The stairs press hard against her back, her thigh muscles screaming with agony as she strives to keep her balance and save both of them from colliding down the cascade of carpet in a lustful heap. His warmth inside her burns out any pain, however, and she arches up to meet him, every fiber in her body crying out for his touch.
“Steve…” She chokes out his name in a half whisper. This is her lover, her demon, the one person who delivers any sort of emotional sanity into her upside-down world. All of the confusion he has caused her in the past is now unimportant; as long as she is in his arms, craving his attention, feeling his smoldering lust spreading through her, she is alright.
They lock eyes, as their bodies push together in sweat and ecstasy, and time stands still for a moment. Everything she’s ever wanted, everything she’s ever needed is held in his gaze, spiraling slowly down through the layers of their psyches, transcending flesh. He… Oh God… he wrecks her. His eyes tear through her, searching all of the locked portals of her mind, leaving her dizzy and naked, a child in the rain.
“You feel so good,” he whispers in her ear, his breath warm and hot. She wants to scream that she loves him, and shake him violently until he actually sees these deep, craving emotions inside her. But she’s learned by now that their relationship is purely sexual, and that he has no desire to be anything more towards her. Still… that look of burning desire is enough to give her a small glimmer of hope; right now, she doesn’t even feel guilty about sneaking around behind her boyfriend’s back. As the birch trees outside his window tremble and sway in the breeze, their yellow leaves raining down on the empty street below, she bites her lip and comes against him, emotions burning through her in a whirlwind of bittersweet desire. The wheels are set in motion.
Lia perched nervously on the edge of the tub, her sweaty hands fumbling with the thin foil package. She didn’t want to be worried… yet… but her period was already over two weeks late, and the usual clockwork chemistry of her inner mechanics was being thrown off-kilter. Her body was normally as on time as the changing of the guards in front of Buckingham Palace, so this and this alone was cause enough for her concern. She didn’t feel pregnant, but then, how would she really know one way or the other? She had never been pregnant before, so she had nothing to base her symptoms on. Oh, sure, there was the general feeling of being very ill at ease, but in her mind, that didn’t prove anything. That’s where the home pregnancy test she held in her tightly clenched hands came in.
“Let’s see…” she said to no one in particular, her voice echoing small and nervous against the bathroom walls. “Pee on the stick for five seconds; two lines mean I’m pregnant, one line means I’m not. Easy enough.” Following the instructions, she placed the slightly damp plastic wand on the edge of the tub where she had just been sitting, covered it with a piece of toilet paper, and sat back to wait.
Her mind was racing with the speed of a runaway freight train. What would she do if it was positive? She couldn’t give birth, not right now. She was only 19, barely over childhood herself. But the thought of just carelessly killing it because of her own stupidity… well, that seemed to be a very irresponsible way out. She clamped her eyes shut and tried not to keep thinking this way. She wasn’t pregnant, and that was that. She was just worried, and her worry caused her period to delay itself. It was a simple, easy answer for a simple, easy problem. She glanced at her watch—five minutes. Time to face her biggest fears. Slowly, she peeled back the layer of toilet paper… One line, one line, Please God… and stared in horror at the test. Two lines. Fuck. She was pregnant.
Lia stared down at her lap and picked nervously at a stray thread on her boyfriend’s couch. How was she going to tell him that suddenly, they were up there with the statistics, that she had ended up this way? Brian came in from the kitchen, a smile on his face, and sat down next to her.
“Hi, sweetie. How was your day?” His cheery attitude caused her stomach to twist all the more, and she just stared at him in reply. “Hmmm… apparently not good. What’s wrong?” He stared at her with a look of concern and slight fear.
“I’m pregnant,” She said flatly, her eyes flickering up to meet his for a second and then sliding back down to her lap, so she wouldn’t have to see the look of pure anger he was giving her.
“You’re WHAT?! But… how? We were— Fuck.” He paused for a second. “Well, you’re just going to have to get rid of it. That’s final.”
She stared at him with a look of disbelief, and when she spoke, her voice was heavily laden with sarcasm. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I fully understood. Are you pregnant? No, you’re not. I’m the one who has something growing inside of me.” Tears were beginning to prick the corner of her eyes, and again, she had to look away.
“You have a clump of cells inside of you. It’s nothing yet! You’re going to ruin my life because you’re too goddamn sensitive to just have some minor surgery??”
Tears readily flowed down Lia’s cheeks now, and she looked at him with disgust. “You bastard,” she whispered. It’s probably not even yours. Go screw yourself. She stood up, gave him one final cold glare, and stormed out of the house, slamming the door as hard as she could behind her.
“Steve?” Lia sobbed into the telephone. “I really have to talk to you. Are you busy?” It was his usual nature to dismiss her calls unless he wanted something from her, and she prayed that this time he would notice the desperation in her voice and let her speak her mind.
“Just sitting around watching TV… you sound really bad. What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know how to tell you this… but Brian was such a prick about it, I guess I don’t have anything to lose… Steve, I’m pregnant. I don’t know if it’s yours or his, and I’m so scared, I don’t know what to do. Please, please help me.”
There was a long pause on his end, enough for her to think that maybe he had passed out. Finally, he spoke. “I thought you were on the pill.”
“I am! I don’t know how it happened…”
“Well, first of all, you need to decide what you want to do about it. I’m here to listen, and I’m here to give you support, but this is something you need to figure out on your own.”
Lia was shocked. Steve had always been the unemotional type, never caring too much about her well-being, only out to satisfy himself. And now, when it really mattered the most, he had finally done a 180. She felt strangely closer to him somehow. As she said goodbye, and hung up the phone, it suddenly dawned on her that despite all of his flaws, despite his nonchalant attitude towards her, she really was in love with him. She knew she shouldn’t be, that he would never return her feelings, but for some reason, he captivated her, held her lust, drove her crazy when she couldn’t see him. She knew she would do just about anything to be with him, and it seemed that finally he may be warming up to her. Only 8 months later, took him long enough, she thought. For that matter, she didn’t feel any of that intense attraction towards Brian. He was a normally a nice guy, sure, but that was the whole problem. He was just too nice. With her, dating was a game of cat and mouse, with people being fought for, not handed over on a silver platter. When she met Brian, there had been no chase, no winning him over. And after his behavior today, she really wanted nothing to do with him anymore. Sighing, she put on her jacket, and headed outside to take a walk and do some thinking.
The birch trees swayed in the late autumn breeze, their white trunks glowing golden in the afternoon sun. As Lia walked slowly down the wooded path, her mind was clouded with thoughts of what she was going to do about the ever-present growth inside her. It didn’t seem right that Brian could dismiss it as easily as he did, claiming it was nothing but a clump of cells and so simple to get rid of. She was glad that Steve had not forced his opinion on her, but wished in a way that he had, since she thought she might want to listen to his advice instead of Brian’s, no matter what it was. The more she thought about it, abortion seemed to her like it would be the easy way out, a way of not owning up to her mistake. And whereas she was only eight weeks pregnant, it already seemed as if she were attached to it; so how could she consciously walk into a clinic and ask them to kill off a part of her? How could she morally live with herself for taking the life of another human being? Yes, technically it was still just growing cells, but at the same time, it had a heartbeat, it was forming a life, it was growing at a rapid rate into a real human. She knew deep down, though, that she was not at a point in her life when she could have the child and raise it herself. Her education was too important to her, she was working feverishly at two separate jobs to get herself out of credit card debt, and she was only 19, for god’s sake. Those seemed to be selfish reasons to her for just killing it, though. She supposed that she could put it up for adoption, and let it have the chance at life that it deserved, but she wasn’t sure that she would be able to give it up once she had nurtured it inside of her for nine months. Equally, she didn’t think that if she was able to give it up for adoption, she would ever get over knowing that it was out there somewhere, looking for her, wondering why she didn’t care enough to keep it. As much as it was morally impossible for her to kill it, it was even less possible for her to bring it into the world, and let it grow up hating and resenting her, always wondering where she was.
A crow called forlornly in the distance, and the sun was beginning to fade behind the golden birch trees. Shivering, Lia pulled her jacket close around her, and started to trudge home. Life was full of uneasy decisions, and the one she had to make right now was probably the hardest she had ever been faced with. As the leaves crunched beneath her feet, and her breath came out in short white puffs, she was no closer at reaching one than when she had started.
As the IV dripped drugs silently into her veins, Lia watched as the doctors wheeled out a cart of surgical tools next to her bed. Her head was swimming, and through the fog of anesthesia, their heads seemed to loop and swirl, like some sort of fantastic creatures doing a ritualistic dance. One of them opened his mouth, uttering strange groaning noises that she supposed were words. He looked at her expectantly, as if she should completely understand what he was saying, and she tried to nod her head at him in response. They spread her legs open, and began to poke around inside of her with metal rods; her uterus grew suddenly very cold, her body seizing up. Part of her was dying… part of her was dying… part of her… The words echoed over and over in her head, pulsating along with the throb of the suction tube they were inserting in her cervix. She opened her mouth to scream at them, tell them to stop, that she wanted to keep it after all, but no sound came out. Her head grew lighter and lighter, floating away. “I…god… DON’T!” The world went fuzzy, and her mind caved in on itself, leaving her spinning in darkness and confusion.
She woke up feeling alone and empty. As her eyes adjusted, she realized that she was still in the clinic, and that Brian was standing next to her bed, stroking her arm.
“Don’t touch me,” she hissed. His arm snaked back, and a look of hurt crossed his face.
“Look, it’s not like you just lost the world or anything,” he responded coldly. “I was only trying to make you comfortable.”
Lia started sobbing. “Brian, I just had a living piece of my uterus sucked out of me, more or less against my will. Nothing is going to make me feel comfortable right now. Not even you.”
“Are you trying to tell me something?”
Lia sucked in a sharp breath. “Brian, you’ve been nothing but unsupportive throughout this whole ordeal… if I’m trying to tell you anything, it’s that when I needed you most, you stepped away, and left me utterly alone. If that’s the way you’re going to deal with such important life choices, I can’t be with you anymore.”
His face grew dark. “You bitch. I just paid for this, and you’re breaking up with me?”
“Brian…. Just shut up and drive me home.”
Yellow leaves floated down around her like a golden snowfall, covering the streets in front of Steve’s apartment with a lemon-colored carpet. Lia’s heart was pounding with anticipation and fear as she waited patiently for him to answer the doorbell. At long last, she heard the click of the deadbolt, and the door swung open. Oh god… He stopped her heart every time she saw him. He had dark Italian good looks, bedroom eyes, and a thick, full mouth that drove her crazy with desire.
“Hi,” she breathed, a little unsteady on her feet.
“Hi…” He ushered her upstairs and sat down next to her on the couch. “How are you feeling? Any better?”
“Steve, Brian made me get the abortion. I’m sorry, I couldn’t tell you right away…” She slumped against him, a wave of devastation washing over her.
“Lia, that child inside of you was most likely mine... Just because that asshole browbeat you into submitting to his own selfishness…” He paused, and sat thinking for a second. “I can’t believe you didn’t even consult me on it first.”
“I didn’t think it would matter…” Lia knew that that wasn’t an appropriate excuse, and she instantly felt horrible for saying it. “I was under the impression that you would have wanted me to choose that option. As not to ‘ruin your life’ and all.”
“You were probably carrying my child! Of course I want a goddamn say in the matter! And for the record, that was the last thing I wanted you to do!”
Lia stared down at her lap, once again feeling the familiar sting of tears. “I’m so sorry…I had no idea…”
“Lia, just go home. I can’t talk to you right now, and I probably won’t be able to for awhile.” Steve looked about to fall apart, and Lia knew not to push him any further. Dejectedly, she stood up, and walked away from him forever.
Her place in the world was a small one, unimportant, isolated from the everyday motions of life. How utterly alone she was now… she had killed her unborn child, broke up with her boyfriend, and the one man she loved no longer wanted anything to do with her. What was the use in going on?
The woods in which she walked were quiet and dark, the trunks of the birch trees glowing ethereally in the moonlight. “How should I your true love know from another one?” Love, she knew, was not something to be counted on anymore, but instead, was a cruel game intended on inflicting punishment. She wanted nothing to do with it, and nothing to do anymore with the intense feelings of loss inside her that were caused by her own irresponsibility. “Larded with sweet flowers which bewept to the grave did go with true-love showers.” The silence of the woods seemed to call to her, and welcome her into its dark grasp. Walking forward, she stepped out of reality, and entered the shadowy depths of her guilt and madness. “There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray,
love, remember: and there is pansies. That's for thoughts.” The trees shifted and swayed in the breeze, and all was quiet.
“Her clothes spread wide; and, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up: which time she chanted snatches of old tunes; as one incapable of her own distress, or like a creature native and indued unto that element: but long it could not be till that her garments, heavy with their drink, pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay to muddy death.”