* * *
Turning the ignition key in the rental car to off, Taylor opened the car door and stood up, smiling at the sight of Natalie's white front door. Pulling his camera out of his suitcase, he quickly snapped a picture of her house, then dropped the camera back in his bag. Quickly striding up the sidewalk, he rung her doorbell, bouncing on the balls of his feet nervously. A minute passed, and Taylor rung it again, biting his lip and wondering what he was going to do if nobody was home. A moment later he grinned as he heard someone fiddling with the locks.
"Surprise!" he said as the door opened to reveal Natalie behind it. His smile immediately faded as he noticed her tear-streaked face.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, selfconsciously tucking her hair behind her ears, her eyes still wide with surprise.
"Kate mentioned your parents were out of town for the week on a second honeymoon, and we're on vacation and I thought I would come down and say hi...." he trailed off, not knowing what to do.
"Oh, um, yeah, come in, come in," she stood back; Taylor picked up his suitcase and brushed past her, his hair already damp from the humidity. "Kate and I were upstairs trying on bathing suits, so if you just wanna make yourself at home down here, we'll be right down."
"Bathing suits, hmm?" Taylor grinned again, resting his hands on Natalie hips, and pulled her closer to him for a kiss.
"Yeah... be right back," she dodged out of the way, running up the stairs, and leaving a very confused Taylor behind her.
"Okay..." he said to himself, and ran his fingers through his hair, sitting down on the edge of the couch. Tapping his fingers together, he leaned back, then forward again.
"I did not fly all the way across the country to sit on a couch," he said, nearly five minutes later, and stood up, following Natalie's path up the stairs. He stopped outside her bedroom door, which was partially open, at the sight of Natalie in low-cut bikini. He leaned back against the doorway appreciatively, not wanting to get her attention, just enjoying the sight before him.
"It'll be fine, I swear," Kate said, and Taylor frowned at her words, looking up to see Natalie on the verge of tears again. "Just... christ, I don't know. Just tell him straight up, there's really no way to say it, is there."
"Tell him what?" Natalie sat down on the bed, and threw her arms up. "That even though we knew we shouldn't have been having sex, and that even though I thought I was on my birth control, I'm pregnant anyways?"
Taylor's mouth dropped open in shock, and his body sagged against the doorframe, his knees giving out. "Pregnant?" he said to himself, running a trembling hand through his hair again, and he looked back up to see Natalie's shocked face staring at his.
"I...." her eyes pleaded with his, and Taylor turned away, incapable of comprehending what he'd just heard. Taylor turned away, and somehow made it down the stairs, Natalie calling his name after a moment, her throat choked. Taylor fumbled with the doorknob and stumbled towards the rental car, climbing in, starting the engine and revving away. Swallowing around the lump in his throat, he adjusted the rearview mirror so that it would not show Natalie, framed in her doorway, her head in her hands.
Taylor didn't know how long he'd been driving for, but the sun was starting to set, and he was starting to get hungry. Really, really hungry. And he was getting a headache from the radio being so loud.
Sighing, he pulled over, and climbed out of the car, surveying the land around him.
"This would be a good makeout spot," he said to himself, then immediately bit back the words as the events of the past few hours came flooding back, and he sat down where he was, on a small bluff overlooking the town. Resting his head in his hands, he longed to call his brothers, but his cellphone was in his suitcase, and anyway, he wasn't quite sure what to say.
"God?" he said tenatively, feeling a bit stupid talking to the air -- when he prayed it was usually in his head -- but he continued on anyway. He wanted to make sure God heard this one. "You've helped me out a lot these past few years, but now I really don't know what to do. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't agree with abortion," he choked the last word out, "and I don't think I could do that anyway. I love her and I don't want to hide her away from the world and keep this a secret, but what will my parents say? And my brothers?" he groaned, and flopped back on the grass. "So there's nothing I really can do, I guess. Well...." Taylor trailed off, biting his nail thoughtfully. "There is always marriage -- and I do love her, but we're so young. But I guess that doesn't matter anymore, does it," he laughed quietly to himself, a laugh without much humour. "So, what do you think, God?" he threw his hand up, sarcastically addressing the sky. "Should I marry the girl?"
The air, which so far had been very humid and windless, kicked up a strong wind, sending it in Taylor's direction. Taylor frowned thoughtfully and sat up. "Was that a yes?" he asked, the sarcasm gone, and the wind blew again hard again, running through his hair. A bit spooked, Taylor stood up, jingling the keys in his hand. Another moment later and he was in the car, speeding back to Natalie.
The streetlights were on when Taylor skidded into her driveway, and he quickly jumped out of the car. Not even bothering to ring the doorbell, he grabbed the camera from his suitcase and then took the stairs two at a time, stopping short before her bedroom door. He ran his fingers through his hair for probably the five hundreth time this day, as he realised he had no idea of what he was going to say. Biting his lip, he pushed the door open to see Natalie asleep on her bed, Kate dozing in the chair by her side. Kate jumped awake when the door squeaked slightly, and frowned at the sight of Taylor.
"Where have you been?" she snapped, sitting up and stretching a little.
"Thinking," he replied quietly. "I can take it from here."
She stood up hesitantly, her face still doubtful. "If you hurt her even more than you have," she started, and Taylor held up his hand in protest.
"I come in peace, I swear."
She studied his face for a moment, then left the room without another word.
Taylor watched Natalie for a moment, then sat down on the edge of the bed, gently pulling her hair back from her face. Natalie yawned and her eyes slowly opened, taking a moment to focus on him. When she realised who was beside her, she sat up suddenly, drawing her knees up to her chest.
"How long have you known?" Taylor asked, instead of asking how she was feeling or one of the other dozen things running through his brain.
"A day or two," she said quietly, tucking her hair behind her ears. "I think I'm maybe two months along."
Taylor nodded, then without even thinking, scooted closer to her, wrapping his arm around her.
"I know that earlier wasn't...great. But I'm here for you now, and we'll think of something."
The relief in her eyes was huge, and she rested her head on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, and Taylor leaned down and kissed away the tears in her voice.
"It's not what I wanted at this point in time," he admitted. "But it happened, and we'll work it out together."
She nodded, and he grabbed his camera from her nightstand. "Kodak moment time," she laughed, and she rolled her eyes, grinning.
"I look horrible," she protested, and Taylor made a noise of protest.
"You never look horrible. Now smile," he said, and held the camera out, pushing the button down.