Waking up the morning after the night before, I could barely remember a thing that had happened to me – my head was just all over the place, what with all the alcohol I had consumed. Attempting to sit up, I stopped, my muscles aching too much to move. And then everything came back to me, in a searing hot flash of memories.
“Soph? You in there?” My roommate, Sean, knocked on my bedroom door, which just made my pounding headache a thousand times worse.
“Yeah.” Carefully opening the door to avoid making any unnecessary noise, he sat on the end of my bed and handed me something that smelt a lot like caffeine. “Thanks, I really needed that.”
“Hey, you’d do the same thing for me any day.” I stared at him, wondering how the hell he could have forgotten about the last time that I brought him coffee – he’d been passed out for about twelve hours straight, and when I went into his room to check on him, he was completely naked, which put an end to me doing that in the future. “Oh, right, sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Taking a sip of the fresh coffee, I could feel it beginning to clear out my head, and so we sat in silence for a couple of moments.
Breaking the silence, he questioned me about the previous night’s events. “So how wasted did you get exactly then?”
“And which scale are we going from today?”
Sean pondered this for a moment. “How long were you actually conscious for, or is even that a bit too much for you to remember?”
“Yeah, I can’t really remember,” I told him, wanting to deflect the topic of last night as much as I possibly could.
Luckily, I think that Sean actually managed to take a hint for once in all the time that I had known him, as he stood up and headed for the door. “So I should be going now... I’ll see you later, okay?”
“Yeah, sure.” Watching as he closed the door behind him, I let out a breath that I hadn’t realised I had been holding onto, and felt as the tears began to roll down my face one-by-one. Suddenly, I began to felt unclean – really unclean. As fast as I could, I tumbled out of bed and into the shower, scrubbing at my skin. It did nothing though, and I stayed just as dirty as before. “Come on,” I muttered to myself, “why won’t you get off me? Why won’t you clean?” Throwing the sponge down, I cried, heaving sobs escaping from me, and there was no way of making it stop either. Deciding that there was no way I was ever going to determine myself as clean enough, I got out of the shower, and was confronted with seeing my face in the mirror. Just the sight of that was enough to send me over the edge. “You whore!” I screamed at my reflection. “You’re useless, that’s why it happened to you! You’re dirty and cheap...” I couldn’t take any more, and sunk to the floor in the corner of the bathroom, my head in my hands, tears spilling out all the more.
Last night I was raped – I don’t know who by, I don’t know why they did it, but all I know is that I was about as worthless as a piece of garbage right now.
For the next few weeks I tried to stay by myself for as much as I could, not letting anybody find out about what had happened to me on that night, still too ashamed to think about it for even a couple of seconds. Each time it did come into my mind, however, a wave of nausea always hit me, and I would have to make sure that I could get to a toilet or bucket or whatever within the next ten seconds, otherwise I would have about twenty minutes of solid cleaning in front of me, and trust me, I did not like cleaning.
One day I was stuck in the apartment on my own, having been sent home from work early for throwing up five times in a row, and I was hating the thought of not having anything around to distract me and to keep my mind from wandering back to that night. Luckily for that moment, there was a knock at the door; jumping up from the couch in almost an instant, I opened up and saw Emma, my best friend, standing there.
“Hey, how the hell did you know I was here?” I asked her.
“Studio called,” she told me as she walked straight past and into the kitchen, where she began to hunt for food instantly. “Said that I should probably keep an eye on you, seeing as you were so crappy and all.” Eventually she joined me on the couch, a packet of cookies in her hands. “How long have you been feeling like this for, anyway? You seem to have been throwing up for a really long time now.”
“I don’t know,” I sighed as I rubbed my face, wishing that all of this could just go away. “Maybe a few weeks or something.”
Emma put the cookies down; I knew whatever she was going to say next was going to be serious. “Soph, have you ever thought that maybe you’re...”
“I’m what?” I asked her, seeing as she just trailed off at the end of her question.
“Maybe you’re pregnant.”
“What?!” I didn’t even want to think about it, not for a brief nanosecond.
“I-I’m just saying Soph, it may be a possibility!” I couldn’t bring myself to look at her, so I buried my head in my legs. “Soph?” She asked me as she rubbed my back. “Is there something you’re not telling me? Because you’re really starting to scare me now.” As difficult and awkward as it was, I shook my head. “I know you’re lying, so you’d better tell me what’s up, and right now.”
Lifting my head up carefully, I spilled everything to her. “About a month ago, I got really, and I mean really, drunk, and then... and then I was walking home, when this guy just shoved me against the wall, and he... he...” I couldn’t speak after that, the tears that I had so desperately been trying to hold back beginning to flow freely from my eyes once more.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry, I didn’t...” She wrapped her arms around me, pulling me in to her as tightly as she could. “Why didn’t you tell anybody?”
“I didn’t want to think about it, and I knew that if I told one of you lot, then it’s all I would have been hearing, and I... I don’t think I could have dealt with that.”
“You silly thing, we wouldn’t have done that!” We sat there like that for about five minutes, with me not really wanting to face up to the reality of what might be happening to me. “So... what do you want to do then?”
“I don’t know,” I barely whispered back, wishing that this could all go away.
Emma wasn’t going to let it go so easily, however. “I think you should take a test. If nothing else, at least you’ll know.”
“But what if I am?” I questioned her, beginning to feel distraught. “What if I’ve got a baby inside of me? How the fuck am I going to take care of it?”
“I’ll be every relative, partner, lover, whatever that you need, and that baby will be so fucking loved it won’t even know what hit it.” Her words offered some comfort to me, but I was still nervous about it all. “Hey, why don’t we actually find out whether you are or not before you start getting yourself all worked up about it, okay?” I nodded, waiting for her to make the first move. “What?” she asked when she finally noticed me staring at her.
“Well aren’t you going to go and get one then?”
“Get one what?” Her puzzled face made me laugh on the inside; Emma really could be idiotic at times.
“The test, you douche.”
“...I’m not getting it. I thought you were getting it.”
“No. Why should I get it?” Looking at each other, we both knew there was only one solution.
“I’ll call Jodie to get one then.” Though maybe it wasn’t the best idea in the world, what with the amount of shouting that I could hear coming down the phone, I felt slightly at ease, knowing that I was probably going to know within the next half an hour whether my life was beyond repair or not.
It took Jodie about fifteen minutes to get round to my apartment, and she certainly didn’t look happy at the fact that she had to go and buy a pregnancy test on such short notice, but I wasn’t really bothered by that at the moment, more concerned about what the result would be than anything else.
“So explain to me why you were unable to go and get one?” Jodie asked Emma, more than slightly annoyed.
“Because I needed to stay here and guard the cookies, okay? Plus I don’t want people to get the wrong idea about me...” After that, I thought it best to block out their conversation, and to try and concentrate on taking this stupid test (which is actually a lot harder than it seems). At first, I tried waiting out the five minutes in the bathroom on my own, but the suspense was starting to become too much for me, so I waited with those two, no attempt of conversation being made. There was about a minute left until I would know for sure, and it was definitely starting to get to me, when the door unlocked and swung open massively. “Hey, where do you think you’re going?” Emma asked.
“Well I was going to go to the bathroom,” Sean replied, “but I guess that I’m not allowed to...”
“At least you’ve got that right. Soph,” she turned back to me, “time’s up. You wanna...?”
“Yeah.” I went in on my own, knowing that it was something I had to confront by myself. Before I even had it in my hands, I saw what the result was.
I stared at it, not knowing what to make of it all. “Soph?” Vaguely aware of Emma coming up behind me, I spun round, noticing that the base of my eyes were beginning to water. “So what is it?”
Those few words that I spoke next, they changed everything. “I’m pregnant.”
Everyone else was brought up to speed about what had happened, and of course I got those sympathetic looks that made me wish that the ground could make me disappear forever, wondering how they thought it was helping anyway – it had already happened, and nothing they did was ever going to change that.
I decided to keep the baby, seeing as I didn’t believe in abortion, and I had no idea what would happen to it if I put it up for adoption, but it definitely wasn’t easy. When I told people at work I was pregnant, they all stared at me, almost like they were saying ‘who would want to sleep with you?’ and it nearly pushed me over the edge, but I forced myself to ignore it and to just smile through their judgemental stares, even though I was finding it hard enough to deal with it without knowing what they thought about it too.
Coming home from yet another emotionally draining day at work, I was just ready to collapse – I was now about two months gone with the baby, and still the only people to properly know about it were Emma, Jodie, and Sean. At times, I wish that I could talk to somebody else about it, like someone who had already gone through it all, so that I could put to rest the fears about everything that were currently plaguing my mind.
Anyway, I had just walked through the door, and there was shouting – lots of it. My head began to pound, the lack of sleep that had recently started not helping with it at all.
“You slept with her? That whore?” The voice that was currently screeching through my head was from Ally, Sean’s girlfriend. Except it didn’t sound like that was going to last for much longer, the way this conversation was going. “Every time I said that I wasn’t comfortable with that thing being your roommate, you fucking promised me that nothing would ever happen!”
“Look, we were both drunk, neither of us really knew what we were doing...”
The glare she shot him could have killed in an instance. “Well obviously you knew what you were doing enough to get her fucking pregnant!”
“Which is why I’m taking responsibility for my actions...” Sean stopped talking, his gaze landing on me. Clearly noticing the look on his face, Ally turned around to look at me as well – and she certainly didn’t look happy.
Walking over to where I was stood, she only spoke a few words to me, but the pure hate that filled them, it was enough to make me pay attention. “If that’s the only way you can land a boyfriend, then go ahead, but I promise you now that you will live to regret taking my boyfriend, you and that bastard child.” She stormed out straight after that, shoving me into the wall with one swift movement. Not having much energy, I pretty much crumpled to the floor, which caused Sean to rush over to me.
“Are you okay?” I nodded, taking his hand so I could stand up. We were both silent, neither of us knowing what to say after that... display. “...I’m sorry Soph, I didn’t mean for you to see that. I was hoping to tell her, and then to explain everything to you later.”
He had a hard time keeping eye contact with me. “I told... I told her that the baby was mine, and that me and you had a... thing a couple of months ago or whatever. When I told her I was going to support you both, she kinda... well, she didn’t take it too good.”
“W-wait, what?” Every word went straight over my head, but somehow it still managed to register in my mind. “Sean, why the hell did you do that?”
“I don’t know,” he sheepishly replied. “I thought that you wouldn’t want people to know how... how you got pregnant, so I thought I’d tell them all it was mine.”
I seriously couldn’t believe it. “Sean,” I said as I reached my arms around him, “that’s the sweetest thing that anyone’s ever done for me.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s what friends do for each other.” Reaching up to stroke my hair, it felt like something was off with him, but I managed to put it out of my mind, happy in the fact that I had people in my life who actually cared that much for me.
7 months later
I was laying on the couch, trying to get comfortable for more than thirty seconds, when it suddenly felt like I had wet myself – and then my stomach began to hurt like mad.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Sean jumped up from the other couch, concern set in his face.
“It’s...” I couldn’t speak, as the pain shot through my body and caused me to squirm in agony. It didn’t take a genius to guess what was happening (which was lucky, seeing as he was the only person around).
“Okay,” he said as he helped me to stand, “we’ve gotta get you to a hospital.” Leaving my side, he anxiously raced around the apartment, trying to pick up all the stuff that I’d meant to pack a couple of days ago (I’d kept convincing myself that I could do it later because I wouldn’t be heading into hospital all that soon). “Do you really need all this crap?” Sean returned, exhausted from his hunt around the apartment, arms clutching an eye-watering amount of stuff.
“Is that the most important thing right now?” I huffed through my teeth, trying to control myself as another wave of pain shot through my stomach. The look on my face must have said it all, however, as the next thing I knew, I was being pushed through the door and down the stairs. As we reached his car, he opened the passenger side door, but before I could get in, Sean stopped me and starting laying plastic bags over the seat. “Seriously, you’re worrying about that right now?!”
He stood up and looked me in the eye, and there wasn’t so much as a hint of joking-ness in his face. “I’m not going to have my car covered in... stuff!”
Knowing that Sean was so damn protective over his car (plus the fact that my contractions were getting closer together by the minute), I decided to just accept it. “Fine, just hurry up will you?” Finally he finished, though he still looked slightly anxious about what state his car was going to end up in.
For the next ten minutes, we dodged through red lights and pretty much sped down every road and around every corner (which is terrifying at the best of times), meaning that I spent the entire time gripping tightly to the dashboard. By some miracle, we managed to make it to the hospital alive, and Sean pretty much jumped out of the car. “Come on, you’ve gotta get inside!”
“Geez, I’m not dying.” Clearly Sean had never had to deal with anything like this before. “Wait,” I managed to get out just as I was being pulled out of his car, “don’t forget to call Emma! And Jodie!”
As soon as we got to the hospital, I was shoved into a wheelchair, rushed off to a room, and pumped so full of drugs that I was barely conscious of what was going on around me. The whole thing became quite surreal, so it felt weird when I found myself waking up in a room by myself, with hardly any noise around me. At first, I wondered if I’d gone deaf, but I knew that definitely wasn’t the case when the door slowly opened and I saw Emma standing there.
“At least you’re not screaming the place down anymore,” she said as she tentatively sat down on the edge of my bed. “How are you feeling?”
“Like a turkey just exploded out of me,” I half-muttered, still feeling exhausted.
A big cheesy grin spread across her face. “Just as long as you remember not to eat the baby.” I tried to raise a chuckle at that, but I was simply too exhausted. “Have you seen her yet?”
“Boy, you really were out of it,” her eyes popped half out of her head, but I put that aside as I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that the baby was a girl. My baby. My daughter. It seemed a strange and alien concept to me the more that I thought about it.
“I don’t even have a name for her...” I softly murmured to myself.
Luckily, Super Emma was there to the rescue. “And this is where I come in and tell you what you’re going to name your child. Ready?” I really wasn’t – terrified was a better description of what my emotions were doing right at that second. “Okay, your daughter’s, but more importantly my goddaughter’s, name is going to be... Clara.”
“Clara,” I swirled the name around in my head, trying to get used to the idea of it. “Clara... I like it.”
“Wha... really?!” The look of pure shock on her face confused me, but then I realised that I had never really gone along with anything that Emma had said before.
“Of course, it suits her. Speaking of which, where is she?”
“Last I heard, they were just checking her over to make sure everything’s okay, but she should be brought to you any second now.” The rush of excitement to my head was nearly too much for me to cope with; I would be able to hold my brand-new baby in my arms. “Hey,” she said as she wrapped her arms around me, wiping away tears that I wasn’t even aware of, “you’re going to be a great mother, and I know that because of the amount of time that you’ve managed to put up with me for.” Unable to suppress a smile, I hugged her back, tightly holding on.
Not wanting to let go, I became unaware of everything around me until a knock at the door brought me back to reality. “So,” an awkward-looking Jodie stuck her head around the door, “there’s a nurse here with your kid... You ready for her to come in?”
Anxiously, I watched as the nurse crossed the room, closing the gap between us more and more until she was stood in front of me, clutching in her arms a little bundle of pink. “She’s all yours.” Carefully taking her into my arms, I held my breath as I grasped her close to me – a number of emotions swelled up inside of me instantaneously. “Do you have a name for her yet?”
“Clara,” I absent-mindedly replied, too entranced by the little face staring up at me with her big, beautiful green eyes.
“Okay,” out of the corner of my eye I saw the nurse writing something down. “I’ll leave you for now, but I’ll come back in a couple of hours to check on you.” Without any delay, she was out of the door, probably racing off to her next patient.
Everyone in the room was deathly silent, not wanting to disrupt the serenity of it all. “Wait, where’s Sean?”
“Oh, I think he fell asleep in the waiting area,” Jodie sighed, clearly tired herself, “you have been here for about seven hours now after all. Want me to go and get him?”
“If you wouldn’t mind.” Copying what the nurse did a few minutes ago, she silently closed the door behind her. A couple of minutes later, she returned with Sean in tow.
“Let’s give Soph a bit of space, Jodie,” Emma not-so-subtly hinted as she stood up and dragged Jodie out by her sleeve.
“But but but I haven’t even been here for five minutes!” Her pleas went unheard however, and surely enough it was just me and Sean left. Turning to face him, I could see in his eyes that there was something he wasn’t telling me, but knowing him, it was going to stay that way.
Moving my hand out of the way, he gazed upon the little ray of sunshine who was currently beaming up at his face (and who could blame her), his gaze suggesting that he was just as lost into her as I had been. “Bloody hell she’s gorgeous, especially since she came from you,” he added with a slight cheeky wink.
“Oi, less of that,” I sternly told him, even though I couldn’t help but to raise a small smile; he was right, she was absolutely breathtaking.
“What are you going to name her?” I had a feeling that this was going to be a repeating question over the coming days and weeks.
“I’m going to go with Clara, which was skilfully chosen by our very own Emma, believe it or not.”
“Think I’m going to have to go with ‘not’ on that one.” There was a short pause, almost as if the words didn’t want to leave him. “Do you... could I hold her?”
“Sure, just make sure you support her head.” Passing her over, I could tell how Sean was acting like he was holding a glass doll – good thing too, or I would have murdered him if he’d dropped her.
“This feels... weird.”
“Well you’d better get used to it, cus you’re the one who’s gonna be helping me at three in the morning.”
He considered this for a moment, as if there was actually another option for him. “Yeah, don’t think I’m going to be much help at that time – I’ll still be sleeping.”
“Oh trust me,” I said with a mischievous smirk, “you are going to help me, or the world shall learn about your bunny nightmare.”
Glaring at me, Sean tightened his grip on Clara. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“Believe me, I would.”
Two years later
“Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum!” A mini person came barrelling full-pelt towards my legs, and threw their arms tightly around me, causing my knees to buckle together. “Mum Mum Mum, Daddy’s being mean to me again!”
“Is he now?” Untangling Clara from my legs, I picked her up whilst shooting daggers at Sean, who was currently wearing some stupid clown mask that would terrify the best of people (which made it even worse that we were currently at the park, and that we were mere metres away from the playground). “Well done, what did you do that for? Now she’s gonna be scared of them forever.”
“Oh lighten up Soph,” he sighed as he removed the mask, “at least it’s not as frightening as this face.”
If I didn’t have a squirming toddler in my arms I would have facepalmed, but Clara started laughing manically at this, sadly seeming to have picked up his strange sense of humour. “Yeah, your face is uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugly Daddy!”
“Well it means that the monsters stay away from you because they’re all scared of me!” Taking her out of my arms, Sean began to tickle her and bounce her up and down, her laughter becoming more and more hysterical with every passing second.
“If she throws up,” I half-shouted over the noise, “you’re on cleaning-up duty.”
“Anyone ever tell you you’re one of those overprotective mothers?” He certainly knew where to aim for, that was sure. “Okay darling,” Sean spoke soothingly as he set Clara back down on the floor, “me and your mum need to talk for a moment.”
“Was it something I did?” Staring at her little face, I could feel my heart breaking into three as her puppy-dog eyes looked back up at me, afraid that she was in trouble.
“Of course not sweetheart,” I told her as I placed a kiss on her forehead. “Now go play on the swings and we’ll be over in a couple of minutes.”
“YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY SWINGS!” Completely forgetting about how she feared being in trouble a couple of seconds ago, she sprinted as fast as she could in the direction of the playground; she certainly got her short attention span from me.
As I stood staring at Clara going to the playground, I felt as Sean intertwined his hand with mine; he normally did this whenever we were all out together, and sometimes it caused me to wonder whether it was just for show or hinting at something more, but before I had chance to pursue it further I was usually distracted by Clara. “She’s really growing by the day, isn’t she?”
“Yeah,” I sighed half-heartedly as I rested my head on his shoulder. “It’s not going to be long before she goes to school, and then it’ll be downhill from there.”
“Tell me about it.” Slowly taking his hand away, he moved so as he was stood directly in front of me, and his face looked like he was about to pass out. “So, I wanted to talk to you...”
“I kinda figured that out already.”
“Yeah. Look,” reaching out to take my hands again, Sean began to relax, but only by the slightest bit, “I know that Clara’s your top priority, but I want you to consider yourself for once when I say this.” That really confused me, and it must have been showing quite obviously. “No, I mean that... all I want to say is that even though I’m pretty much already a dad to Clara, I want to be more than that.”
“...Okay, you’re going to have to spell it out to me here, cus you’re not making much sense,” I nervously chuckled.
In one swift breath, the words flooded out of him. “I think I’m in love with you, Sophie.”
“...What?” There was nothing, absolutely nothing in the whole world that could have prepared me to expect him to say that.
“I love you, and I’ve been waiting nearly three years to tell you. And I’ve been waiting even longer to do this.” Inching forward cautiously, his lips found his way onto mine, a surge of electricity passing between them – everything about it was so new, but it felt like he belonged there, like it was filling in the last piece of an incomplete puzzle. Wrapping my arms around my neck, I drew him closer towards me, already feeling addicted to what he gave me.
Finally needing air, I pulled back a few minutes later, just enough so I was able to stare up in his eyes. “Why didn’t you do that earlier, you twat?”
Sean’s classic goofy grin spread on his face, causing my heart to skip a beat. “Why do you think? You didn’t seem ready to concentrate on anything else.”
“Well you never gave me the option to find out for myself, did you?” I watched in joy as he moved in for another kiss, it being just as good, if not better, than the first one.
“You really are one of the most perfect girls I’ve ever met, just so you know.” Well, I couldn’t argue with that now, could I? “Come on, let’s go to Clara.”
Happier beyond belief, I couldn’t help but to appeal to his goofier side for just this once. “Race you there. Winner gets TV control tonight.”
“...You’re on.” Not even giving me so much as a moment to react, he ran off, gaining a small advantage over me.
“Hey, that’s not fair!” I called as I chased after him, unable to contain the beam that took up my face.