“He’s a racist.”
“No, he’s not.”
“Yes, he is. You told me he has White Pride tattooed on his chest. His very nickname means “Hi, I’m a racist.”
“Look, he no longer goes by Bubba. His name meant White Obscurity. His name meant he who lived in the hills back of Northern-White-Water where I’m gonna go hiking. Now his name is Daniel, which means my friend.”
Justin laughed and wrapped his arms around her neck, mashing her face against his chest. “Alright, but you need to be careful. I don’t want you to come back and vote Republican.”
She gave him a nip and pushed away. “God forbid.”
He gave her an affectionate slap on her ass as they parted.
Before she left she called the newspaper office and got the weekend service. It gave her the info she hoped for. Throughout that day, Standard Island kept traveling between Kahoolawe and Maui, but that night it would be at anchor. Her rubber dinghy knocked against the island’s bumper and she was helped on board by security. Tonight it was Robbie. She said Hi! and asked to see her mother.
She hadn’t visited in quite a while. Her mother’s short brown hair had more streaks of gray than Val remembered, but otherwise she looked the same. Her mother offered her some peach ginger hot chocolate.
She wrapped her fingers around the cup and inhaled the steam. “How are you?” she asked after the initial pause to catch up and test the emotional waters.
“I’m fine. John’s fine. We’re doing well,” her mother said. “Our harvests are doing well.”
Val nodded in acknowledgement of the message that her mother was happy with her new friend.
“How about you? Still seeing Bubba?”
“Daniel, Mom, his name is Daniel, and he is working as a mechanic.”
“Of course,” her mother murmured.
Val frowned at her.
“We’re O.K., we see each other a lot but, I don’t know, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
She got an eyebrow raise.
“I’m pregnant. Twins.”
Mom fired both eyebrows at her. “Who then?”
“I don’t know.” She paused to get her voice under control.
Her mother waited.
“I went to a bar, woke up in the back seat of my car. I knew something had happened, but I didn’t…”, another pause. “I just let it go. I wasn’t hurt. It seems foolish now but I didn’t know what happened, so I didn’t say anything and now, well, here I am.”
“Are you going to…?”
“No, but I don’t know…I just wanted to…”
“See how badly I wanted to be a grandmother?”
Her mother came over to sit beside her and put her arms around her. “I’m so sorry this happened. It’s going to be all right, we’ll see to that.” Her voice was low, the kind you use to soothe a baby. They rested like that for a bit.
“Any child…” her mom said then corrected herself, “any children of yours are welcome in my life, in our life. But I think not knowing who the father is is going to eat at you, and probably the kids too. We’ll figure out a plan, do you mind if I tell the people on the island?”
Val shook her head. Val considered them all her family.
“One thing,” her mom went on, “do you agree the person did a bad thing and shouldn’t do it again?”
“Then I think we need to file a report. When the babies are born, maybe we can get them to run a DNA check against their database. Honey,” and here her mother went all delicate, “how sure are you that you are pregnant because of this? Could it be someone else…?”
Val shook her head again. “I was at that bar because Bubba…Daniel and I had broken up a month before and I wanted to get out of the house.”
“O.K., I see. Well, finding out wouldn’t hurt, no matter what happens after that.”
Two beautiful babies were born, a boy and a girl. Daniel stepped up and asked Val to marry him. Tests were done. Val wished she hadn’t. She didn’t want to know this, ever, but she went to the jail to confront Justin, her friend.
His face turned into a mask of frustration and hate. “You were willing to fuck that racist but not me? What the hell is wrong with you?”
Tears streaked Val’s face as she leaned forward and whispered, “What the hell is wrong with you?”