Here we are at another Fiction Friday (I almost typed Friction Friday. I think that would definitely have a different meaning. Ouch. ) and another chapter in Blanche’s story. Have you been following Blanche and Hank’s journey? What do you think should happen next? Let me know in the comments. You can find links to the other chapters in the story HERE or at the link at the top of the page.
When the sunlight streamed in the bedroom window and cut a path across the floor and the end of the bed, I was still under the covers, sick to my stomach from hormones and worry. The other side of the bed was empty and cold. Hank hadn’t come home after I’d told him about the baby and I wasn’t sure if he ever would.
I let the warm water of the shower pour over me as I sat on the floor of the tub, dry heaving. Drying off I knew I wouldn’t even be able to try to eat breakfast. Instead, I dressed and decided to take a walk to see if it would help take my mind off the nauseated gnawing in my stomach and raging anxiety buzzing through my limbs.
The city rose up around me, old, crumbling apartment buildings and paint-chipped houses in neat rows, shoved up against each other closing in on me like someone closing the lid of a box. I clutched at my throat as I walked, wishing for wider spaces, open fields, rolling hills, dirt roads and when I looked up blue skies unimpeded by power lines and lamp posts.
“Lizzie! Slow down!”
A small form bumped against me and I stumbled slightly, looking up to see blond pigtails bouncing away from me, down the sidewalk.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry,” a woman said walking briskly past me with an infant on her hip.
“Lizzie Harrison, you know better than to run away from me on a busy sidewalk.” The woman had caught up to the girl and was tightly holding her hand. “You need to stay with me and your father after church.”
I glanced over my shoulder and saw the double doors of a church I had walked by but hadn’t noticed, people walking down the steps, stopping to speak to each other, laughing, smiling. I had been looking at the ground as I walked, hoping my stomach would settle before I got back to the apartment with the few groceries I’d been able to afford.
“I’m so sorry. We didn’t mean to interrupt your walk.” The woman, blond curls soft around her face smiled at me, one arm around the infant on her hip, the other hand tightly gripping the young girls. Her smile was broad, full of white teeth lined up perfectly in her mouth like a model’s on the front of a fashion magazine. Her sky blue pencil skirt and matching button-up sweater, fit sleekly against her shapely body, setting off her bright blue eyes.
“That’s okay,” I said, looking at the ground, wishing I looked half as beautiful and put together like her.
“You look awful,” the little girl said to me, looking up, freckles dotting her cheeks and nose, her index finger fully immersed in one nostril.
“Lizzie!” The woman’s voice was full of scolding. “Forgive my daughter’s rudeness,” she said. “I’m still trying to teach her her manners.”
“I understand,” I said and shrugged. “I imagine I don’t look very good at the moment.”
The woman let the little girl’s hand go and she skipped past us toward a handsome man wearing a suit, standing in front of the church, talking with a man I assumed was the pastor. The woman laid her hand against my arm.
“I’m very sorry she said that,” she said. “Are you okay?”
I nodded, feeling bile in my throat, swallowing hard.
“Just a little queasy,” I said.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” the woman said. “Is there anything I can do?”
“I’m almost home. I’ll be fine.”
I knew I was lying. I’d be crying, throwing up, and maybe even alone when I got home.
“I’m being very rude,” the woman said, sticking her hand toward me. “My name’s Hannah.”
I didn’t feel like talking or making small talk, but the woman seemed nice and I didn’t want to be rude.
“Blanche,” I said, taking her hand.
I felt plain in my faded, dull-colored sundress with pink and brown flowers.
“Well, Blanche, we just came from church and I hope it’s not too forward but if you need a church home, we’d love to have you visit sometime,” Hannah said with a smile.
Church had been on my mind since I’d moved here, but I didn’t feel good enough to go to church – not after what I’d done. I tried to pray, but I couldn’t get over the feeling that God wouldn’t want to hear from me.
“Thank you,” I said, still trying to be polite. “I’ll think about it.”
“Good!” Hannah practically beamed at me. “We would love to have you. So nice to meet you, Blanche.”
“You too,” I said, watching her walk back to her family, her children, her smiling, handsome husband.
I felt a sudden rush of loneliness and turned away quickly, back toward the apartment building.
When I opened the door, Hank was pacing the living room floor.
“Where were you?” he snapped, sucking on a cigarette. “I was freaking out. I didn’t know where you were.”
“I went for a walk,” I said.
“You couldn’t have left a note?”
“I – I didn’t think to, I’m sorry,” I said.
“I’m not ready for this, Blanche,” he said, talking with his hands, shaking his head and pacing the floor again. “I’m not ready to be a father. I wasn’t even ready to be a husband. I don’t know what I was thinking. This was a huge mistake.”
“Marrying me was a huge mistake?” My fear was mixing with anger.
“Yes, I mean, no,” Hank said, flailing his arms. “I mean, I don’t know. This is just – crazy, okay? I’m not ready for it.”
Seeing Hank without his usual confidence and swagger was unsettling for me.
“I wasn’t expecting this so soon either,” I told him. “I’m scared too but together we can – “
“I lost my job yesterday.”
“I lost my job yesterday,” he repeated. “I lost my job and I don’t have any way to pay for a baby. I don’t even know if I can pay the rent on this apartment this month.”
“We’ll figure something out,” I said. “I’ll get a job.”
“You think I’m going to let a woman support me?” he snapped.
“I will be helping us, not supporting you,” I said sharply, realizing my sickness was making my fuse short.
“I’ll figure it out,” he said, opening the beer and leaning back against the couch, scowling.
He leaned forward again, looking at me.
“Unless we can figure out how to get rid of it.”
I didn’t understand what he was saying.
“Get rid of what?”
“The baby. Frank Jennings, the new bass player in the band, told me he knows a guy who can – “ He looked at me, his eyes lowering to my stomach as he gestured toward me. “You know – end a pregnancy.”
I immediately felt weak and sat in the chair across from him. I didn’t know exactly what he was talking about, but I knew he was trying to suggest somehow ending the life inside me.
“Hank – I can’t do that,” I talked over him, my voice trembling. “I won’t do that.”
He rubbed his hand across his face, leaned back on the couch again.
“Oh my God, what’s wrong with me?” he mumbled. “I can’t do that either. I’m just – I can’t think right now.”
I felt sick again, my breakfast revolting. I ran to the bathroom, vomiting before I could even close the door.
“How long is this going to last?” he asked as I walked out, wiping my mouth and face with a wet cloth.
“I don’t know,” I said. “The doctor said something about after the first trimester. I don’t even know what a trimester is.”
“Can’t you ask your mom?” he asked.
I fought back tears.
“No. I can’t talk to her.”
“I guess that’s my fault too.” His voice was hard, void of the comfort I craved.
I stepped toward him, but I couldn’t read his expression. He looked away from me, arms on his knees then he stood abruptly, walking toward the window, looking out as he drank his beer. I wanted him to take me in his arms and tell me everything was going to be okay. He turned toward me again, placing the bottle on the table as I walked toward him again, fighting back tears.
When he reached out and cupped my cheek in his hand, I closed my eyes. He traced my lips with his thumb slowly and I thought he might kiss me. I lifted my face in anticipation, but he didn’t lower his head. I opened my eyes as he backed away, slowly, his gaze drifting away from me, his hand falling to his side as he turned to walk into the bedroom.
“I have an early start tomorrow,” he said coldly. “I have to find a new job. Make sure my breakfast is ready when I get up.”
The click of the bedroom door closing behind him echoed in the apartment. I hugged my arms across my chest and stood in the middle of the living room, crying in the glow of the fading sunlight.