This story is by Jordan Majka and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
She held it up to the flickering lights in the muddy bathroom. Two, sharp red lines stuck out like goalposts behind an end-zone. She threw the device against the mirror and let out a scream. A chunk of glass fell flat atop the sink, leaving a hole in her stomach.
Cristine walked out onto the busy city streets. A bellowing gusts of wind howled past her as she wrapper herself up in her coat. She looked up at the skyscrapers towering overhead, imagining herself as a small, insignificant ant to the heavens above.
How could this have happened to me?
She hailed a taxi and gave her address. The ephemeral street lights zoomed past her passenger window, illuminating the city screenshots before nightfall.
She handed the change to the driver and stepped onto the dirty sidewalk. She walked into her apartment complex, up the stairs, and unlocked her door. The kitchen was silent. The faucet was dripping. Cristine breathed deeply and slowly, walking to her unkempt bed.
Her mind was a blank slate, a static channel on a TV. Words flowed, yet no sense was to be made from the string of information. She looked at the time: 7:45.
Why am I this exhausted?
She checked her phone. One message from Dave.
In the morning.
She lay down on her bed and closed her eyes. The world faded away to darkness.
Tara’s eyes opened to a bright light streaming in through the blinds. She smiled at the sunlight. It warmed her and gave her a sense of comfort and excitement for what was to come. The faint honking of enraged drivers soon followed the calming scene.
Tara showered and grabbed an energy bar from the cupboard before heading out the door of her apartment complex. She took great, confident strides, waving to others she passed whom she knew. She arrived at work promptly on time. She was a social worker, meeting with underprivileged families at the local YMCA.
She entered into the offices, saying her good mornings. As she took her place at her desk, a stranger let out a gasp and shuffled over to meet her, eyes wide with excitement.
“Is that you, Kristyl?” the woman smiled.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?” Tara asked.
The smile turned to a look of both concern and confusion.
“Darling, it’s me, Mrs. Glonstein! Don’t you remember your high school drama teacher?”
Tara furrowed her brows.
“I can’t say I do. If you’ll excuse me, I have some families waiting,” she said, pointing to a line that had formed.
Mrs. Glonstein gave a look of disbelief and continued walking on.
“I told you, it’s not his,” she said taking a sip of her medium iced coffee.
“Honey, this is serious stuff,” Rachel glared at her friend.
“I know. Look, it was one of my clients. I knew I should have been more careful.”
“Listen, hun; you live how you want to live, but this is going to get messy.”
“I kn-“ Cristine’s phone began buzzing.
“I need to get this; I’ll talk to you later,” she blew Rachel a kiss and left the coffee shop.
“Hello?” She walked towards the parking lot, keys tinkling with each step.
“Babe, how are you? Haven’t seen you in a few days. Did you get my text?”
“Davey, hi! I’m sorry, I didn’t look at my phone at all yesterday. How are things?” She slammed her car door and started the ignition.
“Great. I miss you, babe. How are things in the city?”
“Same ol’. You know how the city can be.” She turned onto the road and began cruising down the city road.
“I know. Listen, I know it’s been 9 months since I left, but I have some exciting news. I’ll be home in about a week!”
Cristine’s stomach dropped. She veered our of her lane, only to be greeted with an intense horn blast from the adjacent car. She swerved back.
“Oh my God, honey, that’s great!” she exclaimed, tensing her mouth.
“I know! I couldn’t wait to tell you!”
“I have to go, honey. I can’t wait to see you in a week! I love you!” Cristine hung up the phone as she pulled into the lot. The neon glow of the overhead sign reflected off of her car. She applied a deep red lipstick and gathered her clothes. Walking into the building, the bright green Hurricane Betty’s illuminated the entrance walkway.
Tara pulled up through the suburban driveway beside her friend’s inviting home.
The leaves are always so beautiful outside the city this time of year.
She walked to the front door and rang the doorbell. Moments later the smiling face of her friend, Jessica, appeared on the other side of the elegant doorframe window.
“How are you?” Jessica asked, hugging Tara.
“Couldn’t be better! How are you?”
“Lovely. Please, come on in,” she gestured to enter the house.
“Tara, where were you yesterday? I couldn’t seem to get a hold of you at all.”
“I’m sorry. I was caught up with work yesterday.”
“That’s no problem. Are you ready to eat? I’ll heat up the food.”
Tara nodded in agreement. She walked over to a portrait in the living room of her friend and another woman.
“Say, Jess, who’s this?”
“Who, that? Oh, that’s my old drama teacher from high school, Mrs. Glonstein.”
Tara frowned. Who is this woman?
“I used to go to school around here. She was my favorite teacher. She always talks about this girl who was her favorite that she swears I’d know. I always forget the name, though. I know she gets it mixed up with something else.”
“Weird,” Tara mused going to sit down at the dinner table.
They began to say grace.
Cristine sat in the dirty waiting room of the clinic. The air was stale with fear and regret. Not a single woman made a sound.
“Cristine,” called out a nurse.
The lump in her throat grew twice its original size as she stood and walked with blatant unease towards the menacing double doors.
“Now, Cristine, this will be quick. We are go-“
Cristine held out her hand, eyes somber, and slowly lowered it to its resting place beside her hip.
“I know. I’ve been here before.”
The woman stood still and began stretching the rubber examination gloves onto her frail fingers.
“The doctor will be in shortly.”
Cristine lay down. Her heart rate had been increasing. She could feel her blood pressure rising and her chest thumping uncontrollably.
Keep it together Cristine.
The world went black.
Tara awoke the next day in a peculiar place. It was upon a table at an office she had never been to. A doctor peered at her like a specimen on a cutting board.
“Where am I?”
“What do you mean, miss? You’re at the abortion clinic.”
Tara’s jaw dropped.
“I’m where?” She attempted to sit up, but the doctor insisted she stay put.
“Ma’am, please remain calm. You had scheduled an appointment long ago with us.”
“But, doctor, I’ve never had sex.”
The doctor, puzzled, called the nurse to bring her records.
“Ms. Cristine Waterford. 75th Street. It says here you work– well you work at an undisclosed location. You’ve been here a few times, so one only knows what your profession may be.“
Tara looked mortified. Her expression resembled a petrified victim of Medusa frozen for eternity.
“I am a good, Christian social worker. I work at the YMCA downtown. You must have the wrong person.”
“Please, ma’am. We must promptly begin the procedure. We have many others waiting.”
Tara lifted herself up and darted out of the office as the physician and nurses begged her to return. She threw herself out onto the city streets, bounding down the side walk at an alarming rate. Her confusion and frustration brought tears to her eyes.
After several minutes of running, she took a sharp right into a public restroom and threw herself before a sink, breathing deeply. Her hands rested on either side of the sink ledge. She looked into the sink and saw a used pregnancy test lying beside a broken mirror shard. She slowly looked up to reveal a cracked mirror with a chunk missing.
Cristine’s wild eyes gazed right back at her.