The Choice


By Amy Fontenot

Mother checked her lipstick in the rear-view mirror as we pulled to a stop at the red light. We’ve driven hours to Atlanta so that we wouldn’t run into my mother’s social circle. My stomach churned again, either from the nerves or the hormones. Mother glanced with contempt at my small bump, as if she could sense I was thinking about the baby. I turned and stared out the window at the steady rain.

“I submitted your admissions for Duke this week,” Mother says in a sing-song voice. I smoothed down imaginary wrinkles on my dress with my trembling hands.

Mother glanced critically at my trembling hands. “You’ll be fine. I’m sure it won’t hurt too badly,” she said in an irritated voice.

Did she mean the pain I felt every time I thought of never holding my baby? I loved the tiny life inside of me.  How could I give this baby the life it deserved if I had nothing? I didn’t have to go to Duke or live in my parents’ gated community, but I couldn’t even afford to buy diapers. What kind of life could I give this child?

My nausea became unbearable, and I struggled to suck in air. I felt trapped. “Pull over, please.”

“Why? Can’t you wait?” My mother’s voice was tight and high-pitched. “Our exit is in four miles.”

“No! Pull over!” I said panicked. Mother swerved onto the shoulder of the road, as I fumbled with the handle and spilled out onto the cold, wet asphalt. On my hands and knees, I heaved until my insides were empty. I felt numb as I climbed back into the car.

Mother stared out the windshield and gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles. Her icy demeanor meant she was furious. “I am so ready for this disaster to be behind us. Can you imagine if someone found out? Your grandfather would have a heart attack! I should tell him so he knows you aren’t as perfect as he thinks!” Her voice was shrilly now, and her calm composure crumbled. Her eyes bulged and her mouth was hanging open as she panted. She snapped on the ice queen back on. Mother checked her makeup in her rearview mirror and pulled back onto the freeway.

“You are never seeing that boy again. You will never tell him. That boy will never have a place in our lives.” Mother says this in a calm, matter-of-fact voice, holding on to her composure.

I bit my lip, and choked on my grief.  I couldn’t ask the baby’s father for help; he didn’t know I was pregnant and I never wanted him to. He worked so hard to make a life for himself, and he wanted me to be a part of that life. I could never face him now. He would be upset after I broke up with him, but he would move on. Eventually I would too.

“Here we are!” My mother said as we pull up to Atlanta Women’s Medical Clinic. She fixed her hair in the mirror as I tried to slow my breathing.

Adoption was an option, but it terrified me to think of my baby with adoptive parents like mine. I was adopted when I was four. I was the accessory that helped them fit in with their friends. I didn’t want my baby to be an accessory.

I climbed out of the car and stared at the entrance. Mother gave me an impatient look and nodded in the direction of the entrance as she made her way across the parking lot. She walked briskly with her head floating high in the air. My feet were frozen in place. I looked down at my frozen feet, and I glanced back at my mother and involuntarily shook my head. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t dispose of the baby inside of me, but I couldn’t keep it either. It terrified me to think of what the future might hold, but I knew I couldn’t walk in those doors. This was my mother’s choice, not mine.

I climbed back in the car and sat in silence with my eyes closed. The driver’s door flew open and then slammed shut. I squeezed my eyes shut and waited for the attack. I opened my eyes and peeked sideways at her. She stared straight ahead with tight, wrinkly lips.

She pulled out of the parking lot and drove back the way we came. I leaned my head against the cool window and closed my eyes. The slam of the car door jolted me awake. I glanced up at the house I called home. I walked inside and slowly walked up the stairs to my room. I packed my biggest suitcase and looked around at what I was leaving.

My door creaked open, and I turned to see Mother. She handed me a thick envelope and sat on my bed. She looked awkward and out of place in my room.

“Keep your car. Your father probably won’t be happy, but how else will you leave?” She gave a shrug to show she didn’t care. “Take your stuff and leave. Go somewhere up north. Give the baby away and you can come back home. If you keep it, then I don’t want to see you here again. I tried to give you a way out, remember that.” Mother shook her head, and sighed. “There is enough money in the envelope to get you established somewhere.”

I looked at her for a minute. I wouldn’t hug her, and she wouldn’t expect me to. I turned and walked down the stairs and out the door.

“Natalie,” Mother said from the doorway, “if you come back alone we will still pay for Duke. We can tell them you went to Europe for a semester. It will be like this never happened.”

I turned and looked at her face, and I saw a hint of regret, but then it disappears.  As I drove down the street, I looked in the rearview mirror. I knew I wouldn’t be back.

Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student