Choices

She sat alone, waiting for the doctor. Or would it be a nurse? A counselor maybe.

God, why don’t they hurry up?

Cold and clammy, she gripped the vinyl table, peeling up her bare legs one at a time and repositioning them. The sound of the paper gown and table cover crinkling and echoing in the otherwise silent room startled her.

I hate it here.

She shook her head in frustration.

It’s your own fault, she told herself. Besides, what are you going to do? Leave? What will you tell you them out there in the waiting room?

Her chest sank beneath the weight of expectation, obligation, shame and reputation. She inhaled – deep breaths – trying to right the ship, to stay above the water.

The door opened. She was tall, with blond hair, cut like a man’s. She dressed like a man too. Slacks, an oxford shirt and a sweater vest.

“Hello,” the woman said, closing the door behind her. “How are you?”

“Um, ok thanks. How are you?” The girl asked, swinging her bare feet as they dangled from the table.

“Good, thanks,” the woman answered.

She sat down facing the girl, legs apart, hands on her knees.

“But we’re here to talk about you,” she continued with a smile. “How are you feeling?”

They spoke for some time. The woman – Doctor? Nurse? Counselor? – was warm and kind. She asked all the necessary questions, reviewing the girl’s medical history and chattering on about springtime and weekend plans while she completed a brisk exam. There were no surprises.

After removing her gloves and washing her hands, she returned to the girl, who was sitting upright again. The nurse – she must be a nurse – looked at the girl with patient, gentle eyes, like a trusted friend, a confidant, and carefully explained the procedure.

Then she tilted her head to the side, smiled and asked, “So do you have any questions?”

The girl slid her cold hands under her thighs and pressed them against the table. She looked down at her feet, wavering above the glossy, rose-colored linoleum.

“I…I guess I’m just nervous,” she answered.

The woman straightened her head and cleared her throat. “Nervous? About the procedure?”

“Well…I’m afraid I’m going to regret it…”

Instantly, the woman broke eye contact, looked at her hands, adjusted her watch. “Well, it’s normal to have some feelings of remorse after a procedure like this. But it will pass.”

The girl continued, her voice shaky, “Yeah but I’ve done this before…and it was pretty bad. I…I just don’t know if I can handle that again…”

The nurse sighed as she turned her back on the girl and strolled toward the opposite side of the room.

Is she walking away from me?

The woman fumbled through some things on a desk. “Well, what other choice do you have?”

What other choice? 

The girl looked down, letting her hair fall around her face. “I don’t know…I thought maybe…adoption,” she whispered.

“Mmm-hmm…I guess if you want you could look into it…” the woman replied, traipsing toward the girl, flipping a pamphlet into her lap and doubling back without so much as a glance in her direction.

In the silence, time passed and hearts beat and fear rolled in like dark clouds over a roiling sea.

I am so alone.

Then, suddenly, the bright, cheerful nurse was back, “But we’ll keep your appointment for you so you can still go through with the procedure. OK? And if you have any questions, let us know. We’re here to help. OK? Alright. Have a good week.”

And she was gone.

The girl stepped down from the table, placing her feet on the cold floor. She felt sea-sick and steadied herself by leaning against the wall until the waves passed.

Come on, now. Get dressed. And stop thinking about it. The appointment’s made. They’re here to help. You’ll be back next week. What other choice do you have?

——————————————————————————————————
Written in response to Writing 101: Character Building, Give & Take and Death to Adverbs.

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