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A Missing Heart(4)

By´╝ÜShari J. Ryan

Cammy stares at me with a hard gaze, like she’s trying to turn herself into stone, but she’s failing miserably. She must have expected this reaction from me. It’s why she waited so long to break the news.

After far too long of watching her stare back at me, I notice a red tinge fill her cheeks. Her hand reaches for her stomach, and she leans back against the driver’s door of her car.

Everything feels like it’s happening in slow motion when her eyes close, then clench, her jaw clamps shut and her body folds in half as much as it can, being nine-months pregnant. A groan rumbles through her throat and at the same moment, the redness that had just colored every inch of her fair skin has completely disappeared, leaving her pale and ghostly. I freeze for a minute, in shock, as I begin to suspect what is happening.

“Are you okay?” I finally ask, after taking way too long.

She reaches over and grips my shoulder with her hand, piercing her pink-painted nails into the skin of my forearm. “Take me to the hospital.”

Those five words propel my mind into overdrive, and I try to remember everything I’ve Googled about this. I thought it would be a gradual thing, like slow, over the course of several hours. She’s calm for the moment but I can see nervousness and fear in her eyes. I slip my arm under hers and help her over to my beat-up truck.

My mind empties out as I fly through the familiar streets until we arrive at the hospital. Cammy has kept silent most of the way, other than the three times I heard more groans. Parking the truck in the two-hour parking zone, I race around to her side and help her out. “I have to call my parents,” she utters.

“I can do this with you, Cam,” I tell her, trying to remain calm, trying to convince her I can actually do this with her.

“You shouldn’t be here. I don’t want my parents to know…my dad will kill you, AJ. Please believe me. I’m not doing this to hurt you. Can’t you see this is destroying me?”

“You don’t want your parents to know what? That you’ve been dating a middle-class seventeen-year-old? Am I not good enough for you? What the hell is it? We love each other. What else matters?” I got their seventeen-year-old daughter pregnant…she’s trying to protect me, but I need to protect my daughter now.

“That’s not it,” she cries.

“Then what, Cammy?” I’m walking with her through the parking lot, my arm holding up as much of her weight as possible while we step inside of the hospital.

“My dad said when he found out who did this to me, he’d make him wish he was never born.” Hearing this doesn’t come as a surprise. He’s the chief of police for our town and I believe he’d destroy me in any way possible. It was the first thought I had when she told me she was pregnant. Yet, I’ve stuck with her, offering to be here, be the father to this child and do the right thing. The only saving grace I could think of was that he wouldn’t want his grandchild growing up without a dad. Although now that I’m not going to have a chance at being a dad, it gives him no excuse not to ruin my life. Still, I won’t be bullied away from this—from her and our daughter.

“I don’t care,” I tell her.

She stops in the empty hallway and grips her hands around my shoulders, staring her doe-like gaze up at me. “I care. I don’t want to ruin your life. I love you, regardless of what’s being forced on us right now. This isn’t what I want, and I hope you’ll realize it someday.” Right at this moment, I would give anything to know what my legal rights are, but I’ve run out of time, and I’m more or less stranded in the middle of a dark woods, alone with no light and no direction.

“You can’t do this,” I beg again, even though I know now this isn’t her decision. Blame is just pouring out and I can’t control it. I just have to fight this. I will fight until I win.

Cammy has been in labor for hours now, and I’ve managed to convince her not to call her parents. In a normal situation, I know it would be wrong to beg her not to call them, but if they arrive, I will have to go. I can tell that much from the conversations we’ve had over the past few hours. If I could only convince her to change her mind about giving our child away, we’d be okay. She isn’t budging on this, though.

A nurse just walked in to ask Cammy some questions and now she’s asking if I’m the father. As I open my mouth to respond, Cammy interjects with a firm, “No. I don’t know who the father is.” I’ve suddenly become Cammy’s good and loyal friend who wants to be here in her time of need. I want to call her out and make a scene but I’ll be kicked out, so I bite my tongue harder than I’ve ever had to bite it, and I swallow my pride.