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"I'm afraid not. Both tests came back positive."
The doctor's words from the week before resonated in Amy's head as she hurriedly stuffed clothes, shoes, and toiletries into her bag. She couldn't think about what to take; she didn't even know where she was going. She only knew that she had to get away, and fast. It didn't really matter whether she had matching pumps and handbag.
There'd been no warning. No symptoms, not even the infamous 'morning sickness' about which she'd always been told. Sure, her monthly cycle was erratic, but that was nothing new. She had been under stress.
Stress? Amy smiled. A smile borne, perhaps, of certain madness. A woman who'd been through what she had was entitled to a little craziness.
Oh, she'd been happy at first. Thrilled, even. But the call this morning from an old friend had set her world terribly askew.
The phone rang. She ignored it. Amy zipped the overfull bag, catching delicate lace in the zipper as she forced it closed. In the small kitchen, she pawed through her purse and retrieved two credit cards, which she placed in plain view on the counter. From her key ring, she hurriedly wrestled the house keys. At least I own my own car. Clutching the remaining keys, she made her way to the door, taking a nostalgic look around the small duplex she had called home for the last three years. She'd unlikely ever sleep here again.
She turned the knob and started to go, then paused. Lifting her left hand, she stared at the two-carat diamond ring and watched it blur as her eyes filled. Blinking several times, she quickly slipped it off herfinger and went back to the counter where she slapped it down beside the credit cards. Lying two-timing bastard.
Outside, Mr. Franks knelt on his hands and knees in the flowerbed next door.
"Amy! Say, you don't happen to have any rose food, do ya?"
Amy forced a brief smile. "Not on me," she called, wishing she could say goodbye and stifling a pang of guilt because she couldn't. "They do look beautiful," she added as she popped open her trunk and tossed in her bag.
"Off to New York again?" the elderly man asked, rising with effort and dusting off the knees of his pants.
"Not this time. You take care, Mr. Franks." Amy waved and again blinked back her tears, hoping they didn't run beyond the bottom of her dark glasses.
The streets of Carmel, California bustled with tourists. Amy gazed over the top of the steering wheel, watching families saunter across the street, ice cream cones in hand. Melancholy filled her heart. It wasn't supposed to feel this way. She had always fantasized about having a baby, a baby conceived in love and devotion, with one who shared her hopes and dreams. Yet the child within her was a mistake. Innocent of all, created in a moment of irresponsibility with a man who didn't love her. No, it wasn't supposed to be this way.
It was not until she got onto the highway leading out of town that she fully exhaled.
She stopped in Monterey for gasoline. While waiting for the tank to fill, she dialed her brother's number on the cell phone for the fifth time.
"Hello, it's Brian, you know what to do..." the answering machine repeated. This time she left a message.
"Hey Bri, it's me ... I ... I was just wondering when ... uh ... when you'd be home." Amy looked out the windshield, slowly panning the station for anyone who might be watching her. "I'll just ... just call you later. Bye." Slowly she closed the phone and let it slide from her fingers into her lap. It would be another two hours or so to Brian's flat. She could only hope he'd be home by then.
San Francisco was a big town. Not New York or L.A., but certainly a metropolis compared to the tiny burg in Santa Paula Valley where Amy Winslow and her brother Brian had played cowboys and Indians. Also much bigger than the coastal haven of Carmel-By-The-Sea from which Amy fled when her life there had unraveled so completely.
Stopped at a red light near Golden Gate Park, Amy tightened her seatbelt across her tummy. She was reminded of the life inside her and she shivered. A baby. Drew's baby. Oh God.
Trying to clear her thoughts, Amy concentrated on finding Brian's apartment. He answered on the third knock and Amy all but fell into his startled arms.
"So. You feeling better?"
Amy nodded, her fingers curling around a warm mug of herbal tea. "I'm just glad you were home. I don't know what I would have done. I called, like, ten times, but I kept getting your machine."
"You were just calling at the wrong time." Brian reached across the counter to where Amy sat on a barstool and lightly cuffed her on the chin. "What happened to your brain down there? And for that matter, what happened to your hair?"
Amy pushed her hair away from her face. Brian hadn't changed, but she had. "Thought I'd try something new, that's all." Self-conscious fingers plucked at the strands brushing her shoulders, strands that used to wave down to her mid-back.
"Had to find out if blondes really have more fun? They don't. Or so I've heard," Brian said with a chuckle. "It'll grow out." The touch of merriment in his eyes waned. "So did Drew make you do that?"
The sound of Drew's name on Brian's tongue renewed the quaking within. Yes. No. Drew had encouraged her to chop the thick chestnut locks into a more modern style. And, believing he had a penchant for blondes, Amy had doused her tresses with peroxide-throwing caution and, perhaps, common sense, to the wind.
Amy didn't answer Brian's question, so he turned and put his mug into the sink, his disappointment evident. "If you want to clean it off, you can sleep on that Futon. I'm not working tomorrow, so there's a good chance we can both sleep in."
Later, he covered her with a sleeping bag and tousled her hair. "Just holler if you need anything, Aim. I'm a light sleeper."
"That, I know." Amy looked up at her brother's warm smile and sympathetic eyes. "Thanks again." Despite the two years she had on him, she felt the younger sibling to his responsible, solid ways. Her own conduct was anything but responsible these days.
Amy lay awake long after she supposed her brother fell asleep. Emotion rested heavily upon her, much heavier than the thick sleeping bag draped across her body. With no clock nearby to focus upon, she finally closed her eyes sometime near dawn.
The teakettle's shrill whistle brought Amy around like smelling salts under her nose. The sun streaming through the gap between the living room draperies brought the day on with a harshness for which she was not prepared.
"Decaf?" Brian called from behind the counter, the hot kettle poised over a mug bearing the words Tom's Transmissions.
"I guess." Amy struggled to sit up, her limbs tangled in the sleeping bag, her hair hanging over her eyes. What she really needed was a good shot of caffeine. "What time is it?"
"Ten o'clock, not that it matters," Brian answered. He brought her the mug, carefully turning it so that she could see 'Tom's' smiling likeness. "Just milk, right?"
Brian returned to the stove. "We lived together for a long time, Aim."
"I wouldn't blame you for forgetting everything about me."
"That would take major surgery." Brian ran his hand over his close-cropped, sand colored hair. "I'm not ready for that yet. But I'm up for some breakfast, how about you?"
Amy finally managed to disengage herself from the covers and got to her feet. Having slept in her clothes, she looked down in dismay. "Just toast would be fine."
"No good. You need something nourishing after your little excursion last night. Heart's, across the street, has great breakfast specials." Brian took a big gulp of his coffee and issued a satisfied sigh. "Come on."
"I need to at least clean up a little..."
"Whatever. But you look fine. Except for the hair, of course." Despite the subtle insult, Brian's eyes shown with warmth.
Amy stared into the small bathroom cabinet mirror. Leaning closer, she scowled at the faint darkness below her brown eyes and uttered a soft moan. Well, Brian had seen her worse. Much worse. She washed her face and ran a brush through her hair, wishing with every stroke that she could make it longer. But what did it matter, anyway?