Chapter Nine ~ The Consultation

Chapter Nine ~ The Consultation

A Chapter by aubreydiamond

I had one hand over my rock hard stomach, and the other clutching the crystal around my neck as I made my way back to the café. Taking long, deep breaths as I walked, I tried my hardest not to let the impact of my thoughts cave in on themselves - which felt almost inevitable. My mind had a mind of its own right now if that was possible, and I was just a bystander watching the internal-mayhem unfold.

I kept replaying that night on the island over and over again in my head; Luke felt so genuine when he was explaining his situation, anyone could have believed him. The hardest truth pill to swallow was that he was being dishonest - and he had to of known it too. I couldn't even begin to understand why he felt like he had to do that to me, I was one of the few people on this planet that he could have been completely honest with and confessed in, but instead I had to find out this way - in the aftermath of his death by people I barely know. This whole week had been one big domino effect; after each one crashes, another goes with it.

In what felt like only a few minutes, I'd already arrived at Lazuli’s. I was so lost in the myriad of my own head I'd almost walked past the front door. I could just see Juniper’s bright orange hair through the window to the courtyard from the street-side, head down in her sketchbook. It had only been about half an hour but it was amazing at how relieved I was to see her.

I approached the front door and kicked the wooden panels with maybe a little too much force, making Chloe jump and drop a milk jug onto the floor. She still looked as lost in thought as she did when I left.

‘Sorry,’ I said, approaching the counter.

‘It's fine,’ she said passive-aggressively, bending down to wipe up the hot milk with a damp cloth. ‘Did you give Valerie the bill?’ She asked not looking up at me. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the folded paper of stress and confusion and slammed it on the countertop. Chloe looked up at me again, trying to hide the fact I'd just given her another fright.

‘Nope, She wouldn't take it,’ I said plainly.

‘But, she has to-’ she began, but I cut her off.

‘Look Chloe, just take it back to your dad and tell him to give it to somebody who's actually involved with all of this crap,’ I said rather coldly. She looked almost hurt from this, not knowing how to respond. ‘I'm sorry. I just have way too much going on to deal with it, considering it's got nothing to do with me anyway.’

‘O- Okay.’ She whispered in response, reluctantly taking the bill from the table and stowing it in her apron pocket. A part of me felt bad for being so cut-throat with her, but I was still analysing everything that Valerie had just said that I didn't have the mental capacity to deal with anything else right now. I turned from the counter without saying much else to her and headed for the courtyard.

When I reached Juniper’s table I didn't sit down. I couldn't - I had so much adrenaline pumping through my body I couldn't sit still. Even as I stood there my fingers uncontrollably twitched and clenched in and out of fists. Juniper looked up from her sketch pad with a friendly smile that quickly faltered upon seeing my own expression.

‘I was just about to text you again. What happened?’ She asked, looking worried.

‘He was sick, Berry.’ I cried. ‘He was sick the whole time and I never knew!’

‘W- What?’ She gasped.

I proceeded to tell Juniper everything that Valerie had conveyed to me as quickly as I could; the second bill, Luke’s father, and the medication. When I'd finished speaking Juniper looked exactly as I felt when I'd found out - her skin had gone very pale and she was at a loss for words.

Oh my…’ she whispered. She slid out from her seat and pulled one over for me from another table behind us. I sat in silence for a while, letting the information sink into Juniper while I gave myself permission to just breathe for a few minutes.

When Juniper did manage to find her voice, all that came out was a few stutters and stunted noises as she clearly couldn't convey the words to express. But I understood that all too well. It was as if we were sitting front seats in an emotional roller coaster with no end in sight. I’ve never been a fan of roller coasters.

‘Are you okay?’ Juniper asked me, I looked back at her but I didn't have to speak for her to understand how I felt. ‘Oh, Aro… He never said anything at all? Ever?’

Nothing. What he did tell me apparently seems to be a load of s**t.’

‘Maybe he didn't want to worry you?’

‘But we were supposed to tell each other everything - and he always stood by that. Now I feel like I don't know anything about him at all… I don't even know who he really was.’ I rubbed my eyes from frustration. Juniper began to rub my back in circular motions.

‘I'm so sorry. I wish I could do something to make this all better for you,’ said Juniper sincerely. ‘What if you tried to talk to Valerie again?’

‘I don't know if I want to go back there… she screamed at me to get out, pretty much pushing me out the door with a f*****g cleaver.’

‘Who the f**k does that?! Why did she flip out?’

‘I saw the prescription note for Luke. It's not like it was exactly hidden, I couldn't help but notice it.’

‘What’d it say on it?’

‘I can't remember… antiretro-something. There were a lot of long medicine names I didn't recognise.’

‘Antiretro…’ Juniper repeated. She took her phone out of her pocket and began typing away at something. I could see the word ‘Google’ on her screen. ‘Antiretroviral therapy?’ She said after a very quick search.

‘Yes, that was it.’

She suddenly went even paler as her eyes widened at the screen. Her fingertips pressed against her lips and I could see her hand quivering slightly as she read; her eyes moving from the screen to me, hesitant to verbalise what she had found.

‘Tell me,’ I said pleadingly. I couldn't bare not knowing what this could be if she had the answer there before her, no matter how hard it was going to be to take in

‘Aroha,’ she spoke quietly. ‘It's… it's medication for HIV.’

What…

It couldn't be possible. How could it be possible? How on this earth or on any other world could Luke have had HIV? This can't be true… it can't be HIV… but I saw the prescription with my own eyes. I saw the look of horror in Valerie's eyes when she realised I'd read it. There's proof to say he did but every fibre of my being is telling me that it can't be true. I don't want it to be true.

Yet I saw him… on the island - sick, tired, not the Luke that I knew, or thought I knew. He was a different version of himself, one that he had never exposed me to in our entire relationship. Had the real Luke really been dealing with this his entire life? On medication to fight a disease that was attacking him from the inside? The prescription said since 2003 - he would have been four years old. Valerie must have known the whole time.

Was I supposed to be sad? Distraught? Even sympathetic? Because somehow I wasn't. I'd used every ounce of sadness in my body since this all started that I had nothing left to use. Instead, I was pissed off. All these god damn years and not once did he think to fill me in on his life, just continue to smile and tell me things are all good. Clearly they weren't, and I hated the idea that I was just some extra in his life that he didn't think deserved to know the truth about whatever he was going through. Because now I was that girl. Except I found out at the worst part; when it was all too late to change.

Another daunting reality dawned on me amidst my hurricane of thoughts; HIV was infectious. If Luke had been carrying this in his body all these years, then there's a possibility that it's been passed on to me. We weren’t all over each other all the time; in fact we only rarely kissed or slept together at moments that felt right for us - which were few and far between. Even then we always used protection - except for the last time… that was under different circumstances, and I didn't know half of what I did right now. But that still didn't change anything. I could be HIV positive, and I might've never discovered that if I hadn't gone to see Valerie. Luke's lucky he's gone because if he were here right now I'm not sure I could hold myself back from doing some serious harm.

Juniper kept gazing uncomfortably from her phone to me. She was continuing to search and browse through websites while I sat in a silent rage.

‘Look, I've just been searching online,’ she showed me the Google search on her screen. ‘There's only a one in nine-hundred chance of contracting HIV from unprotected sex. Your odds are pretty safe.’

I'll admit that was relieving to hear - but it didn't rule out the chances indefinitely. It was Google; you couldn't rely on its predictions if your life depended on it. And I was stupid enough to let it happen when I wasn't prepared - now look at the situation I'm in. I blamed myself for being so irresponsible because I know that is not who I am - I always thought I was a cautious and careful person but this series of tragic events has just proven to me that I'm none of those things. I'd fallen into a dark and scary place that I didn't know I was heading for, and the only other person I could point the finger to other than myself was no longer a part of this world, and I was still falling.

‘We can talk to the nurse when we go and see her, Aro,’ Juniper said kindly. ‘They’ll have all the right information you need.’

‘F**k this,’ I spat. My hands pressed against my face and I slumped lower into my chair, sighing.

‘I know…’

‘What else was he keeping from me I wonder? What else did he think I wouldn't understand, or care about?’

‘Aroha, he might’ve-’

‘I can't keep thinking about what might have been, Berry.’ I said miserably. ‘The truth is that he did lie to me. Plain and simple. So what else could he have easily lied to me about?’

Just as I finished offloading Junipers phone began to vibrate signalling an incoming phone call. She pressed the answer key and held it up to her ear.

‘Hi mum,’ she said softly. I could hear the faint muffle of Rose’s voice through the speaker. ‘Okay … when? … Today? This arvo?! S**t, okay. … We’re still at Lazuli’s, so we could meet you there in a couple hours? Okay. … The western entrance. Got it. See you soon … love you too, bye.’ She hung up.

‘What is it?’ I asked her.

‘Mum heard back from her friend, they've booked you an appointment this afternoon.’

Today?’ I exclaimed. My heart rate immediately increased.

‘You wanted it a bit sooner though, right?’

‘Yeah I guess. I just wasn't expecting it that soon though. What times the appointment?’

‘Quarter past two.’

I reached across the table and pressed the home button on Juniper’s phone to show me the time. It was quarter to twelve. Anxiety made itself comfortable in my stomach when I realised how soon that meant the appointment was. It was happening.

‘We can always call and re-schedule if you-’

‘No.’ I cut her off unintentionally. ‘Sorry. I want this over and done with. The sooner its out, the sooner I can forget about it.’

But I knew I would never forget this, I just wanted to be rid of this pregnancy so that I didn't have something in the way of me moving on with my life, and as much as I didn't want to have to go through the ordeal of getting an abortion, I knew that it was the only way to resolve this mess for myself. It was a horrible conflicted feeling that I never thought I'd have to experience; On one side I always saw myself with children, happily settled down in my own life, yet on the other side I have all of this bullshit going on, that in no way, shape, or form makes me feel that having a baby by myself is a good idea.

We spent another half an hour or so sitting at Lazuli’s. The coffees that Chloe had made us sat untouched and were completely stone cold by the time we had decided to head off. Juniper bid Chloe goodbye as we left, but I just walked straight out onto the street without a word - nothing against Chloe, I just wasn't exactly in the friendliest of moods.

Juniper had dragged me down the road to look at some of the other shops around town. I reluctantly followed her as she guided me through the odd Knick-knack stores and second-hand opportunity shops, which I usually always enjoyed. But I had to be in the right mood to go rummaging through other people's unwanted crap, so I waited patiently to the side as Juniper searched for things she could customise.

‘What do you think of this one?’ She turned and modelled a long orange top with red stonewash patterns across it. ‘I could cut the sleeves or rip the bottom part off?’

‘S’good.’ I said without really looking.

I was running low on money too. I'd been surviving off of the birthday money that I had saved over the last couple of years to get me through the summer holidays, but I was down to my last fifty dollars, and it was looking unlikely I'd be helped financially unless I went out and got myself a job. Or pleaded to my mother - and that was not happening.

Juniper purchased the orange top without asking me for a second opinion. I felt bad on behalf of her for having to put up with my moods, but I knew that Juniper understood what I was going through probably better than anyone else. I'd figure out some way to make it all up to her one day.

By the time Juniper was satisfied with her purchases it was almost half past one, so we decided to slowly make our way to the maternity ward which backed up onto the Raumu Health Clinic only a few blocks away from the main road. I had always gone past it but never had any reason to venture inside until now. I hoped it would be the first and last time I'd have to until I was actually ready.

When we arrived, Rose was already waiting in the car park by her station wagon. She greeted us with a beautiful smile and an outstretched arm. I gave her a half hug, not feeling particularly affectionate but I couldn't bring myself to be a moody cow to Rose.

‘How're you feeling?’ She asked me.

‘Been better,’ I said. I didn't want to tell her about the HIV. I needed to hear it from a doctor for myself before I go telling anyone. The thought of this whole situation still made my blood boil.

‘I wasn't expecting to get you in so soon,’ said Rose. ‘But I thought the sooner the better, right?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Let’s go and wait, eh?’ Juniper gently took my arm and together we headed towards a stone path leading from the car park and around the main building, Rose close behind us. The path bent and swerved around the building until it brought us to another much smaller car park on the west side of the property. Here, a sign out the front of the double glass doors read ‘RAUMU WOMANS HEALTH OBSTETRICS & MATERNITY SERVICE’ in a gentle and feminine font. It wasn't any more inviting however, and I had to wait for Juniper to give me a soft nudge in order for my legs carry me towards the entrance.

When the glass panes parted, the scent of latex, disinfectant spray and air freshener attacked my nostrils so suddenly I felt my stomach churn. An information desk was dead ahead with a grumpy looking receptionist typing away at her computer. To the left was a small waiting room with cliché magazines and uncomfortable chairs, and hallways both left and right lead on to doctor’s rooms and wards. Even the wallpaper was bleak; plain white with intricate wavy-patterns towards the skirting boards, only adding to the unnatural and sterile energy to this place.

Rose told us to go and sit down while she checked me in with the receptionist, which I was rather grateful for: The way the woman behind the desk looked Rose up and down when she spoke would've been enough for me to jump over and give her a piece of my mind.

Juniper looked around for a seat to sit down, but my attention was focused on a pair of girls sitting in the corner, closed off from the rest of the room. It was Hayleigh and Olivia, and it didn't take long before they realised I had seen them.

Olivia saw me first and proceeded to whisper in Hayleigh’s ear. She looked up immediately. All colour drained from her face when she saw me standing a few metres in front of her, and we shared an awkwardly uncomfortable silent gaze for a moment before she slammed her magazine shut and leapt to her feet. She grabbed her handbag while muttering something to Olivia, and then walked up to the receptionist, cutting in front of Rose. She then turned and marched out of the clinic, Olivia glaring back at Juniper and I as she went.

‘What was all that about?’ Juniper smirked, grabbing a furniture magazine and sitting in the seat Hayleigh had just left.

‘I dunno…’ I had a sneaking suspicion, but i was too busy worrying about my own pregnancy and the infection I may have to care about anyone else's. As I sat down next to Juniper, I could see Rose was still busy talking with the receptionist while filling out a form on a clipboard.

‘I got a text from Carzel,’ Juniper said. I tilted my head so she knew I was listening as she read out: ‘“Hey June, been better to be honest. Still trying to deal with it all.” S**t… He doesn't sound too good.’ She began typing away her response. I leant back into the chair and stared up at the ceiling.

There were thousands of tiny ventilation holes in the wooden boards that made up the ceiling, I found myself fixated upon them as the time drew nearer and nearer to quarter past two, which was only about ten minutes away now.

I could feel and hear everything here; it was like my senses had amplified the moment I walked into the building. I could hear every breath, every cough and sniff, feel every tap of a thumbnail on a phone screen, and every piece of paper being folded, signed, and sealed. Every printer, computer or machine beeping and working simultaneously in the background, or right in my eardrums - I couldn't tell. It filled my head like a balloon but my eyes didn't move from the ceiling; I’d imagined myself shrinking down small enough to fit into one of the holes and disappearing forever.

‘Aroha Hinerangi?’ A voice called.

Juniper prodded me with her elbow and my attention suddenly came crashing back to earth. There was a short female doctor with a brown ponytail and a tired looking face standing by the front counter looking at me.

‘Y- Yes.’ I said so quietly I'm surprised she heard me. She gave me a forced smile and beckoned me to follow her down the hallway before giving Rose a very friendly wave. I turned back to Juniper in panic. ‘Please come with me.’

But she had already gotten to her feet and was ready to follow.

‘I’m your nurse, Carmen Walsch. Come this way.’ She smiled, then turned on the spot and started walking.

‘I'll wait for you both here,’ Rose said. I was so lost in my head I didn't realise she had been sitting right next to me, nor did I see her come over from reception. Rose picked up a magazine and began to flick through it. Carmen turned to me and slightly impatiently gave me the hurry-up to follow. My heart was in my throat now, and I felt like I was going to vomit everywhere. Juniper stood behind me with one hand on my back and together we walked down the hallway.

We passed room after room, and I couldn't help but peer in each one as we passed. Some of them were empty, some had doctors working alone on their computers or chatting to their patients, others had doors closed completely for confidentiality. Considering how nervous I was being here it amazed me how many people had to spend their whole days working or simply being seen to. It was like another world.

Carmen opened a door to the left and gestured for us enter before she did. She was nice enough but it felt like the type of kindness that is recycled with so many different grumpy patients on a regular basis that it had become routine for her.

The room was small, white and sterile like the rest of the clinic. It had two green chairs next to a long desk with files neatly piled, and a few interesting looking tools and equipment. A single patient bed was up against the wall behind the chairs, monitors and heavy-duty doctors’ machinery nearby. They made me feel uneasy looking at them; I turned my chair so I had my back to it. Juniper sat in the next chair and the doctor shut the door behind her before taking a seat in her wheeled-computer chair.

‘Right…’ She mumbled to herself, picking up files and documents and skim-reading over them. A few seconds of her silence felt like a lifetime of waiting. Finally she shoved a few pieces of paper in a folder and set them aside, and turned to face me. Here we go.

‘Aroha… Heeni-rangi is it?’

‘Yes,’ I said ignoring her mispronunciation.

‘Could you please state your date of birth and address?’

‘Uh - fourteenth of January, 2000. Seventeen Vale Road, Raumu.’

‘Thank you.’ She typed what I had said into a document open on her computer. A few more moments of listening to her type and click away only prolonged my anxiousness. I wanted this to be over and done with as soon as possible.

‘Okay, Aroha,’ She said, taking her attention off of her computer. ‘How long do you think you’ve been pregnant for?’ She said this so casually it scared me.

‘Um, I don't know. A week or so maybe?’

‘And you’ve taken a pregnancy test, yes?’

‘Yes.’

‘When was that?’

‘About a week ago too.’

‘Do you know the first day of your last and most recent period?

‘Um…’ Carmen looked at me with a look of forced patience. Clearly I was expected to have this information ready beforehand, but I'd never been through this before. I didn't know how it worked. I began counting back the days in my head to come up with some date to give her. It must've been a week or so before the island party… ‘The fourteenth or fifteenth of December? Around then. I didn't write it down,’ I said with attitude.

Carmen began typing again on her computer, ignoring my mood. When she'd finished the pulled open a drawer in her desk and pulled out a plastic bag with a strange looking contraption in it.

‘I know you've already done a pregnancy test,’ She said handing me the plastic bag, ‘but we need you to do it on sight for official clarification.’

I held the bag awkwardly looking at Juniper, unsure of what to do.

‘You can do it in the bathroom.’ She said, pointing to the door. I stood up slowly and briskly opened the door. I turned back to Juniper, who was giving me an encouraging smile that silently told me I could do this. ‘Bathrooms to the left, second door on your right.’ Carmen said to hurry me up. I slipped out the door, closing it gently behind me.

I found the bathroom after accidentally barging in on a family in the first room on the right, and realising it was the next one over. I apologetically retreated back to the hallway. I'd been trying to hide the plastic bag too out of embarrassment but i knew it wasn't anything anyone here hadn't seen before. I slipped into the bathroom and shut the door firmly and locked it.

Even the bathrooms were freakishly clean here, which isn't a bad thing, but it made me feel dirty, grimy and unclean in somewhere so immaculate. It could've just been what was going on in my head contributing to these thoughts, but it was far more apparent now that I was alone. I pulled the test out of the plastic bag, which looked a lot like the normal test that id used at the gas station. It was an odd déjà vu as I sat on the toilet seat holding the contraption between my legs - ironically I'd put toilet paper on the seat this time.

Mid pee, I felt my phone buzz from inside the pocket around my ankles. It was a short buzz, which meant a text. I finished peeing, set the test aside on the windowsill and pulled my underwear and pants back up around my waist, reaching in for my phone.

 

[MUM: 1minute ago

 

How are you going? Are you okay?]

 

I frowned at the text, reading it a few times without responding. I guess it was nice of her to check and ask if I was okay, especially since I wasn'tbut did she already forget the last time we interacted? If this was just her doing her usual performance of brushing everything under the carpet and pretending it didn't happen, I wasn't interested. She'd need to do a lot more than that to make it up to me. I stowed my phone back in my pocket, picked up the test and left the bathroom.

I almost forgot which room I had come from until i could make out Juniper’s hair behind the frosted rectangular-window in the office door. I knocked, and Carmen opened instantly to let me back in. I handed her the test and she proceeded to insert it into another device that looked like some kind of electronic scales. It beeped a few times flashing something on a little screen that Carmen obviously understood.

‘Positive,’ she said, pulling out the test and discarding it in the bin. ‘Okay Aroha, if you'd like to hop up onto the bed and we can have a quick ultrasound to check everything's in order.’ She stood up and began getting one of the machines ready. I looked at Juniper with a look of utmost panic, but she grabbed my hand and squeezed it mouthing ‘you’ll be fine’ to me. I was so grateful she was here right now.

I stood up reluctantly and shimmied onto the bed, crinkling the paper-like sheets as I did so. I did my best to ignore my pounding heart as Carmen squirted the clear jelly-substance onto my flat bare stomach. A monitor to her right turned on, it was attached to what looked like a big industrial computer on wheels. She grabbed the transducer and pushed it into the gel on top of my skin, sending shivers all over my body. I could feel my bladder screaming for relief as she firmly pressed the device into my belly, watching the monitor as she did so.

An ugly mess of dark blobs and shapes appeared on the screen moving ever so slightly as Carmen’s hand did, but I didn't want to look. I didn't want to see the baby, or any visible proof that it was there. I knew what the tests said, and that was enough evidence that I needed.

‘Alright, everything looks pretty normal to me,’ Carmen said after a few minutes.

Juniper was watching me from her seat, giving me supportive expressions every time our eyes met, but I couldn't bring myself to speak to either Juniper or Carmen. I still had Luke and his secrets on my mind, so I stared at the ceiling until she had finished. Carmen pushed the machine aside and handed me several paper towels to wipe the goo off while she prepared to give me a blood test.

I especially didn't want to watch her do this; I wasn't afraid of needles I just did not want to see it break through my skin. I could feel her compressing my arm to get the blood flowing followed by a pin-prick that I barely felt. Before I knew it she'd bandaged my arm and had two vials of my dark magenta blood in her hands.

Juniper helped me off the bed and pulled my seat out for me as we sat back down at Carmen’s desk. I felt a little light-headed, but I shook it off as Carmen sat back down at her desk.

‘Okay Aroha just a couple more questions before I give you your referral.’

‘Referral?’ I repeated.

‘To the next doctor. A termination is more than just a one appointment process - so, is your decision yours entirely?’ She said without explaining anymore.

‘Uh - Yes.’

‘Has your point of view been influenced by any immediate family member, friend or colleague?’ She was most definitely reading off of a script now.

‘N- No?’

‘Is your mental, emotional, physical or financial wellbeing a deciding factor into your choice?’

‘Wh- No? I mean, yes. I know I'm not ready for this…’

‘And do you feel like further counselling could help you make your -’

He had HIV,’ I blurted out. Carmen stopped reading and was looking at me dumbfounded, Juniper to my side holding my hand.

‘What? Who did?’ Carmen asked.

‘The father.’ I said. Carmen stared at me for a moment. I’d clearly caught her off guard, because she looked unsure of how to respond.

‘Did you know this before you got pregnant?’ She asked.

‘No. I only found out this morning.’

‘Oh…’ She stammered. ‘Was he on medication? Any kind of treatment?’

‘Antiretroviral therapy.’

‘Has he been taking them recently?’

‘He’s dead.’

Carmen’s eyes widened and her body language instantly changed. She was piecing it together in her head and after a few moments of tense silence she disregarded the paperwork and leaned over the desk to really speak to us directly.

‘I'm sorry for your loss,’ she said with more emotion in her voice, ‘do you know anything more about his therapy or his condition?’

‘No,’ I said angrily. ‘I didn't even know he was sick at all. He kept everything from me. And now I'm pregnant and I could have contracted this disease. I don't know what to do.’ My anger was rushing out of me, it felt good.

Carmen looked at me with a great deal of sympathy.

‘The blood test can show us whether or not you have contracted the HIV,’ she said. ‘But the chances of catching it can vary - how frequently his medication was taken, what medication he was on as well as how much he had been prescribed. You don't know any of that information?’

‘Nothing.’ I grumbled.

‘Luke’s mother isn't exactly the friendliest woman in the world,’ Juniper said to Carmen. It was a much nicer way of describing Valerie.

‘Luke?’ Carmen repeated. ‘Luke Hartley?’

Juniper and I looked at one another.

‘Yes.’ I said, waiting for her to divulge. ‘He’s the father of this baby.’

‘Oh,’ she whispered. She looked like she was trying to stop herself from speaking, as if she was sitting on knowledge that she knows she shouldn't tell us. She bit her lip while playing with the ring on her finger.

‘What is it?’ I asked forcefully. She stood up, and locked the office door before sitting back down at the desk.

‘Look I shouldn't be telling you this,’ she started, glancing back at the door cautiously. ‘But my wife works over on the other side of the hospital, and she was Luke’s personal doctor, and had been since he was first admitted with HIV when he was four - so we are very well-aware of what his mother is like.’

Carmen kept glancing at the door as if someone was going to break through and catch her breaking the rules.

‘We’re not going to say anything,’ I assured her, wanting her to keep talking. She considered me for a moment.

‘Valerie has thirty thousand dollars outstanding to the hospital for Luke’s medicinal fees. She had refused to pay in the past few years, and the medication has already been prescribed and taken, I presume.’

‘I'm not delivering her bill to her,’ I said immediately, stopping another one of Valerie’s financial issues becoming my problem.

‘I'm not asking you too,’ said Carmen. ‘But, if you can convince her to call us to arrange something, I can do something for you.’

‘Like what?’ I said suspiciously. ‘Valerie doesn’t know me, and the last time I saw her she forced me out of her house with a machete.’ Carmen, looking unsurprised, leaned a little closer to me to speak more discreetly.

‘How badly do you want to get rid of this baby?’

‘Err… badly, I guess?’ I said.

‘Seeing as you're with Rose, I might be able to pull a few strings for a close friend. If you can get Valerie in here, I'll be able to book you an appointment for the termination sooner rather than later.’

‘Can't I just go to the next clinic and ask?’ I said, feeling unsure about this deal.

‘Aroha, getting an abortion isn't the easiest thing to do. You’re lucky we live in a country where the government funds this so that young girls in your position can have this as an option. I'm giving you an opportunity to get it over and done with soon. But as I said, we need your help too. Valerie’s bill is well known here, almost as well-known as her notoriety, and it would be a big help to the whole facility if we didn't, in turn, owe the government the money she falsely guaranteed us.’

I had to think about this for a moment. Carmen was offering me a quick way out, but I had to convince Valerie to sort out her thirty grand debt right after I'd tried to deliver her the funeral bill she apparently hadn't paid for too. What was I turning into? Some kind of debt collectors?

‘What if I say no?’ I said strongly, puffing out my chest slightly. ‘What are my options then?’

‘You’d have to go through the regular process - being referred to another doctor to get clearance before having a counselling session to double check that your decision is your own and you're not being influenced externally, and then you'll be on a waiting list for the actual procedure which can vary in wait times.’ She clasped her hands together and smiled at me.

This was a lot to think about, I wasn't sure I really had the mental strength to talk to Valerie again, but I knew that if I did I could secure a faster and (maybe) easier way of getting my life back on track. I guess it couldn't hurt to try.

‘What do you want me to say to her?’ I said. Still not 100% sure if this was the right thing to do, but I had to remind myself of what I was getting out of it.

Carmen reached into another drawer and pulled out a business card, handing it to me.

‘That’s my card,’ she said. ‘If you can get Valerie to ring and book a time to meet, I'll sort out your appointment. Failing that, bring her down here in person and we’ll go from there.’

I nodded and looked at the business card. It was plain white with fancy looking cyan swirls on the bottom and the name ‘Carmen Walsch’ printed above the name of the clinic and a phone number.

‘Thank you,’ I said.

‘I want to double check that you girls understand what's going on here,’ Carmen said, beckoning us to come slightly closer. ‘I didn't spend eight years studying to become a maternity nurse to not take my job seriously, so you both need to know how much of a limb I'm going out on right now for you. Rose is an incredibly good friend of my mine, and I owe her a great deal of my time and energy, but you both need to help me if I'm going to help you. So this stays between us. Yes?’

‘Got it.’ Juniper said. Carmen looked at me waiting for my response. I nodded firmly, which she seemed somewhat satisfied with. I wasn't going to say anything to anyone, I still didn’t quite believe the agreement I’d just made.

‘And if you can find a copy of Luke’s latest prescription,’ Carmen continued. ‘I'll be able to tell you how likely you are of catching HIV before the blood tests come back.’ I had almost forgotten about the HIV amidst Carmen’s deal. But it gave me a strong jolt of determination to confront Valerie - if I wanted to know more, she was the only avenue I had open.

Carmen got to her feet and unlocked the door, holding it open for us.

‘Thank you for coming in,’ she said, her voice reverting back to its normal volume. ‘We’ll be in touch with you about your results Aroha, and if you have any questions, ring the number on the card.’ She said with emphasis.

‘Thank you.’ I said simply, and exited out to the hallway, keen to get out of here.

‘Thank you for everything,’ Juniper said. ‘Sorry to be nosy, but I've been wondering this whole time, how do you know my mum?’ She asked Carmen cheerily. Carmen seemed amused at this question.

‘I met Rose when I was seventeen,’ she smirked. ‘We were at a commune for New Year's Eve. She saved my life after one-too-many pills.’

 

The air in the car park was cold and strong. I stood outside of the clinic door and just let the wind wash over me, letting it carry any of the bullshit and excess hospital-vibes off of me. Juniper and Rose had just exited out the door and met me at my side.

‘How was that? Everything okay?’ Rose asked me sweetly with a hand on each of my shoulders.

‘Yeah. Good,’ I said pulling myself back to earth. ‘She’s going to be in touch with me about my next appointment.’

‘Excellent.’

‘Thank you, Rose.’

‘No worries my darling. Carmen’s a good woman,’ She smiled, ‘has helped me out through many pickles before. Always good to have someone on the inside.’ She winked and made her way to the station wagon down the winding path from the clinic entrance. Juniper came up beside me with her phone in her hand.

‘I'm going to go and see Carzel, you wanna come?’

‘No it's okay. I'll come next time.’ I said definitively. ‘Is it okay to come and stay at yours again later?’

‘Of course it is! But - where are you going?’

‘I’m going to go and see Valerie. I need to get this over and done with.’

‘Oh, of course. Do you really think she’ll listen to you though?’

‘I'm not sure. It's worth a try,’ I said thinking of the deal with Carmen. If I could do this, I'd guaranteed myself a way out. All I had to do was make sure that Valerie listened to me and that I could get her down here without getting my head cut off.

But I had an idea…



© 2019 aubreydiamond


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Added on February 28, 2019
Last Updated on March 5, 2019
Tags: drama, young adult, pregnancy, coming of age, fiction, life, death, love, birth, teenage, comedy, baby, friends, family, murder, drugs, swearing, course language, aroha


Author

aubreydiamond
aubreydiamond

New Zealand



About
I come in peace! My name is Aubrey, I’ve been a creative witch for as long as I can remember. Writing, drawing and all of the creative outlets have been my source of magic since I could craf.. more..

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