Michelle is still breathless when she remembers that night. She remembers those smiling emerald eyes, and that delicious smell of cologne on Darien's skin.
"Hey Michelle," he smiles with that subtle hint in his eyes. "Won't you come back to my place?"
She knows what he means, but she does not hesitate in her answer. She is passionately in love with him of course, but he remained blissfully ignorant. A little crazy, a little shy, but so much in love, she followed him to his apartment. That night was beautiful, to say the least. There were no reputations, no classes that separated them into the rich and beautiful, or the middleclass citizens. A man, and a woman, that was all they were as the night flew past.
And when she woke he was gone, but his scent lingered on the sheets. It made her weep quietly, because she was so convinced that she would be enough this time. She thought he would stay for her. Still somehow, she felt ashamed of herself, sleeping with someone she cared so much for, but didn't reciprocate such feelings. She had known him for all her life, the perfect best friend she was always falling in and out of love with. A man so beautiful, so charming, yet so unreachable.
She can't help but feel a little abandoned.
Michelle runs to the bathroom for the third time that morning.
She doesn't understand why she gets sick in the mornings. It doesn't make any sense. Still, she puts off the trips to the doctor, because she simply does not have the time to deal with such trivial things. She is a busy woman. An independent woman, able to think for herself, and not needing anyone's crutch to move on in life. That was one of the few things she prided herself on.
Her mind drifts back to Darien. She wonders what he is doing now, if he is still working hard in university, if he sometimes thought of the girl he used to stay with back in high school. She thinks of how lucky she was to run into him at that bar, and how she wishes that she could go back and do it all again. She misses him terribly.
"Ridiculous." She mutters under her breath, as she rinses her mouth with water to get rid of that bitter taste. "Darien and I are different people now. That was just a one off thing." She tells herself.
She knows that the only person she's trying to convince is herself, but wonders why it's so hard.
"The result is positive. You're pregnant, Miss Grayson." The doctor informs her with a smile that is too distant, too polite.
Michelle doesn't even comprehend his words. She hears them as if she is under water, resonating with strange empty echoes.
Pregnant... You're pregnant... The syllables run through her mind restlessly.
"...pregnant?" She chokes out, eyes wide and disbelieving.
The doctor nods curtly, and begins a discussion on new meds to take, new diets, new sleeping habits. All new things, just like the... fetus growing inside her. She doesn't even think of it as a baby. New changes, new journeys to embark on. Just one problem.
She isn't ready.
Her hands run over a distended stomach in the mirror.
She looks down, as she has been looking down for the last month, thinking it's growing so fast, it's getting bigger. The thing is getting so huge. What am I going to do? What if I can't look after it? I don't even know if I want it. What is Darien going to say? The thoughts run in her head endlessly, and she feels slightly crazed by it all. So tired. She just wanted to sleep forever and wake up a million years from now.
What is Darien going to say?
Her head falls back, and she sighs at the ceiling. Darien. How would he react? Would he come back to her, and raise the thing? Would he tell her to terminate the fetus, or send the born child to an orphanage? Would he be supportive, or cold and angry? She is too scared to ask.
She had never felt quite so alone. What would mother say, if she knew she was pregnant without a true husband? She doesn't have anyone else to turn to – it's the bitter side of being so independent.
The clock is ticking. She only has so much time before killing the thing growing inside her would be immoral. She needs to make a decision, before it gets too big.
Before it starts looking human enough to cloud her judgement.
The depression is worse now. She had run out of time. Terminating the fetus was no longer an option. She had to either keep it, or give it away. She would have to go through with the pregnancy. The tears she had fought so hard to keep back are finally making their debut. She is so lost, so lonely, so scared. Not knowing what to do for the first time in her life was almost crippling. So she does the only thing she knows is left to do. Call Darien.
He picks up the phone on the first ring. "Hello?"
It takes her an eternity minutes to explain her situation. After a while, he's just silent. This scares her. She would prefer anger to the silence.
Finally, he speaks. "What are you going to do?" he questions quietly.
She frowns in puzzlement. "What am I going to do?" she reiterates slowly.
"Yeah. What are you going to do? That's what I said." he repeats, as if she didn't understand the first time.
Her mouth gapes in incredulity. She cannot believe he is so selfish. He was just as responsible as her, yet he acted like he had nothing to do with it. The hurt and shock that raced through her veins stung her. That was when she realised her perfect best friend, was not so perfect after all.
"I am going to raise him myself."
Even if she feels like she doesn't quite belong there, she loves how beautiful everything is in the baby stores.
She is quite excited for her new little boy. She walks around the shop, admiring shiny white new cribs, adorable little baby clothes, and soft toys, and bottles and nappies. It's all so cute, so gorgeous. She can't wait until she gets to see him. She thinks of names for her new son, liking the name Oliver, but having an attachment to Emmanuel as well. She was quite torn between the two, yet she knew that the perfect name would arise when she saw his face.
She arrives at a little stand that held the most beautiful baby shoes she's ever seen. They're gorgeous, so different and unique, yet they all seemed to belong together. Babies didn't walk until they were much older, but Michelle couldn't help herself. She buys every kind she sees.
When she walks home later that day, her baby nudges her from the inside. At first she just stops and stares at the place that had been kicked, mouth open in wonderment. It was amazing. Dreamlike almost.
But then she started to giggle, little liquid pin pricks of happiness in her eyes.
Michelle knows there's something wrong.
Her baby stopped moving yesterday. She tries to calm herself – sometimes he wouldn't move for a long time, liking to sleep in one position. She rubs her fingertips over her swollen belly anxiously. But being a mother, Michelle knows in her heart of hearts that there really was something terribly wrong.
She panics after the hours become unbearably long. The baby isn't moving. Why aren't you moving, sweetie? Come on. Move for mama. She whispers terrified little words to her stomach, coaxing some movement with trembling fingers.
Later that day, she goes to the bathroom again to relieve some of the strain on her bladder. But when she pulls down her underwear, all she sees is red. Blood.
Oh no. Please, god, no, not to me, not now-
She starts to hyperventilate, gripping the edge of the toilet seat for support. No. It could not be true. Her baby had to still be alive, surely. When she goes the same doctor, she hates that he still has that same passively polite look when he tells her that her child has indeed passed, the only thing changing is his look of distant sympathy.
She shakes her head in denial. This happened to other people, but she never guessed it would happen to her. Was this her punishment? Was this fate's sick sense of humour, because she didn't want him at the start? Her crying, her screaming was not enough to atone for her mistakes. Her pain is the only thing she knows - she knew not of these strange people. Miss, calm down, they said. Please Miss, sit down, Miss unhand me please. Let us just discuss this rationally.
Rationally? What the fuck was rational about all of this?
She closes her eyes, and shut off her senses. She doesn't want to listen to the nurses whisper things about induced birth.
Stillborn, they said.
The pain is incredible. Her eyes remain shut the whole time, and desperate whimpers of pain escape her lips. She can't believe such pain exists. And for what? Nothing, no sweet little boy was waiting for her on the other side.
After an hour or so, he's out. Her lost son has been removed from her body, and now she feels more alone and empty than before. She never did tell Darien that their, no, her little baby had passed away. She knows that he'd probably be indifferent again, or relieved, even. Child support was expensive.
"Do you want to see her?" a nurse murmurs gently, a warm hand stroking her arm.
Her? Michelle questions. My baby was a girl after all? Huh. She thinks offhandedly. But the pain is worse than before when she realises that she had not just lost a baby, she had lost a perfect little girl. Her eyes well up with tears for not the second time that day.
She stares at the nurse for an immeasurable amount of time, trying to comprehend why the gentle woman in front of her would even ask her such a thing. Their eyes were a silent battle - the nurse would not leave until Michelle answered, and Michelle had no voice.
She shakes her head slowly, her mouth dry. The nurse nods sagely, walking away.
The others take away her little girl, and Michelle doesn't want to think of what they're going to do. Are they just going to throw her in the bin, like some kind of trash? She wonders in agonising pain. What did she look like? Did she look like she was sleeping? The truth was she didn't want to know.
The other nurses help her to a shower, where they wash her clean and dress her, and lead her to a new bed, with fresh white sheets.
And that is where she breaks down. She shrugs off the comforting hands, the sympathetic nurses that come in to comfort her. She will feel every ounce of the agony that rips her. She needs this.
Michelle walks down the stairs to the lawn in front of her house. Outside, she holds a yard sale. All the useless things she'd accumulated in her life, and she sold them all off, like pieces of her life's journey.
In one area, every item was coloured with soft pastels. The whole scene is a beautiful mosaic of pinks and purples, yellows and blues. On one side, there is a white crib. The other side holds pretty clothes, and sweet little toys. In the middle, there is a tiny table that held tiny baby shoes. Each one has its own unique design, a theme that could be felt through their colours and textures.
The tears drip down her face slowly as she writes the sign.
For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.