I sat in stunned silence, my heart thudding dully in my chest and stomach swirling bleakly. The unnatural, shiny, clean room suddenly seemed suffocating, and although it was a room meant for reassurance and kind assistance, it felt like a tiny corner of hell to me right now, with twisted, disturbing plastic models of dissected reproductive systems, and jeering posters of grinning, happy families taunting me from the walls. My heart rate was still stuttering and stalling irregularly as the shock of the facts I'd been enlightened of seeped slowly into the fabric of my brain.
I was 8 weeks pregnant.
My surroundings were blurring as the cheery, middle aged nurse with a blunt bobbed haircut continued her cheerful nattering, blabbering on about 'options' and 'plans for the future' and 'moral decisions'. Her chirpy voice distorted into a mix of irrelevant drivel in the back of my mind, my head swimming with my flurry of conflicting thoughts.
I was definitely pregnant. Single, aged sixteen, and 8 weeks pregnant.
I had always imagined that this sort of news would be ground shaking and earth shattering. That suddenly the whole world would change and go spinning, crashing down around me. It would surely be like every terrible, awful, horrific nightmare I'd ever dreaded balled into one. Teenage pregnancy had been drilled into my head as being the worst possible situation that could ever arise, full stop. Death would be a more happy alternative, indisputably - because pregnancy at the age of 16 was horrifying. It would be the end of the world as I knew it.
And yet here I sat, still. My chair was rooted firmly to the floor, and to my surprise, the ground had not crumbled and cracked, not split down the middle into deep, fragmented, creviced pits revealing bright, fiery lava beneath my feet. The sky had not fallen in, the birds still sang outside the generic, governmentally financed windows. My heart was still beating, and to be perfectly honest, I felt no different. I was no more aware of the tiny life inside of me than I had been these last few weeks. My stomach felt no heavier, no more rounded or significant. I felt perfectly the same, all in all.
Really, that was the scariest part of it all. The part that really unnerved me the most. The fact that life would still go on as normal, even now that this dreadful thing had happened to me.
It reminded me of when being seven. Of the moment I found out about the crash.
Your parents are dead, they told me. Your sister is dead, they told me. And even then, I expected everything to just fall apart, for the entire globe to begin wailing and weeping, for the clouds to float down from the sky like ashes in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. And yet the traffic kept moving, veering around the twisted scrap of junk metal that obstructed the highway by the instruction of a few well placed cones and road signs. The birds continued singing then, too, and my aunts and cousins continued nattering aimlessly around me.
Just like the stupid, Smiley Nurse.
I looked up from my hazy daydreaming as I vaguely registered her voice repeating my name over and over in an attempt to regain my attention.
"Tamara, I understand what you're going through," she assured me caringly, her voice full of empathy and a sickeningly condescending smugness. My guess from one look at her was that she had a few well mannered, timid little children at home and a nauseatingly average husband who was pathetic in bed. She had unimaginatively become a nurse, aiming to help young, misguided girls like me find the right path in life, away from the temptations of openness to sexual exploration, popular culture and freedom of speech.
I glared back at her bitterly. No, she did not understand what I was going through. She did not know, nor understand, anything about me, no matter how strongly she believed she did.
"You need to keep all of your options open and have a little think about it now that you know for certain that you're pregnant..."
"No," I interrupted quickly, "No, I don't want it. I want rid of it."
Cheery Nurse's smile faltered. "Well, you can't say that just yet! You never know, you might change your mind..."
I shook my head furiously. "No, I won't. I don't want it."
"The baby, you mean," she sighed frustratedly. It was clear she hated my use of the impersonal pronoun. She probably wanted me to embrace my chance at motherhood and the baby that "God had so mercifully sent onto me" or whatever. But I hadn't accepted the idea yet, and I didn't plan on doing so. I meant what I told her; I wanted rid of it. And when I said 'it', the thing inside me felt less real. If I started thinking about babies, about changing nappies and ultrasounds and family photo albums, I might become attached, and I didn't need my stupid emotions getting in the way again, like they always did. Not this time.
She eyed me disapprovingly, but continued with her ramblings about 'choices' fishing a variety of leaflets from her rack propped against the radiator behind her. She flicked through them in front of me, but I paid little attention. I knew what I wanted; she wasn't going to change my mind for me.
I'd come to my solid decision after hours of sleepless tossing and turning the night before, I'd come to the eventual conclusion that there was no way I could tell Harry about the baby. There was no way I was telling Josh, either. There were a million and one different reasons why - I didn't want Harry to know it was Josh I'd been sleeping with, I was afraid of Harry rejecting me and telling me to get rid, I was afraid that the baby would belong to Josh with whom my relationship was non existent, and I was scared of the embarrassment which telling them would incur. Put quite simply aborting it was a overall better alternative. Hassle free, problem gone, job done. Everything would go back to normal, and I would be lonely and useless, and Harry would be happy and trouble free. Josh would remain irrelevant. A generally more beneficial outcome for everyone involved, I thought.
Smiley Nurse was still talking, thrusting leaflets at me, and scheduling another appointment in a few days time.
"Come back after you've thought about it a little more, and we can discuss narrowing down your options. We want you to make the right decision, darling!"
Before I knew it, she was shooing me out the door, my hands clutching the folded sheets of bright paper, expectant mothers beaming back at me under huge, bolded titles to do with Abortions and Adoptions and support for single mothers. It suddenly hit me, as I looked down at the pamphlets, what my life had become. I had turned into that dreaded image,the shameful, screw up of a girl with the unwanted, unfatheredpregnancy who now stood in the waiting room of a squatty little family planning clinic in London feeling lost and terrified of the future.
Where had it all gone so wrong?
I gulped hard, scurrying from the room and the prying eyes of other, prominent bellied women who sat guarded in the sofas by boyfriends and husbands, towards the main door out to the street, hastily pulling up my hood and arranging my scarf around my mouth to disguise my face. The last thing I needed right now was this whole incidence exploding across the media, stemming from a simple photo of me leaving a pregnancy clinic at 9am in the morning.
I stepped out into the surprising warmth of the street. Summer was coming quickly. My mind wandered, and I found myself thinking that if I was keeping it, it would be due in March - a spring birthday. Not like my own, in the heat of the start of July. Maybe, if it was Harry's...there would be a month between their birthdays. He'd be nineteen before it was born, still much too young really, to be a father.
If it was his, I reminded myself. Or indeed, if I was even keeping it...
The terrorising, invading thoughts of birthdays and due dates and Harry infested my mind, blinding for the moment as I rushed down the street. That was why I didn't see him, the man that I walked into. We collided full on, and my armful of leaflets scattered aimlessly across the sidewalk with a squeal of surprise from my throat, as the guy I'd bumped into apologised again and again. My heart thumped as I fell to my knees, hood still up, though my scarf was coming undone, making me panic. What if the stranger recognised me? Sold a story to the papers?
"I'll get those," the guy assured me, hands frantically grabbing up all the splayed sheets of paper. His hand met mine on the ground as he reached for the pamphlet entitled 'Abortion', and reflex action made me glance up at the physical contact. My heart raced uncontrollably with dread as my gaze snapped up...
And I looked straight into the bright blue eyes of Niall James Horan.