Under The Bleachers

#women #abortion #choice #teenmoms

Chapter 2: Under the Bleachers

She had driven around the block eight times now, and she kept coming back to the same intersection. The first time she missed the turn, she was fifteen minutes early. By the fifth, she possibly could have been on time. Now, she stared once again at the red light at Penington and 6th Avenue. She was in the middle lane again, the daycare to her left, the abortion clinic to the right. Once again, she had gotten stuck, unable to follow through. When the light turned green, she went straight ahead, pulling to the left to make her wide circuit once again.

She passed the bakery, the pizza place, the pool, the high school. Cheer camp was in full swing, and she caught a glimpse of shining hair as girls were tossed toward the sun, close enough to touch it if only they could stay airborne for more than a few breathless seconds. Without the wings to fly they drifted back down, skirts blown upward and inside-out like umbrellas. Like feathers gently landing on a pond, they were absorbed by their teammates.

A spattering of kids adorned the endless rows of bleachers. Some watched, some did homework, most were on their phones. The sun was in her face so she didn’t have a clear view of the space under the bleachers, but she knew that there were probably some people under there making out. Tonight, when it was dark, at least two or three couples would be back to stake out a spot to have sex. It would probably be someone’s first time, someone’s eighth time (or so they would tell the virgin), and for some, the last time before leaving for college. The summer was still young and tender, young enough that some could get away with a few more days of reliving their high school glory.

Less than a month before, her class had walked across the football field to receive their diplomas in front of crowds of family and friends. On her lunch break, Cerulean had snuck onto the school grounds to stand under the bleachers and watch. Several of her old friends had invited her, but she had told them she couldn’t go because of work. Lily Stevens had taken her place as top of the class, and when her neatly tied diploma landed in her hand, her smile glittered in the sun. Lily’s speech was some canned cliché about stepping into the future or whatever, and Cerulean cringed at every word. That night, she had read Gray the beautiful address she had prepared, and when Daven walked in, it was all she could do not to cry.

Everyone in her class had known about her and Daven. She was the pretty cheerleading sophomore, he was the focused, driven senior who was known for seducing the younger girls. It was rumoured that he had a goal to have sex with at least a hundred virgins before he went off to whatever Ivy League school had given him a full scholarship.

When he first started sitting on the bleachers during cheer practice, everyone on the team was thrown instantly off their game. They broke their necks trying to catch his eye as he studied, flashing their best smiles in hopes that he would lift his gaze. But then one of the girls from the track team or the rugby team would finish practice and he would leave with her, and the cheer team stayed deflated for the rest of hour.

Eventually they grew accustomed to him. Eventually he started leaving with the same girl every time, Julia from the soccer team. Even though the girls on her cheer team perked up every time he took a seat with his books, they would quickly return to work, occasionally turning their bright smiles to some other jock who walked by.

When he stopped her after practice, however, a dozen eyes with lashes mascaraed to deadly points aimed their laser focus at her.

“Cerulean, hey,” he said casually, falling into step beside her as she headed for the changerooms in the gym.

She blushed at her stupid name. “It’s Cera. Or Cer.”

“Kind of like Cher?”

She wondered if he could smell how sweaty she was, or if he even cared, since he seemed to have such an interest in the athletic female student body. “I guess. What do you want?”

“You’re in my history class, right?”

Like all the other girls in the class, she stole glances at him often, wondered what sex would be like with him. Or in her case, what sex was like, period. “I’m not sure, who do you have?” she asked casually

“Oakman, third period.”

“Oh, yea. That’s me. Why?”

They had reached the doors that would take them into the airconditioned gym. He opened it for her with one hand, ran his other through his mess of curly hair. After the tide of ogling girls passed through, they went in. “Well, I’ve been having troubles, to be honest, and I really can’t afford to fall behind in anything, so I was wondering if you could help me study for the final.”

Halfway to the locker room, she paused and scrutinized him. Was this how he did it? Feigned helplessness to get girls alone? Even though he was often part of her fantasies, she was instantly uncomfortable with where this seemed to be going. “I don’t think so, I have a lot going on and I barely have time to do my own studying.”

He gazed at the ground. “Please? Just one day to get me pointed in the right direction. These last couple of units really killed me.”

Even though Cer was several blocks away now, her mind was still in that school as she kept driving.

They had met in Oakman’s room a few days later after school, alone amongst the empty rows of desks. Daven was standing by the window when she strode in. She tried to look cool after having practically run there from chemistry at the opposite end of the school, but he missed her suave entrance.

“Daven, hey.” Finally, she caught his attention.

“Cerul – I mean, hi Cera. Thanks for helping me out.

“Yea, sure.” She dropped her books on a nearby desk and grabbed her notebook. “So how do you want to get started?”

He came away from the window. “Well, actually, I wanted to ask you something first.”

She sighed and sat back. Though her heart fluttered slightly, she was still annoyed. She had moved two tutoring appointments and a volunteer commitment to squeeze one hour out of her day for this clown. “What do you want?”

She must have sounded a bit harsher than intended, because he dropped his gaze and shifted away. “Never mind, I guess. I know you’re busy, so we can just get to work. Unit six was really – ”

Waving a hand, she stopped him. “No Daven, I’m sorry. What was it you wanted to ask?”

“Well, prom is coming up – ”

“No.”

“But you didn’t let me – ”

“No. It’s in more than a year, and I’m already going with someone else.” It wasn’t technically true, but she didn’t appreciate his tactless, manipulative method of asking her.

“I wasn’t going to ask you.”

She tried to blink the words out of her eyes. “What?”

He laughed. “I was going to ask if you wanted to join the prom committee. One of the members dropped out, and we are looking for another person to fill his spot.”

A blush crept into her face. “Oh. Then I guess my answer is the same. I simply don’t have the time. I don’t even have time to meet with you today.”

Disappointment flashed briefly in his eyes, but he smirked through it. “And yet, here you are.”

“Yes, because you practically begged me. I did say no when you asked. I really did mean it.” It was getting more difficult to keep up her affronted demeanor under the spotlight of his teasing eyes. “Let’s get started, I need to leave by five.”

He wasn’t paying any attention though. Now he was the one who looked  affronted. “You really would have refused if I asked you to the prom.”

“Apparently so.” Sharpening a pencil, she tried to stare him down.

Injured, he made a self-deprecating gesture. “Why is that? I’ve seen you ogling me during cheer practice. All of your friends do, actually.”

This time, she was the one who smirked. “You probably just had the sun in your eyes. Believe me, you are the last person I would take to prom.” Why did she insist on crushing his theoretical offer so thoroughly? She knew that if she wasn’t feeling so grumpy about her crunched schedule, she most likely would have accepted in a heartbeat. She had definitely dreamed about him asking her. Only for a year, though.

“Don’t you think that if I asked you to prom, I would do it with much more class? I definitely wouldn’t come up with some lame excuse to see you, like inviting you to join prom committee.”

A quizzical expression came over her features. She shook her head at him and snapped open a text book. “Let’s get going, Daven. I don’t have all day.”

At last they got to work. Unless he was acting, he truly didn’t understand the last three units they had covered. She tried to keep her sarcastic comments to a minimum because he seemed to really be trying to understand what she was telling him, but by five, she knew she couldn’t leave him thrashing in the pool of his own cluelessness. They met once per week for the next month, and then nearly every day over spring break. At first, they were so focused on studying that they barely talked about anything else. Until that one night under the bleachers near the end of spring break…

When they did venture into non-academic topics, she felt like she was falling into a depthless pool of his humour, aspirations, and confessions. In it, she felt safe to disclose some things about herself, too. She began to dream about him, and she noticed his eyes lingering on her sometimes.

One day a little before finals, she and Daven walked together to her locker from the library. When she opened the vented metal door, clear balloons stuffed with multicoloured flower petals floated to the ceiling. Each one had “Prom?” written on it in silver lettering.

“See?” he had said, grinning and placing a balloon in her stunned hands. “I do these things with class.”

Taking another left turn at the next green light, Cerulean fought tears as she remembered those balloons. She had saved a few of them, and though the flowers were dry now, and some of the silver writing had chipped off, just looking at them restored them in her memory.

It had been more than four years, and he had abandoned her when she got pregnant, but he had come back. He had been working so hard to be the boy she had fallen in love with, from the moment he had handed her that balloon. He had snagged her heart so easily, and broken it, seemingly without a second thought.

She knew why she was so scared. She kept remembering how he had drawn away from her in the months after she told him about the baby, until finally, she was alone. He had been shocked but still seemed excited at first, and only later did she realize he had been acting. Acting how he was now, buying things for the baby, talking about making it work. But then he had left.

Cerulean was afraid that this baby would pull them apart.

Now she had no choice but to pull over. Her tears blurred her vision, and she could barely control her hands. “I’m sorry, little girl,” she sobbed, her hands on her stomach. She suddenly had faith in Daven’s romantic trust in the universe, and accepted his conviction that she was carrying his daughter. Their daughter. “I’m so, so, sorry.”

She could pick up Gray early and surprise Daven at work. She would tell him that she needed an actual solid plan. No more blind faith.

But every time she looked at the future with this baby, all she saw was their potential homelessness.

Pulling herself together, she glanced at the time. She was nearly fifteen minutes late for her clinic appointment, but they could possibly still do it today, if she explained that she had been momentarily undecided.

She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t even know how to figure out what to do.

After a few moments, she suddenly resigned herself to the choice she had to make. Cerulean started driving. As the intersection approached, she made her final decision and changed lanes. Turning on her blinker, she waited to make her turn. A sense of determination settled over her as she scanned the passing traffic. For the first time since the stick had turned blue three months ago, she knew she was doing what she had to do. For everyone’s sake. No matter how much hurt it would cause. A small opening in the traffic approached, between a small red hatchback and a semi. The huge truck was going a little fast, but there was a solid stream of vehicles behind it and she didn’t feel like waiting, now that she knew what she had to do. She timed her move perfectly, effortlessly shooting into the opening as the red hatchback zoomed past.

A deafening crack, and then a boom.  Her car screeched to the side. Her body slammed into the steering wheel. The long, drawn-out tone of her horn barely registered. Her head was at the perfect angle to watch the grill of the semi truck ease its way through her window, like a diver cutting gracefully through the surface of the water…

…beautiful, sparkling shards splashed into the air, stinging her face like rain…

A dark, welcoming pool opened and enveloped her in its calm serenity, not leaving a single ripple behind.

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