I laid my hand on my belly while I rested on the couch before deciding what I was going to do that evening. Before I could decide, the doorbell rang. I stood up and slid over to the door, opening it without really thinking who it might be. As soon as I did, I almost wished I hadn't.
“Lanie?” Kevin seemed to almost not believe who was standing in front of him.
“Yes, Kev,” I stepped to the side, letting him walk in and shut the door, “What did you want?”
“Besides the obvious, for you to come home, just to know why you left.”
“You can see what my reason is.”
“You left because you're pregnant?” He asked.
“Yes, I'm pregnant.”
“But is it... is Joe the father?” Kevin stammered out.
“Do you really have to ask that?”
“I guess not. But I just wanted to make sure. You know, he hasn't been the same since you left. In fact, he sold his apartment and moved back in with Mom and Dad only a month after. He hardly goes out anymore. And he certainly doesn't smile or laugh now. Why did you really leave, Lanie?”
“Because we were all with Disney. And you know what would have happened if they and the fans had found out that Joe wasn't as 'perfect' as he was portrayed. Kevin, I did it to protect him and this baby. I don't want her to grow up surrounded by rumors of scandal.”
“Her? Is it a girl?”
“I don't know for sure, just a mother's intuition.”
“But you know he wouldn't have cared what Disney or the fans, or anyone for that matter, thought of him. He loves you, Lanie. And he would love this baby if you would only give him a chance.”
Finally Kevin, at least for now, gave up on trying to convince me to come back with him. Little did I know at the time he wasn't the only member of his family there to do just that. The next day, my doorbell rang again. This time when I answered it, Nick was standing outside my door. We went through a very similar conversation until Nick finally said something that Kevin hadn't even tried.
“Well, Lanie, if you won't come home with me, I'll stay here. You can't raise this baby alone.”
“Nick, no, you can't.”
“Yes, I can. I'm 18 too. And perfectly capable of taking care of myself. This is only a 2 bedroom apartment. Since you need 1, I need 1 and the baby will need a nursery, we'll have to move to a bigger place. Don't worry, I'll pay for the upgrade.”
“Nick, please, no,” I pleaded with him, but knowing him well enough to know that he wasn't going to give up.
“Your only other option is coming back home with me. So, which will it be, Lanie?”
“And face Joe after I left him? I can't, Nick. He won't be able to forgive me for leaving, especially after he knows why.”
“You don't know that. And will you if you don't give him a chance?”
“No, of course, I can’t know if I don't...But, Nick, you don't understand, that night when I was 16. Joe had to bring me back to his apartment where I was supposed to sleep off the alcohol. Well, eventually I did, but other things happened. You can probably guess. Anyway, your mom made us promise that nothing would ever occur between us again. How can I face her now that we obviously have been together and have created a baby?”
“She knows now that you were dating. She's even glad that you made Joe so happy.”
“But, if I made him so happy, why didn't he try to find me himself? Why isn't he here instead of you and Kevin?”
“He did look for you, Lanie. For the first month after you left he searched everywhere he could and the next month he hired a private investigator. By the third and fourth months with no new news from that investigator, he finally gave up hope of ever finding you again. It made him crazy not knowing where you went, Lanie.”
“Really? He did look for me?” Tears almost started to form in my eyes.
“Yes, he did,” Nick pulled me towards him in a hug and helped me sit down on my couch.
He sat there for a while just trying to comfort me. Finally it dawned on me that Nick wasn't going to give up on getting me to come home with him unlike his brothers. So, I agreed, thinking that if Joe didn't want to ever see me again, I could at least come back here to New York.