Too True
A Short Story by Jim McCollum
Written using the suggestion "Birth"
Originally featured on 10-30-2007
As part of our series "Journey To A New Word"

The famous actress Andrea Erlingbender sat at her kitchen table and turned the phone over and over in her hands. Her lips moved, mouthing words. She felt the texture of the Braille on the phone keypad. Then, she dialed.

“Hi, Mom?” She said.

“Hello? Oh, Andrea, it’s you,” said her mother from the receiver.

“Mom, I have something really important to tell you.”

“Oh dear, you caught me in the middle of something, hang on.”

“Mom, wait, sit down.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s ‘wrong,’ well, mom, I’m pregnant. You’re going to be a grandmother.”

“Oh,” her mother said, “oh, I’m sorry, I’m just surprised.”

“I’m so scared. I don’t even know the first thing to do.”

“What are you going to do about it?”

“I don’t know, but I’m so scared. Can I come to your house?”

“Of course, if you want.”

“Ok, bye mom.”

Andrea hung up the phone, and stared at it. She texted, “I’m pregnant,” and then she erased the message. She texted, “I’m pregnant. I’m scared.” She erased that. She texted, “I’m pregnant. I’m at my mom’s. Don’t worry, I’m not keeping it,” and pressed send.

 

“I’m in love with him, Mother,” Andrea said.

“You’re not in love with him!” Susan said. “For God’s sake, you’re just a child; you don’t know what love is.”

“I know what it feels like, this heat, this unbearable need to open my mouth and scream,” Andrea sat down on the floor, “or just sit here and cry and let all my hopes and wishes leak out of my eyes.”

“Listen to me,” Susan grabbed Andrea by the wrist, she brought her face close, she gritted her teeth, “You can’t believe what he says. All men are false. They will tell you what you want to hear, and take the one thing you can never reclaim.”

“He already has it,” Andrea began to cry.

“Oh, my darling,” Susan cradled Andrea’s head in her arms, holding it against her breast. “How could you let this happen? How could you do this to me?”

Andrea pulled sharply away and slapped Susan. Her eyes trembled with naked fear.

“Cut,” said the director.

“Jesus Christ, Andrea, where the fuck did that come from,” Susan said putting her fingers up to her bloody lip.

Andrea sat silently.

“Andrea?”

She stood up and walked off the set. She didn’t stop at her trailer and kept walking when a PA tried to ask her if she needed anything. She got into her BMW and drove home, cruising down the nearly empty mid-day highways.

 

Andrea woke to her phone ringing. It was one of the show’s producers. She shut off her phone without answering and went back to sleep. She rolled over in her bed, her legs tangling in the sheets, twisting around her legs as she shifted from side to side.

When Andrea woke again, it was past noon. The sun shown through the windows, and her skin had a thin layer of sweat on it. She got up and showered. She saw her mother working in her garden. Her mother kept a classic English garden, with a small pond and series of statues. Now, she bent over a bush of azalea blooms. She went downstairs and poured herself a glass of water.

 

“Good morning,” her mother said, looking down at the flowers, “I got a call from one of the producers on your show—I forgot her name—she said you just walked off the set the other day. If I had known you were working I would have told you not to come.”

“Did she say anything else?”

“Andrea, do you know what you’re doing?”

“No, mom, that’s why I’m here.”

“I told the producer you were here, and she said she would have someone come and get you.”

“Why did you do that?”

“You can’t just run away from your problems, Andrea. I thought I had raised you better than that.”

“Well, I guess you were wrong.”

Her mother sighed.

“Besides, mom, I thought you would have some advice, you could help, I mean, you were in my situation.”

“My situation was totally different.”

“Not really, I mean before you married dad.”

Her mother set down her pair of gardening shears. “Andrea, when I was pregnant with you my parents sent me away to have the child, I gave up everything I had to be your mother. Are you prepared to do that for your child?”

“Maybe,” Andrea said.

“If you aren’t sure,” her mother said, “you shouldn’t have a child. Here.”

Her mother handed Andrea a doctor’s card.

“He’s very discreet.”

Andrea looked at the card, the creamy white color, the raised print.

“Andrea, I just don’t want you to make the same mistakes that I did. Will you call the doctor?”

“Yes, mother.” Andrea went back into the house.

 

“I got your text message,” Robert said through the receiver, “I think you made the right decision, I mean I want to support you, and I think you made the right decision.”

“Thanks,” Andrea said. She sat on the bed in the guest room in the darkness.

“Are you coming back tomorrow?”

“I don’t know,” Andrea lay down in the bed and looked up at the ceiling, “I haven’t decided what I’m going to do.”

“What’s left to decide? I thought you had your mind made up about this baby-thing.”

“Well,” Andrea sat back up again, “what if I decided to keep it, I mean what would you do?”

Robert didn’t say anything, “I would support you, Andrea, but you know me. I’m just not cut out to be a father.”

“Tell him or her that,” said Andrea.

“Who?”

“The baby.”

“Don’t do this, Andrea, it’s not fair.”

“You want to talk about fairness?”

“Not now, not at two in the morning. Look, come back tomorrow, we can talk, you won’t get fired. They were talking about replacing your character today, or having her die in a mysterious explosion. Just get some sleep and come back tomorrow.”

“Okay. I do know what you mean about feeling like you aren’t cut out to be a parent, though.”

“Good night, Andrea.”

She hung up the phone. She looked at her watch. She assumed whoever the studio sent to get her wouldn’t arrive for about eight hours. What if my child is a daughter? Andrea thought. She thought about the things she would take her daughter to do, encourage her to play sports like Andrea’s mother hadn’t done. She wouldn’t place any undue emphasis on her daughter’s appearance, like her mother had done, taking Andrea to beauty pageants as a child. She touched her stomach and imagined her own daughter slapping her, like Andrea had done to her mother, and hearing the things she had said, but from her mother’s perspective. Andrea picked up the phone. No one would be there, she thought, but I’ll leave a message. Maybe I can still get an appointment before I have to go back to L.A.

Read More By Jim McCollum

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Portland Fiction Project

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