Chapter 1

“Kevin.”

“Yeah?”

The warm night air stroked their bodies with feather-light currents, insects sang and frogs croaked to one another from one side of the swimming pool to the other. Beyond, the silence formed a dark enveloping womb around them.

“I’m late.”

“For what?”

“My period. I’m a week late.”

The silence pressed between them, charged with tension.  At last Kevin said, “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

Somewhere a dog barked and in a moment a hullabaloo of barking filled the night as neighboring dogs joined in.

“Do you think you’re pregnant?”

“I don’t know.”

The sharp edge of panic shaded Jane’s voice. The dogs kept on barking.

“It could be a false alarm, couldn’t it?”

“I’m very regular.”

Kevin sat up abruptly and pushed his hands through his hair.

“What are you going to do?”

“What am I going to do? This is our baby, not just mine.”

The suspicion that she was pregnant which had been growing insistently within her for the last week transformed itself suddenly into an undeniable certainty.

“O.K. I know. But you can`t… . What’ll your folks say? What’ll mine say!”

“I don’t know. I’m scared, Kevin. I don’t know.”

“Jane, listen,… I’m not saying anything… I’m… I’m…Oh! Christ… A baby!

Kevin covered his face with his hands.  Jane sat beside him tense with anxiety, watching the reflected moonlight trembling on the surface of the water in the pool.

“A baby,” she thought. “I have a baby growing inside me… and Kevin…”

She thrust her feet into her sandals and stood up.

“I want to go home Kevin. Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps it’s only a false alarm.”

Instantly his attitude changed.

“I’m sure that’s how it is honey. You’ll see…”

He took her in his arms and held her close. She relaxed against him but her heart was heavy and she received no real comfort from his embrace. They walked to the front of the house and got into the car. The night watchman opened the stout, iron gates and wished Jane goodnight. She smiled and nodded. Kevin drove the car out into the silent, hedge-lined street, and the headlights cut a swathe of colour out of the surrounding darkness. They did not speak as he drove quickly through the dimly lit streets. There was little traffic and they soon drew up in front of Jane`s house.

“Jane … It’ll be all right, you’ll see.”

“And if I am pregnant?”

“We’ll… cross that bridge when we come to it. I won’t let you down Jane, I promise. Trust me.”

“Oh! Kevin,” she whispered.

Her anxiety eased, Jane searched for his lips and they clung to one another, trying desperately to deny the possibility which threatened to tear apart the very fabric of their lives. At last Jane climbed out of the car and ran up the porch steps to her front door. Once it was open she turned and waved before entering the house.

Her home was on a much smaller scale than Kevin`s.  No acres of garden with enormous trees, a swimming pool and a night watchman. No uniformed servants coming and going, no gardeners forever clipping and weeding. But for all that it was a comfortable house with an adequate garden in a pleasant suburb of Santa Laura Vicuña, a city in Argentina.

From the hall window Jane watched Kevin blow her a kiss and drive away. A wave of panic rose within her as the tail lights of the car disappeared around the corner. She felt alone and abandoned. It had taken her so much courage to tell him and his reaction had been…  Trust me he had said. Could she?

Taking off her sandals she turned off the light in the hall and walked up the stairs to her bedroom. Lying in the dark, staring out of the open window at the starlit sky, she faced her situation again and tried to come to terms with the possible predicament she would find herself in if indeed she were pregnant. Would her father kick her out of the house? Would her mother defend her? How would they react? Would they insist on an abortion, or accept the inevitable and receive the little newcomer with good grace? It seemed incredible to her that she did not know. Her father´s quick temper and her mother´s depression since her brother´s death, two years previously, were difficult to gage. It was not easy to understand them or to foresee their reactions. In reality, although she expected the worst, it was quite possible that they might take the baby as the return of Brian.  Perhaps if she handled it from that point of view… If only she were sure… It would be born in October, no… September, which meant a whole year lost, there would be little point in starting to study for a career in March.

What would Bettina say? Like a cat sidling through long grasses towards its quarry, Jane came once more to the central thought which underlay all the others.

  “Kevin won’t want me to have the baby.” and linked to that the other. “Do I?”

Her mind leaped away from the question and she lay trembling. Despite herself, the prospect of all the solutions offered by an abortion spread itself out before her. Perhaps neither her parents nor Kevin’s need ever even know! She was very aware of that, and that was the greatest problem.  Friends’ opinions, postponing a career, motherhood, none of these worried her much, but her parents’ reactions were something else.

   “Am I pregnant? What shall I do? Who can I talk to?” and then, like a sharp knife cutting into her, the conviction. “Kevin won’t want me to have the baby.”

Sleep was impossible. Jane had never felt so wide awake. Her thoughts raced backwards and forwards in an uncontrollable welter of images coloured by her fears. She was afraid of her father, of what he would do. She was afraid that Kevin would leave her; that her mother wouldn’t care; that Kevin’s parents would try to separate them. She was afraid of becoming a mother, of being responsible for another human being at the age of just eighteen. Of being alone.

She slept at last as the sky was turning rosy in its morning prelude before the day.

…………………………

“You’re very quiet, Jane dear. Was it a nice party last night?”

“Lovely thank you, Mum.” Jane forced herself to flash a bright smile across the lunch table. “Why do I tell her lies? Why don’t I say to her … ‘Actually Kevin’s parents were out so we took advantage of being alone together all evening. We had supper by the pool ….”

“Lot’s of people?”

“Not really. We had supper by the pool … chicken in aspic and all sorts of salads and an apricot ice-cream for desert.”

“Apricot? That must have been home-made!”

“Yes, I think it was. Delicious!”

How easy it was to lead her mother away from dangerous topics by mentioning food and intriguing recipies!  Her mother’s usually sad, tired expression softened as she looked back into her childhood and said, “Your Granny used to make apricot ice-creams I remember.  Real cream, beaten thick with sugar and mixed with apricot pulp and then frozen.  Brian loved it!”

Jane listened and wondered,  “Why do you always look backwards Mummy? Granny and Brian are dead. They’ve gone. But I am here. I’m alive and I may even have your grandchild in my tummy. I can’t ever talk to you, I feel you don’t care because I’m not Brian. It’s as if I don’t really exist. Would you have missed me if it had been me that died instead of  Brian?”

The thought brought sudden tears to her eyes and she pretended to choke in order to hide her distress. Her mother patted her between her shoulder blades and asked if she was all right. Recovering, Jane nodded and jumping up, she gathered the dishes and washed them up rapidly in the kitchen sink while her mother sipped her coffee and returned to the past.

…………………………

“Hello?  Jane?”

“Yes.”

“Hi.  You O.K.?”

“Oh, Kevin.”

“What’s the matter? Haven’t you started yet?”

“No.”

“I couldn`t sleep last night, thinking of everything. Is your mother around?”

“No, I’m alone. She’s gone shopping. I’m scared Kevin. I’m scared of my father.”

“Look, Jane, I spoke to a friend of mine today, David. He says he knows a doctor…”

“A doctor?  Kevin… please… please. I don’t want… Please Kevin.”

“It’s the only solution Jane. I’m only nineteen. I’ve just finished my military service. I haven’t even started studying and it’ll be years before I become an accountant. We can’t start off right from the beginning on the wrong foot. It’s crazy!”.

“But…”

“It`s only a tiny bunch of cells right now. It’s nothing more than a bunch of cells, Jane.”

“I can’t think, Kevin. Anyway it may all be a false alarm. I can’t decide anything yet. I want to wait a bit. I’m so mixed up.”

“But you do understand don’t you honey? I love you. I want to be with you always, you know that, but we can’t start a family yet. We have no money, nowhere to live. Even if I got a job now I’d only earn peanuts.”

“Couldn`t your parents buy a little apartment, as an investment I mean?”

“I don’t know. Anyway it’s not something I can ask, is it?  It would have to come from them. I think they’d be furious and expect us to do something about it.”

“But… this would be our baby! Their grandchild.”

“We can’t cut ourselves off from our reality, Jane. You know how you feel about your father. I’m scared too you know.”

“We’d be murderers.”

“Don`t be crazy!  You’re nuts!  It’s only a bunch of cells. I told you. It’s nothing yet.”

“If it were nothing we wouldn’t be like this… so upset I mean. Would we?”

“For God’s sake, Jane, why don’t you face reality for once and stop woollying around!”

“Don’t shout at me.”

“I’m not shouting.”

“Is a pregnancy not a reality for you?”

“Of course it is!  That’s just the point, it’s not just an isolated event, it’s a…  a social one. So many people are involved.”

“But if we’re old enough to make love we should also accept the consequences, shouldn’t we?”

“For God’s sake, Jane, stop philosophizing!”

“Don’t shout I told you.”

“You’re getting on my goat.”

“I’m sorry but I can’t help it. You have your reality, practical, cut and dried, the future all taken care of. In five years’ time, or six, or seven, we’ll start a family.  Until then, any baby that wants to be born… out. We’re not ready for you. But Kevin, how do we know that this baby isn’t destined to be a great leader, a genious, a… a…”

“Or a murderer, or a thief, or a drug addict. Stop meandering, Jane. Stop speculating!”

“We’re quarreling and we’re not even sure that I’m pregnant. I never thought we’d quarrel.”

“God. You’re impossible. Why don’t you…  Look, I’ll ring you later, I can’t go on talking now. Try and see it my way, Jane. Try, please.”

“I do see your way. I want you to see mine.”

“O.K.  O.K. then. ‘Bye. I’ll call you later.”

…………………………

   Mummy, Daddy… I think I’m pregnant… Daddy, Mum, I have something to tell you… Mum, Daddy, I have the most super news…  Mummy, I think I’m pregnant… No.  Mummy, guess what?  You’re going to have a grandchild… I’m going to have a baby, Mummy… I think I’m going to have a baby, you’re going to be a granny… You’re going to be a granny… You’re going to be a granny you’re going to be a granny you’re going to be…

…………………………

“Rowan?”

“Yes.”

“Here is the result of the analysis you asked for.”

“Thank you.”

In the car by Kevin, the envelope trembling in her hand, Jane sat stone still.

“Is that it?”

“Yes.”

“What does it say?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t looked.”

“Here, give it to me.”

The crackle of the envelope as he pulled it open, the swish of the folded paper as he opened it.

“It says positive.”  His voice was flat, lifeless.

She had known. Of course she had known. A woman always knew. Kevin started the car and drove away from the chemist shop rapidly. When they reached a shady, tranquil street, he drew up by the curb and turned the motor off.

“It’s your fault,” he said. “Why did you forget to take the pill?”

“I told you! I told you I had forgotten to buy more. You knew but you insisted Kevin. You said it would be O.K. that you’d take care!”

“You can`t have this baby, Jane.”

“You want me to have it taken away, don’t you?”

“There’s nothing to it!”

“Not for you. You’re not the one who’s pregnant. It’s no more than a cockroach for you …”

“What?”

Jane had spoken so softly Kevin had not heard her.

“Nothing.”

“Look, Jane, you can make a huge drama out of this or you can take it calmly and matter-of-factly. Looking at everything from the outside, what is best, for everyone concerned I mean. Even the baby. You’re eighteen and I’m nineteen. You’re dead scared of what your Dad will say and how he’ll react and you can imagine how mad my parents’ll be if they find out. And then the money. How could we ever have enough to look after a baby?”

“It’s a human being, Kevin. I keep on thinking, what if he or she has some great mission to … to do for humanity, like … like Ghandi or Einstein?”

“Or a murderer! I told you, stop speculating!”

“But if Mummy and Daddy had made the same decision when they started me… I wouldn’t be here… now.”

“ Oh! Jane … “

“ Don’t you see? Everything changes! Don’t you see? Every human being is a part of… of… oh!  Call it history if you like, I don’t know, but if one person disappears everything changes.  Must change.”

“You’re nuts! What difference does it make… if you want to use silly similies which are never valid anyway… what difference would it make to a river if you take a cup of water out of it? Life is like a river, it’s flowing along all the time …”

Jane felt a rush of anger flood through her. This should have been a moment of understanding, of coming closer together, of accepting this child which they had created between them, and it was turning into a cold, horrible quarrel filled with unspoken threats and fear.

“You don’t love me at all, do you Kevin?” she burst out.  “You couldn’t care less for me, could you?  All you wanted was to fuck me… !”

“Jane, Jane,” Kevin shook her gently. “Don’t say those things. It’s not true. I think you’re terrific, super, you know I do. We’ve been going together for six months already and my parents really appreciate you. I love you Jane, please, it’s just … try not to make one huge stew out of all this. Please.”

“Oh! Kevin, I’m sorry. I’m so scared I don’t know what to do. One minute I think you’re right and then… and then… the next that you’re wrong. That no one should ever, ever, destroy life. I mean a human life. Not a cockroach or a mosquito or something like that. It just seems so wrong to me. Simply because this poor little baby would be so inconvenient in our lives we’re planning to kill it. It seems so unfair!”

Kevin, touched despite himself, slumped over the wheel of the car and in unhappy silence contemplated a future in which at twenty he would be a father, a family man, with a wife and a child to worry about and to look after. Living, in his parent’s home or in some tiny apartment rented for him by his father, working all day, studying at night and on weekends in order to get a degree in order to earn more money in order to pay debts … He thought of his sister and brother-in-law with their two babies and their limited, boring life. Everything within him rebelled. He could not, he could not, get hooked on Jane’s emotionalism. His simile had been perfect, what did it matter to a river if one took out a cup of water, or to history in general if one person died or another lived?  Millions of people died and were born every hour and history rolled on, despite them all.

He straightened slowly and said very gently,    “O.K. I understand you. But we could go and speak to this doctor David told me about. Find out how much she charges, what her opinion is, if it would be dangerous for you. We needn’t take any immediate decision but perhaps we should be sort of… well… practical while we’re deciding.  O.K.?”

His change of attitude filled Jane with comforting warmth. She relaxed and slipped her hand into his, feeling that he had, at last, seen her point of view. She felt supported and the thought of facing her mother and father became less terrifying. Of course it was quite sensible to go and see this doctor and find out all the details, that was just being practical. Kevin was always so practical, so clear-thinking. But now she had managed, somehow, to make him understand her muddled and confused feelings; exactly what having a baby was beginning to mean to her. His extreme gentleness soothed her anxious heart and returned a certain degree of serenity to her distraught mind.

Kevin sat looking at her and stroking her cheek very softly. He felt her relaxing and said.    “I understand exactly what you’re feeling. It must be quite something to find one is carrying a child. I understand how that can affect you. I love you Jane. I won’t let you down.  Ever.  We’ll see this through. We’ll work something out. Trust me honey. I love you. I love you so much!  I wouldn’t want you to be hurt for anything in the world!”

Jane smiled a wobbly smile and said,   “O.K. Kevin. I’ll go and see the doctor. Maybe it would be a good idea.”

Kevin, flooded with relief, leaned over and kissed her tenderly.

“That’s my Jane,” he murmured. “I’m sorry I seemed so, well, hard hearted. I’m not at all really. I do understand. I love you Jane I really do.”

Turning soft shining eyes towards him she nodded, and he thought, “How easy that was! Are they all like that?”

………………………..

“Kevin, I’m shaking inside. What if… ”

“This is an interview Janey. We’re just going to ask a few questions, practical questions. She’s not going to do anything.”

A nurse, grossly fat in a pale blue uniform, indicated that they should sit in the waiting room.    White walls, potted plants, two prints of Italy in plain dark frames, a large tourist poster of Spain, comfortable arm chairs, the smell of stale cigarette smoke, the whirr of the air-conditioner in the narrow hall where the nurse sat behind her small desk: Kevin’s knee jerking with a nervous twitch, perspiration on her hands and trickling down the sides of her body from her arm pits… Jane bit her lip and stared at the floor

It was all right. This was only an interview, a practical step to find out all the details. But they had started talking about the baby. They had chosen names. They had begun, tentatively, to look into the future. Kevin understood. He wanted the baby, or at least he understood how she felt.

“The doctor will see you now.”

They rose and walked past the desk and through an open door into what looked more like a sitting room than a consulting room. A woman of about forty five with dark curly hair, spectacles and wearing a white blouse and a navy, pleated skirt, walked in from another room and stretched out her hand towards Jane. Jane shook hands nervously as Kevin introduced her and then shook hands himself.

“Please sit down. How can I help you?” The doctor smiled pleasantly, speaking in Spanish.

“A friend of mine, David Perez, gave me your address.”  Kevin murmered.

“Ah, yes. David Perez. He spoke to me about you the other day. Well, how can I help you?”

“Jane is… er… expecting a baby. Here is… er… the test we had done. We’ve just come so that you could explain to us… er… well, all about pregnancy and all that you know.”

Kevin had begun to perspire profusely, he took a deep breath and added,   “We intend to… to carry on with this and all that, but perhaps you could… er… tell us, if… er… an abortion is something very, you know, very dangerous. Just to know of course.  What it entails and all that.”

“I understand. How many weeks pregnant are you Jane?”

“About two, two and a half I think.”

“Since you should have menstruated last, you mean?”

“Yes.”

“Are you regular?”

“Yes.”

“Good. How old are you?”

“Eighteen.”

Jane`s voice was hardly above a whisper. The doctor`s thin angular face seemed to take on the form of a bird. Her eyes, behind the lenses of her spectacles, were sharp and darted from Jane to Kevin and back.

“I shall have to make an examination,” she said. “But from the looks of it you will have a very easy pregnancy. Eighteen is a perfect age. It will be a matter of diet, regular checkups, and leading a normal life in which no exaggerated activities should be undertaken. Now, as to your desire for information with regard to terminating a pregnancy …  at this stage it is a quite simple matter. First the patient must be checked, there must be a blood test and so on, the usual tests which are made before any sort of surgical intervention you understand. Then, all being well, the patient comes here in the morning early on an empty stomach. She would receive a very light anaesthetic, I would scrape away the cells which are in the process of forming the foetus, which takes about twenty minutes, and then, after resting in another room for an hour or so, the patient is free to go home.  And to bed of course, for twenty four hours at least.”

“Would it affect the patient. I mean would she have problems having babies in the future?”

“But of course not Mr. Plath. This is a surgical operation, performed with all the care and attention necessary. Naturally, the patient always has to take antibiotics for a week after the operation to avoid any risk of infection. That would be all.”

“And… er… when would be the best time to have such an operation?”

“Well, as soon as possible. The longer one waits in these cases the more dangerous it becomes for the mother. After the first three months it is really not advisable any more. I personally don’t perform such operations after the first two months. I am going on holiday in ten days time, for a month.”

The doctor’s eyes darted from one to the other to see if they had understood clearly what she was trying to say. She continued when neither of them spoke.

“If you should decide to have this operation performed I’d like to make it clear that I only try to help, as I try to help all the couples who come to me.  Abortions are against the law as you know, but there are women who perform them who are not doctors and who take no precautions against infections.  Many young women get very ill or even die because of this. That is why I try to help, putting all my experience as a doctor and surgeon at your service. I can assure you that you will have perfect health and will be able to have perfect babies without any trouble in the future, should you decide to go ahead with this little operation.”

“We’re not going to take any decision right now Dr.Blechstein,” Kevin said quickly, glancing at Jane. “However, now that we’re here, do you think you could examine her so that we know exactly how she is?  I would be very grateful.”

“But of course Mr.Plath.”

“Please call me Kevin.”

“Kevin.  Would you please just wait in the waiting room for a moment.”

Jane felt a wave of panic engulf her as Kevin left the room and Dr. Blechstein let down a strechter from the wall, covered it with a crisp white sheet and invited Jane to climb up onto it.

“Perhaps you could take your panties off first,” she added and then, seeing the expression in Jane’s eyes she said. “This is just a routine examination.  Every expectant mother should have one.”

Jane nodded mutely and, pulling off her nickers, she climbed up onto the narrow stretcher and lay stiff and miserable while the doctor examined her with an offhand calmness which was as painful emotionally as it was physically.

At last it was over and Jane was sitting in a chair once more, feeling more like an object than a human being. Dr.Blechstein shut up the stretcher once more and sat down at her desk where she spent quite a long time writing her findings down. At last she said,  “You are in perfect health. It is a real pleasure to examine some-one like you Jane.”

“I… we… feel I should have the baby,” Jane said hesitantly. “I don’t want to have an abortion Dr. Blechstein.”

“Have you thought about how it will be when the child is born?”

Jane shrugged faintly and nodded.

“How will your parents react?”

“I don’t… pretty badly I expect.”

“And Kevin’s?”

“I think they’ll be furious. Furious with us for not being more careful. It wasn’t my fault Dr. Blechstein. I told Kevin I hadn’t taken the pill but he insisted so much and told me not to worry, that he’d take care. I told him, and now I have to go through all this.”

“Of course, I do understand dear. Young men are so demanding, aren’t they? And so sure of themselves.  And then when things go wrong it’s the woman who has to bear the child.  You’re very young. Do you really feel able to face the responsibility of bringing up a child?”

“With Kevin, yes. I think so.”

“And alone?”

“Alone?”

“Kevin is also very young. Both your families may insist on your having an abortion. The social stigma is very strong in certain circles in these cases. If you insist on having the baby and Kevin changes his mind and his parents support him, what will you do?”

Jane covered her face with her hands. Alone? Face her parents alone? No, she couldn’t face it alone, she couldn’t do that. But Kevin wouldn’t… . She wasn’t sure. The fear lurking in her heart flared. No, she wasn’t really sure, really one hundred percent sure that he now felt the same way as she did. That he meant to marry her and let her have the baby. She wasn’t sure that he hadn’t just been humoring her  these last  two days in  order to  get her to  come and  see this Dr. Blechstein. He had been so gentle so agreeable, not really like himself.

Dr. Blechstein touched her shoulder gently.

“Come Jane,” she said. “You mustn’t be afraid of the operation, it is a very small and simple one you know. Kevin seems a fine young man, very good looking, very intelligent and attractive with a fine future before him. What is he studying?”

“Accountancy.”

“Ah. That takes years of course, it’s very exacting career.”

She looked at Jane intently.

At last she said,   “Marriages which start under this strain very seldom last my dear. I feel you should know this. The young men concerned feel their loss of liberty so intensely that sooner or later they usually leave their wives and children. The statistics are appalling.” As Jane said nothing she went on.  “Well, think it over very carefully. If you do decide to change your mind, let me know at once will you?  You can’t afford to wait till I come back you see.”

Jane nodded mutely. Dr. Blechstein hesitated a moment, uncertain as to what she should do, then she opened the door to the hall and asked the nurse to tell Kevin he could return.

“Jane is in quite perfect health,” she said when he came in. “She will have absolutely no trouble with the pregnancy as far as I can see. That will be a hundred U.S. dollars for the consultation. Here are the orders for the blood and urine tests. In that way I shall be able to have a complete picture of her health.”

Kevin paid her, they all shook hands and then Jane and Kevin were out on the hot busy street with cars and buses roaring past. Petrol fumes hung in the limp air, horns honked, breaks squealed, people bumped into them and pushed past them as they stood on the sidewalk, undecided as to what to do.

“Let’s go and have an ice-cream,” Kevin said, and they made their way to a coffee shop. It was cool, dim and spacious. They chose a table near an overhead fan and sat down. Kevin ordered their ice creams from a gaunt, aged waiter with dyed hair and looked at Jane with a concerned expression.

“Are you all right?”

Jane shrugged and nodded.

“Was it bad?  The examination I mean.”

“Horrible.  Kevin, one hundred dollars, so much for the consultation?”

“Any way, at least we know that you’re fine.”

Kevin opened the order for the blood test and read it carefully.

“It says here, you mustn’t eat anything before the blood test.”

“But why have the test if …?”

Kevin’s eyes narrowed abruptly and he looked down, gripping the table with the tips of his fingers. At last he said,  “Janey, the doctor only revised you on the outside but she needs the blood and urine tests to know how you are inside.”

Their ice-creams arrived and they ate in silence. Jane’s mind seemed to be full of words and images, specially the words “Marriages like this very seldom last. The statistics are appalling.” At last, unable to control herself she said, “You do love me don’t you, Kevin?”

“Ph Jane! You keep asking me that and you know the answer by heart!”

“Even if I don`t have the operation?”

They looked into each other’s eyes for endless seconds until at last Kevin dropped his and took another mouthful of the cream.

“How you’ve got it with that!” he exclaimed. “We haven’t decided yet have we? We’re still making up our minds, aren’t we? This is a big decision one way or the other and we’re looking at it from every angle.”

“I thought we had decided.” Jane said in a small voice. Terror filled her. Dr. Blechstein had been right, she would lose him if she didn’t have the operation. It was quite clear, whatever he said, however much he protested he loved her. The price was too high. If she aborted his child he’d go on loving her, but if not…  And if she did, would she go on loving Kevin? Would she even go on liking herself?

Not hungry any more she picked up her handbag and said,   “Let’s go.”

“Aren´t you going to finish?”

“No, I’m not hungry. I want to go home.”

At her front door he said,   “I’ll call for you tomorrow and accompany you to the laboratory.”

She shrugged.

“O.K.”

“´Bye.”

“´Bye.”

She scrambled out of the car without kissing him and ran into the house slamming the door behind her.

“Jane?  Is that you?”

Her mother’s querulous voice reached her from upstairs. Jane scrubbed the tears from her eyes and called,   “Yes, Mum.  Coming.”

Her mother was lying in her darkened bedroom.  “I’ve got one of my migraines,” she whined mournfully.  “Will you go to the chemist and get me some more medicine.”

“Is it very bad?”

“Terrible. The prescription is here on the night table.  If you don’t have enough money, tell them we’ll pay tomorrow.”

It would be days before her mother recovered fully. There would be no chance now of telling her, talking it all over with her.

“O.K. I’ll go now.  Do you need anything before I go?”

“No, thank you.”

Jane went out again into the baking January heat and walked to the chemist three blocks away. She was hardly aware of the heat, or of the traffic. She had to wrench herself back, in fact, when she got to the main street, because she had been about to step off the curb without checking on the lights. A truck roared passed her and she was faintly aware of the featherlike touch of death in the noise and the sidewalk under her feet which trembled from its weight. She bought the medicines for her mother and returned, Kevin’s voice resounding in her ears “We haven’t decided yet, have we? We’re still making up our minds aren’t we?” Yes, this was a big decision, but it was only too obvious that she wanted it one way and he the other… ‘the statistics are appalling’… Did she really want the baby?  Or was she just afraid of the operation and making excuses?  Was she sincere?  Was it because she wanted to tie Kevin to her, even though she was sure they would have a terrible quarrel if she insisted on having her way? She was only eighteen. If she had the operation, if Kevin had the money and could pay for it, then no one would know. She could pretend she had cramps and stay in bed. No one, not even her best friend Bettina, would ever know.  It would all be so easy, so simple and she wouldn’t have to face her father, tell him, see his expression turn to disgust and very probably rage.

But if she did that, this child, this being, this bunch of cells which was going, one day, to turn into a baby, would not be born. Did it want to be born?  Did it indeed have some special mission? Who would it look like? Herself or Kevin?

But if Kevin changed his mind or divorced her and abandoned her as Dr.Blechstein had warned…

Perhaps if she went and told Mrs. Plath…

   “Delyth, I’m pregnant. I’m expecting Kevin´s baby.”

  “…you devious little shrew, getting yourself pregnant just because you want to trap my son into a marriage at nineteen because we have money! We’ll pay for your abortion but if you go ahead and have this child we will disown it. Make up your mind, that is our last word.”  Would they say that? Probably. Rich people didn’t like unforeseen upheavals in their lives. Things like this which only hampered and which could be so easily resolved with a small op’. The poor people like Ana, her mother’s maid, simply accepted the ups and downs of life and did the best they could in the circumstances. Or they went to those women Dr. Blechstein had mentioned and had abortions and perhaps suffered terrible infections which left them weak and ill for the rest of their lives; or else they had stacks of children whom they couldn’t feed or clothe or educate and who died of illnesses or grew up with mental difficulties due to malnutrition. They had studied that in the sociology class at school.

Oh! What to do?  What to do?

Once home she took her mother her medicine, washed her face and hands with cool water, put cologne on her forehead and turned up the fan a little. Then she went slowly downstairs and out onto the veranda overlooking the garden, there she sat in the wicker chair, oblivious of the heat and unable to bare the dim stuffiness of the closed house. They only turned on the air-conditioner later, so that the living room would be cool for when her father came home.

Wearily Jane turned her attention to the magnolia tree and listened to the insistent cheeping of a wren’s fledglings as the little bird flew to and fro, endeavoring to satisfy their insatiable hunger. All over the world mothers had their children and cared for them….

“But I’m only eighteen, I’m too young!”  The cry went up from her heart.

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