Maybe, just maybe, it was wrong.
I'm only sixteen, for crying out loud.
I don't even have a boyfriend!
I stared at the little line inside the circle and wondered if it was a joke. If it was wrong. 99% accuracy isn't right all the time, you know. So I tried another. And another. And another. They all said the same thing. I tried five, and they were all positive. That's pretty much it. They can't all be 99% accurate and all wrong, can they? I doubt it. The odds are...pretty high, I guess. Almost as high as my little predicament. Well, maybe not that high. Immaculate conception is pretty high you know, and that's what I'm facing now.
It all began a few months ago. Three, to be technical about it. I missed my period, which was something unusual for me, not impossible, but unusual. Then I missed the next one, and the next one. That's pretty darn unusual. Now, I wasn't worried, like I said, I don't have a boyfriend (secret: I have never had a boyfriend, unless you count Greg, which I don't, as it was two days in grade 5). It must be just my diet. That's what the usual thing is, right? Diet changes? Hormone changes? Something like that. It was something my mother nattered at me when I told her about missing my period. I didn't quite listen. I haven't had an diet changes. I wouldn't know about the hormones, but you know how it is. I wasn't worried.
But I got worried.
I sneaked out one Saturday, went to the Drug Store, (thank God Kelly wasn't working there that shift, I would have died and further more, it would have been all over town by Tuesday) bought the test, rushed home, tried it.
Panicked, rushed out, bought another one, tried it.
Panicked completely, rushed out, bought two (to hell with Kelly), rushed home, tried it, fainted into the bathtub.
I came to with my mother standing over me. She looked kinda upset, which I don't think I blame her, as a) her daughter was passed out half in the bathtub and b) there were pregnancy tests lying all over the bathroom. You don't have to be a rocket scientist, which my mother isn't, but she's pretty sharp. As soon as she determined that I was All Right, Thank God, I was read every riot act in existence. It doesn't matter how much I protested that I have never had a boyfriend, never even been kissed (except by Tommy Walker when I was fifteen, but he was three years older, completely drunk and threw up on my shoes) and was further more, still a...a...it was hard talking about this to my mother. My mother! She still talks in baby talk to me! And I was being forced to talk about s-e-x to her! I could have died. I wish I did; it would have saved my mother the trouble of murdering me, which she was planning to, after dragging me to the emergency room.
Did I mention Kelly's mother works as a nurse?
So after I died for the thousandth time, the doctor told me the tests wouldn't be in for a week. Then my mother drove me home, and I got read riot acts that I didn't know existed. She made up new ones, just for me, I swear. I was grounded for existence; I couldn't leave my room ever, not even to go to the bathroom, let alone school; my windows were going to be locked shut and barred to make sure none of the hundreds of my secret Casanovas would come crawling through the window; but all this was nothing compared to what was going to happen when Your Father Finds Out.
Daddy went pale. Very pale. I thought he was going to faint too, especially considering the way his eyelids flickered like that, but he had better self control than me. After mother told him her hysterical version of the story (including the Phantom Romeo, when I tried very hard not to snicker), I told him my blameless, confused and surprised side. He nodded--still pale--and picked up the paper, and said:
"We'll see what the Doctor says."
Now was my mother's turn to go very pale, but it was more an angry pale than a surprised pale.
"Dear" was all she said, in a tone of voice to mean: "Is that it?"
"We'll see what the Doctor says." was all Daddy said in reply, in a tone of voice that meant: "Yep. That's it. Now, let's never speak of this again."
I don't know how I made it through that week. I really don't. Between my mother being furious and indignant and my father trying a little too hard to pretend that Everything Is Okay, not to mention waiting for that phone call, I must have been a nervous wreck. A complete wreck. School was a bit comforting in a way; everything was completely normal, routine, boring as usual. Kelly looked very interested at hearing about my weekend, especially my trip to the hospital as her mother claimed to have seen me, but my explanation of an ear infection seemed to do the trick.
I sat in the cafeteria, staring at my gravy soaked fries, and wondering what exactly I was going to do. If the call was a no, I was going to holler at my mother, then eat an entire cake to celebrate (I know that seems a little weird, but I've always wanted to eat an entire cake by myself and a "no" call seemed like a good a time as any) and if it was "yes"...I decided not to dwell on it. I didn't want to think about it. I kept on thinking about it, as my brain wasn't particularly interested in my feelings, and just wanted to torment me for the fun of it.
"Hey," somebody said in my ear. I turned to see Amy, my best friend. "This seat taken?"
"Nope," I answered, shifting over on the bench. Amy looked at me a bit strangely.
"Is everything okay?" she said, concerned. She lifted out of her lunch bag a tupperware container that contained a sandwich. A club sandwich. Big pieces of turkey--not that yucky sliced, deli kind, but real turkey--bacon, crisp lettuce. My mouth was watering so much I felt like I had Niagara falls in it. I forced myself to stare at the congealing gravy that was pooling in the bottom of the cardboard box.
"Yeah," I said slowly, trying to watch her as she ate her club sandwich. My stomach grumbled, no doubt protesting the fries I was forcing into it.
There was an announcement over the PA. I strained to hear it, my ears picking up. "Did they say my name?" I asked Amy. She shrugged.
"It sounded like they were calling Ever After," she said, between bites (oh how I wanted that sandwich!).
"That's probably me, then." I said, standing up. "That sounds like Eva Anderson."
"Could have been Evan Adams," Amy pointed out.
"True." I admitted. I sat down.
"woodevaandrsuncumto the office," the buzzer announced again.
"That was me," I said. I gingerly threw my fries into the garbage. I had paid money for them! I actually expected to eat them! I made a face, when Amy tugged on my sleeve. I turned around. She was finishing up one half of her sandwich, and held the other half out to me.
"I'm full, want it?" she asked, her mouth half-full.
I love my best friend.
I finished that fabulous sandwich on the way up to the office. They paged me again, and I noted that "to the office" was always perfectly clear. That was odd, it was the one thing that could be assumed about a message. Oh well. I licked my fingers, and opened the office door. I walked over to the secretary, who barely noticed I was in front of her.
"I'm Eva Anderson," I said hesitantly. She jerked her head in the direction of the phone. A small red light was flashing, showing that line three was occupied. I picked up the receiver.
"Hello?" I asked. There was silence. "Hello?"
The secretary heaved a great sigh (as if to say why did she put up with kids like me?) and clicked the button next to the flashing light.
"Hello?" I said again.
"Oh, it's you!" my mother tinnily exclaimed. "Thank god. I was starting to wonder if you'd been lost somewhere."
Ha ha, I thought.
"Dear," my mother said with a sigh, "The tests have come back."
I honestly don't remember much of what happened next, except finding myself lying on the floor, several people around me. One was Amy, looking concerned. Another was Kelly, and she had a sly smile on her face. I was confused for a moment, and then I noticed that she held the phone receiver. I think I blacked out again.
I woke up on a hospital bed. My mother and my doctor were sitting watch over me. I sat up, groggily. "What happened?" I asked, my head swimming. Then I noticed a nurse standing off to one side: Kelly's mother.
I screamed and leapt off the bed, all the previous events coming into sharp focus.
"Dear!" my mother exclaimed, as she and my doctor tried to pull me back on to the bed. "Calm down! You've been under a lot of stress. If that nice girl from school hadn't told me what had happened--"
"Did you tell her?" I yelled, casting a frantic glance at Kelly's mother. She had the same sly smile as her teenage daughter and I felt my insides twist.
"I couldn't help it, dear, I thought she was you," my mother continued, patting my arm. "But don't worry. She said she wouldn't tell."
I groaned and flopped first onto the bed, burying my face in the pillow. Doomed, I was doomed. "Teenagers," my mother, the doctor and the nurse all sighed simultaneously.
"Ms. Anderson," the doctor said suddenly, as I turned back over, and I noticed that he was referring to me by my last name, and not as Eva as he had always done, "Ms. Anderson, I think we need to discuss these test results."
"Probably, yeah." I squeaked, suddenly feeling very nervous. I caught Kelly's mother's eye; she looked very curious. I glared. The doctor followed my gaze.
"Nurse, if you could leave, please." he said. She frowned, but left. I relaxed a little bit.
"What about the test results, doctor?" asked my mother, wringing her hands.
"Well," he began, looking a little like a bearer of bad tidings, "Your daughter is, indeed, pregnant."
I screamed. So did my mother. Then I screamed again and she looked very pale and had to lean against the bed. It creaked under the added weight. I felt like screaming again, so I did, but I was running out of steam, so it was more of a squeak, or a gasp that was remarkably high- pitched.
"We did several other tests as well as the obvious one," the doctor continued, acting as if a shrieking hysterical teenager and a fainting mother were something he dealt with every day. (Maybe he does, I don't know.) "We found something odd," he continued.
"Odd? ODD?!" I exclaimed, feeling perfectly calm and no doubt sounding like a maniac. "I'm a pregnant virgin and you found something odd?!"
"Ms. Anderson," the doctor said very, very slowly, "You are right."
"What you--what? What do you mean, I'm right? I mean, uh, I mean, I know that I'm right, but--"
"We didn't believe you, at first. Who would? Your story was ludicrous. But then we decided to give you a gynaecological exam--"
So that was what that was all about, I thought, squirming at the thought.
"--and we found that you are, in fact, a virgin. That means that this is--"
There was a loud thump that cut him off. It was my mother, sliding off the bed and landing on the floor, unconscious. We got her up, and put her on the bed.
"Ms. Anderson, I don't want to say that this is an immaculate conception--there must be another reason for it--we'd like to do more tests. Find out exactly what's happening." He seemed concerned for me, but at the same time, a little excited. I suppose he had every reason to be excited: after all, he was on the verge of a scientific breakthrough. Me, on the other hand...for some reason I was drifting back towards the memory of that club sandwich. I suppose it's a thing that the brain does when confronted with something it doesn't want to think about: it conjures up club sandwiches. Shock, I guess.
"Yeah, I'll come back for the tests," I heard myself replying, while images of club sandwiches danced in my head. The brain is a funny thing.
The next couple of days were weird. Weirder than I thought they would be, under the circumstances, although my situation was hardly something you'd daydream about in science class. I stayed home with the "flu" and generally puttered around the house. My mother watched over me like a hawk, and my father kept finding reasons to stay at work late. (I think he might have been avoiding the situation, and if he was, it wasn't fair that he got to avoid it and I didn't.)
Amy came around, and dropped off my homework, which I believe is still sitting in my desk drawer. Like I was going to do homework. I went to the hospital every day, and let them poke and prod to their heart's content. I felt okay, but then I didn't know how I was supposed to feel, so I probably wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.
I sat in the little exam room, while the doctor bustled in, with a clipboard. Now, I have sneaked looks at the clipboard, and this one was covered in illegible scribbles, so what use it was to anyone, I have no idea, but the doctor (this wasn't my normal doctor--this was a new one. Looked right out of med school--well, he looked really young, at any rate) he was making all kinds of little noises to himself as he read this thing.
"Bad news?" I inquired politely.
"Hmm? Oh...no....uh, you're the subject, right?"
"Eva Anderson," I replied, extending my hand, which he shook vigorously.
"Ms. Anderson, it's a pleasure--actually, I have the pleasure of telling you what is going on--"
"What?" I interrupted. "You mean you know?"
"Yes--we just got the latest test results. The DNA test results." He stopped there, looking at me expectantly. I stared back. (If I was able to guess what was going on, what would I need the doctors for? Let him figure that one out.)
"You see," he continued, as if there hadn't been a minute long pause, "it turns out that the embryo is genetically identical to you."
"Oh," I replied. This sunk in. "You mean--"
"Yes. Apparently, you became spontaneously pregnant, using only your own chromosomes as a guide." He beamed at me, thinking I had figured it out. I was going to suggest that alien implanted a clone in me, but his sounded a little bit more plausible. Actually, it didn't.
"Excuse me, isn't that just a little bit impossible?" I asked sweetly, regarding him in a new light, or as a crazy person.
"It is!" he exclaimed happily. "There is no known case of this, ever! It was regarded as completely impossible up until today! You've made medical science!"
"Yippee for me," I remember mumbling.
"Yeah, so it turns out that I spontaneously created another me," I said, taking a bite of lasagna. "You know, like bacteria dividing."
"Or jellyfish," my father said, nodding.
"I don't think so," I replied, my forehead creasing.
"I think jellyfish reproduce like that," Dad continued, poking through his salad to spear a piece of pepper.
"Can we stop about the jellyfish?!" my mother exclaimed. "Can we just have a meal like a normal family?"
"Of course," I replied. Dad didn't say anything, but looked thoughtful.
"Maybe it's shellfish that--"
There was a knock at the front door. Seizing the opportunity, I leapt up to answer it. It was an older woman, and she seemed very upset.
"Excuse me," she said. "Is this is the Anderson household?"
"Maybe," I replied, growing suspicious.
"I wish to talk with the people spreading this ridiculous rumour of an immaculate conception!" the woman fumed. "It must be stopped, here and now! It is an affront to everything I believe in--"
"Uh..." I stammered, caught off guard. I was expecting her to be trying to sell me something, not rant in my face. A car pulled up to the street in front of the house. We both looked, me craning my neck and the woman turning around to see who this interruption was.
"Excuse me," said the man getting out of the car, "Is this where the immaculate conception took place?" He took a camera out of his jacket and started taking pictures.
"Uh..." I stammered again, my face growing red. This was a touch out of hand. I started to close the door but the affronted woman wouldn't let me.
"I demand to know who started this rumour!" she yelled.
"Uh...it was my twin sister Zelda!" I exclaimed. "She's uh...at bible camp for the moment. Come back on the weekend!" I tried to manoeuvre the woman out of the way but she was a tough old bird. Finally I got the door closed. I locked it, bolted it, and ran up the stairs. My mother was coming out of the kitchen to see what the commotion was, and already the door bell was ringing furiously.
"Don't answer it!" I screamed from upstairs. "Don't answer it!"
"What?" my mother asked, looking out the front window. She gasped.
"By the way, I have a twin sister named Zelda!" I yelled as an after-thought, slamming my door closed.
It was midnight when I got up to make myself a snack. I hadn't been able to sleep at all, and I blamed it all on stress. And there's only one cure for stress...
As I sat eating the bowl of chocolate chip ice cream, I thought about what was happening. To me, it seemed like something out of a dream, or some sort of bizarre fantasy that was playing out before me and that I had no control in. I knew it was real--it had to be, otherwise I wouldn't have just knocked my tooth with the spoon--but at the same time, it didn't feel right. Like it shouldn't be happening. Especially not to me.
I took another mouthful, and thought about what was going to happen. The cars outside had been beginning to pull up more and more frequently since the first set, and I was worried about how far these maniacs could go. I didn't think the first woman was physically dangerous, but that didn't mean that successive ones wouldn't be. I didn't want a crowd following me if I left the house, and I knew Zelda wasn't going to fool anybody. (If she did, then it couldn't be for long, nobody was that dumb.) I got a little angry at this. I mean, I had just as much right as anybody else to live out my life normally and peacefully.
No doubt it was Kelly's mother that had spilled the beans, but I suppose that's what I get for letting my mother discover me in the first place. I could have been like those teenagers you read about that go the full nine months without realising they're pregnant. (Frankly, I don't see how anybody could not know, especially since the teenagers in the magazines never seem to be the huge size required not to realise that you're pregnant.) Maybe they're even more into shock than I was. Maybe they really did know the whole time. "Yeah...I...uh, I didn't know! Really!" I could've been able to pull that off. Well, maybe not when it was discovered that I was carrying my clone. "Girl, 16, delivers own clone! Claims she didn't know!"
I remembered the look on the young doctor's face when he realised what this meant. I was making medical history. I was...I didn't want to make medical history! I didn't even like taking history, never mind making it! I'm not that sort of person! I'm just interested in having a normal, day-to-day life that doesn't include weird feats of science!
I finished my ice cream glumly, thinking about my options.
Option Number One: have the baby. Be a freak for the rest of my life.
Option Number Two: run away, move, whatever, then have the baby and give it up for adoption or keep it, although that didn't sound very appealing.
Option Number Three: fake my death.
Option Number Four: ...I don't know if I had ever really considered abortion before. I mean, I had always been aware of it, dimly in the background of women's rights vs. religious rights and even human rights.
I put my cup in the sink, and went to bed.
I tried to get out that morning, to go to the hospital for some more tests (I think they were making them up, from this point on, but they all denied that). There were several cars parked along the street. Apparently, people had been keeping a vigil over my house. The front steps were covered with candles. I tried to go out the back route, but I was stopped by several people, wanting to know about the rumour. Some seemed happy, some seemed upset, some seemed completely out of it as they wanted to know if I knew the way to Lourdes, but they wouldn't let me leave. They were completely surrounding me, and for a second, I panicked, and screamed. My dad came running out the house, yelling, for the people to off his property. The crowd scattered, and my dad led me into the house, holding me and protecting me from anyone who tried to follow. I was really scared, and sat at the table, shaking.
"This has got to stop," my mother said, patting my shoulder. "This is getting crazy."
"That's an understatement," I snorted. She glared at me, but didn't do anything.
"I'll call the police, see if there's anything we can do, legally," Dad said, sipping his own tea, deep in the thought.
"What can you do illegally?" I asked him.
"Sit out on the front porch with my shotgun."
We all laughed, but the scary thing was, that I kinda took him seriously. I hoped he would. It would certainly make me feel better. (I was starting to feel a little stressed out, in case you hadn't noticed.) Then the phone rang.
The phone hangs on the wall in the kitchen, and we all stared at it. I got shivers running up and down my spine and I felt really, really creeped out. My mother got up and answered it.
There was a pause while she listened. Then she put her hand over the receiver and said to us, in a hushed whisper: "It's the Sun."
"No interviews!" I screamed, making a lunge for the phone. My mother jumped backwards and I tried to grab it from her, all the while a male voice on the other end kept saying: "Hello? Hello?"
I yanked the phone away from her and slammed in on the cradle.
"No interviews!" I said again, taking my cup of tea, and heading upstairs.
I sat on my bed and tried to calm myself down. I was shaking furiously. I mean, I felt calm, but my hands were shaking, like I had no control over them. Then I started to cry. I couldn't help it. It was all the weeks of stress and confusion and trying very hard to pretend Everything Was Okay. I didn't want to be a scientific curiosity. Until now, I had been able to look at the whole situation like it wasn't happening to me. I was in the audience, watching some else up on stage.
"Dear?" My mother poked her head around the door. "Can I come in?"
"Yeah," I answered, wiping my face on my sleeve.
"Are you okay?" she asked, sitting down on the bed. I honestly tried to answer, but I couldn't. I just started crying again. She put her arms around me. I think hugs are one of the best things ever invented.
The knockings on the door increased. It became too hard for me to even get out of the house, even to get to the hospital. The fact that the hospital itself was saying "no comment" in response to every question only put more fuel on the fire. If it was really a fire, it was definitely a grease one. No water to put this one out, that's for sure. Something special was needed.
I flipped through the phone book as I was looking for the name of a pizza parlour in the area. I opened the yellow pages up randomly. The book opened to the c's. Specifically, "cleaning--clubs". Right in the middle was "clinics".
Option Number Four.
Some part of my brain said idly, "You know, that would solve a lot of problems."
Another part said that I would have to be crazy to do a thing like that.
The first part replied that if I wasn't crazy now, I certainly would be in a few weeks, and by then, it would be too late.
I don't personally know what I felt at that point. I just got the feeling that I was in the audience again. That I was watching somebody else stumble around on the stage, making up the script as the went along. All of a sudden I felt very angry. I was tired of having my life performed by bit players. Ever since that first fateful day when I fainted in the bathroom and my mother found me, I've been going along with what other people wanted. Nobody thought what was best for me. Or my baby. (Which was also technically me).
What would life be like for it/me? A clone, growing up as a freak of nature and science? Nobody had seemed to think of that, or if they had, it was over-ruled by the "scientific merit". A life like that was a cruel thing for anybody to have to live through, and what kind of a mother would I be to treat my child like that?
I always wanted to have children, but not now. Not like this.
I picked up the phone, dialling the hospital number. I asked for Dr. Merril, the one who regarded me as the "subject."
"Hello, Eva," he said pleasantly.
"Hello," I answered.
"Feeling well?" he continued.
I took a deep breath. "I've reached a decision," I said, not wavering. I told him what I had decided. It was my choice, and my decision.
He asked, (after a considerable pause), if I had told my parents. I said no. He said I should talk it over with them, first. Then he said to have a good long thought about what I was saying, and what it truly meant. I said, in a very snotty voice (I can't stand be patronised) that I had already thought about it. I would tell my parents of my decision, of course, but ultimately, it was up to me. There was another long pause. Then a sigh, then Dr. Merril said he would phone me back tomorrow. He hung up.
I talked to my parents that evening. It was hard to tell them that I wanted an abortion; but they soon realised that it was, indeed, the best course of action for both me and, well, little me. Baby-me.
It was hard, especially when I realised what I was really doing. I was killing something that would grow up into a person. But on the other hand, we had once killed my old cat, when it developed leukaemia. It was all right to put Fritzi down to spare him pain, or it was supposed to be.
I know I made the decision quickly, but as it sunk in it became harder and harder to justify. I finally, after a restless night, convinced myself that this went into the same category as euthanasia, as Fritzi. It was hard to do, believe me, and hard to think about, but it really was for the best. I could have other babies. Normal babies. When I was older and I could take care of them, properly.
I don't really want to talk about what happened next, and I don't really think that it's all that important to the story, anyway. I did have the abortion and the doctors were really cold when I went in for the procedure. (I mean that in the sense that they were emotionally reserved, not just that they could have turned the thermostat up a touch. Would it hurt them to wear warmer gloves? No.)
But anyway, I realised that they were mad, because I was ruining their chance for scientific glory. And because of patient confidentiality, they couldn't tell a soul. (I didn't enjoy that feeling. Much.)
I know I made the right decision, and that everything has really turned out for the best now. I went back to school, and told everybody I had had mono for all that time. Nobody really believed me, of course; this was a group of cynical high school students.
I managed to get mostly caught up, and my grades didn't slip down enough that I failed. No honour roll for me this year, I guess. (Okay, another secret: I wouldn't have made honour roll in any case. I've never been that good with homework of any kind.)
It's starting to get back to "normal". My mother still gives me these looks from time to time, but I've ignored them so far, and I intend to keep doing so.
I can't say with any amount of conviction what my life will be like. But I know for sure what it won't be like, and I think that feeling is worth any amount of soul-searching that I had to do.