Chapter 38: Let It Go

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A/N: This chapter has a "sensitive issues" warning relating to women's reproductive rights.

"How old are you, dearie?"

The fifty-something woman had just emerged from her appointment and made a beeline for Wynter to address her. Fifteen minutes earlier, before she went in, she'd been eyeing Jesse and Wynter in the waiting room over the edge of her magazine. Jesse knew exactly what the woman had been thinking, and her question confirmed it.

"Fifteen," Wynter said, tilting in her seat to lean against Jesse because the woman was invading her personal space. Wynter's personal space extended further than the average person's, but still, the woman was too close. And Wynter had been nervous since lunchtime because of the appointment.

"You poor thing. You have choices, you know. Jesus doesn't want you to shed innocent blood." The woman dropped a bright red pamphlet in Wynter's lap, glared at Jesse, and hurried out of the building before Jesse had time to come up with a rebuttal.

Jesse jumped up, shaking with anger, and strode to the door which was still swinging on its hinges.

"Hey, let it go, son."

A man sitting near the door had his arm extended, as if to catch Jesse on his way out, though he was too far away to reach. He wore a plaid shirt and had a neatly trimmed red beard with flecks of gray. He looked like a dad and he'd spoken softly, firmly, kind of like Caleb might to a total stranger who was about to do something stupid. The guy gave Jesse a sympathetic look and a tiny shake of his head, and Jesse breathed deep. What was he planning to do, anyway? March out there and yell... something... What, exactly? A hundred pithy retorts and persuasive arguments were already forming in his head, but he'd probably have settled for, "Coward!" because the woman had scurried off so fast.

Half the people in the room were looking at him—he saw sympathy, bemusement, embarrassment, condemnation on their faces. The other half were buried in their phones and magazines. The receptionist looked startled and relieved at the same time.

Wynter was turning the pamphlet over to read it.

Jesse snatched it and dropped it in the trash. He slumped in the seat beside her, glaring at anyone who was still looking his way. An elderly man across the room and a young woman dressed casually like a college student, right opposite Jesse, would not look away. The man was probably too deaf to know what was going on. The woman clearly knew. She was probably a younger version of the pamphlet-dropping lady.

"You should be happy I'm here to support her," he called to the woman, not caring if he was making a scene. The woman buried her nose in a paperback.

"What's going on?" Wynter whispered. He realized she was stiff and scared beside him. "I thought it was just a blood test?"

Jesse held her hand and sulked in silence until they were called into the surgery.

"They can remove tatts with lasers," the technician said cheerfully as she drew a vial of blood. "I've seen some great results."

"I don't want to do that," Wynter said, glancing at Jesse in the corner with a look of panic, worried someone might force her. "Is that what Caleb wants me to do?"

"No," Jesse said bluntly, flicking the curled edge of a poster on the wall. His blood was still running hot from the earlier encounter. "The house rule about tattoos was grandfathered." She didn't understand. "It means existing tattoos are exempt."

"Let's hope this one hasn't caused any problems," the technician said, sliding Jesse a look as if it was his fault.

"I didn't fucking do anything to her!" Jesse yelled.

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