1. Cemetery Babies – Then
The smell didn’t really hit until the fetuses became visible. Inhaling human remains, human insides, wasn’t something the city predicted. The lingering aroma, a strong metallic odor mixed with ammonia as the blood coagulated, affected each of the city workers tasked to uncover the horror dramatically. They became woozy and dizzy, their legs becoming weak and shaky as the odor filled the air. The Midwestern August heat didn’t help the cause either; it was one of the hottest days of the summer. The humidity was sticky, the weatherman using the word “nasty” to describe the day. Six consecutive days in the nineties with heat indexes in the lower hundreds; the weather was just that, flat out nasty.
A worker digging into the earth stopped to rub his sleeve against his face. The sweat was falling fast, the man moving his arm side to side quickly to beat drips before they got into his eyes behind his goggles. He exhaled as he wiped his forehead with the bottom part of the sleeve of his Tyvek coveralls, the wind blowing just enough to push the smell of rotten guts into his face. Even with a face mask, the man swallowed hard, his eyes nearly rolling back into his head.
“Ugh,” he said. “Smells like pennies.” His goggles fogged up. This was followed by a premature dry heave exiting his body. The city employee quickly pulled down his mask and then covered his mouth with his hand. Once he regained himself, he spat on the ground and then shook his head.
“God, this is disgusting,” he said, under his breath. The man, Larry, had three kids of his own and could not conceive something so vile. “This is horrible.”
If you want to know what unveiling death smells like, leave a Tupperware container filled with uncooked ground beef on the counter until the content is unrecognizable, pretend the meat was participating in no shave November for a decade’s term, and then pull off the lid like a bandage.
Inhale deeply in order to get the full effect.
Loads of aborted fetuses, tucked underneath a layer of earth, were pigs in a blanket wrapped individually in tissues. Some of them were sticking together. The workers digging them up were unaware of exactly how many aborted fetuses had been buried in the soil. What they did know was that the number was very high.
“I stopped counting after fifty,” one city official said. Sweat fell down into the rubber lining of his goggles. He quickly closed his eyes and then wiped his upper face with the top of his glove. The glove’s thick fiber irritated his forehead, the combination of heat and salt from the sweat burning his skin. The perspiration slid deep into the corner of his eyes. He squinted and then whispered something to himself. The man pulled his eyewear away from his face. He rubbed and rubbed until the sweat was gone. The odor of death punched him hard. The man dropped his head into his chest and then gasped.
Larry stood alongside with a shovel in one hand, his other hand on his hip. “Poor kids,” he said, his eyes locked onto the blackness of the ditch. “They were never even given a chance.” Larry noticed his colleague in the corner of his eye. His co-worker was bent over, his palms pushed hard against his face. The man shook his head and then stood erect. “You OK?” Larry said.
The man nodded his head. His eyes closed tight, the worker said, “Yeah, fucking heat.” He rubbed his fingers against his eyeballs. “Hottest day of the year and we’re digging up babies,” he said. The man blinked repeatedly, looked at Larry, and said, “Ready?”
The two continued digging.
The earth was being excavated after a woman, Teresa, came forward with her account of the underground abortion clinic. Her experience had encouraged several women to come forward to detail their own stories. The domino effect, the news report had said.
A line of women, together, all waiting to comment, had built up the courage to come forward to discuss their experiences with their abortions. Each offered similar accounts. They’d all described the man, John Maxwell, the same way. From his eyes to his voice, the women had all been consistent in their details. Each woman had called out the small size of the Machiavellian man’s eyes, his deep voice, slight mannerisms, even his speech cadence. One woman had said that his brazen attitude had made her sick, sicker than the crime she’d been committing. The woman already had repressed guilt so Maxwell’s demeanor was as if he’d added salt to her wound. “It just wasn’t appreciated,” she’d said in the report. “It was bad enough that I was there to terminate my pregnancy.” The article had stated that she’d broken down into tears following this statement.
John Maxwell wasn’t always a monster. Prior to be labeled as a baby killer, he was an ordinary citizen. He’d lost his job, a decent paying one at a local factory, and fell into this business when times became tough. When abortion laws became stricter and stricter, Maxwell saw an opportunity. A man he’d worked side by side with at the factory had moved back to Mexico when his work visa had expired. The two had kept in touch, the man saying how he’d wanted to come back to the States but didn’t have the money. After discussing options, the man had convinced Maxwell to help him smuggle a supply of pills that would bring in cash for both of them. After successfully coming across the border into Texas, Maxwell had met the man and the two had made their deal and then had gone their separate ways. After he’d initially lost all his money and couldn’t find any meaningful work, Maxwell had contacted his friend and from there he went into a lucrative stint conducting illegal abortions.
In Teresa’s feature story, she’d mentioned that each night she’d stayed up late to pray the sin away. “I just want God to save my soul,” she’d been quoted. Later on in the story, she’d said, “I pray every night for my unborn baby. For all unborn babies.” Teresa had slept with a teddy bear beside her each night, telling the reporter that it was her favorite. Her boyfriend had won it for her at the local fairgrounds. Her account had begun the downfall of John Maxwell.
The building behind the excavators became a thing of the past soiled with bad memories of lives lost. At one point, Larry turned and envisioned the monstrosity that had occurred inside the structure. The old factory building was now vacant; the black cloud that was once looming over was now a bright blue sky stretched across the horizon. There were a few broken windows and some graffiti across the foundation’s concrete. Some window parts were hanging from its screws, the jambs and sills banging against the side of the building when the wind picked up. The gravel lot had holes in the cement, a patch of weeds growing up from the earth. The six foot high chain link fence that surrounded the compound was bent in various directions. A section of the fence was ripped apart from the mesh. One whole panel of fencing was gone and there was a deadbolt lock pushed up against a pole’s base. Fast food bags and litter slid across the parking lot whenever the breeze picked up.
The abandoned building did nothing to stop Larry’s imagination getting the best of him. Seeing rooms where the abortions had taken place, Larry fell into a daze before the heat began to get to him.
He combined the news accounts with his own visuals, a homogenized picture of what had occurred inside. Women screaming, keeled over in pain, holding their stomachs as if someone had kicked them with all their force, crying out loud without anyone coming to help. There were scattered beds, the sheets falling to the floor as the women tossed and turned in pain, the moans throughout the desolate building traveling down every nook and cranny and dissipating into thin air.
He felt lightheaded. Larry quickly moved his head side to side and then looked down to the ground.
Next to him was a bucket, filled to the top with guts. The vision almost knocked him out. In his view were little eye sockets where eyeballs should have gone, worms for legs bent together, and a sea of purplish-red dried blood clots. His stomach turned. The sudden breeze kicked up a musky, salty smell. Larry swallowed a slight buildup of spit and then closed his eyes. He opened them quickly. Larry saw tiny white blankets choking miniature necks, all packed in tightly. They were all compacted together inside the metal bucket.
Larry turned to his co-worker. “This is so hard to believe,” he said. “Who fucking does this?”
The city workers glanced at the halted lives of the fetuses, all disposed of in a pail like garbage. The pail was where humanity failed and being inhuman prevailed.
Larry shook his head, the sweat building in between his palm and the shovel’s handle. “What kind of sick person does this?” he said. Thoughts of his children passed through his mind. He moved the shovel to his other hand and then wiped his wet palm against his pants.
The fellow excavator, pulling out baby corpses as if he’d discovered the jackpot of Easter eggs, shook his head. His face turned red, his eyes staring into the ground where he’d just removed a shovel’s worth of babies.
Once you’ve seen a stack of aborted fetuses, you can’t un-see them.
Larry’s breathing escalated under his safety mask. His lips curled up and the air was exiting his nostrils more forcefully. The anger brewed inside. He pulled apart little fetuses to help quantify the tragedy, as if a higher number would change the public perception of John Maxwell.
The fetuses were stuck together like frozen sausage links. A couple broke in half when Larry bent them apart. The click clicking of each break as he tore apart each wad of tissue forced him to look away. He laid out each corpse in a row, silently giving them names for his own probity. He called them Jimmy, Clarise, Nathan, and so forth until the stench began to affect him. He swallowed a gob of mucus. His eyes began to water. Here lay David, Anthony, and Jennifer. Larry then gagged. “Hilar… Hil…” and then he became lightheaded.
The city worker pulled back to gather himself. “This is horrible,” Larry said. He took a quick breath, pulled down his mask while turning his head away from the fetuses, and then heaved. His vomit was dry for the most part, the rest of it a white, warm paste of saliva. A film built onto his lips; it was sticky against his skin.
Once he felt better, the worker continued, scooping up fetus after fetus after fetus after fetus. There was hope in his heart that one baby would be alive.
Babies lined up in rows, diminutive croissants on a rectangle pan for Thanksgiving dinner, were now up to one thousand, give or take.
Larry’s empty vomiting turned to blobs of heavy saliva. He spat it out away from the scene. His head began to clear. A small breeze hit his body, the heat reducing temporarily. The heat was something he could get used to; the smell, though, was something he’d always remember.
“I hope they put this sick fuck away,” Larry said, his voice shaky and fluctuating in tone. The sun was beating down. The rays were baking the fetuses, the smell reminiscent of a dump truck-sized nest of rotten mice behind the kitchen sink.
Larry watched from afar. He witnessed the group of reporters collecting data for their own accounts, their own feature articles. Photographers snapped evidence for the public to see. A few bystanders standing in the distance captured the scene with their cell phones, ready to blitz the proof on social media. Cars driving in the distance, skyrise buildings on the horizon, they all surrounded a bulldozer-sized crater in the earth with miniature, human enchiladas being pulled out.
“I can’t believe people want to look at this,” Larry said, shaking his head in disgust. He drove the blade of the shovel into the ground. “Fucking sickos,” he said.
The workers continued their excavation, scooping aborted fetuses from the earth and flipping them into several buckets behind them. For as long as Larry had worked for the city of Rock Island, this had been the most haunting project thus far.
2. Kate - Now
Kate was a statue in the middle of the small room staring in a daze. The brush in her hand dropped down onto the hardwood floor in front of her, creating a splatter of paint. Upright and motionless, Kate’s expression was blank as she was brought back in time, a few years before her present moment.
She’d been called a whore, a sinner, even a murderer. It didn’t matter what you’d called her, the result was still the same.
She was heartless, people had said, a cold-blooded bitch. Kate had particularly liked that one.
What was funny was that the baby’s father had never called her any of these names. He, in fact, had been very supportive.
Kate’s favorite descriptor was cunt. She’d always thought that name was nasty to begin with and now she was being called one. Kate was given this name by a co-worker that she’d never really spoken to. Sure, there was friendly conversation in the ladies room or in the shared kitchenette but Kate could never in a million years name her co-worker’s spouse, how many kids she’d had, if any, or what city she’d resided.
The colleague had overheard Kate’s conversation with the father of the child, talking about any aftereffects, and had never given Kate the opportunity to explain. Not that Kate had owed her co-worker an explanation, but still. There wasn’t any proof. It had been just random talking between Kate and her ex-boyfriend. It was similar to you saying, “I’d love to kill that person.”
The co-worker had deciphered that Kate had had an abortion and her strong religious beliefs had grabbed hold of the pro-life side almost immediately. Instantly, she’d gone into attack and propaganda mode. And that had been fine with Kate. But now that she thought about it, the religious affiliation had been more than likely the reason why their relationship was superficial.
After all, people had the right to their opinion. But cunt? Kate had thought.
All of these names were from people who didn’t understand Kate’s situation. Or hadn’t cared to understand. Or hadn’t wanted to understand.
The air in the room was thick. The spilt paint was drying before her.
Kate shook her head but it didn’t make a difference—her vision was still fuzzy.
Maybe it was the paint fumes making her lightheaded. The sun’s beams barreling into her eyes forced her to squint. She could feel that dizziness was approaching. The windowsill was going in and out of focus.
She bent down and retrieved the paintbrush, almost losing her balance when she returned to an upright posture. Kate stepped back lightly, her foot slightly numb. She stuck her arms out from her sides. She stiffened her arms. When she regained her balance Kate then stood erect.
She followed the crack on the drywall with her paintbrush. Just above the light switch and into the trim, Katestroked the paintbrush one last time. The switch’s personalized cover, outlined in balloons and surrounded by the wordsOH BOY!, was painted carefully around its edges. She stepped back to see the finished room, carefully eyeing the bubblegum blue in Satin that had transformed the guest room into a welcoming nursery. Kate inhaled. Slowly, her vision was coming back into focus, her body getting accustomed to the fumes.
The room was for a nursery for the child she didn’t have. Not because there were any complications, nothing like that; rather, Kate had wanted to finish medical school. Forcing a miscarriage was a better answer than raising a child and possibly losing her dream. She already was living paycheck to paycheck due to the abundant student loans she’d taken out, so a child was never in any equation in Kate’s life.
Kate was one step away from being in severe debt. She could either take the bus each day to work and pay the interest on her student loans or settle in on a car and its expenses while her student loans grew exponentially. Managing her finances was the challenge while finishing her studies. And who, Kate thought, wanted to take the bus?
Kate had one goal—to become a doctor.
Yet here she was, standing in the emptiness of the room, observing her work, criticizing the choice of color and the low-luster sheen which offered a more eggshell type look than the semi-gloss.
The bubblegum blue color was her favorite as a child, something she’d carried with her, hoping to pass the color onto her little boy. She’d found it strangely enlightening that all of her female friends had loved pink as a child yet she’d taken the more masculine approach with blue. Granted it was a soft bubblegum blue and not a navy blue or royal blue for that matter. So much for the stereotype about boys and girls, she’d thought at a young age. For most of Kate’s life, she’d known she was a strong woman.
The one “female” trait that Kate had possessed was picking out baby names before she ever conceived a child. All along, her child would’ve been named Colin, or Casey, or possibly Cameron, something “ka” sounding like Kate. Carter, perhaps. It really didn’t matter now.
The hope of passing anything on to her little boy was overshadowed by the dream of becoming a doctor. The dream began as a teen when Kate’s father had suffered a heart attack. It was an attack that had resulted in death. She’d thought that if there were a doctor around, perhaps he could still be alive. Soon after, she’d decided that nothing would compromise that goal. Throughout Kate’s schooling, she had avoided long term relationships, staying a distance away from emotions and feelings. Any boy who had gotten close, she’d made excuses. “I have a boyfriend back home,” or “I just got out of a long relationship.” Whatever excuse she’d needed to stay single, she’d given.
When Darren had come around though, his sharp tongue, crooked smile, and lyrical compliments had wooed Kate enough to cloud her judgment when one unexpected day they had found themselves in a dilemma.
Kate was beleaguered, holding up the pregnancy test to the light. “It’s positive,” she’d said. A sour look had grown on her face. “Damnit! I was always careful,” she’d said aloud. She’d inserted birth control reminders in her phone and daily planner. To Kate, this was just a clumsy mistake. Counting back the date of conception, Kate justified the morality of her decision. “Four weeks,” she’d said.
“What’s four weeks?” Darren had said.
She’d turned to look at the father. “That’s when the baby was conceived,” she’d said. The abortion law had always been six weeks before it was inhumane. Six weeks, she’d thought. That doesn’t seem like that long.
Darren’s body had deflated, a look of exasperation forming on his face. He’d squinted at the test, not actually knowing what it had read, but had trusted the outcome. He’d trusted what Kate had just told him. It was, after all, her body. It was, after all, her decision.
Earlier in the month, when the couple had convened after their respective days, the two had celebrated their short affair by drinking two bottles of wine. Three months courting were hardly a feat but to an exhausted medical student working multiple jobs, the courtship had felt like a decade. A quarter of a year was something to be proud of. Yay me! she’d thought.
Kate was sucker for Pink Moscato. It was her favorite and the smoothness of the wine had ruled the succeeding events. The stereo had been playing jazz and there’d been a candle lit for illumination. The candle’s aroma, a mix of honeysuckle and burnt wax, had filled the air. Chinese takeout boxes were stacked accordingly, the top box overflowing with Lo Mein. Fortune cookie wrappers were crumpled on the table. The fortunes were dead off. But the couple didn’t care. The night had been set to a tee. It was a perfect storm.
Kate had lived in a scanty apartment with a single bedroom. The living quarters were no bigger than a community swimming pool. Living in a safe neighborhood was desirable; however, the reality was settling in in a sketchy area, according to the neighbors.
She had remodeled on a dime to make the apartment look somewhat tasteful. Posh designer curtains hanging from the windows had been purchased at a discount outlet and there was furniture that had been bought from a wholesale chain. On each end table were replica glass vases. Their patterns were identical. There were glass lamps made to look like designer items. The home had picture frames peppered throughout, images of a single woman’s lifestyle in each.
In the corner of the dining room was a glass China hutch. Inside, knick-knacks were organized by size. They’d been acquired at antique shops and estate sales she had stumbled upon. The apartment had bookshelves that spanned from the floor to the ceiling. More room to store breakable objects.
Kate’s home was definitely no place for a child. It was not kid friendly by any means. There were lots of things a child could get hurt on. He could fall climbing the shelves, she’d thought. Along with becoming a physician, thoughts such as this were what went through Kate’s mind to justify the decision, a verdict that she hadn’t informed Darren about.
It was all Kate’s decision and nobody else’s, not even the child’s father, as if she’d cared what he had thought. She’d grasped the pregnancy test harder in her hand. Darren had stood without any motion. He’d done nothing but stare down at the bathroom floor tiles. His voice was insecure and cracking. “What do you want to do?” he’d said. He was helpless and saying very little, from Kate’s perspective, was his best option. His eyes had never, ever made contact with her, only staring at a single spot on the tile.
“What can we do?” Kate had snapped, distraught. From the way she’d felt at this moment, she could burn a hole in Darren’s forehead with a look. Kate’s heartbeat was tripling in speed. Her voice was stern. She had whisper-screamed, “Abortion is illegal even if we wanted to get rid of it!” Her body was fragile as she’d said each word slowly, enunciating each sound, each consonant clearly to show how important the matter was. “Maybe when it was still six weeks,” she’d said. “Fuck!” Kate had screamed. There was anger in her voice. Her teeth gritted. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” she’d said.
Abortion was illegal in the States, but raising a child was out of the question. Raising a child would also deter Kate from her dream. And it wasn’t her damn fault that the law had passed a few years ago.
But thank goodness for medical school dropouts, as a classmate who’d once sat next to Kate had known a guy who could get rid of the baby safely, but illegally. She’d run into Brian at a gas station, where he had been running the graveyard shift to make ends meet. He’d always have marijuana on him in college. Kate had figured the whole “medical school dream” wasn’t really for him.
A quick “what’s new?” had segued into his relationship with his ex-girlfriend. “We just weren’t ready to have kids,” he’d said. “So I’m single once again.” He’d chuckled uncomfortably, as if this conversation had happened several times before.
They’d chatted while Kate had pumped gas. “I’m sorry,” she’d said. “Kids aren’t for everybody.” The gallons had filled into her car, the pump pushing out the petroleum through the hose and into the tank.
The streetlight above was covered with insects. They’d been flying onto the glass casing around the lightbulb and then off again. When they’d landed, the insects made a quiet ticking sound. Kate had looked up at the streetlight.
Brian’s chuckle had died to a half-smile, his shoulders shrugging. “What about you?” he’d said. The tank was nearly full. Kate could hear the gasoline filling to the top of the tank, the liquid moving faster and faster as the sound had become louder as it had traveled through the hose.
An awkward laugh had escaped her mouth. She’d smiled at him. “Well?” she’d said. The pump handle trigger had released, the gas coming to a stop. The noise had startled her for a second.
“You OK?” he’d said. He’d then swatted at an insect that was inches away from his face. “Fucking bugs,” he’d said.
She’d nodded. “When I said that kids weren’t for everybody?” she’d said. Her voice was soft and insecure, innocent like a child’s. Kate had placed the pump handle back into its holster. “I’m sort of carrying,” she’d said. Kate had twisted her waist and had struck a pose for her ex-classmate, pressing her miniscule baby bump under the fabric of her shirt.
Their eyes had met for a brief moment. Before it could get awkward, Kate had shrugged in defeat, the corner of her lip curling upward.
Brian’s eyes had widened. “You?” he’d said, in a playful way. “Who’s the lucky guy?” His smile had grown wide, spreading across his mouth.
Kate had shrugged, lying to him about Darren. Her face had grown serious. “The bigger point isn’t who the guy is but that I don’t really want the baby,” she’d said. If Brian wasn’t such a fuck up, she probably wouldn’t have had this conversation with him.
“What’re you gonna do?” he’d said.
“What can I do?”
A series of clicks had sounded above them. The two had looked up, at once, at the bulb’s casing. A patch of black had covered the light. They’d watched for a second and then had returned their focus to one another.
Brian had looked over Kate’s shoulder. She’d turned to follow his stare and had noticed that the lot was empty. He’d leaned in close. “If you really want to get rid of it, I know somebody,” he’d said. His tone was serious.
Kate’s eyebrows had lowered. “Abortion?” she’d whispered.
Brian nodded his head slowly. Kate could tell that he wanted to tell her something so she stayed silent. Finally, he’d said, “OK, I kind of lied about my ex. When I said that we weren’t ready for kids, I meant that I knocked her up and we had an illegal abortion.” Kate’s mouth had dropped open. “Listen,” he’d said, “I know a guy if you’re really interested.” He looked at Kate dead on, his face tightening. “No fucking around,” he’d said. He had looked around again to see if anyone was coming. Then he’d said, “Let’s just say medical school wasn’t a complete waste of time.” He’d sniggered a bit, breaking the tension between them.
Kate had said she’d think about it and then punched his number into her cell phone. A swarm of bugs had surrounded them. They’d buzzed briefly and then had flown off.
The old friends had said their goodbyes and then the next day she’d phoned Brian. The two had made small talk before jumping right into things. “No one knows his name but he has a lot of influence and can get abortion bills cheaply from Mexico,” Brian had said. Kate had made note that Brian’s tone was much different than when they’d met in person. “Like I said, medical school wasn’t a waste of time,” Brian had said. “Too long of a story to tell but he helped Linda when she needed one.”
“Linda?” she’d said.
“Sorry,” Brian had said. “Linda was the ex I knocked up.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Kate had said. Her voice had become soft. Her heart had become heavy. “And Linda’s well?” she’d said.
Without missing a beat, Brian had said, “I’m guessing. We don’t talk.”
“Oh,” Kate had said softly.
“Listen, I know this is a tough decision but—”
“How can I find him?” Kate’s voice was shaky, partly because what she was doing was both illegal and immoral. She’d still had a conscience, she’d kept telling herself repeatedly, but becoming a doctor was more important. She’d thought about her father, how he’d been clutching his chest, tapping where his heart was until he’d passed.
“You leave that up to me,” Brian had said. “He has a small, makeshift clinic in an abandoned building on the outskirts of town.”
Under her breath, Kate had said, “Of course he does.”
“Hey,” he’d snapped. “I don’t have to help you.”
“I’m sorry,” Kate had said. “That wasn’t directed toward you. I’m more just kicking myself about this whole situation.” Kate had breathed in heavily, exhaling out of her nose. “I’m just scared.”
“I know you are,” he’d said. His voice had become low and comforting. “I’m sorry for snapping at you but you need to be serious about this.”
Kate had closed her eyes. She’d slowly nodded her head to convince herself that this was the right course of action. “Just tell me what to do,” she’d said.
Brian had launched into the overall process.
The clinic had provided medications, multiple safe rooms with privacy, and an array of entertainment choices such as movies, magazines, and the Bible, all of which were an integral part of a successful forced miscarriage. After all, the clinic, although underground and illegal, cared for your welfare. Brian was a salesman when he’d delivered the information. Kate had been starting to wonder if there were brochures available. She’d chuckled nervously under her breath at the idea, dismissing it when he’d continued to speak.
It was a two day process that would result in a “do-over” of sorts so that you could go on to the next mistake with your boyfriend, whether that would be another date at the very same clinic or a premature wedding.
Kate could hear Brian fiddling with the phone, a muffled noise and a couple of scratches coming across the receiver. “What’re you doing?” Kate had asked.
“Sorry,” he’d said. “I’m counting down the cash register.” He’d told Kate that the station was empty at this hour. Anything to keep him awake, Brian did. As if this was casual conversation, Brian had said, “I straightened the individually wrapped beef jerky and put all the magazines back into their slots. Then I adjusted the newspaper stacks.”
“What the fuck?” Kate had said. Her voice was short and to the point. “This is about me, here.”
Kate could hear the cash register slamming shut, the latch on the door locking. “You just need to give me the go ahead,” Brian had said.
Kate had become quiet, dead quiet, without a single breath. The atmosphere had felt somber yet suspenseful, similar to a violin slowly playing under a horror movie, building to anticipation.
After inhaling until her heartbeat had reached above standard rhythm, she’d agreed, and for one short beat Kate had dreamed that her life would be back to normal.
Over the phone, Brian had said, “It’ll be fine. I’ll be there with you. I can meet you tomorrow night.”
“Thank you,” she’d said, relieved about the decision. After Brian, Kate had dialed Darren and divulged the plan. She’d explained the process. When she’d heard it out loud, her confidence in the choice had grown more and more as the discussion had progressed.
The two had arranged to meet in a remote alley just a few miles away from the gas station that Brian worked at. “You’ll have to leave your car here,” Brian had said. “I’ll have to blindfold you.”
“Is it OK to leave my car here?” she’d said. She’d noticed that the area was pitch dark. There wasn’t a street lamp in view.
“About as safe as an abortion,” Brian had said. He’d gestured to the car’s passenger side and they’d driven off.
They’d approached the door to the vacant building with Brian leading the way. “Do I really have to wear this?” Kate had said, as she’d walked grudgingly with Brian’s guidance. “It’s dark.” The blindfold was snug and tight around her face. At one point, it had started irritating Kate’s eyes, drying them.
“If you don’t, he won’t help you.”
Kate could hear a door open. They’d walked into an open area in the building as far as she could tell. “Hello?” Brian had said. The greeting had bounced off the walls, the echo almost eerie.
“Come in,” the man had said. “Lock the door behind you.”
Kate was frightened. There’d been goosebumps building on her skin. “Who’s there?” she’d said. Kate had moved slowly forward, her feet low to the ground, almost sliding on the floor. She’d reached her arms out to feel in front of her. Musty air had hit her face like a cold breeze. Kate had felt nothing within reach as her hands had grabbed air. After some failed reaches, she’d dropped her arms down to her sides. “Who are you?” Kate had said.
Brian had assured her that everything would be alright. “Trust me,” he’d said softly.
The man had tugged Kate’s arm, pulling her toward him. He’d then grabbed her arms with both hands and sat her down. “Have you done this before?” the man had said. His voice was very sharp, clear and to the point. “Legally or illegally?”
Brian had nudged Kate to respond. “No,” she’d said. She’d squinted her eyes, like if she tried hard enough, her vision would allow her to see through the fabric. “Sorry, I have not,” she’d said.
In an instant, the blindfold had become untied. Brian had grabbed the piece of fabric and then had stepped aside.
Kate’s pupils had dilated; her body in fight or flight. Looking around her, Kate had taken it all in with quick glances.