She felt the leather binding of book spines on her own, the cold metal of the high shelves against her back. She was pinned there, just as she had been every Thursday for the past two years that she attended that prudent and prestigious New England boarding school.
Words never passed between her and the boy holding her in that compromising position - it was a library after all. Their meetings were to the point, but were full of something she wouldn't call love even though she knew it was more than lust. It could have been interpreted as rebellion against society, but if that were so, he would date her like he dated those legacy girls.
She was on scholarship; he went to this stuffy, self-righteous, conservative school because his family had went there for generations. If this were social rebellion, he would make their relationship, whatever it was, public.
But he was still dating that vapid, dull, conventional girl from New Port. She was the girl he was supposedly in love with and would marry. No doubt he would. She even wished them well and hoped they spend many of their future summers in the Hamptons, happy and boring.
Deep down, they both knew it would be like that, and both truly hated the thought.
It was the last Thursday before graduation and she knew it was different tonight. He was drawing it out, taking his time, even going as far as to hold her after. Then something terrible happened: he uttered words. He verbalized what he had lied to himself about, what she refused to believe.
"I love you," he breathed.
She looked at him in horror, knowing that this was the end. Nothing good would come of this. And she said those three fatal words back.
As his mouth found hers one last time, she wondered briefly whether she had lost her mind at last. She had never said a word to him before, and he'd never uttered a syllable in her presence either. They knew close to nothing about each other, and in class they pointedly ignored one another. She knew he loved rugby, he knew she loved books, that was the extent of their knowledge.
When he pulled back, she stared one last time into his dark-blue eyes, grabbed her bag, and left. However, on her way out of the aisle, she heard him call out her name softly, as if he was begging her to stay; she knew she couldn't.
He went off to some Ivy League school and she became a student of the arts in New York City. Her belly grew big with his child, and she wondered where and how she would keep the baby. There was no doubt that she would keep it.
She wanted a family; her parents passed away in a car crash that summer, and she needed something to keep her going. If that meant a new life, so be it. It could break her of her mild depression - and it did. The child that she carried made her take care of herself, made her find a well paying job - two actually (she was a waitress, and in the evenings, she helped organize and host gallery showings).
In November, she got a postcard from him. She wasn't extremely surprised, but enough curiosity was left in her to read it. He wanted her to go to his family home in the Adirondacks over Thanksgiving. He'd heard about her parents and was "deeply sorry"; it would only be him and her.
Like a bad habit, she went back to him the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It was raining when she showed up on the doorstep. When she rang the bell, a maid answered, took her polka-dot umbrella, and showed her into the living room where he was waiting, a passive look decorating her face the whole way.
"Janey," he said. It wasn't a whisper this time, and it startled her. Then it was his turn to look frightened as his eyes landed on her very round stomach.
"Darby," she said evenly.
"Is - is it -" he stumbled over words, trying not to look as shaken as he felt.
Her hands bunched up in her floral-patterned skirt, "Yes, Darby, it is yours. It's a boy."
"I'm - I'm engaged to -" he stammered. He didn't think it could happen to him. Everything always went well for him. Disasters were for the weak, for those who believed they could happen.
"I know. I figured that would happen, and it's fine. Really."
He breathed, thought about what it meant to have an illegitimate, albeit very much loved, child. He realized that now he ranked up there with every other powerful, rich American legend. Look at Thomas Jefferson for example!
"Could I do anything? Can I send you money?" he genuinely wanted to help. "You wouldn't have to do anything you didn't want to ever again."
Her grey eyes faded to the color of sadness, "I don't want to raise him by myself...but that's where the money comes in isn't it?"
"Is that a yes?"
She nodded as tears began to well in her eyes. He guided her up the marble staircase in the hall to his bedroom where she fell asleep.
The next three months she didn't work; his checks came each week. She spent most on green clothes for the baby, the rest on food and rent. Everything made her tired, her tiny body weakened as the infant grew.
When she was admitted into the hospital, she gave him as her emergency contact. She was put into an impersonal room, her paper gown irritating her skin. She hated the smell of the hospital, the brightness of the fluorescent lights. She was so exhausted.
When she started to fail, he was called. He got there as fast as possible.
There were complications, the doctor said. Problems during the birthing process. Was the child his, the doctor wanted to know.
"Yes," he answered quietly. "May I see her?"
"The baby?" the doctor asked.
"I thought - nevermind. No, the mother," the boy needed to see her. Couldn't believe what the doctor and nurses had told him without seeing it for himself.
The doctor nodded, chauffeured him to the girl's room.
If she wouldn't have had suck black bags under her eyes, such swollen lips, such colorless skin, she could have been asleep. But there were other signs: she was so thin, had bruises on her hips, swollen wrists and ankles. He couldn't touch her, not wanting to cancel out the memory of her skin warm under his palms; he didn't want to feel death.
He couldn't feel the tears that rolled down his face as he left the room. He found the nurse that had called him to the nursery.
"May I see my daughter?" he asked. She had told him that they said it was a boy. She told him she thought they were wrong and she planned to buy everything in green.
The nurse handed the healthy infant to him, showed him how to hold the baby girl correctly, led him to the rocking chair.
"Will you keep her?" the nurse asked, her dark eyes filled with concern. He noticed that his was the only child in the nursery.
"Mhmm," he managed. The unnoticed tears came faster as he began to realize that this child would never know her mother. He didn't know her mother. Questions, when his daughter got older, wouldn't - couldn't - be answered. He wouldn't be able to give her any description of her mother's childhood.
But this baby is all he had of his lost love. He had to keep her. He couldn't marry that wretched girl from Rhode Island anymore.
He would go to his dead love's apartment, have everything there packed and shipped to his house. He would get a nanny for his daughter while he was in school, though he knew that was no way to raise a child, as it was the only way he could go to school.
After college he would be an almost full-time dad.
While he thought all of this through, the nurse gazed at the tiny new family that had been torn apart before it formed. "What is her name?"
"Janey," he replied. They tiny thing he was holding looked uncannily like the woman that just left this world. And then he understood the tears and he could puzzle out who it was that he loved so well.