Even the darkest tunnel has a light, otherwise you wouldn't know it was a tunnel.
Her silhouette on the balcony. The shock of seeing Gerard again. I’m pregnant. Bile in the back of his throat. Tears streaming down her cheeks. You know, Mikey’s starting to think Sara did the right thing four years ago. Her eyes laying bare her soul. Allie’s not Mikey’s daughter. Her eyes closed and stony. His head throbbing. There’s no ‘after’ for you. I’m not sure how long I can live with it.
“Do you remember when Sara got pregnant?”
Gerard looked over at him, surprised by the sudden break in Frank’s sullen silence. “With Allie?”
Frank shook his head. “Before that, when we were still…”
Gerard nodded, leaving time for Frank to finish his sentence. He couldn’t. The silence extended, filling the spaces between them. When it became too uncomfortable and Frank showed no signs of breaking it, Gerard felt compelled to take the matter into his own hands. “That was around your one year mark, right?” he asked, just to drive back the oppressive silence. “That’d be, what, about eight years ago, now?”
“Almost eight, yeah.”
Silence again threatened to take over, but this time Frank was the one to carry on the conversation. “She thought it was a boy. We never had an ultrasound done, but she was convinced. I think she was probably right.”
Gerard glanced at Frank nervously. He was staring straight ahead, but Gerard knew he wasn’t seeing the road in front of them. He was seeing his pregnant girl and their baby boy.
“I was so happy. So excited to be a father. She wanted to wait. She wasn’t ready for kids. She wanted to abort. We argued so often.”
Frank stopped and the silence spread for several minutes. Frank seemed not to have any intention of continuing.
“But it didn’t matter, right? In the end,” Gerard offered. “She miscarried, there was nothing either of you could have done about it.”
Frank’s eyes grew cloudy. “She went to an abortion clinic first. She miscarried, but she would have aborted if she hadn’t. She was so scared, and I refused to go with her. I made her go alone. So scared and alone.”
Frank turned and for the first time in their conversation made eye contact with Gerard. “For some reason she stuck with me for three more years, but really I lost her the day I let her walk into that clinic without me.”
Gerard didn’t know what to say. Frank spoke again before he had a chance to think of something reasonable to say. “When’s Allie’s birthday?” he blurted quickly.
Frank’s entire demeanor changed. The sulky, distant trance was replaced with an alert, cheerful front. It took Gerard by surprise. “What?”
“Allie’s birthday,” he repeated, more quietly this time. “I don’t want to miss it.”
“Frank…” Gerard was unsure of Frank’s intentions, uncertain of what to say.
“Mikey used to be practically a brother to me,” Frank said. “And his daughter or not, Allie looks up to him, calls him ‘dad’. This complete stranger of a little girl is as close to family as I’ll ever get. It’s wrong that I have to ask, hell I should have been there on her birthday, but I wasn’t. Is it wrong of me to want to know my niece’s birthday?”
Gerard looked at his friend, suspicious of the dramatic change in his behavior. “April 13th,” he answered tentatively. “It was a Friday, too. The girl knew how to make an entrance, that’s for sure.”
Frank chuckled. He spoke without really thinking, surprising both Gerard and himself. “Do you think I could see her sometime? I dunno, spend a day with her or something?”
Gerard looked over, disbelief in his eyes. Frank looked down. “Or not, I mean, it’s not a big deal or anything. I just thought maybe…”
Gerard smiled, a huge, honest smile. “Actually, Mikey wanted me to take her out today. He practically lives at the hospital anymore. So, uh, you busy today?”
Gerard pulled into the parking lot of Mikey’s apartment building and the two men got out of the car. Frank looked at Gerard. “You’re serious?”
“Should I not be?”
“Well, I mean…It’s just…” Gerard walked over to Frank, grinning.
“Welcome back, Frank. I missed you,” he said, pulling the shorter man into a hug. Frank hugged back.
It's short, but you'll live.