Wydawca: Lorana Hoopes Kategoria: Religia i duchowość Język: angielski Rok wydania: 2017

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Opis ebooka Where It All Began - Lorana Hoopes

Sandra Baker thought her life was on the right track until she ended up pregnant. Her boyfriend, not wanting the baby, pushes her to have an abortion.After the procedure, Sandra's life falls apart, and she turns to alcohol. Her relationship ends, and she struggles to find meaning in her life.When she meets Henry Dobbs, a strong Christian man, she begins to wonder if God would accept her. Will she tell Henry her darkest secret? And will she ever be able to forgive herself and find healing? Find out in this emotional love story.

Opinie o ebooku Where It All Began - Lorana Hoopes

Fragment ebooka Where It All Began - Lorana Hoopes

Where It All Began

A "Heartbeats" Novel

Lorana Hoopes

Lorana Hoopes

Olympia, Washington

Copyright 2016 by Lorana Hoopes

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Where It All Began © Lorana Hoopes. All Rights Reserved, except where otherwise noted.

1

Dedication

To my husband Dean who lets me write late at night.

To my children who remind me that all life is precious.

To Ryann Woods who continues to inspire characters.

To Amy Rutledge who let me bounce ideas off her.

Contents

DedicationIntroductionall-rights-reserved 1. When It All Began: Mesquite, Texas 1980 2. When Push Comes To Shove 3. Down the Path of No Return 4. The Slippery Downward Slope 5. When Sorry Isn't Enough 6. New Beginnings 7. Understanding a Loving God 8. The Lies We Tell 9. Too Good To Be True? 10. When Opposites Collide 11. The Joining of Two Lives 12. The Calm Before the Storm 13. The Secret That Won't Go Away 14. The Light at the End of the Tunnel 15. A New Beginning With a New Purpose 16. A New Outlook 17. As Time Goes OnAppendix

2

Introduction

Thank you for picking up your copy of Where It All Began. I hope you love it and the rest of the books in the series. As a thank you, I’d like to offer you a free gift. I’d like to offer you an advance sample of my new series. You’ll receive the first half of When Love Returns when you sign up for my newsletter at http://eepurl.com/cNxFBv. I hope you’ll love both series, and if you do, reviews are always appreciated.

-Lorana Hoopes

Though this is technically the second book in the series, don’t worry if you are reading it first. You can then read The Power of Prayer to find out more Callie’s story.

1

When It All Began: Mesquite, Texas 1980

I touched the white paper that had been burning a hole in my pocket all day and took a deep breath. Though I hadn’t had the courage to read it earlier, I knew I would have to sooner or later. Pulling it out, I unfolded it and scanned the words. My heart sank. What were we going to do? We couldn’t have a baby right now; we were both still working on getting our careers started. I could hear Peter opening and closing drawers in the bedroom. He was such a creature of habit that I could almost see him pulling on his blue plaid pajama bottoms and buttoning up the shirt. Next he would pull back the crisp white sheets, making sure they were exactly half way down the bed; then he would climb in. My heart thudded in my chest, and I bit the inside of my lip. Should I tell him now? Folding my fingers around the incriminating paper I had brought home and taking a deep breath, I exited the bathroom.

“Hey babe, is everything all right?” Peter looked up at me as he finished pulling back the comforter on our queen sized bed. Exactly half way, and then he ran his hand over it to crease it.

I shook my head, blinking back tears. Stepping closer to him, I slowly held out my right hand and opened my fingers to reveal the paper.

He tilted his head at me; confusion gleamed in his brown eyes, but he followed my gaze down to my outstretched hand. He picked up the white paper, and his eyes scanned back and forth. “I don’t understand; how did this happen?” He plopped down on the bed, turning wide eyes up at me.

I sat down beside him and picked at a thread in the comforter. My throat was dry, and I couldn’t meet his eyes. “Peter, you’re training to be a doctor. You know how it happens.”

He closed his eyes and shook his head, “No, I know that, but we were always careful.”

“Not careful enough, I guess.”  I forced my eyes from the comforter to his face. “I knew something was off; I just felt weird, so I asked them to run a pregnancy test at work today. What are we going to do?”

A sigh escaped his lips as he ran a hand across his forehead. “I don’t know. We both work too many hours to raise a baby right now.” He trailed off and lowered his eyes to the paper again. “Let’s sleep on it and discuss it later.” He folded the paper carefully, as if it were contaminated, placed it on the nightstand, and crawled into bed. Right now, for him, the discussion was over.

Though I nodded, his words didn’t make me feel any better. Instead of the advice I sought, he had dismissed the discussion. A little part of me had been hoping that he would be excited and propose, but he wasn’t. He seemed unenthused, to put it mildly.

As I walked around to my side of the bed, I blinked back tears. Climbing in beside Peter, I stared at the white popcorn ceiling. It didn’t hold answers, but it was something to focus on as questions charged through my mind. Could we raise a baby right now? Will I have to give up my career? Would I be happy if I did? What will my parents say? Peter let out a soft snore, and I glared at him. Men had it so easy. They never had to worry about pregnancy and how it was going to change their lives.

I entered the hospital the next morning in a daze. My mind had raced through questions and pondered possibilities until past three in the morning, and when the alarm went off at six am, I felt like I had just fallen asleep.

As I shuffled down the hallway, I rubbed my eyes. They burned from lack of sleep. The training room door loomed on my right, but just as I touched the handle, the door swung inward, and Raquel bounded out. She nearly collided with me before stopping short and squinting her green eyes at me. “Whoa, what’s up with you? You look like you were hit by a train.”

I shook my head, swallowing the lump of emotion that had lodged in my throat. I couldn’t talk about it yet, even with my best friend. It was important to decide how I felt about it first.

Raquel took the hint and wrapped an arm around me. “Don’t worry. Whatever it is, I’ll be by your side.” I nodded, thankful for the support, and followed Raquel back into the training room. We took a seat around a back table as Nurse Hatchett – our nickname for her – entered the room.

She was a large German woman. Her tight blond bun demanded compliance, and her harsh brown eyes scoured the crowd, looking for the victim of the day – the student she would focus on and correct relentlessly. “Today, we will be practicing blood draws on the bags in front of you. Your job is not to screw it up, because if you do, that’s a life you may not save.”

“Nothing like fear to motivate you,” Raquel whispered under her breath.

I nodded, but not even Nurse Hatchett could garner all of my attention today. My mind veered back to the possibilities of my more current problem. Maybe I could find time to have a baby and still go through nursing school, or maybe I could take a year off. It wouldn’t be that long, and I could always go back.

A fist pounded on the table, and I jumped. “What are you doing?” Nurse Hatchett’s eyes bored into my own; her large meaty paws sat on either side of my equipment. My eyes darted around, not sure at first what she meant, and then realized I had poked my bag in the wrong place.

“Sorry,” I stammered as heat flamed across my face.

She folded her arms and leaned back. “Your patient just died. Don’t be sorry. Do it right.”

I nodded, shaking my head to clear the invading thoughts. Focus, I had to focus, or I’d get kicked out of the program, and a baby really wouldn’t matter. Raquel squeezed my arm in reassurance as Nurse Hatchett stomped off to terrorize the next student.

The rest of the day passed in a fog; I had no clear memory of anything I’d done. Though I’d managed to focus on work, it hadn’t really been conscious. I’d been operating solely on auto pilot.

Relief flooded my body as I pulled into the apartment parking lot and saw Peter’s car. Maybe we could finally talk about this pregnancy so I could get my brain back.

The smell of pasta filled the air as I entered the front door. Peter stood in front of the white stove, stirring a pot. He turned at the sound of my footsteps and smiled. “There you are. Just in time, the spaghetti is just perfect.”

“Okay.” I hung up my purse on the rack just inside the door and shuffled into the kitchen. Peter had already set our small dining table, so I pulled out my chair and sat down. A minute later, he loaded my plate with spaghetti. The smell was enticing, but I had other things on my mind. I looked up at him as he pulled his chair into the table across from me. “So, did you think any more about the baby?”

He wrinkled his brow and frowned. “Let’s not discuss that right now. It was a long day; let’s just have a nice dinner, okay?”

I bit my lip, but nodded. Why didn’t he want to talk about it? How much longer would he wait? As I ate the spaghetti and listened to Peter rattle on about his day, my mind traveled a million miles away. What kind of mother would I be? Would it be a boy who took after Peter or a girl who resembled myself?

“Sandra, Sandra,” He was shaking my arm.

“Sorry what?” I shook my head and forced my eyes to focus on him.

“I was asking you which direction you think I should go: Emergency Medicine or surgery?”

“Umm, I’m not sure. Which do you like more?” My fork twirled aimlessly on the plate. Really? This is what he wants to discuss right now? We had a much bigger elephant in the room. A tiny spark of aggravation flickered in my heart.

“Well, Emergency Medicine would probably be more exciting; you know never knowing what’s coming in, but surgery would pay better. Of course, I’m not in it just for the money, but wouldn’t it be great to get a Porsche like Dr. Rhodes?”

The spark ignited. I dropped my fork and glared at him. A Porsche would never be a good family car. “Do you even want this baby?” A tightening sensation squeezed my heart, and the words came out barely more than a whisper.

He sighed and scratched his chin. “I don’t know. I mean I want to be a father someday, but I don’t know if now is the right time. I’m not saying for sure yet, but maybe you should look into an abortion.”

My jaw dropped. “Abortion? But Peter, this is our child. Yours and mine.” I couldn’t abort my own flesh and blood, could I?

He threw his napkin down on the table. “I know. I know. Look, this is why I didn’t want to talk about it yet. Just give me some time to think, okay?” He shoved his chair back, causing it to tip and clatter to the floor. I jumped, clasping my hand to my mouth as he stalked out of the room.

The agitation flamed, and my hands clenched. Tears pooled in my eyes. I thought babies were supposed to bring people together, but this one seemed to be tearing us apart. Blinking the tears away, I grabbed the plates and rinsed them in the sink before throwing them in the dishwasher. The sound of the TV reached my ears, and I rolled my eyes. The agitation turned into ire. Here we had a real problem that needed to be discussed, but he was watching football on TV.

I stomped out of the kitchen – past Henry sitting on the couch – to the guest room. A bed, nightstand, and dresser were the only real furniture in the small room, but what I was looking for was in the closet. Opening the sliding door, I pulled out my easel, paints, and a canvas. I wasn’t sure when it had actually started, but painting had become a cathartic therapy for me. After setting the easel up, I opened a jar and shoved a brush inside before bringing it to the stark white canvas. Angry red splashes appeared. They matched my mood perfectly.

Two hours later, I had calmed down, and I had an angry piece of artwork covered in reds, browns, and blacks. Sighing, I put the lids back on the paints and took the brushes with me to wash them in the kitchen sink.

The living room was quiet now; Peter must have gone to bed. I washed the brushes, dried them, and then headed to the bedroom myself.

He lay in bed with his eyes were closed, but I could tell from the uneasy cadence of his breathing that he was still awake. After brushing my teeth and changing into pajamas, I crawled in my side of the queen-sized bed. As I pulled the stark white sheet to my face, I could almost feel the tangible chill in the space between us. Once again, I found myself gazing at the ceiling, searching for answers it couldn’t provide.

When the alarm went off the next morning, I turned it off and held my breath. Silence met my ears: no shower, no TV, no kitchen noise. I rolled over and sighed in relief that Peter’s side of the bed was made up, and he was clearly gone. The previous night had been too tense, and I didn’t want that same feeling this morning. My head needed to be in the game today. After dressing, I curled up with a cup of coffee on the leather couch and watched the news before heading to work.

Raquel waved from across the room as I entered the training room. “You look better today,” she said when I sat down beside her.

“Really?” I raised an eyebrow in surprise. “I don’t feel any better. Look, let’s talk at lunch, and I’ll tell you what’s going on.”

The door swung open, and Nurse Hatchet stomped in carrying an armful of bandages. “Today you will be working on wrapping. You’ll use this skill often, so be sure and get it right.” Her eyes found mine, and I cringed inside. She tossed a few bandages on our table, and we began wrapping. The routine movements were oddly cathartic; I found my mood lifting as I wound them around and around.

“Hey, come on,” Raquel tapped my arm, “It’s lunchtime.”

Putting my bandage down, I followed her out of the room. The hospital cafeteria was two floors up and down the hall. Though there weren’t many people in this area of the hallway, Raquel still managed to draw the eyes of every man we passed. With her long black hair and emerald eyes, Raquel defined beauty and turned heads wherever she went. She smiled and waved at the men, and I shook my head.

The lunch rush was beginning, but plenty of open seats remained. We grabbed the silver metal trays and picked up a salad and a drink from the buffet area. “Are you going to tell me now?” Raquel asked as we waited in line to check out.

I glanced around, shaking my head. “Wait till we sit down; there’s too many people here.” After paying the cashier, we crossed through the sea of conversation to the far side of the room where a few empty tables sat alone.

“Okay, seriously, why the secrecy?” Raquel asked as she put her tray on the grey Formica table.

Setting my own tray down, I pulled out the hard plastic chair. A deep breath and a glance around assured me that no one was listening; I didn’t want the gossip. I leaned in to keep my voice from carrying, “I’m pregnant.”

Raquel’s eyes grew wide. “Is that a good thing?”

“That’s the problem,” I sighed. “I don’t know. I mean I always thought kids would come after marriage, but the more I think about it, the more the idea grows on me. But I’m not sure Peter feels the same way. He won’t even talk about the baby, and the one time he has, he said we both work too much.”

Raquel bit a chunk of her carrot stick. “That is tough,” – she said between bites – “I guess I can see his point. This program does take a lot of time, but I can see yours, too, even though I know I’m not ready to be a mother. So what are you going to do?”

Sighing, I picked at my salad, scooting a tomato around the plate. “I don’t know; I really don’t know.”

Peter’s car was in the lot when I got home, and I braced myself for the strain I was sure was still there. Sure enough, Peter glanced up as I entered, but turned his face back to the TV. Clearly, he was not ready to talk tonight either.

Sighing, I crossed to the kitchen. After throwing together some food for dinner, I ate in silence and then retired to the guest room. I took the canvas from the night before and laid it on the beige carpeted floor, leaning it against the dresser. Then I removed another blank canvas from the closet. This time my painting took on hues of blue, and, when finished, it also perfectly mirrored my melancholy mood.

Peter still sat glued to the TV. He spared not even a passing glance as I passed through the living room to clean the brushes. After finishing my nightly ritual, I lay in bed and placed my hands on my abdomen picturing the baby. I could see myself running after the chubby legs or going for long walks pushing a stroller. As a smile pulled at my lips, I realized I might really want this baby.

2

When Push Comes To Shove

Peter still wasn’t talking to me the next day or the day after, and I was steadily running out of canvases. Though painting was therapeutic, we’d have to discuss this baby soon, or I would have no place to put all the art. As we drifted apart, thoughts of raising the baby on my own invaded my mind. I stared into my cereal bowl, watching the cheerios swim and imagining a toddler munching on them.

“How would you feel about a weekend at the lake?”

The sound of Peter’s voice shattered my daydream. I blinked and raised an eyebrow at him. “I think we need to discuss this baby first.”

He put his fork down and ran his hands along the table beside his plate. “Yeah I’ve been thinking about that. I just don’t think we have time for a baby right now. I think you should just have an abortion and move on.”

Silence descended on the room. My heart dropped. Could he be serious? “I don’t know if I can do that. I’ve been thinking too, and I think I might really want to be a mother.”

Peter scowled from across the table. “But I just said I’m not ready for kids.”

Anger fueled inside me. “You also haven’t been talking about the baby for a week. I have been thinking about it non-stop.”

“It’s not a baby right now,” his face reddened, and he slapped his palms on the table top, causing my bowl to jump. “Stop calling it that. It’s just a clump of cells.”

My mouth dropped open. “Peter, we both learned about human development. We both know that isn’t true.”

He shrugged and folded his arms across his chest. “It’s mostly true. It’s not like it could live by itself right now, and seriously with our schedules the kid would always have to be in daycare, Sandra. What kind of life would that be? We should wait till we have more time and can be good parents.”

I closed my eyes and took a calming breath, “I don’t want to kill this baby, Peter.”

When I opened my eyes, he was staring at me, rage fueling his eyes and distorting his features. “You have two choices,” – his voice, cold as ice, cut to my soul – “You can get rid of the pregnancy or raise it alone. I’m not giving up my career.” He pushed back from the table, sending his plate and my bowl clattering to the ground. Then he stormed out of the apartment. The slam of the door reverberated down my spine.

His empty chair mocked me as the silence set in, and tears filled my eyes. If those were the choices, then so be it. I grabbed the fallen dishes and threw them in the sink. Returning with a towel, I mopped up the milk that had spilled on the floor and begun spreading out. Then I yanked my purse from the bar and pulled out my checkbook and a notepad.  I began writing down the bills, rubbing my temples as the list grew. How would I ever be able to afford a baby on top of all the bills? The numbers swam together as the tears threatened to spill over. Would my parents help? Probably not, they had been disappointed when I had let Peter move in; they would probably be angry about a baby out of wedlock. There was no brother or sister to turn to as I was an only child. All that left was Raquel.

A light went off in my head. Maybe Raquel would let me move in with her. If I split the rent, surely I could afford a baby. I scooped up the checkbook and notepad, throwing them back in my purse, and hurried to the bedroom to get ready for work. Lunch could not come fast enough today.

“So, let me get this straight,” – Raquel said over the noise in the cafeteria that afternoon – “You want to try and have this baby even though Peter wants you to have an abortion?”

“I can’t bring myself to have an abortion, but I can’t pay the bills and cover the baby alone, unless I had a roommate maybe.” I stared into Raquel’s eyes, hoping she would get the hint.

Her eyes widened, “You don’t mean come live with me and bring a baby?”

“Well, it would only be for a little while until I got a better paying job. I could help with rent, and I’m sure the baby would be no trouble.” The words tumbled out of my mouth in a rush.

Raquel shook her head. “Look, I like you, Sandra, but I like men too. Having a baby would totally ruin my image. How many men do you think want to stay the night and be woken up by a crying baby? It’s why I had my own abortion a few years ago. I don’t do kids.”

Her words pierced my bubble of hope, and my jaw dropped, “You had an abortion?”

Raquel shrugged. “Yeah, a few years ago; it wasn’t a big deal. I had a little too much to drink one night and hooked up with this really cute bartender. I guess we forgot to be careful. Anyway, as soon as I found out, I went and had it taken care of.”

Her callous words coursed over me, and my forehead wrinkled. I’d always thought I was pro-choice, and if Raquel had had an abortion, then maybe they couldn’t be that bad. A seed of doubt erupted in my chest and began strangling out my desire for the baby. “Did it hurt?” The words came out small and quiet.

“A little, for a day or two, but then I had my life back, so it was worth it. Look, you have to make up your own mind, but maybe Peter is right. Wait until you guys are settled in your careers, and then you can have some kids if you still want them.”

Raquel’s words collided with Peter’s ultimatum, and together they began to make sense in my head. After all, if I couldn’t move in with Raquel, I really was out of options, and as Raquel said, we could always try again later. A small voice insisted that this wasn’t right, that abortion was murder, but I pushed it aside. The thought of abortion had taken hold, and the knowledge that Raquel had done it caused the thought to grow. Ending the pregnancy would be the easiest option, and no one would ever have to know besides Peter and Raquel, and they would never tell.

As soon as I opened the door that evening, Peter rose from the couch, folding his arms across his chest. The anger still radiated off him. “Well, have you decided what you’re going to do?”

Sighing, I set my purse down on the coffee table. Had I decided? Even though the abortion made sense, I still didn’t want to do it, but what choice did I have? “I’ll do it,” I said softly, and an icy cold sensation trickled through my veins.

A smile broke out on his face as his posture softened. He crossed the room and embraced me. “I knew you’d see it my way and make the right decision,” he said into my hair.

I nodded against his chest, but a seed of doubt remained. I just wish I knew it was the right decision.

3

Down the Path of No Return

A few days later, I stood in the parking lot of a small nondescript brick building. It didn’t look fancy, but surely that didn’t matter. My heart galloped in my chest like a wild stallion, and I took a deep breath to calm my nerves. As I walked up the sidewalk to the front door, I fully expected lightning to strike me when I touched the door handle, and when it didn’t, I pulled the door open.  The air inside was much cooler than the summer heat outside, and a shiver shimmied down my spine as the air conditioning chilled me.

“Can I help you?” To my right, a girl with short blond hair and an ear full of piercings, sat behind a desk.

“Um yeah. I’m Sandra Baker. I have an appointment.” As I crossed to the desk, my throat constricted and ice coursed through my veins. I shivered again and swallowed the bout of nausea that clawed up my throat and threatened to choke me.

“Okay, here’s your paperwork. Have a seat, and we’ll call you back in a minute.” The girl handed over a clipboard and some forms, and I took them to a nearby chair and sat down. As I picked up the pen, my hand began to shake. Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath. It’ll be okay.  It’ll be okay. The mantra played over and over in my head, though it did nothing to stop the freight train roaring in my heart. Somehow I managed to force the pen down and write information on the form. I had no idea if it was correct or not. A door opened, and my eyes flicked up. A hardened woman with steely grey eyes and a clipboard met my glance.

“Sandra Baker?”

The lump in my airway grew, and I swallowed it down and nodded. My legs shook as I pushed up from the chair and stumbled in her direction. The weight of anchors pulled on them. Were they even part of my body? A screaming erupted in my head, urging me to flee, and I froze. My eyes tore about the room, but there was no one screaming. What am I doing?

I turned to flee, but then I remembered Peter’s ultimatum, and the fact that I couldn’t raise this baby alone. It’s for the best. The mantra started again and propelled me to the waiting woman. Up close, she was even more harsh looking. Ice for eyes, no smile, a don’t-mess-with-me aura, hair pulled back in a tight brown bun. Executing a nearly perfect three-point turn, the nurse spun as soon as I reached her and marched into the back. Shoulders down, I followed even as a small voice pounded in my head to turn around.

The nurse turned into a tiny room with a bed, a stool, a hard plastic chair, and a tray with instruments. “Undress from the waist down and put this on,” the nurse said as she picked up a gown off the tray. She shoved it unceremoniously into my arms and left the room.

The cold sterility of the room tightened the fear on my heart, but somehow I managed to pull off my clothes and fold them on the chair. I slid on the paper thin gown, wrapping it around my body. I shouldn’t be here. I thought about bolting, but what good would it do? Instead, I climbed up on the bed; the paper crinkling beneath me. Surely, something in the room would calm my nerves. I glanced around, but there was nothing on the stark white walls, not one picture. No beaches, no calming words. Just a harsh white. Why did the walls present nothing calming? Surely other women felt the same anxiety.

A knock at the door arrested my attention, and I jumped. An older man with bushy white eyebrows and a wrinkled forehead entered along with the hardened nurse. I waited for a comforting word, but none came.

“Lay back,” the nurse pointed. I acquiesced and focused on the white tiled ceiling. No comfort there either. “Legs up.” I positioned my legs in the cold, metal stirrups and shivered again.

“Am I going to be awake?” I asked as the fear squeezed ever harder.

“Yes, did you think we would put you out?” A sharp stare from the icy eyes.

That was exactly what I had expected. I didn’t want to be awake for this. If I got up to leave now, would they let me? A sharp sting caused me to suck in my breath.

“That was a local anesthetic. It will help.”

A weight like a stone rolled on my chest, and it grew hard to take a breath. I squeezed my eyes shut, but that only intensified the sound of the clanking metal instruments. I opened them and began counting the holes in the tiles. One, two, three, “Ouch!” Tears filled my eyes as the pain intensified. Why had no one warned me about the pain?

“Hold still.” A cold hand held my legs apart, and the freezing sensation crawled up my leg. Then the scraping started. I bit back the screams, though moans escaped, and tears flowed freely down my cheeks now. Scrape, tug, scrape, tears, moans, scrape, tug. My hands clutched the side of the bed. The scraping stopped, and I sighed with relief. Surely this was almost over. Then the whirring started, and my heart stopped. More suction, more tears, and still no comfort.  The sound stretched to eternity; the pain never ceased. And then it was silent.

“You can get dressed now,” the nurse said, and they left the room. The doctor had never spoken; I didn’t even know his name. How different from all the doctors I worked with, who always introduced themselves. I tried to sit up, but my body fought me. The feeling of being punched repeatedly in the abdomen kept me prone.

Then the guilt crept in. What had I done? A moan that didn’t even sound human reached my ears. Was that me? And then a baby’s cry echoed throughout the room. My eyes darted about, but I was still alone. The cold returned and hungrily licked up my body. Crossing my arms, I hugged my own shoulders, wishing I had never entered this vile place.

After some time, I managed to force my body into a sitting position. My head pounded like a drum, and my stomach ached as though I’d lost a terrible boxing match. Nausea bubbled in my belly as I stood, and I clasped a hand to my mouth to keep the contents in. My shaky legs could barely hold my weight as I struggled to calm my quivering hands and redress myself. The nurse re-entered just as I finished.

“Come with me.” She pivoted and marched out the door. I followed, pulling my shirt close around my neck. The feeling of being naked and exposed lay on my shoulders like a coat.  Would everyone know what I had done? Would it flame on my chest like a scarlet letter? I suddenly knew exactly how Hester Prynne must have felt in the novel I was forced to read in High school.

The nurse opened a door on the left. “Take a seat. You have to wait at least an hour before we can release you.”

I nodded and entered the room. The door clicked closed. Nothing but hard plastic chairs and three other women filled the room.  One woman nonchalantly read a book, but the other two mirrored my feelings. One girl, probably only in her teens, sat rocking with her knees at her chest. Her dark hair covered some of her face, but her vacant brown eyes stared at nothing. The other woman, a young Hispanic who appeared about my age sniffled softly into a tissue. Tears streaked her face. I sat down in the chair one away from her, but the girl did not even glance at me. Her brown eyes also focused on nothing.

As I studied my brown hands clasped together, the questions barraged me again. Why did I let Peter talk me into this? Will this massive guilt ever go away? Will the child ever forgive me? The cry of the baby came again, and my head popped up. I glanced from one woman to the next, but they appeared to hear nothing. Was I going crazy then? The cry grew louder, and my body began to shake uncontrollably. I must be going mad. I jammed my fingers in my ears to block the sound, but the cry echoed in my head. Nothing seemed to stop the sound. My hands found the side of my head and squeezed. Black dots swam before my eyes, but finally the noise grew silent.

The nurse came in, and the woman with her book exited. How could she be so calm? Had she not had the same procedure? Why had no one told me about this guilt? Was it not normal to feel so much guilt? Or the pain? The pain in my stomach but also in my heart. Pain I had never felt before. Emptiness.

The blond girl went next, but she had to be carried from the room by two nurses. She never once looked at anything. Her wild eyes remained vacant. I wanted to talk to the Hispanic girl, but how do you strike up a conversation after you’ve done the unthinkable? Then the Hispanic girl left, shuffling as a zombie after the nurse, and I was alone.

Why had Peter not come with me? He said he’d been too busy, but he should have been here. This was his idea. He’d given me the money like a prostitute and sent me to do the dirty deed myself, and I hated him for it. The silence in the room pressed in on me, and I swallowed. The room began to spin and my breath . . .  I couldn’t get a full breath. Nothing but shallow gasps. I tried again, clawing at my throat. What was happening to me? My eyes grew wide as I struggled, but the darkness won.

When I opened my eyes again, I was no longer in the small room. I blinked a few times, taking in the cream colored walls before realizing I was home in my own bed in a pair of pajamas. How had I gotten home? I pushed back the covers and sat up, but immediately the room spun.