“I can never get married to a soldier.”

“What? I thought men liked a woman in uniform?”

“Yaaa! But not for a wife.”

“Really? You are such a chauvinist.”

“Hey, am a realist. I call it like I see it.”

 

Richmond Virginia, June 2010

 

          The door creaked open and Melody stepped into the dark living room.

          “Its midnight child, where have you been?” Her mum’s voice came from a dark corner in the room. Melody flipped the switch and saw her on the recliner chair.

          “I… I was out with my friends. I’m sorry I was late,” she mumbled.

          “What did I tell you about coming home late?” Her mother raised her voice. “Do you know how many bad things happen to kids your age?”

          “I’m 20 years old mum. I’m not a child any more mum,” Melody replied as she ran upstairs to her room.

          “You are a child as long as you live under my room!” Her mum yelled from the bottom of the stairs. “I want you home at a decent time. End of discussion!”

          “Fine!” Melody yelled back and slammed her bedroom door.

 

          She leaned against the door and collected herself. The party had been so much fun and time had quickly eluded her. She heard her mum switch off the downstairs lights and head to her room. Shortly after, the house fell deathly silent.

          A buzzing noise caught her attention and she pulled out her cell phone. It was a text message from her friend Steve.

          Steve: Did you get home okay?

          Melody: Yes. My mum is tripping though .lol.

          Steve: Sorry to hear that. Do you want me to come over?

          Melody: Yes. But you have to climb up
through the window.

          Steve: Cool. I love you girl.

          Melody: I love you too.

 

He came over at 2a.m and they watched the G.I. Jane movie together: a story about the first female in the navy. The navy in the movie is criticized for not being gender-neutral and behind the curtains a deal is struck. If the women compare favorably with men in a series of test cases, the military will integrate women fully into all branches of the Navy.

Her name is Lieutenant O’Neil and she must survive a brutal training program which involves
20-hour days of tasks designed to wear down recruits’ physical and mental strength, including pushing giant ship fenders up beach dunes, working through obstacle courses, and hauling rafts.

          “It’s my favorite movie,” Melody said as blue TV light hit her face. They were both cuddled under the sheets in her bed staring up at the movie. “Listen to this part,” Melody said as they both sat up. “Listen to what the Master Chief tells
her.”

          She turned up the volume. ‘Pain is your friend, your ally, it will tell you when you are seriously injured, it will keep you awake and angry, and remind you to finish the job and get the hell home.’ Melody knew all the words.

          When the movie was over, the two love birds talked for a long time, his hands around her waist. Right before dawn, he seemed to remember something and suddenly jumped out of bed.

          “Hey, I brought you something.” Steve ran to his bag on the floor and pulled out a bright jar.

          She jumped up with a shout of glee. “Fireflies?”

          “Yes,” he confirmed. “Do you want to do me the honors?”

          “Let’s do it together,” she suggested.

          They walked out onto the balcony and in the darkest part of the night, opened the jar and released the fireflies. The glowing winged beetles floated into the breeze and threw colorful lights in the dancing air.

          “It’s beautiful,” Melody exclaimed.

          “It’s a symbol of our love,” Steve said as he dreamily looked into her eyes. “Our love will light up the world; at home and across oceans; people will write stories about us.”

          “Like Romeo and Juliet?” she teased.

          “Yes,” he replied, “without the dying.”

A few weeks later, Melody freaked out when she realized that she had missed her period. She ran to the store and bought a pregnancy test kit and sure enough she was pregnant. She stayed in her
room all day long stunned.
How had this happened? They had used protection, at least for the most part. It wasn’t supposed to come to this. This was not how she had planned to live her young life. She wanted to go to college and make a career before kids.

Her mum called her downstairs to lunch and she yelled back that she wasn’t hungry. She
lay on her back and gazed at the pink ceiling all day long.

          She did the math. Chemicals emitted by a baby usually stopped menstrual periods after four weeks, so that would make her around five weeks pregnant.

          The sound from the TV finally caught her attention and she turned and saw the geographic channel playing. They were talking about the preying mantis insect. ‘The preying mantis female bites the male’s head off when making love,’ the voice on the TV said. Melody reached for the remote and turned up the volume. Sex in the
preying mantis kingdom came with a price, and the price was death for men. An idea began to stir in Melody’s head and finally, she knew exactly what she had to do.

 

          It was on a Wednesday afternoon when she handed the letter to her mum.

          “I’m joining the military mum,” she said. “I’m going to North Carolina.”

          “What? Why didn’t you talk to me first?” Her mother’s eyes were glued to the letter.

          “It’s something I have always wanted to do mum.”

          They argued for a few hours until her mum resigned herself to the inevitable realization that her daughter would finally be leaving the nest. It was every parent’s worry. “I hope you know what you are doing Melody?”

          “I do mum.”

 

          Melody tensed as she walked over to her boyfriend’s house. Summer in Richmond was always hot and humid. The rivers made the land green and the mountains in the west were a masterpiece of art. Talking to her boyfriend was not going to be easy.

          Steve opened the door and gave her a big kiss.

          “Can we talk?” she asked.

          “Come on in!”

          “No, let’s take a walk.”

          It was dusk in Virginia and the noise from the traffic was dwindling down. “I enlisted in the military Steve. I’m leaving for North Carolina in a few days,” she blurted out.

          His jaw dropped but he said nothing. He was tall and handsome and she had to look up to see his reaction.

          “You should say something Steve because this is real.”

          He pursed his lips in anger and tried to control his emotions. “You did this Melody knowing very well how I feel about the topic. Why would you do something like that?”

          “I’ve always wanted to enlist Steve. Don’t stand there and pretend that you didn’t know. We all have our reasons on the careers we pick.”

          He turned and started walking back to his house. She struggled to keep up.

          “Steve? Can we at least talk about this?” she called but he only walked faster.

          He reached his house on a trot and turned with one hand on the door knob. “You should have talked to me first before making such a big decision. It’s over Melody. I have nothing more to say to you!”

          “Steve?” she called but he slammed the door and left her standing on the doorsteps.

          She had expected this but still, being rejected hurt more than she had imagined. How could love turn so suddenly? Just the other day they had laughed. And now they were yelling. She felt sad. Steve had been a pillar of support in her life when she had fought with her mum, teachers and friends. And in the blink of an eye, he was gone. She walked back home feeling very dejected.

 

Wal-Mart, Chicago August, 2010

 

          ‘Clean up on isle five!’ The overhead intercom thundered.

          “Melody?” The head cashier, an older woman called. “Can you please get that?”

          “I’m on it!” Melody replied as she quickly shut down her cash register. On the way, she grabbed a mop, a bucket and wet floor yellow signs from the janitor’s closet, and then proceeded to isle five. A baby had puked on the floor. Melody
grimaced as she used the slippery floor signs to set up a perimeter.

          Working for retail was hell. First were the annoying customers and then the low pay. Chicago dwarfed other cities and life was very expensive. She would have preferred waiting on
tables if she wasn’t so self conscious of her pregnancy.

          At 7pm that night, she clocked out and
walked over to the bus stop. Darkness had descended and
Chicago at night was no place for a girl like her.

          “Hey Melody, you need a ride!” A voice called.

          She turned and saw her supervisor Ed cruising in a white Chevy towards her.

          “Sure Ed, if you don’t mind.”

          Ed hit the brakes, ran around and opened the door for her. He could see that she was impressed by his gentleman behavior and it did wonders to his ego.

          A few minutes later on Broadway Avenue, Melody thanked him again for the ride.

          “I started this job like you.” Ed pointed at himself. “Used to ride my bike to work all the time. Look at me now, am the department supervisor. If you work hard Melody, you can get there too and I can put in a good word for you.” There were ashes on the floor and the car smelled of marijuana.

          “Thanks Ed, I will do my best.”

          Hard rock played in the old Chevy. Outside, rough looking characters stood by the traffic lights and others leaned against the walls. Crime rate in Chicago was very high and drug sales were rampage amongst the youth.

          They drove through cracked asphalt and by pawn shops and liquor stores to get to her
apartment where Melody offered Ed to come up for a drink.

“Cool,” he replied and followed her.

“The elevator is broke, we have to use the stairs,” she said.

She opened the door to her apartment and hit the lights. Nothing happened. She cursed softly. The electricity had been disconnected again.

          “Stay here,” she told Ed, then walked over to the window and propped the curtains open. Moonlight flooded into the studio apartment to reveal a mattress on the floor and an old brown couch against the wall. A part of her was glad that the dark shadows covered the chipping paint on the walls from Ed’s prying eyes.

          “Welcome to my palace,” she joked as she picked up the clothes and bills lying on the floor. Ed’s eyes darted around with sympathy but he was careful not to say the wrong thing.

She gave him a warm soda from the powerless refrigerator and the couch squeaked as they settled down in the dim room staring up into the Chicago sky. They talked about work and the life in general. It felt good having somebody in her
apartment. It was amazing, the power of conversation and how people took it for granted. It did wonders to her body and brought a small measure of happiness.

Melody set her android phone on the Pandora application and R& B music played softly in the background.

“Yee,” Ed said. “That’s my cut right there!” He was thirty years old. “You have some weed?”

“No. I ran out,” she lied. Nobody knew that she was pregnant and her belly wasn’t showing
yet.

Ed jumped to his feet. “I can get some from the car.”

Melody pulled him down gently. “Let’s just talk Ed. I’m feeling tired today.” Fatigue was one of the symptoms of early pregnancy. She had vomited at work.

“Maybe next time,” Ed said in a disappointed voice as he sat down close to her. “You are so
pretty Melody, sometimes at work I just find myself staring at you.” He moved closer and put an arm around her shoulder.

“You think am pretty?” she asked playfully.

Ed pulled her in and kissed her softly on the lips. She did not understand the part of her that let him. They kissed for a few seconds before Ed’s hand started moving over her body. She grabbed the hand and jerked back.

“What’s wrong Melody?” He asked.

          “It’s too fast,” she said. “And you are my boss remember?” The word boss made him cringe.

          “I’m a nice guy,” he said with a sheepish grin. “I won’t tell if you don’t.”

          “Ya, ya,” she muttered as she straightened her blue blouse. “Let’s stick to some good conversation.”

          But the magic of the evening was gone and Ed beat a hurried retreat towards the door.

          “Goodnight Melody. Don’t forget to use your deadbolts. This is South Chicago and people are not nice.”

          “Goodnight Ed.”

          After he was gone, she ran to the door and locked the deadbolts into place. South Chicago was a place where kids died from crossfire. Robbery, battery, assault, homicide and criminal sexual assault statistics were staggering compared to other cities. She wasn’t going to take any chances.

She took off of her top and blue jeans and threw them on the floor. She lit a candle, stood in front of the mirror and stared at the small bulge of her belly. She had never liked wearing thongs and the pink underwear she wore looked good on her despite her evolving figure. The face that stared back at her was pretty: the hair dark and short. A minute later she stepped into the dark bathroom and took a long shower, trying hard to shut out the loneliness that threatened her sanity. She was out of her comfort zone, in an unfamiliar world.

          An hour later after eating a cold sandwich, she sat on the bed and stared at her boyfriend’s photograph. Steve looked young and handsome. They had been happy and all she had were good memories of their time together. Melody walked into the kitchen and lit the photograph on fire. She watched the flames dance and washed the ashes down the kitchen drain. Back in bed, she sighed and closed her eyes. Steve was history to her; a fading face in the rearview mirror. It was why she had pulled away from Ed: to reposition her thoughts before moving forward. Ed was a nice guy with focused career goals. She would give him a chance. The best way to get over someone was to start something new, a friend had once mentioned.

At 12.01am her cell phone went off. It was her mum.

          “Mum, why are you calling me this late?” She thought that something bad had happened.

          “Happy birthday my princess!” Her mum yelled into the phone.

          “Oh my gosh!” Melody exclaimed.

          “You forgot?”

          “Yes I did.”

          “You are an adult now baby. The world is yours to conquer. The world will hold you
accountable for every move and decision that you make.” The words were deep.

          Melody sat on the couch and sighed. The magic number was 21; a number that she had
always dreamed off: a license to drink and do so many other things in life.

A cockroach landed on her thigh and Melody muted a scream. This was not the way she had
envisioned her 21st birthday. There would be no cake: there would be no booze. The air would not be filled with giddy laughter and loud music.

          “Melody?”

          “Yes mum.”

          “How is North Carolina? How is boot camp coming along?”

          She closed her eyes and clenched a fist. “It’s raining over here mum and they are running us all day outside. It’s tough but a lot of fun.” She had googled the weather and streets in North Carolina to update her lies. She felt like the devil.

          “It had always been your dream child.”

          “What’s that mum?”

          “Freedom. To go out and explore the world. Now’s your chance.” Pause. “By the way, your
boyfriend was here looking for your new phone number.”

          “Steve?”

          “Yes. Says that he said some awful things to you and wants to apologize.”

          “Don’t give him my number mum!” Her voice was instantly angry and her mum agreed. She had closed her Face book account after the pregnancy test. The world didn’t need to know her business.

          They talked some more then called it a night. Melody sat on the bed for a while longer pondering about the direction her life was taking. She hated lying to her mum and didn’t understand why she was doing it. She subconsciously rubbed a hand over her stomach as her eyes slowly closed. The road ahead was turning to be very difficult.

          The dream came a few hours later after she fell asleep.

She was standing in a room and the sign above read ROTC (The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps): a college-based program for training commissioned officers of the United States armed forces.

          “Miss. Melody,” the recruiting officer called and she walked over anxiously. He looked her over and then glanced back at the clipboard. “Says here that your pregnancy test came back positive.”

          Her face instantly fell and the officer felt sorry for her. “Hey,” the soldier said in a cheerful voice. “There’s nothing more beautiful in this world than having a baby.”

          But the tears were already trickling down her face. The officer led her to a couch and sat down facing her. “I tell you what Miss. Melody. I will keep this application open until you get back. Boot camp is not a good fit for a pregnant woman. But come back and see me after you give birth and we will get you in.”

          His words made sense but she was too disappointed to feel better. He called her as she reached the door. “And one more thing Miss. Melody. After you deliver, you have to bring evidence of the baby’s custody. We want to know that the baby is taken care of incase we decide to ship you somewhere.”

          She nodded, wiped her face and walked into the sunlight.

 

          Melody woke up sweating. The dream had been real and jarring. She had forged the recruitment letter she had given to her mum. She still remembered every word the officer had told her and finally she understood. With the baby, she would never be able to pursue her military dream. Who would take care of the child after birth? She would still be stuck with it and that would be the end of her dream career.

She walked into the bathroom again and was amazed at how many times she woke up to urinate.

          The magic number was 21: the license to drink and make tough decisions. She picked up her phone and dialed Ed’s number. “Halo?” a sleepy voice replied.

          “Sorry to bother you Ed, but I need you to take me somewhere tomorrow.

 

          They passed by work, collected her paycheck and then headed on to downtown. Winter was drawing near and Chicago was getting cold. Except for the picket demonstrations outside, the abortion clinic looked like any other normal shopping center. Don’t kill the baby! We will take care of it for you! The folks outside chanted. They ranged from women, old folks, religious groups to pro life organization members.

          “Ignore them,” Ed said as she pushed her through the crowd and into the waiting room.
Melody looked around and noticed how young the other girls were. She signed her name at the reception counter then joined Ed on the couch to await her moment.

The TV mounted on the wall caught her attention and she looked up in time to see the
royal couple, Kate and William stepping out of the hospital in
England. A new King had been born. Meet His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge! The headlines read. Melody thought that the couple looked happy, almost glowing.

Ed reached for the remote and switched the channel. “You probably shouldn’t watch that,” he said wisely. He had been surprised to find out that Melody was pregnant. But then again, she wouldn’t be for too long. And then maybe they could kick it together.

          “One can’t even tell that you are pregnant,” he had said. “Where’s the father?”

 

          Melody’s attention flickered and she reached for a brochure on the coffee table and casually flipped through the pages. Her eyes darted around and she felt her nerves twitch. The name of the doctor on the brochure was Simon and the doctor had started performing abortions long before the 1973 landmark decision in Roe vs.
Wade in which the supreme court gave women more power in making decisions about their pregnancy: as long as that decision protected prenatal life and the woman’s health.

According to the brochure, Dr. Simon had witnessed casualties of women who tried to induce self abortion using knitting needles and drinking bleach fluids. Most women had ended up dead and the few he had managed to save had helped him make his career decision. That since abortion will never cease in this world, he would champion his life to help women so that they never have to endure the humility of dying on an abortion table.

          “Melody?” A voice called and she looked up startled. It was time.

          They told her to change into the hospital gown and lie on the hospital table. They did the ultra sound as the nurse smoothly talked to her.

          “The process will only take a few minutes,” she said. “It’s not a big deal. And then you can go on with your life. You are too young anyway to have babies my dear. Your time will come. Don’t worry about it.” The nurse sounded like an angel.

It was their job to make the patients feel good about their decisions. It also did wonders to the bulk of revenue the hospital received. “You won’t feel a thing,” the nurse consoled.

          Melody almost smiled at this last statement. Every nurse and doctor was trained to
make this statement. They would vacuum her uterus and suck out all the baby tissues. It would definitely be painful even with the administered laughing gas.

          “I want to see it,” Melody suddenly said in a tense voice.

          The nurse ignored her. “Spread your legs please.”

          Melody closed her legs tight. “I want to see it!” She whipped a stun glare at the nurse.

          The nurse sighed in resignation and turned the monitor in her direction. She had seen it all before: the signs, the hesitation, the uncertainty. Melody looked at the screen in disbelief. “That’s inside my stomach?” She exclaimed. She could see it clearly: the forming eyes and the baby taking shape. She knew that the baby organs had
started forming and brain activity was already detectable at this stage of pregnancy. This was no longer just an embryo but a baby!

          Five minutes later, Melody was storming out the front door with Ed hot on his heels.

          “May God bless you my daughter and help you with your decision,” a nun said as Melody brushed past her.

          She jumped into the car and folded her arms over her chest. “Drive!” she said.

          “What happened?”

Ed took a hard left and the car swerved dangerously into the main street and zigzagged
through the traffic. Tears streamed down her face and she turned away from him.
“I couldn’t do it.” Her voice was barely audible.

          They drove in silence for the rest of the way.

 

Graduation day, Boot camp

 

          “Your dad and I are coming for your graduation honey!” her mum sounded excited over
the phone.

          “I won’t be there mum. My friends and I are going to celebrate in Mexico.”

          “What do you mean? How can you do that to us? When am I going to see you?”

          “I will call you when I get back mum.”

          They argued for a long time and she was breathless by the time it was over. Lying to her mum made her feel sick. Just yesterday she had been a nice little girl. And today, with the flip of a dime, she had turned into a monster. She didn’t know who she was any more.

         The following months of pregnancy were the most trying in her life. She took the train to the OB/GYN and jostled folks in the bus back to work. She missed her boyfriend Steve and hated him for making her go through all this by herself. She
gained almost twenty pounds and felt like an elephant. Her belly dropped and she knew that the baby was turning to a downward position, ready for birth. Her back ached and the baby constantly kicked. She craved for chocolate, ate more fruits and boring vegetables.

She had stopped calling Ed from Wal-Mart because at the age of 30, Ed wanted one thing and one thing only: to score with a 21 year old. ‘I hear that pregnant women are very horny,’ Ed had said. Melody had deleted his number after that and their relationship at work had become awkward. She avoided him at all cost. She didn’t need to piggy back on anybody. She could do this alone, and she would.

          The phone constantly rang. It was her mum, worried. Lying to her mum was exhausting
and Melody had resorted to texting.
Will call you back mum. Love you. Melody.

          She was alone in the world and the loneliness hurt more than the physical pain. She
looked into the mirror at her darkening belly. “My name is Lieutenant Melody,” she said aloud and saluted at her image. “Pain is my friend and ally,” she continued. “It tells me when am seriously injured, It keeps me awake and angry, it reminds me to finish the job and get the hell home.”

 

 

          Friday started like any other day at 7a.m. Handbag, check: apartment keys, check; mace pepper spray, check. On the train to work, she felt liquid dripping down her inner thigh and thought that she had pissed on herself.

          “My water just broke!” she yelled as realization trickled in. First hand responders in the carriage quickly moved in to assist: men and women who had been through the same ordeal. The children stared with worry from a distance.

The ambulance was waiting at the station as the train pulled in and Melody was rushed to the nearest hospital where a gurney and a group of alert nurses whisked her through the white hospital corridors. Somewhere along the way, they checked her vital signs: blood pressure and heartbeat of both mother and baby. Her legs were
thrown apart: hands and strange faces dove under her dress to check her cervical dilation. The pain from the contractions covered the humiliation that she felt as hands roughly groped at her most ‘sacred’ part of the body. She thought about Steve and cursed him for putting him in the current position.

          After establishing that there was no threat to her or the baby, the nurses dispersed and she was left in a room with Nurse Susan, a motherly looking nurse in her mid forties.

          “How old are you? You remind me so much of my daughter,” the nurse said as she looked her over with a stethoscope.

          “I just turned 21,” Melody said proudly.

          “You look like you are sixteen. My daughter was eighteen when she gave birth. Right here in the same bed you are lying on.”

          It was Melody’s turn to be shocked. 18? And here she was running away from home
because she didn’t want folks to find out how much of a slut she had been. For goodness sake she was 21! An adult!

          “It was the happiest moment of my life as a mother,” Nurse Susan continued dreamily. “To hold my granddaughter in my hands was a blessing that a lot of mums don’t get to experience.”

          Melody was quiet as she thought about her own mum. Nurse Susan watched her struggle with indecision.

Melody turned away from her and pulled a pillow under her head. “I lied to her so many times Nurse Susan. She will never forgive me.”

          The nurse took her hand and squeezed it. “Nonsense child.” Pause. “Look at me Melody.” Melody slowly turned with tearful eyes and the nurse continued. “It’s your duty as a daughter to lie to your parents. We parents understand that
because we also did the same at your age. Perfect daughters do not exist in this life. But you have to trust me on this one child; some moments in life are too precious to pass by. There’s a time to be alone and a time to be with family.”

          A wave of contractions hit Melody and by the time it was over she was crying. And it was not because of the pain.

          “Can you call her for me Nurse Susan? I wouldn’t know what to say to her.”

          The nurse leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead. “Good call Melody. Everything will be okay.” And then she flew out of the room and headed for the reception.

 

          The baby came before her mother arrived: a cute little boy, eight pounds, twinkling eyes. Melody opened her eyes and saw her mother playing with the baby.

          “She has your father’s eyes,” mum said.

          “I want to see him,” Melody said as she reached out. Her mum placed him and in her arms and Melody looked at the baby in awe. “It’s my baby mum,” she said as she looked up at her mum. “I have a baby!”

          Her mum smiled knowingly. She had been there before and understood the feeling all too well: the miracles of life; to have a life grow inside one’s belly. Melody stared down at the blue eyes in disbelief and she knew that everything that she
had gone through had been worth this moment. This day was the happiest in her life.

 

          Silver lining: Definition simplified… something that offers hope in a gloomy or unhappy
situation.

 

          “Mum, am sorry for lying to you,” Melody said as she tried to sit up.

          “Hush child,” her mum said as she hugged her daughter. “I was so worried about you. I
thought that maybe you had gotten yourself into some kind of trouble. But this…” She raised the baby and kissed his forehead. “This is the most beautiful gift you can ever give me. When the nurse called me, I took the first plane here.”

          Melody felt the weight lift off her shoulders. She reached out and hugged her mother, the baby between them.

          “Mum?”

          “Yes my daughter.”

          “I promise to never lie to you again.” She sniffed.

          “I will hold you to that,” her mum replied with a grin.

          They stayed quiet and gazed into each other’s eyes, each understanding the other
perfectly.

        “Mum?”

“Yes Melody.”

“You know that am still not coming home don’t you?”

          “I do,” she replied as she made faces at the baby.

          Melody looked surprised. “How do you know that?”

          “Because am personally driving you to North Carolina to enlist.” Her mum looked up and
winked at her.

          “Muuum,” she protested mildly. “You don’t trust me?”

          Her mum leaned over and slapped her lovingly on the right cheek. “You are my daughter, and I love you. Let’s just leave it at that for now.”

They both laughed. Her mum had decided to take the high road with regards to her daughter’s escapades. “What’s the plan with the baby? They won’t let you enlist unless you have proof that
the baby is in good hands?” she asked.

          A shadow suddenly appeared in the doorway. “I’ll take him,” a deep voice said. Melody turned and stared in disbelief at his boyfriend Steve.

          “Hi Melody,” Steve greeted as he nervously walked into the room. Melody didn’t reply and a frown quickly creased her face. Disbelief slowly turned into agitation and then anger.

          “What’s he doing here?” she asked her mother.

          “I’m sorry Melody but he insisted on coming so I gave him the address. He is the
baby’s father isn’t he?”

          Melody ignored the question. “I don’t want him here,” she said with a growl.

          “Now Melody,” her mother began in a soft tone.

          “I don’t want him here!” Melody yelled at the top of her voice. “Get him out of here! Now!” All the pain of the past nine months boiled to the surface and to her there was only one person responsible for her downfall. She remembered the cockroach infested apartment, the dark alleys of Chicago, the obscene whistling men, the
morning sickness, the lonely bus trips to prenatal care, and her body began to shake with anger. “Get him out of here!”

Nurse Susan came running, pushed Steve out of the room and then proceeded to tamper with
Melody’s IV. The drugs quickly sipped into her bloodstream and her head dropped onto the pillow like a drunkard. “Ge…et him o..ut of he…re,” she mumbled before her eyes finally closed.

Her mum tucked her in and sat with her for a few hours. Her little girl was all grown now. Where did the time go? She wondered. Just yesterday she had been a little girl and now… she was a mother!

          Melody woke up in the middle of the night and quickly remembered what had happened. The monitor in the room beeped constantly and light from the muted TV spewed into the dark room. She uncovered herself, painfully swung her feet over the bed and headed to the restroom. The face staring back at her in the mirror looked beat and distant. She walked back into the room, opened the front door and looked down the hospital corridors and sure enough there he was
uncomfortably asleep on the wooden bench.

Certain that he was asleep, Melody tip toed over and stared down at his sweaty face. A
Styrofoam cup lay toppled on the floor under the bench. Hospital coffee, Melody concluded. Steve looked young and innocent and she felt a stirring for him. He snored softly and she blamed it on the coffee.

They had met in high school and had gone to prom together. He had been so nervous until their first kiss. And then afterwards, he had taken charge and ruled their relationship: lovemaking in the back of the truck, in the park and even in the
house while her mum thought that she was asleep.

          Steve moaned and Melody sprinted back to her room. She leaned against the door and sighed at her narrow escape.

          The following day, her mum came to get her and the baby. They walked out of her room carrying the baby and met Steve standing awkwardly in the hall.

          “Hi Melody,” he greeted in a fearful voice.

          She ignored him and walked on without glancing at his face. He followed behind at a safe distance until they reached the car. Her mum opened the back door and began strapping the baby in the car seat. Melody walked around to the passenger’s seat but found her way blocked.

          “You can’t ignore me forever Melody. I’m sorry that I put you through all this. I wish you could have told me. I would have been there with you all the way.”

          She tried to walk around him but he blocked every inch of her path. “I love you
Melody,” he continued. “I love you with all my heart. I was wrong to try and control your career decision. Nobody should tell you what you can or can’t do. If you want to be a marine, then that’s exactly what you should be!” His eyes were red with held back tears and for the first time, she raised her head and looked at him. He looked ragged and stressed.

          “You let me down Steve,” she finally said. “This has nothing to do with the baby!”

          “But it does!” Steve protested.

          “No it doesn’t. I know that you are trying to play the role of a good father. Don’t do me any favors Steve. I will take care of the baby myself.”

          He softened his voice at the sound of her hurt. And he finally understood what she had gone through. “I’m sorry Melody. I’m sorry for letting you down at a time when you needed me most. But I have been calling your mum every other day trying to find you. Life was never the same without you. I …” He struggled for the right words. “I never want to feel the way I felt the past few months. The people we love….” The tears finally came and he sniffed. “The people we love, we take them for granted until they are gone and…”

          She reached up, pulled him down and kissed him hard on the mouth. Behind them in
the car, her mum smiled.

          They came up for air a few minutes later and he looked at her in surprise. “There’s
something I have always wanted to tell you Steve,” Melody said as she broke into her first smile.

          His face eased up and dancing lights filled his eyes. “What’s that my love?”

          “You talk too much.”

          “No you did not!” He reached down and tickled her.

          “Stop!” she cried as she ran around the car. He chased after her laughing.

          Somewhere nearby, a baby cried.

News

Off to AFRICA

 

My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.

 

The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen

 

Contact

 

mrobertto@yahoo.com

Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...