Astrid quietly shut the door, and stepped towards my bedside. I was sitting erect, completely mortified by the suspense. She was wearing a long, black pea coat that hung on her tiny body like a towel rack, hands tucked in her pockets. Her eyeliner was particularly heavier than usual - eyes entirely outlined on the top and bottom lids. She looked small, and pretty. Like some sort of child, in her mother's clothing. The bed squeaked as she sat down next to me, facing the opposite direction. Perhaps her statement held the answer...but I could not see her face. Astrid studied the wall abreast her, as she took a moment to fathom the results. My heart was beating my chest like a forceful camper hacking his ax into the thick compasity of a heavy trunk. Hacking, and slicing, while the tree trunk grew weaker, and weaker. I held my hand over my mouth, and my eyes began to moisten. Tears ran down the gentle curves of my cheeks, as I sat in silence. I couldn't take it. I had to know! "Astrid!" I bawled. "Please, just tell me. I can't wait any longer. This is killing me." And it was.
She looked back at me, with her eyes so black among the make-up. "Sie möchten wissen, wenn ich bin wirklich schwanger?" she whispered. I nodded. "I need to know." Astrid folded her arms across her chest, shaking her head. "Ich bin schwanger," she softly said. My eyebrown scrunched in dismay. "What? I...I didn't hear you." She looked up at me. "I'm pregnant."
The hacking stopped. As did my heart. I fell dumb, motionless. And so it had come to pass, the one infedelity of an error had taken a rotten turn. Before the truth had been spoken, it seemed so easy to ridicule Astrid. To set her straight and order her the decent thing to do. Well, perhaps 'decent' wasn't the word. 'Moral' wasn't either. What was? How could the fatality of any living infant have a positive rationalization? Before it was official, condemning was simple and the answers were plain as day. Rid the baby, and try to forget it ever happened. But who was I kidding? No matter how absent-minded to even having abnesia: no one could EVER forget the death of their child. It was a decision that would curse any mother for all of eternity. Lurking in the shadows of your past, it would always be there.
Did I really wish that burden upon my best friend? Was it really worth it? What did I gain from this? Nothing really. But think of the losses for Astrid should she keep the baby. The loss of innocence, the loss of her own youthful years. Maybe even the loss of Klaus! For how could he come to terms with raising a child that wasn't his? Or even WOULD he? I kept on thinking through it all in my mind, while the room hung dead still. What about Stuart? He played just as much a factor as Astrid. Not to put any blame on him for he didn't even know they had indulged of such passion! But he was now, like it or not, a father. It wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair. I didn't want him to be put in this situation, since it had almost nothing to DO with HIM. There was nothing HE could have done to avoid it. He was intoxicated, and vunerable. He was the victim of a helpless crime. And now, HE faced the consequences.
"What do you plan to do?" I finally asked her. Astrid paced the floor, with her hands folded in front of her. "I've thought out what you said and I think your right. Keeping this baby would be selfish. I have no right putting this on Stuart's shoulders, so its best he not know. Or find out. I just want to go through with the operation and get it over with. Its...its not what I want. But its for the best, and its what YOU think I should do."
I squirmed. Was she serious? I couldn't believe me ears! "Astrid, please. You don't have to do this. I wouldn't want you to be forced on a critical decision that you didn't make yourself..."
"Trixi, I am serious. The baby must go. You were right, and I was wrong. If you don't want it, neither do I. Let's just get this over with..."
"No, Astrid, no! How can you talk like that? Its YOUR baby. I don't always know what's best. I don't want to be held responsible for the murder of your child."
"You're not responsible for it, I am. I put myself in this situation and I hold all responsibility for my actions. Your ideas and thoughts have influenced my decision, I'll grant you this. But it is ME, who is making the final choice. And I choose to have an abortion."
Again, tears stung my eyes. "Astrid, now hear me. If you say my thoughts and ideas have played a role on your choice, let me speak once more and hope you are influenced, for the better. I want you to have the baby. I don't know how we'll get by or what we'll tell everybody else. But I know we could manage. This is YOUR baby. If you want to get rid of it for your own personal reasons, I understand. But do it because its what YOU want...not what I want. All I want is for you to be happy. If having a baby makes you happy, then I'm behind you one-hundred percent."
A smile creaped across her face. "Oh Trixi, I love you!" she cried and began to giggle cheerfully. I hugged her as she squealed in delight.
"So your having the baby?" I exclaimed, excitedly.
"No," she said laughing.
"What?!" I looked at her as if she had gone mad.
"I'm not pregnant!"
My jaw dropped. "WHAT?!?"
"You heard me correctly. I'm not pregnant. Trixi, I was just testing you. I wanted to know how you would react and feel about it, if I was pregnant. I wanted to know if you would make me go through with an abortion or leave the decision up to me. And my highest hopes were true; you completely changed your mind about everything. You were compassionate and wonderful. You were a friend, and you were there for me. That's all I needed to know."
My mouth hung open in disbelief. I couldn't help but grin. "Of all the downright mischevious, tall tale things you've ever done!" I laughed. I yanked my pillow from the bed and whacked her with it playfully. After all, how could I be angry? I was much too relieved. Astrid WAN'T pregnant. All the worries, and fears, troubles, and complications were finally gone. We laughed and played until unwittingly, we were interrupted by a less-than-thrilled nurse who discovered Astrid had stayed far beyond the assigned time limit allowed. But we kissed and said our good-byes. Tomorrow would be a new day.
I peered in the little pocket mirror as I checked my make-up. Eyes with lined with kohl black eyeliner, and cleft at the end. Lips were smoothed with a pale neutral shade, puckered and plump. Cheeks, dusted with a soft touch of pink. I had tied a triangular scarf over my hair, and wore a matching white dress. It wasn't the typical attire an "exis" wore, I suppose. Too innocent, too 'sweet'. Something I could picture Gertrude wearing. But it was a special day. After many weeks of rehabilitation, I was now being released from the hospital. And what a relief it was to finally be free. I wanted to look my best, that warm afternoon. Even if my best wasn't my desired style, it was important I looked dashing for Stuart was picking me up at two. I puckered my lips and checked in the mirror. Everything had to be just right.
A black nurse came in, walking poshly as she carried new sheets into the hospital room. "Hello Miz Trixi. You leaving so soon?" she laughed, in her slang dialect. "I'm afraid so," I said sweetly, "though it HAS been longer than you think." The nurse laughed and nodded in agreement. "Its been three wonda'ful weeks workin' for you, honey child. You really be my pleasure. And now, you goin' leave. Well, I miss ya." She set the sheets folded neatly in a stack, then reached over to hug me. Pulling back gently, she smiled at me. "Look at you, Miz Trixi. You look beautiful. What be the occasion?"
"Oh, no occasion. My boyfriend is picking me up. I want to surprise him."
"Then, he'll defin'tly be surprised! You look great." she complimented.
I blushed and glanced down at my hands. "Danke überhaupt so," said I.
"You are ever so welcome," she teased. "What time you be off?"
"Why, two o'clock." I answered, perkily. The nurse looked at her watch.
"Best you be off, baby! It be past two!" she declared.
My eyes widened as I spotted the clock. 2:07. I was late!
"Nurse Lainey, you've been wonderful! But I must dash. Good bye! Perhaps I'll see you again some day. Take care!"
She was all-smiles and she waved farewell. "Bye, baby! You come back now! And don't forget to eat!"
I flashed her a small smile, then hurried through the door. The hospital was active with doctors, nurses, patients, and visitors all wondering through the long, white corridors. I eased between the hoards of people, weaving around them and passing through. My heels clacked against the hard tile, growing louder as I rushed. I could feel the floor moving quickly below me. 'Free at last, free at last!' I thought to myself. I turned a couple corners and raced down a staircase to the bottom floor. As I headed for the exitting doors, a woman cried out to me, "Miss! Miss! Are you a patient?"
I turned around, nearly out of breath. It was the registration clerk, sitting at her head-desk, with files spread out all over the counter top.
"Yes, yes I am." I huffed, tiredly.
"You need to sign out officially before you leave." she instructed.
I trudged over to the giant desktop. "What do I sign?"
"I'll need your name, please." she insisted.
I gave her my full name, and she flipped through some files and pulled out one folder. I was tapping my foot eagerly, and watching the glass doors. Stuart would be there any minute and I just HAD to make my glamorous debut. The woman handed me a small stack of forms and paperwork. "Sign here, here, here, and here." She pointed out, "Then here, here, and...here." I nearly shrieked with impatience but begrudgingly took the papers and scribbled away at each signature box.
"Is this REALLY necessary?" I demanded, as I chicken-scratched my name.
"Yes, ma'am. It only takes a few minutes." she replied.
"Well, I'm kind of late for my ride." I added.
"You're ride can wait. By the way, to what address will we be billing you?"
"Oh! My friend Klaus is taking care of the bill. I'll get you his address."
The clerk eyed my suspiciously but nodded. "Fine, then."
I slapped down my signature more quickly and then thrust her the papers.
"Will that do?"
The woman slowly peaked at each form, carefully. My nails drummed against the counter-top as I grew more and more eager. She frowned. "I'll need your initials here and here, please."
"But you never said that before..." I whined.
"Well I'm saying now! Sign your initials, miss!" she croaked.
Frusterated, I rolled my eyes and mumbled some profanities under my breathe, as I took the sheets again to finish off the initials. The woman's greedy eyes were watching, snooping at the file. "Bullemic?" she read. "Ha! It shows."
My hand released the pen. "Excuse me?"
"What?" she played innocent.
"What did you say to me?" I snapped, bitterly.
"Oh, nothing." She said, nonchallantly.
"It shows? What the f*ck is that suppose to mean?"
The woman's eyes grew wide, not expecting THAT. "I didn't say that," she denied.
"Oh yes, you f*cking did. Don't lie to me!" I growled.
"I didn't say that!" She pressed.
"I f*cking heard you! Own up to it."
"Look, I was just kidding. I didn't mean it like THAT." she claimed.
"You can be fired for saying something like that. Where's your manager? I want to talk to your manager. Where the f*ck is he? Get him NOW!" I screamed.
She slightly jumped, and looked at me in fear.
"Miss, please don't start anything. I didn't mean to off-"
"Get me your f*cking manager NOW!" I shouted.
The woman stared into my eyes for a long-brief moment. Then, she picked up the intercom and summoned a man. "He's probably buisy. He should come here in around 15 minutes." she said.
"What do you mean 15 minutes? I have to leave right now! I don't have time to wait for him." I demanded. Relieved, she just shrugged her shoulders. I slammed the papers on her desk, and dropped the pen. "Then I'll be going now."
I gazed down at my watch. 3:15. Stuart was over an hour late. I couldn't believe it. What could be taking him to long? I sat on the wooden bench outside the hospital, thinking back about the rude administration clerk. 'Do I really look unpleasantly thin? Maybe she was just jealous. Or maybe not.' I pondered to myself. I pressed down on my stomach. I must have gained weight while staying in the hospital. The very thought disgusted me. 'Perhaps I should purge only a few more times...you know, just to get me back to where I left off. After that, I'll definetly put a stop to it.'
Suddenly, a black Mercedes pulled up by the entrance. I lifted off my seat and ran over, throwing open the car door and sliding inside. "You're late, my darling! What took you ever so?"
I turned to face Stuart, only to see Astrid was sitting in the driver's seat, with a tear standing in her eye.
"What's going on? Where is Stuart?" I cried.
She turned to me and touched my hand.