[After months of bated-breath waiting, here is a new installment of Jacob’s Dream. Read a recap here, if you’re lost, new, or have forgotten.]
Taken aback, seeing Amy standing there, Jacob didn’t say anything.
And although she had driven over to their house and run the doorbell, Amy almost looked surprised too. She spoke first.
“Jacob, I think Mark told you about the gambling and everything didn’t he?” She said it like a question, but, of course, that was some sort of mechanism of nerves or I-have-no-clue-how-to-start-this-conversation. Of course, she knew Mark had told Jacob. Still, Jacob played the little game which, I guess, intended to circumnavigate the awkwardness of it all.
“Yeah, he did at lunch today,” Jacob breathed in deep and mustered up courage for slight confrontation. “He actually just called me because he was worried about you. Anna and I were about to head over to your place.”
By that time Anna had gotten there, seen Amy and started into the conversation.
“Hey,” Anna said to Amy, “Why don’t you come in?”
Amy looked uncomfortable, but standing on the front porch only made it more awkward, so she entered the house and they all three sat on the couches in the family room. Anna had sat down next to Amy on the full-sized couch situated perpendicular to Jacob’s spot on the love seat.
“So, how are you doing?” Anna asked.
“Well, it’s pretty hard,” Amy answered. “I knew that Mark would play online poker pretty often but I thought it was one of those free sites, you know, and that he was just getting some down time. But he told me today what I guess he told you. That he has been playing for money and has lost a lot. He’s been lying to me about it. So it’s”—Amy’s voice started quaking with oncoming tears—“it’s pretty hard.” Jacob was about to say something, but Amy continued, choking back tears and choking words through when the tears wouldn’t stop. “And, on top of it”—sniff—“all…on top of it all, I just found”—Amy took a deep, shuddering breath—“I just found out that I’m pregnant again.”
Those words dropped like a bomb onto the ruins of a war-torn city, exploding and then—silence, except for the faint sound of crying. Anna leaned over and hugged Amy and rocked slightly, like she was comforting a scared little girl. Jacob didn’t know what to say, and he did what is usually the best thing at such times–he stayed quiet.
“I know that I shouldn’t have just left Mark with the kids at home like that, but I was just overwhelmed. It’s all so much right now,” Amy said with a partially crying, quaking voice. Then, looking at Jacob, she said, “Jacob, you can’t tell anyone about Mark right now, please.” She stopped for a moment, then continued. “We just need to work through this, and, you can help him to get control of this, and we can make it right.”
“Well, Amy,” Jacob said, “Maybe we should talk about that part of this later, when the news isn’t so fresh and–”
“But Jacob, you can’t tell anyone,” Amy insisted. “If the elders at Baseli knew, they might suspend Mark without pay, or even fire him. I mean, I know that Mark screwed up—I feel it worse than anybody. But we can’t afford this to be a scandal right now. Please, Jacob, if not for Mark and me, for the kids, just help Mark through this and don’t make it a big deal.”
Amy asked this of Jacob, both pleading and demanding that he keep his silence, the odd mixture of desperation and authority of Amy’s request shot toward Jacob and he reeled internally. How many watershed moments can a man have in a single day, where it seems as if heaven and hell are at stake for a multitude; as if both earth and sky had cracked open and the decision of an instant would plunge or launch everything into one or the other. Another such decision hung before Jacob, a decision that tested the fiber of everything he believed and trusted. Like so many before, for him and others, the wider path would be so much easier. The fortitude of Jacob’s courage continued to be pushed and that wide path would have been so easy to walk. So easy and everything would quiet down and life would normalish again. But that path, Jacob knew, leads to hell.
“Amy,” Jacob said, “I’m so sorry about everything that’s happened. We really want to help you guys. Really, we do. But I can’t keep this hidden. It’s too big, and I think you know that. Hiding all of this is only going to make it worse. You, Mark, your family—you aren’t going to be kicked to the curb. We love you guys, and we’re going to help you through this. But we still need to deal with this the right way. Mark and I already talked about this today. We agreed that he would have to tell the elders.”
Amy’s heartbreak was turning to fully hatched fury, directed toward Jacob. Her eyes, which had been red from crying, were now completely enflamed from anger. “Jacob, how could you do this? Mark has always been so good to you,” Amy said. “He and you have been through a lot. I can’t believe you would do that to him! That you would make him do that! You’ll ruin our lives! You’ll–”
Anna interjected, pulling back from Amy to address her, saying kindly, “Amy I can’t even imagine how hard this must be on you, and I think you’re really overwhelmed. Maybe we should talk about this stuff after the shock isn’t so new–”
Amy stood up suddenly. “I thought you guys were our friends!” She looked first at Anna, then at Jacob. “I’m not going to let you ruin my life!”
“Amy, Jacob and I,” Anna said, “We love you gu–”
“No, I see where you guys stand now,” Amy said, relatively quietly, walking away toward the door, which she opened and walked through without looking back.