Piper waved goodbye to Sterling and Laila and waited until the front door had shut before running up the stairs and locking herself inside the bathroom. She tore into the box with an unparalleled sense of urgency and then held the stick in her hand. The box fell to the floor and Piper took a deep breath, removing the cap and unzipping her jeans. She sat down on the toilet and held the stick in place, willing herself to calm down so she could pee.
Piper set the stick on the counter and grabbed the box from the floor, her eyes scanning the back for a number, any number to indicate how long she had to wait. Cinq. What the fuck was that? She knew this one. Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq! Five. Thank God she had listened to at least one of Laila's French lessons.
Flushing the toilet, Piper sunk down to the floor, her back against the wall as she stared up at the stick which was teetering on the edge of the counter.
"This is so fucking stupid," she told herself again. But then why couldn't she calm down? She had been on edge all afternoon, jumping at every little noise she heard. Sterling and Laila had invited her to dinner, but she had refused, claiming that she was still not feeling well. Which she wasn't. She wasn't feeling well at all. Not only was her stomach nauseous, but now her head was aching with worry, her hands were shaking and she was having trouble breathing.
Piper checked her watch. Four minutes to go. She looked around the bathroom and frowned. Who the fuck would decorate a bathroom pink? The walls were an ugly shade of rose, the tiles of the shower alternating white and coral. The towels were a hideous magenta. Was this a sign? Was she having a baby girl? Was some teeny tiny little girl growing inside her belly at this very moment?
"Not a chance," she whispered, checking her watch again. Three minutes to go. But if it was a girl, who would she look like? Would she have Piper's green eyes, Alistair's blonde hair? Alistair. How was she going to tell her boyfriend that she was pregnant? He wouldn't take it well. He would be angry, frustrated that he hadn't been here with her to take the test and let her cry on his shoulder. But he'd be supportive. He loved her and would only want the best for her and the baby. But she didn't have to worry about telling him. She wasn't pregnant. She couldn't be.
Two more minutes. Options. She had options. There were plenty of families who were unable to conceive a child on their own. Surely someone would want her baby if she didn't, or if she couldn't. Her hands went to her stomach and she lifted her shirt. Her belly was still flat and toned. Could there be something growing in there? A swell of emotion filled her and tears started falling from her eyes as she held her stomach. Piper didn't know if she could part with something that had been living and growing inside of her for nine months. It would be far too much heartache to endure.
She looked at her watch again and her mind went blank. Thirty seconds. Twenty nine. Twenty eight. She watched as the little red hand ticked away and then she closed her eyes, choking back the tears, and reached for the stick. Her fingers found it and she clutched it in her hands, her lids still squeezed tight.
"Open your eyes, Piper. Open your fucking eyes."
Her breaths were shallow and jagged as she lifted her lids. And there it was, a little pink plus staring back at her.
"Shit," she whispered, unable to look away. Why? Why was this happening to her? What had she done to deserve this? Tears were flowing from her eyes and as soon as her hands started shaking again, she threw the stick as hard as she could against the tiled shower. Piper hung her head between her shoulders and gripped fistfuls of her hair as she cried. She sobbed, knowing that no matter what she chose to do, her life would never be the same. She could get rid of it and live with the guilt. Or she could give it up for adoption and live with the knowledge that she had a child growing up in the world without her. Or she could keep it, drop out of school, find some hourly job just to pay the bills. A million scenarios raced through her head and she felt the vomit rising in her throat. She pulled herself onto her knees and raised the toilet seat, heaving into the bowl until her stomach and her head were empty, her body completely anesthetized.
What was she going to do? First, she was going to pull herself together and get out of this bathroom. With her mind still numb, she stood up and brushed her teeth, refusing to look at herself in the mirror. A hand against the wall supported her as she walked from the bathroom and down the hallway toward the stairs. She slowly climbed down each one, her body feeling as if she weighed five hundred pounds, her legs stiff and uncooperative.
Piper staggered into the kitchen and opened a cupboard, searching for a glass so she could pour herself some water. Dry goods. That wouldn't help her. She opened the next one. Canned food. No good either. Next. Booze. That certainly didn't help. She was about to move on to the next door when she stopped and stared at the opened bottles of liquor. Her hand reached for the first bottle and she felt the cool glass beneath her fingers. Ciroc vodka.
"Don't do it," she warned herself but felt her hand closing around the bottle, pulling it from the shelf. A sturdy sense of calm came over her as she set the bottle on the counter and stared at it. Her breathing had steadied, her heart was beating at a normal pace, but her head was cloudy. She could feel her mouth salivating as she considered the liquid inside the bottle now sitting in front of her. She could taste the liquor as it hit her tongue, feel the burn as it slid down her throat. Her skin was itching for it and she scratched at her arms as she tried to resist.
Piper picked up the bottle and turned around, setting it on the kitchen table and sitting down, her legs suddenly weak. She could drink it away. She could drink until she became violently ill and her body's defenses would take over and everything would take care of itself. No one would ever have to know.
She started to reach for the bottle but then jerked her hands back, sticking them under her legs and looking away. How many weeks along could she be? It was no more than four. She shouldn't feel attached to something that probably looked like a jelly bean. A jelly bean with her and Alistair's DNA.
The tears started to fall again as she looked down at her stomach and then back at the bottle. She made her choice and her fingers flew to the cap, twisting it off and slamming in on the tabletop. She pulled the bottle across the surface, hearing the glass scratch the wood as it neared. Then she brought it to her lips, the vapors stinging her nose as she inhaled.
"No!" Piper screamed and pushed the bottle away. "I can't do this. I can't do this." She hung her head, her hand still tightly clamped around the bottle.
"Just let it go," she whispered, feeling her hands cramping from the strength of her grip. "Let it go."
Reluctantly, her hand lifted the cap and she screwed it back into place. She pushed away from the table and walked back to the cupboard, returning the bottle to its rightful spot. Her arms hung at her side as she stumbled back to the bathroom. She didn't have to make any decisions that night. She should talk to Alistair. She should wait until her head was clear. As if in a daze, she picked up her pregnancy test, wrapping it in toilet paper and placing it back in the box. She carried it to her room as if it were a crystal figurine, setting it gently in her bag and covering it with a sweatshirt. Her clothes were then stripped from her body and she fell into bed with nothing but her underwear on. The covers were pulled around her and she curled her legs into her chest, holding herself as she cried.
Her eyes remained opened and her body remained still as she heard her friends return from dinner, their lives going on as normal, nothing to interfere with their happiness, nothing to jeopardize their futures. She knew she didn't have to go through this alone. She knew Laila and Luanne would comfort her if she confided in them. She knew Alistair would fly out to see her the minute she told him. But she wasn't ready to share this with anyone. She wasn't ready to accept the reality of her new life.
It was after 4 in the morning when Piper finally felt sleep pulling at her and she closed her eyes, knowing that she would wake up in the morning with a new purpose, a new outlook on everything. She fell into a dreamless sleep, her body as motionless as her mind, everything resting as she prepared herself for the months and decisions that lay ahead.