The green flecked carpet of the clinic waiting room was worn in spots, relaying the story of the several patients who had paced back and forth. A few dingy rays of sunlight splashed the floor with small puddles of brightness. Everything about the Childress County Free Clinic displayed an atmosphere of tiredness and hopelessness.
Weary mothers sat with their too-pale infants. Young children stared with listless eyes or coughed uncontrollably. An older man working on a two day old beard staggered to the desk and demanded with slurred speech to see a doctor.
Talika pursed her lips and tried to focus her attention on the dated teen magazine in her hands. When the man's argument with the receptionist escalated, Talika glared at her mother beside her.
“Momma, why do we gotta do this?” she hissed.
Her mother drew in a deep breath, closed her eyes, and sighed. She shook her head and glanced at the doors leading to the inner exam rooms.
“If they don't call me soon, I'm gonna leave.”
Talika's mother frowned and laid her coffee brown hand on her daughter's arm. “No, you're not. I want you to stay, to see something that might change your mind.”
“Nothin', Momma, nothin' is gonna change my mind. Jamal and me, we already decided. You only got me here so's we could make sure I was healthy enough to go through with it.”
The corners of her mother's mouth twitched upward in a half-hearted smile.
So much like me we could be twins. In temper and so many other ways, too.
The double doors to the exam area swung open. A petite nurse with orange-red hair and taupe-colored skin glanced over the clipboard in her hand and scanned the room.
Talika tossed the magazine on the side table. “'Bout time. Comin', Momma?” She sauntered toward the nurse, one hand on her belly.
Mrs. Morris followed, clutching her faded blue denim purse with both hands, trying to avoid the derisive jeer of the intoxicated man at the desk.
“In here. You'll need to give us a urine sample.” The nurse pressed a plastic cup with a cover into Talika's hand and motioned toward a door at the center of the hallway. “Just leave it in the bathroom when you're done, then come back to this room and change into the gown on the table.”
Mrs. Morris found a seat in the room and waited for her daughter's return. Her lips moved in prayer as she surveyed the wall chart with pictures of what a developing fetus looked like in each of the nine months. Not for the first time she wondered at what stage her unborn grandchild was.
“Well, that's taken care of.” Talika shut the door behind her, her hands already pulling her sweatshirt up over her head. She donned the gown and gazed at her mother's face.
“You've been prayin' again, haven't you?”
“Sometimes, baby girl, that's all a body can do.”
“I ain't changing my mind,” Talika warned, her eyes narrowed.
A knock on the door and the doctor came in. He extended a hand to Talika, then to Mrs. Morris.
“If you lie down on the table, we'll see what's going on with that baby of yours.” He motioned and Talika obeyed his gesture.
He pushed aside the gown from her belly. “This gel is going to feel a little cold.”
Talika flinched when the doctor squeezed the gooey mess onto her skin. He took a wand like device from a holder by the table and flipped on what looked like a television screen.
“I might not be able to get a reading on your baby if it is very young.” He pressed the wand into her belly and began to move it in a circular fashion, watching the monitor.
“There she is,” he mumbled and turned the screen toward Talika. Mrs. Morris rose from her seat, intent on seeing the evidence of her grandbaby, still praying for a miracle.
She heard Talika gasp, saw her eyes widen in wonder. “Wow. Look at those arms.” Talika's eyes crinkled as she laughed. “Look, Momma! I think she's sucking her thumb.”
Mrs. Morris stroked her daughter's cheek, a tear trickling down her face. In her mind, she praised God for Talika's change of heart. All it took was one tiny revelation.
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