“What’s wrong?” he asks, glancing at me, sensing my loathing from his computer chair.
I’m lying on the couch with a James Patterson novel in my hand. A full glass of red wine that he poured for me sits on the coffee table.
“Nothing, babe,” I say, keeping my eyes on my book.
He turns back to his computer. I look at him longingly, hoping he would pause his work, but Jared’s hands remain glued to the keyboard.
He worked graveyard the night that little red ‘plus’ sign revealed itself. I leaned on the sink and glanced up at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I caught the horror in my hazel eyes rimmed in charcoal eyeliner. My chest rose and fell with every audible exhalation.
I can’t afford it. I can’t be a mother… I can’t….
I vomited my breakfast and spit out every last piece of scrambled eggs.
“Oh God,” I said into the toilet. I wiped my mouth and brushed my teeth.
My thin, long fingers trembled as I grabbed the stick. I placed it inside its small cardboard box. I wrapped it inside a Walgreens plastic bag, walked outside, and tossed it into the dumpster behind our apartment. I wrapped my arms around myself and shivered in the snowy November darkness.
I stepped inside, closed the door and leaned my forehead against it in agony. The weight of this thing growing inside me dragged me down. I sat with my back against the door, hugging my knees tightly to my chest.
“I’m so sorry, little one,” I whispered. “I can’t keep you.”
The following morning, I picked up my phone and called Planned Parenthood.
Today is the day that I scheduled the abortion, a Friday afternoon in December.
I glance at the clock above the couch.
One more hour.
I lay the book on the coffee table and pick up the glass of wine, chugging it before heading to the bathroom, leaving Jared at his desk. Coming into the bathroom, I catch my reflection in the mirror.
My dry, wavy hair is sticking up in every direction imaginable. Red blotches are scattered across my entire face. My eyebrows are bushy and misshapen, framing my eyes that have dark shadows underneath. The lines on my forehead trace the lack of sleep.
I turn on the shower and step inside, standing underneath its warm cascade. The water trickles down my skin, warming and massaging my aching muscles. Standing still, I let the drops fall on my shoulders and back.
My eyelashes, drenched and heavy, remain open as I gaze down and caress my soft, flat belly. I circle my hands around my navel, pausing a moment to see if I can feel any stirring. Nothing. I don’t know why I think I could feel something. It’s not even a month old, yet.
I close my eyes, imagining it growing bigger and wider into the size of a watermelon. I envision my skin stretching, carrying the little person. I feel it bumping, kicking and flipping. It flips until it pops out.
I see her evolve. The cycles continues as she becomes me, I become my mother, and Jared becomes my step-father.
I had long, brunette hair and danced in little dresses that she bought from the dollar store. He came home from work with a six-pack of Coors Light and ignored our existence. He touched me when mom was down the street, selling gas and lottery tickets.
I turned seventeen and dropped out of high school. I stole cash from her wallet to buy a one-way train ticket to become someone else.
Standing underneath the water, I wrap my arms around myself.
She never even searched for me…
Stepping out of the shower, I shake off the memory by drying my hair with a towel and using it to wipe off the fogged mirror. My lips are dry and purple from the wine.
Wrapping the towel around my waist, I walk into the living room to retrieve my tumbler of water sitting on his computer desk.
I try to avoid distracting him from his work as I grab the tumbler.
“You’re beautiful,” he says sweetly and surprisingly.
I pause and hold the tumbler awkwardly. These words, although he says them often, catch me off guard after imagining him one day becoming the man who ignores his daughter.
“Thank you, babe.” I take a drink, still standing beside him in my towel.
“What are you getting ready for?” he asks.
Tell him… Stop being a coward…
“Abby invited me to pizza,” I say, recognizing my own shaky voice when I try to hide something.
His fingers pause from typing.
“You know you can talk to me about anything, right?” he says, his green, almond-shaped eyes looking away from his screen and into my blank expression.
I smile and nod nervously, not realizing I’m locking my knees and my thighs are shaking.
“Megan, you’re turning pale.”
Suddenly, I feel nauseous. My stomach turns as the room spins. His face goes blurry.
“Come on, let’s lay you down. Wrap your arm around my shoulder. There you go,” he says, walking me over to the couch.
Jared places a throw pillow underneath my head and swings my legs on the couch. My head pounds like someone beating my temples.
“I’m sorry,” I say, my words sounding more like a croak. “I’m sorry.”
“Shh, it’s okay.”
He picks up my tumbler from the floor and fills it from the kitchen sink. Coming back to my side, he orders me to sit up and drink. I wrap my lips around the bottle and sip down the cool water. The liquid feels refreshing along my throat. Goosebumps spread across my naked arms and legs.
Jared grabs a blanket from the bedroom and throws it on top of me. He brushes a few loose strands of wet hair from my face. He places the back of his hand against my forehead. “You’re not feverish.”
I take another sip of water and look at the clock.
I missed the appointment.
“You need to rest,” he says worriedly.
He has always taken care of me.
He’s not going to leave me. I’m not going to become my mother…
“Jared… I’m pregnant.”