By Holly Stoner
There I was, sitting on the counter in that sterile room, staring at the sparkling clean floor. In fact, it was so clean you could eat off it, if you really wanted to bring food into the bathroom that is. I hopped down off the counter and planted my bare feet onto the floor, which was surprisingly warm despite how icy it appeared. I slipped my feet into the sandals that were sitting beside the tub and glanced at the shiny pink nail polish on my toes.
The time had come. I took a deep breath and turned around and looked at myself in the mirror before looking down at the counter at the thin white stick which was showing two distinct pink lines.
My heart started racing, and I reached for the box which previously housed the plastic white stick. The purple box read “Pregnancy Test” on the front and showed the logo of the one-dollar store where I had purchased the test last week. I flipped the box over in a panic and read my worst fear. I was pregnant. I wondered if the test could be wrong. How could this have happened? We were careful, and it only happened one time.
I stared at the words on the box, “99% accurate” as my eyes began to blur and tears began rolling down my face. I picked up the pregnancy tester and looked again at the two dark-pink lines side by side. As I was wrapping the test in toilet paper and stuffing it back into the box and looking for a place to hide it, there was a knock on the door.
“Amanda, you’re going to be late for school. Is everything O.K.?” the voice behind the door said.
“Yeah Mom. I’ll be right out,” I lied.
I wrapped the box in more toilet paper and stuffed it into the bottom of the trash can. I washed my hands, wiped my eyes, dabbed some pink gloss onto my lips, and pulled my long blonde hair back into a ponytail. I reached into my purse and pulled out my dark sunglasses and put them on to hide my red puffy eyes from Mom. I opened the bathroom door, took a deep breath, and headed down the stairs.
At the bottom of the steps I grabbed my small stack of school books and clutched them close to my chest. Just as I was about to open the front door, Mom came jogging in, holding some green bills in her hand. I shoved the money into my pants pocket and walked out the door. I went down the porch steps and over to the left of the front walk to where several kids were standing by a stop sign.
“Hey Mandy!” shouted a dark-haired girl wearing a white-and-black-checked mini skirt and black t-shirt.
“Hey, Tina,” I said.
“Aren’t you glad it’s Friday?” she asked.
“Big birthday party tomorrow, huh. Josh getting you anything special for your sixteenth?”
I just shrugged as I stared at the pattern on Tina’s skirt.
“Is something wrong?” Tina asked.
Just as I was about to lie and say no, the bus arrived, squealing to a stop in front of us. I glanced back at my house as I stepped up into the doorway of the bus and saw my mom standing at the door holding my baby brother, Evan. I turned and continued inside the bus. I took a seat towards the middle and looked out the window and saw my mom waving as the bus began to pull away.
“So, did I show you what Ryan gave me yesterday?” Tina asked as she plopped next to me in my seat.
I turned to look as she held out a thick gold ring attached to a chain around her neck.
“His class ring. See? I know it’s corny, but it was sweet of him. Don’t you think?”
I didn’t speak but tried to muster a smile while I held the tears back. I was silent and stared at my lap for the rest of the bus ride, which was only a few minutes more. By the time the bus pulled into the school parking lot, I was wishing I had faked a stomach ache and stayed home. I had been dealing with the possibility of being pregnant for a week; and now that this morning’s test confirmed it, I knew I had to tell Josh. But when and how?
The bi-fold doors opened and kids filed out. Tina got up and walked down the aisle, and I followed her. As I walked down the bus steps, I lifted my head to see Josh leaning on the side of the building with one foot pressed against the wall behind him.
“Hey,” Josh said as he reached out to put his arm around me.
I couldn’t bring myself to look up into his big green eyes. I just nuzzled into him as he wrapped his arm around my shoulders and gave me a little squeeze. I opened my eyes as Josh began to walk forward and saw Tina and Ryan walking ahead of us, holding hands. I lifted my head up and looked up at Josh’s face as he reached up with his other hand and took my sunglasses off my face.
“There are those beautiful blue eyes,” he said.
Trying not to cry, I just smiled and stared up at him and watched his brown wavy hair blow in the wind. I wanted to tell him right there about my test in the bathroom, but I knew it would have to wait. The warning bell rang for first period, and we entered the building and walked toward the stairs at the end of the hall.
I pulled away from Josh slightly, and he grabbed my hand and said, “I’ll catch up with you at lunch, Okay?”
The school day seemed to drag on and I felt as though I was sleepwalking. By the time lunch rolled around, I was really ready to go home and hide in my room on my bed underneath my fuzzy pink blanket and wish that what happened this morning was all a bad dream. I was starving, but before entering the cafeteria I walked into the girls bathroom to freshen up. Once inside, I could hear the chatter of three other girls.
“Did you hear about Vicky?” one of them said.
“Yeah, I heard her boyfriend got her pregnant, and denied it being his and dumped her,” another said.
“Her dad totally flipped out on her and kicked her out of the house. She’s living with her grandma now,” said the other girl.
I stood beside the girls and used the available corner of the mirror to smooth my hair and dab on some more gloss. I washed my hands and headed out toward door as I heard one girl say, “Fifteen and pregnant. What was she thinking? There’s no way that’s happening to me!” I hesitated a minute then let the door shut behind me.
Lunch period came and went; and before I knew it, the bell rang to end the school day. I rushed to my locker, shoved my books inside, and in an attempt to avoid Josh, headed outside toward the buses.
Just as I was about to step up onto the bus step, Josh grabbed my arm. “Hey, where are you going? Come on, I’ll take you home. It feels like I didn’t talk to you all day!”
We hadn’t talked much, it was true, but that’s because I didn’t know how to act or what to say. Things were going to be different now, and I wasn’t sure how to handle it; so, instead, avoidance seemed best. I nervously grabbed Josh’s hand when he held it out to me, and we walked to his little blue car parked in the student parking lot. I got into the passenger seat, and Josh shut his door and started up the engine. I reached over and buckled my seat belt; then I just sat there, staring at the floor.
“What’s going on with you?” Josh asked.
“Nothing,” I lied.
Josh stepped on the gas and drove out of the parking lot and just a short drive later we arrived at my block. Josh turned in and parked at the sidewalk in front of my house. He shut off the engine and said, “It seems like you’ve been avoiding me all day. Did I do something?”
“I need to tell you something, and I am not really sure how,” I said as I felt the tears building up inside me.
I could see the concerned look on Josh’s face, and the sparkle in his eyes dimmed. “What is it?” he asked.
I looked up at him then at my feet; and with my head hung down I said it, “Josh . . . I’m pregnant.”
Silence filled the little car as I stared at my toenails. Tears streamed down my cheeks, falling onto my jeans. I looked over at Josh. He was clutching the steering wheel with so much force his knuckles were white; and his head was slung back against his seat, his eyes tightly closed. The silence was unbearable. It seemed to go on for several minutes. I placed my hand on Josh’s arm and felt his muscles tightening, and then he released the steering wheel from his grip.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“I had a positive pregnancy test, and I’m a few weeks late. I would have said something sooner, but I wanted to be sure. I was scared and just hoping I was wrong. I’m sorry.”
Josh turned his head to look at me and lifted my chin with his hand. I looked at his face and saw a single tear fall from his eye as he said, “It’s not your fault, Mandy.”
I reached my arms over the console and pulled his chest toward me and buried my head into his shoulder. “What are we going to do now?” I asked.
Josh backed away from me and took my arms off his shoulders and placed my hands on my lap. He sat and stared out the windshield and said, “We’ll just have to get the money to take care of it.”
I wiped tears from my cheeks and glared at him and said, “Are you suggesting an abortion?”
Josh looked somberly at me and said, “I’m going to college in three months, Mandy, and you’ll still be in high school!”
“I can’t believe you want me to do that! I won’t, Josh. I can’t!”
Josh started the car engine as I opened the car door, stepped out, and slammed the door closed. I stood there with my back facing the car and tears falling from my eyes, waiting to hear his car door open; instead I heard the tires squeal. I turned, and Josh’s car had raced down the street and around the corner. Gone. Every emotion I had ever felt filled me at that moment – – rage, sadness, fear, and loneliness. He had abandoned me. What was I supposed to do now?
The next day was supposed be happy and lots of fun. It was my sixteenth birthday, and my parents had thrown me a big party with all my friends. All day I tried to pretend I was having a good time, but I was miserable. As I looked around at all the smiles on my friends and family’s faces, all there to celebrate me, I couldn’t feel happy because the one person I cared most about wasn’t there. Even surrounded by all those people I felt utterly alone, because I was carrying around the biggest secret of my life and couldn’t tell anyone.
A week went by, and Josh wouldn’t return my phone calls. He avoided me at school. It was easy to do since he was a senior and I was a sophomore. I was surprised when I got a text on my phone on Friday morning from Josh that said he was ready to talk about it. He didn’t apologize for his behavior the previous Friday, but he did say that I was right — an abortion was not the answer. He admitted he was scared and angry and that we needed to ask our parents for help. We planned to get together at my house, and he would bring his parents.
That Saturday when the doorbell rang, I felt a pounding in my chest. My mom greeted Josh and his parents at the door and invited them to sit in the living room where I was already sitting on the couch. My mom called my dad down, who was upstairs putting my baby brother down for a nap. Josh’s parents took seats on the loveseat; and Josh sat down on the couch, opposite end where I was sitting.
They all looked to me, wanting to know what brought us all together. I began to cry uncontrollably when I said the words, “I’m pregnant.” The disappointing looks on my mom’s and dad’s faces burned into my brain. I had let them down, and it showed as my mom began to cry. I glanced to Josh, who was struggling to hold back tears. His parents looked equally disappointed and looked at me in anger and disgust, as if I was solely responsible for ruining their son’s life.
After the long silence, Josh’s dad looked to my parents. “Let’s look at the options here,” he began. “We have abortion, adoption, or keeping the baby.”
“I’m not having an abortion,” I butted in.
Everyone turned toward me, and I turned and looked at Josh as if to say, help me, I can’t do this alone. Josh slid over closer to me and took my hand for the first time in a week. He looked exhausted, like he was losing sleep, as he looked into my eyes.
“So, adoption then,” Josh’s mom said.
A heated discussion then ensued between my parents and Josh’s parents. They seemed to forget that Josh and I were sitting in the room, waiting for our turns to speak. Tempers flared, and I saw four friends quickly becoming enemies.
When there was a moment of silence, I said, “Shouldn’t this be our decision?” I moved my finger back and forth from me to Josh.
“You’re only a child,” my dad said sternly.
“I’m not a child,” I said. “We were old enough to get ourselves into this, so we’re old enough to make an informed decision now.”
“But, Mandy, that doesn’t mean. . . ” my mom began.
“Yes, it does,” I interrupted. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I aborted this baby, and I don’t think it should be someone else’s responsibility to care for our mistake. Besides, I just know that I couldn’t forgive myself if I gave this baby up.”
I think Josh’s parents must have been in that room, in my house, for hours. No decisions were made that day. It wasn’t until after Josh’s graduation that I heard from him again. He had spoken to his parents, and together they had decided that Josh would stay and go to community college and not to the university where he had planned. That way he would still be getting his education, but be close enough to help me.
It took my parents much longer to come around. In the weeks and months of my pregnancy they continued to try and convince me that adoption was in my best interest. Since my school would not allow me to continue attending classes being pregnant, I took night classes; and I took a part-time job in the daytime. Most of my friends stopped talking to me, and I did miss them a lot. Josh tried to be there for me, but our relationship wasn’t the same. We were forced to grow up faster than others our ages.
The day the baby came I was so anxious with so many questions and mixed up feelings. Josh was with me, my parents were there, and Josh’s parents were there also. Josh finally apologized to me for how he had reacted that first day when I had told him I was pregnant and for not being there enough. My parents too finally accepted they had a grandchild.
The path was rocky, the choices hard, and at times I felt alone and that there was no way I could handle everything. I looked at my daughter’s face and a shiver when through my body. I didn’t know what the future would hold, if Josh and I would be a couple again, if my friends would speak to me again, but I did know that I was now a 16-year-old mother of a precious baby girl with a long hard road ahead of me and I was thankful that I had people around me that cared enough to help me. As I held my baby in my arms, I thought about how much my young life had changed and though I loved her, wished it hadn’t happened this way.