By Wednesday, the food was gone, the trailer was a mess, and Andrea needed a shower.
She was still no closer to deciding what to do. Gio had come over several times, asking to talk, offering to stay with her, leaving a bag of her stuff from Jenny on the porch, pounding on the door, but she never let him in. He’d even spent last night in his car outside her trailer.
She peeked during the night to check on him and could see him sitting in the driver’s seat not even attempting to sleep. Once, she thought he saw her and she jumped away from the window, falling on her back in the cramped kitchen.
But his car no longer sat there. Maybe a neighbor called the police. Who knew? Maybe he’d gotten tired of it all and left. Not likely. Maybe he had plans to get a court order to stop her from doing the thing he desperately didn’t want her to do. Probably.
Maybe that’s what she waited for. For someone else to make the hard decision for her. For someone else to take responsibility for her future. For someone—for Gio to swoop in like the knight in shining armor and save her from herself.
The folder from the social worker lay on the floor where she’d dropped it when she came home Saturday. Andrea stared at it like she would a pile of dog crap in the gravel between hers and her neighbor’s trailers.
The decision was hers. And it was time to decide.
Getting up from the couch, she crossed the few steps to the folder and picked it up. She took it back to the couch, rubbing her fingers along the crisp edges. Then she opened it.
Pamphlets filled the pockets. She pulled one from the right side: Childbirth; Your Questions Answered. Andrea dropped it on the floor.
She took out another: How to Have Safe Sex with Your Partner. Andrea snorted. Too late for that. And they had been safe. Ninety-nine point nine percent wasn’t enough in this case. The page joined the first on the ratty carpet.
So, You’re Going to Have a Baby!
Pamphlet after pamphlet about birth control, and breastfeeding, and vaccinations, and prenatal care, and how to make it work when you got knocked up at eighteen like your stupid mom.
The last pamphlet took her breath away: Abortion; Is it the Right Choice for You? Andrea removed the pamphlet with shaky fingers. Setting the folder on the coffee table, she held the thin rectangle of tri-folded paper, reading and re-reading the words printed on the front.
She opened the flaps. The words were clinical, cold, unemotional. The pregnancy… suction... special instruments to remove the pregnancy... ibuprofen for the pain... complications if the pregnancy isn’t ended.
She read until the end then it too floated to the floor away from her shaking fingers.
The pregnancy. Why didn’t they call it what it was? She’d heard it all before, the debates, the when is it alive talk. When the first sperm wins? When the first cell divides? When the tiny heart takes its first thump in the newly formed chest?
To Gio, it was already their baby. What did she think?
She leaned back on the couch and stared at the sweatshirt covering her stomach. Was there a baby in there or a clump of cells that would become a baby? Did it matter? Did it affect her decision?
Either way, if she made that choice, it ended. A life. A pregnancy. Whatever she called it didn’t matter. All that mattered was…
…what was she going to do?
She turned her head to look away from her stomach and her gaze landed on the picture frame Gio had bought. Picking it up, she rubbed her finger over his image, remembering the way they felt that night. Happy. Hopeful.
She shouldn’t be surprised that it turned out like this. Nothing ever worked out for her. The bad always found a way to seep in and poison anything she tried. Always second in cross country. Always second compared to the kids at school. Even second choice for the scholarship and getting it by default.
But you got first in the Mancinni contest. Even this thought sent her pulse into her throat. It was still the second choice for her future. She needed to break free, not stay here. Staying here and becoming a stylist wasn’t good enough.
She squeezed the frame and stared at the picture, trying to bring up the good feelings. But even that night, which has seemed so perfect, she ruined by freaking out because Dana made her feel dirty and then overreacting and almost starting a fight that would have made her look like a loser. More of a loser.
What right did she have thinking she could be a mother or take care of a child or raise another human being to become a productive member of a society where she didn’t fit in or even comprehend?
Motherhood? Right. She might as well try becoming an astronaut because she had as much right to be a mom as… as… as her fucking mother did!
She lifted the frame behind her head, ready to throw it at the wall and shatter the glass into a million pieces, like her heart.
But stifling a sob, she dropped it to the couch. She couldn’t even get angry right. Couldn’t even take it out on the right things.
Her water glass sat on the table in front of her. She picked it up and threw it, the glass exploding against the metal door. Next, she grabbed the ceramic elephant that sat on the end table. Her mom painted it one Christmas trying to make their world a little less shitty. It smashed even better than the glass. The trunks flew out like tiny spears, disappearing in the dirty carpet.
The barrage continued. Anything she could find. Stained glasses from the broken kitchen cabinets, chipped plates piled dirty in the sink, empty dusty vases that hadn’t seen a flower since the seventies. Anything that would make the sound she felt in her chest every time she pictured Gio’s face as he cried with her in the car, begging her to let him be a dad.
He would be a great dad. And she would take that away from him because it meant she would have to be a mother. But what kind of mother did this? What kind of mother smashed the few meager belongings she had because she was too chicken to smash the one thing that mattered, that she didn’t deserve, so she could have it to remember in the future?
She picked up the frame again and drew her arm back.
The coolness of the glass—the smooth, unbroken glass—chilled her anger like a bitter winter wind and she fell onto the floor, cradling the frame to her chest as she lay sobbing in the shards of her past.
She made her choice.
Setting the frame on the table she went to the phone and dialed his number. It rang twice.
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