By Rachael Whitlock
A thin veil of smoke curled around her fingers before dissipating into the air. She held the cigarette loosely to her lips and felt the warmth of its tip radiate towards her skin. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks as she inhaled once more. For a moment, as smoke filled her nostrils, she relaxed. Then, with another exhale, she began to heave in quiet sobbing.
She brushed her black bangs out of her eyes before picking her head up and taking another hit of the fast-shrinking cigarette. Sitting on the edge of the sandy cliffs, she watched the sun – a fiery ball of orange – as it began to disappear beneath the horizon. The entire city beneath her was bathed in the pink glow of the sunset, and as the darkness slowly enveloped it, yellow squares of light began to brighten the buildings.
Behind her, she heard light feet kicking the gravelly sand; sighing, she knew exactly who was about to sit down. Part of her leapt with elation as the boy sat next to her, but another part recoiled in pain. She yearned to speak to him him, but she also didn’t think she could bear to see his face. “I knew I would find you here.” he said quietly.
His soft voice made her wince. She thought the pain would subside with time, but it seemed to loom over her, completely enveloping and suffocating her already broken heart. “I haven’t changed my mind, you know. I can’t keep it.” she said while brushing tears off her cheeks. He sat next to her silently with his blue eyes staring at the city lights. After a minute, she stole a glance of his face and saw the shine of tears rolling down his cheeks.
“But why not?” His words were barely more than a hoarse whisper; his pain was evident. In hushed desperation, he pleaded, “Let me have it. You wouldn’t have to do anything after…this part. I’ll take care of it myself.” and it hurt her to hear the desperation in his voice. A piece of her wanted the child. She ached to keep it and raise it with this boy she loved, but she knew it was just a fantasy that would play out differently in reality.
“I told you already. I can’t do it. I just can’t.” Even though she said this with certainty, her mind was twisting with indecision. They loved each other, and it was as if she was ripping his heart out and watching him bleed. No one does that to someone they love, she thought silently. She couldn’t look at him, even just a glance at the broken boy would prove devastating. She could hear him crying quietly and knew comforting him, even just looking at him, would only bring her more misery. Her heart was being squeezed, tighter and tighter, until it was nearly impossible to breathe. She turned her face to the sky and stared at the moon, full and bright, surrounded by thousands of twinkling stars. Please, tell me what to do, she thought emptily. She didn’t truly believe there was anything in the stars that would help her, but she figured she’d try.
Still sitting next to her, the boy reached into his pocket and pulled out a small silver ring. He turned the jewel over in his fingers and let the moonlight shine on the cluster of diamonds on the top. After a minute of staring at the glittering silver, he held it out to her. “I got this for you. I don’t know why. I guess I thought it would help change your mind.” He continued to look at his hands, at the ring, and at the ground – anywhere but her face.
She held her breath in uncertainty. In her chest, she felt an almost overwhelming urge to reach out and grab the ring from his hand to put it on and never take it off. Instead, she simply sat there. One then two slow minutes passed before she even moved. Finally, she pulled her eyes away from the shining metal and looked up at his face, “I’m sorry, but I have to go.” It wasn’t until she had gotten up and walked away from him, out of earshot, that she began to sob.
A week later, she took a deep breath before dialing the number of her doctor’s office. A cheery nurse answered her on the first ring. She spoke to the nurse with certainty, for she knew what she wanted. “Yes, I’d like to cancel the appointment I have next Tuesday.” The nurse asked her if she was sure and reminded her of the consequences of her decision. In two weeks, she could no longer change her mind if she decided she didn’t want it anymore. With an upbeat positivity, she exclaimed, “I know, but I want to keep it. I’m not going to change my mind.” A minute later, she hung up the phone and relaxed for the first time in months.
Then, she dialed another number. She wasn’t sure he would answer, but, after the fifth ring, she heard a sigh with a strained “Hello?” that was a question more than it was a greeting.
She steeled herself for what she was about to say and decided to start slow. “Um…hey. I know this is hard, but can we talk? I have something important to tell you.”