Chapter Fifteen: Abortion
There was tension at dinner tonight. Mum and Dad weren’t talking much. You know it’s bad when they fire, asking for things, at each other like missiles. ‘Would you pass the pepper, please? If it’s not too much trouble?’
‘Of course it’s not too much trouble. Here you are.’
‘Thank you very much.’
I mean, who talks polite like that? It’s normally, ‘Chuck us the pepper, please, love,’ they only talk politely to each other when they’re half way through a barney. I know they are only half way through, because if they were finished, they wouldn’t be speaking at all and Dad would have done without his pepper to make a point. Mum calls it, cutting off your nose to spite your face. I call it, eating unseasoned food because you’re a plonker.
After dinner they couldn’t wait to get rid of me. They didn’t exactly send me to my room, but it was made clear that they didn’t want me there. Dad said that I couldn’t use the downstairs computer because he needed to use it and I’d have to do my homework in my room. He wasn’t telling the truth because five minutes later I heard them shouting at each other. How is it that it’s okay for parents to tell lies?
I crept out of my bedroom and sat on the stairs. I could hear everything because they forgot not to shout at each other.
‘Annie, all I’m saying is at least let’s think about it. I’m not saying go out and do it tomorrow. We need to avail ourselves of all the facts, that’s all. We have so much to discuss while we still—,’ he tailed off.
‘While we still can? Go on, say it. It’s what you meant. Let’s have this insane conversation before I’m too loopy to wipe my own backside. There’s nothing to discuss, Steve, end of conversation. I can’t believe you. How can you even think such a thing, never mind actually suggest it. You just don’t want this baby, do you? You never did.’
‘Now you’re just putting words into my mouth. Of course I want the baby. Well at least I did—,’ Mum gasped and started yelling over Dad, but he just carried on shouting her down. ‘—but I want you more. Annie, this medication is important. You heard what the doctor said; the condition is going to be greatly accelerated if you don’t take it. Greatly accelerated, Annie. I don’t want to even think about what that means.’
‘Well that’s a chance that I’m going to have to take. It’s only for a few months and then I’ll pop as many pills as you want me to. But until then, it’s not an option, so I’m just going to have to manage without them. The doctor said there are all kinds of harmless minerals and vitamins that can help.’ She sounded determined, like when she says, no, and really means it.
‘Vitamins, Annie you have got dementia, how is vitamin (F-bomb) C going to help? You need the proper medication and if that means making—certain sacrifices, then that’s how it’s got to be. Annie, I’m begging you, please, see sense.’
‘Certain sacrifices?’ I wish they wouldn’t keep repeating each other. I’m still trying to work out what they’re arguing about. ‘You said you wanted to talk about it, what was the buzz phrase, oh yes, “Explore all of our avenues and options,” sounds to me like you’ve already made up your mind. I want this baby.’
‘I don’t. Not if it means making you ill.’
‘I’m already ill, Steve. That’s not the baby’s fault. You’re on about killing a baby. This is your child. How can you even contemplate it?’
‘Honey, come away from the emotions for a second, it’s not a baby, not yet. How far on are you, three weeks, a month? It’s not a baby, Annie; it’s just a bunch of cells. A termination now would be the best thing for everybody. Have you even considered how you’re going to look after it, when things get worse? Honey, you can’t even feed the cats.’
‘Stephen Bell, how could you, that’s a low shot. I love the cats. Is this how it’s going to be from now on? Every time my illness makes me forget something, are you going to store it up to use against me?’
‘No, of course not. I know you love the cats, but already you are forgetting to feed them. How can you possibly look after a baby? You aren’t going to get better, Annie, from here on in, things are only going to get worse.’
‘I can get carers. The doctor said so. I’m not having an abortion, Steve, and that’s final.’
Tears were streaming down my face. I had to put my fist in my mouth and bite down on it to stop from screaming out. There was so much going round and round in my head. My dad wants Mum to have an abortion. It’s because of this dementia thing, that she’s got. My body’s jerking with the sobs now. I don’t know what hurts more, the thought of Mum having an abortion and killing my baby brother or sister, or the new news that Mum’s not going to bet better. It doesn’t matter if she’s a bit mental, we can cope. She can’t kill the baby. She can’t.
I run down the stairs and burst through the door. They both stop shouting and stare at me. I run straight up to Dad and start punching him in the stomach. I’ve never hated my dad before and it hurts so much. I’m sobbing and screaming at him, ‘You can’t kill the baby.’
‘Now look what you’ve done,’ Mum says, grabbing me and trying to pull me off dad. Dad has his arms wrapped around me. He’s not trying to stop me from hitting him at all. He’s just cuddling me and telling me, ‘shush,’ and saying that it’ll be all right. How can it be all right when he wants to kill my sister? ‘What about me?’ I’m screaming at him, ‘Don’t I get a say in all this. You’re killing my little brother or sister. It’s not just about you and Mum, you know.’
We sat down at the dining table. I hate that table, everything bad happens there. They take turns in telling me about stuff. Dad says that the termination, he doesn’t call it an abortion, is only one option. They are only discussing it. He explains to me as though I’m an idiot that Mum needs some special tablets and that she can’t have them while she’s pregnant because they will harm the baby. I’m not three, he’s not telling me about Jack and his special beans that turn into a beanstalk. I tell him not to talk to me as though I’m a baby. Suddenly he straightens up. ‘Okay,’ he says,’ I think you’re right. You are old enough to be told what’s going on.
‘Steve,’ says Mum in her warning voice.
‘It’s okay Annie. She needs to know. Katie, honey, your Mum’s very sick and she’s not going to get better.’
I’m crying all over again. ‘Is she going to die?’
‘No love. No, she’s not going to die, but she is going to get worse. This is just the start, Katie, Mum’s going to get very forgetful and she’s going to need a lot of looking after.’
I smile a big brave, watery smile. ‘That’s okay then. As long as she’s not going to die. It’s not as though she’s got cancer, is it? We’ll help her, Dad. We’ll write lists and stuff to help her to remember things.’
Dad and Mum are holding hands now. They give each other that look, the one that says they know better about everything, than me. Dad gives me a hug and says, ‘I know you will, chicken.’
I can make a list template on the computer. I’ll give it a flower border, Mum likes flowers and later on I can make different ones. We’ll have one with cats on and one with pictures of little cute babies. It’ll be all right. Mum goes for her scan tomorrow, once they see the baby, they'll feel differently about it. Dad will be sorry then for wanting to kill her.