Vicki stopped her aging Saturn at the rise of the old bridge abutment, shut off the motor, and rolled down the window. The cold air hit her, reviving her, and she watched with happiness as snowflakes danced in through the open window and around the steering wheel. Vicki listened to the silence, almost hearing the snow, gentle, falling, falling, in the calm, darkening late afternoon. She had played in this place as a child, on this little abutment that once upon a time, maybe a hundred years ago, had been the beginning of a railroad trestle for the old Bangor and Aroostock Railroad. It was a pretty place, quiet and peaceful, looking out across the river at the head of Potter's Cove, the steeply sloping pine covered hills leading down to the mud flats, exposed now at low tide. To the southeast, the cove opened rapidly into the broad expanse of Penobscot Bay, and off in the far distance was the silhouette of the island of Isleboro; a vague, long low dark hump in the gloomy haze. Here she had played as a child; here she came when her parents had divorced while she was still a young girl, and here she was now, watching the thickening snow turn everything white against the grey background of the sky. Stupid pill.
Why, Vicki wondered, were things like this? She watched the snow, and thought about her life. After her parents had divorced, her dad had moved away and Vicki had lived with her mom through high school. Money was always tight, and prices were rising in Potter's Cove as Vicki grew up. Somehow her mother managed to make ends meet, pay the rent, keep the electric on, and have food on the table, even if it frequently was macaroni and cheese (three packages for 99 cents). Noodles, macaroni and cheese, and her mother always looking tired, haggard and slightly worried; these were Vicki's main memories growing up. But she and her mother had talked when Vicki was young, they had some good times, and laughed. As Vicki grew older, though, they talked, and smiled at each other, less.
Vicki had run around in high school, heck, she'd started running around in junior high school. Everybody did. It seemed to be expected, nobody said not to, the teachers never talked about it. Vicki had known girls who were much more wild than she had ever been. Did any of them get pregnant? Have they have abortions? She knew it happened; and she knew you had to go pretty far away, down to Portland, to get one. They didn't even do them up in Bangor, and Bangor was pretty big.
After Vicki graduated from high school, she started working full time, various jobs around town. Her mother moved away, seeming to be glad to be free of her and of Potter's Cove. Vicki started taking some course at the community college, and decided she wanted to go to law school. She didn't really know anything about law school, but it gave her a goal, something to work towards. She met Charlie in a bar one night; he was up with a construction crew working on the big houses and condos and retirement villages being built all over the Penobscot Bay coast. Good looking guy, seemed to like her, and before she knew it she was moving in with him. Everybody does it, she'd thought, and you can split expenses. Like having a roommate but much more fun. Vicki grimaced as she remembered that rationalization: much more fun. Yeah, it was fun, until the stupid test turned positive.
Do I feel anything for him? Is he just a roommate? Vicki's head swirled like the snow swirling just beyond her windshield. She thought about the wall of loneliness she'd just encountered back there in the apartment, the feeling that she existed in her little universe, and Charlie in his, and all they shared were the rent and the utility bills. And bed. It didn't seem right. She felt like she and Charlie had become more intimate, more entangled in each other's lives, simply by virtue of the fact that they did live together, did share a bed. How could it be otherwise? But she knew her girlfriends from high school would laugh at her. He's just a guy, they'd say, take what you want and leave the rest.
What about the baby? she asked her friends in her mind.
There's no baby, the voices said. Babies lie in cribs, say 'goo-goo' and stuff. You've popped positive on a drugstore pregnancy test. You're just a little bit pregnant. Happens all the time. But what's you've got in there isn't a baby, it's a growth, it's like a wart. It looks like a fish and it's yucky. Besides, do you really want a baby? Babies squall and keep you up at night and mess their diapers. How are you gonna work and have a baby? Who's gonna take care of it? Get over it. You're a good lookin' girl, you've got your whole life ahead of you, go get the abortion and move on.
"But I don't want to move on!" Vicki suddenly realized that she had shouted out loud the words to the falling, swirling snow. Great! Now I'm losing my mind. Vicki looked around sheepishly to see if anyone were near, but there was only the silent, swirling snow. She moved the seat back just as far as it would go, and leaned back, and looked down at her belly. Flat as ever. She pushed gently, just below her navel. Don't feel anything. But, I wouldn't be able to see or feel anything anyway, not this early, would I? But, wouldn't I feel sick or crave pickles or something? She didn't know. Maybe the stupid test is wrong. Maybe I'd better settle this before I freak out anymore.
Vicki slid the seat back up to her normal driving position. Outside, the snow was thickening and evening was coming on, and a faint rim of white had appeared on the windowsill. She blew on it gently, scattering the snowflakes. Maybe I'm not pregnant and this is just a false alarm. Momentary relief gave way to another thought. If you're not pregnant, Vicki baby, what will you have learned out of this little adventure? Vicki considered this for a few moments. If I'm not pregnant, I can't just go back to the way I was, I mean, with Charlie. Can I? Something is happening to me. She remembered the emptiness she'd felt, and the high blank wall she'd met in Charlie's eyes. Something's happening, something is way wrong, broken bad, in my life. I can't just go back to living with him, even if I'm not pregnant. Especially if I'm not pregnant.
And suppose you are pregnant, her mocking self asked, what then?
Irritated, Vicki twisted the ignition key. Let's just take this one step at a time.
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Copyright 2007 Timothy P. Collins
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