Valentina sought comfort from her friend, Kate. They had met at a Learning Annex Seminar on starting your own business. While she found that it wasn’t for her, Kate began a catering company out of her stylish Uptown apartment, which she decorated in an Art Deco scheme. The sharp clean lines gave a sexy and welcoming impression. They sat on the sofa as she explained what happened and just the act of saying her thoughts out loud to her friend, made her feel a little better. Kate listened to her every word, without interruption. Her unruly red hair was caught in a low bun, runaway brick colored ringlets skimmed her nape. Her silver and turquoise earrings danced around her slim freckled face, her gray eyes were warm with care. She insisted that Valentina stay wouldn’t hear otherwise. Valentina felt her eyes sting with tears.
“Thank you for this, Kate.” she siad thickly. Kate put her arm around her shoulders.
“No thanks, necessary, love. The important thing is that you and the baby are safe. I’m glad to have you here.” she said and gave her a firm squeeze. Valentina had to choke back her sob. She had been feeling so alone and here was someone who cared.
“If I can help with anything, don’t hesitate to speak up. I have time on my hands.” she offered. Kate was delighted and readily accepted.
“I would appreciate your accounting skills, Vally. I don’t trust an accountant and usually do them myself, but I’ll admit that I haven’t organized it much lately.” Valentina smiled widely, happy for the opportunity to help.
“I’m sure I can do something about that.” she assured her and they embraced to seal the deal. Valentina inhaled her heated perfume as her tears made a polka dot pattern on Kate’s silk electric blue jumpsuit. The phone broke their hold with a shrilly ring. When she hung up, she turned to her apologetic.
“I’m so sorry, love. I’ve got to meet a client, but after that, I’m free. Let’s meet at the coffee shop on third at, oh about six. We’ll have a bite and then decide what to do for the night.” she told her as she picked up her oversized black purse and jacket.
Valentina waved her off.
“Go, I’ve got some work to do and we’ll definitely meet later.” Kate stopped and peered at her motherly.
“Don’t strain yourself, Val. I mean it.” she said, shaking her finger at her.
“Don’t worry, Kate. I’ll be fine.” Valentina chuckled.
Satisfied, Kate left and she decided to try to distract herself by sorting through Kate’s files for a couple of hours. When the numbers began to blur, she took a break. She peeked out the window and watched the occasional car pass by. The thought of an unknown passenger on their way to an unknown destination, made her yearn for some fresh air.
As she walked down the street, she started to feel better with every step. The hurt and sadness that had settled in her, was still present. It seemed as if it were embedding itself into her soul. The only bright light was the life she carried and who depended on her to be strong. She could not fail.
She stopped at a restaurant when she felt a tug in her stomach and readily obeyed. She was reaching for the door, when another hand reached too. They both pulled away quickly and said sorry in unison.
He chuckled and pulled open the door.
She smiled politely. “Thank you.”
She stepped into the brightly lit restaurant and found it half full. The muted color scheme matched the low hanging lamps, the vinyl chairs, even the walls and vibrant rugs. For Valentina, it was as comforting as a womb. A hostess approached smiling. She was a blonde with dark roots showing proudly their natural brown. Her candy pink lips stretched across her tanned face.
“One?” she asked grabbing one menu before she could respond, so was forced to follow her. She passed the other patrons who were knee deep in their conversations and their orders. The mixture of the different aromas made her feel dizzy and nausea.
She sat down quickly and pressed her head to her spinning head. The perky hostess took no notice, for she had done her duty by laying down the menu and went off the greet the lunch rush from the nearby hospital, Mercy General.
After she had placed her order, she gazed out on to the crowded streets. She supposed she could go to the hospital and start some prenatal care. She decided to stop in and make an appointment at the clinic.
After lunch, she waited for the elevator and wondered what kind of questions she would be asked. A nervousness and fear that she would have to do it alone, threatened to overwhelm her. She to take breaths to steady herself.
The doors opened and she stepped inside. They closed with a thump and it started it’s smooth ride. She closed her eyes and sighed deeply, suddenly feeling tired.
“Tough day, huh?” a voice asked. She turned to the same guy at the restaurant, leaning up against the wall. He looked to be in his late twenties, dressed in a blue plaid button shirt over a pale thermal with the sleeves thick like donuts at his elbow. He gazed at her intently, his eyes were the color of moist earth.
“Could be better.” she told him and turned to watch the numbers light, but she was fully aware of his strong presence. She could swear there was a slight heat coming off him, as if he had suddenly come very close to her. She felt herself relaxing and drifting with the lull of the elevator. Her floor chimed, breaking the spell and the doors opened.
“Hope your day gets better.” he called out with a charming smile after she stepped off. She only had time to sat thanks before the doors cut her off. She was left alone in the illuminated corridor, breathing the disinfected air. She walked to the OB/GYN clinic, following the bright signs and settled in for the wait.
She was glad that the room was empty, but she could hear the sound of children and harried mothers nearby. It caused the ripples of nervousness to ripple.
When the tests and questions were done, she was in a paper gown in her chilly examination room, waiting and anxious.
An old doctor with bloodshot eyes and a comb over came in and gave her a quiet and uncomfortable pelvic exam. Nothing was said and she was thankful.
He finally snapped off his gloves and washed his hands.
“You’re about eight weeks. We’ll have an approximant number when we do the sonogram. That is, unless you would like to schedule an abortion?” he asked wearily. Valentina sat there clutching her thin gown closed and looked at him with surprise.
“Oh, no.” she stammered.
He squinted at her with his beady dark eyes. “I know, you kids today make these kinds of decisions carelessly, but whatever you choose, there’s a price.” he told her. A thin film of sweat formed on her upper lip.
“My fiancée and I are going to keep the baby and I think we’ll be fine.” she said hoping he didn’t hear the tremble in her voice. He nodded his small nearly hairless head.
“Well then, good luck to you, Miss.” he said and left with her folder in hand.
His words did more than affect her. They shattered the fragile belief that she could handle raising a baby alone, that she could provide all that was needed. His words blotted out all of that with hard reality. Maybe an abortion would be the smart thing, the best thing. It wouldn’t be fair to put the child through a life of poverty and a bleak future, especially without a father.
She dressed as if gravity were driving her down, inch by inch. She left the hospital in a foggy daze of confusion, it made her eyes glazed over with tears. She managed to find the coffee shop where she was to meet Kate. She was thankful for the chance to sit and think about things until Kate arrived.
After ordering a grilled cheese with fries and a large iced tea, she sat back and mulled over the day. She didn’t have the nerve to go back and make an appointment for the abortion. Hell, she wasn’t even sure she wanted one, since she had seen and heard horror stories and the Made For TV movies. She was already scared shitless. If she decided to keep it, how would she support them? She knew she would have to make a decision, it was just a matter of figuring out if she was prepared to live with the outcome.
Her food came and she was into the second bite, when a familiar face came through the door. It was the guy from the elevator. Only this time, he was wearing in dark blue sweatpants and a gray sweat shirt.
He walked with a confident swagger over to the pick up window. He was welcomed warmly by almost everyone he passed. She watched him give attention to each and it was hard not to notice his generous attitude and friendliness. He didn’t see her and felt her heart jump to attention at being discovered staring. She had to admit she found him enticing and she was having trouble remembering if her heart fluttered like this with Peter. She bit into her sandwich again to choke down the pain come with thinking about him. Laughter came from the area where he waited, leaning on the counter and carrying on an easy dialogue with the waitresses and the cook. When he turned to observe his surroundings she knew that he would spot her . When he did, he walked over to her table. His smile made her anxiety fade and cleared the way for full on lust.
“Hello again. Hope your day has improved.”
She looked at him soberly in spite of her inner churning.
“The day isn’t over yet.”
He laughed a little. “That’s a good way of looking at it.” He moved toward her and put out his hand.
“I’m Marcus.” She wiped her hands on a napkin and took it.
He gestured to the chair across from her.
“Do you mind if I join you?” he asked gallantly. She shook her head and he slid into the chair, giving her his undivided attention. She could smell a faint smell of musk and wood.
“I hope you don’t mind me saying that you looked kind of freaked out earlier and maybe you need someone to listen.” he told her softly. It caught her off guard and she began to look around nervously. He pulled back and smiled broadly.
“What I mean is, I work at the hospital and know a few people who have gone to a group that meets on the fourth floor. They say they have very good counselors,” he explained.
“Thank you for the information.” she said, relaxing a little.
“No worries. I just know that everyone has problems, but not everyone has someone they can talk to about them.”
She understood perfectly and even though she had Kate, talking with him seemed just as natural.
“That’s a good way of looking at it.” she said and he laughed.
“You’re something else, Valentina. Which is a very pretty name, by the way.” he added. She rolled her eyes.
“You’re not getting charming on me, are you?” she said, trying to keep a straight face and failing. He shook his head grinning.
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” he told her.
They called him for his order and he politely excused himself. She watched him walk away and like the way he carried himself, like a guy you couldn’t bullshit and who wouldn’t bullshit you. On his way out, he stopped at her table.
“Would you like to get dinner? I know a couple of places that are really great.”
She shifted in her seat. As nice as the chat was, she couldn’t forget what the reality was.
“I would like to, but unfortunately I am dealing with some things that need my focus for now, but thank you for the invitation.”
He looked disappointed and nodded.
“I understand. It’s hard to have fun when there’s things to deal with. I hope you see you again .”
“Thanks for understanding and it was nice meeting you, Marcus.” she said and with a friendly nod, he was gone.
With him went her calm and she could feel the panic creeping back on her. She spotted Kate exiting a taxi and rushing into the shop.
She waved her over and Kate teetered over in her expensive pumps.
“I’ve had a hell of a meeting with a client. Oh my God, she was indecisive , she couldn’t pick from two shades of green for the second week in a row. I love my clients, but days like this, it makes me wonder why I bother.” She rolled her smoky gray eyes as the waitress came over with another menu. She held up her hand.
“No thanks. I’d like a turkey club with fries and a Pepsi.” she told her and the girl scampered away.
“Sorry your meeting didn’t go well,”
“Not your fault, love. They are who are.” She said. “Rich sons of bitches, God bless them.” she said to her, winking. The food came and Kate attacked it with salt and ketchup.
“What have you been up to?” she stabbed a fry and took a bite.
Valentina told her about the examination and the doctors ominous words. Kate waved them off.
“That’s just to scare you. Plenty of women are single with families and they’re able to handle it. Besides, there’s help available and you’re not alone.” she assured her, taking a bite of her sandwich. She looked at Valentina carefully.
“Have you made a decision?” she asked quietly. Valentina shook her head sadly. Kate reached over and took her hand, squeezing it in hers.
“Whatever you decide, Val, I’m behind you a hundred percent.” she told her with a kind smile.
Valentina considered herself lucky to have a friend like Kate. The thought brought Marcus to mind and it showed. Kate squinted at her.
“Something on your mind?” she asked interested.
“Well, I met someone. I mean, we met a few times today. First, at the restaurant near the hospital, then in the elevator on my way to the clinic then while I was waiting for you. He came in to pick up an order and we chatted for a bit. After he got his order, he asked me to dinner.”
“I hope you said yes.” she said with her mouth half full.
“Of course not.”
Kate stopped chewing. “Why of course not?” she asked focusing on her friend.
“Gee, because I’m in this situation right now and it would be unfair to bring someone new in on this.”
Kate shrugged and continued chewing.
“So? It’s dinner, not an engagement. Is he cute?”
Vaentina blushed and Kate grinned widely.
“Well, I guess that answers my question.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ve got too much on my plate to get caught up in that right now.”
Kate sipped her soda. “That hot, huh?”
“You betcha.” They both burst out laughing.
“Well, you might see him again, who knows. If he asks you to dinner again, don’t be a ninny. Go. Who says you can’t fun?”
Valentina knew that she was right. Besides, she could a little fun.