It seemed to her that the bigger her womb got, the more trapped she felt, and the less people wanted to listen. The sympathy she’d received early on had vanished-just like most of her friends, her plans for the future, and any sense of having a place in the world.
The older guard strolled closer, right hand on the walkie-talkie clipped to his thick black belt. His starched shirt looked amazingly crisp, despite the heat. “You folks all right here?” he asked. “Need any help?”
“We’re fine,” Mr. Thompson said quickly.
“Come on.” Kaitlyn took a determined step. “Let’s get this over with.”
Flanked by her parents, and with the guard following, Kaitlyn entered the air-conditioned foyer of the building. Just inside, above the door to the main lobby, a white vinyl banner hung below a crucifix. “Welcome to Federal Adoption Center #393” it read in glossy, valentine red letters. And beneath, in smaller, italicized red letters, “Where each life is precious.” Goose bumps covered her skin. She began to shake.
“Good morning!” a young guard called as he opened the inner door for them with a wide toothy grin.
“I can’t do this,” Kaitlyn murmured.
“Come on pumpkin,” her dad whispered, gently steering her forward. “Be brave for me now.”
Hearing the nickname her dad hadn’t used in years brought tears to Kaitlyn’s eyes. She tripped, despite her dad’s support, as she crossed the threshold.
“Are you all right, honey,” a plump woman called, rushing from behind the front desk.
“I’m fine,” Kaitlyn lied.
“It’ll be all right dear.” The woman took Kaitlyn’s hand and pressed it against her ample chest, patting it softly.
“I’m Miriam, I’ll help you start the adoption process today. Now, honey,” she smiled, “what’s your name?”
Kaitlyn answered and watched the woman’s cheeks flush and then go pale. “Oh now, you’re not…” Miriam’s voice lost a decibel of joy with each word. One chubby hand went to her throat as she stared at Kaitlyn. “You poor thing,” she said softly. Then, squaring her shoulders, she announced with conviction, “Well, at least something good will come out of all that horrible business.” She paused and smiled. “You’re going to make some lucky couple very happy.” Miriam prattled on as they took seats across from her at the desk. Kaitlyn didn’t hear a word. She was staring at the wall of photographs behind Miriam’s desk. Soft focused, professional portraits of smiling parents holding smiling babies and toddlers. Happy children placed in happy homes. Until that moment she hadn’t let herself think about what would happen once the kid was born. Vivid images of herself screaming a horned devil baby into the world played through her mind. Her heart raced. Her ears buzzed. The fetus kicked. She felt nauseous. Devil incarnate or not, this kid was going to grow up somewhere. Be part of some unsuspecting family. What if it turned out like its father? What if it came after her when it grew up? What kind of person was going to enter the world through her?
“…you like that dear?”
“What?” The buzzing in Kaitlyn’s ears started to fade.
Miriam pursed her lips. “I said, would,”
“Are you going to tell the people that get it who the father is?” Kaitlyn stood, too agitated to sit. She shifted her weight from foot to foot, like a race horse at the starting gate. She wanted to run, and keep on running until this thing inside her was forced out. Her parents caught her arms. “Calm down,” they pled.
“No, why should I?” Kaitlyn cried. “Whoever gets it should know, shouldn’t they? I mean the guy is a rapist and who knows what else and this,” she jabbed her belly, “is partly that too.”
“That’s enough young lady,” Miriam scowled.