Chapter Twelve ~ Reminders

Chapter Twelve ~ Reminders

A Chapter by aubreydiamond

I lay awake for far too long once we’d arrived back at Amber Grove and gone to bed. Juniper’s soft snores didn't keep me awake at all, but I listened to them for hours as I stared at the ceiling letting my mind scream in the midnight silence.

In about half an hour, the clock would tick over to February the first, marking the day of my abortion. For something I thought I was ready to get over and done with, I was so anxious and nervous. It was so daunting yet I was fully aware that this was my own decision, and I had to go through this to come out the other side. But I knew I wouldn't come out the same. This would stay with me forever.  I don't think any woman can prepare themselves for something like this.

But I was willing to at least try and move on with my life. I had a lot of opportunities that I could pick back up where I left off of, as long as I held myself up through this experience - and as long as my mum doesn’t find that appointment slip in my jeans… Damn it.

I was kicking myself for having been so careless as to make sure I had it on me when I left. Now I’d left hard evidence that i indeed am pregnant to the one person I wanted to keep this from the most. She hadn't texted me or anything, but that wasn't to say she didn't go back into my room and look in my pockets of the clothes I left behind. She's the type of mother that would do that.

Or would she? This last visit home had shifted the way i saw her. Believe me when I say, my mother is probably one of the most stubborn people on the planet, but this time she took the alternative route; she came at me from a completely different approach, one that was kind and considerate unlike her bossy, demanding and informative temperament she usually blasts at you the moment you walk through the front door. Was she changing? Or was it me? I know I have definitely changed, and maybe when I did it shifted something within her too.

I still stand by my initial feelings though - I won't go back home until I feel comfortable enough in myself to be around her without this incredible secret being spilled all over her precious carpet. Juniper, Rose and Rain had made me feel more than welcome in their home, and I was content here for the time being. As content as I could be anyway - even on this side of town there were things happening…

I'd been thinking a lot about Carzel as well. I wasn't as worried about him coping with Luke's passing as much as I was before - he'd seemed to of accepted most of what had happened and been able to try and bring himself back to the light, but now there was this whole other facet to consider, and I was more worried on Juniper’s behalf than his.

Hayleigh was pregnant, and it was to Carzel. The strangest pairing if I’d ever seen one before, but when emotions are high and alcohol levels are even higher I suppose things like this happen. It just felt so out of character for Carzel, who’d always been the cool calm and collected dude of our year group. But I suppose when you're down and out you do strange things you wouldn't normally. It was just painful to think that even though Juniper had given more than her time and her compassion to him, he still went and did something like this. I know pregnancies can be accidental, but he wasn't drunk at all that night, and you can't accidentally have consensual, unprotected and (mostly) sober sex, can you? I found it a bit disrespectful to be honest.

It was no secret that Juniper had feelings for Carzel, or maybe that is just my best friend intuition talking, but it was obvious to me anyway. She'd only ever been a kind and caring when it came to anyone, but particularly Carzel. Especially lately when she’d put a lot of effort into him because she saw an opportunity to help really support him and get to know him that little bit better when he was struggling. Which I totally understand and admire about her, but with this other secret that he is trying to keep hidden makes me so worried she's going to get hurt at the hands of someone she cares about - and now I am part of the lie. I wish he didn't tell me at all. Maybe it would be easier to tell her and stop the blow from becoming any worse - but at the cost of what? Hurting her anyway? I'd rather jump off a bridge before I hurt my best friend. Any man or woman would be insanely lucky to have Juniper in their life, Carzel just needed to realise that for himself. Or else I’ll make him.

I knew how much a big lie hurt when it came from someone you really cared about, and after they'd died even. It was astounding the amount of confusion and anger that came from the truth about the people closest to you. It completely changed my perspective on Luke all together - but hearing Carzel speak about the conversations they used to have about me and how badly Luke wanted to tell me the truth, I didn't know what the f**k I felt anymore. His actions might've been stupid, erratic, selfish even, but every time I put myself in his shoes I was struck with the reality of having to tell your partner a dark secret about yourself you’d kept for years - how were you supposed to do that?

There might've been a degree about Luke’s situation that I understood but it still didn't change that I couldn't just ring him up and clarify with Luke himself why he did what he did. I was left to my own devices for that, something that I was really getting the hang of.

 

I gave up. I'd tossed and turned for I don't know how long until the clock struck 12. I couldn't force myself to sleep with so much happening internally; maybe some cold fresh air would do me good. I had all that mail from home to go through too…

I pulled the duvet off of me and got to my feet. I wrapped Juniper’s thick, fluffy dressing gown around myself for warmth and stowed the envelopes in the gown pocket. I also grabbed some thick socks from my bag and pulled them over my icy feet. As I put my feet on the floor I hear a slam come from the other room, followed by movement in the lounge. I tied the cord around my waist and quietly opened Juniper’s bedroom door as not to wake her, tiptoeing down the hallway.

Soft whispered and a gentle scratching sound grew louder and I walked into the lounge; Zeb was fast asleep on the couch, headphones in each ear and his forearm over his eyes. Sitting on the floor by the ranch slider door in half of his fluoro-uniform was Rain, and in his hand was a tiny, fluffy black kitten.

‘Hey Aroha,’ Rain said casually, smiling up at me.

I wasted no time in kneeling down in the floor next to him to pat the tiny feline. I stroked its little head with the tip of my index finger, immediately sending it into purring heaven. It fit so perfectly in the palm of Rains hands; it can't have been any older than a few weeks. It had rough, fluffy and matted fur that made it look bigger than what I could tell it actually was, and big bright emerald eyes.

‘Where did you find this little guy?’ I whispered. ‘Or girl?’

‘I'm not sure what gender,’ he said. ‘But I Found ‘em at work, almost about to get buried underneath concrete. If I didn't hear its little meow... but I just had ‘em chilling in my pocket all night - I couldn't leave it there. It's so helpless. I had to save it and bring it home. This place has always needed an animal too.’ He stroked the kitten gently under the chin with his thumb. Rain was like a giant compared to the little cat, which made it so much sweeter that he was being ever so gentle.

‘What are those?’ Rain asked as I took the envelopes out of the pocket and began to rip open the first one.

‘Just mail from home.’

‘You're speaking to your mum again then?’

‘Kind of… I’m not mad anymore. Just gotta sort out this before I think about going home.’ I pointed to my stomach.

I pulled out the paper folded up in the first envelope to see my schools logo along with a list of stationary supplies, uniform fees, subject changes and endorsement information. I stuffed it back into the envelope before I had a chance to read any of it and discarded it.

The second letter was from the Raumu maternity clinic. As Rain played with the kitten I pulled out the sheet and read the printed information in my head.

All of my scans and blood tests and come back with their results… I held my breath as I read, but could've yelped out of ecstatic relief when I read that HIV was negative in my system and the same for the baby. I'd brushed past a very large bullet and been lucky to come off unscathed.

‘You look pleased,’ Rain said noticing my sigh of relief.

‘Yeah. Just some good news. I don't have any diseases,’ I replied, reaching for the final envelope.

‘Well that's always a good thing,’ he laughed without asking any questions.

This envelope was plain white with no stamps or no plastic window to see the address, just my name handwritten in ball-point pen. I ripped the top open with my finger, and was surprised to see very little other than a single slip of paper. I was still relieved from the previous letter, but all my good feelings disappeared when I pulled the paper out of the envelope and read it.

It was the f*****g funeral bill.

‘Oh for f***s sakes!’ I exclaimed somewhat quietly.

‘What is it?’ I held it up for Rain to see, and he shook his head in disbelief once he'd read it. ‘Didn’t you get rid of it?’

‘Yes! To Chloe to give back to her f*****g father and now it's been sent back to me. It's not my problem.’

I didn't hesitate to get to my feet, rip the bill into tens of little square pieces and throw it in the trash. I was not letting that bill continue to be my problem, not after I'd made it quite clear to everyone involved that I'm not. But someone clearly wants me to pay, but I’ll happy continue to refuse until they get the message.

I huffed back to the spot where Rain was sitting and slumped to the floor, leaning against the wall.

‘Are you okay?’ Rain asked. I was going to answer straight away, but I really thought about that question longer than normal to answer how I genuinely felt.

‘To be honest Rain, not really. I'm experiencing total sensory overload. There's too much happening for me to deal with and too much to think about for my brain to make proper sense of anything. It's exhausting.’

He reshuffled himself to lie on his side so he could easily play with the kitten that was chasing his hand and listen attentively to me at the same time. I knew deep down that Rain was someone I could trust to confide in. He looked up at me waiting for me to continue.

‘First - I’m pregnant. Then Luke dies and I have to deal with that and his funeral, I get slammed with the funeral bill and my mother is a total over-bearing cow that I have to push away just to breathe. Valerie was dealing with everything in her own way and just about killed me when I found out that Luke had HIV his whole life and never told me our entire relationship. Then it was back and forth from the maternity ward to see if I have HIV or not while simultaneously making a dodgy deal with the doctor so I could get a quick abortion as long as I helped her with Valerie's hospital debt and now the abortion is happening today and I don't know what to think or feel but I know I need to be alert and aware but I can't think straight or make any kind of conclusion for myself without spiralling into absolute and utter F*****g confusion and I'm well and truly over it and don't think I can take much more.’

I took a deep breath when I stopped speaking, waiting for Rain to process it all. He looked shocked, but still lay there playing with the kitten.

‘Whoa,’ he breathed. ‘That really is a lot to deal with.’

‘Honestly… I don't know how I'm still standing.’

‘Strength,’ he said. I looked back at him.

‘Strength?’

‘Yeah, you're strong. One of the strongest people I know, anyways.’

I didn't know what to say. I certainly didn't think of myself as strong, I'd been cracking under the weight of all of this crap I thought I was anything but that.

‘I'm not strong.’

‘Um, yes you are,’ he said sounding almost annoyed at me for saying otherwise. ‘You've just had your whole F*****g world flipped upside down and all over the place, on top of more and more layers of bullshit, and you're still trying to look at the bright side of things, still trying to do best by yourself. Not a lot of people could say that about themselves, and that's pretty f*****g amazing. It's something to be proud of, right?’

‘Uhh… yeah. I guess it is.’ It was odd to tell myself that I was doing well. In my eyes, I'd make a complete mess of my life. But in Rain’s eyes, I'd shown what the definition of resilience and determination was. I don't know if he realised how much that meant to me.

‘And it sounds to me like you're not giving yourself enough credit for this.’

‘How do you mean?’

‘You’re giving yourself a hard time just for getting pregnant, not to mention being lied to. None of this was entirely your fault, Luke’s death wasn't your fault and neither were his lies. You can't beat yourself up for things out of your control. You're only human after all, and for someone going through the hard-yards you have a good heart and your heads screwed on the right way.’

He was right - the way I looked at myself and this whole situation was influenced by my own thoughts and feelings; since the moment I'd discovered my pregnancy I was worried about what my mother would say, what it meant for my future, what was going to happen to me long term. I'd put negative lenses over it and forgotten that I was the one who put it on, and that I was the only one who could take it off.

‘Thank you,’ I said quietly.

‘What for?’

‘For saying that. I needed to hear that from someone not in my own head,’ I laughed. But I was serious. I'd battled with my own inner-versions of myself so much that hearing an outsider’s take on my situation was incredibly refreshing and appreciated.

‘Just calling it how I see it,’ he smiled. His hand darted side to side as the kitten tactically calculated his moves to pounce on Rain’s fingers. Rain pretended to throw his hand towards me and the kitten leapt into my lap looking for the hand.

‘I can't wait for today to be over and done with,’ I said aloud, stroking the kittens matted fur.

‘I bet. How are you feeling about it?’ He asked gently, watching me play with the kitten who was enjoying the fact that I had longer fingernails that Rain and could give the best scratchy-belly rubs.

‘I don't know,’ I sighed. ‘I know what's coming but I also have no idea what to expect. I don't even know if I'm ready - how are you supposed to know?’

‘I can't speak on behalf of women, but I imagine it's just something you know. You feel it in your gut.’

‘That's the problem,’ I said. ‘I don't know. I don't know if what I'm feeling is uncertainty that I want to have it done or certainty that I do. I feel like I'm supposed to know when I don't whatsoever. Having an abortion seemed like the most realistic option for me, but now I don't know what is.’

‘No one can tell you what you think or feel though,’ he said. ‘And you already went about making it happen, so you have thought about it. I guess until you know one hundred percent, don't question it. You’ll only confuse yourself more and make an impulse decision. You don't want to do that.’

‘I don't have much time.’

‘Mum always used to tell us, everything happens for a reason. And for every reason, something happens.’

I nodded, and continued to stroke the little cat who was laying on its back as my fingers ran down its front. It was purring away and drifting into a petting-induced sleep. I could feel Rain watching me as I gazed upon the sleepy kitten, listening to its adorable breaths and high-pitched meows, making me smile every time it made a slight move.

‘You know,’ he said hoarsely. ‘Regardless of what you choose to do, I think you'd be an incredible mother.’

I looked away from the cat when he said this, and met his eyes looking directly back into mine. No one had ever said this to me before, and though I didn't know how to answer, I felt so flattered and touched that he thought about me in that light. My heart fluttered a little bit, and he grinned at my loss of words.

‘I don't… I… thanks.’ I managed to say.

‘Sorry, I didn't mean to freak you out…’ he said incredibly apologetically.

‘No, no! It's fine!’ I exclaimed, assuring him I wasn't offended. ‘It's just… I've never heard anyone say something like that to me before. I don't know if I'd be a good mother. I don't have the greatest role model to go by…’

‘No, but you’ll know exactly what it is that you don't want to do to your own kids. Besides, you have a warmth about you that anyone would feel comfortable just being around. I know I do…’

I smirked and looked at him; His eyes darted away as his cheeks simultaneously went pink. I could see him going into hyper drive to try and rectify his last comment.

‘You know,’ he added, ‘you've been a family friend for most of June’s life. We’re all comfortable with you.’

I laughed without making him feel uncomfortable and continued petting the now fast asleep kitten.

Rains eyes were still on me, I could feel them. But in all honesty, I didn't mind. It felt nice to chat and be cheeky with someone I know and trust, even more so with Rain. He was always fun to be around but it wasn't until I got older that I realised how cool he really was. He was so down to earth, charismatic and had a heart of gold; he’d do anything for you even if you didn't know him that well. Some young guys should take a leaf out of his book, because Rain would be the type of guy who could make his partner feel like the most incredible person in the galaxy.

I turned my head to look back at him, and found that his eyes hadn't moved. They remained fixed on me as if they were glued in my direction, and I couldn't say that I didn't like it. I hadn't been looked at in a special way since I was last with Luke, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it.

I looked right into his eyes; the piercing sapphire blue made me feel like I was looking into deep ocean pools. I was so captivated and mesmerised that for a split second I thought I was looking into Luke's eyes. Even Rain’s smile in my peripheral vision made me see Luke’s cheeky grin and playful demeanour. When I realised I was magnetically leaning towards him, I caught myself off guard and pulled backwards. He looked at me with a worried expression.

‘Oh s**t,’ he whispered, ‘I'm sorry Aroha. I didn't mean to - oh f**k I'm a dick…’

‘No, Rain!’ I pleaded, ‘you're not a dick. Honestly, you're the complete opposite. Please don't think that you are. It's just… I've still got too much on my mind.’

‘Of course you do. I know that,’ he slapped his palm on his forehead. ‘Sorry.’

‘It's fine,’ I said. I rested my hand on his shoulder and he smiled at me sweetly. We sat for a few silent seconds while the car lolled between us.

‘So I guess that makes me a vagina?’ Rain eventually said.

‘ … What?’

‘You said I was the opposite of a dick.’

I looked at him confused and then rolled my eyes when my brain connected the dry-humour together.

‘Oh very funny. Dork.’

Rain chuckled to himself, stroking his feline friend. I wanted to sit with him for hours and just talk while we played with the cat, but I knew how much my body and mind was going to need somewhat of a decent sleep before it even considers waking up in the morning. I pulled myself to my feet as quietly as I could and made my way for the hallway.

‘I'm gonna go to bed. Think I need a good long sleep before the day starts. Goodnight, Rain. Goodnight… kitten? You'll need to think of a name.’

‘Yeah I've got a few in mind,’ he said,  looking up at me from the floor. ‘Goodnight, Aroha. Sweet dreams.’

I smiled back at him and gazed down at the two for a while longer before continuing down the hallway back to the Burrow. When I opened the door, Juniper’s snores had subsided, and I quietly slipped back under the covers next to my best friend.

I'm glad I decided to get up, even though I didn't even go outside for fresh air. I don't think I needed to though - I lay on my side facing the wall with a big smile on my face. And this time, falling asleep came nice and simple alongside a deep breath in, and a deep breath out…

 

~

 

I sat in an armchair, looking out onto the lawn before me where the screams and shouts of happy children constantly rang. I was watching them play together, baby in my arms feeding while the TV hummed in the background. It was a simple bliss, and I was content.

It was such a beautiful day, the sun was shining in every aspect of this stunning home, lighting up the beautiful furniture and deco. The kids charged past me, wielding plastic weapons and running up and down the hallway. I was home, though not home like I knew it - home like I had made it myself.

“Be careful you two!” I called out to them. But like usual they didn't listen, not that I was surprised. I pulled myself up off the arm chair, struggling to so with the baby in my arms and my huge basket-ball belly. I'd become used to this now.

“Let me help you!” Luke said. He raced in from the kitchen where he’d been cooking to take the little human out of my arms.

“Thank you, babe.” I said. He was good with the kids, and absolutely loved being a dad. I watched him bob side to side with our youngest in his muscular arms, like a gentle giant, singing and making funny/ugly noises. The little face below him lit up and cracked into a gummy, toothless grin. Luke's face glowed with pride as he looked back at me.

“Did you see that? He totally smiled at me! Yes you did my little moosh!”

“Could just be gas,” I laughed, bending over to pick up a pile of dirty clothes pushed up against the wall.

“I’ll go with a smile, thanks,” he said.

“How do these kids go through so many clothes?” I wondered aloud, spotting another pile of dirty laundry. I picked it up and turned to Luke.

“I don't know but they look pretty funky fresh in their new outfits, don't you my little fashion icon?” He blew a raspberry into the baby’s belly, making him erupt with precious, infectious laughter.

“God, not the fashion industry.” I laughed. “Too much money we don't have!”

“Ah, they can be whatever they wanna be,” Luke grinned. “I'm just happy they're mine.”

He grinned at his youngest child and then reached out to grab my hand, pulling me away from cleaning the mess that was my living room. I was thrust into his side; one arm around me and the other cradling our baby. He looked the most proud I've ever seen him, looking from me to his child with such admiration. I knew this was what he always wanted, and I could see how much he appreciated me for it.

“You know, I'm probably the luckiest human being on this planet. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.”

“Anyone home?” A voice called out. My mother appeared in the hallway, carrying shopping bags of groceries, stepping over the toys littered about. “Oh, hi you two! Three I should say,” she grinned, walking over to Luke with her arms outstretched for her grandchild. “Hand ‘im over to nana!”

“He May need changing,” Luke said.

“Let’s go little one,” she said, marching down the hallway past our eldest two kids. “Hello you crazy hyenas.”

I felt Luke’s arm wrap around my middle and hold me in an inverted hug - his chin rested on my shoulder, swaying slightly from side to side.

“Thank you,” he said.

“What for?”

“Being amazing. You’re the best thing that's ever happened to me.”

“Aw, Lu. You're too sweet. We’ve got it pretty good, don't we? …” he didn't answer. “Don't we?” I repeated. Nothing. I squeezed his arms around me but realised that they weren’t there. He wasn't there. I spun on the spot rapidly only to realise I was alone, and the room had gone dark. The floor disappeared, and I was standing on the upright edge of a razor blade, tilting forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards.

I was suddenly alone with my thoughts. The crown of my head broke open and all my thoughts and feelings erupted out like a volcano, swarming around me where I stood, crackling and hissing like lightning. Everything was chaos.

“HELP ME!” I screamed, but I barely heard my own voice. Only heard the wind rushing past my ears as I fell backwards off of the blade, plummeting into darkness. I watched the surface drift further and further away from me as I fell.

A face peered down at me from over the edge of the razor blade far above me. It was Luke, and his face was scrunched in agony. He sobbed in pain and tears fell from his face down towards me. I reached out up for him, but he was too far away, and I was too far gone.

I fell, and fell, and fell until I hit the edge of my sanity, and screamed as hard as I could until something hit my back hard and I felt my body halt…

 

~

 

My eyes sprung open, and I found myself panting under the blankets do Juniper’s bed. The room had gone from pitch black darkness to bright midday sunshine in what felt like an instant. The room along with my body had also risen in temperature, and I again had to wipe the trails of sweat off of my forehead to cool down. What a dream…

Juniper wasn't in the bed next to me when I leaned up, I was completely alone. It took me a few moments to gather my thoughts and my breath to realise what was going on, but when I saw the intense sunshine outside and heard the muffled chatter coming from the lounge I knew I'd slept well into the day.

I rolled out of bed and began dressing myself with some of the clean clothes I'd grabbed from home. I'm glad I did too; wearing fresh clothing that didn't reek of my nervousness and stress was a very nice feeling. I threw the blankets back over to bed to make it look reasonably tidier and made my way out of the room.

Squinting from the light as I went, I shuffled into the bathroom to relive my bladder and splash hot water on my face. I caught my ghastly reflection in a compact mirror on the bathroom counter after drying my face; I was more than ready for this whole experience to be over so my skin and complexion could try to go back to its healthier state… but that's when I remembered what day it was.

My stomach dropped deep into my abdomen and I had to hold myself steady on the sink so I didn't slide to the floor. Even though I'd just been talking about it yesterday, amidst my dreamy-state I'd forgotten what today was. The day of my abortion. I couldn't be any more prepared and also unprepared for what the day was about to bring me.

Luke’s face from my falling dream was stained in my memory like a sun flare on my eyes, and I had to really focus a great deal just to block him out of my mind and worry about my appointment drawing nearer and nearer. I kept telling myself that this time tomorrow, I wouldn't be pregnant to get me to my feet and out of the bathroom. But even that truth was hard to admit, even to myself.

Once I'd gathered enough of my energy, I pulled myself into a standing position and opened the bathroom door, ambling out to the others.

When I stepped into the room, Juniper, Zeb, Rain and Rose were all laying in a circle in the middle of the room as the tiny fluffy black kitten bounced and hopped around the four of them, making them all giggle and cackle with laughter.

‘Mornin’’ I croaked to them. They all jumped when I spoke, so captivated with the kitten they didn't hear me come in. ‘What time is it?’

‘Morning sleeping beauty!’ Juniper joked, ‘thought I was gonna have to come and wake you up myself. It's just after 11.’

Jesus, you should've!’ I exclaimed. I hated sleeping in that late, even if my body needed it. I always feel like I'd wasted too much of the day that I couldn't get back.

‘It's all good, Aro. We have nowhere to be this morning,’ she said. ‘Look! We have a new member of the family!’

‘Aroha was the first person introduced, actually,’ Rain piped in. I caught Rain’s eye and he gave me a sweet smile.

‘Oh…’ Juniper looked from me to her brother.

‘Oh, he’s an absolute darling!’ Rose exclaimed, having the best time playing with the baby animal. Zeb was gazing at the crazy ball of energy but seemed okay watching from a distance.

‘Not at 5am clawing at your legs,’ Zeb said, glaring at the kitten with squinted eyes.

‘Too excited to meet you!’ Rain laughed at Zeb.

‘Right…’

As Rose, Rain and Zeb chatted about the cat, I let myself sink into a chair at the table. My breath was a little shaky and I couldn’t stand up for too long. Juniper had spotted the way I lowered myself into the chair and broke away from the cat to check in with me.

‘You okay?’ She whispered so the others didn't hear her.

‘It's the appointment,’ I said plainly.

‘Nervous?’

I nodded. It was apparent now more than ever. My stomach kept making horrible grumbling sounds and my core ached with each thought. Was I sure I was ready to go through with this? I didn't know. I didn't know if what I was feeling was normal or not. I wanted someone who'd experienced it to tell me I wasn't going crazy or about to make a mistake.

‘What do you need? Tea? Food? Shower?’ Juniper said.

‘Nothing, I'll be alright.’ I said, unable to even think about what my body and mind needed right now. I saw in the corner of my eye that Rose had caught sight of me. She got to her feet and came over to the table.

‘You need food before this afternoon.’ She said firmly. She immediately began to muck about in the kitchen, pulling food out of the mini fridge and preparing to start cooking. ‘Aw no one touched my potato bake!’ She said sadly, peering into the oven at the untouched bake.

‘I'll take it for work, Mum!’ Rain called out to her from the lounge while the kitten was jumping all over his back.

Satisfied with that conclusion, Rose began decanting the potato bake into lidded containers for Rain to take with him on his next shift. I wanted to tell Rose that I don't think I'd be able to stomach very much right now, but she was a mother on a mission to feed one of her daughter’s friends, and I couldn't stop her from doing what she loved.

In about five minutes, she slid a bowl across the table to me along with a big glass of orange juice. I was still uncertain until I looked in the bowl and realised she'd just given me fresh fruit cut up into smaller pieces with a handful of seeds and nuts sprinkled on top. After a few mouthfuls of the crisp, fresh and juicy fruit I felt a little bit more like myself, and found a degree of my appetite that was enough to finish the bowl. I thanked Rose deeply for her incredible intuition when it came to knowing exactly what I needed when I didn't.

She bustled about the kitchen for a while longer, cleaning and clearing the bench of dishes before she disappeared into her room and then reappeared moments later wearing a different outfit.

‘Right,’ she said clapping her hands together. ‘Rain, dear, could you please drop me off at Margie’s? She’ll be expecting me soon.’

‘Yep, sure.’

Rain got to his feet and passed Juniper the kitten. He took his mother's keys and went to start the station wagon for her. Rose turned to me, put both hands on my shoulder and knelt down so that she was eye-level with me.

‘You don't have to do anything than any doctor or nurse tells you to that you're not comfortable with, okay? This is your body, your temple, and if anything doesn't feel right, you have the power in this situation. Don't be afraid to let your voice be heard. This is your deviation after all.’

‘Thank you, Rose. I don't think I can say that enough to you, but I really do mean it.’ I said, realising how much I thank her. Who can blame me? She really was an amazing woman. I leant in and have her a big, grateful hug.

‘It's okay my love, we’d do anything for you.’ She embraced me back and rubbed my shoulder blades as she did so. ‘Be strong. You can do this. I'll send you all my love, light and magic while I'm working today, okay?’

‘Sounds good,’ I smiled, already feeling some of her warmth emanating off her and onto me. I imagined it charging up my Rose Quartz so I could give it a squeeze whenever I needed it.

Rose bent over and gave the cat a big long scratch down the middle making its butt and hind-legs rise into air, before bidding Juniper and Zeb goodbye and meeting her son outside. The wagon began to move and they disappeared up and out of the driveway.

The next couple hours were spent lounging around the house and playing with the new kitten while we waited aimlessly for the day to progress. Zeb challenged me to another game of Scrabble, which I only accepted as a means to get my mind off of what the rest of the day held for me. We played rather straight-forward games until it started to get competitive again, and the loser would have to switch places with the person on kitten-duty until several games had been played and won. Juniper and I had lost so many times to Zeb that we’d lost any interest and enjoyment out of the game.

The kitten, on the other hand, hadn't lost interest in the idea of playing. It continuously swiped, clawed and pounced at our feet and any other moving limb it could get its tiny little claws into. It was relentless until all of a sudden its energy tanks ran out, and it curled up in my lap and fell asleep.

Nearly half an hour after the kitten had enough excitement, Rain arrived back at the house in Rose’s wagon. He waltzed back into the house with several shopping bags full of supplies; Kitty litter, a litter tray, boxes and boxes of kitten food, toys, blankets, scratching posts and just about every kind of necessary kitten necessity he could think of. Rain got down onto the floor and began to set up the little kitty’s play-haven.

‘Alright,’ Zeb said jumping to his feet almost as soon as Rain was back. ‘I've gotta go.’

‘Where are you off to?’ Juniper asked.

‘I’ve got a couple job interviews today. If I'm not going back to school I need to do something with my life or I'll go stir-crazy.’ He grabbed his cell phone and headphones sitting beside the couch-bed, then turned to Juniper. ‘Is it okay if I stay here again tonight?’

‘Yeah, of course!’

‘Thank you,’ he stowed his phone in his pocket after plugging in his headphones and propped the ear buds in each ear. Then, as if out of a dream, Zeb leant down to me and gave me a hug. I almost didn't hug him back I was so surprised, but I made the most of this rarity and put my arms around him, careful not to disrupt the kitten.

‘Oh s**t! I forgot to ask you if you'd be able to take us in…’ I started, but was cut off before I could finish.

‘To your appointment? I'll take you,’ Rain said. ‘As long as someone can stay to look after the kitten.’

‘I should be back by 3 at the latest,’ Zeb said, ‘I can look after the little psycho fur-ball.’

‘Sweet as man,’ Rain thanked Zeb.

‘Oh, cool. Yeah… Thanks.’ I said, turning back to face Zeb. ‘Sorry, I forgot.’

‘All good doll.’ He smiled, flicked his sunglasses onto the bridge of his nose and made his way up the driveway and out toward Raumu. He turned and waved back at us, cigarette in his mouth before disappearing behind the ivy bush.

Juniper was playfully toying with the kitten and one of its new string-toys while Rain finished off constructing the miniature tower for the cat to climb. I just sat in my seat and stared into space - about the only thing I knew what to do with myself at this point.

The vibration of my phone tickled my thigh, and an incoming message illuminated the screen:

 

[VALERIE: just now

 

Got a few things to give to you. Where are you at the mo? Can I come and drop them off?]

 

Some things for me? I hadn't left anything of mine at Valerie’s house when I was there, so I have no idea what she stumbled across that could have belonged to me. Unless she was giving me more paperwork, in which case I'd try my hardest to deny - no more bills.

‘Hey Berry?’ I asked. ‘Is it alright if I give Valerie this address? She says she's got a few things to give me.’

‘Yeah that's fine - ouch!’ The kitten has leapt at Juniper’s face and clawed her chin, much to her delight. ‘You little lunatic! So you and Valerie on good terms then?’

‘I guess so,’ I said as I typed “22 Amber Grove” is the message box and pressed send. ‘She's not the cold hard b***h I thought she was, and I'm definitely no stranger to her.’

‘Make your mark,’ Juniper smiled. Her own phone made a bell-noise alerting her she had a text message. She took her phone out, kitten attacking her hand while she did so, and opened the text she had received. I watched her face as she read break out into a smile that she tried to hide. But I'd already figured it out.

‘Who's that?’ I asked, already knowing the answer.

‘Oh, just Carzel.’

Bingo.

‘He tried that soup,’ she continued looking smitten. ‘Hope he’s feeling a bit better.’ She sighed deeply to herself before beginning to type her response.

If there was any time to tell Juniper what I knew, it was now. But I couldn't find the words. Every time I started trying to speak to her my voice failed me, and my brain couldn't piece together the sentence she needed to hear. I just couldn't do it to her, not when I could see how much she was feeling.

But how else would she find out? Some accident later on down the track that hurts her even more? I was her best friend, and in best-friendships, honesty is something that you don't f**k with.

‘Berry,’ I said, leaning forward. She looked up at me with the sweetest and most genuine smile ever. She looked like the younger version of herself, so happy and full of love and life. I felt like a monster.

‘Right,’ Rain boomed in the room. ‘Your little play-zone is ready fluff ball!’

Juniper swooped up the kitten and handed it to Rain who showed the little cat its new things. Juniper looked like the excited Aunty watching from the side-lines. When she remembered I was about to tell her something, she turned back to me and knelt back down on the ground.

‘Sorry - What were you gonna say?’ She asked.

‘It’s just… I… ah, damn it. I forgot what I was going to say now.’ I stupidly joked.

‘Aw, all good. Must not have been important,’ she smiled and got back onto to her feet.

Damn it. That was my opportunity to level the field. But maybe the timing wasn't right? I don't know - I still wanted to tell her, but how could I when she was clearly so happy? Does that make me a bad friend? In some ways I guess, but it also comes down to the fact that it is Carzel’s responsibility to inform her, whenever he feels like the time is right. But it better be soon.

About fifteen minutes passed before my phone buzzed again, and Valerie’s name resurfaced:

 

[VALERIE: just now

 

Here]

 

‘I'll be back in a sec,’ I said to Juniper and Rain, hopping to my feet and walking outside the house and up the driveway.

The kind of day it was really contrasted the way I felt on the inside; it was sunny, warm yet a little breezy and refreshing. The fresh air felt good sweeping over me, and I made the effort of taking several deep breaths in to the pit of my stomach. It felt good.

Valerie’s car was parked just down slightly from Juniper’s driveway. She was standing on the road leaning against the car door, and as per usual, was puffing away on one of her rolled cigarettes. When she saw me, she stepped a little closer, but not too close as not to blow smoke in my face.

‘You look pale,’ she said straight away. The angry edge had disappeared from her eyes, and she seemed a lot calmer.

‘Yeah, I just sort of don't look at my reflection anymore. Usually something scary looks back at me.’

‘Heh, that's pregnancy for you.’ She chuckled. ‘How’re you feeling?’

‘Mmm,’ I mumbled. ‘Nervous. Like, really f*****g nervous.’

‘That doesn't go away, trust me,’ she said, re-lighting the last few dregs of her smoke. ‘It's not easy, getting a termination.’

‘You've had one before?’

She looked at me while she exhaled a plume of smoke, hesitating on the question.

‘Two,’ She eventually said. ‘Before and after Luke.’

‘What would you say to someone in that position?’ I asked. She was the only person I knew now that had actually experienced what I was about to, and I was willing to take all the advice I could get my hands on. Valerie pondered for a moment.

‘This will change you. Not necessarily for the better, or the worst. But you will change.’ She said this to me with a vacant expression that I couldn't describe, I could just feel the emotion in her voice as she relived her past in quick thoughts.

I took a deep breath, trying not to worry myself. But I'd rather be nervous than oblivious to what was about to happen.

‘How’s the new project going?’ I asked, changing the subject.

‘Pretty good actually,’ she said. ‘I've ripped out the whole basement and re-lined the carpet, cleaned and bleached the curtains and re-set up the whole operation.’

She seemed to be buzzing off of her current mission, doing something that she was familiar with but also good at Too seemed to be having a good effect on her.

‘I owe it to you though,’ she continued. ‘If you hadn't of barged in and pointed my own gun at me I don't think I would've listened to you. So thanks, Aroha. You saved my a*s.’

‘Well, all for a good cause I guess,’ I said patting my stomach, making myself feel uncomfortable in the process. ‘Did you say you had something for me?’ I asked. ‘I didn't leave anything behind at yours, did I?’

‘Oh right, no you didn't.’ Valerie said, opening the back passenger car door and leaning in the back seat. She wriggled her way back out and brought with her a medium sized cardboard box, filled with what looked like random junk. She propped it on the boot of the car with a great careless thud.

‘I've been cleaning out more than just the basement,’ she went on, ‘I've started going through Luke’s stuff. I didn't want to at first, but it can't sit there gathering dust. Most of his s**t was all crap anyways and was either broken or out-dated, but this is just the other stuff I wasn't sure what to do with. I don't know if he’d want to keep it or not, but I thought you might want to have a look through. Just in case, y’know?’

Im not going to lie, I was a bit unsure about this. I don't know if I should be going through Luke’s personal belongings, it could be too triggering and emotional. Everything in that box was probably touched, worn or used by Luke himself. While I wanted to peek in and rummage through out of pure curiosity, I didn't know whether it was the right thing to do for myself right now.

‘So… ?’ Valerie said as I stared at the box in silence. ‘Do you want it?’

‘Oh, um… I don't know, it's none of my things. What do you think could be in there that I would want?’

‘I don't know? Clothes? Photos or sentimental s**t? You don't have to, I just thought I'd check before I give it to the op-shops…’

My heart was saying take it, and my brain was saying leave it. But the thought of Luke’s belongings being sold to random people at bargain prices didn't sit right with me, not until I at least had a quick look through it. Luke was never really into owning lots of possessions anyways, so I doubted there would be anything of worth in there.

‘Okay, I'll take it.’ I said, grabbing the box out of Valerie's arms and resting it down on the road. It was deceivingly heavy for such an average sized box.

‘Righto,’ Valerie clapped her hands together. ‘Places to go, people to meet. I've gotta get busy with this cleaning or I'll never f*****g finish.’ She swung her driver’s door open and hopped into the car, automatically reaching for her cigarettes to roll one before she headed off.

‘Let me know how you get on,’ she said, spacing out the tobacco in the rice paper. ‘And good luck.’ She turned the key in the ignition and the engine roared into life.

‘Wait, Valerie,’ I called as she began to drive away. She put her foot straight on the brake and stopped only a metre or so ahead of me. ‘I got a letter in the mail the other day that I just opened last night.’

‘… Okay?’

‘It had the funeral bill in it… again.’

Valerie looked at me in surprise before shifting the gear stick into reverse and backing up so she was stationary right beside me.

‘What did you do with it?’ She asked me seriously.

‘Ripped it up and threw it in the bin.’

Good. Don't pay them a cent.’

‘Oh, I won't be. But how did they get my address? I don't even know who mailed it. It wasn't the funeral home because it was in a pretty shoddy-looking envelope.’

‘Hmm,’ Valerie pondered. ‘I don't know, kid. Keep your wits about you though. If they want money they’re gonna have to come and get it themselves - I'm surprised they haven't.’

And with that, she drove away. Hand resting out the window with her cigarette. She waved briefly as she turned the corner and sped off. I knelt over and heaved the box into my arms, making my way back inside.

‘What's that?’ Juniper asked me when I stepped back into the lounge.

‘Just a box of stuff. Valerie wants me to go through it.’

I just put it down on the ground by the door for now, I wasn't ready to go through it yet. The nerves were building up and accumulating inside of me that I just wanted time to hurry up so that this day would be over. I hated this constant state of anxiety.

I sat on the couch on top of Zeb’s makeshift bed as Juniper and Rain were debating on names for the kitten.

‘What about Jet?’ Juniper suggested. ‘You know, he’s jet black?’

‘I don't know if we have a boy or a girl though,’ Rain said. ‘So it needs to be unisex. Plus, I don't like that name.’

‘Poo,’ Juniper mumbled. ‘Umm, Umbra? Na… Flint? Obsidian? Shadow? What do you reckon, Aro?’

‘Uh, I dunno. Obsidian’s cute.’

‘Too cliché though.’ Rain added. He sized up his kitten as it rolled around on the carpet chasing a little plush mouse toy. ‘On the right track though…’

‘Smoky? Onyx?’

‘Na, bit boring. Getting warmer - the crystal theme is nice.’

‘Coal?’ Juniper said. Rain looked at her with a very unimpressed look as if to say why would you even suggest that?

‘Tourmaline, that's a Crystal isn't it?’ I added from the couch.

‘Tourmaline…’ Rain repeated in a whisper. ‘That's a beautiful name. Yeah… I like that! Little Tourmaline.’

Tourmie!!’ Juniper squealed, flopping to the ground and playing with the now named, Tourmaline.

‘Thanks,’ Rain smirked at me. I nodded back to him, but couldn't hold my gaze any longer than that. Staring at the clock as stupid as it sounded was about the only thing I enjoyed right now.

The little hand had moved from the one to the two in almost a flash, and I remained sitting on the couch waiting for my fate. The box of Luke’s things  lay untouched (bar from a hyperactive Tourmaline) until I was ready to go through them. Juniper and Rain were both still happily occupied by Tourmaline, who had discovered that running wildly in loops of the room was incredibly entertaining for both its owners and itself.

Just before three o'clock, Zeb arrived back at the house looking irritated and a bit defeated. He slumped into the couch right next to me, and took a deep breath.

‘How’d it go?’ Rain asked Zeb from the ground.

‘Stupid F*****g restaurant managers,’ he snapped as if he'd been waiting for the release. ‘Honestly, I don't know why I bother with hospitality around here. Everywhere wants experience before you get a job but how the f**k are you supposed to get any if no one gives you a job?’

‘How many interviews did you have?’ I asked him.

‘Three, and they were all a F*****g joke. Like honestly, how hard could making coffee be? Or waiting on a table? I may as well open my own F*****g cafe.’

‘There will be something around,’ Juniper added. ‘I guess it depends what's going at the moment. Maybe you could try find work through someone you know?’

‘I don't know. Maybe,’ he added. ‘I don't know who I'd go to though. I've got a few more interviews over the next week but I'm not feeling hopeful…’

‘I could try and get you some work with me?’ Rain suggested. ‘It's can get pretty intense doing constant manual labour though, I'm not gonna lie.’

It was an interesting imagine picturing Zeb in the road workers uniform doing heavy lifting and construction work.

‘Thanks but I think I'll pass on that.’

‘No worries,’ Rain smiled. ‘I'll keep my eyes and ears out for you.’

Soon enough, it was edging on three thirty, alerting us that it was time to get ourselves ready and make our way into the city for the appointment. A wave of fear and shock came over me when both Juniper and Rain put their shoes on and grabbed their bags. It was really happening now, the moment id been waiting for. I was scared shitless.

‘You’ll be fine, doll. Good luck,’ Zeb said quietly to me as I got to my feet. ‘I'll be thinking of you, okay? See you when you're back.’

‘Okay,’ I nodded to him, trying to make myself seem as natural as possible. Which I knew I didn't need to with my best friends, but I couldn't help it. I think I was just trying to trick myself into thinking I was okay, when I clearly wasn't.

‘I'll put this in the back for you,’ Rain said scooping the box of Luke’s stuff up in his arms and taking it to the car for me. I didn't really have a chance to tell him not to bother, so I just let him pack it in the passenger’s seat. He climbed into the driver’s seat and started the wagon up.

‘Right, got everything?’ Juniper asked.

‘I think so,’ I replied, reaching for the crystal around my neck, though I just felt my chest at my fingertips. I quickly and drastically shot down the hallway to the Burrow and reached underneath my pillow, grabbing the string and pulling out my necklace and looping it straight over my head. The stone fell with a thud onto my skin taking up its usual residence over my heart. There was no way I was going without it, and now that I had it, whether I liked it or not, I was ready.

Juniper was waiting at the ranch slider for me, while Zeb was patting Tourmaline who was watching us as we made our way to the wagon and climbed in. Zeb stood by the door with the kitten, waving its little paw at us until we had reversed out of the driveway and onto the street.

We were off.

The very pit of my stomach felt like someone had poured something highly acidic down my throat. It was hot, sore and uncomfortable. My palms were becoming clammy and I could feel my sweat already seeping through my clothes. I was never a terrible sweater, but when I was nervous my body responded to that feeling in strange ways.

For the first part of the duration of the trip I simply stared out the window at the passing cars, houses, streets, trees, hills, rocks and shores, taking it all in.

Juniper and Rain were quietly and respectfully enjoying their music from the front seat. They both knew how I was feeling right now, and they both knew there wasn't anything they could do to help me other than leave me to be with my thoughts. That didn't stop Juniper from occasionally glancing back to see if I was alright.

I was still thinking about the dream I'd had last night. Why was it that in the heat of the moment, dreams always feel like real life? Like you're not in a dream and that the reality you're in has and always will exist. Because that's what I remember feeling when I saw Luke holding our child, talking to me, hugging and touching me. It was a kind of joy I've never felt before, and even though it happened in my head I could still feel the way my heart fluttered when I imagined him holding our baby, like the father he always wanted to be.

What would he of done right now? What would he be doing in this situation? Would he be happy? Sad? Angry that this is my decision? Would he of been sitting here next to me, holding my hand and telling me it'll be okay? Instead of a box filled with his old belongings. Would I even be in this situation if he hadn't of been killed? I can't help but continue to imagine what my life would've been like if none of this had happened the way that it did.

I looked at the box; I could see a mound of fleece fabric as well as a folded up map protruding out of the top. Reluctantly, I pulled the box closer to me and began to pull things out.

The fleece belonged to a huge, oversized cyan hoodie that Luke used to wear almost every day religiously. I forgot it existed until now. The fabric was rough and worn in, just how he liked it, and it still smelt like Luke and the kind of aerosol deodorant that he used. I held it for a while up to my face, the smell and feel of Luke himself was so surreal, it almost felt like I was hugging him.

Beneath the hoodie, a stack of half-empty textbooks sat practically untouched. Luke was never the biggest fan of school, so when it came to discarding his textbooks he took great pride in putting them somewhere he’d never go looking for them again. Next to that was the folded up map, which must've been hung on the wall lots as there were pin holes all throughout the paper. A couple of novels were stacked next to the text books too. I recognised them as a few of Luke’s favourites: The Alchemist, Ready Player One, and The Casual Vacancy. He wasn't a big reader, but when he found something that resonated with him he'd read them over and over and over again, like these three.

The last item in the box intrigued me the most. It was a glossy looking blue coloured photo album, and it looked reasonably full. I pulled it out of the box and put it flat on my lap. The cover of the book was plain blue, but when I opened to the opening page a single word had been handwritten in what was unmistakably Luke’s handwriting:

Reminders

I didn't know what he meant by that, but I quietly gasped to myself when I turned the next page. Staring back at me from the album was my thirteen year old self, posing next to a fourteen year old Luke. We both were visibly trying our hardest to make sure we looked good for the photo, and failed miserably in the process: both had our tongues pushed too far out of our mouths, almost touching our index fingers that were posed in the peace sign. My hair was a questionable mess of layers accompanied by a side fringe and glasses that I didn't need. Luke's hair was hidden completely beneath a thick beanie which was underneath his hood too, making his face look tiny amidst the overcompensation of fabric. But despite our poor fashion choices and poses, we looked adorably happy. It was all very cringe worthy material, but I couldn't help but smile looking at these old times. I could imagine Luke having a great time looking back on these.

The next few pages consisted of photos of Luke with Carzel, Bonnie and all of the other siblings. It was evident that Luke spent most nights at Carzel's, as most of the photos were taken in that house. Even some of Luke’s clothes were clearly hand-me-downs from Carzel, who had appeared in other photos wearing the exact same outfits. I guess that was a testament as to how caring Bonnie was when it came to Luke, and how even though he stood out amongst their rich, dark skin and sleek black hair, he was still very much a part of their family.

There were more and more photos of us two, looking like idiots trying to pose somewhere around town or the odd candid shot of one another. Mostly me, as Luke loved to take photos of and with the people in his life. There was even a photo of Valerie when she was much younger, holding what must have been a toddler-Luke. She was smiling widely at the camera and visibly carried no baggage on her being. Had I seen that without knowing her like I do now I don’t know think I'd of recognised it was her. Time was an incredible thing.

Eventually, I'd made my way to the final page of the album. I'd stopped on this one for quite a while to truly take it in. It was of Luke and me the night of our school ball. It was also the same night the photo on Luke’s funeral programme was taken: he was wearing his baby blue tux he’d been really excited about wearing. I was in a strapless, black mermaid gown that my mother had ever so pedantically helped me chose. The thing I loved about this photo was that unlike all of the others, we weren't looking at the camera. Yes, we were smiling, but at one another. Our whole body language was directed at the other, as if we didn't know or care that there was a photographer behind us. We were two people in love with the person before us, just happy to be with each other.

And that's when it hit me.

Reminders.

This wasn't just some photo album that held photos. This album was made by Luke, for Luke, to remind him of the things in his life that he was grateful for. Whenever he was struggling with his situation, his sickness, his meds or his family, he turned to this album to show him all the good things in his life that he had going for him, and to remind him how lucky he was.

Suddenly all my ill thoughts, negative feelings and doubts about Luke came soaring back towards me tenfold. My betrayal had instantly been transformed into guilt, as this whole time I was kept in the dark I thought it was because I wasn't expected to understand, when in actual fact, I was his safe space. I was the one person he could turn to for comfort and for love that wasn't going to turn around and tell him to take his medication, or worry about his health every other second of the day. I was the normal life that he had always wanted, and managed to create for himself - The escape from the horrible truths of his life that maybe he didn't fully understand himself. I still believe the truth would have been easier to deal with for everyone, but I suddenly had a much bigger understanding for Luke and his situation and the way he went about it, as well as a huge feeling of guilt for ever having doubted him in the first place, as he clearly was still the same Luke that I'd always known.

I reached for my Rose Quartz and squeezed it so tight I wondered if I'd crack it. But my mind was only on one thing: Luke. I kept holding the crystal as I imagined myself speaking to Luke directly. I needed to tell him I was sorry.

“Luke, I’m so sorry. So, so, sorry that I ever doubted you. I couldn't have imagined what it was like to live the way you did, and I only ever wanted you to be happy. I love you, and I understand now. Please be with me today, I need your strength and courage to help me through this.”

When I'd let go of my stone, the car had come to a halt. Since we’d been in the car the sun had gone down, and the world outside had grown colder and darker. It was a bit of a shock to go from Raumu to Wellington in what felt like only a few minutes - and when Juniper appeared at my passenger door my nerves and anxiety hit me again like a truck at full speed.

I shut the album and stuffed it back into the box as Juniper opened my door and held her hand out to help me out of the seat. The concrete car park was so chilly I could feel it through the soles of my shoes. I pulled my jersey up in an effort to keep myself warmer, a cold breeze blasting us from behind.

I looked up in front of me; the humongous, grey blocks of buildings loomed high above me, lacking any colour or life. The hospital was easily fifty times larger than the Raumu clinic, and easily one hundred times more intimidating; standing in the cold dark sky waiting for us to enter its sterile walls. My heart pounded against my chest, and I would have stayed where I stood all night if Juniper hadn't linked her arm with my own and began to walk me towards the entrance.

Rain locked the car and jogged to catch up with us. He didn't have to come along for this, but the fact that he automatically came in without asking was quite sweet. I was grateful to have the company.

Once we were in the main lobby, all outside noises and natural breezes ceased to exist. It went unnaturally quiet and there was an off-putting chemically smell in the air. It might've been my enhanced scent, but it was enough to make me cover my nose to avoid gagging. The waiting room was split in half with an entry path leading down the middle to the receptionist desk, where two busy looking women typed away and answered constantly ringing phones.

‘Excuse me?’ Juniper politely asked one of them after waiting until she was off the phone. ‘We’re looking for the maternity ward?’

‘Level three.’ She replied emotionlessly, not looking away from her computer screen.

‘Thanks.’

Juniper walked back to us pulling a face at the receptionist. We headed to the far right where down a hallway we found the entrance doors to the elevators. Waiting for one to arrive at our floor was awfully anticipating, when it did I just about collided with the hoard of people exiting. Once it was empty we entered the box, Rain pushed the number three and we began to rise to the third floor.

In a few seconds the door opened to the third floor, which started as a blank and empty white corridor down to another room in the distance. The three of us marched forwards, hearing nothing but our own footsteps squishing across the bleached floors. I took as many deep breaths as I could, Juniper squeezing my arm supportively as I did so. It felt like the walk of shame.

When we reached the maternity ward, I was shocked to see how many women were sitting in the room, waiting. I looked at them all with one sweep of my eyes and felt scrutiny looking back at me from each pairs of eyes. They could all be here for the same reason I am, yet there was a ridiculously uncomfortable tension in the air from everyone's collective panic and anxiety. I did my best to block it out as Juniper and I approached the reception, Rain drifting uncomfortably behind us, getting many funny looks himself being the only male in the room.

‘Hi, do we need to check in or anything? My friend has an appointment…’ Juniper began talking to the receptionist, but I was distracted by the space behind the reception desk; a much larger opening that lead off to other corridors and a multitude of window-less doors that lead to private rooms where, I assumed, procedures were carried out. Every now and then, a doctor would emerge from the room and call out one of the woman's names. It was hard to watch the colour drain from their faces when they were summoned.

A lot of these women were around my age, or a little above. Several of them looked somewhere between mine and my mother’s age, some even older. I guess it goes to show that this could happen to any women at any stage in her life. I admired that about each and everyone in this room, though I didn't know them. It was hard to endure your own thoughts and feelings when you're going through it, but I could now imagine what kind of mental strain these women could be putting themselves under, and how much pain comes along with it. Even in this small room alone there would have been enough collective stress to wipe out someone cold.

Every time I remembered why I was here I tensed up. Once we’d sat down to wait, Juniper had her hand on my knee to try and calm me as much as she could, and Rain was flicking through a stereotypical waiting room magazine as we waited in silence.

How badly I wished Luke was here. After looking at those photos and having that realisation, he was the only person I wanted next to me right now. Not that I wasn't any less grateful for both Juniper and Rain, I just knew that Luke would've been the only person who could say or do something to make me calm down the way that I needed to.

One by one, the women were called into the rooms by doctors. I watched as they did their best to shake off any bad thoughts and straighten themselves up for the doctor or say a silent prayer to themselves before walking into the room. It made me respect women so much more, but also hurt that we can be made to feel any less than who we are for our natural powers and abilities we were born with.

We waited in our seats for at least another hour or two, listening to nothing but the ticking clock as the seconds went by. Several other women had arrived in the waiting room since we had come, and as the rest of the room began to clear out. I knew it wouldn't be long until I was called in.

This moment of silent and anxious anticipation was by far the worst I'd ever experienced.

A door to the right of the waiting room opened, and a short, stocky man with a bald head emerge out wearing his blue scrubs. My eyes didn't break from him. I watched as he walked over to reception, filled in a form on a clipboard, mumbled to the receptionist before turning to a computer and typing something in. When he leaned away from the monitor he approached the waiting room, and my heart almost burst through my rib cage.

‘Aroha Hinerangi?’ He called plainly. I just about fell out of my chair onto the floor in fear, but Juniper caught me under my arms and helped me to my feet. I forced my legs to stretch in front of me and carry my body over to the doctor, who smiled at me with a rehearsed grin. But when I realised Juniper wasn't behind me, I stopped dead and turned to find her.

Juniper looked towards me, worried. She made her way over to me but the doctor stopped her in her tracks.

‘Sorry, no extras in the room during procedures.’ He turned and entered the room, his hand on my shoulder to semi-gently encourage me to follow. I watched Junipers worried face stare back until the door had shut and she was no longer visible.

The room was tiny, dark and awful. It was devoid of any colour or life, not that I expected anything more from a hospital, but just being here now enhanced the feeling of being trapped inside this medical prison.

My doctor went straight to his tiny desk and began typing away again without saying anything. He gestured that I sit down in the hard, wooden seat against the wall while he prepared himself.

‘Age?’ He asked out of nowhere. It was so quiet I jumped as if he yelled at me.

‘Uh, eighteen.’

‘Date of birth?’

‘Jan… January fourteenth.’ I said. ‘Two thousand,’ I added when he looked at me awaiting the rest.

‘Address?’

‘17 Vale Road… Raumu.’

‘Okay. Now, is this decision yours entirely?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you being influenced by another person? Family, friends, colleague?’

‘No.’

‘Are you fully aware of the procedure about to take place and give your consent for us to go ahead with any necessary actions that may arise during?’

No.

‘Yes.’ I said. I just wanted this done and dusted.

He continued to type away without asking me anymore questions. I don't know if it was just the headspace I was in, or his short-answers, but I was feeling a little uncomfortable with him. I still would have been just as nervous if he was a women, but something about it made me feel… small.

Without saying another word to me, he got to his feet and began getting equipment and tools ready on a tray beside the bed on the far side of the room. I sat, shaking against my will as he grabbed things I didn't recognise and prepared them for me. I was beginning to understand what Valerie meant when she said that it would change me.

‘Okay, Aroha,’ he said finally. ‘I'll get you to change into these and then hop up on the bed when you're ready, please.’

He handed me a hospital gown to put on and gave me the room to myself for a second so i could change. It felt strange getting undressed in a place like this, only to put on something that barely covered me or kept me warm. I breathed in as much air as I could, before stepping over to the bed and hoisting myself up onto the awfully uncomfortable bed. I lay back on a slight angle and watched as my doctor returned into the room, and began to pull trays and tools closer to the bedside.

All i could think about was Luke. I just wanted him here, standing beside me. I just wanted to know that he was there in case anything happened. All I could do was squeeze the crystal around my neck and pretend like that was my reality.

‘Okay Aroha, spread your legs for me.’

I gulped. This was it, the moment I'd been so afraid of. The doctor was sitting at the end of the bed, watching and waiting for me to spread my legs and expose my most personal self to him.

‘Aroha, I need you to cooperate,’ he said a bit irritably as I lay with my thighs tightly together. ‘I want to help you, but you have to help me.’

I had to. When I did I tried my hardest not to cry or let my emotions take over, though this seemed like the most appropriate time.

‘Alright, you’re going to feel a bit of a pinch here. Just applying local anaesthetic.’ I saw him grab an alarmingly large needle that disappeared under the hem of my hospital gown. I winced as a sharp pain hit me from my lower internal belly. I lay there in painful silence until my whole pelvis went completely numb.

I squeezed the Rose Quartz with all my might that my knuckles had gone white. I cried out for him in my mind, calling for the man who was no longer a part of my world. Tears rolled down my face in silence, longing for him to be here holding my hand, stroking my forehead and reassuring me I was okay, doing great and we’d be able to go home and spend the evening together. I wanted it so badly, but this baby was my reminder that eventually at some point in everyone's life, everything changes.

The doctor grabbed a big looking plastic tool and began adjusting it. It was going to take the baby - my baby out of my womb. It was going to take Luke’s only child out of my body so it ceases to exist. The closest thing I'd had to my own family, the closest thing I'd had to Luke that wasn't him, the one thing that had changed my life completely. up until this very moment, I'd disregarded the reality that this very baby inside of me would grow to be a loving, breathing, walking, talking, thinking, speaking creature that I had partly helped create, and in all honesty I wasn't sure whether or not that was something that I was willing to stop from happening or not.

I hadn't thought this through.

I watched the doctor - He clicked the plastic tool and it widened and closed like alien technology. He moved it down between my legs and I heard it shift and move, followed by a sudden and uncomfortable internal tightness. My heart rate rapidly increased to the point I thought I was having a heart attack, it hurt with each beat, and the room around me began to spin.

I was hyperventilating. I couldn't breathe. The air was being sucked out of my lungs. I needed to stop. I needed help. I needed Luke.

‘Aroha,’ the doctor said frantically as I gasped for breath. ‘Aroha you need to calm down! I need you to calm down, now!’ He reached for his electronic pager on his belt. ‘I need backup please - maternity ward, room 8A. Now! Bring sedatives.’

I swayed inside of my own head as if I was on a rough boat voyage, unable to make sense of up or down. The doctor desperately tried to calm me down, but I couldn't hear him. Everything around me was silent, and I couldn't make sense of what was happening around me. The room blurred. The colours blurred. Everything blurred.

Until I saw it.

Until I saw him.

Luke’s face - right before my eyes; curled up in horror, nostrils flared, lips stretched and eyes bursting with tears that streamed down his face and off of his chin. He was distraught, in agony, trying to scream my name, trying to reach for me. Touch me. Help me. But we were separated by more than space. Though for this split second, he was right there.

And then I blinked. He was gone - and I'm still here…

 

Stop…

Stop!

 ‘STOP!!!!!!!!



© 2019 aubreydiamond


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Added on March 17, 2019
Last Updated on March 19, 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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