Authors: Melody Carlson
Tags: #ebook, #book
“I hope you stood up for yourself.”
“That’s a little hard to do when you’re bawling.”
“You were bawling?” Carrie Anne sounded alarmed.
“Not in front of him. I did have the good sense to get to the restroom.”
“Well, I’m sure you can straighten it all out with him tomorrow.”
“Just tell him that he hurt your feelings and that you’re the right woman for the job. I mean, journalism is, like, in your blood. He should know better.”
Suddenly Sophie wished she hadn’t twisted the truth so much. Mostly she just wanted to change the subject before it got worse. “So, what’s up with Drew now? I told Wes that the only way I’d go to the dance with him was if we doubled with you and Drew.”
“That must’ve been flattering. Way to boost a guy’s ego.”
“He understood.” Sophie sighed. “But back to Drew. Did he ask you to the dance or what?”
“As a matter of fact, he did. Because, unlike a certain best friend who shall remain unnamed,
went to youth group tonight.”
“I told you I had to finish this project.”
“But you’ve missed youth group for two weeks in a row, Sophie.”
“So take away my gold star, all right?”
“Well, you really should schedule your time better. I mean, you have most of the afternoon off, it seems like you should be able to get your homework done—”
“I’m also on yearbook, remember?” The truth was, Sophie had skipped out on that today too. Part of her “sick” routine.
“Whatever. Just the same, you need fellowship.”
“I’m talking to you, right? Isn’t that fellowship?”
“Anyway, I’m guessing Drew was at youth group.”
“He was. And he met me at the door and asked me straight out, which turned out to be a good thing since I think he was too embarrassed to talk to me much afterward.”
“So the four of us are going to the dance now? It’s all settled?”
“You make it sound like some cut-and-dried business deal. It’s a dance, Sophie. It’s supposed to be fun.”
“Yeah, right. It’s a dance that I’ve been coerced by my best friend to go to. What fun.”
“You seriously need to lighten up, Sophie.”
“I seriously need to finish this opinion piece for journalism tomorrow. It’s bad enough that I made a total fool of myself and ran out of there like a baby. I really need to be able to hold my head up tomorrow.”
“Well, you go, girl.”
“And thanks for telling Wes you’d go to the dance.”
“Right. Now you owe me.”
“I owe, I owe,” Carrie Anne sang like one of the dwarfs in
, “so off to bed I go.”
“Very cute, Dopey.”
“Night night, Grumpy.”
Sophie returned to her opinion piece, rereading it from the beginning and then cutting about a third of it. Tighten, tighten, tighten. Her topic was school security. Or rather the lack of it. Sure, their school put on the appearance of being safe and secure, with a part-time guard wandering around in uniform, but the kids knew it was all show and no go. If someone really wanted to sneak homemade bombs or automatic weapons into the school, it wouldn’t be all that hard.
Finally satisfied, or perhaps just tired, Sophie hit save and then print. Once the doc was printed, she shut off her computer and crawled into bed.
She missed her old routine of reading the Bible and praying before going to sleep. But after two weeks of skipping, she was slowly getting used to it. Didn’t they say it took only two weeks to make or break a habit? Still, it got harder and harder to shut down her mind and go to sleep. During the day, she could distract herself from reality, but her worst fears always seemed to confront her at night.
It was during the night that she reconsidered the whole abortion thing. Sure, she had run out of that horrible clinic with the certainty that abortion had always been—and still was—wrong, wrong, wrong. Taking a human life to cover up your own stupid mistake was wrong, wrong, wrong. She was able to convince herself—during the daylight hours—that she would never, never, never kill an unborn child.
But that all got blurry and gray when she turned the lights out. Like demons coming out in the darkness, her doubts and fears would torment her until she thought the only answer was to simply end this thing. Sometimes she imagined ending it even more completely than simply having an abortion—she imagined ending her own life as well. That way no one would ever know. Her shame would be buried with her. Well, unless someone did an autopsy. What then?
And on she would go—round and round until she finally succumbed to sleep. But that escape was only temporary because, almost like clockwork, her bladder would demand to be emptied at four a.m. And after that, wide-awake, she would be tortured anew.
Finally morning would come, and as if frightened by the light, these demons and doubts would all scurry away. Well, for the most part. She was still plagued with one major fear: what if someone found out? What would she do?
Every morning after her shower, Sophie would peel back her robe and examine herself in the full-length mirror on her closet door. She knew her body was changing, be it ever so slightly. Her curves seemed curvier and fuller. Her stomach was rounded a bit more. She knew no one else could see these changes, and she tended to carry extra weight anyway, so she’d probably be able to conceal it for longer than most. But she also knew it wouldn’t be long before the changes were obvious. And what then?
Sophie had heard of teenage girls who’d gone full-term in their pregnancies without anyone knowing. She’d read stories of how girls had delivered their babies by themselves . . . and how some even killed their infants and hid them in dumpsters. But it seemed that they were eventually found out. How else did it make the news?
Sophie knew that, although she wanted to hide her secret forever, she wasn’t about to murder an innocent baby and drop it in a dumpster. At least she knew that in the light of day. Sometimes, at night, her imagination ran away with her.
“Sophie?” her mother said with impatience.
“Huh?” Sophie looked up from her bowl of soggy Cheerios and frowned.
“I just asked you if you knew what time it is.”
“What time it is?”
Her mother shook her head and pointed to the clock. “You’re going to be late for school.”
“Oh!” Sophie stood up, reaching for the bowl.
“Just leave it,” her mom said.
“Thanks.” Sophie pulled on her denim jacket and grabbed her bag.
“Don’t drive too fast either.”
“And don’t be such a space cadet!” she called out as Sophie ran for the door.
As Sophie drove to school, she thought about Dylan. She didn’t want to think about him, but she couldn’t help herself. After all, wasn’t he equally to blame for her condition? Shouldn’t he have to share some of the trouble she was enduring? Shouldn’t he feel a little freaked-out too? Not for the first time, she considered calling him up and telling him the news. How would she say it?
“Hey, Dylan, just wanted to congratulate you.”
“For what?” he’d ask.
“You’re going to be a daddy.”
Yeah, right. In her dreams. And in her dreams, Dylan would come to his senses and offer to do—what? Marry her? No, she definitely didn’t want to marry a guy who had not only deceived her and used her but totally messed up her life. A guy who probably couldn’t care less. She knew that, according to the law, he bore some responsibility, but did she really want some court to force him into paying? And really, what would he pay for—her medical expenses? Not that she had any. Her maternity clothes? Like she was even going there. An abortion, perhaps? No thanks!
The truth was, there was one major reason she was not telling Dylan about her “delicate condition.” Plain and simple, she did not want to tell him because that would be the beginning— the beginning of the end. She knew that if she told Dylan, his parents would probably have to be informed as well. And that meant her parents would find out. Then everyone would find out. Then her life would be, well, basically over. She just couldn’t handle that. Not yet.
No, she decided, the best thing was to pretend this wasn’t happening, and to do so for as long as humanly possible. She would attempt to enjoy (a gross overstatement) the last shreds of her totally ruined life. If she got lucky, maybe she would get in a car wreck or fall down some stairs and suffer a miscarriage, and no one would be the wiser. Well, no one except her. And God. Of course, God knew everything. Not that he seemed to care much.
She parked in the school lot and jogged toward the building. There by the front door, watching her like he knew what she’d written last night, stood a grim-faced security guard.
“Looks like someone slept in this morning.” His voice was pseudo cheerful, but his expression was coated with disapproval.
She just rolled her eyes and hurried past. As she whizzed by the counseling center, she nearly collided with Mrs. Phelps, who was coming out the door.
“Sorry.” She stopped. “I’m late.”
“I can see that.” Mrs. Phelps put a hand on Sophie’s arm. “Everything okay?”
The counselor frowned.
“I really am late.”
“Hurry along then.”
As Sophie slipped into the classroom, taking a seat in the back, she suddenly remembered a sweater that Grandma Ramsay had knit for her when Sophie was in first grade. The pullover had been pale pink and softer than a kitten, and Sophie had loved it. Then one day she noticed a string of yarn hanging from the sleeve. Wanting to get rid of the messy thing, she tugged at it. But the yarn only grew longer. She pulled more, and as the yarn grew longer, the sleeve grew shorter. Fascinated by the growing pile of yarn in her lap, Sophie continued to pull and pull until her sweater eventually became sleeveless on one side. She knew the sweater was ruined, and with no idea of how to fix it, she tossed the tangled ball of soft pink yarn in the trash. Naturally she was teased without mercy that day—the girl in the one-armed sweater. Then at home, embarrassed that she’d destroyed her beloved sweater, she had hidden what was left of it in the back of her closet and never worn it again.
Today, that’s how her life felt—she was unraveling, and quickly. And her ruination was her own fault. But it wasn’t going to be as easily hidden as the ruined sweater. Not for long, anyway.
“You’re being awfully quiet,” Carrie Anne said to Sophie at the lunch table. “Still feeling sick?”
“You’re sick?” Kelsey asked.
“Is it catching?” Jenny backed away from where she was sitting next to Sophie.
sick,” Sophie said.
“Just PMS,” Carrie Anne said not so quietly.
“Thanks, Carrie,” Sophie snapped. “Why not tell the whole world.”
“You weren’t at youth group last night,” Hannah pointed out.
“Thanks for letting me in on that.” Sophie made a face.
“Why are you cutting youth group?” Jenny asked.
“Homework.” Carrie Anne looked skeptical. “Or so she claims.”
“Well, you missed the big talk.” Hannah grinned.
“The big talk?” Sophie frowned.
“You know, the old back-to-school sex talk we get every year,” Kelsey said.
Sophie chuckled. “Guess I didn’t miss much then.”
“I’ll say,” Jenny agreed. “And this year they took it to a whole new level.”
“Yeah,” Carrie Anne said. “First Phil talked to us together like usual. Then he and Jeanette broke us into two groups.”
“Girls and guys were separated,” Hannah said.
Sophie shrugged. “That actually sounds smart.”
“Except that Jeanette decided to get really explicit,” Kelsey said.
“Explicit?” Sophie echoed.
explicit.” Jenny giggled.
Carrie Anne lowered her voice. “Yeah, she really laid it on the line.”
“How so?” Sophie leaned forward with interest.
“She defined sexual purity,” Kelsey said. “Specifically.”
“Uh-huh.” Kelsey nodded.
“Like we’re going to talk about that here.” Carrie Anne glanced nervously around the noisy cafeteria.
“Come on,” Sophie urged her friends. “Just tell me what she said.”
“Like you even need to hear it,” Jenny teased. “You’re like the queen of abstinence anyway.”
“Yeah,” Kelsey agreed. “You don’t even date.”
“I had to practically threaten her to go to the homecoming dance,” Carrie Anne added.
“So you are going?” Hannah asked.
And then they were all talking about the dance and what they were going to wear and how Carrie Anne’s mom had already said the girls could make a special dinner at her house to save the boys some bucks. Then they were menu planning, and Sophie tried to act interested and like she was still one of them. She even promised to make cheesecake for dessert.
“We’ll go dress shopping on Saturday,” Kelsey said. “That way our dresses will all look good together.”
Then they started to argue over skirt lengths and whether pastel or bright colors were cooler and what clashed with what. Sophie was relieved when the first bell rang and she was able to escape the planning frenzy.