Vicki Kelly felt the seconds ticking off as she stared into the tiny plastic well. Slowly the little blue cross on the white background became clearer, brighter. Vicki groaned.
"Charlie." No answer, though she could hear that the TV was on out in the living room. NASCAR. Charlie was asleep on the couch, mouth open. Vicki sat down next to him, clicking the TV off with the remote.
"Charlie." She gently kneaded his belly.
"Charlie, we need to talk."
"Is it time t' go t' work?" Charlie fumbled around for his watch.
"No. Sweetie, c'mon, set up for a minute. This is important."
Charlie rubbed his eyes, groaned, and sat up. He glanced at the blank TV screen with a quizzical, slightly irritated expression, and then glanced at his watch. He didn't have to go to work for two hours yet.
"OK," he grumped, "I'm up. Now what is it?"
Vicki took one of Charlie's hands in each of hers, held them gently, and looked into his eyes. "Charlie, I'm pregnant."
Charlie was silent, his face a blank.
"Charlie, did you hear me?"
More blank stare. Then his eyes began to focus slightly. "Uh huh. I heard you. Pregnant."
Charlie's mind seemed to resume functioning. He looked at Vicki. "How do you know?"
"Well," Vicki said shyly, still holding Charlie's hands but staring at her knees, "I was, you know, a little late. So I got one of those drugstore test kits..."
"How good are those things?" Charlie seemed annoyed now, a bit frantic.
"Pretty good, I think," Vicki remained calm. "I mean, if they're positive, I think they're pretty good." Something caught Vicki's eye and she gazed out the window. Snow! It's starting to snow! And it's not even Thanksgiving! Vicki had loved the snow ever since she was a little child, and the first snowfall of the season always excited her. She had grown up in the coastal town of Potter's Cove, Maine, and could remember the days when it had been a hard, somewhat poor working town, it's waterfront littered with dead and dying chicken processing plants and the old Lighthouse Seafood factory. For all of it's decrepit waterfront, though, Potter's Cove was a town of great natural beauty, sloping steeply down to the body of water with the same name, which in turn immediately opened into the Penobscot Bay. About the time she was a teenager, this natural beauty was discovered by wealthy folks from away; magically the old chicken plants disappeared and million dollar homes sprang up in their place, raising property prices and taxes at the same time. Now, like most of the local kids who had entered young adulthood with only a high school diploma and a couple of courses at the community college, Vicki could no longer afford to live in the town of her childhood. So, she lived with her boyfriend Charlie in a dingy duplex a few miles outside of town, up on Route 116. It wasn't so bad; the building was off by itself, with some woods and fields around; now those fields were beginning to have the first tinge of white as the snow came down. Granted, by the time April came around and mud season finally staggered in she was usually a bit tired of snow, but that never detracted from the excitement of the first snowfall of the year. The momentary excitement of this first snowfall, though, was instantly doused by the reality of the positive home pregnancy test, and the look on Charlie's face.
Charlie shook his head like he was being bothered by a fly. "I thought... what about the stupid pill?" Now he was angry.
"The stupid pill didn't work, that's what about the stupid pill. It happens. I didn't forget to take it if that's what you mean!" Vicki was angry now, too. When the test had turned positive, Vicki's first emotion was joy. A baby! But the joy was evanescent; quickly suppressed like the joy about the snow by the immediate realization: Charlie isn't going to like this. Then, there was school to think about. If only we were married, the thought snuck out from somewhere in the back of her head, things would be different. Stupid pill.
"Don't you have to get a blood test or something?" Charlie was talking, and she hadn't even realized it. "Don't they do that at the crisis pregnancy clinic? Isn't that where y' go?"
"I think I just go t' my regular doctor. Charlie, this is new to me. I've never been pregnant before."
Vicki sat on the couch and looked at Charlie. Charlie, sitting on the opposite end, looked back. Here we are, thought Vicki, staring at each other. This could go on for awhile. I can see the gears turning inside his head, but what is he thinking? Vicki felt her stomach churning as conflicting emotions, things she couldn't name, bubbled around in there. She imagined a big pot, a kettle, boiling, bubbling, steaming as different things she could just barely see came to the surface and then dove back down into the roiling stew. One thing kept coming up to the surface time after time, and to it she could give a name. Fear. I'm afraid. Why? Vicki puzzled over this even though she knew she was afraid. It's not like I'm going to die or anything. I'm only a little bit pregnant. Vicki smiled to herself in spite of it all. An absurd situation, and an absurd response. Charlie was still staring at her: he rubbed his chin, and cleared his throat.
"Will he, you know, the doctor, I mean. Will he do, you know... do an abortion?"
Vickie stared at Charlie. "Abortion?"
"Uh, yeah," Charlie became sarcastic. "Y' didn't think we were gonna keep it, did ya?" The sarcasm had turned to incredulity.
Tears were welling in her eyes. "Keep it? I... I don't know. Charlie..." She looked at him like he was a stranger, and suddenly realized that she had never felt so alone.
"Vicki, what are you thinking? You're twenty years old," Charlie was standing now, pacing. "What about school? You're th' one who wants t' go to law school. You can't have a baby and do all that! How're you gonna take care of it?"
"What's this you stuff, buster?" Vicki didn't know if she should cry or scream; she wanted to do both as her world, such as it was, began to unravel. "It's your baby too. It didn't just appear in there, y' know."
Charlie stopped pacing, and pointed a finger at Vicki. "Now you just wait a minute. You're the one who was taking the pills. You're the one who said you wouldn't get pregnant..."
"I never said that!"
"Everybody knows that's why ya take th' stupid birth control pills! T' not get pregnant!" Charlie was pacing again, glowering. Vicki thought smoke was going to come out of his ears. "Look. You have your whole life ahead of you. You can't mess that up with a baby."
A thought hit Vicki like a brick. She glowered back at Charlie. "This is all about you, isn't it? You could care less about me, or the baby. All this whole life ahead of you jazz, it's you you're talking about, not me. You have your whole life ahead of you. Well, buster, is it supposed to be with me, and this baby, or without us? Whadaya say, buddyboy?" Vicki was nearly frantic. Heck with the neighbors. Charlie looked shocked, but then so was Vicki. The thoughts, the words hade come out unexpectedly, without any prior thought on her part. Am I going to keep this baby? How?
Her whole life ahead of her, and at that moment a breath of clarity entered the kaleidoscope of confusion wheeling around in her head. A couple of basic facts stared at her from behind her eyes. First, she'd made a baby with a guy she shacked up with. Second, she'd never even thought about the possibility of getting married, of what they were doing living together, or anything else. She just did it because all her friends were doing it. And finally, now they'd made a baby, and the first thing the creep said was go get an abortion. Yaaah! Vicki jumped up off the couch, tears streaming down her cheeks, and ran out of the apartment, slamming the door behind her. Charlie could hear her steps as they echoed down the stairwell, and out the front door. Stupid pill.
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Copyright 2007 Timothy P. Collins
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