After breakfast, I wished him a good trip and went to work. As I cleaned his room, I tried not to imagine myself someday sleeping in his arms in the giant California King bed. I tried… I didn’t quite succeed. By the day’s end, I’d decided that him leaving for a couple of weeks would be good for me. It would give me time to get back on track without having to see his gorgeous face every day. The other good news was that with all of my confusion and angst over Alex, it had kept my mind off of Jason.
Alex was gone for almost a month and by the time he returned I had myself completely pulled together. On top of that, I’d not only accepted Jason’s “break” was a good idea; I was thriving on it. I realized that without the pressures of a boyfriend who could be awfully demanding at times, I got a lot more rest and I got a lot more done. I had started my online classes. I was taking medical terminology and nutrition online. Those were the last two classes I would need to qualify for the program. I hoped to have enough saved up by the next semester to apply.
I ran into Alex occasionally and our conversation had always been light and easy. I still wondered sometimes why he never mentioned that day but Liz, always the voice of reason, had convinced me that he probably realized what risky territory he had dived into. I could have cried sexual harassment. I guess that I don’t think like a rich person, or a litigious one. He has to guard his assets because there are always vultures circling. I’m not a vulture, but after the ordeal he was going through with his soon to be ex-wife, who could really blame him for being cautious.
It was Saturday and I got up early because I had a nutrition quiz due by noon. I also woke up because of some amazing smells wafting from the kitchen, down the hallway and underneath my door. Liz was cooking. She’d told me not long ago that one way she dealt with her now five months of celibacy was by cooking. She used to be overweight because back then, she dealt with things by eating. She found out that she could deal with it just as easily by cooking yummy foods and just sampling as she cooked instead of eating a full meal. I think I was suffering the most for it. I’d already gained three pounds this month.
“Good morning. That smells amazing,” I told her, padding out in my robe and slippers. “What are you making?”
“I have the works,” she said. “French toast, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit and fresh squeezed orange juice.”
“You’re amazing. You’re my favorite roommate.”
“I know,” she said. “Grab some juice and have a seat, I’ll fill you up.”
I got my juice and sat down. Within minutes, my plate was filled with beautiful, fattening food. I picked up the maple syrup and began pouring it onto my French toast. I love maple syrup, I usually overdo it. That’s why I was surprised that as soon as the sweet, syrupy fragrance hit my nostrils, my stomach lurched.
I put the syrup down, pushed back from the table and all but ran into the bathroom. I dropped to my knees in front of the toilet and began to heave. I was shaking and I could feel sweat beading up on my forehead and running slowly down the side of my face. I emptied my stomach and reached up to flush the toilet before almost collapsing back against the cabinet behind me. I was light-headed and I could actually see gray spots in front of my eyes. I’d never passed out before, so I wasn’t sure, but it felt like I was about to. I leaned forward and put my head between my knees while I let it pass. In the meantime, I heard Liz knock on the door.
“Hey Vicki! Are you alright? What happened?” I didn’t answer her right away so she pushed open the door. When she saw me on the floor she sucked in a sharp breath and said, “Oh my goodness, honey, what’s wrong? You’re so pale!”
“I’m not feeling so good,” I told her.
“Here, let’s get you up and back to bed,” she said. She helped me to my feet and I stood in front of the sink and brushed my teeth and rinsed out my mouth. Then I mistakenly took a drink of water. As soon as it hit my stomach, I was hanging my head over the toilet again. “Jeez, honey. You have something bad. Have you been around anyone with the stomach flu?”
“Not that I know of,” I told her, starting the teeth brushing process over.
“What did you eat last night?”
“Just the pasta salad. The same as you.”
“Hmm, at least it’s probably not food poisoning. I had that once after eating some bad salmon. That was the worst. It was even worse because my periods were spotty back then and I thought I was pregnant.” I saw the question in her eyes before she asked it. I was trying to do the math in my own head. When was my last menstrual cycle? Oh damn!
“I’m not pregnant,” I said, too quickly.
“Did you and Jason use protection?”
“Not condoms, but I was on the pill. We both got tested regularly for STD’s. Jason hated condoms.”
“Did you remember to take them every day?”
“Yes Liz. I’m not pregnant. It’s the flu.”
She seemed to accept that and said, “Okay honey, let’s get you to bed.”
I lay in bed, grateful once again for Liz who brought me some saltine crackers and a seven-up and then after putting a bucket by the bed “just in case,” she left me alone with my smelly misery. I nibbled on the crackers and after a while my stomach began to settle down. I only took sips of the seven-up, although I wasn’t nauseated any longer, I was still cautious of putting too much into my stomach. I seriously despised throwing up.
By noon I felt better and I got up and took a shower. While I was standing under the soft spray, my mind went back to Liz’s questions about the birth control had I remembered to take them every day? There was one week, right before Jason and I started our “break” where I’d messed up somehow and forgotten to take one. But I’d doubled up the next day and the gynecologist had told me once before that was safe. I couldn’t be pregnant. I hadn’t had my period in almost two months, but that wasn’t unusual either. My cycles were fickle and some months, if I was really stressed out, I wouldn’t have one at all. I couldn’t be pregnant. I didn’t have the money to be a mother or the time. Babies are expensive and daycare is even more expensive. What would I do about work?
I thought back to when I was a kid and my mother worked at that strip club just outside of Seal Beach. I hadn’t told Alex the day he and I talked about it, but that was why I spent so much time there. She would drop me off at the pier before she went to work from the time I was ten until I got to about fourteen. When the sun went down, there was a little room in the back where I would watch television until she got off at two. I was never allowed in the club area, but I heard a lot of “shop-talk” going on between the strippers, since their dressing room was only separated from the room I was in by a curtain. Over the years a few of the other women brought their kids too and we formed a little club and called ourselves, “Seal Rats.” It was corny, but none of us had much at that point.
I love my mother and the older I get, the more I am beginning to realize and believe that she really did do her best. But I always promised myself that I wouldn’t have a kid until my best meant a nice home in a good neighborhood with plenty of food in the pantry and a mom who was either home, or could afford excellent childcare for when she was at work. Of course, there was always a father in there when I imagined it too. It wasn’t fair to give any less to a child. I didn’t want to bring a child into this world and cheat them out of what they deserved. I wasn’t pregnant, that was all there was to it. I spent the rest of that Sunday in my room. I watched a few movies and slept off and on. I considered going and getting a pregnancy test but that would be a waste of money. I’m not pregnant.
Monday morning I woke up feeling good, even more convinced that I had been silly for even considering I might be pregnant. I got ready for work and realized that we were out of coffee, so I left a little early to go through the drive-thru and get one on my way to work. I went to my favorite little hole in the wall shop down by the beach. They opened the drive thr
u early for the commuters and surfers and I loved their coffee. I told the girl what I wanted over the speaker and then I drove up to the window. As soon as she opened it and the smells of the fresh baked pastries wafted out, I knew I was in trouble. I began to lurch and gag, handed her a twenty and told her to keep the change and then drove around to the small parking lot.
I got out of the car and realized the sickeningly sweet smells were out here too, along with the smell of the salty ocean. It all cumulated in me holding onto the front of the car and emptying my stomach into the bushes. It was mostly liquid and a lot of it was bile. I felt really disgusting afterwards and almost called in sick. I looked at the time and decided I had time to run by the 24 hour pharmacy and get a toothbrush and paste. I could use the bathroom there. I really couldn’t afford to miss a day of work.
I bought the brush and paste and went into the little bathroom. I brushed my teeth and as if incapable of learning my lesson, I took a drink of water and I was back on my knees and heaving again in no time. When I finished and cleaned up again, I took a long look at myself in the mirror. “You have to take a pregnancy test,” I told the image in the mirror. “Fine!” she said back. “But we’re not pregnant.”