They walk out of the free clinic hand in one. One glance at his face tells her that he is just as afraid as she is. Neither of them say a word. They simply hold hands and walk a half block then plop down on the bench to wait for the city bus.
They had just heard the news that should make them happy but instead they are scared out of their minds. She wants to blame him. He said this could not happen that he knew what to do; he would be careful. But it had happened and she had known for almost three months but would not admit it even to herself. Sometimes she hoped that something else was wrong; maybe she had cancer. Then she would scold herself for such an idea. She had refused to say the words.
But the doctor had said them. “Congratulations you’re going to be a mother.”
How could that be? She had just turned fifteen four months ago and she had so many dreams; so many things she wanted to accomplish. She wanted to go to college and get out of the desolate community where she had been all her life.
He turned to her and said the unspeakable word that she has let run across her own mind more times than she cares to admit. “Abortion, that’s the answer. That’s what we’ll do. I’ll use some of the money I’ve saved for college and…”
She shakes her head vigorously and her hand covers her belly in an automatic protective motion. She already has a mother’s instinct. “Never,” she says surprised that her voice comes out in a harsh whisper when her mind is screaming. “That’s murder; a sin! Sin’s what got us in this mess to begin with.”
He starts to deny it but she holds up her hand and stops his flow of words. “Yes it is. We both knew it was a sin to have sex outside of marriage. The pastor said so and you were sitting right there beside me and heard him the same as I did.”
He is silent again and keeps glancing down the road; hoping the bus will hurry and come. He wants to get as far away from that clinic as he can. But he can’t escape the doctor’s words that keep screaming in his head.
She sees the big blue and gray bus two blocks away when he finally takes her other hand and turns her so they are face to face. “Okay… okay we’ll get married.”
That’s what she wanted to hear. That’s what she has hoped for weeks he would say. But when she looked in his eyes she doesn’t see the undying love forever he had promised. Instead she sees fear and doubt and underneath it all a shadow of dread and disappointment.
He sees his dreams of college and a better life fly away. He’s worked hard all through high school to keep his grades up hoping to qualify for an academic scholarship. Just in case he did not get one he has worked every vacation, weekend and holiday and saved every penny. Now when he is only a few months from graduation his dream is being jerked away.
She can’t do it! She can’t destroy him.
“No.” She shakes her head just as the bus squeals to a stop and the door glides open. “I don’t want to marry you. Stay here I don’t want you with me.” She drops his hand and stands up. She walks to the bus then says over her shoulder as she climbs the steps. “I don’t love you. I never did.” She hates the pain that flashes across his face. More lies she thinks as she hands the driver her school identification which allows her to ride the bus for free. Tears stream unchecked down her cheeks as she stumbles down the aisle and finds a seat.
The driver cusses under his breath. He’s had this same route for over fifteen years and has picked up way too many young girls from this stop who have the same look on their face as his new passenger.
That night over spaghetti with watered down sauce with no meat she starts to cry. Her mother gave birth to her when she was only sixteen. She has worked two jobs as a maid for as long as the girl can remember but there is still never enough money for the bills and necessities. Is this all she has to offer her baby? A life time of need, uncertainty and doing without.
Then she remembers the brochures the doctor had given her. She had crammed them in her battered purse without even a glance. Now she leaves the table and goes to the bedroom she shares with her mother. They have always had a one bedroom apartment. She retrieves the papers and sat on the bed as she reads them. The first two talk about abortion so she tosses them in the trash as though they are too hot to touch. The other one is about adoption. She reads it twice. Then falls to her knees and prays, crying out to God to show her if adoption is the answer. Should she? Could she give her baby to strangers?
When she told her mother what was going on they cried together. Then they agreed adoption was the best thing to do. Rich couples who had everything this world had to offer except being able to conceive a child were willing to pay all her bills if she gave her baby to them.
She was sure she had found the solution when she, her mother and the boy met the prospective parents. They seemed like very nice people and assured her they would give the baby their very best.
And then the baby started to move.
Her love grew as the tiny body formed and grew just below her heart. She knew she had to give it away but she wished the day would never come.
No matter how hard she wished her water broke and labor pains ripped her apart. As agreed the adoptive parents were in the delivery room. They tried to hide it but she saw the joy on their faces when the doctor held up her tiny son and his healthy cries ricocheted around the room. When the nurse placed him in her arms her heart was filled with so much love and joy mixed with grief she felt it would burst. For a minute she could not breathe.
The adoptive parents vowed their love for him but how could they possibly love him as much as she did? They had not held him all these months sleeping against their heart or felt him kick so hard she was certain he had caused her internal injuries.
The attorneys said she had forty-eight hours in which she could change her mind. She knew she wouldn’t; knew she couldn’t. She loved him too much to condemn him to a life of poverty. She would use the time to tell him how much she loved him. She held him all night pouring out her heart to him even though she knew he would not understand and would never remember. But she hoped that somewhere deep inside he would somehow know she cared. She counted his perfect pink toes and kissed each tiny finger. Taking deep breaths she sucked in his smell so she would never forget. The fuzz that covered his head tickled her cheek as she snuggled with him.
The hour came way too soon. She was allowed to dress him in the soft one-piece pajamas covered with pale yellow ducklings. Her fingers trembled as she pulled up the zipper. She kept glancing at the papers their lawyer had placed on the stand beside her bed. The attorney the couple had hired for her had read them and assured her all was in order. She wrapped her son in the soft, expensive blanket they had brought then turned and placed him in the waiting mother’s arms. Quickly she picked up the pen and with a shaking hand signed her name.
They walked hurriedly to the door and disappeared down the hall. She stuffed the corner of the pillow in her mouth to stifle the scream that tore at her heart and soul. She had just shown the most unselfish love she could ever show her son.