A Father's Love
When Jenny found herself pregnant at the age of fifteen she thought her life was over, but with supportive parents, she was able to get her education. With her future secure at the hospital on the reservation where she grew up, love was the last thing she wanted in her life.
Brand knew he was going to be practicing in a rural hospital. What he didn't realize that Jenny, the beautiful Native American girl who entered his life would become so special to him he would become a doctor at the Lac du Flambeau reservation in Northern Wisconsin to be close to her.
Lac du Flambeau Reservation Wisconsin - 1998
Jennifer Red Hawk left the free clinic, her thoughts in turmoil. A glance in the plate glass window of the store next to the clinic told her she looked like any other sixteen-year-old girl on the Lac du Flambeau reservation in northern Wisconsin. Her blue-black hair hung in long braids down her back and her bronze skin and dark brown eyes attested to her Native American heritage. She looked no different than she had before the doctor diagnosed the mysterious illness that made her feel run down all summer.
How could she be pregnant? At sixteen, she still had her junior and senior years of high school ahead of her, to say nothing of college.
Instead of going home, she made her way to Charlie Little Horse’s home. They went together throughout the past school year. On the night of Charlie’s graduation party, they slipped away, and he took her out to the lake. Once there, he talked her into having sex in the back seat of his father’s car. He’d assured her she couldn’t get pregnant the first time they had sex and besides all the girls did it. Like a fool, she believed him.
She knew other girls who got pregnant and dropped out of school, but they weren’t her. They were the girls her mother called ‘fast and loose’, they certainly weren’t Jennifer who never disobeyed her parents, went to church on Sunday, and planned to go to college to become a nurse when she finished high school.
She found Charlie playing football in the front yard with his friends. When he saw her, he left the others to carry on and walked her to the back of the house. Once alone, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her hungrily. She knew what would come next. He would put his hand inside her blouse and play with her breasts until she could hardly stand it. Then he would demand sex. Since the first time when the pain had been almost unbearable, she found herself unable to fend him off, for all the good it did her.
“Did you come to give me my going away present, baby?” he said as he groped at her breast. “The folks are having a special dinner for me, but I’ll be free after eight. If you come back then we can make love under the stars.”
Jenny pulled away. “I didn’t come for that. I came to tell you I’m pregnant.”
She watched his face, expecting to see... to see what? Shock, horror, embarrassment, or compassion?
“Who’s the lucky guy?”
The question came as a shock and yet it wasn’t unexpected. It was what most guys would have said until they got used to the idea.
“You are, and you know it.”
“Hell, baby, one word from me and ten guys will swear they’ve been with you.”
“But you can’t. It would be a lie.”
“Don’t you realize it would be your word against mine? Who do you think they’ll believe? I’m Ben Little Horse’s son and you’re nothing. Your father is only one of my dad’s workers. Without that job, where do you think your family would be?”
Jenny stood staring at him in a state of shock. “But... but what about our baby?”
“Your baby, honey. It’s best you get your pronouns right. This is your problem. I won’t even be around to consider such a thing. I’m leaving in the morning for the UW at Milwaukee. I’ve got a bright future ahead of me. I’m not going to let a little bitch like you ruin it for me. Have a nice life, but don’t go trying to pin your brat on me. If you do, you’ll be sorry.”
Charlie turned his back on her and walked away. Tears filled Jenny’s eyes. Without Charlie by her side, she would have to face her parents alone. She stayed in the backyard for several minutes until she saw Charlie’s mother coming from the house.
“Jenny, why don’t you come in the house and help me with supper. We have plenty, and you’re more than welcome to stay.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Little Horse, but I have to get home. I promised Mama I’d help her get supper for us. She’s counting on me. I just stopped to tell Charlie good-bye before he leaves for school tomorrow.”
“I understand. I just don’t know why he thinks he has to get there two weeks early. It will be quiet around here, but I’ll get used to it. Don’t you be a stranger. I have work to do, so I’ll be seeing you.”
Jenny relaxed her forced smile and cut across the backyards of houses that belonged to her friends, praying she wouldn’t run into anyone she knew until she returned home.
The screen door slammed behind her as she made her way to the kitchen. Her mother was making hamburger patties for the picnic supper they had planned all week and her father was chopping the onions.
“Can I talk to you and Daddy?” Jenny said, drawing her parents’ attention to her.
“What’s wrong Jen?” her father said as her mother hurried to her side.
“Oh Mama, Daddy, I’m pregnant.” She knew she shouldn’t have just blurted it out like that, but the words escaped before she could stop them.
Anger clouded her father’s usually laughing brown eyes. “Who is the father, that little bastard, Charlie Little Horse?”
Jenny nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks. “It was the night of his graduation party, after everyone else went home, we went down to the lake. He said I couldn’t get pregnant the first time and I believed him. He said it made his graduation special.”
“I’m going over there. Hold off on that picnic until I get back, Betsy.”
Jenny put her hand on her father’s arm. “Don’t waste your time, Daddy. I went there first. Charlie is leaving for Milwaukee tomorrow for school. He said if I went to his father, he’d deny the baby is his. He also said there were a lot of his friends who would say they’d been with me, even though that’s a lie. He told me if I made a fuss, he’d make certain you’d lose your job.”
Her father’s shoulders slumped in defeat.
“Jenny’s right, Tom. We can’t do anything until this baby is born. Once it is, we can prove Charlie is the father. Jenny isn’t the first of our people to be in this situation. I should know. I was just her age when I had Matthew. It was hard for me because my family wasn’t supportive. I had to quit school, and if you hadn’t agreed to marry me and raise a child that wasn’t yours, I don’t know what I would have done. I won’t let my daughter give up on her dream of going to school and making something of herself. No matter what it takes, we’ll make certain she gets the education she deserves.”
Jenny watched as her father took her mother in his arms to give her comfort. In her wildest dreams, Jenny never thought her older brother didn’t have the same father as she, her younger brother, and sister did. She wondered if he knew. Not that it mattered. Tom Red Hawk was a good father to all of his children. It didn’t matter to him about Matthew not being his natural son. Maybe someday her child would have such a father in his life.
“Your mother’s right. You’re my little girl and I love you dearly. I still want to beat some sense into Charlie, but your welfare comes first. Times are different now than when your mother found out she was pregnant with your brother. You won’t have to quit school. I want you to go on to college, and if it means your mother and I will be raising your child, so be it. Your mother missed so much of her youth that I refuse to put you through the same thing.”