“How do you think the fans will respond to it though?” Isaac asked, turning away from the mixing equipment to look at his brothers.
“What? Strong Enough To Break?” I replied. “Ike, have you been a hermit for the last I don’t know how many months? Ever since we performed it on that radio show, it’s been all over the place. There’s a clip of it, mixed, on the Internet already. The fans love it.”
“He’s right.” Zac agreed with me. “I read something about it being a little repetitive, but other than that – they love it.”
“I just wonder what they’re going to think of the new album. Y’know? I mean This Time Around didn’t do so hot.”
“That’s because the fucking assholes we have for management didn’t give us shit for time to promote.” I replied.
“Shouldn’t you be, uh, starting to watch your language, Dad?” Zac reminded me, unfortunately.
“Yeah. I hope you’re not going to have a mouth like that around your kid.” Isaac added.
“Y’know, I don’t need parenting lessons from either of you.” I said, a little annoyed. “The baby won’t be born until November, and until it’s old enough to understand that ‘fuck’ is a curse word, I’ll use it whenever I fucking feel like it.”
“Whoa, take it easy.” Zac said defensively, putting his hands up as if surrendering. I just glared at him for a moment.
“Mike,” I said into the microphone that connected us to the technicians in the next room.
“You wanna mix the guitar riffs and the last piano chords on Dream Girl over again? I don’t like the way they sounded.”
“Sure thing, Tay.” He replied. My brothers looked at me, and kept looking at me, until it prompted an aggravated response from me.
“What?!” I practically shouted.
“How are things with you and Natalie?” Isaac asked me. He might as well have just come out and said So, little brother, been screwing things up yet?
“Fine.” I replied shortly. “She’s fine. The baby’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine.” Even I didn’t miss the undertone in my voice, and I kind of regretted it.
“Are you both coming to dinner tonight?” Zac asked me. “Mom invited us all.”
“I’m aware of that.” I replied. “Yeah, we’re both coming. What do you think I’m going to do, leave her home alone?”
“I see you woke up on the right side of the bed this morning.” My wonderful older brother decided to add. That only started to piss me off more.
“You know what? Let’s get off the subject of me, and my life – including my marriage. It’s none of your damn business anyway.” I think they got the hint after that, because they didn’t say anything more about it. I don’t think I could have made my recent thoughts any clearer if I’d worn a blinking sign on my head that said Second thoughts about my marriage.
“I remixed it. Want me to play it back?” Mike’s voice cut the tension in the room. I grabbed the mic and answered.
“Yeah. Let’s hear it.” I didn’t have much to say for the remainder of the afternoon. My brothers on the other hand, I could see in their faces that they wanted to know more about my life away from what I used to call home. I think they could sense that things weren’t all bright and flowery in my life – although, I’d always done well at pretending they were. In some cases, I guess, you could say that I’m a good liar. But liar has such a negative connotation, and I really prefer not to be called a liar – because I’m really not. I’m not even going to get into the possibilities of the word Hypocrite right now. I’ve heard too many things on fan pages, and from my parents, and friends – I’m just going to skip right over the hypocrite part. There was a recent revelation to the world of Hanson fans, and many others who thought me, or any of my family was god-like. Ladies and Gentlemen: I am not perfect. I’m nowhere near it.
I threw my keys on the kitchen counter, and headed upstairs in the search for my wife. She was around here somewhere; it was just a matter of figuring out what small thing of insignificant value had caught her interest this time.
“Natalie.” I called up the stairs.
“Yeah?” Her reply wafted down to me.
“Come on,” I shouted back. “We’re going to my parents’ house for dinner, remember?”
“Yes, Taylor, I remember.” She called back. “I’m just putting some nicer clothes on.” Yeah. Clothes that I bought… I’m going to forget that thought just crossed my mind.
“Yeah, well, you don’t have four months of baby in you to slow you down because all of your old clothes don’t seem to quite fit anymore.” There was a comment I was considering shouting at her, but it would only cause problems. And to be honest, I didn’t want to fight with her. I just wanted to get to my parents’ house, eat dinner, come home, and go to bed. Is that so much to ask? In my life, it is.
When I pulled into the driveway, orange soda in tow, along with my wife, I noticed Natalie chewing on her fingernails. There were two reasons that she did this: one, she was bored, or two, she was nervous.
“Hey,” I said, putting my hand over hers. “Are you nervous?” She shrugged; I laughed a little. “We dated for two years, and now we’re married. My family knows you and you know them. What on earth are you nervous for?”
“I just… I feel like they look at me different now. I’ve felt that way since I told you I was pregnant. Your Mom, I don’t know, it just seems like she doesn’t look at me the way she used to. I feel like her and your Dad want to say something to me, but…”
“You want the truth?” She nodded. “They do look at you different. They look at me different. We had premarital sex, and they’re never going to forget that.” I knew she could tell I was getting annoyed. “That isn’t allowed in their book. I wasn’t raised that way, so they’re disappointed in me, and you.”
“Oh,” was all she said to that. I felt guilty for blurting that out, but I’d been keeping it in since April when she told us. My parents were more disappointed in me than her. They raised me by their Christian beliefs, and I basically threw them back in their face.
“Come on,” I said, a little more softly, unbuckling my seatbelt. “Let’s go inside.” I got out of the car, soda in tow, and came around to the other side of my black Santa Fe. I took her hand, lacing my fingers with hers, and headed up the walk to the front door.
“Hello,” she called in, as she opened the door. I still held her free hand, and the soda, and when I made it in I kicked the door shut behind me.
“Hey,” my father replied, coming in to the room. “We weren’t expecting you two for a little while.” She jerked her thumb toward me.
“He made me hurry up.” My Dad smiled, and hugged her gently.
“Know what it is yet?” He asked, nodding to her stomach. I don’t know why, but it always made me uncomfortable to talk about her pregnancy in front of either of my parents.
“A baby.” I replied. Natalie rolled her eyes at me.
“Not yet.” She answered. “I want to find out though.”
“Since when?” I asked; as far as I knew, we were going to let it be a surprise when the baby was born in November. I knew I was picking another fight, but I didn’t care.
“Not now, okay?” She said quietly, trying to avoid having my father hear her.
“Well, come on in the kitchen. Your Mom is still cooking some stuff, and you can put that soda in the fridge.”
In the kitchen my mother was putting finishing touches on whatever it was she had made; once I could see, I saw that she made lasagna. It was pretty good – although, I’d had real lasagna, made by the Italians when we were in Italy once, and nothing could beat that. I let go of Natalie’s hand, and went to put the soda in the fridge while she went to greet my mother.
“Hi Nat,” she said coolly. She stopped what she was doing and put her hand on Natalie’s stomach. My mother did a wonderful job pretending like this pregnancy didn’t bother her – almost as good a job as I did. She was accepting it – she had no other choice. Natalie smiled.
“It’s not a mover and a shaker,” I said, coming over and wrapping my arms around my wife’s chest from behind, crossing them so that my hands rested on my own biceps.
“Then it certainly doesn’t take after its father, now does it?” She raised her eyebrows at me and smiled. I smiled back.
“Maybe someday.” I replied. So far, I’d led my parents to believe that Nat and I had a perfect marriage. That wasn’t the case, but white lies never hurt anybody. Right? Natalie looked up at me with open adoration in her eyes that made me feel guilty for the thoughts I’d been having since I was forced into marriage with her. She loves me; I know that. I never doubted that she loved me; I only doubted that I loved her – the kind of love there is between a man and his wife. I kissed her lips tenderly, and my younger brother chose to enter the room at that moment.
“Gross.” Mackenzie said. I could hear him scrunching up his nose and furrowing his eyebrows.
“It’s just kissing,” our mother said, turning back to the dinner she’d been polishing up.
“Nuh-uh.” He said. He pointed to Nat’s stomach. “She’s having a baby isn’t she?”
“So what?” Mom said.
“So… that means that they had sex, right, Mom?” Natalie’s face turned as scarlet as I felt mine turning. “You said a man and a woman have to have sex to make a baby, so that means that Tay – “
“O-kay,” I interrupted. “Thanks for clearing that up for us, Mac.”
“Mackenzie, go on out with Dad.” My mother said, trying to hide a smile. Yeah, it was funny, but I know that it also reminded her that I’d gone against everything she’d ever taught us. “He asked where babies came from not too long ago.” She said, clearing up exactly why my youngest brother was telling me what I already knew – both from my parents and their big teaching book, and now from experience.
“Do you need help with anything?” Natalie asker her; I still had my arms around her.
“Uh, not at the moment,” she smiled at her, “but you could stay and talk to me.”
“What am I, rotten eggs?” I asked. If there is one thing I know I hate, amongst many others, it’s being left out. I like to be in control of things, but I’m not a control freak. I wasn’t good at cooking, so I avoided it – I wasn’t used to not being good at things. Maybe that’s why my marriage to Natalie was eating away at me – I didn’t know how to be a good husband or a good father. I’ve always been good at everything I do, and this, it was out of my control. I had to learn, it didn’t just come to me, and it scared me.
“No, but you don’t like cooking, so what are you whining about?” My mother replied.
“I can stay and listen while you two talk. Can’t I stay in here with my wife?” I asked. I slid my hands down to her stomach, and just held them there. This was one of those moments that sent my brain into a complete fucking whirlwind. I didn’t know what I felt for her anymore. One minute, I wanted out of this marriage, and to just pretend like none of this had happened, and then the next minute I’m content with just having my arms around her, or my hands on her stomach to feel the life we created. No matter how I feel, I know I love the baby.
“Oh my God,” Natalie said suddenly and quietly. She turned her head to look at me, the slight smile of wonder I felt on my face I saw on hers.
“What? Are you ok?” My mother asked a little nervously.
“Did you feel it?” Nat asked me, awe sparkling in her eyes. I nodded, speechless. We’d both felt the life inside of her move for the first time. I can’t even begin to explain it. At that moment, as confusing as things may have been for me, my heart swelled with love for her.
“Feel what?” My mother asked. We both looked at her, the same wonderment on our faces.
“The baby moved,” I said in a hushed, awestruck voice. I saw my mother break out into a smile and come around the counter to place a hand on Natalie’s stomach as well. She looked up at us and smiled when she felt it too. “It’s amazing…” I said, sounding like a little kid who was seeing the Christmas tree, all lit up and beautiful on Christmas Eve before Santa Claus filled its underneath with gifts. Natalie tilted her head up towards me and I kissed her lips so tenderly.
“I love you,” she said quietly.
“I love you too,” I replied, in the same quiet tone. My mother just smiled at us, a soft, warm, motherly smile. She’d just felt the movement of her first grandchild – I had just felt the first movement of my first son or daughter – Natalie and I had actually felt the life we created inside of her move. Any second thoughts I’d been having for a month were forgotten for the remainder of the evening, and the rest of the night. I never thought little things like that would ever mean so much, or be so big, or change your entire view of something, if only for a brief amount of time.