This evening, the Garrett family sits in silence, munching on the pizza my dad brought home.
The trip to the doctor’s confirmed the pregnancy, and using the date of my last period, put me at eight weeks.
The GP then gave me and Mom leaflets about my other options as well as an A4 booklet to be filled in by the midwife at all my checks.
The drive home was filled with my mother’s excited plans for the “new arrival,” but I wasn’t able to drag my eyes away from the leaflet entitled Your Body, Your Choice.
The leaflets are now spread out on top of the sideboard, and all three sets of eyes keep glancing toward them.
Eventually my dad drops his slice of cheesy pineapple-topped pizza onto his plate and clears his throat.
“Okay, people, we need to talk about this.” He runs his hand through his light-brown hair, pushing it back off his forehead, which I think has more lines etched on it than normal.
“Leia. Sweetheart. We love you so much. You are our world. So know that we support you no matter what…” He shoots a look toward my mom when she opens her mouth.
“You decide. Don’t let your mother’s excitement cloud your decision.” He covers my small hand with his large one and smiles down at me.
I shoot him back a tight smile and squeeze his fingers.
“Your dad is right, pumpkin. As much as I would love to be a grandmother, I’m more than happy to wait a few more years.”
I sniffle, my vision getting swimmy with unshed tears.
“Ignore me getting overly excited. You take your time, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.” She walks around the table and presses her lips to my temple.
“Thanks, guys. I love you too.” I sniff wetly, wiping my hand under my runny nose.
After dinner, I trudge back up to my room and switch my phone back on. Immediately, I’m bombarded with missed calls and texts from Lee.
I breathe out a shaky breath and start to read some of them. They range from disbelief to outright name-calling. I quickly delete them all and block his number before the tears start falling again.
Little prick doesn’t deserve to know what choice I make.
Monday is the first day at my new college. Because we moved during the summer holidays, I’m starting the new year here, but everyone else has already been on their courses for a year already.
This means friendships have already been established, and everyone in my year already knows the layout of the campus and all the lecturers.
I stand waiting for the bus, nervously chewing the inside of my cheek, my stomach a churning mess of nerves and morning sickness. I watch as two girls walk up, arms linked together.
One is a thin, fiery redhead and the other a curvier brunette. They are both wearing different-color Doc Martens, one purple and one green, on opposite feet, so they’re obviously sharing two pairs.
As they get closer, I can see that the redhead is wearing green eye shadow and liner, and the brunette is wearing purple.
Their tight black jeans and scary-looking T-shirts suggest they’re some kind of rockers.
They stand next to me, happily chatting away about some TV show I haven’t heard of, wrapping their arms around each other’s waist and resting their heads on each other’s shoulder.
I envy their confidence to dress exactly how they want and to be so relaxed in someone else’s company.
I’m awkward, to say the very least. Back home, I had a couple of close friends, but still not close enough to show real affection like these two girls.
My social group grew exponentially when I started dating Lee. Even with him, when we were alone, I could be embarrassed easily when he tried to be affectionate.
I’m still not entirely sure how he convinced me to sleep with him.
The girls are joined by a guy with a shaved head, also wearing tight black jeans but teamed with a black hoodie depicting someone being drilled through their head.
They all exchange quick hugs, then the redhead and the boy cuddle up together, and I catch him pressing little kisses to her neck.
I’m almost relieved when the bus finally pulls up. Then I remember it’s taking me to college, and the nerves wash back over me.
Back home, I just finished the first year of a foundation course in fine art.
Before agreeing to the move that Dad’s work necessitated, my mom checked all the colleges nearby and found one that did the same course, so I could just transfer and know I’d not missed any work.
After registering with the office, I’m given directions to the life-drawing room, which is where my morning class is.
Pushing open the large door, I’m pleasantly met with a large, airy room and about ten other students still milling around, chatting.
I make my way over to the lecturer, who’s chatting with a man wearing a dressing gown, who I hope is the life model and not just some crazy guy.
The lecturer introduces himself as Mike Penn, but says to just call him Mike. He shows me where the easels and paper are kept.
“Just set yourself up anywhere. We’re going to be using charcoal only today; if you haven’t got any, I can provide you with some.
“Jon here is our male model; we also have a female one, and we rotate them so you get some experience of drawing both forms.”
“Okay, great. Thanks, Mike.” I flash him a grin, which I hope looks full of confidence, and grab myself one of the stand-up easels and pull it over to the side of the room nearest the windows.
The model, Jon, gets into position on the small stage at the front of the room and removes his robe. Mike positions him and tells us to get going.
Ten minutes or so into the first pose, I’m aware of the door behind me opening and closing.
“Mr. Smith. Early as usual, I see,” Mike tuts. A low chuckle answers him.
“Sorry, Mike. Missed the bus again.” A soft thump of a bag being put down next to me makes me want to turn my head, but I hate being caught being nosy.
“Just get yourself set up quickly.” Mike walks past me, shaking his head, a small smile on his lips.
In my peripheral vision, I can see a guy pulling over one of the sit-down easels next to me.
“Hey.” He leans slightly toward me.
“Hi,” I say back quietly, not turning my head toward him.
“You’re new here, aren’t you?” I nod, trying to concentrate on my sketch. “You’re pretty good.”
“Thanks.” I look at him this time.
He’s got one boot-clad foot up on the seat of the easel, his arms hooked around it. He’s hot in an emo kind of way.
His black hair is shaved up the back and the sides, leaving the longer front to fall over his right eye.
His face is adorned with several silver piercings, and his clothes are the normal uniform of tight and black. “Shouldn’t you be drawing too?”
His blue eyes twinkle in amusement as he holds his hands up in mock surrender. “Yes, ma’am.”
As he picks up his charcoal and starts sketching, I can hear him chuckle to himself.
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