Okay, this is almost too embarrassing for words.
I’m sitting in my doctor’s office, wearing a gown so that goosebumps run up and down my skinny arms. I came in under the guise of being overdue for my annual exam, but pretty much the second I got in, I ‘fessed up the real reason I came in, which is that I wanted to be checked for STDs.
My doctor, a woman whose age I can’t pin down any closer than “over sixty” named Dr. Booth, who is possibly one of the first female doctors in the country, always seems a little disapproving of everything. And to this point, I’d never actually given her anything to be disapproving of. So having to explain to her that I had sex with someone with a questionable past and thought I needed to be checked out… well, let’s just say that Dr. Booth gave me quite a frowning.
“Oh, Eleanor,” she sighed, shaking her head. “And you didn’t use a condom?”
I feel like some stupid kid in a high school after school special. Why oh why didn’t we use a condom? At the time we started having sex, it seemed like Luke and I were in competition for the abstinence Olympics. I hadn’t been with a guy in two years, he hadn’t been with a woman in at least three. Plus, and I’m going to be totally straight here, Luke depended a lot on direct sensation in order to keep his erections. So wearing a condom made him fizzle a bit. I’m sure he would have worn one anyway if I asked him to, but I greedily preferred the erection. Now I’ll probably pay for it with a scorching case of herpes.
“I didn’t realize he’d been with so many other women,” I explained awkwardly.
Dr. Booth sighs again, like she doesn’t know what to do with me, and I don’t blame her. I was stupid. It will not happen again.
So I’ve donated both urine and blood for sampling. I’m getting the golden STD screening panel, including all the best diseases, like gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis, hepatitis C, and best of all, HIV. When Dr. Booth said that, I practically fainted. I can’t really imagine Luke Thayer having HIV, but they say anyone can have it, right?
As I sit alone in the examining room, waiting for Dr. Booth to come back in, I hate Luke just about as much as I ever did.
It’s now been over a month since Luke and I broke up. He’s made a few low key attempts to make amends. He’s sent me flowers and candy. Probably the most important thing he’s done is not fire anyone at my company. Not one pink slip has been passed out yet, and I’m not sure whether he’s still working up to it, or if this is something he’s doing for me. In any case, it doesn’t matter. It’s over between me and Luke. And I suspect he realizes that.
After I’ve been waiting in this tiny, freezing exam room for what feels like hours, Dr. Booth enters with a grim expression on her face. My stomach sinks. Oh god. It’s bad news, for sure. Oh shit, do I have HIV? Oh no oh no… but wait, doesn’t that test take days to come back? So, maybe it’s gonorrhea then.
“Eleanor,” she says in a low voice.
My heart is pounding so hard in my chest, I can barely hear my own voice eke out, “Yes?”
“You’re pregnant,” she says.
No, I can’t be pregnant. I can’t. I mean, I literally cannot be pregnant. “That’s impossible,” I say. “There must be some mistake.”
“It’s not a mistake,” Dr. Booth says.
“Yes, it is,” I say confidently. “I haven’t had sex since my last period. So I can’t be pregnant.” Unless it was an immaculate conception.
“Ah, yes,” Dr. Booth says, “but was your last period normal? You know, sometimes when the fertilized egg implants, there can be some bleeding.”
She’s right. My last period was much lighter than normal. I attributed it to the stress of the break-up and didn’t think anything of it.
“What were you using for birth control?” she asks.
My face turns red. “Nothing,” I admit.
Okay, I know that sounds bad. Initially we were using a condom but stopped because of the sensitivity thing. I thought about going on birth control pills, but seriously, Luke doesn’t ejaculate. So it seemed pretty pointless to have to take a goddamn pill every day when there was no sperm to be found anywhere. But I guess all it takes is one.
“So are you really that surprised then?” Dr. Booth asks.
“Well, he’s a quadriplegic,” I say, turning even redder. “So he doesn’t, um, you know…”
Dr. Booth is looking at me like I’ve completely lost my mind.
“Anyway,” she says. “When was your last normal period?”
“Maybe two months ago,” I say. I still can’t believe this is happening. “But I don’t feel sick at all. Are you sure that test is right?”
“There are no false positives,” she assures me.
I bury my face in my hands. This is really awful. I think gonorrhea would be way better. I’m pregnant. I’ve got Luke’s baby growing in my uterus. And now I’ve got to figure out what to do about it. If I had gonorrhea, I could just take antibiotics. I really wish I had gonorrhea.
Dr. Booth folds her arms and looks at me. “I don’t do abortions here, but I can give you the number for Planned Parenthood. If that’s what you want to do.”
I sit there, feeling ashamed of myself like an irresponsible teenager. How could I let this happen? And now I have to figure out what I want to do.
The first thing I do when I get out of the doctor’s office is to buy a pregnancy test. I don’t entirely believe the results and I’m hopefully maybe they mixed up my urine sample with someone else’s. Once again, I feel like a slutty teenager as I buy the pregnancy test. I feel like the clerk notices the lack of a ring on my finger and knows I got knocked up because of my own stupidity. I’m 32 years old—I should be allowed to be pregnant at my age!
My hands are shaking as I read the instructions on the test in the privacy of my bathroom. It’s pretty simple: you pee on it and one line is not pregnant, two lines is pregnant. It’s supposed to take two minutes for the test to read positive, but within thirty seconds, there are two solid lines on the test strip.
And ditto with the second test. And the second box of tests.
Fuck. It’s true.
In the past, I’ve contemplated a situation in which I might not get married. I’ve met a lot of jerks and it occurred to me that I might never meet the right guy. But I never once considered becoming a single mother. I had two parents and I feel like that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Yet… while I’m pro-abortion in theory, I feel like the rules don’t quite apply when it comes to me. I don’t know if I feel comfortable having an abortion. It seems like the kind of thing I’d always regret. I’d always be thinking how old the baby would have been each year. What if this is my baby? What if this is the baby I’m meant to have?
But I don’t want to do this alone. And I don’t want to do it with Luke, not after the things I’ve found out about him.
I don’t think I have a choice in the matter. I don’t want to let my carelessness ruin my life and to have a child without a father.
I call Planned Parenthood and schedule the procedure for the next weekend on Saturday. I don’t tell anyone about my pregnancy, not Jenna, not my parents, nobody. Most of all, I don’t tell Luke. I recognize that if I get rid of the pregnancy, he can never find out. I think it would hurt him too much.
I guess I do feel guilty that I’m not telling him about it. Yes, it’s half his DNA. But the thing is, it’s in my body. I’m the one who would have to go through nine miserable months of pregnancy (well, seven at this point, but still), ruin my body, go through a painful labor, and then go home to become a single mother. I think it ought to be at least 90% my decision. And I’ve made my decision. So I don’t see the point of torturing him by telling him about it.
Yes, I’m a humanitarian.
However, Luke, who seems to be somewhat psychic, calls me the very same day I schedule the appointment. I see his number pop up on my cell phone and I’m seized with an overpowering urge to talk to him. Which is the reason I can’t pick up. If I do, I’ll spill the beans. I know myself.
He leaves a message. His voice is formal but a little hesitant: “Ellie, when you get this message, can you give me a call back?”
I don’t know what he wants to talk to me about, but I’m not going to call him back till Saturday evening.
However, when Luke, who usually is Mr. Restraint, calls again half an hour later, my curiosity is piqued. He is usually very cool and reserved, not the kind to call multiple times within the hour. Is there any chance he could know about the pregnancy? No, it’s not possible. But I’m going crazy wondering what he wants to talk to me about, so I have no choice but to call.
“Hello?” I say into the phone.
“Ellie!” Luke sounds so pleased to hear my voice that I get a little tearful. These pregnancy emotions are really ridiculous.
“Hi,” I say cautiously.
“It’s, um, been a while, huh?” he says. I always liked the sound of his voice. It tugs at me a little.
“Yes,” I say.
“Listen, Ellie.” He clears his throat. “I… I wasn’t going to bother you. I wanted to give you your space and all, but the thing is that…”
I hold my breath, waiting for his big confession of his love. Ellie, I love you. I can’t live without you. Well, it wasn’t good enough. It doesn’t change anything.
“The thing is,” he goes on, “my dad died last night.”
My jaw falls open. Despite how fragile his father looked when I met him, this was the last thing I expected Luke to say. I hear his breathing change slightly and I realize that he’s crying on the other end of the line. Luke’s crying. I can’t believe this.
“Oh, Luke,” I whisper.
“Ellie,” he says, his voice breaking slightly. “I’m sorry to do this to you, but… I really need you.”
“I’ll be right over,” I say.
I drive to Newton. I practically run over an old woman with a walker, but I get there in fifteen minutes, door to door. I’m slightly breathless as I knock.
Luke answers the door looking awful. He apparently still made it to work today, because he’s wearing a shirt and nice pants, but his shirt is wrinkled, his hair is sticking up all over the place, and his eyes are red and puffy. When he sees me, his eyes fill with tears. “Ellie,” he says. “Thanks for coming.”
“Are… you all right?” I ask as I walk in, feeling lame because he obviously isn’t all right.
“I guess,” he says.
“Let me make you some tea,” I say, because I must think I’m in England or something.
“I don’t really like tea,” he says.
“Oh,” I say.
He rubs his eyes. “I just want to talk, if that’s okay. I didn’t want to… to be alone.”
I nod. We go into his gigantic living room and I sit on the couch. He stays in his wheelchair, instead of transferring to sit next to me like he usually did. I guess it’s still kind of awkward between us and he’s respecting my space.
“I shouldn’t be this upset,” he says. “My father and I… we didn’t get along. Obviously.”
“Yeah, I noticed.”
“It wasn’t always like that,” he says. “When I was a kid, he was so proud of me, of everything I did. Then after I got hurt, there was nothing I could to please him. Even all the money I made for the company, it meant nothing to him. He was so ashamed of having a son who was disabled.”
He buries his face in his hands. “Ellie, I was so ruthless. I really did everything I could to make as much money as possible, just to get his approval. All that awful stuff you read about me on those websites, it’s all true. I was a total asshole. I did what I had to in order to make Thayer Industries the most powerful company in Boston. I didn’t do anything illegal, but god, it was really hard to sleep at night.”
I can’t believe he’s confessing all this to me. He was so adamant in his insistence that the rumors were untrue. All I can say is, “Oh.”
“But it didn’t fucking matter,” he continues. “No matter how much money I made, Dad didn’t care. I thought I could show him that… that I was just as good as before. But I couldn’t. All he cared about was that I couldn’t walk. And once I gave up on that, he gave up on me.”
“I… I’m sure that’s not true,” I say gently.
“It’s true,” he says. He looks up at me with his bloodshot eyes which are so sad, I want to reach out and hug him. “You were right about the… the prostitutes too. There wasn’t just the one. I just… I felt like no woman would want to touch me if I wasn’t paying her. I told you about Rebecca, but the truth was, that wasn’t the first time something like that happened. There were other women who were fine with dating to me until it came time to go to the bedroom. I couldn’t deal with it anymore.” His voice is shaky. “I mean, I’m sure you can see why they felt that way.”
“Luke, stop it,” I say. “You know I thought you were sexy.”
“No,” he says. “I think you overlooked certain things because… well, I’m not entirely sure why. But believe me, Ellie, I know what I look like.”
I can’t help but think how amazing it is that someone who looks the way Luke does could talk this way. Yes, he’s in a wheelchair. No, he doesn’t have the body he did when he was 18. But who the hell does? I’ve got more stomach paunch, my boobs are nowhere near as springy, and I’ve got stretch marks on my ass. Luke’s body isn’t great, but it’s human and it’s sexy as hell to me.
And as I look at Luke, I start to remember how sexy I found him, and he looks so sad and pathetic, the opposite of his tough and confident work persona, which somehow makes me want him even more. He seems almost shocked when I lean over and start kissing him. At first it seems inappropriate, considering his father died last night, but he’s not stopping me and in fact, seems to want it just as bad or even more than I do.
He transfers onto the couch and we peel off each other’s clothing, all the while kissing each other desperately. God, these hormones are making me really horny. For a second, my pinky snags on the tube from his catheter bag and he looks embarrassed, but I brush it off and we keep going at it.
I put my hand on Luke’s penis as we kiss, but I notice my attempts aren’t getting him hard. “Sorry,” he whispers when he realizes what’s going on. “I didn’t take my pill, so I can’t… you know. Do… you want me to take it?”
“No, it’s okay,” I say. I do want to have sex with him, especially now that I know he’s free of STDs. (At least I am. All the tests came back negative.) But I also like the idea of just lying naked with him and kissing and touching. After all, Luke is probably better with his mouth than any other part of his body.
Luke and I lie there kissing for over an hour. We are so sweaty by that point that our bodies are nearly stuck together. I’m wet as hell by that point, so Luke rubs his hand against my pussy. I know he’s trying his best, but he doesn’t have the strength or dexterity to really get me to climax with his hand without help. I gently take his index and middle fingers in my hand and use them to rub my clitoris until I come hard, muffling my screams against his neck.
“Glad my hands could be of use for something,” Luke says with a crooked grin.
I smile at him and yawn peacefully. As usually, the orgasm has left me exhausted.
Luke kisses me on the lips. “Ellie,” he murmurs. “I really love you.”
“I love you too,” I almost say. But then I remember that as attracted as I am to Luke, as much fun as we have together, this isn’t the past. I know things about Luke that can’t be taken back. He’s a heartless, ruthless businessman. He fucks whores. Is this the man I want to date? To marry? To be the father of my child?
And I need to get out of here before I say or do anything I’ll regret.
“I have to go,” I say.
Luke seems alarmed. “Ellie, no, don’t go! I’m sorry I said that. I was just… you know, thinking aloud. I didn’t mean to pressure you.”
“It’s not that,” I say. “It’s… complicated.”
Luke’s brow furrows and for a second, I want SO badly to tell him everything. But I can’t. I have good reasons for not telling him about my pregnancy. It will kill him to know, especially considering I’m planning to get rid of it.
“Okay,” he finally says, his shoulders sagging.
“I… I’ll call you next week,” I say.
He raises his eyebrows. “Are you coming to the funeral?”
“Oh. Uh, when is it?”
The same day as my appointment at Planned Parenthood. Of course.
“Okay,” I say. “I’ll be there.”
Who’s to say I can’t go to a funeral in the morning and have a pregnancy termination in the afternoon?
To be continued....