Authors: Melody Carlson
Tags: #ebook, #book
When she got to the tire store, her dad was in the garage repairing a flat tire, and three people were waiting at the counter. The first guy wanted to pay for his tires and get the keys to his car—pronto.
“I already missed an hour of work,” he said, like she was personally responsible that his first credit card was just rejected and she had to run a second one. “And believe me, someone’s gotta pay the bills.”
“Sorry you had to wait,” she said in a fake-sounding cheerful tone. She watched as he signed the receipt, then handed him his keys. “Have a nice day, sir.”
He just growled “thanks” and hurried out.
“May I help you?” Sophie asked the woman who was next.
“I sure hope so.” The woman sighed and ran her hand over a very rotund midsection. “I want to get home before my kids do, and my back is killing me.”
“Sorry about that.” Sophie couldn’t help but stare at the woman’s large belly.
“Yeah, I’m due any day now.” She leaned her elbows onto the counter. “And my feet are so swollen I can’t even get into my shoes.” She sort of laughed. “Not that a young girl like you cares about any of that.”
Sophie stood up straighter. “So how can I help you?”
“Well, my neighbor just dropped me off, and my car’s supposed to be done by now, but I noticed it’s still up on that rack thing out in the garage. And I’m just hoping that there’s nothing seriously wrong with it. I brought it in for a brake job and—”
“Tell me your name and I’ll go and check on it.”
“Gansky. Tricia Gansky. It’s the red minivan.”
Sophie went into the garage and waited for her dad to finish tightening the last lug nut. He handed her the invoice. “This one’s on the house.”
“So what’s up with that red minivan?” she asked. “Is it ready to go?”
“Not even close. The lady thought she just needed new brake pads, but the drums are shot. I tried to call but got her voice mail.”
“So what do I tell her?”
He rubbed his chin. “Better let me explain this one. Why don’t you send her out here?”
Sophie frowned at the greasy floor. “She’s really huge pregnant, Dad. You wouldn’t want her to slip or anything.”
He nodded. “Good thinking. Tell her I’ll meet her in the waiting area.”
Sophie returned and gave the woman a halfhearted smile. “My dad wants to talk to you over there.” She nodded to the chairs. “Why don’t you put your feet up?”
The woman looked worried. “Sounds expensive.”
Sophie just shrugged. “I really don’t know.” She looked to the next customer, an old guy wearing a Dodgers cap. “Next.”
He took his time telling her his name and about how he’d just gotten these brand-new tires less than a month ago and this morning he had a flat. “They just don’t make tires like they used to,” he continued. “But everything’s like that. Instead of getting better, things just get worse. I don’t understand it.”
She handed him the invoice, and he peered at it.
“I don’t see the amount.”
“It’s free.” She handed him the keys.
He looked surprised. “Well now.”
She pointed to her dad’s writing in the description column. “And it looks like you better check your driveway for nails since that seems to be what flattened your tire.”
He smiled sheepishly. “Oh, I was doing a little woodworking project out there the other day. That must’ve been the problem. Well, thank you very much, young lady.” He tipped his cap and left.
Sophie glanced over to where her dad was using his hands to explain something to the pregnant woman. Not that it was helping since she was crying and clearly not getting a word he was saying. Finally her dad glanced her way and nodded at her like he wanted her to come over.
“Why don’t you get Mrs. Gansky some water, Sophie.” He stood and quickly exited into the garage. Her dad had never liked being around women’s emotions. He didn’t know how to deal with them.
“Here you go.” Sophie handed the woman a chilled water bottle and a couple of Kleenexes.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do.” The woman wiped her eyes. “I only had enough credit on my card to cover a basic brake job. And now I have to replace the whole works and it’s more than three times as much.”
“Sorry.” Sophie didn’t know what else to say.
“And my husband—he got laid off last spring, and we—we don’t even have medical insurance.” She was sobbing again. “And we’ve—we’ve got doctor bills and we’ll have hospital bills and now—now this.” She loudly blew her nose. “I don’t know what we’ll do and—”
“Anyone working this counter here?” a middle-aged man called out.
“I’m coming.” Sophie patted the woman’s shoulder. “I’m sure it looks worse than it is.”
The woman looked up with sad eyes. “You’re so lucky to be young and free. Sometimes I’d do anything to just turn back the clock.”
Sophie nodded. She wanted to say, “Yeah, me too,” but didn’t. Instead she went to help the man at the counter. To her relief, the shop continued to be busy. And that helped to pass the time. Occasionally she’d glance over to see the pregnant woman still sitting there with her feet propped up on the table. She was reading
Better Homes and Gardens
and probably dreaming of better days.
Finally it was a quarter to four and Marge came back. “Bless you for helping out like this,” Marge told her as she slid her purse into the cabinet under the counter. She smiled and pointed to a slightly off-colored tooth. “The dentist gave me this temporary cap. The permanent one is supposed to look nicer.”
“Better watch out for those Corn Nuts.”
Marge grinned, then glanced over at the pregnant woman. “Is that the red minivan?”
Sophie nodded. “She’s having a really hard day.”
“I can imagine.”
“She might need a little TLC.” Sophie grabbed up her bag. “I have to get to a yearbook meeting.”
“You run along, honey. And thanks!”
Sophie took one last look at the pregnant woman and dashed out of the tire store. Once outside, she gulped in a huge breath of fresh air. Whether it was the tire fumes or seeing that oversized belly, Sophie was feeling nauseated. And she so didn’t want to have to explain why she had suddenly hurled in her dad’s parking lot.
She got into her car, opened all the windows, and quickly drove away. She’d barely gone two blocks when she knew she could go no farther. She pulled to the curb, jumped out of the car, and hurled right onto the street. A school bus passed by slowly, and the kids inside were laughing and shrieking and pointing out their windows like she was the funniest thing since SpongeBob SquarePants.
Finally she was done. But as she was getting back into her car, she realized that she’d splattered vomit on her shoes. Just great. Now she could go to the yearbook meeting smelling like barf. Maybe Wes would be sorry he’d coerced her into another year of working on the yearbook.
For the next few weeks, Sophie lived in a constant state of fear, anxiety, and general hopelessness. Just to be sure, she’d purchased another home pregnancy kit, only to get the same positive results. Why they called the results
was a mystery to her. Being seventeen and pregnant was anything but positive. It was, in fact, the most negative thing she’d ever experienced. Seriously, she would have rather been diagnosed with terminal cancer or run over by a freight train. Anything would be preferable to this.
Naturally she disguised these raw emotions in a cloak of humor, wit, and sarcasm. Then she topped it all off with a big umbrella of denial. Despite bouts of “morning” sickness, which occurred at various times of the day, and despite a “very late” period and sore breasts and a need to use the restroom more frequently, she continued to tell herself that this wasn’t really happening. She wasn’t really pregnant. And she certainly was
going to have a baby.
She focused her attention on other things. Like being selected as the yearbook editor and working on the school paper. She put all her energy into these activities—almost as if her journalism success might somehow erase the reality she was unable to face.
“So how about you?” Carrie Anne was looking directly at Sophie, kind of like she was directing that question to her.
“Huh?” Sophie blinked.
“You’re such a space case,” Jenny teased.
“It’s because she’s too smart,” Kelsey said. “You know, one of those airhead genius types.”
“Thanks a lot.” Sophie looked back at Carrie Anne. “So what was it you were asking me?”
“If you’re going to the homecoming dance.”
“Well, let me see.” Sophie held up her hand and counted on her fingers. “First Jeremy Brock asked me to go. Next was Caleb Stanton. And then there was—”
“Yeah, right.” Jenny laughed.
“How the jocks love me,” Sophie continued. “Let me count the ways.”
“There are guys besides jocks,” Carrie Anne pointed out.
“Duh.” Sophie made a face. “Do you honestly think I’d go out with a jock anyway? I mean, I’ve turned down at least a dozen invitations—”
“So I’ll take that as a no?” Carrie Anne said with a sly smile. Sophie nodded. “That is definitely a no.”
Sophie frowned. “Thanks a lot. I thought you were my friend.”
“It’s good because I have something to ask you.”
“You’re asking me to go to the dance with you?” Sophie shook her head. “Sorry, Carrie Anne. I mean, I like you. But not like that.”
Jenny and Kelsey laughed, but Carrie Anne did not look amused.
“Seriously, are you guys going to the dance?” Sophie looked at her friends.
“If you’d been paying attention, you’d know the answer to that one.” Jenny gave a smug look.
“Meaning I’m going with John Hendricks,” Jenny said. “And Kelsey is going with Timothy Banks.”
Sophie frowned. They were a couple of guys from their youth group. Nice guys, but pretty shy. They rarely spoke to girls. “How’d you swing that?”
“Jenny asked them.” Kelsey started to giggle.
Sophie stared at Jenny. “
“Yeah. And they agreed. It’ll be a double date.”
Sophie shrugged. “Well, good for you.”
“Anyway . . .” Carrie Anne still seemed to have something on her mind. “Do you want to go to the dance, Sophie?”
“Like I said, Carrie Anne, I like you, but—”
“Not with me, you moron!”
“Wes Andrews?” Sophie was shocked. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, he wants to ask you, but he’s afraid you’ll turn him down. Or that you won’t want to be friends with him. Or something.”
Sophie frowned. “So he talked to you?”
“Yeah, he asked me to sound you out. Of course, he didn’t want me to tell you that he wanted to know.” She laughed. “Like that was going to happen.”
“For a smart kid, Wes is a little slow on the uptake,” Jenny said.
“Or maybe he’s just shy,” Sophie said in his defense.
“So, what do you think?” Carrie Anne looked hopeful.
“Why do you care so much?” Sophie studied her friend. “I know—you like Wes and you want him to take you to the dance?”
“You are so lame.”
Now Sophie felt indignant. “Are you saying you’re too good for Wes?”
“No. I’m saying he wants to take you. And I want to know if you’ll go or not.”
“But why do you care?”
“I know why,” Jenny said.
“Why?” the others all said at once.
“Because Carrie Anne likes Drew.” Jenny nodded.
“Drew, as in Wes’s best friend, Drew?” Sophie asked.
“Drew Valdez,” Kelsey said. “Of course, it makes perfect sense.”
“You like Drew?” Sophie asked Carrie Anne.
She kind of shrugged. “He’s nice. He’s an academic assistant for Mr. Cromwell. He’s been helping me with my math.”
Sophie chuckled. “And if you don’t pass practical math, you can kiss your diploma bye-bye.”
“Thanks for reminding me. But I’m doing just fine.” Carrie Anne looked hopefully at Sophie. “So, will you?”
“Will I what?”
“Go to the homecoming dance with Wes?”
“Have a heart, Sophie,” Carrie Anne pleaded.
“Yeah, don’t be such a wet blanket,” Jenny said.
“It’s not like we’re asking you to marry the poor guy,” Kelsey chimed in.
Jenny nodded. “Yeah, just go to the stupid dance.”
“Come on,” Carrie Anne begged. “You’re my best friend. How often do I ask you to do anything for me?”
“Seriously?” Sophie was about ready to list all the things. “It’ll be fun,” Kelsey said. “It’s our senior year, and we should do some of these things. Come on, Sophie.”
“Fine,” Sophie snapped at them. “I’ll go.” She turned to Carrie Anne. “But only if it’s a double date with you and Drew. Otherwise count me out.”
Carrie Anne stuck out her hand. “Deal.”
Sophie shook it halfheartedly. “Yeah, whatever.”
The other three began talking about what they would wear, and Sophie stood. “Later,” she said quickly. “I have to get something from my locker.” She hurried on her way. She hoped she could make it to the restroom near the locker bay. It was usually the least busy. But before she could round the corner to get there, she knew it was too late. Fortunately there was a trash can handy. She grabbed hold of it and promptly lost her lunch.
“Nasty!” A girl nearby made a disgusted face.
“That’s one way to lose a couple pounds,” her friend said. “Nice shot, babe.” Naturally this came from a jock. Then he plugged his nose as he hurried past.
Sophie ignored them and continued on to the bathroom, where she rinsed out her mouth, splashed her face with water, and fished a box of breath mints out of her bag. She popped two in her mouth and headed for class.
As she walked by a bulletin board, she stopped. There, right next to a flyer about homecoming queen elections, was a totally different sort of flyer.
• Your body, your choice
• A woman’s right to decide
• You have questions, we have answers
• Don’t wait until it’s too late
She stared at the bold slug lines. These people were not beating around the bush. She looked at the very bottom of the poster to see, in a much smaller font, the address and phone number of the free family planning clinic.