The Road Home

#women #abortion #choice #relationships #parenting #teenmoms

Chapter 1: The Road Home

Sitting looking out. The dawn made its steady ascent over the horizon, touching the backyard with its cool fingers. Gently, it poked and prodded the new pink unicorn play set that Daven had set up yesterday. Cera sipped her coffee and remembered coming home from work to see it resting in the afternoon shade.

“We don’t even know what it’s going to be yet,” she had pointed out for the thousandth time.

He patted the contraption fondly and grinned at her. Ordinarily this would make her heart melt, but lately he was going more than overboard about the whole baby thing. Honestly, just thinking about the little life inside her only made her sick. “Cer, come on. You know I’m not wrong about this. We have a wonderful little boy, now logically he needs a baby sister to boss around.”

“Daven, you have to take it back.”

He winked at her. “You’ll see, Cera, she will love it.” He closed the gap between them and rested his hands on the small of her back, pulling her in. “And if the universe implodes and somehow I do end up being wrong, I can just paint it blue.”

“But, the unicorns.”

Regarding the decals, he shrugged. “Triceratops!”

She stared off across the river as he knelt to kiss her flat stomach. He didn’t even know that the reason he should take it back was because there wasn’t going to be a baby.

She took another sip of her coffee as the first hint of light glittered shyly on the river. Taking a deep breath, she tried to ignore the mental countdown that had started in her head so she could enjoy the rest of her quiet time. Nothing took more effort than relaxing these days. Even though the quiet should have been soothing, silence was an illusion that was often taken for granted. There was always a light dusting of sounds that were easy to overlook, but they were still there. She felt tense, pulled tight like an elastic band. Any minute now, she couldn’t help telling herself. This would be the creak, the tick, the groan of the floorboards that would signal the beginning of her morning.

Even though coffee usually took the edge off her morning sickness, today she felt worse than ever. Just hold on until this afternoon, she told herself. Today it would all be over.

The appointment was for three o’clock. She had it all planned out. This morning she would tell Daven that she was feeling crampy. After work today, before she picked Graham up from daycare, she would go to the clinic to have the baby removed. And afterward, she would come home crying, and tell Daven that she had lost it. That she had left work early to go to the hospital but that by the time she arrived there was nothing the doctors could do. They would cry. They would mourn maybe for a few weeks. And then they would move on.

She bit back a sob as her stomach tightened. Obviously, the baby was way too small for her to feel it move. It was just her stomach roiling, as always. But she remembered being pregnant with Graham, relishing every flutter and kick, even the ones that threatened to punch through her ribs. It felt like a miracle. She had been missing that feeling for years now, and just as she was about to get it all back, she was throwing it away.

Throwing it away.

Throwing her baby away.

Suddenly she could no longer stand to look at the playset and remember Daven’s joyous, confident face. Putting down her coffee, she turned from the window. As she stepped onto the floor, her heart leapt into her throat as her foot came down on her son’s hand.

Just behind the armchair by the window, Graham was asleep on the carpet. Or at least, he had been. With a shriek and a start he awoke.

Mom!” he wailed, glaring at her with huge, furious eyes.

“Graham, what are you doing?”

She already knew. Nightmares again. At least three times per week he crept into their room to sleep on the floor somewhere, sometimes even in their closet. She figured she should learn to expect him by now.

“What’s going on?” Daven mumbled as he pulled back the covers and sat up. Cera scooped up their four-year-old and brought him to the bed.

“Mommy hurt me,” Graham mewled, crawling into his father’s lap.

“Did she, now,” Daven sympathised, secretly shooting Cera an amused look. “That wasn’t very nice of her.”

Cera sighed and went to the dresser to pick out some clothes. She wasn’t in the mood for Graham’s whining today.

“Well,” the little boy conceded. “I guess she didn’t see me.”

“What were you doing anyway, Gray?”

“Nightmares.”

“What are your nightmares about?”

So far, Graham refused to talk about it. They had tried encouraging, bribing, threatening, even. They told him that if he didn’t want to tell them he would have to tell a counsellor, or just stay in his own bed. Still though, he was as tight-lipped as ever. “He will tell us when he’s ready,” Cera had finally conceded.

Now, Gray started to cry again, and buried his face in his father’s side. “The man said if I tell, it will happen.”

Eyes hardening, Daven spread his hand over the back of Graham’s head. “What man?”

“The man in the dream.” The little boy’s high voice was muffled but still terrified. Her heart was pulled by it, so she joined her little family on the bed, taking Graham’s hand.

“How about I make you a deal,” she told him. “If you tell us what you’re afraid of, we will make sure it doesn’t happen.”

He peeked at her from under long lashes. “You promise, mommy?”

“Yes, my love. I promise.”

“Well, I keep dreaming that you fall into the skating pond at Kelly’s birthday party and you get trapped in a big block of ice. And I’m the only one who sees and I try to get you out, but I can’t. Then these two men with big axes come and start chopping away to get to you, but by the time they are done, there is nothing left. And then they say that if I tell you or dad, they will push you in again.”

Not quite sure what to make of this story, Cera hugged her boy. “Don’t worry, Graham. Nothing is going to happen to me.”

He nuzzled her neck. “I love you, mommy.”

“Love you too. Now get your butt in gear, you need to get ready for school.”

“Do I have to?”

“What do you think the answer to that question is?”

“No?”

Grabbing him, Daven wrestled with him until he was tickled silly. “Think again, little dude.”

Giggling, Graham fought his way free and thundered down the stairs to get dressed.

Cera’s stomach tightened again, and she instinctively placed her hand there. Daven, in the process of pulling a pair of jeans over his hips, noticed with a tender smile. “Cera,” he murmured as he came closer.

She was tired of avoiding his touches, tired of the guilt and sadness that she wrapped around herself like armour. This time, his touch melted her defenses. She wrapped her arms around his neck and touched her lips to his. She just wanted to forget about everything.

She remembered the early days in their relationship, before Graham, before anything else. They were just two high school kids infatuated with each other, unable to keep their hands off of each other.

“We have to get to work,” Daven whispered, turning her around to kiss her neck from behind. She caught her breath as his hands grasped her hips.

“We’ve got a few minutes,” Cera insisted, covering his hands with hers. “I’ve been a star employee all summer. We could call in sick.” Facing him once again, she kissed his bare chest, trailing her lips down the middle of his abdomen, down to his navel. “I have been feeling a bit queezy.” She grinned up at him, her hand on his zipper. “A little weak at the knees.” Standing once more, she gazed into his half-closed eyes.

“You’re just wicked,” he chastised her, fumbling with her pyjama shirt.

“What are you going to do about it?” she murmured. When she nibbled on his bottom lip, he moaned low in his throat and drew her to the bed. Their breaths quickened as they fell into a familiar rhythm of kisses and touches, the give and take that sometimes felt like a dance. He pulled her shirt over her head, sweeping her hair back with one hand.

Daven started at her collarbone, his fingers tracing fire across her skin. Like she had done to him, he kissed his way down to her stomach. Unlike her, though, he took pause, lifting his face from her body and placing his hands over the spot. Quizzically, he met her gaze. “What if we hurt her?”

“She’s…it’s too small. It doesn’t feel anything.”

He smiled softly down at her stomach. “Oh, sure she does. I read online that she is the size of a fig and has all her limbs now, and a heart, and a little brain.”  He kissed her abdomen, as he had done so many times before. “She can feel this.”

She caught her breath, but she was unable to stop the sob that rocked her.

“Cera, what’s wrong?” Daven’s voice rose in surprise, and he pulled back to look at her. “Are you in pain? Are you feeling sick?”

Wordlessly, she nodded, clutching his arms.

“Talk to me, sweetheart. Which is it?”

“Everything!” she cried. “I don’t know what we are going to do with this baby. We can’t afford it. We don’t have the space. We don’t have the time!”

Gently, he took her hands. This was an old argument, and his gentle patience was an impenetrable wall. “I know, Cera. But we will make it work. Just like we made it work with Graham. I know I wasn’t exactly around when he was born, but this little girl is my second chance to be a real father, from the beginning.”

Like molten lead poured from above, Cera’s armour returned, thicker than ever.

“I have been having some cramping,” she told Daven, going back to the closet. “If it keeps up, I’m definitely going to get checked out today.”

***

Usually, Graham would click with his mouth along with the blinker. Every single time. Every lane change, every turn. The only thing her yelling had accomplished was reducing the volume to a point where it was still grating, but just quiet enough that she knew it would be unfair of her to keep hounding him.

Today, her little blinker accompaniment was silent in the back. “What’s wrong, honey?”

“Nothin’.” He gazed out the window, eyes huge as he took in the passing buildings along the street.

“What are you guys doing in pre-school today?”

“I don’t know.”

“Ms. Sandra always tells you guys the day before.”

She caught his shrug as she checked her review mirror. A honk brought her focus back to the road and away from her son. It was all she could do sometimes not to stare at him. Her parents used the cliché all the time, but there were times when it truly felt like yesterday that she was driving him home from the hospital, and she could only see the hood of his rear-facing car seat. She had felt the same way she did now: confused, scared, hopeless. But also excited, and a little bit proud of herself for going through one of the hardest times of her life. Alone. With her baby in the backseat, she had driven until they got home.

Now, thinking about going through it all over again, she was convinced she was doing the right thing by keeping her appointment. Graham had cracked her life, but having another baby right now would shatter it completely.

She turned left onto sixth avenue, toward the daycare. Later today she would make a similar drive, but instead of turning left toward her son, she would turn right toward the abortion clinic. She found it hard to bear that both were on the same street, only a few blocks away from each other. It would be the last trip she ever made with the child inside of her, but she would pick Gray up from daycare a hundred more times.

In the center, Cera walked Graham to his classroom. There were decorations on the walls, paintings and drawings and crafts made by generations of children who had gone here. This daycare was as old as time itself, it seemed. She remembered volunteering here once, when she was still a student at the high school.

Gray dragged his feet and she had to pull him toward the door. Inside, she could see the other children engaged in various pursuits, from pulling on each other’s hair to splattering paint on a wall. Some were even jumping off one of the tables. The staff tried to manage the chaos with no success. This was the best that she and Daven could afford, just barely, with the government aid.

“Alright sweetheart, time to go in.”

“Mommy, I don’t want to go.” He usually resorted to calling her “mommy” when he was feeling extra whiny. Where most days she would simply bite back her emotions and shove him inside so she wouldn’t be late for work, today she knelt in front of him and took his face in her hands.

“I know, hon. But I will be back as soon as I am done work.” Well, not technically true, but true enough.

“Can’t you just call in sick? Like you told daddy?”

She stared at him, agape. “What do you mean?”

“I heard you tell daddy that you were going to call in sick. But I guess you changed your mind.”

“Honey, were you spying on us this morning?”

He scuffed a foot and stared at the floor. “No,” he said grumpily.

“Did you see anything?”

“No, I just heard it through the vent in my room.”

What was he talking about? She felt a cold hand of horror sneak up the back of her shirt. “Have you always been able to hear our bedroom through the vent?”

He nodded, still looking at the floor.

She took a deep breath and stood up. “That’s really interesting, honey. Anyway, I’m going to be late for work. I love you so much, and I will see you soon.” Smiling at him, she closed the door to the classroom as he shuffled inside. She walked out with a tired hand on her face.

At work, things were much unchanged, even though her world was coming apart.

Her full name was Cerulean Crane Tarindale, but she worked hard to make sure no one knew it. Someone at work, however, had glimpsed one of her papers once, and ever since then, they had been calling her Blue Bird.

“You itchy, Birdie?” snickered George, noticing that she kept rubbing her stomach.

“Yea, George, it’s cooties, so keep your distance.” She hauled a bundle of two-by-fours off of a pickup and carried it, one-handed, to the skeleton of the house on Mapleton they were building. Even though it would have been easier to use both hands, she always felt the need to show off for these guys. They weren’t mean, usually; they just liked to heckle her, but they constantly pointed out her femaleness. She wasn’t even the only woman working this site, but wherever she went, she was always the youngest, and by far, the hottest. She couldn’t even be humble about the fact. She had used to be a cheerleader, after all.

“Leave her alone, George,” Preston chastised, hefting the last bundle.

“Looks like you’ve got yourself a knight in shining armour, Blue Bird,” said Aron, smirking.

“Shut up, baldy,” Cer shot back. True, Preston was only a couple of years older than her, but apart from the occasional rebuff of their coworkers, he didn’t have much to do with her. For the most part, he actually seemed to avoid her.

Some of the crew were the fathers of kids who had been in her class. They had seen her in her short, tight uniform, dancing and jumping for crowds, perfect hair flying, perfect makeup lighting up her smiling face.

Now she wore a ragged tank-top, cuffed jeans, and work boots. Her hair was done up in a sloppy bun, and she was covered in sweat, sawdust, and dirt. Still, her body was perky and slim, with curvy hips and long legs. She knew that everyone there, married or not, young or old, male or female, had troubles keeping her eyes off of her.

“You be careful,” Daven always warned her. “Those guys might get the wrong idea and try something.”

There was a part of her that sometimes worried, but so far there hadn’t been any issues aside from the occasional stray hand in close quarters.

This certainly wasn’t her first choice for a job, but as a high school drop-out, not many options were available to her. She couldn’t stand the thought of smelling fast-food all day, or flirting with customers as a waitress, or being stuck inside selling clothing or jewellery. She was an athlete, and the gruelling days lifting, squatting, and carrying were just as harrying as summers at cheer or volleyball camp. With this job, she usually had a great tan, and of course, well-defined muscles.

And mostly she didn’t have to talk to anyone if she didn’t want to. They could work in near-silence just as easily as they could keep up a constant banter of raucous chatter. Work was where she could take time to think, away from Gray, away from Daven. It was here that she had come to the sudden realization that having this baby would be impossible.

After Daven’s father died, their main source of funds disappeared. This job had very few benefits. Basically she worked for a small contracting company that hired parts of the crew out to bigger companies. Some paid better than others. She wouldn’t get maternity leave or any sort of health insurance. Daven was in the same boat as a landscaping contractor. She had hoped one day to work as an office staff for the company, but first she had to finish her GED. She already barely had enough time to work on that. No matter which way she turned, what option she considered, she knew there was no way to make it work. She wasn’t quite sure what Daven’s plan was, but she guessed it was less of a plan than a romantic trust in the universe. As far as she could tell, the universe was not the one paying the bills.

The baby was one more thing that Daven wanted from her that would kill her to give to him. Accepting his long-standing offer of marriage was another, one that would be harder to get out of without hurting his feelings. At least she could tell him they lost the baby by accident. She was still trying to come up with a way to accidentally turn down his proposal.

Love simply wasn’t enough. She hadn’t even loved him for that long, only about five years, but the intensity of her feelings terrified her. He had cracked her heart bit by bit after she got pregnant and finally shattered it into a billion pieces. Although he had been working so hard ever since to regain her trust, she knew that marriage was the final chain that would secure her to him. At least right now she had an out if she got hurt again. She knew he wouldn’t want to marry her if he knew what kind of person she really was. He would hate her for taking away his “second chance.” Love would not be enough to get them through this.

Everything was just complicated.

He called her while she was taking her lunch. On the grass in the shade of the pickup, she pulled off her hard hat and wiped sweat from her forehead. Preston turned his head her way at the ring of her phone, but quickly moved on when she angled slightly away from him. “Hello?” she mumbled.

“Don’t you sound happy to hear from me.”

She pulled her warm cheese sandwich out of her lunch bag and took a bite. “I’ve only got a few minutes left on lunch. What’s up?”

“Just checking to see how you’re doing.”

“Me, or the baby?” She swallowed and took another bite.

“Both, of course. You seemed to be having a rough morning.”

Around a mouthful of food: “Yea, I’m definitely going to have to get the doctor to take a look. Soon as I’m done work.”

“Do you really think you should be working if you’re having cramps? Won’t that put strain on the baby?”

What about the baby putting strain on me? “I don’t really have a choice.”

“Why didn’t you go on your lunchbreak?”

“Because I might not have been back in time.”

He sighed. She could picture him rubbing the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. “Cer, come on. One day when you see her first smile, or we’re at her graduation, or her wedding, these sorts of things won’t even come close to mattering.”

“I’ve got to get back to work, Daven. I will go to the doctor as soon as I can.” She gagged down the rest of her gooey sandwich, making a mental note to start putting icepacks in her bag.

“Okay, just a second. The reason I called is to see if you wanted to go to dinner tonight, if everything turns out okay with the baby. Which I have every confidence it will.” He said it with a bit of a hard note, and for a second, he reminded her of her father on the night that Graham was conceived.

“I’ll be up until that boy brings you back on time. Which I have every confidence he will.”

“I don’t know, Daven, I’m pretty tired. It’s been a long day, and I’m going to have to move the furniture in our room when I get back.”

“What? Why?”

Stuffing the garbage from her lunch back into the bag, she stood and zipped it up, the phone pinned to her shoulder with her ear. “Never mind, I’ll explain later. I just don’t feel up to dinner. I’m all sweaty and gross.”

He chuckled. “Yes, I can bet you’re all hot and moist. I’d just love to peal that hair off the back of your neck and cool you off.”

She bit back her smile. “Shut up, Daven, everyone at the garden is going to hear.”

“Hear what? Hear me rubbing your shoulders, your back, getting all those knots out?”

“Daven,” she said softly. Inwardly, she cursed him for ruining their fun this morning with his stupid worries. It was nearly impossible to find a moment together away from Gray. And now she had found out that they never were quite away from Gray.

“I could help you out of those clothes when you get home, help you shower the day away. I’m pretty hot and sweaty myself.”

Finally, she gave in. The guys were giving her looks, and she blushed. “Fine,” she whispered fiercely. “Let’s eat in.” The fifty they would pay the babysitter would be well worth it.

It wasn’t until she hung up that she realized she would not want to eat or even be touched after her appointment today. Maybe not ever again.

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