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Moment Of Truth (short story)

DATo

Active Member
Moment Of Truth

by

DATo


The test was positive. Mandy was pregnant. How would Don react? They had discussed starting a family before, but Don had felt that they should wait till they were more financially stable.

They had met two years ago. He had wandered into the deli and asked for a pound of pastrami. As she filled his order they discussed their preferences for cold cuts and this led to an extended discussion of restaurants and favorite foods. Then, out of nowhere, and much to her surprise he had asked her for a date. She stared blankly for a moment or two at the proverbial tall, dark, and handsome stranger standing before her on the other side of the refrigerated display case before asking dumbly, "What did you just say?" After awkwardly hesitating for a moment he repeated his request and she replied, "Yeah. Sure. Why not?" The day and time of the date was fixed and the Adonis departed to the tinkle of the bell hanging over the deli’s door.

Mandy was twenty years old and had never been on a date, had never been kissed by a boy or had a boyfriend. Mandy knew she had no outstanding physical charms. She wasn’t necessarily bad looking but men had never before given her a second look. She knew she was just a plain jane, and she accepted it. So why did this great looking guy want to take her out? It took her only a moment to figure it out. He just wanted what all guys wanted and figured she would be an easy score. Mandy didn’t care. It would be a one time date, she knew that, but at least she would finally experience the flavor of romance, and though somewhat troubled by the moral implications she was prepared to pay the expected price.

Finally the big day came and when the date was over he had actually asked if he could have a goodnight kiss. She was both happy to learn that Don was a gentleman and, to her own astonishment, disappointed that he had not tried to round the bases. Don bought a lot of pastrami that summer and by autumn they were engaged to be married.

Over the next two years Don proved to be a devoted husband and often told her that he loved her, but Mandy’s insecurities surfaced when they were in mixed company. She imagined people thinking that Don could have done much better than her. She became greatly apprehensive when beautiful women - women far better looking than her - doted on Don and flirted with him at parties and other gatherings. She had absolutely no reason to be jealous for Don had never displayed a wandering eye, but sometimes she would get that descending elevator feeling in the pit of her stomach when she saw Don in pleasant conversation with a pretty female.

Of late, and unaccountably, Mandy had begun to have doubts regarding Don’s happiness in the marriage. He continued to tell her he loved her, but now it was with a detachment and matter-of-factness, like a duty which was required of him, perhaps a duty with which he no longer wished to be burdened. She often wondered if Don had come to the conclusion that he had made a mistake: that he should have waited for another woman with which to share his life. Now she was pregnant, and once again she wondered how he would react to the news. Would financial concerns be the only reason Don might be disappointed to know he had fathered a child with her? She must tell him, but when? How? She dreaded the moment for the first look on his face, she knew, would betray the truth. She loved him desperately and the truth might destroy her.

It was Sunday and Don had wanted to spend a lazy day at the beach. They did this from time to time and Mandy had usually looked forward to these outings, but today she was gripped by the demons of her doubts. She mechanically packed the picnic basket and gathered the towels and blankets. She would tell him today, and today she might lose her reason to live.

The car slowed down and came to a stop at the red light. The last street before the beachfront was close, only a few more blocks ahead. As they waited for the light to change a drop-dead, beautiful girl was about to step off the curb to pass right before their car on her way to the opposite side of the street. She was wearing the shortest possible shorts made from an old pair of jeans and a halter displaying a voluptuousness which would be considered less than decent at any other place than a beach. Her auburn hair billowed in the wind and she looked all the world like a supermodel. Mandy decided to employ a test to either confirm or deny her deepest fears. She would watch Don’s reaction to this beauty closely as she passed before the windshield of the car from the corner of her eyes. If his expression betrayed interest she would know. She would know that his interest and perhaps even the love he once held for her was dissipating - that perhaps he would be happier with someone else. She knew her test was nothing more than a silly manifestation of her need for reassurance but it had now taken on an aura of supreme importance to her.

Don had not yet noticed Miss Beautiful. Mandy quickly closed her eyes. She did not want to know. She could live with the doubt, but she could never live with the truth.

"Dear God!" he said, "She’s beautiful! Oh my God! I want to take her home with us."

There are pains of the heart that defy expression. There are pains so deep that they clutch at the throat and render us mute, pains which numb the senses to the extent that even the tears will not come. Mandy squeezed her eyelids tighter as if by doing so she could reverse time, dispel the verification of her worst fears and make things as they were before he spoke. Before. It would never be before again. Why did he have to say it? Why did he have to give voice to the dagger he had unwittingly plunged into her heart?

"It just hit me that I’ve never wanted anything more than that in all my life." he said. Then comically, jokingly, impossibly, he slapped the steering wheel with both hands repeatedly and laughingly said, "Can I have one? Please? Can I? Can I?"

Slowly she opened her eyes. Slowly and robotically her head turned toward him, her face slack-jawed, too shocked to be angry, a mask of tragic grief and suffering. Then slowly, like a moth drawn to the flame, she followed the line of his gaze. And then a moan, unbidden, arose from her throat. And then the tears which she could not restrain fell from her eyes. And then a smile so broad leapt to her face between her sobs that she could not speak.

The light changed and the car slowly began to move. Mandy’s head turned and continued to gaze upon a woman standing on the street corner, holding in her arms an adorable baby girl.
 
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