March 16, 2017

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The Car Crash Couple

Sirens blaring. Lights flashing. Two cars bent out of shape. People gathered around. Ambulances and fire trucks nearby. It wasn’t exactly how he pictured meeting the girl of his dreams, but there she stood, simple and yet the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. And he had hit her car because a text had distracted him. Note to self: remember to thank Simon later for his accidental matchmaking, he thought as he watched her talking to the paramedics.

As soon as the man left her, he approached, guiltily and yet hopefully. He didn’t know what for. When she turned to face him, her brown eyes heavy with something he could only assume was relief, he apologized. Profusely. He explained his situation, begging her forgiveness and promising he would never do it again. She just smiled and nodded before leaning in, “Can I tell you a secret? I was on my phone, too.” They shared a chuckle. She added, “I’m Stephanie by the way. You are?”

“Cameron.”

“Nice to meet you, Cameron.”

Her smile stopped his heart. He could hardly catch his breath in time to say, “Would you mind if we exchanged phone numbers? After all, we do seem to be kindred spirits.” He lowered his voice. “Both on our phones on the road and all.”

Stephanie chuckled as she rattled off her digits, finishing, “Just text me with your name and when you’d like to meet.” Before Cameron could respond, she left him alone, his jaw hanging lower than he knew it could.

That night, when he finally returned home, he texted his best friend, Simon.

Cameron: Dude. Best night of my life. Got into a car crash.
Simon: WHAT?! How is that the best night of your life?
Cameron: Met a girl.
Simon: You’re kidding me.
Cameron: Nah, dude.
Simon: You’re actually serious about this?
Cameron: Yeah, she asked me out.
Simon: WHAT?!
Cameron: Bold, I know, but I like it.
Simon: Dude, you can’t actually go through with this.
Cameron: Why?
Simon: You met her because you were in a car crash.
Simon: If that’s not a bad omen, nothing is, man.
Cameron: C’mon! It can’t be that bad!

It was that bad. When he met Stephanie the next day at a coffee shop, she came in holding the hand of a little girl, probably between one and five. Cameron couldn’t tell, but he immediately tensed upon seeing her, hoping that maybe Stephanie had found the little girl wandering outside and was helping her find her parents. Or maybe the little girl was Stephanie’s neighbor’s and she was simply babysitting her.

Cameron had no such luck.

Stephanie sat down next to him, pulling the girl onto her lap. “Cameron, meet my daughter, Elsie,” she introduced the bobbing blonde baby. “Elsie, can you tell nice man Cameron how old you are?” The little girl held up three fingers. At least Cameron had been right with his wide range. “Elsie just got out of preschool. I work from home, so I’m able to pick her up in the middle of the day like this. And meet you.” Stephanie gave him an odd look. “Say, why are you so free?”

Cameron jerked back to the present, his mind having wandered off down the rabbit trail following the fact that Stephanie had a kid. “Oh, um, I have weird hours. Typically I work evenings.” He shrugged. He refused to look at the little girl. Maybe if he ignored her, she would disappear from existence. He knew that wasn’t how it worked, but he could hope. “Do you want a coffee or something?”

Despite the little girl, Cameron had a wonderful date with Stephanie. On their next date, Stephanie left Elsie at home, so Cameron was more easily able to forget her existence. At least until he went home with Stephanie and they found Elsie asleep on Stephanie’s bed with the sitter dozing next to her. Stephanie smiled, picking the little girl up. “Can you wake the sitter?” she asked, her voice low. “I’m going to put Elsie in bed and then I’ll pay her.”

The relationship between Cameron and Stephanie grew fast. Eventually, Cameron found himself able to stand Elsie, who absolutely adored him. Stephanie told him that the little girl would ask after him when he hadn’t come around for a few days. “You’re her favorite,” Stephanie told him. “I’ve dated other men and she hated them.” Ironic. Of course the little one would love him, despite all his awkward hugs and answers to her questions, despite his avoidance of her. Little children had the strangest of senses sometimes.

One day, Cameron had just gotten off work when he received a text from Stephanie.

Stephanie: We need to talk. Now.
Cameron: What is it?
Stephanie: In person, Cam. Please.
Cameron: Be there in ten. Stay cool.

Cameron arrived at Stephanie’s house in less than ten. Her cryptic text—“We need to talk”—had him worried. What about? Had something happened between them that he hadn’t realized would become a problem? Had he done something? Had something happened to Elsie? His mind raced with a million questions, becoming increasingly frantic and fantastical the longer he thought about what it could be that Stephanie needed to talk to him about. By the time he knocked on her front door, his mind had jumped off the deep end into the crazy and the weird, coming up with the most ridiculous reasons that Stephanie would need to discuss and Cameron vaguely believed them.

Stephanie ushered Cameron into her bedroom. “Sit down, please.” It wasn’t a suggestion, rather a command. Questioningly, Cameron sat on the edge of her bed, looking up at her quizzically. “I know you don’t really like kids,” she began. That couldn’t be good. “So you don’t have to stay with me if you don’t want to.” She paused, an agonizing pause. Cameron wished she would just get on with it. He needed to know what she wanted, like yesterday. After what seemed like an eon to Cameron, Stephanie finished, “Cameron, I’m pregnant.”

A wave of relief washed over him. That was all? He started to laugh. And laugh and laugh and laugh. A bellyaching sound. Tears rolled down his cheeks. As soon as he wiped them away, more replaced the old. Stephanie stared at him, confused and more than a little lost. “Cameron?” Just more laughter. “Cameron, say something.”

“That’s it?” he wheezed.

Stephanie blinked. “I… I thought you… I’m confused. Don’t you hate kids? It took you forever to warm up to Elsie. The first time you met her you wouldn’t even look at her. You’re still pretty awful with her, but she loves you anyway.”

“Steph, I thought you were going to announce that you’d, like, adopted an entire orphanage or something. I can handle one more kid.”

“You can?”

“You don’t have to sound so surprised, Steph. Jeez. I’m offended.”

“You don’t sound terribly offended.”

“Still working through it, Steph. The whole ‘you’re-going-to-be-a-dad’ announcement wasn’t exactly something I expected to be getting… like, ever.” Cameron hastily added, upon seeing Stephanie’s expression, “But it’s cool! And honestly, I’m happier than I thought I’d be. I never thought I’d actually say that I wanted a kid, but now that we’re having one, yeah, I guess I kinda do. I’ll pack my stuff this weekend.”

“Wait… pack your stuff?”

Cameron stared at her. “Yeah. Shouldn’t I be living with you if we’re having a kid?”

“Oh. Right.” Stephanie’s voice sounded relieved.

“You thought I meant I was leaving?” His voice sounded incredulous.

“No…”

“Unconvincing, Steph. Even after I said about a million times that I’m cool with it, you still thought I was going to leave?”

“No!”

“That’s what it sounded like to me, Steph.”

“Cam, that’s not it.”

Cameron stood, headed for the door. “You sure?” His words hung heavy in the room, filling it with a weight neither expected.

Stephanie joined him, laying a hand on his arm, looking deep into his eyes. “I just didn’t expect this to happen. But I guess we never were exactly conventional, were we?”

“Conventional is the exact opposite of what we are.”

“The Car Crash Couple.” Her words felt comfortable, familiar, affectionate.

“Yeah. That’s what we are.”

As Cameron leaned in for a kiss, Stephanie started laughing. “Just imagine the headlines: Car Crash Couple Welcome Kid. We’d be a joke.”

“We would be? We are.”

“Aw, Cam, you’re my joke.”

Cameron chuckled, shaking his head. What a cliche. But he loved it anyway.

***

Prompt: Situation, a chance meeting due to a car accident. Complication, one of the characters isn’t comfortable around children (which the other character has). Detail, a pregnancy makes the relationship much more serious.

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