Mike Kunkel felt really bad about Janet Barrett's pregnancy. In fact, after getting off the phone with her, he was actually ashamed of himself. He was certain that the child she would be having was his, just as she had angrily asserted it was. A part of him wished that he could do the right thing by her, stand up and offer to marry her.
Things weren't that simple though. Even if he did take full responsibility, marrying someone like Janet could never be a viable option. Kunkel men only married from within their own social strata. He'd been indoctrinated with this concept for all of his life.
Mike truly cared for Janet. In some ways, if he were absolutely pressed to give an honest answer, he'd have admitted to actually loving her. Love is all well and good, but it didn't give one license to enter into a marriage with someone so far beneath one's own station in life.
In another part of town, Janet Barrett put down the telephone receiver, placing it gently back into its cradle. Her face reflected the outcome of her recent phone conversation.
"What did the slime ball tell you, Jan?" Todd, her oldest brother softly asked her.
"He better have promised to do right by you, girly." Her father rasped, already beyond angry after hearing her admission, an hour earlier, of her current predicament.
"He said he's sorry, but his family will never accept him marrying me. He questioned whether the child was even his." Janet allowed her tears to stream quietly down her cheeks. She felt empty inside. She loved Mike, but his response to her urgent plea hadn't truly surprised her.
"Did he now?" Her father asked. "And, does he have any justification for questioning his paternity?"
"No, of course not! I've only ever been with him. I'm not that kind of girl!" Janet vented angrily at her father's question.
"Just asking, that is all I was doing. When I brace his family about this, I'll need to be sure there is no acceptable reason for him to be able to wiggle away from his responsibilities. If he's your baby's father, he'll do right by you, or else I'll know the reason why not."
The next Sunday, at the Trinity Episcopal Church, four men, all carrying shotguns, walked into the chapel just as those members of the congregation were taking their seats after singing their hymns. They were, at this point, less than halfway through that morning's service.
Edward Barrett, Janet's father stood in front of Mike Kunkel and his father. The double barrelled shotgun was aimed at the twenty inch separation between their heads. Mr. Barrett purposefully moved the barrel of the firearm from side to side, his finger inside the trigger guard. The other three armed men stood behind and to the right of Mr. Barrett, spread out in a row, covering the rest of the congregation there worshipping that morning.
Mike's father stood up, his face all red, and mottled with his outrage and anger.
"How dare you? You can't come in here like this, waving your guns and pointing them at people. I'll have the law on you for this!"
"You know who I am Kunkel?" Mr. Barrett asked.
"Your name is Barrett. You have a daughter who likes to tell lies about her betters. She wants my son to marry her, but that simply isn't an option."