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 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: January 16, 2021      Views: 12

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Excellent
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A young woman finds out sheâ??s pregnant.
"Kelseaâ??s Sadness" by Alexander Noble

Kelsea had to run to the pharmacy. The plan was to discreetly buy a pregnancy test. She had been sick in the mornings and she was late with her period. If she was pregnant, it couldn't have come at a worse time--the would-be father had ditched her for another girl. A part of her hoped she was pregnant so that she could spring the surprise on the new couple. She practiced saying "I'm pregnant, Josh." That would teach him to ditch her. The worst part of this whole scenario was that she still loved him, and she hoped, in a secret part of her heart, that the two of them might wound up together again someday. She scanned Josh's Facebook periodically--he and Madeline (she hated even the name) were spending time at Lake Tahoe. Over forty people had liked the photo.
Kelsea understood why she had been dumped for Madeline. The girl looked like Snow White--black hair, fair skin. And she had purged herself to have the perfect body. Kelsea hoped she still saw herself as fat.
The worst part about being pregnant would be telling her family. They were obnoxiously religious, and sex before marriage was a no-no. So was abortion. Maybe she could arrange for termination of the pregnancy without them even knowing she was pregnant.
But abortion? She didn't know how she felt about that, especially since it was Josh's baby. Josh might want to meet their son or daughter one day. The three of them together as a family still appealed to her, even though Josh had said he loved Madeline and not her.
She drove to the pharmacy--narrowly missing another car--and was about to buy the pregnancy test when she saw her pastor. Pastor Luke was Josh's cousin. He was in line waiting to pick up his insulin--he was a type-one diabetic. She cursed herself for not going to another pharmacy where no one would recognize her.
Kelsea was about to duck when he saw her.
"Kelsea, hi!" He smiled and waved.
"Hi, pastor," she replied.
"How are you? I'm sorry things didn't work out between you and Josh."
"Yeah, me too."
"Maybe we can get together and talk about it. How do you feel about a cup of coffee after I'm done here?"
Kelsea, not having time to think, said, "Sure, why not."
She agreed to meet Pastor Luke at the Starbucks across the street. In the meantime, she bought the pregnancy test and went into the pharmacy bathroom. She prayed for a negative, but God didn't seem to be listening: she was pregnant. She sobbed in the small space of the bathroom stall. She wiped away her tears, but that apparently wasn't good enough. At the Starbucks, Pastor Luke asked her if she had been crying.
"Yes," she said, not being able to summon a lie. And then, "It's silly."
"What's silly?"
"Oh, I don't know. I keep checking Josh's Facebook. Did you know he and Madeline were going to Lake Tahoe today?"
Pastor Luke nodded. "If you don't mind me asking, what happened between you two exactly?"
Kelsea felt like crying again. She didn't want to tell the truth because it might make Josh look shallow. "It's a long story."
"If you don't want to talk about it, you don't have to."
"He . . . preferred Madeline to me." She saw the quizzical look on the pastor's face, and she said, "He loved her and not me."
"Did he say that?"
"Yes," she said. "To be precise, he said we weren't compatible and that he and Madeline were."
"That must hurt."
"It certainly doesn't feel good."
"Heartbreak is a terrible thing."
"It's awful," she agreed. "I thought the heartbreak itself was a metaphor, but I feel an actual pain in my chest, as though my heart were being pitted out."
Luke nodded sympathetically. "You're not alone, Kelsea. It happens to everyone who feels the healthy range of emotions, and I wouldn't want to meet someone who doesn't."
Seeing that Luke was someone she could trust, she said, "I'm pregnant. That's why I was crying."
"Oh," he said, his eyebrows raised.
"That changes things, doesn't it?"
"People have sex," he replied. "I'm not ignorant of that."
"But they shouldn't have sex before marriage. Isn't that what you mean?"
"Kelsea, I'm not judging you." He sighed. "Does Josh know?"
She shook her head. "I literally just found out. And I don't know how to begin to tell my parents."
"It's something we can do together, if you like."
"They would talk over you. They would talk over me. They wouldn't let us get a word in edgewise."
"The offer still stands," he said. "I think it would be a good idea. You shouldn't be alone in this."
"I'll figure out how to tell them."
"Are you sure you don't want any help?" Josh had once said the exact same words when she was trying to carry something heavy. Tears came again, although thankfully without any sobs. She was tired of her life, and she wanted it to be over.
"I should get going," she said. She reached for her purse.
"Did I say something?"
"No. I just have to process this and figure out what to do next."
"Well, I'm available if you want to talk. Do you have my number? E-mail?"
Kelsea took down his phone number. "Thanks, Pastor Luke."
"My friends call me Luke."
"Right."
"Josh can be a real jerk, sometimes," he said sympathetically.
Kelsea smiled. "I appreciate you listening to me. I may call you."
"Anytime."
They left each other. On her way home, she was pulled over for looking at her phone while driving and was given a ticket. She had been looking at Josh's Facebook again. The cop told her to drive carefully and she half-listened.
She saw a new picture on Facebook--he and Madeline sitting on the beach and eating a picnic. Josh had taken her on a picnic once, about six months ago. It wasn't in Tahoe, but on campus. They had discussed the possibility of marriage after graduation. She had wanted to get married then and there, but she knew he would have said no. He really didn't love her, did he? Or at least not as much as he loved Madeline.
"Screw him," she muttered. She left him a message simply saying she was pregnant. She hoped she ruined his great day at Tahoe.
It didn't take long for him to get back to her. By the time she was back home, he had written her: "Are you joking?"
She wrote back: "No. I'm really pregnant."
And then: "I don't believe you."
"You think I would lie about something like that?"
"I think you would say anything to ruin things for me and Madeline. You made it no secret how you feel about her."
"I wouldn't lie about pregnancy, you pig. Go on with your life. Don't worry about it. You didn't even care about me in the slightest."
Kelsea broke down into sobs in the driveway. She was convinced this was the worst day of her life. There seemed to be only one way to be free of the pain.
No one was home. She began searching for her father's gun. Her phone dinged. It was Josh again.
"Does anyone else know?"
"No," she wrote. She resumed looking for the gun under the bed, but all she could find were dust bunnies.
Her phone again. "It's really important that you not tell anyone. I'll pay for the abortion."
"I don't even know if I want an abortion." Where was that gun? Maybe it was in her father's safe. She went to her parent's closet and began to run through a series of combinations.
"A baby is just not an option for us," he wrote.
"Wow," she said aloud. She tried her father's birthday. Her mother's. Then hers.
The safe clicked open and the gun was inside with two bullets. She would only need one.
Keys opened the door downstairs, and Kelsea quickly shut the safe. She knew the combination, and it was just a matter of time.
. . .
Kelsea's mother was a pleasant fat woman who actually seemed to care for her. She supposed her father did as well, given that the safe's combination was her birthday. But her mother was the one to whom she could open up. That afternoon, her mother and she watched a movie together. Josh kept writing her, but she turned her phone on silent. She didn't want Josh to ruin their last day together.
The movie was As Good As It Gets with Jack Nicholson, Greg Kinnear, and Helen Hunt. They watched the movie and ate popcorn out of one bowl. She even began to enjoy herself after she saw Josh was tearing his hair out trying to reach her. Whatever she decided to do, she wasn't going to involve him in any way. She felt disgusted that she had actually loved him.
Was she going to kill herself? Watching the movie with her mother, she thought, "Maybe not." So what option did that leave her? Pay for an abortion herself? A baby was inside her; she couldn't just kill it. Yet suicide would mean just that. There was also Hell to think about. If she killed herself and the baby, Hell might be waiting for her.
But what option did she have? Tell her parents?
She didn't have to, at least not right away.
"You okay, honey?" her mother asked. "You keep fidgeting."
"Fine, Mom." But she wasn't fine at all.
"That's a lie," her mother said.
This line of conversation wouldn't be good unless Kelsea could manipulate it in her favor.
"I'm just upset about Josh."
Her mother kissed her on her forehead. "I'm sorry, honey. Do you want to talk about it?"
"No. I'll . . . I'll get over it."
"If you ask me, you're better off."
"How so?"
"He's a good looking boy, but he's far too vain. Did you notice how many selfies he takes?"
Kelsea nodded. "I suppose he is a little self-involved." She laughed.
"What is it?"
"I love him, but I shouldn't love him. As dad would say, he's a doofus."
"Total doofus, dear." Her mother licked the salt off her fingers.
They finished the movie, and Kelsea saw that Josh had messaged her five times. Never during their whole relationship had he texted her so often.
"Kelsea, we should talk when I get back from Tahoe . . ."
"Kelsea, this is serious. You need to talk to me . . ."
"Kelsea, I'm sorry if I freaked out . . ."
"Kelsea, we need to talk . . ."
"Kelsea, why are you ignoring me?"
She messaged him back, but she didn't apologize for keeping him waiting. "Good idea. When you get back, let's talk."
And then, "Why so long to respond to my texts?"
"I was busy. You're not the center of my life, you know?"
"Were you watching movies with your mother?" She could hear his voice dripping with sarcasm.
"You don't have to be so mean, Josh. We'll talk when you get back from Tahoe. Have a nice trip." With that, she shut her phone off.
She spent the rest of the night in her room, reading a People magazine.
. . .
That night she dreamt. In her dreams, she was killing the baby. It had Josh's face and was even wearing a baseball cap backwards. She cracked it open and let its little brains scramble in a frying pan. She and her parents prepared it for breakfast.
In another dream, she attended her own funeral. Pastor Luke (or was it Josh?) delivered the eulogy.
"Death by suicide," Luke (or was it Josh?) said. "Only Hell waits for those who murder themselves. And their baby." Josh spoke in Pastor Luke's place. "How could you do it? How could you kill our baby?"
. . .
Kelsea woke up and vomited in her bathroom. The whole time she upchucked, she kept thinking about the life that was inside her. It was obviously too small to be seen. But what did it look like? It was, at this point, five weeks old. What was she going to do? How was she going to tell her parents?
There was a knock at the door. It was her father.
"Kelsea? Are you feeling okay?"
"Yeah. Just a little sick. It must have been something I ate. And I had bad dreams."
"If there's anything you want to talk about, let me know. Good night, dear. I love you."
"Good night, Daddy. I love you, too." She shed a quiet tear. "Daddy?"
"What is it honey?"
"We need to talk."
. . .
She met Josh at the same Starbucks she had discussed things with Luke. He had his hat on backwards. She used to think it was adorable. Now, he just looked like an oversized kid.
"How's Madeline?"
"Do you care?"
"No," Kelsea said flatly. "Not really. It's just polite to ask."
Josh sighed and rubbed the top of his nose. "What are we going to do, Kelsea?"
"I'm not getting an abortion, Josh."
"This isn't just about you, though. What about my life? My plans?"
"I'm not asking you to get involved."
"But it's my baby. I'm already fucking involved. Who the Hell is going to help you out?"
"I talked with my parents."
"That must have gone over well."
"Better than you would expect."
"I take it they were upset."
Kelsea shrugged. "They weren't happy, but they didn't kick me out of the house. I suspect they even look forward to being grandparents."
"So you are going to keep it?" He frowned in a way that made him look forlorn. She must have still loved him because she felt sorry for him.
"Listen, Josh. This is my baby and my body. I've decided to keep it. If you want to be involved, that's fine. But I'm not going to force you to do anything."
"An abortion is out of the question with your parents knowing?"
"An abortion is simply out of the question," she replied. "I know you're the father, but I'm the one who's pregnant. And I've decided that there's a place for this baby in my life. My parents agree. If they didn't, I'd still have it."
"You don't care about what I feel, do you?"
She reeled back as though stung. "Of course I do. But I don't think you care at all about me. You never did." She got up from the table and grabbed her purse. "Good bye, Josh."
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