“The electricity bill, the phone bill, the water bill, the credit card bills- you haven’t paid any of these? Did you at least get to the rent so Mikey isn’t out on the streets a week from now?”
“I told you,” the girl reminded him, “you never should’ve made me do it all by myself because you used to do this stuff before you started drinking and I don’t know how to do it. I gave the landlord the last of our cash and guess what? I was at home alone with Mikey and a stack of bills with no money and where were you? Oh, that’s right, you were parked on your bar stool and you didn’t come home last night.”
By now the man was angry, so the apartment became a vortex. It was a black hole and in the center was a flustered, angry man and a flustered, crying girl. She had a secret to tell him but she was too afraid. Until his fist rammed into her stomach and set her on fire.
“Stop!” she wailed. “Stop it! My God, Mike, you have to stop.” The father of her child froze where he stood, suddenly seeming sobered at the sound of her screams.
“What is wrong with you?”
“Mike, I’m pregnant.” She was breathing heavily and now he let out a deep breath too.
“Celia…” he groaned, closing his eyes to massage his temples. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure, love. I’ve been freaking out about it.”
He wrapped his strong arms around her waist and pulled her close. Dutifully, her head found its usual spot opposite the beating heart that sometimes only she saw the good in. To her tonight, something felt not quite right, or maybe just different. Still, in the cramped apartment whose rent they could barely cover, his love was everything she wanted and more. His eyes were clear when they met hers after an infinite moment and his face seemed to shine as it had in the golden days when their son had just entered the world and he had yet to fall off the wagon. She had almost convinced her family to accept him, their friends were helping them out, he still had his job, and it seemed everything would be alright. They’d turned the corner between hell and heaven, but then they’d turned right back around.
She found an emergency clinic online that night, but after that all she could do was fall asleep. They’d argued, her begging for an obstetrician and him obstinately wondering why she wouldn’t just have the procedure. It was perfectly simple for him, but she swore she felt butterflies already. What her gentle heart really wanted was to cradle them. They went to bed afraid for the future and angry at each other, but Mike was drying Celia’s tears until the sun peeked through their windows.
Two days later they finally sat down with the doctor who’d delivered Mikey. Celia’s clothes didn’t fit her properly, so she’d had to squeeze into her old leggings and throw on one of his old shirts from volunteering at the firehouse. Even through his reassuring smiles, he frowned when she meekly mentioned keeping the baby.
“Honey, you have got to think this through. Do you really feel like we can afford to have another kid? How could we possibly give it a good life?”
“God, I don’t know why I’m thinking like this. I know there’s no way we can afford it. But still, I kind of want to give Mikey a sibling. Wouldn’t it be cute?”
“Of course it would, but it’s not a stuffed animal, it’s a person. We’ve got to take care of the kid we have, even if that means it’s all we get.”
“You’re right.” Her resolve was as firm as a slip of paper. She refused to meet his gaze, instead folding her arms to face the wall.
“Celia, I don’t want to make you do this. It’s up to you if this is what you think is best or not. I just-”
“You just what? Are you going to tell me that you want what’s best for our son? As if I don’t already hate myself enough for getting pregnant again. Dammit Mike, I just want to make you happy. I want you to love me.”
“I love you now. Nothing’s going to change that. It’s just that you know how I get when I worry and, honey, this scares the hell out of me.” He smiled tenderly down at her, tucking a hair behind her ear and bending to kiss her forehead.
“My grandmother will never forgive me.”
“Your granny never has to know, honey.”
“I suppose you’re right. What I meant was I’ll never forgive me.” That’s when the doctor walked back into the room.
“Mike, Celia,” he announced jovially. “I have your test results here. You are just about twelve weeks along today, my dear.”
The doomed parents-to-be felt their hearts sink. Celia bolted from her chair and threw up again. Mike’s face was buried in his hands by the time she was finished.
“We intended to terminate the pregnancy as soon as possible,” he explained to the confused doctor.
“Ah, I understand. Unfortunately, it’s already too late in the state of Michigan.”
“So we’ll have to leave the state just for the procedure and the aftercare and the prep stuff?” Celia asked, waving her arm deep in thought.
“Well, no, that wouldn’t be alright. You see, it counts as a conspiracy.”
“But you couldn’t tell anyone because Celia and I are patients.”
“Celia is, but I’ve never practiced medicine on you. The abortion ban is meant to prevent abortions, not relocate them. You understand, Mike.”
“I don’t actually, I don’t understand at all. Why does Lansing get to tell Celia she has to have another baby.”
“She chose to get pregnant, after all.”
“If she chose to get pregnant, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, now would we? It’s not like, ‘oops, changed my mind, time to hit backspace’, it was an accident. Why does our mistake have to become someone else’s life?”
The three of them could not answer that, so they parted ways. Celia was crying again on the ride home. Suddenly, she silenced and jolted, turning to look at him with a stricken look upon her face and a profound deadness within her eyes as if her soul contained the very emptiness her body had been so heartlessly banned from electing. She spoke a sole word.
“Misoprostol.” He nodded, grim but heart swelling.
That night she did, in fact, swallow the medicine and she held her son as the city around her plunged into darkness with all its lights flaring up to confront it at every turn.
Thank you for reading this short story. I wanted to explore something that could happen in a dark home and how we can look at it and feel a sense of love in a really unique way. If you liked this, check out more of my recent works here on Medium.
From Staring at the Stars
I won’t lie, tonight is just another night of staring at the moon