At the beginning, it was actually quite simple.
Melissa and James were in love. Passionately. Lustfully. Insanely. It was mushy. It was torrid. It was disgusting how much the two were in love. They started their relationship with laughter and climbing trees and they progressed to holding hands and long warm hugs before they realized how much they were beginning to like each other.
But as everyone knows, love never stays simple.
It was on the seventh of June, during a sudden downpour of unexpected rain, when Melissa discovered she was pregnant. It wasn’t something she learned after realizing she was already two months delayed. Nor was it an awareness born from a bout of morning sickness. Instead, she was in her bed still swimming in the siren’s call of slipping back into sleep when the sudden understand just dawned upon her.
Pregnant. And the thing was, she never had sex.
James, however, was certain that was not true. At least not entirely. James and Melissa had their moments together in the many weeks they had been going out. On those odd nights when Melissa was too tired to head home, James willingly offered her a space to sleep in his apartment. She trusted him and he knew she could trust him; he was raised to see the act of copulation as something best done after marriage. But still, they did cross certain lines. From what started as curious and lustful touching slowly progressed to varying states of undress and eventually, the act of discovering how sensual a mouth can be when applied to the right places in the human body. Or rather, to any part of the human body.
So yes, it could be said she was technically no longer a virgin.
But it was also certain that they never crossed that particular line.
“Are you certain,” James asked though the way he said it made it sound more like a statement of worry than a question. Melissa nodded slowly although she knew it was impossible. “But that’s impossible,” James agreed with her without realizing it and pushed away the question if it were possible it was with someone else. That, James knew, was something Melissa would never do.
“I know. We both know it is,” Melissa found herself realizing that contrary to how it was always portrayed in television soaps, she was not on the verge of tears. Nor was she hysterically weepy and yearning for a promise to be taken care of. Perhaps it was the oddity of it all that caught her focus more than anything.
“Have you…” James began and Melissa turned to him with a face that betrayed she was aghast that he would even ask the question she thought he was about to say. She was mistaken. “… have you had a doctor confirm it?”
“Not yet,” Melissa admitted and James shook his head. There was no other answer after all. A woman does not get delayed for two months without good reason. James could not recall reading anything about ovaries just shutting off for a two-week vacation.
“We should,” Melissa nodded and bit her lower lip. She inhaled and began to ask, “Are you-“
“I will go with you,” James answered, not bothering to let her finish, “And if it so happens you are. Then. I guess. We will find a way to raise it.”
Melissa could not find the words to respond. All she could do was reach out and wrap her arms around James’ neck. The two kissed softly. Then passionately. Then felt the first hint of tears finally come.
When they arrived at the doctor’s office, both found themselves feeling less surreal about the whole situation they were in. Perhaps it was shock. Or perhaps it was denial. What was certain what that neither seemed to be worrying or preoccupied with worry at that precise moment. James was gently running his hand through Melissa’s hair. Melissa, on the other hand, was slowly stroking her belly. It was not swollen, though. But Melissa could not help but sense she was right.
The doctor, a tall fellow with glasses that seemed to keep slipping off his thin and droopy nose, showed them inside, asked them to fill up some forms, then ran the necessary tests. Melissa giggled a few times when she realized James seemed more excited to know if it were possible to know if the child was a guy or a girl.
“It is too early to tell, you realize,” the doctor explained and James realized he was most likely being mistaken by the doctor to be the child’s father.
“When can we know?” James asked.
“The test shouldn’t take too long. There are some home pregnancy tests that take-“
”The child,” James corrected him, “When can we know if its male of female?”
The doctor merely smiled.
The confirmation of the pregnancy brought an unexpected surge of excitement into James and Melissa’s life. All of the sudden, the two realized they wanted to get married. To raise the child together as a proper husband and wife would. Uncharacteristically of James, he suddenly was proud he had quit smoking a few years ago. And that he no longer was interested in drinking or leaving the country. “I could take care of the kid with you, so you actually can get some rest during the early months. I heard babies barely sleep during those months.”
“Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves,” Melissa teased James and placed his hand on her barely rotund belly. “Are you serious about getting married?”
“Absolutely,” James kissed her stomach and dropped to one knee. He smiled at her and returned the question, “Are you?”
“I do,” was all Melissa had to reply.
Their parents transformed into a circus act. As expected, both sides at first argued whose fault the pregnancy was. Neither were willing to accept that James and Melissa never had actual intercourse. As expected, Melissa’s parents called James many horrible things. James’ parents, on the other hand, accused Melissa of attempting to steal their son away by getting herself pregnant. It would take a miracle for them to make them understand.
The Angel Gabriel appeared before them in an eruption of golden flame and cold gusts of wind. Overcome by the divine entity’s presence, all fell silent and stared at the celestial messenger with awe and disbelief in their eyes.
“I bring you a message, Melissa-” the angel began only to hear James and Melissa already yelling in response, “We are ready!” The angel actually smirked in amusement then faded to return the good news to his superior.
By the fourth month, Melissa and James were thankful that their parents have both finally opened their hearts to the presence of a grandchild to their family. Though neither seemed to clearly remember the visitation, James and Melissa clearly recalled the divine visitation of the winged angel. Though Melissa could not help but imagine the great deeds their child were to someday share with the world, James began to remember the persecution and anguish that the last Savior was made to endure.
“Mel,” James tried to find a way to state it without sounding wrong, “I’ve been thinking.”
“I know,” Melissa replied, already finding the train of thought she knew James would take. James was always the worry-wart in their relationship. He was always the one who planned ahead and looked far beyond the now. “And I think ultimately, it is all part of God’s design. It is not our place to question it-” her voice broke and James took her into his arms and tried to calm her down by humming their song into her ear. “It will be all right,” he whispered to her as he stroked her hair back and gently rocked them both as if they were dancing, “It will all be all right in the end.”
Both were already imagining the painful anguish of their child’s eventual persecution and crucifixion. And both felt for the first time the pangs of uncertainty between them.
The baby already had a crib, a walker trainer, three large cans worth of powdered milk, two boxes of baby powder and baby oil, three months supply of disposable diapers and twelve bottles of varying sizes, colors, and nipples ready by the time the sixth month came along. Not wanting to surprise themselves if the next Savior was to be a man or a woman, James and Melissa insisted that no one be told of the child’s gender. This, however, did not deter their parents from purchasing a matching pair of everything they had gotten. Blue and pink curtains awaited being hung in the nursery room. Stuff toys of
animals and dolls were separated in two piles. As were varying clothes, colored cloth gloves and pillow cases.
The parents even had a huge list of names ready. James suspected they probably had researched through at least four Baby Name books before narrowing their selection to the list of ten names the four soon-to-be-grandparents had gathered.
“Mother,” Melissa mumbled at her mother-in-law whom she had bonded quite closely with months ago during the wedding preparations, “You did not have to.”
“Don’t be foolish. Of course we want the child to have everything in the world it would want,” the mother-in-law replied, “That is after all not just your child. It is also Savior for the coming Judgment day.”
“Do you really believe it would happen that way?” Melissa asked her mother-in-law as she took the package of Barney and Barbie blankets and set them aside by the floor.
“Of course,” Melissa’s mother proudly replied, “You are the mother of the Second Coming! Some day, you will be among those the thousands of people pray to for guidance and strength.”
Her old fears resurfaced.
“Did you ever worry,” Melissa carefully paced the question, “What we should do if the people… well… if the people choose to kill him?”
“Him!” the mother-in-law exclaimed, “Sus Mio! Is it a boy?”
“Her!” the mother-in-law turned pale, “The next Christos is a woman?”
“No,” Melissa shook her head, “Well, maybe, the point is we don’t really know. We chose not to be told, remember? My question, Mama, was if the people ever-”
“You should have asked the doctor,” the mother-in-law interrupted and began a very lengthy and passionate explanation on how important it was for a mother to know if the child was male or female before it was born. Melissa droned out most of it as she stared at the distant horizon and found herself suddenly worrying about tomorrow.
James was not having it any easier.
Having found a small amount of time to hang out with his friends; the group loved to play basketball during the day. On some nights, the group would drag James and Melissa with them for a night of singing and feasting.
James found himself seemingly interrogated with the usual foray of questions an expectant father would hear. From the usual “How is the wife?” to “How is the child?” the questions made the expected progress to “When is the baby due?” to “What names to you have in mind” before an hour was over. By the second hour, however, James found himself receiving a line of questions he was not prepared to answer. Or hear.
“The Second coming eh? So how do you feel about your kid and your wife becoming immortalized in cathedrals and the like? Was Joseph ever popular enough?”
“Did she have some kind of nocturnal dream of an angel entering her?”
“What if it turns out to be gay. Will you stop preparing him to be the next Savior?”
James did not realize how much the questions affected him until he accidentally passed the ball far too hard towards another friend. The friend in question dropped to his knees and muttered something about wishing he too would someday still have children.
“Guys, can we not talk about it while I’m here. Its rare enough that I get to go out for a night with you all, does it really have to spent talking about those things?” James pleaded and took the ball back from his friend who caught it with his throat.
“Sorry man,” a friend apologized, “Just thought you should think about things carefully. So you are ready in case it ever happens? Did not mean to rifle your feathers.”
James was already past expecting apologies from anyone. As far as he was concerned, people tended to forget that when an event states RSVP, it was to the best interests of the guests to announce whether or not they could make it. The last minute changes guests would ALWAYS as for was frustrating if not down right annoying. But in this case, the questions James’ friends were asking seemed to be a tad too… personal.
“Let’s just not talk about it,” James shook his head and returned to the basket ball game.
By the eight month, Melissa finally noticed the sweater James had lent her was too tight to wear every day. The roundess of Melissa’s belly was enough that even passers-by noticed now and congratulated her. Melissa never felt so bloated and fat in her entire life, and yet so happy at the same time.
“What did your gyno said,” a doctor asked them more out of procedure than anything.
“Is there something wrong?” James asked as Melissa worried that something had happened to the baby. Or to his wife.
“No no no, of course not, the doctor reassured them, “Actually I was more worried you’d say something else.”
“I see,” the James replied and gave Melissa another tight hug from behind.
But it had begun. Small worries that had grown larger each passing day. Unspoken concerns that simply bore into their relationship and ate upon their stability. There were those instances of insecurity that James struggled to ignore. And the terrible nightmares of what their child were most likely to endure once his divine role in the world was made known. Every faith in the world would rise up in arms against them. Every government in the world would seek to control them, if not remove them before they rose far too much in prominence to be removed. The media would vilify them, or support them before using the gained trust and closeness as a marketing means to generate more advertising. And yet somehow, when James and Melissa caught each other’s eyes while these thoughts raged within them, the voices of dissent and worry would quiet down. The fear and uncertainty faded away like old hatred. Or long-ago betrayals of the heart.
“You think there would be a star,” James mused aloud once and Melissa giggled at the thought, “Imagine the scientific community going wild over such a scientific astronomical anomaly.”
“That would be what they would call it,” James laughed and looked out the window to check if there was one. Finding the sky clear save for the expected constellations and an airplane that flew overhead, he slid back the blinds and sat down beside Melissa. Sliding his arms around her from behind, he brought his hands back from past her armpits to cup the back of her head. “Not too tight?” he asked her, worried his embrace was painful or too strong.
“Just right,” Melissa smiled and wiggled her toes. She did not expect her feet to get this sore so quickly each day, “Honey, I’ve been thinking.” James remained silent and listened to her intently, “What if our child does not want to be the next God as man upon earth. What if he would rather be a doctor? Or a writer? Or a reality television celebrity?”
“I guess-“ James carefully chose his words.
Melissa waited patiently for him to finish.
He had hoped she’d interrupt him. Forced to finish his words, he added, “-when that time comes, we will sense what we should do. After all, this is God’s child upon earth we are talking about. I don’t think God would simply abandon him to do what he liked.”
“He or she,” Melissa corrected him.
“He or she liked,” James repeated then slid his hands from behind her head to follow the length of her arms. Interlocking his fingers over her swollen belly, he gently tapped the skin and hoped the child would kick in response. The unborn child did not.
“Does that mean we no longer have our freedom?” Melissa suddenly asked. James felt her whole body sigh. He glanced at her from behind but all he could see was that she was not looking at him.
“Not exactly,” he tried to give an answer but realized in his heart he did not know, “I guess we will find out for certain. When the time comes.”
And when the time indeed came, neither of them found the answer. Neither of them would ever have the chance to discover what their child would be like. Neither of them ever realized that the journey their story took was not bound to reach the ending they anticipated.
For when James and Melissa arrived home that night, they found nothing amiss as they stepped into their house. James slowly brought the car to a stop and helped Melissa step down. The two carefully walked up the steps to the door and shared a silent laugh at having such a lovely dinner that night. James drew the key from his pocket and unlocked the door just as Melissa reached for the morning paper they had both neglected to pick up earlier in the day.
And the explosion that rocked the place where James and Melissa once lived was said to be so strong that it shattered the windows of houses four blocks away. Some claim that the street actually rumbled so much that cars were flung a foot from the ground. Perhaps the truest testament to the explosive’s strength was the presence of a crater four meters wide and four meters deep. And the fact that neither of them left any remains to be identified.
Still, the stories persist. The rumors have not ended. And even after many years have passed, some still believe that somewhere out there, James and Melissa were still alive with their newborn child. Perhaps they had escaped away because of a secret they had to hide. Or perhaps they were victim to an awful act of terrorism. Maybe they were the unlucky souls that happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
What is known, however, is that in the end, the whole community gathered to observe the final rites that were offered even if their bodies were never recovered. And that a secret benefactor covered for all the expenses for the funeral, the burial of the symbolic coffins and for the series of prayers that were to be offered in their names for the weeks to come.
James and Melissa and their unborn child were dead.
And it was said that when they arrived at the gates that stood between the land of the living and the hereafter, James and Melissa found themselves facing the same angel that visited them so many months ago. And the angel, it was said, shook its head in dismay.
“I was going to tell you they made a mistake,” the angel said, “But I guess it could have been worse?”
“Are you kidding?” James told the angel only to have Melissa complete his sentence for him, “What more could we have ever asked for?”
The angel looked at them in surprise.
“We lived happy,” Melissa began and James completed, “And we died happy. And now we are to be forever together. With our child who shall have all the time to be with his parents. What more could we ever ask for?”
The angel looked confused. “But what about-“ the angel began to ask.
“We’re sure it was all part of His plan,” James teased and wrapped his arm around Melissa’s shoulder.
“How do you even know for certain?” the angel asked.
“We’re about to find out,” was all they said in reply before stepping through the gates and making their way towards whatever lay ahead knowing full well that it was bound to be something worth the journey to say the least.
- the end -
Simple Destiny was my entry to the Neil Gaiman sponsored 1st Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. Didn't make the cut, but am happy with how I wrote it. The ending feels kind of rushed though.