Authors: Melody Carlson
Tags: #ebook, #book
“Of course they’re going through a difficult time,” Mrs. North interrupted. “They are teens and they are pregnant. That can’t be easy. But it’s a result of bad choices and a lack of—”
“Excuse me, Mrs. North,” Pastor Vincent said. “But I believe Sophie was speaking.” He turned to Sophie. “Continue, please.”
“Okay.” She looked evenly at her listeners. “This is my question for all of you. What would you have these girls do? Where would you have them go? Would you lock them away? Would you take away their right to an education? Would you punish them? Tell me, what would you do to replace the pregnancy center?”
“You don’t seem to understand our concerns here, Sophie.” This came from Carrie Anne’s mom. “We acknowledge that you’re a good journalist, and we appreciate that you brought this problem to our attention. But you just don’t seem to grasp what’s at stake here. You don’t seem to fully understand.”
“What do I
seem to fully understand?” Sophie could feel her heart pounding. She knew she was close to losing it.
“Okay.” Mrs. Vincent stood. “Let me tell you about Hawaii.” Sophie blinked. “Hawaii?”
“Yes. Did you know that the state of Hawaii has teen pregnancy facilities in most of their public schools?”
Sophie shook her head.
“And did you know that the state of Hawaii has the twelfth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation?”
She shook her head again.
“So you see, if you build it, they will come.”
“If the school provides a teen pregnancy facility, if they create a comfy, cozy place for pregnant teens to gather, if they choose to accommodate pregnant teens, and if they offer free child care, special classes, counseling, and all those little perks, naturally the girls will think that it’s perfectly acceptable to get pregnant. If you build it, they will come.”
The room erupted into applause and cheers, and for a moment, Sophie was totally dumbfounded. But she was not ready to back down just yet. “So, are you saying that girls will get pregnant on
? Or that the girls I interviewed in the pregnancy center
to get pregnant?”
“I’m saying that the school is sending the message that it’s okay. They’re making it easy for girls to treat sex casually, to get pregnant, and to have babies. They’re making it easy for these girls to have it all. Easy breezy.”
“You think those girls have it
“Remember what happened in Gloucester not that long ago,” Mrs. North said suddenly. “That high school had a pregnancy center, and the next thing you know they had a regular pregnancy epidemic on their hands.”
“That’s right,” a man in the back shouted. “I heard those girls made a pregnancy pact together. If that’s not getting pregnant on purpose, I don’t know what is.”
“I heard there are thirty girls in Brewster’s pregnancy center this year,” Mrs. North said. “When it first started, there were less than a dozen.”
Sophie wanted to point out those numbers had increased when Brewster decided to include the Maxwell High students as well, but she knew no one would hear her over the din in the room. Everyone was talking at once, spewing out opinions like they were facts.
Sophie glanced over at Pastor Vincent, who seemed a bit overwhelmed too. She made her way back to her seat, gathered her things, and slipped out the back. All she wanted was to run and forget this whole thing. Why had she come? What good had it done?
The next week wasn’t starting out much better. Word got out that another kind of town meeting was being held. In city hall. And it would be a media event. Mrs. Manchester had gathered up her cohorts to speak out and had even coerced Sophie into speaking.
“But what will I say?” Sophie had asked her. “Who wants to listen to me?”
“Just say what you said in the paper. Tell them about the girls you met and why you think the pregnancy center is valuable to them.”
“I don’t know . . .”
“How would you feel, Sophie,” she said, staring directly into Sophie’s eyes, “if you were in their shoes and no one wanted to stand up and speak for you?”
“Okay.” Sophie sighed. “I’ll say something.”
Mrs. Manchester clasped Sophie’s hand. “Bless you.”
So when the time came, Sophie got up. She reiterated what she’d written in her article and how the girls she’d met really needed the center. “Think about it,” she challenged her listeners. “How will it help those teens if there is no center? How will it help if they don’t get an education? How does it help anything when teen mothers don’t have enough education to get decent-paying jobs? Do you want them all to end up on welfare? Sure, they made mistakes, but who hasn’t? These girls are paying for their mistakes. Why make life harder for them?”
She looked out over the audience with uncertainty. She recognized some faces from church. But she had no idea where the others all stood. Maybe she didn’t care. “A long time ago, when a certain woman was thrown in front of Jesus and the people wanted to stone her because she had sinned, Jesus invited the person who had never sinned to throw the first stone. And you know what?” She noticed her pastor’s face in the back of the room, and he was nodding like he agreed with her. “No one threw a stone. Maybe that’s what we need to do too.”
As she left the podium, a lot of people started to clap. She wasn’t sure if the ones from her church were clapping too, but she did see Pastor Vincent give her two thumbs up from where he was standing along the back wall. She gave him a grateful nod. Now if only he would embrace that same attitude when he heard the news about her. Not that she planned on telling him—or anyone else for that matter. But eventually . . . well, she knew that some things couldn’t be hidden forever.
Just as she returned to her seat to wait for the next speaker, Wes wedged himself onto the bench beside her. “Way to go.” “Thanks.” She took in a shaky breath. “That was so freaky.” To her shock he reached over and took her hand. Her hands were still trembling, but she was surprised at how comforting it was to feel the warmth of his hand wrapped around hers. Almost as if he really knew what she was going through, almost as if he understood. And it almost made her cry.
After the meeting, Wes walked her to her car. “What do your parents think of all this?” he asked as they stood in the dimly lit underground parking structure.
“They don’t really know.”
“They don’t know?”
“Well, they’re busy.”
“Do they read the school paper?”
She shrugged. “I’ve left issues lying around the house. If they’ve read it, they haven’t mentioned it.”
“Do they watch the local news?”
“My mom says the news depresses her, and my dad just watches sports networks.”
Wes looked slightly stunned. “Wow. That must be kind of cool.”
“I mean cool as in kind of a relief. My parents are way interested in everything I do. They’re the nosiest people on the planet. Believe me, it can be a pain.”
“Guess I’m lucky.”
Wes made a half smile. “You know, Sophie . . .”
“Well, if you ever want to really talk . . . I’m here for you.” She frowned. “Meaning?”
“Meaning . . . sometimes I get the feeling you’re carrying this heavy burden.”
“Seriously?” She made a contorted face and acted like she was lifting some huge weight.
“Funny.” He got serious again. “And sometimes I get the feeling that you use humor as your smoke screen.”
“Seems like you’ve given this a fair amount of thought.” She frowned at him. “Guess you take after your parents.”
He chuckled. “Okay, now that actually was funny.”
“Thank you,” she said in her Elvis voice. “Thank you very much.”
“But really, Sophie. If you ever need someone to talk to or a shoulder to lean on, I am seriously here for you.” He looked directly into her eyes. “I mean that.”
She felt a lump growing in her throat as she nodded. “Thanks, Wes. I know you do.”
“You’re a cool girl.” He smiled. “One of the coolest people I know. But even cool people need someone to talk to sometimes.”
“Yeah.” Her voice sounded husky. She was afraid she was going to cry.
“And even though I’m not as strong a Christian as you are—by the way, that was a great ending to your speech—I am a believer. I’m just not really vocal about it.”
He nodded. “Of course, some people don’t think Episcopalians are really Christians, but I happen to know that I am.”
“That’s cool.” To her own surprise, she threw her arms around him and hugged him hard. “Thanks, Wes.”
!” He grinned as she stepped away.
Okay, it wasn’t like she’d kissed him. And really, she was not ready for that. She didn’t know if she’d ever be ready for that again. But it was good to know he was there for her. In her corner. The big question once again was, would he be there for her if he knew? How would a guy feel to know that a girl he really liked was pregnant with another guy’s baby?
“Sophie Ramsay,” she told herself as she pulled out of the parking structure, “you are a living, breathing soap opera!” As she drove down the street, something caught her eye. She slowed down by First Christian Church and saw that there was a well-lit nativity scene out front. Not one of those cheesy plastic versions but one made of wood, with characters that looked semirealistic and a real wood stable and manger with hay.
She parked her car in front of the church and got out. Since it was a Thursday night, the place was quiet and devoid of onlookers. So she just stood there gazing at the figures and thinking. Sophie knew that Mary had been a pregnant teenager too—and unmarried at that. Of course, it had been God’s doing and an incredible honor. Yet Sophie suspected that Mary could relate to her dilemma.
“What should I do, God?” Sophie said aloud. “What?” It was the first time she’d prayed a genuine prayer to God in ages, and she wasn’t even sure if he’d want to listen. “I know I messed up,” she continued. “I know you must be disappointed in me. And I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I’ve told you that about a hundred times. But you haven’t told me what I need to do. Tell me what to do.”
She waited and waited. Shivering in the chilly December air, she buttoned her jacket up to her chin, turned up the collar, and waited some more. What she was waiting for was unclear. Perhaps a miracle or a bolt of lightning or maybe even a single star as a sign of hope. But nothing happened.
At least nothing out of the ordinary. The truth was, something
happening. A calm, quiet voice was whispering inside of her. A voice she knew belonged to God. And as much as she didn’t want to hear this particular message—or to even admit that she’d been ignoring it for months now—she knew that God was making himself perfectly clear. God wanted her to confess her sin and to ask for forgiveness, but not only with him this time. That was a good start, but it was not enough. Deep within her she knew what she needed to do, and she wanted to do it. She wanted to obey God.
The only problem was that to obey God meant she would have to tell the truth. She would have to confess to her family and everyone that she had blown it big-time. She would have to admit that she’d broken her purity pledge and that she’d lied to cover it up.
Yet, could admitting the truth be any worse than the lie she was living now? Humiliating, yes. But perhaps it would be a relief.
“Okay, God.” She took in a deep breath. “I want to obey you.” Once again she confessed—fully and without any reservation— what she’d done. Then she asked God to forgive her. And just like that, she knew he had forgiven her. She also knew that her work here had only begun. She couldn’t imagine how difficult it was going to be—certainly the hardest thing she’d ever done in her life. But she knew she had to do it.
“Please help me, God,” she prayed. “Help me to be brave and strong. Show me how to do it . . . and where to begin.” She took in one last, deep breath of cold night air, said, “Amen,” then hurried back to the warmth of her car.
As she drove toward home, she had no idea how she would begin to untangle the web of deceit she had woven, but she believed that with God’s help, she could do it. Once she’d truly owned up to her mistake, once she’d laid it at his feet, he’d forgiven her, just like he’d promised. She could feel it inside of her, like the horrible weight of it had been lifted. She knew that God still loved her and that he had fully forgiven her.
Now the big question was, would anyone else?
Maybe it was due to the town meeting and the subsequent media coverage. Or maybe it had to do with the Christmas season and a general feeling of goodwill toward men (and pregnant teens) among the community. In any case, not only did the attack against the pregnancy center mostly disintegrate, but people began volunteering to help out with it. Including, Sophie discovered a few days before Christmas break, her best friend’s mother.
“What are you doing here, Sophie?” Mrs. Vincent asked as they entered the center simultaneously.
Sophie took in a quick stabilizing breath and waited while Mrs. Vincent signed in on the visitors’ list. It had been almost a week since Sophie had made things right with God. Since that night, she had prayed to him many times a day and asked him to lead her on a daily basis. But so far she had confessed nothing to anyone. She had started to a couple of times, like once with Carrie Anne and another time with her mom, but for one reason or another, the timing seemed all wrong. Or maybe Sophie was just a big chicken.