doorMy life is about to change, for better or for worse.
There’s no turning back now.
Before I could think any more about it, I grasped the doorknob and quickly pushed the door all the way open bracing myself for what I was about to experience. Surprisingly, everything beyond the door seemed completely cloaked in darkness, a darkness I’ve never known before. I questioned if I should even step over the threshold, or if I should run home to Mom, rushing into her warm, open arms. No, I scolded myself, you have to do this. Be strong, keep your chin up, and walk right in.
If I said I had no second thoughts, as I was stepping inside the beautifully mysterious building, that would be a lie. But once I stepped inside, the darkness and the walls, everything around me dissolved into thin air, as if it was never there, like I had been in this realm all along instead of reality. As the brick building and the darkness dissolved, so did my fears and doubts. Instead, I felt sickeningly joyous, like I needed to throw my arms out and turn my face to the bright blue sky, basking in the warm glow the sun provided, laughing without a single care in the world. Butterflies fluttered around me, birds zoomed by me and chirped away. Everything was so perfect, it almost seemed too good to be true.
Once I’d had my fill of the sunshine, I let my arms rest at my sides again, and looked down. Normally, I’m not a fan of heights- not necessarily afraid, but I didn’t go out of my way to be far off the ground. Though I was many feet above the soft, emerald grass, I felt completely safe. I knew in my heart and soul that I was not going anywhere, but that left me another problem. How am I going to look around? And when I’m done here, how will I get home? What am I supposed to do to get out of here?
My internal babble was interrupted by the sound of my own voice, but underneath me. I jerked around quickly, eyes wide with horror. When I realized what was happening, I sat down on the invisible ground, and watched the scene unfold in the world below me.
I didn’t appear to be much older, a maximum age of twenty three. Regardless of my age, I was wearing entirely too much eyeliner, thick and black around my light blue eyes, causing me to look like a racoon with messy, dirty blonde hair pulled into a quick bun. When I heard myself sniffle, I adjusted myself to lay flat on my stomach, my chin resting on my arms, bracing myself for whatever would happen next. I was crying, but upon closer inspection, I was not sad at all; I was shocked, but happy. I recognized the park around me, the giant one near downtown, with all of the fun lights and the tall trees. The tree leaves were a rainbow of deep reds, burning oranges, and bright yellows, with brown spots only in a couple places, revealing to me that it was obviously autumn, most likely, October.
Who I did not recognize, was him. I had a boyfriend, Jacob, that I dated on and off through high school, and at this time, we were in another off phase, possibly permanently. But, this mystery man seemed to be the complete opposite of Jacob. Jacob was just a few inches taller than me, with freckles littered across his nose and cheekbones, faint under his lightly tanned skin, which matched well with his mousy brown hair and deep brown eyes that melted me every time. This man, he was different. His features were striking, and seemed intimidating, but beautiful. He was just a couple shades tanner than I am, with strong cheekbones, and brilliant, bright, sparkling green eyes. Dark, curly hair swept across his forehead, cut short enough that you could see all of this eyes, but only a sliver of his forehead and dark eyebrows. I floated down to be at level with future Brooke and Mystery Man, and as I was circling around to face him, my peripheral vision caught a sparkle. I looked up at him, as he towered over me, then back down at my left hand, and sure enough, there it was. A flawless, sparkling diamond ring hugged my ring finger. I had my hand flexed, and future me could not get enough of it. “Hell, I can’t get enough of it,” I muttered under my breath.
As more tears ran down my rosy cheeks, time slowly began to turn back. Confused, I looked around, as the wind picked up around me, carrying time back to where I had to make a choice. I thought the proposal was a choice, and now that I didn’t know which choice I would have to make, the beginnings of panic trickled in, but as time slowed back down, I felt relieved.
Time settled into place, and I was watching myself, in the bathroom, staring into the mirror. I was a hot mess- hair pulled back into a loose messy bun, stray hairs everywhere, swollen, pink eyes..
Oh, no. No, no, no!
I screamed at myself, as future Brooke looked down at the counter, where my fear was confirmed. I watched for a pregnancy test result to show, and with my phone timer on next to me, I was sure that my life was about to change. Older Brooke grabbed a tissue, wiped her eyes, and blew her nose. Yeesh, I thought, my crying can be seriously ugly and full of snot. I was distracted for only a second, but I knew that when Older Brooke covered her mouth to hold in her sobs, my prediction was confirmed.
In the next few years, I’m pregnant.
But, by who? I’ve loved Jacob all my life, even though he drives me crazy. And what about Mystery Man? When he proposes, he seems intense, but mostly, intensely in love with me. What’s so wrong about being pregnant?
I followed myself into a giant bedroom with light grey walls and plush white carpet, but what bothered me the most about the room, was that it was entirely too empty- too impersonal. My room at home was full of art, posters, tables, and other furniture. This room that older me was in, was definitely not me. And when I saw Jacob walk out of the room, I understood why. He’s always been a simple guy, keeping only what he absolutely needs, and throwing the excess out. He’s been this way since he was a child, I don’t think any mother has seen their son’s room so clean!
He sat down next to me on the bed, staring at me, staring through me. Older Brooke didn’t move, keeping her vision towards the bottom of the wall, letting tears slide down her cheeks. Jacob pulled her into his side, allowing her to rest her heavy head in the crook of his neck, as he rubbed her arms gently. “Jacob,” she hiccuped.
Jacob hushed her, pulling her in tighter, letting Older Brooke cry and cry until there were none left. I backed away from the scene as time rolled forward a few days, and the three of us were back in the park. Older Brooke’s hands both being held tightly by Mystery Man, as I stood just behind my older self.
“Let’s get married right away, Brooke,” Mystery Man spoke breathlessly. “Why wait? We have a child on the way, we can be a family,” he paused, as Older Brooke began pulling away.
“Austin, we don’t need to rush things,” she hesitated before continuing, “But I do need to tell you something.” More tears rushed down her face, as Austin’s face turned into a frown. Older Brooke looked down, slowly pulling the ring from her finger, and folding it into Austin’s hand.
“You slept with him, didn’t you?” He whispered. His voice was deep, but with how hurt he felt, his voice was surprisingly soft. The sharpness in his voice grew. “I should have known, nobody can ever possibly be just platonic with an old flame. Your history with him will always trump whatever feelings you have for me! I should have known!” He was yelling now. There were only a few other people out on the street, but they all slowed their walking, watching the scene unfold. It was then that Jacob peeled himself out of the darkness of his hiding spot underneath a tree behind me, and approached them both. Older me had not seen him yet, but was shaking her head, holding in more tears as she tried to calm Austin down.
“Hey, man, listen to what she has-”
“What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be here!” Austin demanded.
“I was trying to tell you to listen to what I have to say, Austin!” Older Brooke screamed. When she stopped the boys from talking more, they retreated, deflating their chests and turning to face her. “I was trying to tell you to listen to what I have to say,” she repeated. Older Brooke took a deep breath and looked longingly at the ground, before pulling her chin up, facing both men. Both were heartbreakingly beautiful, and in my gut, I realized this is the choice I had to make. One was the father, and it was possible that the other would never want anything to do with me ever again, and I would have to choose who I would lose. Though I hadn’t known Austin long, I felt tears sting my eyes as Older Brooke began to speak.
“You both know I’m pregnant,” she sighed, “Yes, it’s true. I have slept with both of you, and I am incredibly sorry for the pain I’m putting you both through.” She hesitated. “What I have not told either of you is I need one of you to take a paternity test.” She took another deep breath, ready to continue, but Austin cut Older Brooke off before she could form more words.
“You have got to be kidding me,” He snickered, “Maybe we should both take one, since you love to sleep around so much! It could be anyone in this town!” He then launched into short-lived maniacal laughter, before Older Brooke slapped him hard across the face.
“Look at you, aren’t you funny!” Older Brooke snapped, “What you just did just proves I shouldn’t have told you anything at all, and left it to Jacob.” Her eyes were wild and full of fire. “He was there when I took the test. I figured I would give you a chance to be there during the other one.”
Nobody said a word, and the air was thick with tension and anger. Jacob was the first to speak. “B, why wouldn’t you just ask me?” His voice was quiet and sad. “You know I would do anything for you-”
“Sleeping with her doesn’t count, man. Anybody could do that!” Austin chimed in. Older Brooke didn’t get a chance to smack him again, because this time, Jacob punched him right in the eye.
“Say anything like that to her again, man,” Jacob bellowed. “Give me a reason to beat the shit out of you! Do it again!” He threatened Austin once more, before punching him right in the gut.
Older Brooke and I shrieked at the same time. “Stop!” When I had realized what happened, all three of them looked right at me, and truly saw me, for the first time. It was only a split second, before the boys launched into a screaming match, and Older Brooke walked away. I followed her, and plopped down a small distance away on the park bench. She slumped over and rested her head in her hands, as Austin and Jacob ran across the street and stopped in front of her, gasping for breath. When she looked up, I saw how truly bloodshot her eyes were, and realized that just a short time ago Older Brooke looked stunning, and now, she looked like she had been to hell and back home. Dealing with these two boys, going through hell and coming back alive was going to be a miracle, but I knew that she- I had to make it happen.
Austin knelt down in front of Older Brooke, and softly rested one hand on her knee while Jacob stood a few feet back with furrowed eyebrows and a pouty expression. “Brooke, I didn’t mean any of what I said back there, and I’m sorry,” Austin sighed. “I will leave the final decision up to you, but I am willing to take the paternity test- for you.” He stopped, opening her hand, and sliding the ring back on her shaking finger. “And this,” he pointed at the ring, “this is yours, always. No matter what happens, it belongs to you.” Austin pressed his lips to her hand softly, then to her forehead, before standing up, and walking off into the night.
Jacob immediately rushed forward and sat on the bench next to Older Brooke, lacing his fingers with hers. He reached into his pocket for a napkin, which caused her to giggle through her tears. “I always have to keep them handy,” he smiled as he spoke. “Especially when my beautiful Brookie needs to wipe her tears, or her nose.” He chuckled and kissed the side of her head, giving her hand a gentle squeeze, the same affection he has already shown me so many times before. I sighed dreamily, suddenly longing for his touch and attention, craving it above anything else.
“How could he say those things, Jake?” Older Brooke whispered, “He’s always been so great to me, protective, and loving, but never plain mean the way he just was. If he is the father, Jacob, I’m so scared that one day he will just snap for no reason, and I don’t know how he is when he’s angry. I’m scared, Jake. I’m absolutely terrified.” She wiped the last few tears from under her eyes as Jacob fiddled with the ring on her finger. She slid it off and held it up to eye level, allowing the diamonds to sparkle under the streetlights. Older Brooke tucked the stunning ring into her pocket as time flashed forward again, about three weeks ahead.
I didn’t look any different than before, other than the dark circles under my eyes, the exhaustion written all over my face. I was sitting in an exam room at the doctor’s office, with only a gown covering me as I shivered, laying down on the cold, hard table. The door opened, and Jacob walked in, and sat in the chair next to the table, grasping my hand for dear life. His face was very pale, and his other hand was squeezing the table so hard, his knuckles turned white. There were three raps on the door before the doctor strolled in, and Older Brooke sat right up and automatically reached for Jacob’s trembling hand. With their fingers laced together, the doctor quickly went over some instructions, and revealed that the paternity test results would be available in one week, and to come to the clinic to pick up the envelope.
Time melted forward once more, and I was enormously pregnant. Older Brooke is very obviously uncomfortable, but happy as she lovingly watched Jacob paint the baby’s room a soft purple. Older Brooke had her arms resting on her baby bump, holding it to pass the time until she could hold her baby girl for real. Jacob turned around with a lazy grin, and kissed her stomach and then her lips slowly, full of love. She smiled quickly, fighting the frown that formed on her lips. “Jake, we should tell him,” she warned, “We need to tell him everything, about the marriage, and about the fact that we’re having the baby any day now-”
“You’re right, we should,” Jacob interrupted, “but why now? Hannah hasn’t been born yet, let us enjoy the last little bit of this pregnancy, and when you come home from the hospital, we’ll tell him. Together,” he insisted. Older Brooke sighed, while I was squealing with excitement. I’ve always wanted a baby girl named Hannah! I breathed deeply, trying to calm down, when another sparkle from Older Brooke’s hand instantly grabbed my attention. The ring was beautiful, subtle, and totally different from the very big, overly flashy one Austin gave me earlier. Older Brooke’s phone rang, and sure enough, it was Austin. She hesitated before answering, and she clearly was relieved about what she heard by the look on her face. Older Brooke padded out of the room quickly, before Jacob had a chance to ask what the phone call was about. He stopped at the doorway of Hannah’s room, and turned back to continue painting over the same spot he started on.
Before I was ready and realized what exactly was happening, I was floating away, as the edges of my vision felt fuzzy and started turning black. I slammed back into my body, on my own feet, in an abandoned square downtown. With the streetlights, I could still see everything, but I felt disoriented super confused. Where am I? Where is the building? Where is my door? A phone call from my mom jolted me out of my trance. “Hello?” I answered sheepishly.
“Brooke? Honey, is everything okay?”
“Yeah, Mom, I’m fine. I’m coming home now, don’t worry.”
“It’s about time, you haven’t been home in three days! Jacob and I were starting to worry!” Mom was always a worrier, and after she explained her tale to me, and experienced my own, I completely understood why. I was happy, because in the future, it seems I end up with everything I’ve wanted- a family, Jacob, and a baby girl. A cute house, a loving husband. All of it seemed to be mine.
“Brooke!” Mom snapped. “Are you there?”
“Yeah, Mom, sorry! I just spaced out for a minute-”
“B, it’s me.” The familiar, deep voice cut me off. “Where are you? I need to see you.”
“Downtown. Do not tell my mother,” I stressed. “And it’s good to hear you say that. I need to see you too, Jake.” I sighed. “I miss you so, so much.”
“I need to tell you something,” he said sharply, “but it needs to be in person. I’ll be there in ten minutes.” The line went dead, and I waited patiently with the company of the moonlight and the stars as I waited for my future husband to take me home.
TO BE CONTINUED…