|image source: A Taste of Honey, 1961|
Charlize put on her black coat and exited the theatre into the cold, damp night. She felt sick as she tapped her foot on the ground and chewed the inside of her cheek. Three hours prior to this moment she had texted Adam to say:
“can you meet me after rehearsals this evening? I need to tell you something.”
So now he must be on his way, turning over in his mind what could possibly be so urgent and important. Gently, Charlize perched herself on the edge of the bench next to the nearby restaurant. She stared at the cars as their headlights flashed past; their passengers so near to her but so detached, so wrapped up in their own lives.
Charlize stood up at the sight of Alex approaching. She plunged her hands deep into her pockets and scowled at the ground. She saw his black Doc Martens stop in front of her. He said, “Hiya” cheerfully, but this genial greeting went over Charlize’s head as she built herself up to greet him with, “I’m-just-going-to-say-it-straight-away-I’m-pregnant” she rushed as if the words were poison that she needed to spit out in order to survive.
Charlize started to walk in the direction of home, still staring at the ground with her hands in her pockets, as she waited for Adam’s reply.
He followed Charlize in silence for a few minutes as they walked up the sloping, street-lit pavement. Then he began, “Is it m-?”
“Of course it is” Charlize retorted violently.
Another long pause followed, until they were walking down the road of Charlize’s primary school.
“Shit” Adam said.
Charlize rolled her eyes at that unhelpful remark.
As they walked past her old school, Charlize thought about how much simple joy had taken place there and how different things were now and about William Blake and about Adam. Back then she could find joy in making up new games to play in the playground or swinging on the monkey bars and bad days could be cured by crying whilst her mother stroked her hair and told her that everything would be okay. Now, the lack of joy in her life had to be compensated for with stupid actions like having sex with her best friend one Thursday in November after school. And a bad day or a bad week or a bad month or a bad year could not be remedied because there was no one to stroke her hair and tell her that it would be okay. Adam did not love her. He liked her. He liked spending time with her and they had a laugh together, but he loved another.
“I’m getting an abortion” Charlize said, as abruptly as she had made her first announcement, when they reached the alleyway by their respective houses.
“No you’re not” said Adam.
“What?” Charlize looked up for the first time that evening.
“Our baby belongs to both of us. We need to discuss it. You’re not the only one who gets a say in this” Adam answered.
“I’m the one who has to show all the signs of it; who’ll be ridiculed and humiliated. And, you know, morning sickness and weight gain, not to mention labour!” Charlize said, “And what about Matt? You don’t want him to find out about what happened?”
Adam pondered this for a while before saying, “Just don’t tell anyone who the father is.”
“I can’t do that, Adam! You can’t expect me to do that. It’s bad enough being pregnant at fourteen without everyone thinking I’ve slept around so much that I can’t remember who I’ve been with” Charlize said, trying not to cry.
“Make someone up then” Adam suggested.
“What about my family? They know that you’re the only boy I ever see” Charlize said. She could not believe that Adam was being so unexpectedly cruel.
Adam scoffed, “You’ve been talking to loads of guys about hooking up with them.”
Charlize’s jaw dropped, “Loads of guys? One. I talked to one guy, and then he stopped replying to my texts.”
“Well, say it was him” Adam said.
“No. I don’t even know why we’re still having this argument. I’m getting an abortion. Matt will never know about us and you can go back to being a happy couple” Charlize sneered.
“But you’re killing a baby!” Adam protested.
Charlize was silent.
“You’re killing a sperm!” Adam shouted.
At this, Charlize burst out laughing. She prepared to make a sarcastic gibe about what a pathetically ignorant exclamation that was, but then she found herself crying uncontrollably. Adam continued to shout at her as she sobbed. There was no way she could go through the pregnancy, but she couldn’t imagine life without Adam as a friend either.
Adam stepped closer to Charlize. “Don’t look but there’s someone watching us and listening. We need to go somewhere else or this will become gossip.” Adam was looking up at the first floor window of the house that they were standing next to.
Charlize looked up, despite being told not to. She saw the face of a girl not much older than her leaning out of the window. Then the girl was gone.
“Come on” Adam said softly, “Let’s go.”
“No” Charlize said. She had not forgotten her situation and Adam’s behaviour; of course she hadn’t. How could she? Tears still streaked her cheeks, but she did not move to wipe them away.
“Oh don’t cry, Charlie” Adam said soothingly, as if he had only just noticed Charlize’s distress.
“Adam, I can’t have this baby” Charlize shook, “You can’t expect me to. We’re too young. I’m too young. It would ruin everything.”
Adam stared at the ground and sighed.
“Say something” Charlize urged.
“You’re right” Adam sighed again,” I-I’m such a dick. It was just- I didn’t- didn’t expect it. I never imagined this. I didn’t know how to react. No. That’s no excuse.”
Charlize did not reply, but when Adam put his arm around her waist as they walked she did not pull away either.
“You know it’s kind of ironic that this has happened whilst you’re playing Jo in A Taste of Honey” Adam quipped.
“Yeah, I realise” Charlize said bluntly, before adding, “I’ve got the gay friend.” She put her arm around Adam’s waist, “And the fascist mother. Now I just need a charming black sailor to sweep me off my feet.”
They walked along the road; arms round each other, and the girl in her bedroom above watched them from her window. She hoped that they would be happy.
Originally published in Pretty.
Originally published in Pretty.