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Joanne

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Waiting rooms are torture. Well, I guess it’s different depending on why one is waiting, but, for my purpose, they’re torture. The room is your standard fake-comfort design, similar to the ‘how are you?’ everyone asks but no one ever wants the true answer. It was obvious the goal was for its occupants to achieve calm, as if that was even possible.
My eyes wander around the poorly lit room. There are many worried faces, or maybe it’s a warped sense of relief. A couple is sitting to my right. They look somewhat normal. What issues could have surfaced in their lives to cause such a result? I turn my attention to the young woman. She seemed to be around my own age. Her shaking hands drape over her barely showing stomach. Maybe to stifle the reality of something actually living there. My eyes hold for a little too long, the man with her is looking at me now. I am somewhat caught off guard, but I smile that polite smile which says ‘I really don’t care about you enough to say anything, but I am gonna smile anyway.’ He seems satisfied with that and then returns to just simply waiting. It must be nice, having someone with you at a time like this. I notice I am the only one in this torture room without the luxury of company. No one to hold my hand, no one to comfort me, no one to help me feel the least bit safe. I don’t see that as my fault, though. I had someone to support me, hold me up when the possibility of falling was so near, or, at least, I thought I did. All the time I spent with him, ugh, it hurts to think about it. Obviously, that time meant nothing to him. My heart was invested in everything we shared, but I guess that wasn’t enough. Once he even told me those three words that every girl dreams of hearing. How can that sort of emotion just disappear? Everything was fine, great, actually – well, until three weeks ago. He decided I was old news, like a little child realizing his favorite stuffed animal was not his favorite anymore. He told me that he had to leave and move on. Later I found out he moved on to another woman, even someone I knew, but that part was the least painful. The tearing of my heart seems as though it will never cease, growing increasingly worse with time, becoming a darker and darker place to dwell.
That was the night I was going to tell him the news. I was shocked, but pleased with the fact of becoming a caregiver to someone who depended entirely on me, but, now, it is more of a weight I cannot seem to be able to hold any longer.
I hear my name spoken by a middle-aged woman. She looks worn, probably brought down by all of the troubles she removes. My name spilled out of her lips as though she was at the point in which she detaches herself from the tragic reality that surrounds her daily. I feel somewhat sorry for her. I wonder if she is still able to feel the same herself.
She asks me to change into a gown. Grateful for the distraction of having something to do, I take the garment from her hands. I then find myself in a bathroom, staring at myself in the mirror. I examine the strange new features that mark my failures oh so well. I suppose I seem no different to everyone else, but no. This face is foreign to me.
As I change, the new shape of my stomach catches my eye. My thoughts finally embark on the journey I have been trying to prevent. I imagined the thing inside of me, having his eyes, his face. I wanted it out of me. It was just in the way. There was no being truly alone, anymore. The only feeling I had for it was hatred. It symbolized all I had tried to forget. This sickening feeling will go away soon. My life will all return to normal, it will be as though this nightmare never happened.
The same lady is back again, her worries even more pronounced. How could one person hold so much? She leads me into a room with a bed. She tells me to get comfortable and the doctor would be in soon. She leaves and I can only sit. I try to control my thoughts and keep them away from what is about to take place, but it becomes almost impossible. Slowly, tears build and some travel down my cheek. Why? Why is this happening to me?
I glance toward the door, seeing a young girl about six or seven. Her hair was in crooked pigtails and she held a little doll in her hand. Embarrassed to be seen like this, I turn my head and wipe my eyes. I stand.
“Hi. My name is Christy. What’s yours?” Her voice was sweet and pleasant.
“Uh, Grace.” I really was not up to this. Couldn’t she see I desperately wanted to be alone?
“Oh, you’re gonna have a baby?”

I just stare down at her not knowing what to say. What was this little girl doing? She has no idea. This is no place for a child. Pulling my thoughts together, I manage to whisper a small ‘yes’.

I close my eyes while she rattles on about insignificant nothings concerning something or other, it doesn’t matter. Nothing really matters, now. This was not the time for visitors, I needed to be alone, but do I really want to be alone? I need to think. Why won’t she leave?

My eyes jerk open when I feel a tiny hand on my stomach, right about where an even tinier head rested.

“Her name is Joanna. I really like that name. My mommy said that name means ‘a gift from God.’ Did you know that was her name?”

“Wh-what did you say? How did you – I mean, what?” I did not understand. Was this some joke? Where are this girl’s parents?

She said nothing. Her gaze met mine, a smile dancing among her lips. Brilliant blue eyes were all I saw. They were so strong and intense I had to look away. The room seemed brighter.

“Here you go. I have to leave now, good luck with Joanne. She has a great mommy.” She handed the doll to me and twirled out of the door. I looked at the doll. Its eyes were the same intense blue and it had the same crooked pigtails. The only difference was the large white wings coming from the doll’s back.

My hand found its way to my stomach. There was a strange feeling and then I felt a distinct but gentle push from the inside.

“Joanne.” I said out loud to myself. “I like it.” I grab my things and change from the gown. I walk out, passing the middle-aged woman in the hallway. I give her my first genuine smile in a very long time. She smiles in return, which appear to lift her up a little. I travel back through that waiting room, which looks less like a torture chamber. Now it just seems sad. I exit through the same door I entered, feeling the sunshine on my face.





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