“I just don’t understand why the doctor can’t prescribe something to help you.” Her friend was clearly irritated. “How long did he say it would take for this thing to ‘run its course’?” she inquired.

“I told you,” she responded, staring out the passenger window of the vehicle as she adjusted her sunglasses to hide her swollen, puffy eyes. “There is no medicine that he can prescribe. It just has to run its course and I’ll feel better when it does.”

“It’s a virus?” her friend pushed.

“I guess so,” she shrugged, hoping that her friend would ease up because her head was throbbing again. “He didn’t really explain it in much detail,” she lied. “Thank you for driving me.”

“You’re welcome. So,” her friend sighed, “you’re going to go home and take a nice, refreshing nap, right? And call me if you need anything at all?”

“Right,” she smiled feebly as she stepped out of the car and hurried to her front door without looking back lest her friend change her mind about simply dropping her off.

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Finally alone in her apartment, she sat down on the couch, leaned back, and closed her eyes. She was completely exhausted, but sleep would not come. Surprisingly, although she felt trepidation and anxiety about the future, she was completely at peace with the fact that she was going to become a mother in a few short months. Although the doctor and nurse had spoken to her about the various options legally available to her, she barely heard their voices. There was no choice to be made: She was going to have his child.

And as she sat there in the silence, day turned to night. She did not bother to turn on the lights or draw the blinds. Instead, she sat there by herself considering her future and that of her child. As she looked out the window at the cars passing by, saw her neighbors arriving at home from work or going out for the evening, and listened to the familiar sounds of night settling in, she knew that she had finally and irrevocably been awakened from her dream of enjoying a future with him. She had to give up for good — and for the good of her child — and accept that the woman with the dark heart would be enjoying his company in the future, taking his name and, perhaps, also having children with him.

As she replayed the day’s events over and over in her mind, she knew what she had to do.

She reached over and picked up his photograph from the coffee table where she had left it that morning. As she considered his face, she wondered whether her child would be a boy or a girl, whether he or she would look like him, have his mannerisms, and if she would hear his voice every time her child spoke to her as he or she grew to adulthood. She wondered whether anyone would guess that it was his child she had given life — or if she would be able to keep the father’s identity a secret.

“You made your choice,” she said softly to the photograph, “and now I’ve made mine.”

She rose from the couch, took one last look at the picture, and walked into her bedroom where she retrieved a box from the top shelf in her closet. She sat down on the bed and removed the lid, lingering over the collection of mementos and keepsakes from her youth — a couple of Girl Scout badges, a few photographs of friends from school, a certificate earned for placing second in a school-wide writing competition. She put his photograph in the box and laid the other items on top of it before replacing the lid and returning the box to its appointed space on the shelf. Then she shut the closet door and returned to the living room where, at last, she closed the curtains and turned on the lamp.

Picking up the telephone, she sat back down on the couch and dialed the familiar number.

“Hey, sweetheart, I’ve been worried about you. How are you feeling? Did you get my messages?” Dennis asked as soon as he heard her voice. Only then did she glance at the answering machine and notice the blinking red light.

“Actually, no,” she said apologetically. “To tell you the truth, I completely forgot to check the machine when I got home. Dennis, I need to talk to you about something. It’s important. Are you free tonight?”

“Yes, I was just getting caught up on some reading and hoping you would return my calls. Would you like me to come over?” he inquired, his concern evident.

“That would be great. I’ll see you in a little while.”

Click here to read Chapter Twenty-One

Inspired by the Fiction Friday prompt: Describe a time your character gave up; and how it affected them for the rest of their life.

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