This story is by Shannon Rodger and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Her tolerance was low, she wasn’t used to nights like this, hadn’t been this carefree in lord knows how long. The darkness, the music, and the shots of tequila coursed through her, and when she saw him, she knew she wanted him. Standing against the wall he looked delicious as nothing in months had. She walked toward him, determination in every step. Two drinks later, they found themselves in a dark corner where the edge of the bar pushed into her back as he pushed against her, his body trying to fit into every soft curve she possessed.
Soon they had found themselves, hands and lips roaming, at her apartment. Passion and fierce intensity pulsed through their blood all sense and sensibility lost. The sun rose with the two of them spent, shimmering with sweat, legs tangled and intertwined.
With little discussion, little contemplation, he left. She turned in her bed and slept the lazy Sunday away. No shame, no regrets.
Six weeks passed before Alaina thought in any length of that wild night again. Six weeks of normal life passed uneventfully: work, friends, late nights binge-watching Netflix. Six weeks until she realized she was late. Her hands twisted and squeezed each other like she was wringing a dishcloth. She had allowed herself to let loose as though she were back in college. But life wasn’t college.The lights in the drugstore felt like a spotlight alerting everyone to her carelessness, her wild indiscretion with a man she didn’t even know. Fear, however, won out over the anxiety-riddled discomfort of purchasing the pregnancy test. She grabbed the plastic-wrapped box and carried it in shaking fingers to the register.
Panic overwhelmed and numbed her as she returned to the store a second time, the first used test still sitting on her bathroom sink. This time she grabbed several tests and watched as the pink double lines and plus signs multiplied by the faucet. She held the latest test and its multi-folded, incoherent instructions. Tears fell and blurred the miniscule type. There was always a margin of error; a chance for false positive. But seven tests tended to skew the variable of inaccuracy.
Slowly she collected the tests and wrapped the quilted two-ply around them until they were no longer pregnancy tests, but a large paper snowball sitting atop her trash. Alaina looked at herself in the mirror. Worries, questions, and worst-case scenarios stomped around inside her head. Her stomach clenched as she tried to remember his name. It had to have been him, she hadn’t had a crazy night since, and rarely before. A long week at work and her friend Melissa’s encouragement had started all of this. And tequila. Let’s not forget the tequila.
Preston. That was the name. It had sounded so manly, so different when he’d whispered it in her ear. She shivered remembering his breath against her neck, heating the tender flesh moments before his lips had found the same spot. A deep breath pushed the memory away. Preston… something. How did this work? Was she supposed to find him? How was she supposed to find him? One question formed after the other, cluttering and clouding her mind.
Nicole, she would talk with Nicole. Her older sister had always been more practical, more reliable. Nicole would help her know what to do. She took a step toward her cell, but then remembered that thankfully her sister would be at their cousin’s engagement party.
Her day had been one of understandable self-absorption, but she had almost forgotten about the party. She had promised her grandmother she would be there. It had been months since she had seen her cousin Scarlett, and she had never met the fiance, but family was family and she had to go. Resigned that she wouldn’t find answers at this minute, but hopeful that she could monopolize her sister’s attention, Alaina began to get ready.
Walking into the restaurant, Alanina searched the bar area knowing Nicole would be seated there. She spotted her sister, sipping a drink of dark liquid and talking with her husband. Weaving her way through the sparse crowd, Alaina’s lungs and legs suddenly stopped. In front of her was Preston: six-weeks-ago-we-had- that-wild-night-together Preston. It took two heart beats before she blinked. She saw him standing there, a charming smile on his lips. Her heart did more than flutter, it became a turbine in her chest. She then recognized that he stood there with his arm around someone’s shoulders. It took another beat before she realized that nestled into Preston’s side, smiling and shaking the hands of their shared family, was Scarlett. Her cousin was marrying Preston.
Nausea. Intense nausea unlike anything she had experienced before slammed into her. Her stomach twisted and turned inside out. Her heart leapt, creating a spiked knot at the base of her throat. What the… How could… Alaina turned toward the corner of the restaurant then walked as quickly as her high heeled shoes would allow toward the bathroom. She walked into the first open stall. Her hand against the wall, she hovered over the toilet, silently ordering herself not to vomit.
The door to the restroom opened with a shush of air. “Hun?” her sister’s voice echoed in the small, tiled space. “You okay?” Alaina didn’t answer immediately. Nicole continued, “I saw you rush in here. You didn’t look so great. Do you need anything?”
Alaina took one more settling breath and unlocked the stall. Standing face to face with her sister, tears began to fall uncontrollably. “Oh my good God,” Nicole said as she folded Alaina into her arms. Rubbing her hands up and down Alaina’s back she quietly tried again, “What is it?”
Wiping the tears from her cheeks and choking on sobs between words, Alaina narrated the twisty tale. They both ended up sitting on the cold floor, arms around their bent knees, neither caring about how they might appear. Hearing that the father of Alaina’s child was the same Preston as their cousin’s fiance, Nicole’s eyes seemed to grow larger than their eye sockets.
“I really don’t know what to do,” Alaina continued. “I was confused before I got here, but now…”
“Well, you have have a few options and some time, right?”
“Yes, I know, but at this moment, I can’t stop thinking about Scarlett. The baby is one thing, but do I tell Scarlett? Six weeks ago, this man was in bed with me, and now he’s out there ready to marry her. Do I tell her? Do I break her heart by destroying her marriage? Ruin every plan she had for her future, for her wedding? Or do I not say anything. Keep this secret from both of them and just let her live in the dark? Do I tell him about the baby? Oh my God. I’m having a baby,” Alaina put her head in her hands.
Nicole put her arm comfortingly on her sister’s elbow, “You don’t have to decide tonight.” Alaina nodded her head but said nothing.
“What if you didn’t tell him?” Nicole continued slowly, “From what you said, you barely knew him, right? So, if he hadn’t been here tonight, you might have never seen him again.”
Alaina stilled, thinking. Her sister was right. She knew she would keep the baby, had really known it with that first test. Deep down she’d known, and she knew she’d probably do this alone. So why tell? Why involve herself in this mess more than she already was. But could she? Could she deny someone their child? And what if he figured it out? What kind of mess might that make later?
Alaina lifted her head and looked at her sister. Wiping her eyes, she asked, “Really?”
Nicole took a breath, “I don’t know.”
With the help of some of the makeup in Nicole’s purse, Alaina refreshed her face and did her best to look presentable once again. It seemed the cake had been cut and was now being handed out to the guests around the restaurant. Alaina found Scarlett. Laughter flowed from her smiling mouth. The lights seem to sparkle in her eyes.
Alaina wiped her hands instinctively against her thighs. Each step seemed to add another cement bag to her ankles. Preston noticed her as she approached. His skin blanched and his eyes widened for a moment, but she was surprised at how quickly he gathered himself together, returning to the delighted and devoted fiance once again, his hand finding Scarlett’s.
Her mind reeled. She saw his face, staring at her as though she were some stranger. And she saw her cousin, hopeful and excited. Standing straighter than she may have ever stood before, she interrupted her cousin’s greeting. “Scarlett,” she said, “I need to tell you something.”