A lovely young mother sat in a comfortable rocking chair. Her dark hair fell over her shoulders in tight waves and rested against her honey-colored skin. In the crook of her right arm lay a peacefully sleeping infant. In her left arm another lay drowsily nursing. She watched as it alternately suckled then dozed until finally it, too, fell into blissful slumber. The young mother skillfully moved the infant away from her breast and rearranged her nursing bra and blouse, allowing for a bit of modesty should she fall asleep herself. She sighed and let her head fall back against the padding of her chair.
Her eyes wandered to a photograph on the wall of herself and her mother. They were dressed for the cool weather of a Grand Rapids, Michigan spring while holding signs that read 'My body, My choice!' She remembered that moment so well as her mind drifted back, reliving that day and the stream of events that followed.
Sarah Day walked briskly back to her parked car. Her friend and attorney, Mary MacBride, helped her carry several signs across the now empty parking lot. As she neared her car she saw her daughter waiting beside it. "Lee!" She called, "You're late. You missed the excitement."
Lee was tall and fit with dark, wavy hair, smooth, mocha-colored skin, and brown, almond-shaped eyes. "Sorry Mom, but it is tax season, you know. I got here as soon as I could." As she helped her mom shove signs into the back of her Toyota Forerunner, Mary stepped forward with a camera. As she snapped the picture Lee asked, "So what's the excitement I missed?"
"Oh, that ‘Abortion is Murder’ crowd showed up at our rally and that psychotic Shelly Blige got in my face so I hit her with my sign."
"Mom, you're still out on bail. You really need to be careful."
Mary added, "Yeah, Sarah. Are you trying to make my job harder than it already is?"
"She hit me, too, right in front of two police officers. So I guess we're even." Sarah slammed the hatch closed on her Toyota. "Are you ready to go?"
Lee put her arm around her mom's shoulder. “How about you? You must be pretty nervous.”
Sarah shrugged and smiled, then got into the driver's seat. Lee could tell that her mother was more nervous than she wanted to admit. She didn't blame her, either. They were on their way to the courthouse for a trial that could possibly send her to prison for as long as five years. Sarah, as a registered nurse, had assisted Doctor Harold Baranski in a late term abortion. The case involved a discrepancy as to the actual term of the pregnancy. The Parental Choices Clinic staff claimed it to be right at twenty-four weeks, but another doctor familiar with the case put it at twenty-six, two weeks past the legal term. The trial was not expected to last very long as the prosecution had put a great deal of effort and evidence into their case. This was the third time Sarah and Doctor Baranski had been accused of late abortions, so the District Attorney had decided to make an example of them.
Sarah sat outside the courtroom, calmly waiting for the trial to start, when Mary approached her with a serious look on her face. She sat next to Sarah and started to say something, then paused. Sarah asked, "What is it?"
With a small sigh Mary said, "I just spoke with the prosecutor and the judge. It looks bad for you, Sarah. If we lose this case, and I'm sure we will, you could be facing a few years in prison."
"I cut a deal. You plead guilty now and you get one year in jail and four years probation." She sat, waiting for Sarah to respond. After a moment she added, "Well?"
Sarah stared thoughtfully at the floor. "Okay. I'll still have jail time. That'll show our dedication to our cause. But what about this probation? What does that involve?"
Mary rubbed her forehead, knowing that Sarah would not like what she was about to tell her. "It means no more demonstrations and no more...well, no more Parental Choices Clinic. Not for you anyway. Not for four years."
Sarah stared at her attorney for several long seconds before she replied. Mary knew her friend, knew that her mind was racing, digesting this information and attempting to come up with a best case scenario. "All right," she said, obviously stifling her anger, "What if we don't take this deal?"
"Then we go ahead with the trial, which we will very likely lose. Parental Choices gets loads of bad publicity. Doctor Baranski will most likely get up to ten years in prison, you get five to seven and you both come out as the fiends who make money slaughtering babies."
Sarah leapt to her feet and fairly screamed, "That's absurd, Mary! You know it's not like that!"
Mary stood and gently touched Sarah's shoulder. "Of course I know that. But that is how you will be portrayed. The prosecutor will do his best to make you out to be a monster and the press will eat it up. Take the deal, Sarah. One year in jail is much better than five in prison. After that you won't be allowed to have involvement with Parental Choices Clinic, but you can still run things behind the scenes. You have Lee to count on."
With a sigh Sarah nodded. "Okay, Mary. I'll take the deal."
Tark Verhoeven eased his pickup truck into the drive, killed the engine, and stepped out. He had offered to drive Sarah to the county sheriff’s office, where she would be remanded into custody and taken to jail. He ambled up to the front door of Sarah’s house, tapped on it and walked in. Lee, his fiancée, and her mom were sitting on the couch.
Sarah gave him a small wave. “Hi Tark. Thanks for coming.”
Lee stood and went to him. She kissed him and gave him a hug. “Yeah, Tark, I really appreciate it. I’m not sure I’ll be in a condition to drive on the way home.”
Tark stepped behind Lee and began massaging her shoulders. He was a tall man at well over six feet and a lean two hundred pounds. Lee’s friends all envied her, some because of how kind Tark was to her, others because, as they put it, he looked like a ‘Nordic god’ with sea-blue eyes, straight blond hair and an athletic, muscular build. Those who had known Tark for long considered him a bit of a loner and were surprised when he pursued Lee as hard as he did. As it turned out, they made a striking, well-matched couple.
After a few minutes he kissed Lee on the neck and said, “You know I don’t mind. I’m here for ya, babe.”
The three of them went back outside and got into Tark’s four door pickup.
After several minutes of driving in silence, Tark noted Sarah’s furrowed brow in his rearview mirror, and asked, “Ms Day, how ya doing back there?”
Sarah forced a smile. “I’m a little bit worried, I guess. But I mostly just want to get this over with.”
With a grin Tark replied, “I bet you’ll be running the place within a month.”
This elicited a small laugh from both Sarah and her daughter. One of the things Lee loved about Tark was that he got along so well with her mother. Not too many people liked her, fewer still understood her. But Tark had gotten along with her very well from the first day they’d met.
At the sheriff’s office a woman in uniform allowed them a final farewell and then placed Sarah Day in handcuffs. With a final look back, she was taken away.
“So, I guess you’ll be staying at your mom’s place for the whole year?” Tark broke the silence as they pulled back into Sarah’s driveway.
“Yeah, I already moved out of my apartment. Kelly’s going to stay there by herself until she can find a new room mate.”
Tark frowned. “Moved already? Lee, I would have helped.”
“It’s not like I had much there, anyway. Just some clothes and a stereo. It was no big deal.”
Tark nodded. He loved doing things for Lee and felt a bit disappointed that he hadn’t been called to help. He changed the subject. “Hey, you hungry? How about we go our for some Italian? My treat.”
Lee shrugged, “I don’t know...”
“Okay, you treat.”
“Maybe you could come in and I’ll make us something to eat. I really don’t feel like going out tonight.”
Tark smiled. “Sounds good.”
Once inside, Tark noticed how tired Lee looked. He realized that the day’s events must have left her drained. He had her sit on the couch, turned on the television and announced, “I’ll whip something up. I know my way around a kitchen.”
Later they sat on the couch together, watching a rerun of ‘Seinfeld’ as Lee rested her head on his shoulder. She reached up and ran her fingers through his hair. “Why are you so good to me, Tark?”
“Because I love you.” He looked into her eyes. “You know I’m crazy mad about you.”
Lee smiled at this. She wanted to tell him how much she loved him, too, but words failed her. So she kissed him tenderly with an earnest, understated passion. “I don’t want to be alone tonight. Can you stay?”
Tark gently extricated himself from Lee’s sleeping arms. He quietly dressed and as he reached for the door he heard Lee ask, “Can’t you stay?”
He turned to see her leaning against her bedroom door jamb. He couldn’t help but think how beautiful she looked in the soft glow of a streetlight that shone through the front window. “Lee, you know I’d love to, but I need to be home before morning. If mom and dad don’t see my truck when they wake up...”
“Oh, come on, Tark. You’re twenty seven years old. Surely your parents have got to know we’re more than just friends.” There was a hint of sarcasm in her tone.
Tark stepped over to Lee and kissed her forehead. “I imagine they suspect it. But I know how much it would bother Mom if I actually stayed the night. You know how she feels about morality and all that. Dad too. I love my parents, Lee. I know it may sound silly but I want to respect them enough not to flaunt our love life at them. They’re not just old, they’re old-fashioned. For that reason I want them to look across the street and see my truck in my driveway when they wake up. I think they find it reassuring somehow. Okay?”
Lee smiled and nodded. She actually understood what Tark meant, and she had come to love his parents, too.
Tark was his parents’ youngest after they had five daughters. All five had married and moved away, which left only Tark to help out with his dad’s landscaping business. His dad, Elwood, had just turned seventy, and planned on retiring and leaving the family business to Tark. His mom, Merle, was forty one when she had Tark, and loved him with a special kind of love that Lee found very endearing. She had also unofficially adopted Lee as one of her daughters and treated her like a princess.
With another smile, Lee answered, “You know I think the world of your folks, Tark. But you can’t blame a girl for trying.”
A stern looking lady guard led Lee to a table, had her sit, and a few minutes later another guard led her mom to the other side of the table. Sarah was dressed in a red jumpsuit and flip-flops. Lee smiled and asked, “How you doing, Mom?”
She gave her usual answer. “As well as can be expected.” There was a moment of silence as Sarah studied her daughter. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Why do you ask?”
Another moment. “Sarah, I’m your mother. I know you better than you know yourself. Something is bothering you. What is it?”
Lee nervously tugged at her earlobe. “Mom, I’m pregnant.”
Sarah Day blinked in surprise. “But how? I mean, how could you allow this to happen? My god, Lee, you’ve helped me teach safe sex courses at the community college. You of all people.” Sarah then noticed her daughter’s eyes welling with tears. She gripped her hands tightly. “Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry. This just so came out of the blue.”
“I know, Mom. I’m just as surprised as you are. I think my cycle got messed up with all the stress we’ve experienced that past several weeks.”
After a lengthy pause Sarah asked, “I assume Tark is the father? Does he know?”
“Yes, he knows. We talked about it a lot. He wanted to get married right away and have the baby. But he also made it clear that he would support whatever decision I made.”
“What are you going to do?”
Lee sighed and stared at the far wall for a moment. “I have so much going on, right now. There’s no way I could take care of a baby. Still, I suppose Tark should have a say in this.”
“No, Lee. This is up to you. You know what we at Parental Choices have been saying for a long time now. Your body, your choice.”
“I’ve actually already decided, Mom. I was up all night thinking things over.” Lee ran her fingers through her thick, dark hair. “I’m going to terminate the pregnancy.”
Sarah nodded. She knew how truly busy and successful her daughter was. After only three years at the accounting firm where she worked she was a vice president. Plus she handled so much of the business end of Parental Choices Clinic. Sarah planned on fully supporting her daughter’s decision. “I’m proud of you, Lee. These decisions are never easy but I think you made the right one. Call Mary MacBride when you get a chance. She’ll help you set everything up. Then call Doctor Carruthers. She’ll be filling in at the clinic for the next few months.” After a pause Sarah touched her finger to her chin and added, “You know, Lee, this would be a perfect opportunity to make a statement and show solidarity.”
Lee looked askance at her mother. “What do you mean?”
“You can dare that district attorney to throw you into jail. He received as much bad press as he did good after my trial. I read one article that called him a ‘persecuting attorney’ and raked him over the coals for his ‘crusade’ against pro-choice.”
“Mom, you know I’m here for you and would do anything to show my support. What do you want me to do?”
With a furtive look about, Sarah said, “Wait. Just wait. Have the abortion as planned, but have it at twenty-four weeks and a day.”
Lee knit her brows. “I don’t know, Mom. I’d like to just get it over with. What good would it do to wait that long?”
“It’ll put the DA in a bind. It’ll dare him to act. There’s no way he would and then he’d look like a cowardly fool. He tarnished my reputation, Lee. He tarnished the reputation of all of us at Parental Choices. Let’s repay in kind.”
There was a long moment of silence as Sarah watched her daughter consider her options. “Please, Lee. I can’t tell you how much this would mean to me. Doctor Carruthers can verify the due date and then, the day after twenty-four weeks it’ll be done and over with.” She could tell that Sarah was still hesitant. “It’s only a few extra weeks, Lee. Can’t you do this for me?”
With a small nod and a reassuring smile, Lee said, “Okay, Mom. For you.”
Lee and Tark walked hand in hand up the sidewalk that led to his parents’ front door. Lee stopped them halfway and said, “I’m not so sure this is a good idea, Tark. If your mother knew I was pregnant she would have a fit about the abortion.”
“Relax, Hun. We’ll just be here for a couple hours for dinner, then be on our way. It’s not often all five of my sisters can be here and they would be really disappointed if we didn’t stop by. Besides, you’re not even showing yet.”
Lee wore a loose, thick sweater to hide what she was sure was a huge belly. Intellectually she knew it wasn’t that big, but she still felt like a whale. She had already put on fifteen pounds, and even though being nearly six feet tall hid most of it, she knew that Mrs. Verhoeven had been pregnant herself six times. If anyone knew what a pregnant woman looked like, it would be her. “I hope you’re right. I really don’t want to get into an argument today.”
They went inside and were greeted by Tark’s family. The youngest of his sisters, Trina, ran up to them both and hugged them each tightly. She said, “Tark, guess what?” Before he could answer she turned sideways and lifted her shirt above her belly. It protruded roundly and her navel was already beginning to bulge. “You’re gonna be an uncle again!”
Tark laughed and said, “That’s awesome, Sis! Congratulations! I knew you guys were trying, but I hadn’t heard anything.”
“No, we wanted it to be a surprise. Pretty soon we’ll all have given mom and dad a grandchild except you.” She playfully winked at Lee. “Hint, hint.”
Everyone in the room laughed at the joke. Tark gave her a look that said, “Sorry, I didn’t know about this.”
Lee forced a smile and replied, “Well, maybe someday.”
That drew another laugh and soon Tark’s sisters and their husbands were all engaged in animated chatter.
Later, Trina was sitting on the arm of a chair by her husband when she suddenly stood and said, “Hey, the baby’s kicking! Tark, come and feel it!”
Tark rushed over and she placed his hand on the right spot. After a moment his eyes went wide and he smiled. “Wow, I felt it.” After a pause he asked, “How far along are you, Trina?”
Tark seemed perplexed. “And it’s already kicking and moving around?”
Trina laughed. “Yes, he is, silly. What did you think? That babies just sit around in there doing nothing? We had an ultrasound last week and he was sucking his thumb. It was so cute.”
“That’s amazing. It really is.”
Just then Mrs. Verhoeven called out that dinner was ready.
As the group moved toward the kitchen Lee pulled Tark aside and whispered, “I can’t do this.”
“Just an hour or so, okay?”
“No!” She didn’t mean to shout it but some of Tark’s family shot surprised looks back at her, then tried to pretend they hadn’t heard anything.
“Take me home, Tark. Please, I have to get out of here.”
Tark nodded. He had already figured that this was an awkward situation. “Okay, Hun. Let me say goodbye to the family.”
Lee felt her face beginning to flush. “Tell them I’m not feeling well, okay?” He nodded and kissed her forehead. She said, “I’ll wait in the car.” Lee then headed out the front door.
She was almost to the car when she heard someone call her name. Lee turned and Trina caught up with her. “Lee, are you all right? You look kind of tired.”
“I’m not feeling so good. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to spoil the party.”
Trina made a dismissive gesture. “Not at all. If anyone knows how you feel, it’s me.”
Lee gave her a surprised look. “How’s that?”
“You’re pregnant, aren’t you?” The look on Lee’s face told her she was right. “I knew it! Congratulations!” Another look on Lee’s face told her even more. “Oh...” After an awkward pause she asked, “You’re not going to have the baby, are you?”
“Trina, I love you and your family like my own. I know you probably don’t agree with my decision, but please don’t tell anyone. Please?”
With a nod, Trina replied, “I won’t, Lee. You have my word. But everyone’s going to find out, sooner or later. Mom and Dad won’t take it too well.”
“I know. We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Tark hurried down the sidewalk, gave Trina a kiss on the cheek, and opened the car door for Lee. They drove for several minutes before either of them spoke.
“Are you angry with me, Tark?”
“No, Hun, I’m not. But something occurred to me that’s really got me wondering.”
“What is it?”
Tark took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. It was obvious to Lee that he was about to talk about his feelings and, like most men, found it difficult to do so. After a lengthy pause he said, “You told me over a month ago that you were going to terminate the pregnancy. What are you waiting for? I get the impression that maybe you aren’t so sure. About going through with it, I mean. Is that it? Because I...”
“No, that’s not it.” Lee was staring out the window. She didn’t want to face Tark. Didn’t want to tell him what her plan was, that she was going to wait until the day her abortion would be illegal before she had the procedure done. “Things have been pretty hectic at the clinic, is all. Doctor Carruthers has her job at the hospital that keeps her busy. We have to schedule appointments around when she’s available.”
They pulled into the driveway of Lee’s small house and Tark put the car in park. He rubbed at the back of his neck for a moment. “So, you’re just waiting until Doctor Carruthers can squeeze you in?”
“Yes, she’s pretty busy. Plus I need to clear some stuff up at work.”
Tark shook his head, lightly. “Lee, level with me. What’s going on?”
“Nothing, Tark. Why are you treating me like this?” Lee was getting frustrated and angry. She felt like she was being interrogated. He sat there, staring at her, waiting patiently for her to break. He always seemed to know when she was trying to hide something from him. “Okay, okay. It’s not a big deal.” Lee explained how she was going to do as Sarah asked as a show of support and solidarity.
Somehow it didn’t sound as convincing as when her mother explained it and she could see that on Tark’s face. He regarded her with a look that was a mix of confusion and horror. “You’re letting this life grow inside you for all these weeks just to make a point? My god, Lee, I can’t believe you’re doing this.”
“You’ve always supported me, Tark. Every time we spoke of women’s reproductive rights you thought it was a great idea. Why the change now?”
“Until now it was never my baby. And every time you spoke of women’s rights it was ‘what if a fifteen year old girl was raped by her troglodytic half-brother.’ Well, what about now? What about you, Lee? This baby would be smart and beautiful.”
Lee felt betrayed. Never once had Tark objected to terminating the pregnancy. “I know you’re just feeling emotional right now. Your sister’s pregnant, she’s happy, and you want the same for us. But we’re not them, Tark. Our lives are different. We...”
“I love you, Lee. I love you so much it hurts. But I’ve given this a lot of thought, even before I knew Trina was pregnant. And yes, that does influence me, too.” He paused a moment. “I can’t go along with the abortion. I can’t support it.” Lee was about to say something but he held up a hand. “No, Lee. You’ve made your choice, now I’m making one. If you insist on going through with this, well, I can’t be a part of it, that’s all.”
Suddenly angry, Lee got out of the car and slammed the door. On the verge of tears she shouted, “It’s my body, it’s my choice!”
Tark watched her storm up to her front door and disappear inside. Then he wiped the tears from his own eyes and drove home.
The next two and a half months were the worst of Lee’s life. She hadn’t seen or heard from Tark and it made her feel empty and lonesome. There were a few times she was tempted to call him, but her stubborn pride kept her from dialing. There were even times she thought maybe he was right. Maybe they could get married, have the baby and raise a family. She did want one, someday, but she would have to give up so much right now.
Lee was startled when her phone rang. The caller ID told her it was Tark. She fought off a flurry of butterflies and calmly answered, “Hi, Tark.”
“Hi, Lee.” There was a pause. “I’ve really missed you.”
Lee felt a bit foolish when she was nearly overcome with emotion. She knew it was partly the hormones, but also because she had missed Tark so much. She managed, “Me, too.”
“We need to talk, Hun. Can you meet me at Portillo’s tonight? Say around seven?”
“I’ll be there.”
Tark was waiting for her in the foyer to the restaurant. He hugged her tight for a long time. Lee pulled loose and kissed him deeply.
Later, they were seated at a quiet table. Tark held her hands in his and said, “My life is meaningless without you, Hun. I still don’t want you to have the abortion, but whatever you do, I’m yours. I always will be.”
Lee felt a huge burden lifted from her shoulders. Part of her thought Tark was going to beg her to have the baby, and she had decided on the way here that if that’s what he really wanted, she was going to do it. For him. She knew in her heart that she would do anything for him.
With a smile she said, “I love you, Tark.”
They had a pleasant meal together and it seemed as if they had never argued. They were deciding on dessert when Lee’s face was suddenly contorted in pain.
“Lee, are you okay?”
“Something’s wrong.” Lee was in obvious agony. “My belly hurts. Oh, my god it hurts...”
Tark rushed her out to his car and sped to the nearest emergency room while Lee moaned in pain. She was admitted quickly and Tark was allowed to stay with her in the examining room. A nurse took her vitals and after a few moments a fresh faced doctor stepped into the room.
“Hi, I’m Doctor Reese. Having some pain are we?” She had a kind and friendly demeanor and Lee liked her right away.
Lee answered, “Yes, but it seems to have mostly stopped now. It really had me worried for a while.”
The doctor handed Tark a clipboard with some forms on it. “How about if this gentleman fills these out while I examine you?”
“My insurance card is in my purse, Tark.”
Tark smiled, took Lee’s purse, and sat in a chair in the corner of the room. He dutifully filled out all the forms while Doctor Reese drew a curtain for privacy and began her examination. Tark listened while he wrote and was relieved that everything sounded okay.
“I think what we have here is classic Braxton-Hicks.” She pulled the curtain back out of the way. “I’ll need to get an ultrasound though, just to make sure.”
Lee sat up on the edge of the gurney. “No thank you, Doctor. That won’t be necessary. I feel much better, now.”
Suddenly stern looking, Doctor Reese replied, “I really insist, Miss Day. We don’t know for sure what’s going on in there until we get a look. Ultrasounds are painless and completely harmless to the baby. You have nothing to worry about.”
“It doesn’t matter, Doctor. I...” Lee paused a moment, unsure of how the doctor might take what she had to say. “I’m having an abortion the day after tomorrow.”
Doctor Reese didn’t flinch. “Be that as it may, we’re still concerned with your health, Miss Day. I don’t want to take chances. And I still need to do an ultrasound. I can set up a screen so you can’t see the fetus, but I really need to have a look. Okay?”
Lee nodded and the doctor left the room to have the equipment brought. Tark came and sat next to her on the gurney. “Lovely Day?” When Lee gave him a blank stare he added, “I saw your driver’s license and insurance card. After all this time together you never told me your real name is Lovely?”
Lee gave a tired chuckle. “Only my dad called me Lovely. I’ve gone by Lee nearly my whole life.”
“Lovely. It fits you.”
Lee managed a smile. “Then I suppose you saw that my middle name is Sunny.”
Before Tark could respond an orderly rolled in the ultrasound machine. Doctor Reese set it up and had Lee lay back. She then smeared a lubricating jelly all over Lee’s belly and began moving her instrument to and fro, sliding it through the sticky lube. Lee said, “Doctor, I don’t want to know the sex or anything. It just doesn’t matter, okay?”
“If that’s what you want, no problem.” After a few moments she said quietly to herself, “Oh, my.”
Lee knitted her brow. “Is anything wrong?”
“No, no. Everything’s fine.” She caught Tark’s attention and pointed at the screen. With her finger she traced the outline of a fetus.
Tark’s eyes went wide but the doctor put her finger to her lips to keep him quiet.
“Okay, Miss Day. I’m sure my first assumption was right. Braxton-Hicks pains. Go ahead and get dressed. Mister Verhoeven, could you help me roll this machine out?”
He dutifully pushed it through the door and as soon as they were a few feet down the hall Doctor Reese stopped him. “That’s far enough. I just wanted to talk to you.”
“What is it, Doc?”
“I told her I wouldn’t reveal anything about the ultrasound. I strongly suggest you don’t either. If she goes through with the abortion, studies have indicated the potential for greater likelihood of stress and feelings of guilt when a mother terminates a pregnancy after seeing an ultrasound. I assume hearing about this one might have the same implications. It would be better in the long run if you kept what you saw to yourself. And I mean permanently.”
Tark realized that although she was friendly and personable, Doctor Reese was all business. He slowly shook his head. “I’ll try, Doc.” He squeezed his eyes shut and wondered why he seemed to be the only one who found this so distressing.
“Try hard, Mister Verhoeven. Try very hard. Goodnight.” Doctor Reese hurried to another examination room, tapped on the door, and quietly entered.
Tark stood in the hall for a few more minutes as he rubbed his temples. A raging headache was forming and he suddenly felt drained and exhausted. When he got back to the examining room, Lee had just finished dressing. He gave her a gentle hug and led her back out to his car.
As they drove, Tark suggested that she leave her car at the restaurant overnight so he could drive her home, to which Lee agreed. Later, he pulled into her drive and hurried around the car and opened her door for her. He helped her out and, with his arm around her shoulder, walked her to her small front porch.
Lee kissed him. “Thanks, Tark. I’m sorry I spoiled our nice make-up dinner.” He responded with a forced smile and a shrug. She gave him a curious look. “Are you okay? You seem a bit, I don’t know, withdrawn.”
“You truly are Lovely. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to call you Lee again.” His voice was thick with emotion.
“Tark, seriously, are you okay?” Lee had never seen him this way. He seemed to be in a state of mild shock.
“Yeah, I’m...” He lost his voice.
He took a deep breath and tried again. “Yeah, I’m fine.” Suddenly, and to Lee’s utter amazement, Tark burst into tears. He fell to his knees and hugged her waist while sobbing profusely.
“What is it, Tark? Oh, sweetie. Please, tell me.”
Tark Verhoeven, over two hundred pounds of lean, tough-guy muscle, turned his reddened, tear-streaked face up to her and begged, “Please, Lovely, don’t do it. Don’t have the abortion. I know I promised to support you, but I can’t. I just can’t. Not anymore.”
“Tark, what is it? What did you see in the ultrasound?”
He stood and wiped his face with his sleeve. Then he kissed Lee’s forehead. Tark held her at arm’s length and said, “Twins. You’re carrying twins.”
Lee stared at him for a moment. She turned to her door, unlocked it, and faced Tark again. In a soft voice she said, “It doesn’t matter, Tark. It doesn’t matter.” She opened the door and disappeared inside, her face blank and expressionless.
Lee sat at the table while the guard brought her mother and had her sit down. Sarah could immediately tell that something was on her daughter’s mind. She squeezed Lee’s hand and asked, “How you doing today?”
“Mom, I went to the emergency room last night. I was in a lot of pain. Tark took me there and he saw the ultrasound.”
“Why did they take an ultrasound?” Sarah seemed upset about that. “Didn’t you tell them it doesn’t matter?”
“The doctor insisted.” She paused. “I’m carrying twins, Mom.”
Sarah seemed slightly taken aback but recovered quickly. “Well, that doesn’t really matter, does it? In fact, if you’re not ready for one baby how could you possibly be ready for two?”
“I guess you’re right, but Tark begged me to change my mind. He cried, Mom. He cried like a child. I’ve never seen...” Lee had to force back tears of her own.
Sarah sighed. Emotions so often influenced decisions, for better or for worse. “Lee, do you remember Shavonne Williams?”
After a moment of thought, Lee nodded. “Yes. She was at the clinic a couple years ago. A successful attorney as I recall.”
“That’s right. She’s now a full partner at a prestigious law firm. Her number is on file. I want you to give her a call and talk with her. I’m sure she would be happy to tell you her story.”
Lee wiped at her nose with a tissue. “Was she carrying twins?”
“Call her, Lee. I’m sure she can give you some good advice. Abortion was a good decision for her career.”
Lee looked up Shavonne’s number when she got to the clinic and checked the time. It was almost five o’clock. She drove home and debated if she should bother Shavonne, who she was sure must be a busy woman. She punched in the number on her cell phone and after a few rings a woman’s voice said, “Hello, this is Shavonne Williams.”
“Ms Williams, this is Lee Day, from Parental Choices Clinic. How are you?”
“Fine. It’s nice to hear from you, Lee. How are you doing?”
Lee paused, briefly, “I’m doing okay. I’m... well, I’m pregnant. I’m scheduled to have an abortion tomorrow. Something’s come up and Mom suggested I call you. She says you could give me some advice.”
“Ah, I see. You’re carrying twins, aren’t you?”
“Yes. You were too, then?”
“That’s right, Lee. But I went ahead with my choice, and it was a good decision for my career.”
“Really? Was it? Mom said the same thing, but I guess I’m having doubts.”
“Lee, you have to decide for yourself, like I did. I’m a senior partner now. I could never have accomplished that with children in the picture. Never. Don’t let anyone talk you into something you don’t want to do, or out of something you want to do, okay? This was a good decision for my career. You have to decide for yours.” Shavonne had a silky smooth voice that would have sounded great on the radio, and she had a convincing way of speaking.
“Okay, Ms Williams. I hope I’m not being too personal, but did you know before your abortion? Did you know you were carrying twins?”
“Call me Shavonne, honey. No, I didn’t know, to be honest.”
Lee hesitated a moment. She blurted out, “Would it have mattered? Would have still gone through with the procedure had you known?”
There was a long sigh. “I can’t answer that, honey. I would like to say yes and that it didn’t matter. Part of me though… I guess most women second guess, twins or not. But my husband was very supportive of terminating, so I probably would have. Yes, I’m sure I would have.”
Lee couldn’t help but note a twinge of doubt in Shavonne’s smooth voice. “I see. Well, thank you for your time and I appreciate your talking to me about this.”
“Anytime you want to talk, you just give me a call, honey. You take care now.”
“Thanks again. Goodbye.”
Lee went into her bedroom and looked in her full-length mirror. She stood sideways and lifted her blouse to reveal her round, protruding belly. Twins. No wonder she had looked and felt so big. She lay on her bed, her mind racing. She loved Tark so much and dreaded hurting him. She did want a family, someday. But now? And she knew how much her mom was counting on her. And she was so tired. She always felt tired. She thought about tomorrow, of her appointment. This would all be over after tomorrow morning.
Lee awoke to the sound of her cell phone ringing in her pocket. She noted the time, a few minutes past midnight. She cleared her throat and answered her phone. “Hello?”
“Hello, Lee. This is Shavonne.”
Lee paused. Shavonne didn’t sound as silky and confident as she had earlier. “Hi, Shavonne. Is everything okay?”
There was a sniffle and she realized that Shavonne was crying. “Lee, I wasn’t a hundred percent honest with you. Giving up my twins was a good decision for my career. What I said about that was true . But for me as a person, as a woman... Lee there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t wonder if my babies would have been smart, or if they would have looked like me, or how they would have changed my life.” She sniffled again. “I can live with my choice, Lee. I have been for three years now. But you have to know that it will haunt you. You can never undo it, you understand? It’s permanent. You have to think about it both ways, Lee. Think of it as a professional, career-minded woman, but also as a potential mother. You can be happy either way, honey. But you have to know that you will always wonder, ‘what if.’ I know I do. Good night, Lee.”
There was a click and Lee realized Shavonne had hung up. She set her phone on her night stand, got undressed, and went back to bed. She slept fitfully and was plagued by strange dreams that she couldn’t remember when she woke.
Lee was too nervous to eat so she drove to the clinic, parked her car, and sat there in the mild September morning sun. She was an hour early, so she allowed herself to drift off to sleep as her mind wandered. She awoke when she felt someone gently shaking her arm. It was her mother.
“Mom? I can’t believe it!” She got out of the car and hugged her. “When did you get out?”
“This morning. They let me out on good behavior. Sorry for not telling you, but I wanted it to be a surprise.”
Mary MacBride gave Lee a small hug, too. “Hi, Kiddo. You ready for your big day?”
Lee forced a small smile and nodded. “Yeah, I guess so.” Suddenly she noticed that a small but growing crowd had formed. On one side of the parking lot was a group of people holding signs that read ‘Abortion is Murder.’ A similarly sized group on the other side of the parking lot was holding signs that read ‘My Body, My Choice.’
Sarah noticed them too and said, “I guess news travels fast. Come on, let’s get you inside.”
A few police officers were keeping the small crowds back at a distance, but when they saw Lee, both groups starting chanting their respective slogans. Sarah and Mary each took an arm and led Lee to the entrance of the clinic. Through the glass door she could see Doctor Carruthers waiting patiently. Lee reached the front door and then suddenly stopped. A wave of doubt washed over her and she could hear Shavonne’s voice in her head, “you will always wonder, ‘what if.’”
Sarah brushed Lee’s unkempt hair away from her face and saw tears rolling off her cheeks. “Sweetheart, it’s okay. I know this is a difficult thing to do, but it will be over soon. It’s going to be okay, I promise.”
Lee pulled loose from her mother and Mary and turned around. Something told her that Tark would be here for her. That he would never abandon her. And there he was, standing apart from either crowd. His shoulders were slumped, his hands jammed into his pockets, and he looked like he hadn't slept all night. Lee ran to him and threw herself into his arms. "I'm so glad you're here."
Tark kissed her forehead and replied, "I'm here for ya babe. I'll always be here for ya. No matter what."
Suddenly no longer in doubt, she told him, “I love you so much, Tark. I want to have your babies. I want to marry you and raise our children together.”
Tark held her tight and for the second time in her life, Lee heard him cry. She felt warm and secure and now knew in her heart that she would never, ever wonder, ‘what if.’
The crowds on both sides of the parking lot erupted into cheers and applause. Mary MacBride nudged her friend and said, “Go get her, Sarah. She’s making a huge mistake.”
Sarah looked at her daughter, held tight by the man she loved, then back at her friend. “I’m no hypocrite, Mary. Every time I’ve ever said it, I meant it.” After a pause she added, “Her body, her choice.”
Lee roused herself from her reverie and stood up with the twins. She carefully placed them in a double stroller and covered them each with a light blanket. The door to the small bedroom opened and a pretty little girl came in. “Momma, Daddy says he’s ready to go to Grandma’s house whenever you are.”
Another little girl came rushing in. “Momma, Daddy wants to know if you’re ready.”
With a smile, Lee answered, “Yes, I’m ready, girls. How about giving me a hand with your baby brothers?”
“Okay, Momma.” And giggling, the identical twin girls guided the stroller outside.
With a last look at the picture on the wall, Lovely Verhoeven turned off the light and joined her family.