“Did you guys work cows this weekend?,” one of the FFA boys caught me as I walked into the doors of the high school Monday morning. He took my bag of graded papers from my hand and walked with me toward the high school wing of the building.
“Mr. MacNamara did but I spent more time reading essays than anything else,” I managed a smile, referring to the bag filled with essays about various topics, his among the stack.
“Oh, your eyes look red,” he said. “My eyes are always red after being in the corral with all the dirt blowing around. I don’t guess the wind is ever going to stop blowing.”
He grinned and left me at the door of my classroom to join a group of boys to go eat breakfast and prepare for the week ahead. I knew my eyes were red but cattle had little to do with it. One more month had come and gone without my being able to become pregnant. My doctor had tried to console me days ago but it was all that I thought about that weekend, especially when the open cows were hauled to sale.
My first hour class filed through the door and my classroom filled with students excitedly relaying news of their weekend and talk of the upcoming basketball games and the activities that would keep them busy in the week ahead. Classes came and went throughout the day and the quiet was welcomed when the last class bustled into the hall and the students headed to practice or work or home. Taylor came in as I sunk into a chair to begin my work in the wake of the students.
“Mrs. M?,” her voice was quiet. “I need to talk to you.”
“Sure,” I watched her settle onto the top of a desk and let one of her shoes dangle from her toe.
She told me the secrets she was keeping from her parents and I felt my breath catch in my throat. She was due to have the baby before graduation. We cried together for some of the same reasons.
When Grady came in from the barns that evening, he found me wrapped in a blanket on the porch. I was looking out toward the south pastures watching a cell tower’s lights reflect on dirty snow. My best friend, Steph, had already called him on his cell and he listened while the truck sat running.
“Are they going to keep the baby?” he took his hat off and rubbed his eyes. “Because if they put it up for adoption…we could…” His voice trailed off and he sat, tired from the day’s work. He sat down next to me and his rough hand was on the back of my neck.
The next morning, a substitute teacher opened my classroom for the day. Grady and I dropped Drew at the front door of the school and we drove north toward Greeley. Eastern Colorado was covered in snow and the snow at the roadside was dirty. Once on the interstate, the dual tires on the truck threw a tail of slushy water. The radio and the heater were both on. We sat while men in shirts with their names sewed on the breast put new tires on the truck and Grady drank coffee.
“Maybe we should see about adopting the baby,” I looked at Grady and said the first thing about Taylor’s baby that I had said since he had mentioned the option.
It’s a natural desire for a man and woman to have a child that looks like them. A child who has one of their noses or eye color. One who grows to walk or talk like the father or has the same laugh as the mother. But sometimes, a reflection of yourselves seems too much to ask.
We drove south and pulled into the church where Taylor’s father was the pastor. Christmas lights swung in the wind above the doorway and the inside of the church smelled like cinnamon and faith.
We sat across her father’s desk from him and Taylor’s mother stood behind her husband, resting her hand on the back of his chair. They were heartbroken and so were we. We talked for an hour about Taylor and her plans to continue her education. A few evenings later, the family car’s headlights bounced over our cattle guard and I nervously adjusted my sweater and stirred the contents of pans that didn’t require any additional stirring.
Taylor, her parents and the father of her child came into our home from the cold. The high school students looked nervous and her parents looked tired. We ate beef raised on our grass and made small talk, moving to the living room after the dishes were cleared. Taylor’s father, Drew and Grady pulled their boots on and walked to the barn to check the heifers while we remained in the house.
“Mrs. M,” Taylor looked like a scared little girl, younger than she actually was. “I’ve been doing a lot of praying about this baby.”
“I know you have, Taylor,” I said and fought the urge to find a mindless chore in the kitchen. “My parents told me that you and Mr. MacNamara haven’t been able to have a baby and I really want to go to college….I don’t think I can do this.”
“You don’t think you can do what, honey,” I said.
“I’m too young…,” and the tears began to run down her face. Her mother sat ramrod straight in a chair, unblinking. I moved to Taylor and sat beside her while her shoulders shook and the men came in from the barn.
One of the things I have loved about Grady is his ability to speak when others are unable. He took a seat across from us and cleared his throat.
“Taylor, my wife and I agree that you should get an education and there’s no need for us to lecture you on the importance of this to either of you,” he motioned a hand toward the boy. “If you can’t keep this baby, well, Mrs. MacNamara and I will adopt him or her.” The air was heavy. Taylor was crying and she nodded.
“I would like that,” she said.
Grady and I stood at the door and watched the car taillights grow smaller and then turn back to the north. When he hugged me, I buried my face into his chest.
“Well,” he said. “When is our baby due?”