Incoming

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Haley McDermott meets her boyfriend at the mall with something weighing heavy on her mind.

Submitted: May 06, 2014

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Submitted: May 06, 2014

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Incoming

 

The food court was full of people. Strollers were sitting next to greasy tables as moms, with shopping bags piled on the seats next to them, gossiped and ate soft pretzels while drinking diet coke. The sound of the carousel spun around the large room and the music around the large room and the music followed along the high ceilings to hover over the emptiness of an ice skating rink. Another rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was playing hollowly in the cool space.

I was sitting in a gray steel chair, one foot against the leg of the chair and the other was pulsing against the solitary pole bolted to the ground. I was rocking back and forth and the pipe like legs squealed under my lap. I stared down at the table where my curly fries were scattered across a square red tray. I just watched the fries intensely, expecting them to move and make some image. Like a Picasso. I glanced down at the paper advertisement underneath the poor excuse for a meal. It was the most I could afford right now. I didn’t work during the school year. Mom wanted me to focus on school, especially because one of my scholarships depended on my 4.2 GPA. It was advertising the ice rink that no one seemed to use. It was popular once, I guess. But now it just took up space and it was more cost efficient to keep it running rather than tear it down. The man on paper was wearing a v-neck sweater with skates tied around his shoulder and was smiling brightly. I stared down into his face, the captured moment of happiness and pulled one of the fries over his mouth, turning the smile that paid him into a sad, deep fat fried frown.

My cell phone buzzed in my side pocket. I dropped my legs and took it out. Bryan sent me a text telling me he was here. I told him I was in the food court and placed my cell phone between my thighs and held them tightly together so it wouldn’t drop. I placed my hands over my stomach, but then jerked them away quickly and I leaned onto the table, my elbows touching the greasy surface.

“Hey,” Bryan said from the side. He walked past a large triangle sign proclaiming Santa’s hours. He was a junior, a year behind me and we had met in theater. We had known each other for about a year before dating. I would always audition for things and lived in roles that didn’t have names. He was going to be big once the seniors this year left. Probably every lead.

His jeans were ripped and not because they were bought that way. A t-shirt peeked through the opening of his dark blue winter jacket that he had probably unzipped as soon as he walked into the mall. He pulled at the knitted scarf that hung around his neck. He yanked it off and put it in front of him as he sat down in the chair across from me. The sound made me grimace.

“What’s up?”

“Do you want some fries?”

“What?”He glanced down as I pushed the tray closer to him, jarring the fry frown. I tried to avoid looking him in the eyes.

“The fries. Do you want some? I ordered too many.”

“Haley,”

“I do that, you know. I order too many. But you always eat them.”

“Haley,” he interrupted my train of thought. I looked up from where I was playing with the charm bracelet that was around my wrist. My dad had given me it for a Christmas a few years back. It only had my first initial on it, even though I had plenty more. I liked it better simple.

“What’s up? I got, like, major homework to do. Peterson kills this time of year, ya know?”

His arms were crossed over his chest. I watched as a little boy came into view beyond Bryan’s shoulder. The boy was giggling and pulling a tired father who was dragging his feet closer to the carousel. I could hear the sound of the kid’s shoes squeaking over the Christmas carols.

“Haley?”

My eyes once again focused on Bryan. He had strong features and angled cheeks. He had some stubble on his chin. Just at the bottom. It was blonde and the only hair he could ever grow on his face.

I felt for my phone in between my thighs and wrapped my fingers around it. I opened up the messages and checked his name. I typed quickly and sent it.

He raised an ashy blonde eye brow at me and then looked down to his phone. He stopped. His eyes went over it again. And again. It was like a cartoon. I thought if he read it any faster they would start spinning in circles.

“You’re pregnant.”

I glanced down at the phone again.

“Wait, you’re pregnant?”

He reached out and touched my hands, stilling the fingers that had begun typing again.

“Holy shit.”

I stayed quiet.

“Are you sure?” His hands were sweaty. It was probably from wearing gloves and then coming in here. My hands were always cold. My mom would buy those cheap hand warmer things and stick them in my pocket when I was waiting for her to pick me up after school. I nodded.

“Holy shit.”

“Bryan,”

He started pulling at his coat, yanking it off his shoulders. One of his arms got stuck and he began pulling at it, his breathing coming in harsh and labored. When he finally got it off he slammed it into the chair next to him causing one of the gossiping mothers to turn his direction quickly and then return to her laughing companion.

“Bryan,”

“Holy shit.” He leaned back, throwing his hands through his curly hair away. His feet landed next to mine that were pulled back and resting against the legs of the chair.

“Yeah.”

“Is it- Can we- What are-“

“I’m getting an abortion.”

He paused, his fumbling words yanked right out of his mouth. His body deflated as if I had shoved my arm down his throat and pulled all of the air up. I stared into my hands half expecting it to just appear there.  

“It’s the best choice. And you know,”

“No.”

I gawked at him. “What?”

Bryan stared at me, his upper body tilted forward and he lowered his voice. “Haley, you don’t have to do this. We could do it.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah. I mean, I have one more year of school. And you’re graduating. We could get jobs, you know, and try. Do you think your parents would help?”

“Umm,”

“My dad might. My mom wouldn’t, that’s for sure. She never really liked you. Shit, after this she isn’t going to like me. But you’re close to your parents, so maybe,”

“Bry, my mom made the appointment.”

He stopped. “She did?”

“Yeah. It’s gonna happen next Tuesday.”

His mouth cracked into a humorless smile and he air escaped through his lips. “Jesus, is that the reason?”

I blinked a couple of times. “What?”

Bryan leaned closer and his voice dropped. “The abortion. Did your mom tell you you had to do it?”

“Wha- no!” My voice shot up and he leaned back, his eyebrows furrowing. “No, I asked her if I could do it. She just agreed with me.”

“I’m sure she agreed with you. She never liked me and with a baby, you’ve got me forever.”

“That’s not the reason.”

I moved my head from side to side and then pulled my hand to my lips. His shoulders slumped over and he intently whispered, “Oh yeah?”

“Yes. C’mon, Bryan. What do we know about raising a baby?”

“What does anybody know about raising a baby? Think about it. It’s never the right time. It just happens.”

“No, but this is a very, very wrong time. I just got accepted to Amherst. It’s my dream school and it’s miles and miles away. I can’t bring a baby to school with me. Where do I put it? In the dorms? I’m sure my roommate will love that.”

“Haley,”

I  puffed up my chest and I tried my best at an announcer voice.“Welcome to my crib. Oh, my mistake. That’s the baby’s. We hid the liquor in there on Friday.”

He frowned and shook his head. “Haley, fuck. Would you be serious?”

I scoffed. “I am being serious. It’s my body.”

“But it’s our baby.”

“No. It’s a peanut right now. It’s what we get for having unprotected sex.”

“You regret having sex with me?”

“No,” I reached over and took his hand. I flipped it over and stroked the inside of his palm. It was so soft. I started drawing circles in the center. “No, I will never regret that. But Bryan, what kind of life would we have? What kind of life would the baby have? I know some girls who have had it done. They said it’s quick and once it’s done, it’s done.”

“But we made it. This is both of us. You know, we’ve talked about this.”

“Yeah. In the future. It was our fairytale ending. But we’re only in chapter three. We can’t just jump to the end.” I paused. “Do you want to get married?”

“What? No.” He answered quickly.

I stopped and raised my eyebrows, shrugging my shoulders. “Then why would you want a baby? You’re not ready to commit to me in a decision that we could absolve with a signature. If this happens, there’s nothing we can do.”

“We could give it up. For adoption.”

“Bryan.”

“No. Why not give it up for adoption?”

“Because I would want it.” I looked down at my now flat stomach. I thought about something growing inside of me. I thought about food cravings and maternity clothes. I thought about the first time I felt it kick. I remember when I was little and I would stick balloons under my shirt and I would walk around the house with it. I always named her Harley. My mom would rub my tummy and kiss it and then pull it out and bop me on the top of the head.

“I would want it. I would make it feel safe with me and then give it to someone else. I couldn’t do it.”

His amber colored eyes drifted down to gaze at his hands clasped tightly between his legs. We sat in silence, avoiding each other’s eyes and listening to the metallic sounding Christmas carols.

“This isn’t a fairytale.” He interjected without looking at me.

“No.” I admitted.

“And this is going to happen.”

“Yeah, but we can still have a happily ever after after this.” My voice sounded hopeful in my ears.

He turned his body and reached for his coat and slung it over his arm. He was careful not to disturb the tray of fries on the table as he took his scarf and wrapped it around his neck. Bryan tucked the chair in, causing the legs to scream against the floor.

“Maybe you can.”

He walked away, his footsteps loud and large. I watched him walk away. And I didn’t have to fight the urge to call for him. I didn’t ask him to wait for me. There was no more waiting. He wasn’t going to stop. I felt a sob well in my throat, but stifled it and took out my phone. I looked past Bryan’s name and texted my mom. I told her to pick me up. I placed it on the table in front of the tray. I stared at it and the burning red color suddenly seemed to laugh at me in this cold, adolescent place. I swiped my arms out at it with a growl and it fell to the floor, shooting fries into the walkway. A couple of people stopped and gaped at me, but then continued walking. I wrapped my arms around my stomach, pressing my fingertips into my ribs and lowered my head on the table waiting for my mom to text me back.


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