Abortion was out of the question. Lars had rejected almost all of his Lutheran past, but he held tight to the idea that life began at conception. Philosophically, Rosie agreed, although she was adamant that she hadn’t yet conceived of the cell-cluster in her uterus as Life, therefore rendering his argument moot. She did not want a child, and never had.
“Worse,” she lamented, “it’s going to be that much harder to haul my ass up onto that piano each Sunday. My belly will get in the way.”
Lars pictured himself helping her up, his hands cupping her firm buttocks and lifting. This brought back memories of the only moments they had ever shared. Instinctively, he put his hand on her breast. She socked him in the mouth, hard.
“What the hell are you thinking?,” she demanded, rising to leave.
“I think you broke my jaw,” he said. “Marry me?”
Standing, she was barely at eye level with him, but he felt completely overwhelmed by her. Her feline green eyes narrowed into a perplexed squint as she regarded him and their possible options.
“That’s a worse idea than fucking you in the first place.”
“I can’t feel the bottom half of my face.” In the near-dark of the fading lightbulb overhead, he looked nearly handsome.
She thought some, then sighed. “Okay. Fine. Let’s do it.”
In the wedding pictures Paul first saw after their deaths, his parents could have passed for happy. His father’s lips were curled upwards in a smile and his mother, her stomach noticeably swollen, held a half-empty bottle of bourbon aloft in celebration. The ceremony was held at Hamlet’s, of course, officiated by a Unitarian minister Rosie had trained under at the state prison in Stillwater.
“Dearly beloved,” he began, “we are gathered here today in the presence of God and my parole officer, to celebrate the wedding of these two young people, so obviously in trouble…”
The pair exchanged vows and rings, and the traditional Bible verses were avoided. Some attendees were moved to tears, particularly those millworkers who were footing Rosie’s bar tab for the evening.
After the party ended (as dictated by local liquor ordinances), Lars carried his unconscious new bride across the threshold of his apartment and laid her gently on his bed, pulling his shabby quilt to her chin so the chill October air wouldn’t bother her. He settled his palm below her belly button, imagining how his child was developing, hoping to feel movement.
He sat that way for awhile, in silence, with only her warmth for company. When the 2:18 train roared past and she did not stir, he pulled some filthy laundry into a makeshift pillow and went to sleep.