Shasta thinks through it all on the bus back to the hotel. The sleepy man behind the desk had seemed to be the kind of man one could ask for help with something not exactly legal. He’d probably know some people liable to put her in relation with a couple wanting a baby badly enough to pay for it. Or at least she hopes she hasn’t judged him wrong.
He listens, leaning back in his chair with his feet propped on the desk. His lazy eyes scrutinizes her, making her feel uncomfortable. She recognizes the knowing glint in his eyes. She has seen the same expression on men before, and it has never ended in a good way. She doesn’t do drugs, at least not the heavy stuff, and she doesn’t give herself up for money. Hell, the only time she had had both drugs and sex had resulted in this “situation”.
He finally tears off a piece of the log and scribbles down an address. Shasta lets out her breath. Wow. That was easy.
‘I want half.’
Maybe not so easy, after all.
‘What? No way.’
‘Well.’ He dangles the slip of paper just out of her reach. ‘Go ahead and have the baby, then. It’s your loss. And don’t come crawling, begging for help.’
‘Ten,’ she says, hating to negotiate. She’s the one doing all the hard work here, he’s just giving up an address.
He laughs. ‘Forty.’
‘Thirty. And you’ll do some work for me after the birth.’
She hesitates. He doesn’t really seem overworked, so it can’t be that difficult to work in a hotel reception. She’ll just leave it if she doesn’t like it. ‘OK.’
‘Done deal. I’ll even let you stay here for free until the birth,’ he says magnanimously.
‘You’re pretty…’ He licks his lips. ‘I’m sure I can put you up with a friend of mine, he’s a producer. He’s scouting for a pregnant lady, and I think you’ll be perfect.’
Shasta is flabbergasted. She’ll meet with a real life producer. She’ll get famous and earn tons of money.
After all, she is quite talented – at least that’s what her drama teacher had said, back in high school. If she gets the part, she has no intention of honoring the deal about working in this dump. As soon as she gets the money, she’s out of this depressing town. Fame, here I come! She can imagine herself getting out of a stretch limousine, in Louboutins and an haute couture dress, Dior or Saab. Jewelry, of course. Tiffany’s. Photographers and fans are hollering her name, trying to get her attention, as she advances on the red carpet all the way to-
Her daydreams scatter and she looks at the outstretched hand. Reluctantly she shakes it.
‘McGabe… McGabe…There. Apartment 46B.’ Shasta looks at the mailboxes. They seem pretty neat for the seedy apartment complex and the even seedier part of town. They’re probably new but will be in the same state of decay as the rest of the building in no time.
46B… She hesitates. The stairs or a hazardous ride in the elevator? It’s just four flights, she can do that. Or not. She decides to let fate decide for her, she’ll take the stairs if the cabin is not there.
It is. The door doesn’t open all the way and she squeezes in, instantly regretting her choice. But she’s here now and she’s not afraid of getting stuck in an elevator, is she? She pushes the button number four and the small elevator rattles to life, starting its way up. What if it falls down? She swallows nervously. Gripping the dirty railing she closes her eyes and concentrates on breathing in with her nose, out with her mouth.
‘You’re getting off or what?’
She hasn’t even noticed the elevator has stopped. She mutters an excuse and slides past the tall black man who is stepping aside with an annoyed expression.
She is in a narrow hall flanked with doors leading off to both sides. The neon lighting blinks furiously, revealing murky flaking paint. She walks over and checks the nearest door. 42. She continues down the hall, and stops in front of number 46B. She raises her hand a little hesitantly, then she musters up her courage and really knocks. The door swings open, surprising her as she had not heard any footsteps and she takes a step back. A muscular man with blazing blue-green eyes partially hidden behind a mop of dark unruly hair stares questioningly at her.
His lips are pierced, so are his ears and his brow, and with a start she recognizes him.
‘Who is it, honey?’ A young girl, a very young girl, she can’t be more than sixteen, shows up behind the man, buttoning her shirt. When she sees Shasta she frowns and crosses her arms.
‘Who the fuck is that? You know her?’
‘Yes!’ Shasta blurts out at the same time as the McGabe guy goes ‘No!’ with the same conviction.
The girl flips back her blonde hair dyed a washed pink and pouts. ‘Did you do that?’
‘She’s fucking preggers! Is it yours?’
‘No. And I don’t know who she is.’
His words hurt Shasta’s ego. She doesn’t like going unnoticed. ‘What? You don’t you remember? The Riverwalk Motel? You offered me to come live with you,’ she blurts out with reproach dripping from her voice.
‘You did?’ The girls turns her attention back to McGabe who shrugs defensively.
‘Geez, babe. Don’t you think I would have remembered?’
Shasta rubs her neck. Her head is starting to ache, so is her back, and her stomach is growling in hunger. She has to talk to him, preferably without the meddling of Miss Snarky teenager. What she can see of the apartment looks just like she would have thought of a musician’s den, or any artist’s for that matter. It looks bigger than she would have thought. A staircase leads to an upper floor and she wonders if he lives here alone. If she could just get inside… What had the guy who she had worked for selling insurance said again? One foot in the doorway and the sale is almost done.
‘She doesn’t seem to agree,’ the girl says, still pouting. ‘I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about her. I would never have slept with you!’ Her eyes widen as she suddenly realizes what she just said. ‘Of course! That’s why you kept her a secret. You knew I would never have-’
‘Could you just shut up a minute and- What the fuck? Where do you think you’re going?’ McCabe says, heading after Shasta who has seized the opportunity of the two lovers arguing and pushed past them into the apartment.
‘I don’t feel well…’ Shasta puts a hand to her forehead and the other to her swollen belly.
‘There’s a drugstore on the corner,’ the girl says nastily.
‘Ems, let me take care of this.’
‘Take care of what? Your girlfriend? Your kid to be?’ The girl stabs McGabe in the chest with each word, making him stagger back towards the door.
She is on a roll of accusations, shouting and gesticulating. Shasta has to stop it somehow, she doesn’t have time to waste. First, get rid of the girl. She’s so furious and offended that she’ll never listen to the guy anyway. Not for lack of trying, but it’s not like he’s getting through to her…
She takes a deep breath and hides her face in her hands, willing the tears to flow. It’s not difficult. Since she got pregnant she seems to be in constant need of crying.
What she had not expected was the sudden pain seizing her lower abdomen and spreading to her back. She doubles over in pain, and the tears coming are now for real. God, that hurts. She leans on a table, trying to catch her breath, but only succeeding in taking small shallow gasps.
The shouting stops.
‘Oh, my God. Do something!’ The girl stares wide-eyed at Shasta.
‘Are you blind or just fucking stupid?’
‘Do what?’ McGabe insists, not wanting to understand.
‘The baby! Your baby is coming, asshole.’ She grabs her jacket from a hanger on the wall and angrily pulls it on.
‘I’m not a fucking doctor.’
‘I suggest you call 911, then.’ With that she exits, slamming the door.
‘Fuck!’ McCabe stares from the closed door back to Shasta. ‘You can’t do this here. I’ll call 911. Don’t move!’
The pain eases away, and she straightens.
‘No wait. It was just err… Braxton Hicks,’ Shasta pants, a little out of breath.
‘Who the hell is that? The father? Well. Obviously he’s not here.’ He walks over to the door and holds it up. ‘And you’re leaving. Now.’
‘I can’t leave. Not before I have explained. Are you McGabe? Jace McGabe?’
Jace nods, looking varily at her. ‘Who wants to know?’
‘I’m Sha- Shannon. Bill sent me.’
‘Yeah, he said “Tell him Billy Boy sent you”, and that it was a 20/20 situation.’
Jace slumps down on the couch. ‘I’m so screwed… Fuck.’
Shasta doesn’t know what to say next. She doesn’t know what a 20/20 situation is, and she’s not sure she wants to know.
‘Ahem. He also said you know someone who might want to err… adopt a baby. Like, surrogate adopt, you know.’
‘Huh?’ He looks up at her with empty eyes.
‘I don’t want this.’ She points to her swollen baby bump. ‘I’d like to have it adopted, but I need money, so being altruistic is a no-no.’ She shrugs. ‘Might as well get my finances straight. It’s not like I can undo this anyway…’
‘Yeah. Sure. I know someone. I’ll give a couple of calls. Just give me your number and I’ll call you back in the morning.’
‘You don’t happen to have something to eat?’ She is too hungry to care about what he will think of her.
He hesitates, pushing a hand through his hair, but it falls back into his eyes again. ‘Yeah. Sure. C’mon.’
He precedes her into the kitchen and she sits at the little table while he rummages around the cupboard only to finally hand her a Snickers candy bar.
‘I don’t really care for peanuts, it makes me want to, you know… err… throw up.’
‘She’s not for real,’ he mutters to himself as he lights a cigarette and uncaps a cold beer. He grabs an open bag of chips from the counter and tosses it to her, watching as she eagerly digs in.
‘You don’t happen to have another one of those?’ she says between mouthfuls, nodding at an empty yoghurt. ‘And do you mind putting that out? It’s not good for the baby.’
He stares at her. Did he hear her right? She is getting on his nerves with her uppity ways. And it’s her fault Emma walked out on him. Silently he stubs out his cigarette. A Greek yoghurt from a girlfriend’s stash is not yet past its use-by date and he hands it to her together with a spoon. Emma will be back, he has no doubt about that. He’ll just have to give her a call, inventing some excuse or other and she’ll come running. He shrugs, watching Shasta wolf down the yoghurt. This is way more important than Emma. If his contact agrees on seeing this crazy girl, there’s a lot of money to be made. Enough to pay Billy Boy back. He swears to himself never to gamble again, at least not on something illegal.
He clears his throat. ‘I’m fixing some mac and cheese. Want some?’
Shasta beams up at him. ‘Oh, yes, please. I could eat a horse.’
He believes her. He takes out a plate with cold mac and cheese from the fridge and pours it into a pan before heating it up on the stove.
‘Oh… It’s a left-over.’
‘Got a problem with that?’
‘No… It’s just – Don’t you have a microwave?’
‘Do you?’ he snaps back.
‘Of course not. But when I get my apartment, I will get one. I mean, it’s basic-’
A loud crash from outside followed by insistent honking cuts her off midsentence.
Jace throws a glance though the window and does a double take.
‘What the fuck!?! NO! Not my bike! Just get your hands OFF it!’
He rushes out, not caring to explain to Shasta, who waddles over to the window to get a look herself. The pink haired girl is kicking a mean looking motorcycle lying on the ground. She chuckles. Little Snarky’s a passionate one. Maybe this Jace McGabe guy is worth getting excited over… No. She shakes her head. Too pierced, too rude and decidedly too poor for her own plans of a bright future. He is kind of good looking though.
She loads a plate with mac and cheese and carries it with her into the living room, where she turns on the TV, tuning in on CNN.
When Jace gets back upstairs, he finds her asleep on the couch. He gets a blanket and gently covers her. She mutters something in her sleep that sounds like Magnum. Probably having a pregnant woman’s dream about ice-cream. He chuckles. He should keep her here. The less time she spends at Billy’s place the better she’ll be, and thus he too.
It is past four p.m. and the rain is pouring down when Jace takes her to his contact. She would have loved to ride shotgun on his motorcycle, but Emma, the pink haired girl, had done a thorough job on it the night before and Jace has spent the morning trying to get it fixed.
So they take the subway. A twenty minute ride in a horrible stench. Shasta promises herself never to set foot in a subway again, she’d rather take the bus back.
They argue over that fact as they cross a little square and head towards yet another grungy brownstone.
To her surprise they stop in front of a child welfare agency.
‘Child welfare? You must be kidding me. I said I didn’t want to set it up for adoption.’
‘You won’t. My contact works here, it’s the perfect cover and it gets her lots of opportunity to fill out her governmental $37 K.’
Just like everything she has seen so far in Fort Warren, a part from the clinic, it is rundown and worn. She wonders where all the rich people live in this godforsaken place. Probably in some fancy suburbs…
Jace nods to some scant chairs along the wall and she takes a seat between a fat woman playing Candy Crush on her cell and another one who is nervously turning an official looking envelope over and over in her hands. She moves over so Jace can take the seat next to Shasta.
The almost empty waiting room smells of mold and people. The Candy Crush woman next to her must have cooked cabbage if Shasta is to judge from the odor surrounding her. She starts feeling nauseous.
Jace looks questioningly at her. ‘You all right?’
She shakes her head. ‘I’m feeling a little queasy.’
Just two more people to go and it will be their turn. There are three doors that look like office doors, so maybe they won’t have to wait that long. She leans back and closes her eyes, trying not to breathe too deeply. Someone calls for a Mrs. Gomez. The fat woman gets up and disappearsthrough the closest door. Shasta visualizes the odor trailing behind her like a green cloud. She meets Jace’s eyes and they grimace in conspiracy.
The fat lady doesn’t stay long, a few minutes later the door opens and she leaves. Shasta can hear someone spraying disinfectant in the air, and she smiles to herself. She’s not the only one being bothered by the stale odor.
She tries to concentrate on something pleasant, but the nausea washes over her and she holds her hand in front of her mouth, knowing full well it won’t do anything to stop her from throwing up.
A blond woman is standing in front of her, her hand reached out in a welcoming gesture. As on clue, the woman next to Jace stands up so fast the chair almost tips over.
‘I was here before them,’ she says.
‘Do you have an appointment?’
‘No, but you said I could drop in anytime if I needed to. And I have received this.’ She waves the envelope.
The social worker takes it and scans through the letter. ‘It’s an eviction order.’ She looks up. ’Why don’t you come in first thing tomorrow morning, and we’ll talk about it? There’s nothing we can do tonight anyway…’ The social worker lets her sentence hang in the air
The thin woman wrings her hands but she loses the staring contest and with a shrug she turns on her heels.
‘I’m sorry for that. I’m Claire Dubois, your social worker. If you could just follow me.’
‘My social worker?’ Shasta looks at Jace. She doesn’t need no social worker. What’s the next step? A trailer and an addiction?
The office is small bordering on tiny. Shasta sits on the only visitor’s chair, trying to get as comfortable as she can, suppressing her nausea. Jace hovers at the door, not sure if he’s invited in or not but scared to miss out on something important. He’d hate to be asked to close the door, but this kind of sideline business is not usually conducted for anyone to hear. The social worker reassures him.
‘Don’t worry. My colleagues have already left and we’re past closing, so we won’t be disturbed.’ Claire Dubois pulls out a folder from a drawer, and opens it. ‘I can see you fulfill the physical requirements, err… Shannon.’
Claire smiles a little condescendingly, not getting Shasta’s humor. ‘No, but that sure is an advantage – for us. I suppose you’re not underage? Nor over 35?’
Shasta just shakes her head.
‘Do you smoke?’
‘No. And I don’t drink. And I don’t do drugs neither.’
‘Good. And what about your weight?’
‘120!’ Shasta blurts out.
The social worker looks up from the document with her pen poised in midair.
‘Err… I don’t really know. 160, maybe? 165? But I was really thin before this happened.’
Claire Dubois doesn’t say anything, she just scribbles something Shasta can’t see from where she is sitting.
‘I can see you are Caucasian. What about the father?’
‘What about him?’
‘We need to know what color the baby will be, if we are to find the right kind of clients.’
‘Err… Yes. Or intended parents, if you prefer. There’s a certain demand for Caucasian children, preferably girls.’
‘Well. I guess we’ll get a good prize then – the baby is white and it is definitely a girl,’ Shasta beams.
‘I thought you said she had not had an ultrasound, yet?’ Claire looks at Jace over Shasta’s shoulder.
‘That’s what she told me.’
‘I haven’t.’ Shasta looks from the social worker to Jace. She had been to birthing class – once. But after watching the gore birth video they showed them, that made a Quentin Tarantino film look like a Disney movie, she had decided never to return. It’s bad enough knowing the baby must get out without negative influences like that, not to mention all the gory details. ‘Ahem. I just know it’s a girl. In my family, we always have girls.’
Claire ticks the box marked unspecified.
Shasta struggles to look interested in the boring questions when she’s only interested in the financial part of the transaction. She looks at the thick binder on the social worker’s desk with administrative blah blah. Claire Dubois’s usual caseloads or just her “extra” ones? Her eyes wander over the neat bookcases lining the walls, filled with identical folders. A diploma is mounted on the wall. So Claire Dubois has a degree; Bachelor of Social Work. The baby kicks and she laces her fingers over her belly, willing it to stop.
‘… so if she isn’t working, there are no lost wages. And she doesn’t need to pay any child care, as she doesn’t have any children. Do you follow me? There is no point in paying the daily allowance.’
‘She does eat. For two,’ Jace says.
‘Yes, but surely not enough to justify $100 per day. Nor will she need $500 to renew her wardrobe with maternity clothing. There is less than a month left, so I think it is only fair if we settle for…’ she quickly uses her cell to do the maths. ‘… 500 divided by 6 that is… 83.’
‘Per day?’ Jace asks.
‘Are you kidding? Expenses for the rest of the pregnancy. I can round that up to a hundred.’
‘But that won’t even cover the food. I guess she needs fresh greenery and stuff.’
‘I can stretch to 200. Cash.’
‘Well.’ Claire rummages in the drawer and puts two hundred dollar bills on the table. After staring at Jace, she adds a fifty. Shasta pockets the money without a word.
‘Now that’s settled, maybe we can go on with the paperwork?’ Claire shuffles the papers around on her desk. ‘We’ll need to get a physical, some blood testing and an ultrasound. I suppose you don’t have insurance?’
‘She doesn’t. But that’s your job, isn’t it?’ Jace intervenes before Shasta has the time to even ponder her answer.
‘It is. We coordinate all medical, travel, and legal procedures…’
Which there aren’t any, because it is illegal in Michigan to rent-a-womb, Shasta thinks.
‘… Of course, they will be reduced from the final prize. And she doesn’t get to choose the hospital. We work with a private obstetrician who-’
‘Could you just stop talking over my head?’
They both look at her.
‘How much? How much is the final prize?’ Shasta asks.
‘What? That’s all?’
‘Err… Yes. If you adopted it away you would do it for free, you know.’
Shasta grimaces and looks down at her swollen belly. It’s better than nothing…
Claire looks down at the open binder and turns a page. ‘Then there is the prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care to take into consideration. Especially as you don’t have insurance.’
‘So we’re talking how much?’ Jace interrupts.
‘As I said, we take off the medical expenses, more or less $5,000…’
‘So the net figure is only $10,000?’ Shasta can’t help it, but she is disappointed. She had hoped for more, but then again… She can do with ten grand. God, she’s nauseous.
‘What do you mean by “more or less”?’ Jace asks.
‘… if there are complications it could be as much as $50,000.’
Shasta gasps. ‘You don’t mean I will owe you $35,000, do you?’
‘Only if the baby is stillborn, and that’s a worst case scenario. But if it comes down to that, we’ll find a way for you to repay your due.’
‘Yes. There is always the possibility to do it again. To rent-a-womb-’
‘No.’ Shasta avoids looking at the social worker. ‘No. There’s no way I’ll go through this again. Never.’ She pushes back the chair and stands up, feeling a little dizzy.
‘Where are you going? I thought we had a deal.’
‘We have. Just give me the pen and tell me where the nearest bathroom is.’
‘Maybe you shouldn’t-’ Jace tries, but Claire puts a pen in Shasta’s hand and shows her where to sign.
‘When do I get the money?’
‘As soon as you deliver the baby…’
‘Fair enough…’ She scribbles her name and adds her initials on an interminable number of pages, fighting the nausea the whole time.
They argue on the way back. Jace thinks it was stupid of her, signing too quickly.
‘So what? It wasn’t negotiable, was it?’
‘Do you have any idea about how much money the buyers will have to pay? To get the baby? No? $60,000! Sometimes even more. This Claire person could have paid you the double, and still get a nice bonus.’
Shasta frowns. Maybe it had been stupid of her. But she had had to get out of there or she would have thrown up all over the place.
‘I guess you’ll get your bonus, too, huh? How many percent?’
‘What do you mean, percent?’ He asks warily. He usually just acts as the middle hand, pointing girls in need of money in the right direction, no questions asked. And he gets a hefty $5,000 for that. But getting to know Shasta and seeing her pregnant and all, has made him question the whole thing. He feels a little ashamed, taking advantage of her like that.
‘Billy Boy wants 30%. But he’ll let me crash at his place for free until the birth.’
Jace stops and tugs at her arm, making her swirl around towards him. ‘Are you crazy? Crash at his place? For free? Nothing he has ever done is for free. Do you know what he does for a living? A part from running that seedy place.’
Shasta looks at him grumpily. ‘I bet you’ll tell me soon enough.’
‘Hookers, gambling, drugs. That’s Billy Boy. I bet he’s got something really lucrative in his mind for you, never mind the 30%.’
Shasta swallows. She isn’t stupid. The devious man had never meant she’d work as a receptionist. And when it comes to starring in a movie… She swallows. She gets the picture. Which makes her listen to a little voice buried in the back of her head.
‘Do you think it- it will be sold to-’ she fights to get the words to form. ‘-to some pedophile or… or something?’
Jace just looks at her. He has pushed the possibility away from his mind, and shame makes him angry. ‘How the hell should I know?’
‘Well, you should.’ She pulls her arm loose and stomps off. It’s one thing to sell the baby to a couple desperately wanting a child. She doesn’t have any scruples for that. But knowingly selling it to be abused? No way. But how could she be sure?
‘Hey, wait!’ He catches up with her. ‘Claire is not part of anything like that. She’s a good one. She’s not some kind of baby buyer selling human babies to the highest bidder. She just wants to help people who can’t have children – sick people or gay people, or whatever. Normal folks.’
‘That’s not the point. Do you know what he said? He said I could work for him! He wants me to meet with some producer! Tomorrow! To star in a movie! I can just imagine what kind of movie-’
‘Hey. Just calm down. Getting upset can’t be good for the baby.’
‘Don’t care. All everyone ever worries about is this- this- Fuck! Nothing with it is good! Even existing! I wish I had aborted. Or never even met his father… And I’ve been feeling fat for eight months now. And sweating…’ She starts crying, and he hugs her, a little uncomfortable.
‘Yeah. Well. What is done is done… Let’s get you back to my place. You can stay there for the time being, at least. But knowing Billy Boy, he’ll come looking for his investment. Best he doesn’t find out where you’re at.’
She nods and dries her tears on her sleeve. ‘But he gave me your address.’
‘Yeah. We’ll figure something out. Look, I’ve got a gig tonight, and it’s an important one. I know someone who can take you in, but I need to talk to her first.’
‘Yeah. My sister. She works with the social services – don’t interrupt me – helping women who are trying to get away from abusive husbands. They have safe houses…’
He explains his plan to her as they briskly walk through the dark streets. Jace has gambling debts to pay back to Billy Boy and seems really scared about his goons paying a visit. She listens without saying much but after the first fright has worn off, she thinks Jace might be exaggerating a little. She highly doubts some thug will come by to kill them, and she’s persuaded no one will hurt her, a pregnant lady. But she’ll do as he says and lock the door.
They stop in front of his building.
‘So don’t answer the door. Do you get it? Don’t. Open. For. Anyone.’
‘I think I’ve got the gist, duh. I’m pregnant, not brain-damaged.’
He starts saying something but thinks better of it and hands her the key to the apartment. ‘I’ll be back around midnight.’
‘Yeah. You told me.’ She pockets the key and starts for the door.
‘Remember – lock the door.’
‘Yeah.’ She turns on her heels. ‘And I will not approach the windows or someone might see me.’ She rolls her eyes.
‘Right. Billy Boy’s probably on the lookout, and you don’t want to have him pay you a visit. I thought we agreed on that.’
‘We did. I’ll be fine. And yes, I’ve got your number.’
He watches her enter the old building before pulling up his collar and head for the nearest subway station.
Shasta is hungry. After finishing off last night’s chips together with a scrawny sandwich with peanut butter and jelly that only made a U-turn in her stomach, she’s starving. She walks around the apartment, checking it out. Snooping. She finds a jar with loose change saying emergencies on it.
This could count as an emergency, right? She needs to bring forth a healthy baby, so she needs to eat. Now.
She picks up the phone and dials for a pizza.
Her clothes are damp from the rain and she shivers with cold. After turning the heat up on the radiators, she decides to check Jace’s drawers for something her size. She throws her T-shirt and hoodie in the laundry basket, takes a really hot shower and pulls on an oversized Star Wars sweater. She has almost forgotten all about the pizza when the doorbell rings.
She struggles into a pair of tennis socks and waddles over to the door, yanking it open and waving a $20. ‘I hope you’ve got change…’
A nun smiles back at her. ‘I’m sorry, my child-’
Shasta starts to close the door, but the nun puts a foot in, effectively hindering her. She must have been selling insurances before becoming a nun.
‘How do you know my name? Who are you?’
‘I’m Sarah, Jace’s sister. Can I come in?’
‘Sure.’ She steps aside to let the nun in. ‘He didn’t say you were a nun,’ she says to fill the silence.
‘He didn’t say you were pregnant.’ Sarah looks at her with kind, astonished eyes. ‘Congratulations.’
‘Err… for the unique chance every woman awaits to have in her lifetime – to assist God in a miracle!’ She beams at Shasta who stares deadpan at her.
‘Do you have children, Miss McGabe?’
‘No, I have not had the joy of becoming a mother.’
‘I thought so,’ Shasta mutters and sits heavily on the couch. ‘This is not a miracle. It’s an accident.’
‘Don’t say so. God’s ways are impenetrable. You should realize that the wonderment growing inside of you is something every woman aspire to. Becoming a mother is magical and a privilege-’
She’s not the one hauling around a giant stomach for months on end. Shasta leans back with a groan and closes her eyes. Does Jace really want her to go live with this fanatic? There’s no way she can know about Jace’s little business on the side.
The nun sits down next to Shasta. ‘Don’t misunderstand me, Shannon. I can understand that you might not be able to bring a child up in the best conditions right now, but your financial situation might get better and then you’ll think otherwise. I and my sisters are here to help you get through this. We can help you find a foster family who will take care of the baby until you are ready to take back custody.’
‘But I don’t want it.’
‘There is always the possibility to put the baby up for adoption, but I advise you to think that over thoroughly. It is irreversible, and even if you think it’s the only solution right now, you don’t know what tomorrow brings.’
She reaches out and lays a hand on Shasta’s swollen belly and the baby moves.
‘It truly is a miracle…’ She beams at Shasta. ‘You are not only carrying a growing fetus within you, but a soul. You should cherish these moments. And when you finally get to hold your baby in your arms, you will understand that the hardship you have been through during the months of pregnancy has been there to help you grow to become a loving mother.’
‘Hardship? If getting big and bloated, looking like a zebra because of all the stretch marks and being subject to unlimited sweating are part of the hardships, I’m absolutely positive that I’m not ready to become a mother.’ She chuckles with auto derision. Then she adds, ‘It scares me…’
Shasta doesn’t know where the words came from, they just popped out. But they are true. She is scared of becoming a mother, or rather – of becoming a bad mother.
‘Life is magic-’
You don’t know how right you are, Shasta thinks.
‘-and the mother is born with the baby. Before the baby was born, she didn’t exist. You will learn both to become a mother and to love your child unconditionally. A baby fills a place in your heart that you never knew was empty. Trust me. Even though I have not had the chance to experience motherhood myself, I have Asherman’s syndrome, I have seen it happen over and over again. The way God’s nature works is incredible.’
Shasta doesn’t need to hear more about the magic of carrying life. She wants to eat something, and sleep. And she sure as hell doesn’t want to be brainwashed by Jace’s sister.
‘What has Jace told you about me?’ she interrupts the nun’s monologue.
‘Not much. That you are new in town and have ran into some bad people who are looking for you. But I trust my brother, he wouldn’t have called me if he wasn’t worried. So, I’m here to offer you a sanctuary, at least until the birth.’
Shasta nods. ‘Thank you, Miss McCabe. But I think I need to go to bed now. Decidedly, making a new life is taking its toll on my energy.’
‘How selfish of me. I shall leave you to get some rest. But I’ll be back tomorrow morning to pick you up.’
Shasta follows her to the door, agreeing with everything just to get rid of her. She leans against the closed door, wiping sweat from her forehead when the intercom rings again.
This time it is the pizza.
The nun has made her think about her situation in another light. She still doesn’t want the baby. Hell, no. She’s absolutely not ready to become a mother. But all this talk about a soul and miracles and magic makes her think that selling it might not be the right thing to do.
At least not here, as it’s illegal in Michigan, and she risks prison. That’s not to be taken lightly… But in California anything goes. She has gotten some insight in how things are working, and she can do it herself without losing money to a backroom bureaucrat and some dubious go-betweens…
There is not much to pack and before midnight she’s in a cab, heading west out from the seedy port.
Part II – End of Chapter 51
“The Sims 3 Devil’s Port, the bad brother of Bridgeport, comes with a moody end time atmosphere. Violence, crime and corruption are in order of the day. The cityscape looks shabby and faced with ruin. Dense fog is in the center of the town.”
The good looking dude squatting outside the hotel is back, courtesy of Eden777. Her James McCabe fits the role!
The apartment, and the hotel, is by FloraFlora2 at MTS. I just redid the decoration a bit, filling it with clutter and stuff.