#1772

Cold winter lingers through April, with the baby due in even colder December. She can’t feel any changes yet, only knows about this newest mistake from the absence of bleeding. Huddled up on the bus-stop bench, she cups her hands around the cigarette for warmth and watches the pedestrians pass. Most avoid looking at the graffitied shelter, determined to ignore the fouler city elements that have somehow infiltrated the affluent business district. This neither surprises nor disappoints the girl; she barely notices herself in the mirror, so forgettable are her watered down blue eyes and washed out blond hair. Beneath torn jeans and an old sweatshirt she has the body of a mid-rate dancer, worth at least three nights a week at a dive on the hill, but she’s never center stage and her tips aren’t great. How long will that gig last now, anyway?

A town-car pulls up to the curb outside a high glass building guarded by uniformed doormen. The driver opens the back door and first a man steps out, smoothing his Armani suit before extending a hand to help the other passenger. Very carefully, one hand cupping the swell of her large belly, a woman rises from the vehicle. She wears her pregnancy as elegantly as her glossy black hair and pale fur coat, and her shapely legs seem to bear the added weight with ease. If eight and a half months of bearing this growing child has worn her down, her flawless makeup hides any hint of exhaustion. The woman glances briefly in the direction of the bus stop, but doesn’t see the girl nursing her last smoke. Even if she did, and even if she knew of their shared condition, would she spare a sympathetic smile?

The couple vanishes into the building and the girl stubs out the remains of the cigarette as the city bus arrives. She has fifty cents to spare after the ticket, enough maybe for a coffee after, and as she stares out the dirty window she absently touches her stomach. To distract from the real questions, she spends the ride to the clinic imagining the life that other little baby will lead. He’ll have everything his heart desires. He’ll be surrounded by love and wealth and want for nothing. It’s almost comforting, to know at least one child’s future is secure. She wishes the woman well.

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