I would never have imagined that my first time would have lead to this. Oh, it’s not what you are thinking. Not the first time in that way. The first time I was bad. The first time I cheated on my beloved boyfriend. God was punishing me good and proper. Just desserts, wasn’t it?Too ridiculously a perfect punishment. I was so drunk. Drunkety-drunk, drunk. I was turning 23, I had been clubbing which I never did. And some gorgeous men had paid me attention which never happened. It flattered my stupid vanity.
But I wasn’t interested in them. I didn’t go home with a stranger. Not like my friend, Charlie. I didn’t do that.I knew him, you see. Like that makes it better. We had met each other years ago at work, I was a waitress and he was a pot wash. The detestable head chef, Jase, was saying foul things about his mother. It was the baptism of fire that all pot washes went through. “Leroy, fetch the soup bowls NOW!” Poor sods. I took pity on him. I told him to ignore them. These big blue eyes looked up at me gratefully, in wonderment.
I relay all of this with perfect hindsight, of course. I know it is not to be trusted, considering the ‘emotional’ state that I was in. I left for uni, he left for college. I wouldn’t even have given him a second thought. Only he came back. And he had grown, and was all manly and shaven headed and muscly. And he had that gorgeous lisp, and a gap between his teeth. It was either that or something in the water.
So we flirted. As you do. And we’d be the last to leave after work. When everyone went out to a club, that fateful night, we were separated from the herd. And what fun we had! We danced and chatted and laughed. He taught me the meringue, and I felt like a beautiful prima ballerina. So far from the truth, I can tell you. As we both lived close, we got a taxi. What possessed us to stop halfway between our two homes, in the dead of night, in the middle of the countryside, I could never tell you. But we did.
And I remember so little because of the smudgy alcohol, but I do remember seeing the stars over his shoulder, ephemeral up in the sky, and the chill on my one exposed leg. It felt so primal. Blissful. I said I loved him, and he laughed. I stumbled home in the pitch black, with twigs in my hair, when I received a text message from my boyfriend saying “Happy Birthday Princess.”
Three weeks later, the enormous stupidity of what I had done came glinting into view. The headlights of the truck. The tidal wave. Five blue lines, one after the other. The doctor congratulated me. I remember her glee with the ease in finding a vein in my arm the year before. The village’s average age was 75. That explains her joy. I dissolved into jibbering wreck. I can’t because… I have no… I’m not ready. I haven’t done all I envisaged before this was supposed to happen. She signed her name. I booked my appointment.
I couldn’t go alone, I was told. I had to take someone because of the state you are in afterwards. Who? Who could I possibly subject to that? Did I tell him? He said he “didn’t believe” in it. That he would support me. That he loved me. This time I laughed. He couldn’t come, we hadn’t even seen each other naked.
My best friend was my boyfriend. And then I would lose everything. So that left Dad. He would lose all of his respect for me, but what choice did I have? Pay a homeless person, a stranger on the street? No, I needed him there, whatever the fall out.
I couldn’t bring myself to tell him. The words weren’t there. I wasn’t there to find them. My nose started bleeding, and he knew. The blood never came out of his shirt.
The clinic was grotty. The sun was shining that day but it didn’t hit the building. All of the women who worked there had thinning hair. I thought that was God punishing them. What then, did he have planned for me? How many had been carried out there? Thousands? Millions? Did they all leave feeling the way I did? The room had five beds, and I watched in horror as the others filtered in. Each of us had the migraine tablet inserted into us, and we were left to give birth for the next five hours. The others succumbed to nausea, but not me.
They all looked about my age. I had worn my face. I had never left the house without full makeup. That was the last day.
Two had brought boyfriends, two their Mums. I wondered, but didn’t care, if any of them thought Dad was my boyfriend. Not with our nose. Too much of a coincidence.
Dad kept leaving the room to take phone calls for work. My neighbours boyfriend kept looking at me. Probably too hard to watch her. We were all twisting with agony, though the room was devoid of noise. Apart from Dad’s phone.
We were lead to the toilet every so often. With cardboard potties to catch the debris. It was beyond freezing, despite the sunshine, on 10th December 2003. My baggy jamas were too tight, I held them away from my stomach. I was told I was taking too long as the other girls left one by one, job done for them. I was made to pace up and down. I wanted to lie down and disappear. The pain was indescribable. Richard and Judy played in the background.
I realised it was coming. I dashed to the toilets. There was a queue. The next sorry batch of girls were being done. The girl in front was not one of these and was huffing and puffing about the queue. She must have had no idea. It was almost funny. Everything went black, and I knew that was when it happened.
When I finally got to the cardboard, my insides were emptied into it. A sorry end. I died inside. The nurse outside knocked with urgency on the door, as I sobbed and shook. I had heard somewhere that overcrowded rats absorb their foetuses. That is not what happened with me. She asked if I wanted to see it. “Do I?” I remember thinking.
Inside the white sparkling pot, the type that moisturiser comes in, lay a perfectly formed child, with coal-black dots as eyes. It was curled up, bean-like, with tiny arms and legs. “Is that an eye?” I kept asking her. She kept giving the wrong answer. The bleeding lasted weeks, leaving the dead shell of my body. My soul never stopped.
My perfect life was all planned. This was supposed to happen with a beloved husband who cherished my bones, after my career had been cemented. I could not have a child with a man I did not know, did not love.
I ripped the image from the scan from my file. The only evidence that it ever existed. Of the horror that was beyond comparison. If I had my life over, I would have kept it. If.

Katy Carter

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