Ashley stared entranced by the dancing shadows along the grey wall, cast by the moon as its light spilled through the window.
The way the miniscule life-form inside her would be. Both of them – desolate and abandoned, branded and unwanted. She had expected it of Tom. She’d even understood. He had a full scholarship out-of-state and he couldn’t afford to lose it over this. And what would he do with a wife and baby while he pursued his dream of playing college football?
What was more, he didn’t love her. If only she’d known that night. Things could have been different. No, things would have been different. But she’d expected his reaction.
What she hadn’t expected was her father’s. She could still hear the dead air on the other side of the phone, volumes louder than the bellowing that had followed. She was a disgrace, he’d said. A fool. She repulsed him. He’d thrown at her every foul word he knew, every syllable cutting into her like a chain-saw tearing down a falling tree. Then he’d hung up.
The words still stung, fresh in her mind, likely engraved there for all time but she could no longer cry. It was a pain almost too great for the ocean of tears she’d shed earlier.
This wasn’t how her life was supposed to go. This was all wrong.
Now what? The question hung in the air. There were answers, of course. Some easier than others. Or at least more plausible. She reached into the purse next to her, her hand fumbling over the lid of the bottle. It was the way out.
She’d heard it wouldn’t hurt. Anything would hurt less than what she feeling right now. Anything would be better than hanging over the toilet seat every morning, hurling her guts out. Anything would be preferable to the way people would look at her once they could tell. Anything would cut less than what he’d said.
The diminutive, nameless voice in her head nagged at her, amalgamating with all the others and yet defying their chorus.
“I’m scared,” she whispered to no-one in particular. Maybe to the voice inhabiting her head.
Scared to death - the bitter irony of the thought making itself known. What else could she do? Once they found her, ran forensic tests, they would know why. They’d know how limited her options had been. And maybe someday, they’d forgive her.
A chill ran down her spine. Would He forgive her? She knew there was some debate as to whether or not it was a mortal sin. Surely, He would understand. He couldn’t strike her down for doing the thing that had seemed most rational. Besides, think of the other sins she’d committed. The one that had landed her here. Surely the sight of her would disgust Him and eventually, He’d get rid of her. At least this way, it would be painless.
Would it be that way for both of them? She thought of the constant political dispute. Pro-choice versus pro-life. She’d never been forced to pick a side but now both offered just as little hope. If she kept the baby, she’d lose everything. But if she didn’t, she faced eternal damnation. Where was the choice? No, she had to do things this way and face the ensuing consequences, whatever they might be.
She turned the lid on the bottle, uncapping both her solution and the terror lurking beneath her flesh. It was the same terror she’d felt as she’d awaited the results in the public restroom that day. Urgent and hopeless.
Please, God. She pleaded in what would be her last minute. Whether for forgiveness, to feel nothing or simply for an escape, she knew not.
Hands trembling so that the tiny white pills jiggled against the sides of the bottle, she turned the bottle upside down in her palm. The pills that offered deliverance felt cold against her sweaty hand.
They had almost reached her lips when she heard it. The words that were so few but meant everything.
Frozen with fear, she listened again. Nothing came. Add insanity to her problems?
Do it again, if that was You, she whispered.
This time she didn’t hear the voice aloud. It wasn’t loud enough to drown out the mantra of voices confounding her thoughts but she heard it because she was listening for it. It was small but redemptive, moving but still.
Ashley, my child. I am with you always. *
*Matthew 28:20, KJV
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