Read Anything but Normal Online

Authors: Melody Carlson

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Anything but Normal (13 page)

BOOK: Anything but Normal
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As it turned out, they did get some responses to it. It seemed that Sophie had hit a nerve with a number of people. Including Mrs. Manchester, the woman who headed up the teen pregnancy center at school.

“I’d like to meet whoever wrote this piece,” she told Mr. Young the day after the paper came out.

“Certainly.” He motioned Sophie over and quickly introduced them.

“Well.” Mrs. Manchester just shook her head. “It’s clear that you have no idea what you’re writing about, young lady.”

“What?” Sophie frowned at her, then turned to Mr. Young for support.

“Feel free to use my office to discuss this if you’d like,” he told them.

“Actually . . .” Sophie glanced back to her workstation. “I have work to do here, Mrs. Manchester. If you have an opinion to express, I suggest you write a letter to the editor. We’ll be happy to print it in our next edition.”

Mrs. Manchester looked like she was about to sputter. “Yes, I can certainly do that. Since it’s obvious that you’ve given very little serious thought to what you chose to write about.”

Sophie narrowed her eyes at the woman. “How do you know that?”

“You’re so judgmental. You come across as Miss Know-It-All, but I suspect you’re clueless when it comes to how it feels to be a pregnant teen. You wrote as if you thought girls get pregnant on purpose. Or as if they have no regrets. Clearly you don’t know what you’re talking about. I doubt that any of your friends are pregnant. Are they?”

“Well, not that I know of.”

“See. My point.”

Sophie frowned.

“If you want to be better informed, I suggest you come down to the pregnancy center and spend some time with my girls. Get to know them and get to understand their problems and challenges before you go spouting off your opinions about who they are and how they got there.”

“Well, I don’t—”

“Just as I thought. You don’t care enough about them to actually get involved. You just decided to take potshots from the comfort of your editor’s chair.”

“That’s not true.”

The woman’s brows arched. “Really?”

Now Sophie wanted to sputter.

“I intend to write a letter to rebut your claims, Miss Ramsay. You can count on it.”

Sophie gave her a stiff smile. “And if your invitation is sincere, I’ll come and visit your center and speak to some of the girls there.”

Mrs. Manchester softened ever so slightly. “Perhaps when you see they are human and have feelings, you’ll want to write another piece.”

“Perhaps.” Sophie stood up straighter. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”

“Yes, I’m sure we all do.” Mrs. Manchester turned and left the room.

Wes joined Sophie. “Looks like you poked the hornet’s nest with that one.”

“Apparently so.”

“Everything okay?” Mr. Young asked. “Mrs. Manchester seemed a little upset.”

“Ya think?” Sophie just shook her head. “She wants me to come and spend time with her girls now.”

“Hey, that’s a great idea. Maybe you could do a human interest piece. I’m sure that most kids don’t know what goes on in the pregnancy center.”

“I’m sure most of them don’t
to know either.” Sophie made a face.

“I don’t know what goes on there.” Wes looked slightly intrigued. “But I think it could be interesting.”

“See?” Mr. Young nodded. “Inquiring minds want to know.” “Yeah, and it’s probably just the kind of story that would fit in the
National Enquirer

Just the same, Sophie decided to follow this up. After her last class, she walked across campus to a separate building where the teen pregnancy center was located. It was a modular structure, cheap and slightly temporary looking—and not a place that a girl like Sophie really wanted to be seen going into. But, she reminded herself, this was research.

“Can I help you?” asked a young woman who was sitting in what appeared to be a reception area.

“Mrs. Manchester told me that I could come here and check things out.” Sophie smiled.

“Oh, I see.” The young woman’s eyes looked sympathetic. “When are you due?”

Sophie blinked. “What?”

“Aren’t you here to sign up for the program?”

“The program?” Sophie felt like running away.

“You’re not pregnant?” The woman seemed confused.

“Sophie Ramsay,” Mrs. Manchester said as she came into the reception area. Then she laughed. “No, Lisa, Sophie is not pregnant. She’s the one who wrote that nasty editorial.”

“Oh.” Lisa scowled at Sophie. “That wasn’t very nice.”

“Sorry. But it was an opinion piece.”

“And she certainly has her opinions.” Mrs. Manchester tossed Lisa a knowing glance. “But perhaps we can change some of her views. I assume you came to talk to some of the girls here, Sophie?”

“I’m researching a human interest story,” Sophie said. “If it’s okay, I’ve got a recorder for interviews and a camera to take some shots.” She pulled out some release forms. “But you’ll have to get these signed for permission. Do you think this is a good time?”

“I think we can accommodate you.” She put a hand on Sophie’s shoulder. “Why don’t you sit in on this next class, and when it’s break time, I’ll introduce you and we’ll see if any of the girls would like to talk to you.”

“Sounds good.”

“It’s a child development class and a requirement for all the mothers-to-be.” Mrs. Manchester put her forefinger over her lips, then opened the door, nodding to a seat in the back.

Sophie noticed the glances that were shot her way. Some were suspicious. Others were amused. They probably thought she was one of them. In reality, she was. Not that she intended to tip that hand.

Instead she took out her laptop and proceeded to take notes, at the same time discreetly observing the students in the class. The girls appeared to be of varying ethnicities, socioeconomic levels, and stages of pregnancy—well, except for the one with an infant in her arms. What surprised Sophie most was the number of girls present—thirteen! If anyone had asked, she would’ve guessed that only about four or five pregnant girls attended her school. It seemed she was wrong. Wrong about a lot of things.

As the teacher discussed the basics of infant nutrition, including the benefits of breast-fed babies compared to formula-fed ones, Sophie could see a diverse reaction among the girls. A few nodded with interest as they took notes, like they were trying to absorb the information. A number of others had blank stares, like they wanted to be anywhere else but here right now. But a couple of the girls looked seriously frightened. Sophie could relate to them best.

After the class ended, Mrs. Manchester returned and introduced Sophie as the editor who’d done the teen pregnancy piece. Naturally this brought some pretty dark looks from the girls.

“I’m here to find out what’s really going on,” Sophie said. “I realize that I was writing out of ignorance and opinion. But my goal is to get to the truth. I hope you’ll help me to do that.”

“Not if you plan on printing our names.” A blond girl scowled at her.

“That’s Serena,” Mrs. Manchester told Sophie. “And she makes a good point. Some girls may prefer anonymity.”

“I can do that,” Sophie told them. “I just want for other students to understand how you’re feeling, what you’re going through, and why the pregnancy center is needed . . . if it is needed.”

Well, that got the discussion started. It’s like Sophie had tripped the trigger, and now these girls were ready to tear into Sophie like she was the enemy—like they might lash out at some of Sophie’s opinionated friends if they had the guts to come here and spout their views.

To be honest, Sophie thought she probably deserved this.


“What’s up with you being spotted at the pregnancy center yesterday?” Carrie Anne asked Sophie at lunch.

“Who spotted me there?” Sophie kept her voice level, but she could feel her heart rate increasing. Hopefully no one was getting the wrong idea about her. Well, maybe it was the right idea, but Sophie wasn’t ready to face it yet.

“Drew said he saw you coming out of the building when he was on his way to soccer practice. He asked me why you were hanging with pregnant chicks.”

you doing there?” Kelsey stared at Sophie in horror.

“Does this have anything to do with that scathing editorial you wrote?” Jenny asked. “Man, I’m surprised those girls would let you near the pregnancy center after the way you made them sound like total idiots.”

total idiots,” Kelsey said.

“I did
make them sound like idiots,” Sophie protested. “I just wanted to make the point that kids should not be raising kids.”

“You’re right about that,” Hannah said. “And I think the school is just encouraging it by offering the pregnancy center. It’s like they’re saying, ‘It’s okay, go ahead and get knocked up. We’ll take care of you and your baby.’”

“I agree,” Kelsey piped in. “It’s like these girls get a false sense of security, like everything’s just fine, and decide it’s cool to keep their babies.”

“Well, maybe it is all right for some girls to keep their babies,” Jenny said. “I mean, who died and made you God?”

“I’m not saying I’m God.” Kelsey glared at her. “I’m just saying if a girl is dumb enough to get knocked up, she should be smart enough to know she’s too dumb to raise a kid.”

“Like that’s supposed to make sense?” Jenny rolled her eyes.

“Look, we don’t have to fight about it.” Sophie held up her hands. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, right?”

“Well, some people might take exception to that particular opinion.” Jenny pointed to herself. “For instance, my mom was only eighteen when she had me. And I don’t think she’s doing too bad a job of it.”

“Seriously?” Sophie said. “I knew your mom was kind of young, but I had no idea.”

“Yeah, it’s not the kind of thing a girl likes to brag about.” “Well, that was a long time ago,” Kelsey protested. “People should be smarter now. Don’tcha think?”

“Especially with all the abstinence campaigns going on,” Hannah added.

“Like that’s gonna solve the problem.” Jenny’s tone was sarcastic. “Girls still get pregnant.”

“Not this girl.” Hannah shook her head vigorously.

“Or this one.” Kelsey made a face. “Ugh, can you imagine how totally humiliating it would be to have to take classes at the pregnancy center?”

Carrie Anne nodded. “Seriously, Sophie, what were you doing there anyway? I mean, you already wrote your little opinion piece.”

“I’m doing a human interest story for the paper.”

“Good for you,” Jenny said.

“Well . . . I guess it’s something people need to know about. I had no idea there were so many girls there.”

“How many are there?”

“They told me it’s around thirty. But they’re not all from Brewster. Some of the girls come over from Maxwell too. Some are pregnant, and some already have a kid. Some do half days and some do whole days.”

“So they bring their kids to school with them?”

Sophie nodded. “There’s a pretty nice day-care facility and everything. It’s quite an operation.”

“Isn’t it freaky, though, Sophie?” Kelsey asked. “I mean, didn’t it feel weird being there with all those pregnant girls? Didn’t you want to just tell them that they wouldn’t be in that place if they’d just waited until their wedding night to—”

“Yeah, that’d be real nice.” Jenny punched Kelsey in the arm.


“Just because a girl makes a stupid mistake doesn’t mean she doesn’t have feelings too. Sheesh.”

“Are you speaking from experience?” Kelsey narrowed her eyes at Jenny.

“Yeah, right. I’m pregnant, Kelsey. Get real.”

“Well, you’re the only one in our group who hasn’t made a purity pledge.”

“Puhleeze, don’t remind me.”

“Jenny’s right, though,” Sophie admitted.

“Right about what?” Kelsey asked. “Not making a pledge?” “No. She’s right that those girls
have feelings.”

“And aren’t we supposed to love everyone?” Jenny asked.

“It’s not that I
love them exactly.” Kelsey spoke slowly like she was trying to figure it out. “It’s just that I don’t want to be
with them. You guys know that we’re not supposed to put on an appearance of evil. I mean, if I was
girls like that, someone might think that I’m like that too.”

A small part of Sophie wanted to scream out to Kelsey and the whole world that she herself was a girl like that. But she kept quiet.

“Well, I think you’re full of it,” Jenny said to Kelsey. “And just for the record, Jesus hung with people who were considered evil and sinful. I think it’s cool that Sophie doesn’t mind hanging with the pregnant girls. You go, Sophie.”

Sophie let out an exasperated sigh. If only they knew.

“I agree with Jenny.” Carrie Anne patted Sophie on the back. “You go, girl.”

“You must be better Christians than me.” Kelsey’s voice was too loud. “Trust me, if I had to spend time with a bunch of dumb pregnant teen girls, I’d want to straighten them all out.”

“I know what my dad would say.” Carrie Anne’s voice softened. “Actually, it’s what Jesus said.”

“What?” Kelsey said.

“You know . . . that whoever is without sin should throw the first stone.”

“Thank God I’m without
sin,” Kelsey said.

Their group erupted into laughter. Well, Jenny didn’t laugh all that much, and Sophie’s laugh sounded fake to her own ears. For the most part, her friends just didn’t really get it. And Sophie wasn’t much closer to getting it than they were. The truth was, she
embarrassed to be seen hanging with the pregnant girls. Never mind that she was actually one of them.

Consequently, she glanced over her shoulder as she made her way to the pregnancy center that afternoon. She didn’t really want to be spotted again, despite the fact that she was on an assignment and had arranged to do three interviews. She still felt uneasy as she went into the center.

Music was playing, and the place was decorated with black and orange streamers. Cutouts of pumpkins, cats, witches, and ghosts were plastered here and there. Mrs. Manchester had told Sophie that some of the teen moms were having a

BOOK: Anything but Normal
5.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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