Short Story: Two Lines

Short Fiction
Reading Time: 3 minutes -

Content Warning: Features swearing and the subject of pregnancy and abortion.

~

One line. She stared at her watch, counting the seconds. How can a minute last so long? Her breath hissed at the forty-two second mark.

Two lines.

Shit.

She threw the stick in the sink and reached for another. A different brand. This wasn’t paranoia, it was careful planning. Who knew which of these cheap knock offs you could trust? The rite was repeated.

Two lines.

Fuck.

Again, another brand, the more upmarket one.

Two lines.

God fucking dammit.

She paced the bathroom and ran a hand through her hair. The room was too stuffy and she flung open the window, startling pigeons who flapped from the outside stairwell. Traffic passed below in two colorful blurs. Two lines of stuttered stops-and-starts and angry beeping.

Footsteps tapped atop the kitchen’s lino and the fridge door slammed. Shit. He was home from class already? She thought of hiding the evidence, of forgetting this whole thing. He didn’t need to know. It was a mistake.

A light rap on the door. “All right in there?” Jake called.

“Yeah, coming.”

She smoothed down her hair and stepped into the lounge. Jake slouched on the sofa with a can of cheap beer in one hand and his cell in the other.

“You’re back early.” She stood by the couch, undecided whether to sit or leap out of the front door.

He shoved his cell into his jean pocket and tilted his head back. “Professor called in sick. Got the whole afternoon free. Wanna go out and grab a drink?”

She rubbed her stomach. Shit shit shit. “Maybe.”

Jake sat up. “What’s up?”

“Nothing’s up.”

He stood with a slow stretch and leaned against the sofa’s armrest. “Something’s happened. You’re never this quiet unless you’re brooding over something. Did your mom post stupid shit on Facebook again?”

“God, it’s not my mom.” She fiddled with the charm ring on her finger. “You want to sit?”

“Now you’ve got me worried.”

“I think I’m pregnant.”

“You… think?”

“I took some tests.”

“And they’re all—”

“All of ‘em.”

“All of ‘em?”

“Yeah. Positive.”

Shit.

Jake covered his mouth and turned away, staring at some imaginary scene on the wall. She counted forty-two seconds. He lowered his hand and slowly revealed a grin.

“You’re pregnant!”

She crossed her arms. “It’s not a good thing.”

“We’re having a baby, oh my God. Have you told your mom?”

“Jake. No—”

“Oh man, my dad is gonna be so thrilled.” He giggled and rubbed his cheeks.

“Jake—”

“We’ll have to start looking for a place, something with a yard.”

She uncurled her arms. “Jake, c’mon—”

“If it’s a girl, we could name her after your grandma.”

“Jake! You’re still in college, we’ve got no savings—”

“I can pick up work at my old man’s place, he’s been hassling me anyways—”

“We’re not even married.”

He launched from the sofa and grabbed her hands. “Then let’s get married. We’ve got, what, nine months, right? We can do this.”

She pulled from his grip and sank onto the edge of the sofa, head in her hands. He sat next to her and placed an arm around her shoulder.

“Hey, listen, we can do this.” He rubbed her back in soothing strokes, but the motion only made her feel nauseous.

“We’re too young for this. I’m a fucking barmaid, we’ve got nothing—”

“We can work it out—”

“I don’t want to.”

His touch fell away. “You don’t want to?”

“No.”

She closed her eyes and saw the two lines, the two pathways her life could take. One led to finishing the semester, graduating by next summer, earning her diploma, quitting the sweaty bar she worked at most nights, and starting a career that would fund backpack trips around Europe and Asia. The other line led to squatting in her mom’s place with a screeching crotch goblin and a stressed-out fiancé who’d likely spend his nights at her bar instead of changing diapers. Jake didn’t see the reality. He didn’t see the possibilities. Fuck knows what he saw.

“What… what are you thinking?” he asked.

“We’re too young, I want… I want to travel the world, see things. Live.”

“You can do all that with a baby.”

“I don’t want a baby.”

He leaned back against the sofa. “Why?”

She snapped her eyes to him. “Are you even listening?”

“I don’t see why we can’t.”

“Because I don’t want to!”

His cheeks burned red. “Don’t I get a say?”

“It’s my body.”

“It’s my baby.”

“Then you get pregnant and have one.”

She strode into the kitchen and yanked open the fridge, grabbing a beer. Her hands trembled and she pressed the cool can to her forehead with a sigh. Jake appeared behind her and leaned beside the breakfast bar.

“So what you gonna do?”

She placed the cola down. “I’ll… I’ll call my doc tomorrow.”

“And that’s it?”

“That’s it.”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “All… All right. You wanna go out and grab a drink?”

“Yeah.”

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