The next afternoon at the coffee shop downtown, MJ sat across from Police Detective Korina Stevens, who was off-duty and dressed in her workout clothes. She’d known Kori since their stint at Jesus Camp when they were twelve, but the friendship had really been founded in Confirmation Class the following autumn when they were ostracized by the rest of the group for asking too many questions about the stuff you were just supposed to believe. At that age, MJ didn’t want to believe that wine was Jesus’ blood. They didn’t even serve wine at communion; it was grape juice. She’d learned from the youth pastor that in Africa they drank Coke at communion. At this rate, everything would have to signify Jesus’ blood and that seemed like a lot of work. She didn’t want to have to think about the crucifixion every time she went to the water fountain.
“What’s up?” Kori asked before taking a bite of her donut. MJ appreciated her friend’s passion for fulfilling many of the cop tropes.
“Any word on the Hot Flash Muggers case?”
“That’s confidential.” She crossed her arms and leaned on the table.
MJ gave her a look. “Like I would tell.”
MJ was the first one Kori had come out to. They’d gone to see The Princess Diaries one evening during the eighth grade. That night when they were in their sleeping bags on MJ’s bedroom floor–talking the way a dark room encourages–Kori had admitted that she thought Mia was cute, and not in the she-has-cute-clothes way, but in the she-thought-she-wanted-to-see- her-without-clothes way. That feeling was hard for MJ to compute–not just the girl liking a girl part–but the wanting to see someone naked part. The church had always been hush hush about it, like the way MJ’s mother had instructed her to be hush hush about her brother’s autism. There were just things you weren’t supposed to talk about. But the movies talked about it a lot and it seemed like a good thing to want a person in that way, but they were actors, so it could just be pretend. Kori didn’t say much more about the topic that night, besides making MJ swear she wouldn’t tell until she said it was okay. Kori didn’t say it was okay until she graduated from the police academy.
Kori took a sip of her coffee. “Why are you asking, anyways?”
“I have a friend who’s one of their victims.”
Eric was clearing the dishes from a nearby table. He let out a laugh that he tried to cover as a cough.
Kori raised an eyebrow at MJ. “A friend, huh?”
“It’s complicated what we are.”
“Have you fucked?”
MJ looked away. “No.”
“But clearly you’ve fantasized about it.” Kori gave her a knowing smirk. She’d always been good at reading people; a skill she’d made useful in both work and play.
“Ugh.” MJ put her head in her hands. “It’s Jacob West.”
Kori choked on her donut. “Shit.”
“They fucked him up.”
“Does his dick even still work?” She looked at MJ, expecting her to have an answer.
“Kori!” MJ gave her a look of shock. “I was there to walk his and Zoey’s dogs. It’s not like I was looking to see if he was pitching a tent in his pajama pants.”
Kori snorted, but returned to a more serious face. “How’d you even meet this guy?”
MJ recounted the events to her.
“So you’ve finally reconnected and he’s still hot for you, huh?”
“Yeah, it seems that way.” She smiled for a second, still unsure if it was a good thing.
“Shit, girl! A favor is giving the man a blowjob, not using a friend for her confidential information!”
“Kori. I’m pregnant. There is no father. He offered to be the father. I thought I ought to try and match his contribution.”
Kori looked at her for a moment, like a dog tilting its head to understand the words being said to it. “Hold up. Rewind. You’re pregnant?”
MJ sighed and recounted the whole tale to her. She’d forgotten how long it had been since they’d last caught up. Kori had her life chocked full of work, spin classes, dates, book club, and other social events.
“I told her she should get rid of it before she can’t,” Eric butted in.
Kori looked at MJ to see her reaction.
“Yeah, maybe, but this thing is me and my mother and my grandmother.”
“It’s a shitty bundle of DNA is what it is,” Eric said, swinging a chair around from a nearby table and sitting on it backwards, his arms resting on the top of the backrest.
“Aren’t you working?” MJ asked.
“I’m on a break. You should be honored that I’m giving my fifteen minutes to your life complications.”
“I’m honored, really,” MJ said, despite appreciating the gesture.
“So you’re thinking you might keep it then?” Kori asked, bringing the conversation back to focus.
“Maybe. But I’d have to get a desk job and be a mom. I don’t want that. Not now, at least.”
“Why not put it up for adoption then?”
“You could actually recommend that route? The girl wouldn’t even have a relative to tell her about her condition, prepare her. I could at least ensure I’d prepare her properly.”
“You could stop this though,” Eric said. “You want to bring a kid into this world knowing that it’s eventually going to have to deal with the same fate?”
MJ sighed. “I don’t even want to be pregnant. I’m tired of throwing up. I won’t be able to walk dogs in a couple of months.”
They were silent for a minute.
Kori looked at the crumbs on her plate. She couldn’t believe she was recommending adoption, knowing there had been all those years of wishing her mother had aborted her rather than given her a chance in the world. The gesture was appreciated until child services butted in, took her away, and let her be passed around from family to family like a game of hot potato. Elementary school had been confusing. Being adopted by a nice, white family when she was ten was a blessing. They could afford for her to play basketball and they’d even showed up to her games. But they also showed her God, made that their favorite answer when she asked about her mother and her turbulent childhood. They brought her to the church’s pastor when they caught her with her hands down her pants while watching a movie in the basement. By high school, she didn’t know whether she was black or white, lesbian or Christian. Then she saw the police officers in the annual Christmas parade downtown, everyone in their blue uniforms looking the same. They were all police. She wanted her identity to be that easy.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Kori finally said.
“You’re a big help, officer,” MJ said.
“It’s your life. Decide for yourself.”
“Ugh. I’m horrible at decisions.”
“Parenthood is a big commitment. It’s not something you can really test run without fucking up the kid.”
“I know. I know. But you can’t even do anything to help Jacob out?”
“Like what? He’s already helped us as much as he could. The muggers are good. This case is going to take time. All we know is that their violence is escalating. I’m sorry, I really am.” Kori made the face she always made when she had to break bad news to a citizen.
MJ laid her head on the table. Her phone buzzed from the back pocket of her jeans. Fuck her phone, she just wished it would stop ringing. She just wished everything would stop for a moment. She pulled it out anyways. The caller ID was a number she didn’t know. She answered it anyway.