Dark deed or virgin birth? When 16-year-old Charity Baker becomes pregnant, she claims that she has never slept with a man, but that God has given her this child.
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Rosalie Warren - author of Charity's Child
Who is the father of Charity's Child? 16-year-old Charity Baker has her own crazy ideas but even her loyal friend Joanne finds them hard to believe. Attractive enthusiast Charity joins the Crabapple Christian Fellowship and a number of the 'Crabbies', including Alan the assistant pastor, fall for her charms. When Charity shocks everyone by revealing that she is pregnant, Alan is the prime suspect. As the story reaches its disturbing climax, darkness is revealed in unexpected places and we learn with Joanne that many things in Charity’s life are not as they seem. This powerful tale of teenage sexuality, religious fanaticism, self-harm and other highly topical issues explores the struggles of two young women striving to break free of cultural expectations and oppression.
I waited, and after a few minutes she said, “I went to the doctor’s first thing today. She did a test.”
“She says I am. I’m pregnant.”
“Oh God. Charity…”
A gust of wind swung round behind our backs and caught our clothing as though trying to pull us into the sea. Charity gave a gasp. I put my arm round her shoulders and she clutched my other arm with both her hands, so hard it hurt.
“I’m really scared, Joanne.”
I squeezed tighter. “Don’t be. I’m here. You’ve got me.”
I’d had the weekend to adjust to the probability of Charity’s being pregnant. I had tried to tell myself, at first, that the test could be mistaken, but I never believed it. My initial pain had lessened, at least for the time being, to the point of being able to focus on her, rather than on my own jealousy.
“You don’t seem surprised,” she said.
“Well, no. Not after the test we did. Are you?”
“No. I knew I was pregnant.”
After a few moments, during which I stamped my feet to try to get some warmth into them, I said, “Are you going to tell me who?”
“Who it is. The father.”
She shook her head and gazed out to sea.
“Is it Alan?”
Her voice was flat. “Of course it’s not.”
“Are you sure?”
With a little more vigour, she said, “Yes, I’m sure. How could it be Alan? Do you really think I’d have sex with him?” A note of scorn, her bow-shaped lip curling.
“Well, it has to be someone.”
“What do you mean, it isn’t?”
“It isn’t anyone. I haven’t had sex.” She looked down at her shabby, frayed trainers.
I tried to look her in the eyes, but she avoided my gaze.
“Look, I know this is hard, Char, but there’s no point denying it, is there? It’s obvious that if you’re pregnant that you must have done it with someone.”
“I haven’t. Honestly, Joanne – I haven’t.” She made eye contact for the first time since we’d sat down. Her irises showed little of their usual brilliance – they were a dull metallic grey like the sea. The wind had dropped briefly and as long as I stayed completely still I could almost believe I was warm.
Her denial re-stoked my hurt. Was she trying to protect me from the truth, from the fact that she had betrayed me?
“Charity, I’m not stupid. I do know the facts of life.”
“I never said you were stupid.”
“You must think I am, if you expect me to believe you became pregnant by a miracle.”
“I don’t understand it either.”
“Think back. Around Christmas time.” I had a sudden thought. “The day you went to Barnsley, with your dad. Did you…?”
“Did I what?”
“You know. Meet anyone. From your old church? You said you used to have a boyfriend there.”
“That was years ago. Of course I didn’t – are you suggesting I took up with an old boyfriend and had sex with him?” Her eyes turned back to the horizon.
“I just thought it was a possibility.”
“Well it’s not.”
‘Someone at school? One of the boys in your class?’
“One of the boys from Crabbies? Not Steve?”
"No, no, no!"
“It has to be someone.”
She looked at her watch. “The bell must have gone. We’ll be late for our lessons.”
“I don’t care. I just want to know who you slept with.” I paused while a wave of anger swamped my brain. “I’ve a right to know. We’re supposed to be best friends. I tell you everything.”
“I would tell you, Joanne, if I knew.”
“When you told me you were bi, I never thought…”
“You never thought what?” Her voice had taken on a note of hostility – her words pinched tight as though she’d been falsely accused.
“That you were going to go and have sex with a man.”
She stood up. “Let’s walk back. I’ve got English.”
“I don’t care what you’ve got.” Instead of heading back to the school, I started walking towards the sea. The wind had turned and was knocking me sideways now. She followed.
“Joanne – slow down a minute. Listen. This is going to sound weird.”
She stopped walking and grabbed my arm at the elbow. “Something happened, a while back. I’d almost forgotten. But it makes sense now. It all hangs together.”
“My vision, or whatever it was. I had a sort of experience.”