I leaned against the doorjamb of Nora’s room. “Come on, Nora. Go to lunch with me. When’s the last time you left the house?”
She shrugged, pacing the room. “I don’t know. I don’t want to go out, Josh. I feel like everyone stares at me.”
“Nor, no one is staring at you.”
“I’m showing.” She gestured to her stomach.
Sure, if you knew my rail-thin sister, you’d notice the swelling of her belly, but she didn’t really look pregnant. “Barely,” I scoffed.
“People at school stare. They’re always whispering, wondering who knocked the loner girl up.”
I walked into the room and pulled her into my arms. “Nora, you can’t spend your life hiding. Just come have lunch with me, huh? We’ll drive over to Magnolia Promenade.” I knew why she was so resistant to going out, and it wasn’t just because people might look at her. I had the feeling she was punishing herself. Though she’d long since stopped being grounded, she never went anywhere, not even the library. Mom said she didn’t even go outside unless Loralee came over and made her go for a walk. “Seriously, Nora. You need to get out of the house.”
She sighed in defeat. “Alright, fine. Let me put on something decent.”
I grinned at her and kissed her cheek, giving her an “atta girl” before going into the living room to wait. A few minutes later, Nora emerged in fresh clothes. “There’s my baby sister.”
She huffed and walked over to me. “I’m still protesting this.”
I tousled her hair and pulled her under my arm. “Yeah yeah. Let’s go.”
The two of us sat down at our table and perused the menus. This was a nice place I liked to bring Alison. It tended to serve a more adult crowd, so I wasn’t worried about Nora running into people from school here.
“So, I saw your game the other day on TV.”
I grinned at her. “Yeah? Did it bore you to tears?” For a while now, I’d been playing for a minor league baseball team after they had open tryouts. This year, I’d actually signed with a major league team, the Willow Creek Ravens. This week, I’d played my first televised game. I wasn’t the starting pitcher, but I’d actually gotten to play.
She smiled. “Yeah, but Mom woke me up whenever you were on.” Once we’d gotten into the restaurant, she’d started to loosen up some. Now she seemed more like the old Nora. But, as quickly as it appeared, her smile disappeared. “Are you going to move now that you’re making pro-baller money? Someplace nicer?”
I shook my head. “Nah, I don’t see why I would. Maybe one day when I need the space. I’ve got everything I need right now.”
She put her menu down and turned it in circles on the table. “That’s got to be nice. Having money to do whatever with now.”
I frowned at my sister. She was really oddly concerned with money. “It’s nice, yeah. But I’m not going around buying extravagant stuff or anything.” I mean, I guess this restaurant was a little pricey, but I still wouldn’t call it extravagant. “Are you still interested in being a journalist?” I asked, trying to change the subject.
She shrugged, her eyes tracking the slow circles of the menu. “That’s not really in the picture for me anymore.”
I leaned across the table. “That isn’t true, Nora. That isn’t true at all.” I felt like I couldn’t be emphatic enough about that. I never wanted her to feel like she couldn’t do anything she wanted to do. “Your future isn’t ruined just because of one hiccup.”
Her face transformed into a glare. “A hiccup? Josh, a hiccup is when you fail a class. I’m pregnant. My life is over; I have to focus on my kid.”
Okay, that had come out wrong. “Nora, I didn’t mean it like that. I just mean, you can still have things that you want. You can still have a career as a journalist. Your life isn’t over just because you have a kid. Is Mom’s life over? She could’ve had a career as an artist if she wanted one. What about Aunt Shirley? She’s a freaking chief of staff at the hospital.”
“It’s different for them. They already had money when they had kids. I’m starting with nothing, Josh. When I get out of high school, I’m going to be getting the first job I can and saving up so I can get on my own feet. I can’t even get a jump on saving up in high school because I can’t go to school, have a job, and take care of a kid.”
“Oh, Nora.” I reached across the table and puts my hands on hers, stalling the spinning of the menu. “You’re not doing this alone, you know. I’ll help you however I can. Maybe you’ll have to work harder than the average high school grad, but you can still be successful. You don’t have to settle for some job you don’t want.”
Tears welled in her eyes but she hurriedly dashed them away, glancing away from me. “I don’t want your money or anything, Josh. I’ll do this on my own.”
I had just been about to offer her a loan – albeit the kind never meant to be paid back. “Well, then I’ll babysit whenever you need. And so will Alison – she’s excited to be Aunt Allie.” Just not Mom, whispered the back of my mind. I shoved the voice down and refocused on my sister. “Your dream doesn’t die because you have more responsibilities, Nor.”
She leaned back in her seat and rubbed her face. “I want to give this kid everything I should be able to if I’d been responsible and gotten pregnant later. Being a journalist is iffy work, and I might have to travel. I can’t just leave my kid with you or Mom and go gallivanting off to Monte Vista or Bridgeport.”
I chuckled softly. “Nora, you’re thinking about this too much. Do what you love, little sister. I’ll be happy to babysit. I love kids; babysitting your brat will be good practice for when I have some sex trophies.” Assuming Alison ever changes her mind about kids.
She laughed in a quick burst. “Watcher, what is wrong with you?” She rolled her eyes and picked up her menu again. “Alright, let’s get down to eating. Baby is starving.”