This short story was designed to take a Bible story and set it in modern times.
Preface: New Legislation
The battle raged, and we lost; lost not our own lives, but the right to value the life of our conscience in protecting those lives too feeble to defend themselves. As nurses, we could no longer refuse to do what we knew was wrong. If we valued our livelihoods, we would comply. This new law, this change to the freedoms I had enjoyed until now, set me on a high fence so I could clearly see each alternative that lay below me. Though it pains me I to admit, I fell on the soft grass of compromise. I sacrificed my conscience, to the demands of our new healthcare plan. I stifled my beliefs, routinely doing what I was told.
Part I: “It’s a boy.”
“Hi Mariam,” My coworker called to me as I left the break room.
“Oh, hey Brooke, how are you today?” I called back.
“I’m ok, thanks. Who’s bag? That is super cute!” Brooke pointed her finger at a broad-based woven handbag that almost looked like more of a tote.
“Oh, it’s mine actually.” I laughed at Brooke’s incessant questions.
“No! Where’d you get it?”
“Ah, I think I got it from this one store called The International Bazar, its actually made out of reeds.”
“That is so neat. I want one.”
Laughing again, I said, “I’ve got to go Brooke, see you ‘round.”
I pushed my shoulder against the door, forcing it open and brushing an insistent strand of my dark hair from my eyes. I was 25 years old, and had just finished schooling for an occupation I had loved. If someone foretold my future five years ago, I probably would have laughed. But the morning of November 6, 2012 made my miserable life possible. As unrealistic as it sounds, I had always dreamed of saving a life; but now, only a few short months later, and the nursing career I dreamed of using for that purpose required me to kill the lives of the unborn. What could I do? I had studied for years, earned debts on my education, had housing bills to pay, and had a car in need of a repair shop. I worked on. Yet, all the joy vanished.
Today, like any other day, I could not wait to leave. My shift was almost over; I had just one more procedure. As I walked into the room, I saw her. She slowly lay down on the table. Her eyes closed, a pool of water forming in their corners. She could not stop her flooding eyes. The tears formed streams as they slid down her cheeks. Unwillingly, she removed the protective embrace around her expanded middle. She clenched her fists.
I had witnessed women perform similar routines, and attempted to once again dismiss my protesting conscience.
“Good morning,” I paused, searching through the papers, “Rachel Levi. The rest of the staff should be here in just a moment.”
“It’s a boy,” Rachel whispered to me. “It’s a little boy.”
Words died on my lips. I turned my back to her, preparing for the doctor’s arrival. Hiccupping, Rachel drew in one of those snotty breaths that happen when you’ve been crying. I couldn’t look at her. As I stared vengefully at the dull brown wall, I realized my hands had been clenched so tightly, my fingernails, short as they were, had left scars in my palms. Before another moment passed, the doctor heaved the door open. Dr. Nyle smiled broadly at Rachel, sending shivers running up and down my spine. We began.
Hardly had we commenced when something changed. Never before, had I seen a woman actually deliver during an abortion, and yet, this woman was doing just that. Vigorous and hardy, as she was, she easily gave birth. The baby, determined to live, entered this world before his murderers could stop him. Unbidden, a smile spanned my face as the newborn boy testified to his life with his first cry. Dr. Nyle handed the baby to me, bent closer, uttering some low words. My smile vanished as a coldness swept over me.
This boy had survived, was living proof of his own life, only to be tossed aside to die. Whether or not people can debate the existence of life at conception, no one could argue that this wailing boy in my arms was not alive.
Stumbling out of the room, I numbly followed the wall until I reached the red door Dr. Nyle had indicated to me. Inside the empty room, I placed the baby on the stainless steel countertop. Resting my palms on either side of the little boy’s pink body, I looked down at him. I could not do this; I could not walk out of this room and leave him here. His blue eyes looked up at me and cried, flailing his helpless limbs against the chill in the room. Glancing at my watch, I gauged the time; I had 10 minutes left to my shift. I would not leave him here.
“You’ll have to wait for me for a little bit, okay Mr.?”
I stepped back, surveying the room for something I could use to warm him. After making up a hasty bed for my little charge, I slipped quietly out of the room. I glanced at my watch –eight minutes to go.
Returning to the main branch of the hospital felt like resurfacing from an underwater world. Everything bustled about in scheduled activity. I felt incredibly conspicuous, as if everyone was looking at me and knew my plans to smuggle a newborn to safety. Shaking my head to clear it, I tried to resume a normal expression. I checked my watch –seven minutes to go.
Rachel Levi was now in the recovery nurse’s care. But I headed toward her room and slipped into the door. It was empty, save for the sleeping woman, still waiting to return to consciousness. Stepping over to her bed, I picked up the board with her papers, taking out a pen and slip of paper to jot down a quick note. I slipped the paper into my pocket, replaced the charts, and hastily left before someone would discover me. I rechecked my watch –five minutes to go.
For one split second, my heart lurched. “B-Brooke,” I stammered, “What are you doing here?”
“I’m the recovery nurse for room 201a. What are you doing here?”
“I-I was just making sure I wasn’t the recovery nurse.” I lied.
Brooke gave me the look. My heart lurched again.
“I thought you were assisting Dr. Nyle?” She queried.
“I did,” I paused. “Oh goodness, I am so out of it today; if you assist, you never work in the recovery room. I don’t know what I was thinking, good thing I’m going home now.” I laughed, hopefully it was convincing, but I didn’t wait to see. “See you later Brooke.” I called over my shoulder. I glanced at my watch –two minutes to go.
After clocking out, I grabbed my handbag and returned to the busy world of the hospital. I wasn’t supposed to leave this way. I prayed no one would notice my unusual activity. No one did see me slip into the room I had left the newborn boy. He was only whimpering now, his little arms and legs hardly moving in the cold. Carefully, I slipped him into my handbag, hoping he would hush.
I waited, trying to hush the boy. Soon he quieted, and I left. Each step rang in my ears. My heart pounded within my chest. Could I make it? Every stride brought me closer to safety. Every second cost me sweet time that the baby might break out in fresh tears. As I crossed the hall, moments from the door, I caught a glimpse of Brooke heading toward me. The peculiar look was on her face. She knew I never left work from this door. I turned away, hoping I could miss the encounter. The door was before me, tall and imposing. I could see freedom beyond the glass. I could hear Brooke calling my name. My hand was on the door handle. My foot was outside. Brooke’s voice echoed through my head. The door closed behind me, a barrier. I was safe. The baby was safe. We were free. He was alive. Yet, I could not breathe until I had reached my car and tucked the baby safely in the back seat.
Part II: A Mother
I knew abortion attributed to depression, but until I had actually completed the procedure, I didn’t realize the agony I could suffer. It seems as if tears always threatened to rain on my day. Even on good days I preferred sitting, wrapped in blankets, and clutching a Kleenex box to putting on makeup and leaving the house. I took off work and only went out for food. This all appeared as only the outward struggle. Inwardly, I had lost motivation to live. I felt as though I had died with my baby. I could not forgive myself for authorizing the murder of my little boy. Guilt hung above my head like a dark, threatening storm cloud. All I could do about it was sob.
Finally, necessity forced me to bring out my wet-tissue filled garbage. I paused just before opening the door. I saw a movement from the peephole. A woman, vaguely familiar, was clutching a small bundle to her heart. She bent down, out of sight for a moment before standing, with empty arms. My doorbell sounded, and she turned to leave. Without hesitation, I threw open the door, almost stumbling over the basket at my feet.
The woman was gone. I looked down at my feet, the woven basket, the baby peeking from under a blanket. I picked up the basket and wept. And then I knew.