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Authors: Kay Brody

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BOOK: Back In His Arms
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“I wouldn’t say no,” Charles said.

Carla patted her stomach.

“As much as I loved it, Gran, I don’t think I could face another bite of anything.
 
I’m stuffed.”
 
Putting her hand on her stomach reminded her of what she had resolved to do.
 
“I’d better go and buy some new clothes.
 
I’m going to freeze in this get up.”

Mary served up another portion of apple crumble for Charles.

“Do you want me to come with you, dear?”

“You just stay here, Gran,” Carla said quickly.
 
“You don’t want to be traipsing all over the shops with me.
 
I’m just going to take the bus and dash in and out quickly anyway.
 
I’m not really in the mood to browse.”

Mary frowned.

“Well, all right, love, but take your phone and leave it on where you can hear it.
 
And give us a call if you want a lift or you need anything.”

“I will,” said Carla.

Soon she was outside, striding to the bus stop.
 
She felt bad not saying where she was really going, but it felt like a private matter.
 
She would buy clothes, sure, but that wasn’t the main reason she was going out. She was going to the abortion clinic.

After the short bus ride she practically ran around Primark, loading her basket with £5 shirts and leggings and dresses and jumpers and jackets.
 
It would not have been her first choice but was hesitant to run up a big credit card bill with no job.
 
And she was surprised to find that they had a decent selection anyway.

She was so nervous as she paid and left the store, anxiety overwhelming her as she thought of the monumental decision she was about to make, that she thought they might accuse her of shoplifting just because of the worried look on her face.

The clinic was in a leafy green suburb, a short tube ride away.
 
She had escorted a friend there once in her teens and found it easily enough.
 
She couldn’t believe she was resorting to something like this but she just felt so trapped.
 
And she feared what would happen if she didn’t put an end to the mess she’d been naive enough to get herself into.
 
How much more heartache and turmoil could she bear?

But, still, as she looked up at the old Georgian townhouse she felt a sense of dread.
 
This is not what she wanted.
 
With or without Atreus, this is
not
what she wanted.
 
But, for some reason, she still found herself moving forward toward the door anyway.
 
It was as if she was being carried to her demise.

“Do you have an appointment?”
 
the receptionist asked.

“Uh…no,” Carla replied flatly.

“All right,” the receptionist said.
 
“Well, let’s get you checked in. It might be a bit of a long wait, we’re quite busy today, but you’re welcome to sit in the waiting room over there until your name is called.”

“Thanks.”

After mindlessly filling gout the paperwork, Carla went into the waiting room and picked a chair by the door.
 
The room was packed with women and she hated that all eyes were on her as she sat down.
 
They quickly looked away though, losing themselves in their phones or staring at their shoes or burying their heads in mindless magazines.
 
As Carla glanced up at them, she realized that every woman had the same look of nervous concern on her face, from the young school girl to the professional looking woman in her 40s.

Once she’d settled in, Carla’s phone beeped.
 
She took it out and saw her gran had sent her a message.

Where are you?
 
the text read.
 
Are you okay?

She couldn’t lie when her gran asked her a question.
 
Maybe conceal the truth, but not concoct a barefaced lie.

She took a deep breath and tapped quickly on the screen before she could change her mind.

At the clinic. I’m pregnant with Atreus’ baby and I don’t want to be anymore.

Her gran texted back right away.

Are you sure this is what you want?
 
Come home and let’s talk about this first.

No.
 
I mean, yes.
 
This is what I want.

She knew she was lying but, for some reason, she couldn’t stop herself.
 
She knew that what she wanted was to be in Little Ekali with Atreus and Dios, all excited about the new arrival to their family.
 
She wanted that so much that her heart physically ached.
 
She could feel it in her chest, withering and dying.

But Atreus’ actions had told her it was all a lie.
 
Everything.
 
He did not love her.
 
He never had, that much was clear.
 
He’d just been confused.
 
He was still in love with Serene the whole time.
 

She tried not to think of sweet powder pink babygros.
 
Or those tiny, little fingernails.
 
Or lullabies.

One by one the women who’d been there before her were called into the back room.
 
Her turn was growing near.
 
And, as she waited for her gran’s message, the message that would surely set her straight and get her to stand up and out walk of that horrible place, she heard her name.

“Carla Simpson?”

Carla looked up and saw a woman in a white lab coat standing at the door.
 
She checked her phone to make sure her gran hadn’t answered her back and found her battery must have died since the last message.
 
Crestfallen, she gathered her things and walked across the room.

“Please come in.”

The doctor led Carla into the office and closed the door behind them.
 
Inside Carla’s bag, her phone beeped.
 
As she began to retrieve it the doctor began to speak.
 
The woman tucked her black hair behind her ears and sat down at her desk.

“I’m Dr. Li,” the woman said, tucking her straight black hair behind her ears as she sat down at her desk.
 
“What can I do for you?”

“Hi,” Carla said.
 
She pictured herself cradling her baby, she knew it was a girl, close to her chest and listening to all the noises she made.
 
The coos.
 
The giggles.
 
Even the crying.
 
She wanted to hear all of them, like a symphony.
 
Her voice wobbled when she spoke.
 
“I want an abortion.”

“How far along are you?”
 
Dr. Li asked.

“Oh, I’m not sure,” said Carla.
 
“A few weeks or so, that’s all.”

“In that case you will have a simple, medical abortion,” said Dr. Li.
 
She spoke with a cold, off hand attitude, as if she were a science teacher explaining to her class for the third time how to do a simple experiment.
 
“You will take a pill today called mifepristone.
 
This will block hormones that are assisting the pregnancy.
 
Then you will come back two days later for a prostaglandin tablet which will break down the connection between the embryo and you uterus.
 
Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Carla said.

But I don’t want to break down that connection.
 
Carla thought.
 
That connection is everything I ever wanted.

“Do you have any questions?”

“I don’t think so.”

Yes, I do.
 
How did I get into this?
 
And how do I get out of here?

“If you are sure it is what you want, you can take the mifepristone pill now,” said Dr. Li.

She opened a drawer and produced a tower of packets.
 
She handed one to Carla.

“What,
right now
?”
 
Carla asked.

It was all going too fast and her head spun with the confusion of it all.

Dr. Li sighed deeply, her patience clearly strained.

“Yes, right now.”

How do I…

“Carla!”

Atreus burst into the room, Dios in his arms.

“Atreus!”
 
Carla jumped up from her seat and stared at him.

 
He was followed by the receptionist.

“I told you, you can’t go in there!”

“Carla please,” said Atreus, “don’t do this.
 
I’m begging you.
 
Angelique told me that you saw Serene and I together but I promise you it was not what you think.
 
She forced herself on me.
 
I have no desire for her.
 
I love you.
 
You alone!
 
And we have a family to raise.”

“Come along, sir,” the receptionist said brusquely.
 
“You’re making a scene.”

Carla looked into his eyes, knowing she would never,
could
never, have gone through with it.

“You promise?”

“Yes,” he said.
 
“I would never lie to you.”

“Mama,” said Dios.

“Sir,
now
!” the receptionist persisted.

Carla’s eyes filled with tears and she threw the pill packet down on the table.

“I love you,” she said.

“And I love you,” Atreus said.
 
“More than life itself.”

“Let’s go,” Carla said.

Atreus handed Dios over to her and they left the clinic, a family again.
 
It was like Carla had been awakened from a horrible, evil trance.

Once they were out on the tree-lined avenue, Carla turned to Atreus.

“How did you find me?
 
How did you know I was there?”

“I took a private flight right out of there as soon as I could get the door unlocked,” he said.

“I’m so sorry,” she said.

“It’s okay,” he said.
 
“I understand, under the circumstances.
 
But darling, I would never ever cheat on you, with anyone.
 
You’re my everything.”

“I know that,” said Carla. “And I
knew
that. I don’t know why I lost my head.
 
I should have just asked you and let you explain yourself.”

“Never mind that, it’s in the past,” he said, pulling her close.
 
“I’m here now.”
 
He kissed Dios on the top of the head.
 
“I knew you’d come to your grandparents’ and after a lot of explaining, they told me where you were.”

Carla smiled.

“I hope granddad didn’t give you too much of a hard time.”

“Well, I’m still alive,” said Atreus.
 
“That’s what counts.”

They laughed together and embraced.
 
Carla felt happy again.

*****

“To say sorry,” Atreus said as they drove through the gate.

Charles leant forward to look between the front seats and gawped.

“A blooming expensive apology, that looks like.”

Tatbury Country House Hotel
, a gold engraving read on a stone sign at the entrance to the driveway.

As the taxi crawled up the gravel path, they all took in the view of the imposing manor house that stood imperiously at the end of the freshly cut lawns.
 

“Look at that,” said Mary, pointing out the pristinely manicured gardens.
 
“That’s what you should do at home, Charles, for the summer.”

“It is beautiful,” Carla said.
 
She watched as a fountain of water poured from a jug that a little statue boy held above his head, and splashed into a wide, clear pool below.

It was even more breathtaking inside.
 
They mounted the wide stone steps to meet with two doormen who pulled back the doors and revealed the wood-paneled luxury of the lobby.
 
The cream carpet was so thick that Carla felt she might almost sink into it.
 
She placed Dios on the floor and let him crawl along it, giggling madly a its soft texture.
 
A chandelier cast golden patterns throughout and glimmered on the mahogany furniture.

“Well, isn’t this nice,” Mary said.

“Good afternoon,” the receptionist said, standing up at her desk.
 
“Welcome to the Tatbury.”

“Good afternoon,” Atreus said to the receptionist.
 
“The name’s Kostas and we’re here for afternoon tea.”

“Wonderful, Mr Kostas,” said the receptionist.
 
“We have your booking here.”

BOOK: Back In His Arms
9.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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