I actually really, really like this one. I can't emphasize that enough. Take your time, read it all, I'd appreciate that 100%.
It was worse than stage fright.
Then again, I didn't really know what the heck stage fright felt like. I had never experienced it before in my life. So that analogy was dry.
Not to mention, bad, too.
I dropped the tenth water bottle in the recycle bin and it fell with the sound that only plastic could make. An irritating, nails against a scratchy surface type of sound that, for a reason I could not fathom, bugged me to the point where I was ready to claw my hair out of my head. Not that I didn't want to do that now, either. But that was besides the point.
My feet were slow against the pavement as I walked, step by fucking step, to the local pharmacy.
And of course, there was my heart.
Racing in my chest. It fluttered and flew faster than it had ever had before--even faster than when I looked at Josh.
Any moment now I could spontaneously combust. I would take that two million times and endure the pain of having my skin seared with the flames rather than face this. Sure, it would be painful and possibly scar me for life if I ever survived, but there was absolutely no reason to dread anything anymore.
The automatic doors opened without hesitation. They welcomed me in like they had been expecting me all along, separating with a whoosh to let me right into the pharmacy. A cold blast of air conditioning sprayed in my face like an angry wildebeest, resonating further to rouse goosebumps on my skin. And the impact was so strong that my quiet footsteps stopped in their very tracks, making the mere action of walking very difficult to process. I looked around, standing right in between the automatic doors, absorbing the horrid paleness of the walls in this pharmacy shop. The lights above were too flourescent and shed unto the walls a sickening, doctor's office type of white that made my stomach churn angrily inside. But I kind of liked that. We were in accordance with each other. We both didn't like the pharmacy.
For a second I willed the two automatic doors to close in between me. I had almost hoped that they'd squish me, ultimately killing me in the end, anything that would hamper the thing I was about to do now.
They didn't close on me.
There was no looking back now.
The cool air of the weather outside barely wore off as I entered this pharmacy. The air conditioning was blasting like a mother, despite the fact that outside it was dark, 43 degrees, and just barely snowing. Of course I had not bothered to put on anything but a thick t-shirt and a scarf on, because dressing up for a pharmacy visit was highly irrational.
With nervous inching upon guilty steps I made it to an aisle that I had been all-too familiar with the last four days. Filled with the tiny little boxes in the colors of purple, green, and blue stacked up and separated by brand. I had tried five out of the eight brands that they sold in this store, and all of them revealed what I had dreaded for them to say. Then again, I had anticipated the results. Skeptical as I was, I wouldn't stop until I had done this one last time. Until it was legitimate to me.
My head whirled around to meet the indifferent gaze of Denise, my friend. She twirled a strand of her curly hair idly in one finger as my eyes scanned along the row of boxes.
"Hayley, this is like, the seventh pregnancy test already--"
"Sixth," I corrected, never disconnecting my focus.
"Alright. Sixth. But all of the previous ones have said that you're legit preggo in the eggo. And this is not something you can 'leggo of."
I knew she expected to rouse a laugh but I could hardly concentrate on what she was saying (no matter how clever her refrence was to the the "Leggo my Eggo" saying), instead my hand shot out to grab for a dark blue box of a brand I had not tried yet.
"Alright. Give me the key," I told her.
Denise's eyebrow rose. "What?"
"The fucking employee bathroom key! To make this work we've got to let the fluids out!"
With the test in my hand I scurried forward into the seclusion of the employee bathroom. I guess I had always found it uncomfortable to do a test in the grey-painted stalls of the regular, public bathrooms. In the small employee room, things felt far more personal.
My hands went limp as I tore the box open. This entire practice provoked the memory of the very first time I had ever done this. The fear was placed like heavy weights against my bones, my disgruntled attempt to hurry into the bathroom looking more like an uncoordinated dance than anything.
This time, after four days of practicing, this process came off as nothing at all. It was just urine.
The only thing excruciatingly painful about all of this was the wait for that stick to cook. I begged--no, I prayed--that the dreaded little plus sign would not show up. That it would spare me, give me mercy. I was only seventeen.
I headed out the door with the test in my hands.
"Are we adding or subtracting?" Denise asked, waiting outside.
"Don't know, it's not done yet. But I think I know."
"Why'd you have to do it anyways? I didn't even think Josh was the type of guy who'd force a girl to, you know..." She curled her index finger and her thumb to make a little circle and stuck her other index finger through it.
"He didn't foce me, Denise. It just kind of happened."
"Things like this don't just happen, Hayles." In her voice was a contradiction that, in response, made a frown twist in my lips. And she quickly caught it, for her teasing smirk shattered down to the ground.
"Wait, I think it's..." My words tuned out when I caught the result on the pregnancy stick.
I shouldn't have been surprised. It was unprotected, and stupid, and now the consequence I had to pay for it was illustrated on that little pink plus sign.
"Deep shit, my friend," Denise said, glancing down at the pee-stick with me.
Deep shit, I agreed silently, my entire world turning upside down. Deep shit indeed.
I stumbled forward with a heavy jolt as Denise eased me on inside the house. Mom and dad were most likely sitting at home against the couch, watching some re-runs of food shows that always ate away on my last nerves.
But not tonight. Tonight, I'd take anything to use as some sort of distraction from the truth of my words. I wasn't ready for their reaction.
I was more ready to die than I was to face them.
The ground below me looked so damn inviting that I could have fainted upon it right then and there, if it weren't for my mind that was so stupidly conscious. I wanted to loose all feeling and let reality slowly slip away, something, anything to buy me time.
My hands shook idly at my sides and I curled them into fists to try and stop them.
But then Denise's hand was tugging on my wrist with a force horridly strong that I could barely manage to protest. And then we were in my living room.
"Hey kids," my mom said with a cheery voice.
My voice went limp as I snaked my curled up hands into the pockets of my jeans. Our living room was always inviting to me, the warm wooden floors and modest furniture welcoming anyone in as if they had belonged here all the time. And the thought of this situation made inexplicable deja vu reel inside of me, until I suddenly realized that this was the exact same situation I faced when entering that pharmacy market: the fear shaking inside of me, a hunt for distractions, the all-too familar weight crushing down against my bones.
I could hardly move, let alone speak.
"She'll come out with it," Denise suddenly said, and the sound of my friend being so close made the trembling nerves buzz with a bit of calm that was almost enough to get me talking.
But when my voice came out a whimper just minutes later, I lost all hope in myself.
"Should I do this?" Denise asked.
By now my parents were huddled together in the living room and just staring blankly at both of us. My bones rattled in their skin.
"No," my voice sounded bizzare against the hollow silence but I kept on going anyway. "I'll say it."
"Say what, Hayley?" My dad asked this time. And that assertive tone chilled me down to the very core, and the result left me even more battered and afraid than I was two seconds ago.
"What is it, dear?" My mother asked.
My head buzzed violently with the possibilities of their reactions. I could see it now: the screaming and yelling at me for the stupidity that I had done, and my mom's crying face; she would ultimately shun me out of the family in the end.
I could feel all their stares burning holes deep into my skull. I could have taken it on any other circumstance. My nerves were convulsing with an ache that made the reality of the situation sink in even further. I didn't even think that was possible.
The silence stretched and grew to a painfully long minute. I took a breath. Smoothed out my expression. I brushed bits of my falling bangs aside with nimble fingers.
I actually expected the worst.
I expected the yelling.
I expected a slap in the face, even, knowing I was so young.
So it all came as a surprise when my mother hurried up and hugged me with tears on her face. Even more so when my father stayed stunned to silence in his chair, plopping down after hearing the news. I could barely focus on the streaming tears that pooled against my shoulder, only my father's stone demeanor. His expression was unreadable. Questions ran back and forth inside my mind, adding the haze of the messy brain I already had.
"You'll make it through this, Hayley, I know you will," my mom whispered. Her voice was but a whisper in the background, my mind continued to hum with anticipation to what my dad would say.
My mom's tight grasp would have almost been enough to restrain me, but I tore out of her grasp moments later, eyes straight on my father's face.
"Oh come on, dad. I know you've always wanted a little grandson." My voice sounded optimistic but I'm sure my face betrayed me.
"Who's the father?" he asked.
His gaze fixed on mine. "Farro?"
It was all I could but nod.
His face softened for that bit of time, the hardness I saw in his eyes disappeared. My heart stalled.
"Alright. You're having that kid, Hayley. I guess it's never too early for grandchildren, anyways."
That brought the pace of my heartbeats to normal. There was no yelling, instead that frozen stance melted away into non-permanence.
"Now there's another valorous task to be performed," Denise chimed in, trotting into our little family therapy session. "You're going to have to tell Josh."
It was the pharmacy scene all over again.
There he stood on his front porch steps, just writing. God knows what it was, but his face gave a look that read absolute concentration.
I felt almost guilty to interrupt.
But the convulsing nerves inside of me came in a sort of rush, adrenaline strong enough to urge my feet to walk forward. Ironic enough, for nerves were usually supposed to hinder you.
Maybe my brain just knew that it had no more time for delay.
"Hi Josh," I said. The approach was so shy that it almost didn't seem like it was me. As if he wasn't my boyfriend.
"Hayley! I didn't see you at school today," he was already up on his feet with his arms around me.
I wondered if he felt the tiny bump against my stomach.
Then again, it wasn't that obvious yet.
"So I have something to tell you," I began. I sat with trembling feet against the steps. He immediately put his journal away.
His attention fixed on me, with the wide gaze of a curious boy.
It would have charmed me, if it weren't for what I knew I was about to say.
"Maybe we could start with why the hell you weren't in school today?" Josh began, doing the cute little thing with his thumbs where he interlocked his hands and let his thumbs circle over each other.
It wasn't nearly enough to distract me.
"That's kind of related to what I wanted to tell you," I began. I gulped so audibly that his eyebrow rose because of it, but I refused to meet Josh in the eye.
Butterflies churned in my stomach, their wings scraping each end to tickle and tickle it in anxiety. My palms sweat against the denim of my jeans, and for fear of having a sweat handprint, I left them glued onto there.
Josh waited as patient as ever.
"Isn't it a nice day today?"
Oh, you fucking coward.
Even if it was just my conscience screaming at me, the sting of my fear continued to pull at my nerves. I could feel each heartbeat so crisply underneath my skin now.
Josh shrugged. "Uh, yeah, I guess. The sun is out after all those cloudy days."
Josh was right, the sun was out. But it was that nice, winter type of afternoon, with the combination of a colder than normal breeze and the sun. One of those days that I would have normally enjoyed. But it wasn't just me now, was it? It was me and...well, I wasn't sure yet. But I was with someone now. I wasn't alone.
A tiny person sat in the very depths of my stomach. And I could already feel a place for him, or her, in my heart.
And that would have to be enough for the both of us.
"Josh, I'm pregnant."
Despite my fucking tremoring nerves, my voice came out relatively calm. But I could see how the words registered on his face: it didn't take him even two seconds to soak it all in. Because he looked back at me with the expression I had expected, the type of reaction I thought I'd rouse from my parents. He sat silent, but I knew he was already thinking, like he always did.
Dear God, please don't have him leave me.
There was a silence so loud and deafening to my ears.
All that was left to ring were the ruffling leaves on the pavement. A breeze howled.
Why did this neighborhood have to be so quiet?
My eyes never left contact of his, though. Not for a second.
And he finally turned away from me.
Did that thing with his thumbs. Sat quietly and added to the ever-annoying pause. Would this last forever? Was he ready to run? It's not like I prevented him from doing so. He had the chance to, right now.
It was a caricature of a situation.
And the droning on had gone too long for my impatience. If he had no answer, then I had no time to waste with him. I finally had to speak.
"Look, you don't--"
"I hope it's a girl."
He looked me square in the eye. Those brown eyes were glazed with an emotion I could not identify. "I hope it's a girl, Hayles. That would be nice."
And the innocence in his face stopped my heart in its tracks.
The nice weather, quiet situation (which was, just seconds ago, so aggravating), and being on his front porch, moved me to tears. My heart oozed of warmth that I could feel from each crevice, and suddenly my hands were shaking. I was really sobbing. Hysterically.
He enfolded me in those lanky, teenage arms, and kissed my forehead.
"Everything will be okay," he said. "I'm going to stay."