TG Universes & Series:
A Switcher Tale...
8. Fear and Trepidation
by Lulu Martine
I went through the bedroom into the big en suite bathroom. Big spa-type tub, separate huge shower stall, too. Water controls like the big hotels in resorts have. That’s one thing I had done as Tony, I traveled and stayed in nice hotels. I didn’t have a wife or family to spend money on, not even a girlfriend, and my major expenses were medical and paid for by my excellent university insurance.
Which was also why I hadn’t quit or looked for another job. I liked my job, helping people get an education, but there were times it was pretty soul-killing. All the paperwork and bullshit that had to be dealt with. And if the administration or government agencies weren’t jerking me around, then the students or the parents were giving me grief.
I had had no one else to spend money on except myself. And that was all gone—that whole life. I wrapped my arms around myself and stared at the bathroom fixtures. I felt very cold. Tony was dead, and there was someone out there who wanted to cut me into pieces. I began shivering, and I couldn’t seem to stop. I turned and ran back to the hallway, wailing, “Gary!”
“In here,” he said from the room with all the camera and electronic gear. I went in there, running on bare feet with my arms wrapped around me, crying.
“I’m scared, I duwanna be alone,” I whimpered, trying to burrow under his arm and into his lap, but he was sitting too close to the computer desk. I had no dignity at all. He was big and safe and strong, and I needed that just then.
“Sh, sh,” he said, pushing the chair back to give me more room. He pulled me into his lap and cuddled me. “I thought you were…. Hmm?” He turned my face up and kissed me gently on my forehead, then my nose, then my lips.
I gasped. This should be disgusting and scary, but it wasn’t. I’m only fifteen. He’s twice my age. This is wrong, I told myself. But I needed someone to hold me. I pulled my face away from his, then just rested my cheek on his chin.
“Hmm?” he murmured. “I thought you were going to be okay.”
“I thought—I did—I mean?” I took a breath. “B-but I got into the b-b-bathroom, and it was cold and all that metal and p-porcelain, and two or three doors between us. I got scared.” Where was this coming from, I wondered? As Tony, I’d never been prone to such frights.
He laughed softly. “Babygirl,” he said and him calling me that sent a shiver through me but not a cold one. “Do you need me to come watch you take a bath?”
“Um?” Put like that, I kind of had to say no. “Not really, but if you were just in the next room?” I knew I must be blushing because my face felt hot enough to fry an egg. “I’m such a coward,” I whimpered.
“Sh, sh,” he said. “No coward would be up to what you’ve been doing with these assholes we’ve been ripping off? Huh? Would a coward have climbed on top of Holzmann’s car where anyone in the world could see you?”
I pulled away so I could stare at him. Just what the heck had Margaret been doing?
“You really did witness a murder, didn’t you?” he asked.
I nodded, biting my lip. I felt myself begin to tremble again.
He lifted a big hand and stroked my cheek. His face was huge, too, and so close to me; the way I was feeling, it should have been scary. But it wasn’t. I felt Margaret’s trust in this man, and it confused me.
“I forget sometimes that you are just a kid,” he said quietly.
“Should I start calling you Daddy?” I asked, making an effort to tease him.
He laughed softly. “Better not,” he said. “I know all your ticklish spots. Besides, if you are pregnant, we know it isn’t mine.”
“Huh?” I said. How would we know that? I’d felt pretty sure that Margaret’s relationship with Gary was sexual. Had I been wrong?
“And you’ve been using condoms with our—uh, clients? Right?”
I swallowed hard. “I—I—,” of course, I didn’t know.
He sighed. “Not every time?”
“I dunno,” I admitted. “I don’t remember.” I felt miserable, like I’d let him down, but I wasn’t sure if it was Margaret feeling guilty or just me being confused. It did begin to look like we were pulling some sort of badger game on guys like Holtzman.
I was still sitting in his lap. He kissed the top of my head and said, “Sh, sh,” again. He picked me up and set me on my feet. “Get your shoes and fuck getting a bath. We’re going to the clinic tonight.”
Gary had a monstrous SUV parked in the underground garage, a big black thing that looked new. I stared at it. I’d put those ridiculous platform sandals back on, and they didn’t lend themselves to clambering up such a surface.
But Gary not only opened the passenger side door for me, he picked me up and put me in the seat, which startled a giggle out of me. I’d been wondering how I was going to get up the side of the beast without ropes and pitons.
He laughed at my reaction, then closed the door and quickly ran around to get in on the driver’s side. Seeing him sitting there, I realized why he owned such an oversize vehicle.
“What?” he asked, noticing me staring at him, as he started the engine.
I giggled again. “You’re such a big guy, sometimes I forget how big.”
He grinned. “That’s what she said,” he joked. “Fasten your seatbelt, blondie.”
Blondie? Oh. At first, I wanted to protest that my hair was almost as black as hair can be, but I realized that this was some sort of running joke between us—Margaret and Gary, that is. I could probably expect to get called ‘blondie’ any time I did something stereotypically blonde, like forget to buckle up.
The funniest thing about that, of course, was that Tony had had dark blond hair. Worth a giggle? Okay, I giggled. The relationship between us still amazed me. And did Garth’s remark that we knew any hypothetical pregnancy was not his mean that we weren’t doing the bunny hop together?
Well, so far, the evidence was equivocal, if not downright confusing. I did remember that kiss. There’d been a bit of tongue….
We parked at the far end of the parking structure for the UMC, and Garth helped me down from the huge vehicle. I noted that he had a faculty sticker in the window of his beast, so he would not have to pay to park. We could have walked the eight or so blocks, of course, but we were both true Californians—it was our birthright not to have to walk more than a block anywhere.
“I’m not going in with you,” he said when he put me down. “You okay with that?”
I thought about it. I could think of many reasons for him to avoid going in. The lights were on everywhere on campus, but the dark sky outside and the huge buildings made me feel a bit anxious. “W-walk me to the door?” I suggested.
“Sure,” he said.
The Women’s Health Center is on the second floor, and I knew it had a separate department for Reproductive Health and Family Planning, so that was where we headed after checking the directory on the ground floor. Garth watched me get in the elevator, and I gave him a babygirl wave as the door closed.
I giggled nervously because I didn’t know why I did that.
I couldn’t remember either of me ever having been on this floor, so it took me a minute to find the right room number. I went inside and found a wide waiting room with wall screens, a couple of lecterns with built-in tablets, and a reception desk behind a glass wall. There were three positions at the counter, and a light above one said, Start Here.
Since I was a new patient, I was given paperwork to fill out and also told to go to one of the lecterns and follow the directions to check-in. There were the usual sorts of questions, and some of them, like Margaret’s medical history, I couldn’t answer. There were others I could skip if I wanted to maintain privacy, so I left a lot of the form blank.
Under name, I wrote Marla Anthony, figuring that I was more likely to answer to the second than the first. I lied about my age, too, saying I was eighteen and giving a birthday in March. I didn’t fill out any ID numbers, checking the box to request privacy instead. Under reason for visit, I put “pregnancy test,” even though part of me wanted to howl in protest at the very idea.
It asked when I’d had my last period, and of course, I didn’t know, but Gary and I had talked about this on the way over. He didn’t remember noticing any signs, or me mentioning one since I’d moved in with him in early September. I put down August with a sinking sensation. I did the math. More than ten weeks without a period was not a good sign in a healthy young woman.
They asked about symptoms, and I marked the boxes for morning sickness, mood swings, and anxiety. Boy, was I anxious.
I turned in the paperwork and took a seat in the waiting area. Half a dozen women were waiting, all but one of them alone. Other women, I guess I should say. I nibbled on the pads of my fingers while I sat there; it must have been a Margaret habit. At least I didn’t chew my nails.
Twenty minutes later, I got called into a small examining room where a blonde Physicians Assistant with a tablet asked more questions, took my vitals, and weighed and measured me. I’m so tiny, just over 4’10” and only 88 pounds, if I did the conversions from metric right: 148 cm and 40 kg.
I was there for another half hour, wearing one of those paper gowns, getting an examination from another PA, having blood tests done, and waiting for results. Finally, a woman whose name tag read Dr. Nablonsky came in and did the most embarrassing examination of all. After she helped me down from the table with the stirrups, she told me to sit down.
I sat. “Why are those things you use to look so cold?” I asked her, stalling.
She laughed softly. “Everyone asks, and I can’t tell you. They’re just room temperature, honest.” She glanced at my chart. “But Miss Anthony, you must suspect what I’m about to tell you.” She didn’t pause. “You’re pregnant, about ten weeks along according to the blood test.”
The earth reached up to the second floor and swallowed me, but I was still sitting in the plastic chair in a paper gown. The doctor was standing over me with a hand on my back, saying, “Lean forward, put your head between your knees.”
When I had more presence of mind, I discovered I was crying. Dr. Nablonsky handed me a wad of tissue as I sat up. “Thank you,” I murmured.
“Not planned,” she said, a comment, not a question. “But you have options. It’s too late for the overnight pill, but it’s early enough that a termination procedure would be very low risk.”
Low risk to me, I thought. I sighed, and for some reason, I groped for the crucifix around my neck. “I’m Catholic,” I said, remembering that Margaret was. Tony was dead. I didn’t have Margaret’s faith, but did I need to respect it?
She nodded. “I don’t know your circumstances, and you don’t have to tell me. But we can find you counseling, perhaps housing if you need it, other resources. Some of these would require you giving up a measure of privacy, but providers are prepared to work with you.”
She talked some more, but I had pretty much stopped listening. One thing seemed forefront in my mind. I’m going to have a baby. I couldn’t figure out how I felt about that unexpected fact. Excited, but in a quiet way, described it best, perhaps. I knew I wasn’t frightened, or angry, or sad—or happy for that matter.
Perhaps every little girl dreams of being a mother, but I hadn’t because I had never been a little girl. I wondered if Margaret had such dreams. I wondered who the father was. Ten weeks ago…where had Margaret been living? With her parents in Orange County? Or just with her mother?
When and why had she gotten involved with Garth, and what seemed to be a very profitable project?
The doctor had stopped talking and simply waited for me to speak. I made some sort of noise.
“You have options,” she repeated. “And perhaps the best one right now is to realize you don’t have to rush into making a choice.”
I think she had said that before, as well, but I hadn’t been listening. I nodded. I tried to imagine myself getting large with a pregnancy. The funny thing was I could picture it as Margaret, but for Tony, it just seemed like a bad joke. Or a bad movie with Arnie Schwarzenegger.
But I knew that having a baby would hurt — a lot. And then I would have to take care of it because I’m the mother and that’s my job. Nursing a baby seemed bizarre. So did changing diapers, staying up nights, watching another person grow. Why was I smiling?
Dr. Nablonsky pulled me out of my strange reverie. “If you know who the father is, you have to decide whether to tell him.” She’d said that before too. She must be repeating herself because she knows I’m not listening, I thought.
But thinking led to scary thoughts. I blinked. Ten weeks back, Margaret had not been living with Garth, so he was right; it wasn’t his. Then whose was it?
A certainty seized me then, frightening in its sudden conviction. The room with its clinical atmosphere and medical professional droning on about vitamins, and exercise, and family situations, and appointments for counseling and ultrasound and other valid options faded away.
They all disappeared into the maw of a devouring truth that both Margaret-me and Anthony-me agreed on — this baby was mine.
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