This story is by Christina Marable and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The late-spring sun beamed on Lauren’s shoulders as she entered the clinic, filled with nausea and anxiety. If she’d been a carefree teenager, too poor, or too stupid, she could’ve spun it that she’d done this as a mistake and it would’ve been a footnote in ordinary life, but she was 35, financially stable, and a successful painter. She should have outlived these types of choices, yet she hasn’t.
“Hi, I’m checking in,” she told the autumn-haired receptionist.
“Thanks,” she replied. “Have a seat, your nurse will be with you shortly.”
As Lauren waited, a stream of sweat broke out on her lower back. She wanted an iced coffee and Grand Slam, the last meal she’d eaten with her partner. No. She wanted to not be in this situation. Lauren’s mother had told her about almost aborting her when she’d found out about the pregnancy, but concluded it was the right choice. Her mother had just selected the wrong husband. In her naivety, Lauren had believed that abortion was worse than death because it was putting a piece of yourself to sleep. Now she might do that.
“Hello,” the nurse said. She beamed and her brown skin glistened in the sun, much like Lauren when she was in love. Much like Lauren was before all this. “How are you doing?”
Lauren felt cold, clammy, and confused. Confidence illuded her. She wrapped her cardigan around her midsection. “As good as anyone can do in these situations, I guess. How long does the procedure take?”
“About ten minutes, but you’ll be at the clinic for a few hours. Is everything okay?”
Lauren shook her head and covered her eyes. “No. I feel stupid. Do you have kids?”
“I wanted kids,” Lauren replied and then stopped.
She couldn’t say that she’d always wanted kids but feared painting would be her only love until she met her partner, whose love paused her life as she waited. Waited when he fell into a shotgun wedding, waited for the divorce, waited for him to tell her that he couldn’t be a father again because of a failed marriage, that he’d gone into out of duty because his ex-spouse was his family’s choice and he was too paralyzed to make his own choice.
“Children are a blessing, and they’re hard work. I’m glad I’m married,” the nurse replied. She took a seat and held Lauren’s hand. “The world told you to be ashamed but you don’t need to be. This is your choice.”
Lauren had chosen to drive three hours from Dulaney to Charlotte. She’d chosen to book the procedure, the hotel, and take the first meditation to open up her cervix. Now, she could choose to change into the hospital gown and put her hair in a stocking cap, count backward from 100, and fall asleep. Or she could choose to keep her self-esteem intact, walk out, and tell her child as her mother told her, that she almost went through with it. But she couldn’t choose his marriage, divorce, or his other family. She couldn’t choose what he hadn’t, and she refused to be like his ex.
“You’re safe here,” the nurse said.
“I want kids, but I don’t want to bring a child into this mess,” she said. Then she dried her eyes, wiped off her face, and stood up. “I’m ready.”