My freshman year of high school my Aunt Marsha called crying. When I handed the phone to my mom and saw the lines of worry contort her face, I knew I needed to stay. I tried to remain as still as possible as my mom lowered herself into a chair. She was silent, listening, her eyes heavy and sad-looking.
“Oh, Marsha, when did you find out?”
Find out what, I thought. My mom cupped her face with her hands and shook her head slowly back and forth.
“Have you set up a doctor’s appointment?”
I wondered if my Aunt Marsha was sick or maybe my Uncle Ben. Had something happened to Allison? I hovered close to the kitchen and shooed my younger sister Sarah away after I heard her barrel down the stairs.
“Shh, I’ll come and talk to you in a second,” I whispered in her direction.
After my mom hung up the phone, she sat at the table, twisting the corner of a napkin before indicating that I should sit as well.
“That was your Aunt Marsha,” she began. “Allison is,” she paused and hundreds of terrible words ran through my mind in the seconds it took for her to finish, “Allison is pregnant.”
“Oh, thank God,” I had said.
“Emily,” my mother scolded, “how could you say something like that? This is serious! Your Aunt Marsha and Uncle Ben are devastated.”
“Well, I thought someone died or something,” I mumbled, pushing my chair back. I couldn’t wait to tell Sarah. She was going to flip.
Allison was our 16-year-old cousin who had recently told Sarah and I that she was planning on sleeping with her lame ass boyfriend. What she wasn’t planning on was getting pregnant.
But after Bentley was born (yes, Allison named her baby girl Bentley. If that’s not evidence that a 16-year-old isn’t old enough to have a baby, I don’t know what is), everyone cooed at her and wanted to hold her and bought her the most adorable dresses from Baby Gap. It was like that phone call nine months ago had never happened.
The next year when my mom called my Aunt Marsha crying, it wasn’t because she, too, was going to be a great-auntie. Unfortunately, I hadn’t gotten knocked up.
I'd gotten cancer.