Subway Rider

(This is a second story that happens after Pizza Delivery. If you’d like to know the importance of the art exhibit at the end of this story, please read the previous one.)


Her face reflected on the broken mirror and for a moment she felt as if she had really shattered too. She’d only been with him once but she knew he wouldn’t be happy about this news. Hell, she wasn’t happy. She’d worked her entire adult life to becoming partner at Blane, Beck, and Taylor marketing firm and she was almost there. Thirty-nine years old and on the fast track to partner. But then she was weak at the Christmas party and let Jackson seduce her in the coat closet.

She wasn’t a virgin by any stretch of the imagination but her experience with Jackson was definitely not something you read about in romance novels let alone something you write home about and afterwards he acted like nothing happened. Hell, maybe he was so drunk he didn’t remember.  She looked up into the shattered glass in the gas station bathroom and cringed. There was no way she was ready to be a mother, especially with an absent father. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to be one, ever.

Her life worked for her the way it was. She got up at four am every day and went swimming laps in her apartment complex’s pool. Then at five she got ready for work. She caught the A train at six oh two am and sat at her desk promptly at six twenty-nine am where she stayed until seven thirty pm before catching the B train at seven forty-two pm home to eat dinner, sleep, and repeat the pattern the next day. The only time her routine changes was when her company threw a client party or held a client dinner.

Sometimes on the weekends she didn’t work – which weren’t very often – she’d go see her mother in the nursing home. Only sixty-four, her mother had the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease and being the only child Alice didn’t have time or energy to take care of her so she paid for her stay at the home and visited when she could – which was admittedly not as much as she would like. Alice pulled her thoughts from her own mother and laid her hands gently on her flat stomach. She had no time for her mother and she would have no time for a child.

She thought about telling Jackson to see what he would say but she tossed that thought aside. They barely knew each other and he would probably insist the baby wasn’t his anyway, especially since he probably didn’t remember their little tryst. No, she would take care of this herself. Her heart felt as shattered as the rest of her. There was a banging on the bathroom door.

“Just a minute!”

Alice splashed water on her face and dried it with a paper towel. She opened the door and the sun shone in with the warmth of a spotlight, stopping her for a moment before she stepped aside to let the next person into the room. She clenched her jaw and knew that she would make an appointment with her doctor in the morning to confirm everything and get more information on her options. She set her troubles aside and went to work.

The doctor appointment the next morning confirmed her fear, she was pregnant.  About six weeks. The doctor saw how upset she was by the news and had Alice sit in the room for a moment and when the doctor came back she handed Alice some pamphlets – some for adoption agencies and some for abortion clinics.

“It’s not for me to tell you what path you should take, Alice. That’s between you and your God. But I believe everyone should know their options.”

Alice just held onto the pamphlets and nodded. “Thank you.”

“Not to rush you Alice but if you’re going to abort you’ll need to make the decision fairly soon. While it can be done before eighteen weeks it’s best not to go past the twelfth or thirteenth week as there are less complications before then. You’ve still got about four or five weeks to decide but don’t wait until the last minute. You don’t want to regret any decision you make.”

Alice thanked the doctor again and headed home. She decided to take her first sick day in eleven years. When she got home she started her bath water and stripped naked, standing in front of her full length bath mirror. She stood there and just took herself in. Strawberry blond hair tucked neatly into a bun. Pale blue eyes open wide with a touch of fear. Nose almost so straight as to be called regal.  High cheekbones, full lips on a largish mouth. Her eyes roamed down her body taking in its strength and poetry. Her muscles were toned from her daily swimming. Her breasts were decidedly not as perky as they were in her youth but still full and beautiful. Her waist slightly tucked in and her hips flared out. At five-five she wasn’t super tall but her legs were long. Her inner thighs gently caressing each other like two lovers.

She put her hand on her stomach again and spread her fingers over it. There was a life in there. A tiny bean shape soon to be person, relying on her for nourishment and safety. Tears started to fall and she wiped them with her other hand. She had no idea what she was going to do. Pressing her hand against her stomach she released a deep sigh and turned to the tub. She shut off the water and got in, sinking so deep that only her eyes and nose were above the water. She had no idea what tomorrow would bring but today she was going to forget her troubles by eating a pint of Häagen-Dazs and watching daytime soap operas after her bath.

The next day at work was difficult for Alice. She had a secret and a secret about that secret. She had no idea what to do. She needed to make lists. Lay out the pros and cons of each situation. She also needed to make appointments in order to get that information. She pulled out the pamphlets the doctor gave her and making sure her office door was closed she made the call to Planned Parenthood and Agape Adoptions.

Once the appointments were made she tried to focus on work. She had a lot to get caught up on since she took yesterday off. Alice had always been good at compartmentalization so she put aside her thoughts on her pregnancy and set about work. There were reports to familiarize herself with and meetings to sit through. Her assistant Marjory brought her a bagel with garden veggie schmear and a bottle of vitamin water for lunch and the next thing Alice knew it was 7:25pm. She pulled herself together quickly to catch the train home.

She always enjoyed riding the subway because she liked people watching and wondering what kind of lives they had. Almost everyone on this car was a creature of habit. At least, in the fact that they rode the same train every day and almost always sat or stood in the same places. Personally she liked to stand at the back of the car so she could see everyone. There was an older man in a denim jacket who was always on his phone the whole ride. His face looked like he used to be a boxer, everything was crooked or smashed together. His hair was aggressively balding, like what little hair he had was embarrassed to be seen hanging out with the mess of his face.  

There was a young couple who sat near the doors. The woman had soft golden hair and an open innocent face. Her partner had short dark brown hair and never took his hands or eyes off her. That they were in love was obvious. Alice wondered what would happen if the young woman found out she was pregnant.  It wasn’t hard to figure that her young man would adore her even more. They definitely had enough love between them for a child. But Alice was well aware you needed more than love. You needed time and patience sprinkled with a healthy dash of hope – something she just didn’t have.

Alice looked away from the young couple and her eyes rested on a woman sitting next to where she stood. She always wore scrubs and more often than not they had unicorns on them. Her straight black hair always up in a high ponytail. Alice smiled at her and hoped she worked with children. The woman had a calming air about her. Alice got off at her stop and walked the short way home. She decided to eat a frozen dinner and go to bed early.

Over the days while she was waiting for her appointments she did some people watching at work. Or, more appropriately, person watching. Where once she may have only acknowledged Jackson when he was in a meeting with her, now she watched him all the time. She wasn’t really sure why. He was a nice enough guy and yeah he was good looking but that and a quickie fuck in the coat closet only got you pregnant. It didn’t make a family.  

She never worked with him directly on any of her projects but their assistants were friends. Alice liked the way he treated his assistant, Evelyn. He was always kind even when she made a mistake. Jackson had a nice even temper and eyes that sparkled with laughter. Alice couldn’t remember ever seeing him without a smile on his face.

She was pretty sure he had no idea who she was outside of the office which made her decision on whether or not to tell him even harder. She didn’t want to marry him for Christ sakes, she just wanted his opinion…or thought she did. By the time she got to her appointment with the adoption service her head was even more messed up than before.

Alice sat on the couch in the office. In front of her sat Beatrice Long, adoption counselor. She wore black slacks and a dark red blouse that flattered her pale complexion. Alice studied the laugh lines around Beatrice’s mouth and relaxed a tiny bit.

“Thank you so much for coming to see us Alice. I’m to understand that you just found out about your pregnancy recently. Is that correct?”

“Yes about two weeks ago.”

“That would make you about what..?” Beatrice shuffled through some papers. “Eight weeks now it seems.”

“Yes.” Alice gripped her hands together.

“So our first visits are just about getting to know the women and answering any questions you might have. Do you mind if I ask you some questions?”

Alice cleared her throat. “No, not at all.”

“Great. What is it you do for work?”

“I’m a marketing executive at Blane, Beck, and Taylor.”

“That sounds like fun. Do you work a lot of hours?”

“A lot of twelve hour days.”

“Is the father someone you work with?”

Alice gripped her hands tighter. “Yes.”

“Have you told him yet?”

“No I haven’t.”

“Why not?” Beatrice looked at Alice expectantly and Alice started turning red.

“Because we don’t have a relationship. We barely know each other. This…” Alice waved her hand around her stomach, “was the result of a drunken one night thing. Besides, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t remember.”

“I see.”

“Would I have to tell him if I go this route?”

Beatrice leaned back in her chair. “Technically no, but it is recommended that way he doesn’t cause trouble down the road for the adoptive parents. I always recommend telling the father simply because you didn’t do this to yourself and I’ve had adoptions fall through when fathers find out. It usually ends up with the birth parents getting together and raising the child themselves. Sometimes it works out but other times I’ve had mothers comeback after a year or so because the father realized how hard it was being a parent and left her alone and even though she tried to be the best single mother she could be she just couldn’t, or didn’t want to, do it alone and now she has a toddler that she’s loved and cared for outside of her body for months as opposed to just the first nine months in her body.”  

Beatrice looked at Alice with pain in her eyes. “It makes it harder to let go.

Alice felt her eyes tear up at the situation Beatrice had painted. She knew if she kept the baby after birth she’d never be able to give it up, with or without Jackson.

“How do you choose the adoptive parents?”

Beatrice handed Alice a tissue. “It’s a pretty rigorous process. We conduct lots of interviews – neighbors, friends, coworkers. We check finances and do an extensive medical history. We also do home visits. On top of all that the parents have to write a personal essay explaining why they want to adopt. It’s a grueling process but it’s up to us to make sure the adoptive parents are suitable.”

Beatrice crossed her legs as Alice folded the tissue. “Will I be able to see my baby after it’s born?”

“Do you mean in the hospital or when it’s been placed?”

“Both I guess.”

“Some people think you need to hold your baby after the birth for closure but that is completely up to you. As is if you want the adoptive parents in the delivery room. After the birth we have open and closed adoptions. Closed adoptions are just that. Closed. You give birth and never see the baby or parents again. In open adoptions you and the parents communicate over the years. Typically they send photos and updates and occasionally when the child is old enough to understand they will bring the child to meet you. The extent of the openness is between you and the parents.”

Beatrice looked long at Alice and then sighed.

“But I’ve given you a lot to think about.” She handed Alice a yellow folder filled with papers. “Everything we talked about plus more is in this folder. Take it home and look it over at your leisure and let me know if I can help you in anyway.”

Beatrice stood up and showed Alice to the door. As Alice walked to the train her head felt like it would explode and she felt like she was going to throw up. She pulled some crackers from her bag and started to nibble on one while she tried to process everything that she just hear. On her way back to work she called her assistant Marjory and had her clear Alice’s afternoon meetings. Marjory also informed her that Mr. Blane wanted to see her as soon as she got back in the office. She gave Marjory her thanks and leaned her head on the wall.

When Alice got back in the office she handed Marjory her jacket and bag and went to knock on Mr. Blane’s door.

“Come in!” Came the booming voice.

Alice went into the office. Mr. Blane rose from his desk and met Alice with a hug. It was brief but exactly what she needed and she almost cried.

Mr. Blane grabbed her shoulders and held her back. “My dear girl what is wrong with you?”

Alice never had a father figure growing up but working here Paul Blane became her mentor and father so hearing the concern in his voice was almost her undoing. Alice pulled herself together, whisking away any stray tears that might have fallen.

“I’m find, Paul. Just feeling under the weather.”

“I hope it’s not serious. You got a lot of doctor appointments coming up. Do you need to take some time off?” He looked concerned.

Alice gave him a half smile. “No Paul. I’ll be okay. Just woman stuff.”

“Hmph. That means it’s none of my business. But remember you can tell me anything Alice.”

She looked at him. Really looked at him. His white wispy hair neatly combed down, light brown eyes with gold flecks still as clear as they were when he was younger; pinstripe suit with precise creases. He still wore his wedding ring even though his Sarah died fifteen years ago. And for a brief moment she wanted to share her secret with someone. Her burden had gotten too heavy, too quick. She wanted someone else to make the decision for her. She didn’t want this responsibility anymore. So badly did she ache to bare her soul that she opened her mouth but her voice got caught in her throat.

“I-I want to tell you Paul, just-just not yet.”

He rested his palm on her cheek. “There, there, my dear. There is no rush. You tell me in your own time or not at all. But if you do tell me I’ll help you carry this heavy burden, okay?”

Alice sighed. It was exactly what she needed to hear. She rested her hand over his. “Okay.”

He smiled, “Good, now get back to work.”

Alice smiled back, “Yes sir.”

Two days had passed and the lightness she felt from talking to Paul was starting to retreat away from the darkness that seemed to be following her. This time she was sitting in a padded chair in front of Carole O’Neil, abortion counselor at Planned Parenthood.

“Good morning Alice, how are you today?”

“I’m as well as can be expected I suppose.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Carole moved some papers around. “I see your doctor recommended us. Have you been anywhere else?”

“I went to Agape Adoptions a couple of days ago for adoption information.”

“Good. We like it when our women have all the facts and Agape is one of the better ones. They don’t guilt you out of an abortion with religion.”

“Yeah everyone seemed very nice.”

Carole looked at Alice and noticed how nervous she was. “How about I tell you your options and we go from there?”  

“That sounds good.”

“Okay there are two ways to have an abortion. The first way is with medication. You’ll take one pill in the office and one about twenty-four hours after you get home. It will feel like a miscarriage and take several days but you will have it at home with whomever you want with you. The second option is here in the clinic. The procedure takes about ten to fifteen minutes and then you can go home.”

Carole clasped her hands under her chin and rested her elbows on the desk. “The medicine option is only available up to ten weeks and since you’re almost nine weeks now I would recommend against it so you have more time to think about your decision. With either procedure you will need three appointments. One for lab work. One for the counselor. And one for the procedure. We do our best to try and schedule the lab work and counselor together but sometimes it doesn’t work depending on your schedule.”

“How soon can I go back to work?”

“The next day if there’s no complications, and there rarely are any.”

“How will I feel after?”

Carole took a deep breath. “That completely depends on you Alice.  Some women are relieved, some are heartbroken, and some are both at the same time. This is why it’s important to meet with the counselor beforehand.”

Carole handed Alice a blue folder with information. “Look through the information and call me if you have any more questions okay?”

Alice took the folder, “Okay. Thank you.”

At home later that night Alice dropped the blue folder with the yellow one, got into a pair of yoga pants and a Harvard t-shirt and decided to eat a whole pint of Belgian Chocolate Haagen-Dazs and watch When Harry Met Sally.

The next week was hell for Alice. Her emotions were all over the place and she gained five pounds from all the ice cream she ate. The only thing she knew for sure right now is that she needed to tell Jackson. So what if that came from a place inside of her that needed to share her burden with someone. She had Marjory call Evelyn to schedule a meeting with him on Friday afternoon.

Alice had been dreading this appointment all week. She scheduled it for her office so she had home court advantage. Not that it really mattered but she felt safe in her office. She really only wanted to see if Jackson remembered their dalliance in the closet. She had no plans on telling him about the pregnancy. Regardless, she knew if he made her feel bad about anything, she could go to Paul and he would fire Jackson in a second. Not that she’d actually do that but it gave her a measure of comfort. The time came and she heard him talking to Marjory who just sent him into the office. Alice ran her hands over her hair quickly and stood up to greet him.

Jackson glided, yes he glided, into the room with a smile. “Hello Alice. How are you doing today?”

“I’m well thank you.” She directed him to a seat in front of the desk.

As he sat he said, “You look lovely today.”

It threw Alice off her game a little and she blushed and stammered, “Th-thank you Jackson. You look good as well.”

He just smiled and got comfortable in his chair and waited. Alice looked at her desk and moved a few things around, trying to come up with something to say.

Jackson let her fumble for a minute before breaking the ice. “You wanted to meet with me about something Alice? I’m not aware of any teams we’re on together right now.”

Alice cleared her thoughts and looked at him. His short brown hair was combed into place. His facial hair trimmed and fashionable along his jaw. His green eyes and sensual mouth both bracketed by smile lines. Alice looked over his lean, athletic body sitting so casually in her chair. She remembered what his skin felt like sliding against hers. The softness of his lips. The desperation in his voice as he sought his release.

Jackson cocked his eyebrow and cleared his throat and Alice realized she was almost drooling over him. Her face burned bright red and she placed the back of her hands on her cheeks as she tried to apologize but Jackson just waved it off.

“No need to apologize Alice. I remember that night too.” He let out a relieved sigh. “I didn’t want to say anything in case you wanted to forget it and it’s been two months now without a sign from you so I just assumed you’d want to forget. If I’d known you remembered I probably would have approached you sober.”

He cocked his head to the side. “Would you have accepted a sober invitation from me, sweet Alice?”

“I…” Alice’s mouth forgot how to work and instead it started gaping like a fish. He remembered? And he wanted to see her again? This was not something she expected from him.

“Alice, are you okay.” Jackson started to look concerned “Do you need a drink of water?”

Alice could do nothing but shake her head.

“I’m sorry if I’m coming on too strong. I just have been watching you over the last several years and didn’t know how to approach you. Granted, attempting to seduce you while I was drunk was definitely not how I wanted to go about dating you.”

He gave a crooked smile but Alice kept staring. Not in any of her wildest dreams had she ever imagined that Jackson actually wanted to date her. He was always so nice to everyone with a kind, uplifting word for all the women in the office. Frankly, before their little escapade she thought he might have been gay. He was straight and he lusted after her? Never in a million years. The closest thought she had was that they might be friends at some point.

She wasn’t sure how she felt about this. Hell, she’d been so focused on her pregnancy she never even wondered how Jackson might have felt about their tryst other than trying to forget it.

She opened her mouth to say something, anything, so he didn’t think she had a marshmallow brain but neither of them were prepared for what she said.  

“I’m pregnant.”

Alice slammed her hands over her mouth, eyes wide. Jackson’s face went comically blank. The air between them got thick. They stared at each other without saying anything for a full three minutes.

Jackson cleared his throat. “Is it-is it mine?”

He looked a little green. Alice could only nod her head while she watched the emotions fly across his face.

“Are you sure?” Jackson’s jaw twitched and Alice nodded again.

She could see it so clearly, her whole world crumbling around her. Oh it might have been a pretend world where she and Jackson fell in love and raised the baby together but it was real for a moment. A brief moment. And now Alice could see he wanted to deny her and her baby, but…wait. Why wasn’t he leaving yet? Why wasn’t he ranting and raving about the baby not being his. He was just sitting there looking green.

Alice removed her hands from her mouth and whispered, “Say something. Please.”

Jackson loosened his tie. “I don’t really know what to say. Do you know what you’re going to do?”

Alice let out a deep sigh. “No, I’ve been a mess the last 2 weeks trying to figure out what to do. I wasn’t even sure I was going to tell you until after the words just left my mouth.” Alice looked sheepish.

“I’m glad you trusted me enough to tell me.” He leaned forward in his chair, put his elbows on his knees and interlocked his fingers. “We’ll figure this out together. If you want my help I mean.”

Alice’s heart felt fifty pounds lighter. “Yes, I would like that. You’re sure you don’t mind?”

Jackson stood and walked behind her desk. Taking her hand and pulling her up into his arms. “I don’t mind Alice. I’ll be whatever you need.”

They stood there in her office, him hugging her. As the weight shifted from her shoulders she wrapped her arms around him, laid her face on his chest and started silently crying. This right here was what she needed to continue with her journey. This nonjudgmental partnership. It wasn’t love but who needed that when you had a friend to help carry your burdens?  

Jackson rubbed her back and let her cry. “Don’t worry Alice we’ll figure it out.”

Alice whispered her thanks. “Will you come over tomorrow night and go over some information with me?”

“Absolutely. I’ll bring dinner. Are you craving anything yet?”

Alice let out a sharp laugh. “Yes, Häagen-Dazs and I’ve gained five pounds from it.”

Jackson gently held her away from his body and looked at her stomach.

“I’d still do you.” He said with a twinkle in his eye.

Alice snorted loudly. “Ha, you say that now.” She stepped out of his arms. “Go on back to work Jackson. I need to freshen up my makeup before this afternoon’s meeting.”

“Okay but let me know if you need anything at all.”

“Okay.” Alice shooed him out of her office and pulled out her compact to assess the damage.

The next evening Alice was at home getting ready to see Jackson. She tried on six different outfits before settling on some white cotton slacks and an emerald green tank top. By the time she had finished vacuuming and rearranging the couch pillows twenty times Jackson finally knocked on the door. Alice opened it and let him in.

“I didn’t know what flavor you liked so I brought three: Vanilla, Chocolate, and Strawberry. Definitely the tamer of the flavors but I didn’t know how wild you got. I also ordered Chinese which should be here soon.”

Alice took the ice cream and put them in the freezer.

“That was very thoughtful of you Jackson but you didn’t need to.”

“I really did Alice. Let me do this nice thing for you, okay?” He reached over and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

“Okay.” Alice smiled and there was another knock on the door.

“That’ll be dinner.”

Alice went to the door and grabbed the food while Jackson paid. Alice put the food containers on the kitchen table and grabbed some plates and two glasses of water. They both sat down to eat dinner in silence. The quiet wasn’t awkward. It was more like being with a friend you haven’t been with in years and your soul used the quiet to get reacquainted.

They smiled at each other over the food and when they were done eating they both leaned back in their chairs and just looked at each other. Their eyes reacquainting themselves with the other.

Jackson wiped his mouth and cleared his throat. “So, you have some information for me to look over?”

All of a sudden Alice got nervous. “Yes it’s over by the couch.”

Alice got up to get the folders and when she turned around Jackson was standing right behind her. He reached his hand out to her cheek and gently pulled her lips into his. Alice moved closer into him and he took control of their kiss.

When he finally pulled away he rested his forehead against hers. “I’ve been wanting to do that since I started working with you eight years ago.”

Alice was shocked. “You did?”

“Mhm.”

“Oh well why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because you were untouchable. So smart, strong, and beautiful. What if you rejected me? My fragile ego couldn’t stand a blow like that so I just watched you from afar, living for the moments you would smile at me.”

He gave her a crooked smile and then kissed her forehead. “Now let me see what you’ve got.”  

Alice gave him the folders to read and then went into the kitchen to get a bowl of all three flavors of the ice cream. She ate her ice cream in the kitchen to give him space to process everything. After her second bowl of ice cream Jackson called out for her.

“Yes, did you finish everything?”

“Yeah I did. That’s some heavy stuff. Do you have any idea what you’re going to do?”

“No but …I have a list.”

“A list?”

“Yeah, a pro/con list.”

“Can I see it?”

“Yeah let me get it.” Alice went into her room and got the lists and then handed them to Jackson.

“Have Baby. Pros: Daily sunshine and baby laughter, sweet baby smell, chubby legs to “nom” and unconditional love.” Jackson raised an eyebrow at Alice but kept reading.

“Cons: not sleeping through the night, colic, being a single mom, explosive dirty diapers, and temper tantrums.  I see you’ve thought this through.”

Jackson looked at the second list. “Adoption. Pros: help another couple have a baby to love, have a piece of Jackson in the world. Cons: baby weight, stretch marks, time off work, coming home with no baby, and an empty spot in my soul.”

Jackson turned the paper over for the next list. “Abortion. Pros: minimal time off work, no pregnancy body, maintain freedom, life continues as normal. Cons: pain – physical and emotional, “what-ifs”, probably not what Jackson wants.”

Alice slid into her arm chair and pulled a blanket over her lap. Jackson put the lists on top of the folder and leaned back on the couch. The longer he was quiet the more nervous she became.

“Would you like to know my thoughts?”

Alice nodded her head.

“I think I’d like to be a dad – if I was with the stay at home mom type, but neither of us would be willing to quit work to raise the baby and if I won’t do it it’s not fair to ask you to.”

Alice relaxed fractionally.

“I also don’t think I really have a say in your decision if you decide not to keep the baby but I will support you and your decision no matter which one you made.”

Alice started crying. “Oh I’m sorry. I’ve been waterworks central since getting pregnant.”

Jackson chuckled and gave her the box of tissues off of the coffee table. “How about we watch a movie. Something funny. You pick.”

Alice gave Jackson an appreciative grin and went to grab Tammy. “This is one of my favorites.”

“Perfect. Now come sit next to me.”

Alice did as he asked and he put her feet in his lap, absently rubbing them. Later that night when she was about to go to sleep she realized how lucky she was in her life. If Jackson had been anyone else this could have gone so differently.

Alice found herself sitting in the doctor’s office wondering, yet again, if she was doing the right thing. Jackson had offered to come with her but all she had to do was lab work and see the counselor today so she told him to just go to work and she’d see him later.

The nurse had just left with what had to be half of Alice’s blood when there was a knock on the door and an older woman came into the room. Her gray hair was cut into a bob, her light blue eyes surrounded by thick lashes with just a tad bit of mascara, pink gloss on her lips that matched the shade of her blouse. She came into the room with her hand extended.

“Hello Alice, my name is Beth. How are you doing today?”

Alice shook her hand pleasantly surprised at Beth’s firm grip.

“I’m well thanks.”

“Good, I’m glad to hear that. So, you’re thinking about getting an abortion.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Okay, I’m just going to talk to you for a couple of minutes before you leave if you don’t mind. “

“Of course not.” Alice straightened her black blouse and waited.

“How long ago did you find out you were pregnant?”

“I was six weeks so about five weeks ago.”

“And how long ago did you start thinking about this alternative?”

“Probably about three or four weeks ago.”

“Good. We like our women to have given it some time to sink in. How are you feeling emotionally?”

Alice took a deep sigh. “I’m a mess actually. I thought that once I made my decision I would feel better but I’m just feeling conflicted. Tell me that’s normal.”

Beth gave Alice a soft smile. “It is actually. I’ve never had a patient come in feeling otherwise. This is a very difficult decision to make and you have to come to terms with a lot of things before you go through with it. If you weren’t conflicted I’d be concerned.”

Beth patted Alice’s knee. “Now, why do you want to do this?”

Alice paused a moment before she spoke. “I just don’t have time for it. Oh that sounds crass doesn’t it? I mean, I’m thoroughly vested in my job and have been working towards partner for a while and once that happens I will barely have time for my plants let alone a tiny human.”

“I understand Alice. Believe it or not that’s one of the most common reasons women seek an abortion. How about we go ahead and make that appointment for you. Remember, you can change your mind at any time all the way up to the beginning of the procedure, okay?”

“Okay.”

Alice left the office with an appointment and a little less fear in her gut. When Alice got back to the office she had Marjory call Jackson over. He came in and went straight to give her a hug. She let herself enjoy his arms a moment longer before she pulled away.

“Thank you for coming Jackson.”

“Always. Are you feeling okay?”

“Yes I just wanted to let you know I made an appointment at the clinic for next week.”

Jackson grabbed her hand in his. “Are you sure?”

Alice stared into his bottomless green eyes and nodded.

“Yes I’m sure.”

“Do you – want me to go with you?”

Alice was thankful she didn’t have to ask him. “I do but I want to do the procedure alone. I want you with me after though. That is, I mean, if you don’t mind.”

“I absolutely don’t mind. I’m honored that you want me there at all.” Jackson pulled her hand to his lips and placed a gentle kiss on the back of it. “Should I come over for dinner tonight?”

Alice’s breath caught. “Yes. I’d like that.”

“Good, I’ll be there around eight.” He gave her a bright smile and left her office.

Alice slide down into her chair and felt something loosen in her chest. This was a hard thing she was going to do but it was made easier by having someone on her side supporting her.

A week went by and Alice was sitting in the doctor’s office again. The nurse came in pushing a tray of instruments. She turned around to make sure Alice was wearing the thin paper gown. Alice looked at the nurse and thought she recognized her.

“Do we know each other? You look so familiar.”

The nurse looked at Alice with her violet eyes.

“Yes, you’re right. You do look familiar. My name is Vanessa.” She held out her hand and Alice took it.

“Alice. I’m not sure where but I’m sure you’re not a client.”

“As I’m sure you’ve never been here before.”

Alice looked over Vanessa’s black hair in a high ponytail, her black scrub bottoms and the unicorns on her top and snapped her fingers.

“The subway! You sit next to me on the subway.”

Vanessa’s eyes lit up in recognition. “Yes, you’re right. What a small world.”

The women smiled at each other and as odd as it seemed, Alice felt more comfortable to have Vanessa in the room with her. The doctor came in and gave Alice a light sedative and some pain pills and once it all kicked in she began the procedure. When the doctor was finished she told Alice to take her time getting up.

“Let Vanessa know when you are ready and she’ll wheel you out the front. You do have a driver right?”

“Yeah he’s in the lobby.”

“Good. I’ll see you next week for your follow up. Take care of yourself Alice and feel free to call us if you have any questions.”

“Thank you.”

The doctor left and Vanessa busied herself with cleaning up while she waited on Alice. After about fifteen minutes Alice let Vanessa know she was ready and Vanessa went to get the wheelchair.

When she came back in the room she said, “The doctor wanted me to give you an iron shot to help with your healing.”

“Okay.” Alice rolled up her sleeve while Vanessa got the shot ready.

“You’re going to need to sit here for about five minutes to make sure you don’t have a reaction then I’ll take you to your ride.”

Vanessa helped Alice into the wheelchair and then went to get Alice’s discharge papers. When she came back Alice was having trouble keeping her eyes open.

“Something s’not right. I feel too tired.”

“That’s from the extra sedative I gave you. Now be a good girl and do be quiet while I bring you out to your ride.”

But instead of going to the front Vanessa wheeled Alice out the back door to a dirty brown sedan.

“Help me get her in.”  

A man with dark brown hair and cold blue eyes got out of the car and helped Vanessa put Alice in the back seat.

“You’re sure she’ll be quiet?”

“Yes I gave her enough sedative for three people. She’ll be docile until you get her hooked up at the lab.”

The man grunted his acknowledgement and got back behind the wheel. Vanessa went back to work like nothing happened. About forty-five minutes later Jackson went to the front desk looking for Alice.

The receptionist looked on the computer. “She was released almost an hour ago sir.”

Jackson looked lost. “But I’m her ride home, she wouldn’t, couldn’t have left without me.”

“Let me check with her nurse.” The receptionist went into the back and came back with a worried looking Vanessa.

“You’re Jackson?”

“Yes, of course I am. Where’s Alice?”

“Oh dear.” Vanessa started wringing her hands. “I’m so sorry. She said you were going to meet her around back. That she didn’t want to face anyone in the front of the office so I took her out the back door and helped her get into a dark blue SUV and then the guy just drove off.”

“WHAT!?” Jackson was livid. “There is no way in hell she just got into a car with someone else. I’m calling the cops!”

The cops were called, statements were taken, a search of the surrounding property was performed. Her name and face along with a reward were released to the news. Weeks and months went by with no sign of Alice anywhere.

Until one day, Jackson got an invitation for an art exhibit in the mail.

Fin.