Paternity Test

Paternity Test

A Story by Greg Gorman
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Karen and Steve are trying to handle everything life throws at them. Sharon and Bill want to help, but will Steve let them?

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Karen and Sharon. Sharon and Karen.

The two had known each other since they were in elementary school. They shared sleepovers, went to proms together. They went to parties and there may have been an incident involving the police. He was nice, though, and let the girls off with a warning. The girls were smart enough to just go home that night and not push their luck. The last thing a teenager wants is to get into trouble with the police, or their parents.

The two remained close as years went on. Karen had a baby. Sharon was the godmother. Sydney Katelyn was born to Karen and her boyfriend, Steve and had just turned one. Sharon helped out whenever and however she could. She would buy Sydney an outfit or would watch her so Karen and Steve could go out and have some alone time.

“Steve had to go to court today.”

“What did he do?” Bill asked.

“He’s behind on his child support,” Sharon said.

“Child support? I didn’t know he had a child besides Sydney.”

“He doesn’t,” Sharon said. He had a girlfriend a long time ago. She said she got pregnant before they broke up and she never told him. The real father is a loser so she told Steve he was the father because she knew he would pay the child support.”

“So, Steve can’t just get the paternity test to show he’s not the father?” Bill asked.

“No,” Sharon said. “The mother knows he doesn’t have the money for the paternity test so she just says that Steve is the father. The judge says Steve can take a paternity test to prove he’s not the father but until then, Steve has to pay child support.”

“That sounds a little messed up,” Bill said.

“Welcome to the courts,” Sharon said to Bill.

“Wouldn’t it be better for him to just get the paternity test out of the way and save on the child support?” Mark asked. “You would pay child support until the baby turns 18. Take the test and save yourself some money.”

“A paternity test costs thousands of dollars,” Sharon said. “They don’t have that money. It’s easier for Steve to just pay the child support every month. If he doesn’t, he goes to jail.”

“Even if it’s not his child?” Mark asked.

“Right,” Sharon said.

Mark parked his car. Steve and Karen were outside the restaurant waiting for them. The four friends greeted each other and were led to their table when they went inside.

“How was court?” Sharon asked.

Steve shrugged. “It was alright. The judge gave me an extension. If I don’t come up with the money by then I have to go back to jail.”

“What a b***h,” Sharon said.

“Tell them what she did at court today,” Karen said to Steve. Steve laughed.

“What happened?” Sharon asked.

Karen didn’t wait for Steve to talk. She just jumped in.

“Steve was talking to the judge and the kid asked her for candy. The mother said, ‘Go ask your real father.”

“Wow,” Mark said.

“Yeah,” Karen said with a disgusted look on her face. “You should have seen her at court. She had her nails done. She had her hair done. She had it done just before she went to court to tell the judge she needed more money. She walks up to me and says, ‘Do you like my nails? I tried this new hairstyle. Don’t you like it?’ She has new clothes on. She’s not spending money on the child. She’s spending it all on herself.”

“And think of what she’s doing to the kid,” Sharon said. “She’s saying that Steve is the real father. The real father is a loser. She’s messing up her kid just so she can get more money for herself. She wants new clothes all the time. What is she doing for her child.?”

The conversation turned to happier subjects that night. The four were able to talk about things that made them smile and laugh. Sharon and Mark picked up the check that night. Steve and Karen had spent enough money that day and needed someone to help them out for once. People said good-bye outside the restaurant. Mark and Sharon gave Steve some words of encouragement before leaving. It wasn’t a good situation to be in.

“I wish there was something we could do for them,” Mark said on the way home.

“Me too,” Sharon said. “I’d like to, but we have our own problems. Steve said the paternity test costs thousands of dollars. It’s cheaper for him to pay the child support every month.”

Mark shook his head. “I don’t know. A lot of this sounds weird. I like Steve but a lot of what he’s saying to Karen and us isn’t adding up.”

“What are you saying?” Sharon asked.

“According to Steve, he is accused of fathering a child. This child isn’t his, but he goes ahead and pays the child support?”

“Because he doesn’t have the money for the test,” Sharon said.

“People get adjustments on child support all the time,” Mark said. “Steve says he’s not the father. Okay. He’s not the father. You can go to court and have child support reduced or increased when a situation changes but, all of a sudden there’s a concrete price for a paternity test? I’ve never heard of that before.”

“That’s what Karen said.”

“This is also a guy who will only wear designer clothes and things with designer labels on them. He’s got money for his designer clothes? He can’t go a month without that so he can take a test and prove he’s not the father of this child? It seems to me he’s not fighting this as much as he could or should.”

“They don’t have a lot of money,” Sharon said.

“How many nights are they eating out?” Mark asked. “How many nights is Steve ordering take-out on his way home?”

Mark and Sharon got home. Each one was on their phone in bed. Mark was looking up paternity tests. Something wasn’t adding up.

“Look at this,” Mark said to Sharon. “A paternity test costs a few hundred dollars. The man pays only if paternity is established.”

“That’s weird,” Sharon said. “Karen said it was a lot more than that.” She looked at Mark. Mark looked at her.

“Of course, he did,” Mark said. “Why would he say something like this is more affordable?”

Sharon laid back down. Her head was filled with thoughts of her friend. A friend she had since elementary school. They shared a limousine every prom. They were close. Now she was figuring something her best friend didn’t know: Her boyfriend, someone she has a child with, was the father of another woman’s child.

“I can’t believe it,” Sharon said. “Steve’s done some stupid things in his life, but I never thought he would have a child.”

It was a long, sleepless night for Sharon. She was thinking about her friend. Karen was a smart woman. Why didn’t she ask about the paternity test? Why didn’t Karen bother to look it up on her own when it came time for the test, and they were told Steve was the father? Sharon was wondering why she had never helped her friend with this information herself.

She rolled over on her back and stared at the ceiling. She was still thinking. No one ever thought of anything because everyone believed Steve. Karen didn’t go to court because she was going to work. Someone had to pay the bills. Sharon kept thinking. Karen was going to work. Steve was home with Sydney. Daycare was expensive. It was cheaper for someone to be home watching Sydney. Karen told Sharon it had worked out that Steve got fired from his job.

Sharon rolled over again. Steve got fired. How many times had Steve been fired? There was always a story. Someone else stole from his drawer. A boss was dirty. Someone lied. There had been so many times Karen had been over her place crying. How were they going to pay the bills? Someone had to be home with Sydney. Sydney couldn’t go to daycare. They never had the money. Steve said this. Steve said that. Karen wasn’t there. Karen had never met these “other people”. It was all coming from Steve. She looked over at Mark. She wanted to say something to him but he was fast asleep. Mark could sleep through anything.

Morning finally came. Sharon woke up. She had somehow gotten to sleep that night. She was tired. She wanted to sleep some more. She got out of bed and went into the kitchen. Mark was up drinking coffee.

“Good morning,” Mark said to Sharon.

“Morning,” Sharon said. “When did you get up?’

“About an hour ago,” Mark said. “Want some coffee?”

“Sure,” Sharon said.

Mark poured her a cup and brought it to the table where she was sitting. He sat down with her. Sharon blew on her coffee and took a sip.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” Sharon said as she put her coffee down. “I keep thinking about Steve”

“Yeah,” Mark said. “That’s quite a thing.”

“You know what I keep thinking about?” Sharon asked. “I keep thinking about Steve and the s**t he’s been doing. This guy isn’t bright. I mean, he’s kind of smart but he’s not a brain surgeon. He bounces around from job to job. He gets these s****y jobs that he can’t even keep. He gets fired from them and goes back to Karen with some lame-a*s story about how he was the one who got in trouble. She never questioned him. I never questioned him. You never questioned him.”

“No one thought they needed to,” Mark said.

Sharon took a sip of her coffee. “Why didn’t we do something? Even if we believed him, why didn’t we try to do something for them. Why didn’t we take the time to look for a way to help them?”

“Because they’re our friends and we believed him,” Mark said. “It never occurred to us that he would be lying. Not to Karen. Not about something like that.

Sharon shook her head. “I want to say something to Karen. I don’t even care if he’s there or not. He’s been lying to her and their daughter all this time. They can’t pay their bills because of what he’s doing. Because of what he did.”

“Why don’t you?” Mark asked.

“Because of Sydney,” Sharon said. “Sydney would be there when I try to talk to Karen. I don’t want their daughter to be there when I talk to them and she finds out her father is an a*****e.”

Sharon continued to drink her coffee. Mark got dressed. They needed some things at the store. Mark said he would go while Sharon was waking up and drinking her coffee. Mark went to the store. He saw Steve there.

“Hey,” Mark said.

“Hey, man,” Steve said. “How’s it going?”

“Alright,” Mark said. “Just grabbing a few things we need today.”

“Yeah. Same here,” Steve said.

“Listen, man,” Mark said. “Sharon and I were talking last night. This is a messed-up thing to happen with you and this other lady. Some women can be psycho.”

“Tell me about it,” Steve said. “But it’s not your problem.”

“Well, we want to help,” Mark said. “You and Karen can be out of this fast.”

“We’ll be alright,” Steve said. “We can handle this until we get the money so I can prove I’m not the father.”

“Sharon and I were looking last night. The paternity test is only a few hundred dollars and you only pay if you’re the father.”

“No,” Steve said. “It’s thousands. The father has to pay for the test or he pays the child support.”

“No way,” Mark said. “I checked the website.”

“The website is wrong,” Steve said. You have to pay no matter what. It’s not a few hundred. It’s thousands of dollars for the test. The father pays no matter what the result is.”

“Where did you hear that?” Mark said.

“I read it,” Steve said. “Did you ever need to take a paternity test?”

“No,” Mark said.

“Okay, then,” Steve said as he walked into the store. Mark went in and got what he and Sharon needed. He checked out and paid for his stuff. The cashier gave him his change. He put the two dollars and change in his pocket and went to his car. He turned the ignition. He was about to pull out when he saw Steve leave the store and walk to his car. He was drinking an energy drink. Mark kept thinking. Steve and Karen were always talking about being broke but Steve kept wearing his designer clothes. He was always buying snacks and drinks for himself when he was shopping. It didn’t cost much but why are you always buying stuff here and there when you and your girlfriend are always trying to save money and talking about how broke you are?

Steve got into his car. He was looking at his phone for a minute before starting his car and driving off. Mark saw him leave the parking lot. He thought of the two dollars he put in his pocket. He could buy a scratch ticket with those two dollars. He was thinking about the scratch ticket. If he won enough money on the scratch ticket, he and Sharon could pay for a paternity test. If Steve wasn’t the father, he and Karen could put the whole thing behind them and get on with their lives. If he was… Mark started to think of Sharon and her best friend. He was also thinking of the scratch ticket. It was a long shot. Things like that usually are. Win or lose, he was only spending two dollars. Would he miss it?

Mark and Sharon dropped by Steve and Karen’s later that day. It was an unannounced visit. Karen and Steve were surprised to see them since they had been out the night before. Mark and Sharon were smiling. They had big news.

“We hit the lottery,” Sharon said.

“Are you serious?” Karen asked.

“Mark bought a scratch ticket today. He won $10,000.”

Karen was smiling. “Oh my God!” she said. “That’s awesome! What are you going to do? You going on vacation?”

“Maybe,” Mark said. “But we want to do something else first.”

“What are you going to do?” Steve said.

“We want to pay for Steve’s paternity test,” Sharon said.

Karen’s mouth dropped. “Are you serious?”

“Yes,” Sharon said. “You guys need help and we want to help you. This lady needs to stop. We can’t get back what you’ve been paying all this time but we can stop what you would have to pay in the future.”

Karen closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She felt like she was going to cry. Money that was going to a child that didn’t belong to Steve would stay with them. They could pay their bills. The credit cards were piling up because money was short every month.

Karen looked over at Steve. Steve didn’t look happy about the idea. He looked pale. Why wasn’t he happy about getting the test out of the way?

“We can’t take the money,” Steve said.

“Why not?” Sharon asked.

“We can’t,” Steve said. “I don’t want to take their money. We could never pay it back.”

“Pay us back when you can,” Mark said. “Shoot. Take us out to dinner a couple of times. Buy Sharon a pair of shoes. Buy me a six-pack. Don’t worry about it. We can figure something out in the future.”

“It’s a lot of money,” Steve said. “I don’t feel right with you giving that to us.”

“We don’t mind,” Mark said.

“We’re happy to do it,” Sharon said.

“Steve,” Karen said. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Steve said. “I just don’t want to take their money.”

“You’re always complaining about having to pay this woman and now we have the money,” Karen said. She was looking at Steve. Steve wasn’t looking at her. He wasn’t looking at anyone. He just stared straight ahead. Sharon and Mark looked at each other. Karen was still looking at Steve. She was trying to figure out what was wrong. Within a few seconds, her face had a look of shock. They had the money for a paternity test. Steve didn’t want the test. Karen was finding out why.

© 2020 Greg Gorman


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Please tell me you plan on continuing this story and not leave it on a cliff hanger. You invested a lot of time into writing this story as the readers invested time into reading it. Wouldn't you want to bring closure to the story? It's very interesting I enjoyed reading it so far. Just crossing my fingers for more.

Posted 5 Months Ago


The characters, the conflict and the dialogue are very realistic.
The ending makes us wonder, naturally, whether Steve has been lying, or he's a saintly figure.
Either way, what makes it relatable to me is that we all (?) have secrets and a self-image to keep up and to protect. So much of life happens in the gray zone, it seems. Can we ever afford to be completely honest with anyone? Well, these are some of the questions that popped up after having read your story.

Posted 9 Months Ago



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Added on August 6, 2020
Last Updated on August 6, 2020
Tags: Relationships

Author

Greg Gorman
Greg Gorman

Stoughton, MA



About
I'm from Massachusetts. I've been writing all my life. I currently run a parenting website (brave-daddy.com) telling about my adventures as a parent and all of the responsibilities and challenges that.. more..

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