Oh dear lord. I’m pregnant.
Sorry to leave you on that cliffhanger…but quite honestly. I had to leave it there to remember what it was I did next? It was all a blur from there. Lost in that larger pool of memories hovering about in the bigger dam.
As I had done with the pregnancy test before the result was clear…I sat and stared at the two lines glaring back at me on the indicator stick, waiting for something else to happen. Preferably one line to disappear quite quickly. But it didn’t.
The strong garlic smell of my half-eaten chicken kiev made me feel queasy, so I scraped it into the bin. I had no idea what to do. I’d never been in this situation before, nor did I know anyone who had. I was as far away from home as I could get and I had no close friends my own age to confide in. I was as alone in this as I could get. The one thing I knew, was I wasn’t ready to have a baby, I never even thought of it as a baby. Just a situation I needed to get out of.
It’s hard to write this, really hard. I was 19. There will be judgment. It was 27 years ago. I actually had to get a calculator out to do that sum. When I saw the number 27 on the screen, it left me numb knowing that I could have a 27 year old child now. Not a child, and adult, older than I was back then. When I look at Oliver and Audrey, with all the love I have for them, its hard to believe I let something so beautiful go. It’s not a regret, just a decision that I have put out of my head, I prefer not to dwell on it. I have no answers. It was a long time ago. The past can not be undone.
I think what I did next was go to a doctor. They confirmed my result and gave me some referrals to clinics that dealt with unwanted pregnancies. Even writing that makes me feel uncomfortable. I really don’t remember anything except little flashbacks of waiting rooms and paperwork. Forms I tore up so nobody would ever find them and I’d be able to delete this from my life like it never really happened.
I made a pact with myself that I’d never tell anyone. Especially not Andy. Even as a stupid madly in love teen, I knew telling Andy I was pregnant with his child was not going to be the way to win him forever. I knew it was the anti-aphrodisiac and he’d hate me. I’d ruin his life, his plans. Instead I went to all the appointments and the counseling sessions alone and stuck to my decision.
I’d have stuck to my decision to not tell anyone, except part of the conditions of my procedure were that I had to have someone with me. I couldn’t drive myself home after the day surgery and I wasn’t supposed to be alone for the first night afterwards. I didn’t want Lisa to be involved, she was too young to be embroiled in this, plus I didn’t want Mum Sheila to know about it and I knew Lisa would tell her. She told her Mum everything. Plus, she didn’t have a license anyway.
I didn’t want to ask Nick, he was Andy’s best mate and he’d have to tell Andy. I wasn’t close enough to any of my family in the UK to reach out to them, so there was only one thing left to do. I called Shelley.
It was my olive branch. And to her credit, she put everything behind us and came to my rescue. I am indebted to her forever for this act of kindness. Let’s face it, she now had more to write home about than I did and I confessed I never sent the letter.
When I told her of the dilemma I was in, she was kind and understanding, although she did feel that I should tell Andy. I think it was her Catholic upbringing coming out.
A few days before I was booked to have the termination (what a horrible term) Nick, Andy, Lisa, Sam and I were at the pub across the road from the Butts Theatre where we used to perform. It was just the five of us, and the conversation turned to Nick and Andy’s trip to Ibiza for the big karaoke million pound-making scheme they were embarking on. Andy said ‘Well, we booked the tickets today, we leave next Friday.’
I’m not sure any of us expected it to happen so quickly, especially not me. Instead of saying ‘Congratulations’, words just fell out of my mouth.
‘I’m pregnant.’ I blurted. I looked straight at Andy when I said it. He’d just taken a swig of his pint.
I’m not sure what possessed me to say it right at that moment in front of everyone, but Nick, Lisa and Sam looked at me as if they hadn’t heard me correctly, while Andy turned white and I could see the jugular vein in his neck stick out and start to pulse.
Once my words had registered with Nick, he immediately turned to Andy and he waited for him to speak. Nick knew straight away what was going on. Lisa and Sam quickly caught on.
Nobody spoke. They just looked between Andy and me like they were watching a tennis match, waiting for something to happen.
‘Let’s go outside.’ Andy finally said, and we went and sat in NOB (why not, it had become the official confessional booth) and talked. I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall back in the pub to hear what the other three were saying.
‘I don’t know what to say.’ Andy said, ‘I’m so sorry.’
‘Hey, it’s not you fault.’ I replied. ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to hold you to anything. I’m going to a clinic next Monday, and it will all be over.’
‘Can I do something. Do you need money or anything?’
‘No. It’s all fine. You go live your dream and forget this happened. Okay?’ I took a breath, ‘and I’m sorry I just announced it that way.’
We hugged just before we walked back into the pub to re-join our friends and somehow that made it ok.
The others didn’t ask too much, just watched to see how Andy and I would play it.
I said to our little gang congregated around the bar table, ‘This goes no further than us, okay?’ Everyone nodded, picked up their drinks and we chinked them together as a show of solitude.
The strength of our loyalty to each other has lasted the test of time. Not one of us, ever breathed a word of it. It was kept within the inner sanctum of us, and I’ve loved them for always keeping that promise.
If you haven’t already picked up on this point, Nick and Andy flew out to Ibiza two days before I was booked in to have the abortion (equally horrible word).
The night before they flew out, ‘the famous five’ slept over at Andy’s Mum and Dad’s house. Hazel and Albert, treated it like a slumber party for a milestone birthday Andy was having. And they’d allowed girls to stay over. They had no idea of the bigger issues we were all dealing with. Hazel had bought us alcohol and party snacks to celebrate the ‘leaving party’ and we sat around in the lounge room planning dates when we’d all go over to visit and see how they were getting on. They had no idea of the undercurrent running between us. When they finally went to bed, we all kept drinking for a while, then Lisa said ‘I think Andy and Tabby should sleep in the big room tonight and we’ll all crash down here.’
I’m not sure Andy wanted that, I think he’d have preferred the protection of us all being together. That way he didn’t have to face any hard and heavy emotional revelations from me. But to his credit he agreed, and when we went upstairs to bed, we lay down together in the spare room.
It was awkward, and while I wanted him to myself, I didn’t know what to say or how to act. I knew he was there with me out of obligation, not because he wanted to be there.
‘Just promise me one thing,’ I asked. ‘Call me on Tuesday. I’ll be at Lisa’s, so you can call me there.’
‘I’ll do that.’ He sealed his promise with a hug and turned the lights out.
The next morning, Nick dropped Sammie and Lisa back home and Hazel asked me if I’d like to go to Pool Meadow with her to wave the boys off at the coach station. It must have been women’s intuition; she knew that my relationship with her son was something a little more than the other girls. We dropped then off, and waved until the coach was long out of sight.
‘You’ll still come and visit, won’t you?’ She said ‘Just because their away, we can still catch up.’
That was a red flag to a bull. ‘Of course,’ I said. How else was I going to keep up with what Andy was up to?
Two days later, Shelley came around and drove me in NOB to the clinic. It was an old country hospital. The type you see in ‘Call the Midwife’ or old English period dramas. It looked more like an old girls boarding house than a hospital. It was in Leamington Spa, a posh village tucked away behind ancient conifers, a secret house, hiding women’s (or more to the point) young girls secrets.
It smelt like mildew and bleach and the matron that sat at the front desk looked down her nose at Shelley and I, wondering which one of us had been so foolish as to get ourselves in this position.
In the waiting room, there were at least thirty of us. Half of us feeling the shame of why we were there, the others feeling the shame of having to be there with us. It was easy to tell one from the other. Most girls were with their Mum’s. I was the only one with a red-headed busty friend.
When my name was called (god, I wished I used an alias) Shelley gripped my hand and squeezed it. It was all the words, we couldn’t say.
‘I’ll be here, when you come out.’ She smiled softly.
‘Thank you.’ I said and was taken off with other girls through a door to deal with my fate.
I was brave, and just complied with instructions. ‘Get into this gown, then lay on this bed, until we come to get you.’
All I thought about was the call I’d get from Andy the following night. When the anesthetist put me to sleep, I was thinking about it too.
I woke up to a nurse checking a blood-stained pad between my legs, and told to get dressed and wait in the recovery room. I was faint and woozy, but did as instructed and ate the dry crusted sandwiches they offered us.
When I walked back into the waiting room, I’d entered in, Shelley was waiting for me.
‘Are you okay?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘I just want to go home.’
I didn’t know I’d bleed. That I’d have to spend days with a thick pad in my underwear. That I’d feel sick and sore and want to sleep for weeks.
Shelley took me back to the flat on Old Allesley Road and made me cups of tea and talked to me until I fell into a deep sleep.
I felt better the next day. I’d slept for 14 hours straight. I told Shelley I’d be fine from here and I thanked her profusely for her kindness. She went back to her Nick and her life, and while our friendship did mend, it was never the way it was before.
The next night, I pulled myself together, took the Paracetamol they’d given me at the hospital to numb the cramps and drove to Lisa’s house to wait for the phone call from Andy. A phone call he never made. A promise he never kept.