The sky was grey and the wind felt like it was blowing ice chunks in her face. She had been dreading this appointment for a few days, but hadn’t realized just how much until they pulled into the parking lot.
“I’m not ready. Can we drive around the block one more time?” Eric glared at her and sighed angrily. “You said you were ready. Why are we here if you aren’t?” He practically hissed at her.
Grace started crying. There were no words for how she was feeling at this moment. And instead of being compassionate, her fiancé was tearing her apart. In her mind, she expected this from him. But in her heart, she thought he’d understand.
It was November when she called him at work and asked him to come home early. She had something to show him, but she wanted to have the conversation in person. She turned the pregnancy test in her hand, looking at it from different angles. There was no denying that there were two pink lines.
She’d always dreamed of a family. They’d even talked about it many times. It was one of the things that brought them together. But they hadn’t planned on it happening this soon. In fact, the timing couldn’t be worse. She was due to graduate from college in a year and a half. She’d planned her whole life, and this was not how it was supposed to go.
She turned to Eric, sobbing and gasping for air. Her eyes were pleading for understanding, but her voice failed her. He growled and slammed on the gas, barely missing a pedestrian as he sped out of the clinic parking lot. One more turn around the block and surely she will have composed herself.
When they pulled back into the parking lot, Grace hesitated before opening the car door. She looked around, trying to spot protesters. They were always on the news. Getting shot was actually a possibility here. It must have been too cold for them, because there was no one standing outside today. The building was nondescript. She must have passed it a hundred times before today and never realized what it was. How many people have come here, wishing they were never in a situation to find out what business operated behind the doors of the grey brick building?
There was a gun-carrying security guard just inside the front door. She presented her ID and checked in for her appointment. The waiting room was dimly lit, and surprisingly empty. That was a relief. She was anxious someone might see her.
The nurse called her name. Eric stayed behind, reading a car magazine. He looked disinterested. She grabbed her jacket and bag, and slowly walked towards the nurse with her head held low. The door was closed behind her, shutting her into the small office where she would face the nurse. She sat down in the plush beige chair and burst into tears.
“Hi Grace. I’m here to go over the procedure with you, and answer any questions you may have.” She explained the ultrasound, surgery, recovery and counselling that was available when it was over. The nurse reached over and cupped Grace’s hand with the compassion she’d been waiting for from Eric. She looked up, ashamed. “I don’t want to be here. But I have to be here. I can’t do this. I can’t be a single parent.” Her sentences were broken up by muffled cries. She let that statement sink in for a minute. She was engaged. But she knew in her heart that this would tear them apart, and that she wouldn’t marry Eric. He hadn’t been a participant in any of this. When she’d tried to talk to him, to get reassurance that they could handle anything, he shut down. His actions made her decision for her, and that’s how she ended up at the clinic.
The nurse looked at her. “You haven’t done anything wrong. You have to make the choice that is best for you from a series of not-ideal choices.” Grace burst into tears again, dizzy with sadness. “I don’t want to do this,” she cried, “but I have to.”
When she woke up from the procedure, she was disoriented. Looking around the room, she was quickly reminded where she was. She was too drowsy to sit up, so she closed her eyes. She sighed, knowing it was over, but somehow also just beginning. Her dreams were different now. Her future was forever tainted with a choice she couldn’t take back.
When she came to again, an hour had passed. The nurse guided her back into the waiting room, where she felt Eric looking at her impatiently. He walked her to the car, and helped her get tucked in. They drove in silence to the grocery store to pick up the ginger ale recommended by the recovery handout they had received. Eric turned to her. “Am I supposed to get you some flowers or something? Would that make you feel better?” She laughed for the first time in weeks, but it wasn’t genuine. “You really think flowers will fix the rest of my life?”
It had been a few months since Eric and Grace called off their engagement. They were in different places in their lives. She felt like she’d climbed the highest mountain, and had made the journey on her own. She’d grown up a lot over the last 10 months, and he had stayed the same. The procedure put an ever-growing wedge between them, and they couldn’t overcome it. When Grace couldn’t handle her emotions, she glanced up from her desk at her degree. She’d made so many sacrifices to achieve that piece of paper. Sacrifices she could never repent for. She was going to do everything she could to make a life for herself, and the baby she would never meet.
Grace opened the garage door and pulled her Acura into its spot. She glanced into the rearview mirror and cracked a smile. Staring back at her was the cutest little face, with bouncy blond curls and bright blue eyes.
Nick tapped on her window and startled her. He blew her a kiss. “Get out of the way,” she teased, “I can’t get my door open.” He shuffled out of the way, and opened the back door, making silly faces at Kailyn. Grace leaned over and planted a big wet kiss on his cheek. “I missed you today. I got you a present.” He looked at her, intrigued. She skipped into the house, telling him to hurry.
Nick came in, carrying Kailyn on his left hip. On his right hip was the bag of groceries Grace forgot in the car. She leaned over and kissed him again. She handed him a bottle of Ranch dressing she’d picked up at the store. “Just for you,” she chuckled.
She couldn’t help but look at him with admiration. Her life was so different now than it had been only a few years ago. She had lost all hope that she could ever forgive herself. But here she was. A beautiful growing family and the man of her dreams. He pinched her side. She jumped a little, and then rubbed her growing belly. “You’re such a pain in the ass. I mean bum. Mommy didn’t mean to say a bad word.” She winked at him, and he lectured her about swearing in front of the baby. Then he stuck out his tongue at her and spun around. “Daddy is better than mommy.” he said to Kailyn, joking. “Is Daddy better? Is he? Is he?”
Grace laughed until she cried; must be the pregnancy hormones. She went into the bedroom and changed into her favorite green jammies. She stood in front of the mirror for a few extra minutes today, grateful for everything she had. A tear rolled down her cheek as Nick and Kailyn walked into the room. He leaned over and kissed her. “You’re perfect. Every choice you made brought you to me.” He always knew what to say. She had searched for compassion for so many years. And now she had everything she needed.
One day she knew her daughters would appreciate their daddy for many of the same reasons Grace fell in love with him.
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