, and the kind professor, who I am sure had seen many a young coed in love, never did report me to the Dean of Women.
Billy did not have a late afternoon class so on days when the weather cooperated, and then sometimes even when it did not, we could be found at the cooper mine. On these rainy late winter afternoons, we remained in the car, which was not nearly as comfortable as our pine needle glade, although nothing seemed to reduce Billy’s ardor.
Already almost a month until spring, the nice days were becoming more frequent, as winter, hesitatingly, but nonetheless inevitably, moved out of the mountains leaving rivulets of melt off from the remains of the snow running down from the mountains to the lowlands, along the rivers and creeks and filling every dry stream bed in its path. Nevertheless, our ‘secret’ place was high and dry although we could hear the roar of the once trickling creek as it filled with the excess of water. Now where dry rocks had once stood baking in the winter sun, white water rapids created miniature whirlpools and treacherous rip tides. Fierce, wild and lovely, I wondered what it would be like to be as free as this water, to go where I wanted to go, to do what I wanted to do, and most of all, not to be pregnant! All of my planned adventures, not only postponed, had now become dreams as a new door of responsibility opened for me, and for the boy I loved, more than life itself.
The second quarter exams seemed meaningless, and I chose my third quarter classes without much thought, just hoping that I could prevent ‘showing’ long enough to finish the year. Truthfully, I did not think there was much chance of this happening since I already had a bit of a tummy, although I had made up my mind to try, and not disappoint my family. Perhaps with loose sweaters and blouses not tucked into the waistband of my already too tight skirts I could hide my pregnancy for a while, but I was in a quandary what to do about P.E. I knew softball was on the agenda for the third quarter, and was one of the few sports I enjoyed or ever excelled in, but I had never tried to play while pregnant!
In retrospect, perhaps I could have taken more time or chosen the place more wisely, and perhaps I should not have seemed so angry. Although I was angry, after all of Billy’s promises that nothing would happen, were now just promises unfulfilled. It was not long after I had missed my second period that one afternoon in the stacks I asked Billy if I could borrow his car to go into Gainesville to see a doctor. Then, without any preparation, I blurted out the reason. Instantly I could see the look of fear darken his handsome face, which all of a sudden was not so handsome, and without hesitation I thought, “He doesn’t love me at all.”
We argued, not just a minor conflict of interest that we occasionally had, and I cannot even remember what we said, but when I left him I felt quite alone and very much in trouble. In my anger, I had even given him his ring back, but he agreed to loan me the car to go to Gainesville.
Although I did not expect to see Billy in the canteen the next morning after the harsh words we exchanged the day before, as promised, he left the car for me in front of Lewis Hall that afternoon. I drove into Gainesville alone, tears running down my face, once again skipping Spanish but this time not with pleasure in mind. I had an appointment to see an obstetrician one of my friends had recommended, and I cried all the way thinking Billy should be by my side, as he had always promised. The doctor confirmed my worst fear and said the baby would be due sometime in mid November, which meant I had probably become pregnant the very first time we had sex, or close to it. I had worn a gold ring on my left hand with the stone turned into my palm since Billy still had my class ring, and I registered as Mrs. William E. McConnell, a name I had practiced writing a million times.
Arriving back on campus just before supper, I left the car where I picked it up and hastily I wrote a note to Billy. I don’t know whatever happened to that note, quite unlike any other that I had ever been forced to write or ever wanted to write, but I do remember what I said. I told him, clearly, that like it or not, this was his baby, and he had made promises to me that he would take care of us if this happened. Whether he still loved me or not did not matter, he now had a responsibility just as much, or more so, than my own. Continuing to write, I assured him he was going to have to take care of both of us, the baby and me, and it was my dreams of college that were now ruined.
I remember I used the word, ‘coward’, and wrote I was not so sure I wanted my child raised by a man who could fight for my love, but ran when the going got tough. As tears dropped onto the paper, I told him I still loved him with all my heart, that I had given him the only gift I could never give another. Crying even harder now, I went on to say I was as frightened as he was, even more so, as the child was inside of me and before long it would be obvious, which would force me to move out of the dorm, thus ending any hope I had of finishing the year. With each word I wrote, I was finally taking back control of my own destiny, and I was not letting him off the hook easily. Locking the car door behind me, after leaving the note on the visor, I had no idea how he would respond, and the wait seemed eternal.
Billy called me that very night and told me he had to see me the next day so we could talk and make plans for our future. Whispering, as if there was someone else who could hear, he said he loved me with all his heart and he would never desert me, nor would he break his promise. I could almost hear tears in his voice and I knew he was frightened. Repeating the words in my note, I told him I was even more frightened than he was, but I knew that if we loved each other enough we could make it work. I may have sounded more optimistic than I was feeling, but it was up to me to maintain control now, as I had finally found a crack in his perfection, a flaw in his character. At the first mention of a baby, he had wanted to turn and run, but with a bit of thought, it was love that made him turn around and come back. My hands were trembling as I hung up the telephone, and again practically in tears; I rushed back upstairs and into my room so no one could witness my distress. It was hard enough to keep it from Lucia, but I was not about ready to tell the world.
It was cloudy that next afternoon when we met and Billy drove up to the top of the hill overlooking the campus. Silently, he handed me a note he had written the night before when he had found my note, and I still have it to this day. It was many years later that I allowed his father to read it so there would never be any doubt in his mind that his son had always loved me and I had always loved him, but Billy had loved him too.
Billy wrote that he did not want to disappoint his Dad and not finish school, but he was worried how we would manage to explain an early baby in a town as small as Griffin. He had thought this might become a small town scandal, and worried about the embarrassment it might cause his father. Frankly, I thought after some of the escapades he had told me about pulling in high school, I didn’t see how much further he could embarrass him, but I said nothing and continued to read. Billy had just been lucky that he had not become a father long before now as I certainly was not his first, or even his 5th or 6th , if what he had told me was true. However I was determined, I would be his last.
He certainly had not bragged about his earlier conquests before we made love for the first time. If he had, I might have had second thoughts, although I knew he was obviously experienced. It was not until now I found out, even after I took his ring, and even as he asked for it back from the girl at home, there was some possibility she might be pregnant and he was really sweating that one. He wanted me and not Sandra, and when she called to say she was not carrying his child, he shouted, throughout the dorm, “No more Ishmael!” This was because the girl was of Jewish heritage. Had I known all this, I do not know how it might have changed our future, but I am glad I did not, because loving Billy and having him love me was the only thing I wanted from the first time we kissed. Now I was carrying his child, there was no doubt this time he was going to be a father.
I now understood that he had to have time to think things over more, at least more than I did. He did not act spontaneously, throwing caution to the wind, except, of course, where having sex at the copper mine was concerned. Now it was time to pay for our afternoons of love and lust. Before we parted, he sheepishly held out his ring, and I took it knowing that now it would be mine forever, and soon there would be a gold band in its place.
Holding my hand tightly, his last words, as I opened the door of the car that held so many of our secrets, were, “Little girl, I am so sorry I acted like I did, and that you thought you couldn’t depend on me, but I was just so surprised. Believe me, my darling; I will never disappoint you in that way again, never. I will always love you more than life itself.”
As I gazed into his deep blue eyes, once again, I fell under his spell and I replied, “I love you more than life itself, too. And, Billy, I want you to know that no matter what happens I hope that someday I can fully trust you again, but right now I am still not sure.”
His reply further surprised me as he said, with a catch in his voice as if he wanted to cry, “I know you have every reason not to trust me, not ever again, and it may take a long time before you forget these past 24 hours. But I promise, no, I swear to you, I will love you and I will take care of you forever.”
Once again, he had come up with just the right words at the right time. My heart filled with love for him, and I knew he was wrong; it would not take me a long time to forget. I already had forgotten, and there was no doubt in my mind he would keep his word this time and he would take care of me forever, I just never thought our forever might not be as long as forever should be.