“Fair enough.” She nodded, clearly not one to pry.

Amanda, having moved here from southern Illinois, wasn’t familiar with the city bus system. So while we rode, I showed her how to read the bus map and explained what the letters and numbers meant so she could learn to navigate the routes. To get to the free clinic downtown from where she lived, it required us to change bus lines twice, and I knew if she could master this, she could get herself anywhere.

“How have you been feeling?” I asked as we watched the traffic pass. Stealing another glance, I noticed her belly now protruded in a nice round bump.

“Actually, I’ve been having some morning sickness. But other than that, fine, I guess.”

We rode the rest of the way in silence. I found myself at a loss for what to talk with her about. I knew about her issues with love and sex addiction from Belinda, but since she didn’t seem to be in a talkative mood, I wasn’t going to press her. She likely had a lot on her mind – with a baby growing inside her, no job, no car, and little support.

When we arrived at the clinic, we signed in and sat down in the waiting room. There were several other girls with pregnant bellies waiting in the chairs around us and a few who were most likely here for testing or birth control. Amanda flipped absently through a parenting magazine, not seeming to absorb a single word for how quickly she was turning the pages.

“There’s something I feel kind of weird about and I should probably just tell you,” she blurted after several minutes.

“What is it?”

“I, um, came onto Knox.”

My eyes widened. “What? When?” I fought to control my voice. I couldn’t go sounding like a jealous girlfriend right now. As hard as it was, I needed to be objective and professional. Amanda was opening up to me as part of her own treatment.

“In a moment of weakness…it was stupid, I know. He’d given me his phone number and I knew I supposed to use it to call him about recovery and kid-related questions, but one night I was sitting around feeling lonely and sorry for myself and I called him up and asked if he wanted to hang out and have a little grown up fun.”

I nearly choked getting my next words out. “And did he?” If he’d lied to me about hooking up Amanda, so help me God, I’d lose it. I wasn’t a violent person, but the wrath I’d rain down on him would rival the apocalypse.

She chewed on her lip. “No, he said he was trying to be done with random hookups and made it sound there was someone special in his life.”

Wow. I knew I should respond, but I was rendered speechless.

“You’re not mad, are you?”

It took me almost a full minute to realize she wasn’t asking because she knew that Knox were sort of together, she was asking because she was supposed to be in recovery. My twisted emotions were going to blow this whole thing if I wasn’t careful. “No, I’m not mad. I won’t ever be mad for you opening up and sharing with me.” I took her hand. “I’m actually proud of you, Amanda. You’re growing. You might have slipped up a little, but you recognized that your actions were wrong.” Her confession to me proved that. I released her hand and a smile blossomed across her mouth.

Amanda turned back to her magazine and tore out a coupon for baby formula, stuffing it into her purse. I decided then and there that I liked her. I was glad Belinda had asked me to help. Amanda was actually a sweet girl underneath her layers of hurt and despair. She was burdened by dark secrets just like me. I felt a sort of familiarity being with her, waiting here with her just so that she could have some company and not feel quite so alone.

As I looked around the waiting room, I couldn’t help but notice the numerous posters plastered on the walls about birth control options. I’d never had to think about things like birth control, but as I sat there, my mind wandered to Knox, and I found myself thinking about birth control pills and condoms. I didn’t know if or when anything might happen between us, or when Knox would be ready to take our physical relationship further, but I made a mental note to call and schedule an appointment with my gynecologist soon. Nerves danced in my belly at the thought of being intimate with him, but I knew I wanted him to be my first. Cold dread shivered down my spine. God, what would Belinda say? I shuddered at the thought. I was planning to have sex with one of our group members. Nothing about this situation was normal, but I didn’t care because it felt right. And I was tired of being too careful, barely living these last few years. I wanted to be with Knox. Plain and simple. And I thought he wanted to be with me, too, as resistant as he’d been about taking our relationship further. We were making real progress and I wouldn’t stop things now. And I’d need to make sure we were prepared so I didn’t find myself in a situation like Amanda, with an unplanned pregnancy. Knox had enough mouths to feed. I wouldn’t add a baby to mix.

I hadn’t expected to go into the exam room with her, but when the nurse called her name, Amanda looked at me expectantly and waited for me to rise from my seat and join her. I could read the indecision in her eyes. She didn’t want to be alone, and I couldn’t blame her.

I held her hand while they performed an ultrasound and tears leaked from the corners of her eyes as she seen the tiny image of a baby inside her for the first time. The steady thump of the baby’s heart was sure and strong.

The nurse estimated the baby to almost five months along, based on her measurements, which surprised Amanda. Her own calculations had been off. She was due in the spring.


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