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"Hey," Angie announced as she waltzed into the laboratory.
"Shhh...." Connor, her husband, said as he squeezed two drops of liquid into a test tube. "Perfect." He kissed Angie on the cheek. "What's up?"
"Nothing, I just wanted to see you. That's still okay, right?" she joked.
Connor laughed. "Of course it is! Mealtime's soon though, don't you want to get ready?"
"Okay, I guess," Angie agreed. "By the way, do you have any chocolate? I've been craving it all day."
"Oh, no, I don't think so. But come on, it's almost dinner. I'm sure it's something delicious."
"Yeah, you're right. I'll go wash up. See you later."
As the door slammed behind her, a thought crept into the back of Connor's head. We're healthy, he thought. She hasn't wanted chocolate in months. Why now? He shook his head. It's nothing, he decided, it has to be. He paused. Right?
At dinner, Angie was up and talking to Bethany, a female scientist with stick straight blonde hair. Connor walked in, looking agitated and nervous.
"Hey sweetie," he said in a sugar sweet voice.
"Um, hi," Angie answered, unsure. "Is something wrong?"
"No, no, nothing," he said. "I just need to talk to you. Bethany, would you excuse us?"
"Of course," Bethany mumbled, and walked away.
Connor took Angie's hand and walked her to the corner of the room.
"So, you want chocolate," Connor said quietly.
"Yeah. Did you get me some?"
"No. Listen, I need to ask you- you know the drink? The one I gave you when we got married? The one that makes you never age?"
Angie twirled a string of hair around her finger. "Sure, yeah,"
"You drank it, right? ALL of it?"
"Of course. What are you saying?"
"Just that you've been craving food, and been really tired, and you, well I just think, you’ve always wanted a baby and everything..."
"Excuse me? Listen, I am not discussing this with you. We both know I took the drink and so I can never get pregnant. As you all too often remind me."
"Honey, I'm sorry. It's not my choice."
"Yes, it was! It was your choice to live in a bubble in Antarctica! To drag me along with you! Maybe your friends helped, but you were a part of it! I was only twenty-four when we eloped and rushed into this! I had no idea what I was getting into. What’d you think, I’d be so dumb I wouldn’t notice? Listen, this LIFE wasn't my choice. I wanted to age. Heck, I wanted to DIE. Someday, I mean. I wanted to go through the circle of life. I wanted to have kids and see them go through the circle of life. But that all changed when you and your stupid scientist friends found the secret to immortality. And now I've lost my religion, my actual friends, and I have to live forever with you losers. Excuse me, I think I'll go to my room now and lay down. I don't feel like being with you. Good night."
"Angie-" he called. But she was already gone.
Angie picked up her stuffed bear. Why me? she thought. Why did Connor choose me? Currently, she lived in a bubble. Literally. The scientists had created a bubble for the ten of them to live in in Antarctica. All she had wanted her whole life was a family. A life. To be a stay at home mom. To hold her son or daughter in her arms. To name them a beautiful name. To take too many pictures on the first day of kindergarten. To watch them make their own choices. To let them go. She thought about the love she had felt for Connor when she married him, her secret plan, her anxiety about it now. She had thrown up the drink so she could someday get pregnant. Then once the baby came, then she could stunt her growth. She sighed and looked down at the pregnancy test she had stolen from the artifacts part of the science lab. Unused. She couldn't be alone in this utopia, the only person who cared about something other than themselves and science. She walked in the bathroom and used the test. She needed this baby. She needed a life, a family. She looked at her watch. 3 minutes were up. She looked at the test and smiled. For once in the entire time she had been living in the bubble, she didn't feel so alone.
"Angie? Angie?" Connor waved his hand in front of her tired face. Right after she had taken the test, she hid it in the bathroom and went to bed.
"What?" Angie groaned.
"I found THIS in our bathroom," he exclaimed, holding up the pregnancy test. "Care to explain?"
"Not now let me sleep," Angie groaned again, covering her head with a pillow.
"We have to take you to Ben immediately to get this taken care of. How did this happen?"
"I threw up the drink. I can't believe you never found out. Now leave me alone."
"Come on, we are taking you to Ben. NOW."
"Ughhhhh......" Angie slowly got up, her mind in a million places. She was going to have a baby, that’s all that mattered. No one could change that.
Connor looked at her. She was starting to show a little bit, though if you didn't know you could say she was just fat.
"Move, move, move!!" he shouted.
Angie quickly changed and got her purse.
"But he won't do anything to the baby, right?"
Connor didn't say anything as he walked her out the door.
"Yep, just as I thought," Ben said as he finished his tests. "She's pregnant and there is little to no trace of the drink in her system."
"So can you fix her?" Connor asked.
"Fix me?!" Angie shrieked.
"Oh yes," Ben said with a smile. "It's really quite simple. She just has to take the drink. Her age will be stunted as it is, and her pregnancy will end."
"You mean you'll kill my baby," Angie said.
"Well, let's not think of it that way." Ben said.
"How would you like to think of it?" Angie asked with a raised eyebrow and a hand on her hip.
"Let's just say we're maintaining the norm. We have a utopia here. We'd like to keep it that way."
"So you're saying my baby's some kind of problem we need to get rid of. Some kind of other world mistake that can't be made. And by killing it, we are 'fixing' this mistake. Well, I won't stand for someone else 'fixing' something that's not broken. 'Fixing' something that I've wanted my whole life. I won't stand for you, you, or your stupid society any longer."
And with that she stormed out of the office and ran. Out of the bubble into the dangerously cold Antarctic snow.
“Angie? ANGIE!!” Connor screamed as he chased after her. “Get back inside!”
“NO! Not till you tell me I’m not a mistake! That this baby isn’t a mistake and won’t be ‘fixed’!”
“Angie, just listen to me! You’ll freeze out here! Then you and your baby will die!”
“It’s your baby too you know!” Angie screamed as she continued running through the deep snow.
“Don’t remind me,” Connor muttered. “Fine,” he said a little louder. “Save OUR baby and go inside. It snowy and icy and cold out here and I care too much about you to see you go like this.”
“Will you save my baby?” Angie asked.
“Sure,” Connor said, exasperated.
The clouds started to lift and the sky started to look a little bluer.
“Come on,” Connor said. “Take my hand.”
Angie stomped back to her room while Connor went to talk with Ben. While looking for her toe warmers, because her toes had turned blue, she stumbled upon a photo box. She reached inside and pulled out a picture. It was a picture from her childhood, of her and her then best friend Hannah, when they were eight or nine, at some county fair sitting in the bumper cars. They were grinning ear to ear and somehow hugging while staying in the bumper cars. That had been a fun day. They got to share a cotton candy and it rained as they were leaving. Their parents had raced for the cars but they ran in the parking lot, dancing and laughing.
There’s no rain in Antarctica. There’s certainly no rain in the stupid bubble she lived in. Sometimes, late at night, she tried to hear the rain tapping on the windowsill. But it never came.
Angie started to cry. She hadn’t talked to Hannah in over five years. She probably had a house and a yard and a dog and a picket fence. She wondered if she had twin girls named Betty and Veronica like they had always talked about when they were 8.
“That should be me!”Angie cried. “I should be the one with the backyard and dog and picket fence!”
Connor walked in. “Are you okay?” he asked.
“No,” Angie said slowly, shaking her head. “I’m not okay. I don’t want to live this life anymore.” Angie got up and started packing a small bag with extra clothes, her diary, and other small objects. She slipped in the photo of her and Hannah at the fair.
“Angie,” Connor asked slowly. “What are you doing?”
“I’m leaving,” she said, confident with a hint of sadness in her voice. “I can’t live in a place that I don’t belong. In a place where no one loves me.”
“Honey, I love you. You know that.”
“No, you don’t,” Angie said, hoisting her bag onto her shoulder. “I don’t know why you married me, but if you don’t love me enough to respect what I want, you don’t love me enough to keep me.”
Connor slapped her across the face. Angie stared back at him, unfazed. This wasn’t the first time Connor’s anger had interfered with his actions.
“I’m leaving,” she said. “I’m done with you, I’m done with this colony, if that’s even what this stupid thing is. I don’t even care anymore. I’m leaving.” She slid her heavy jacket off the hanger and started walking out the door. Connor grabbed her arm.
“Please Angie, don’t do this. You’ll regret it. I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry too Connor. I really am. I’m sorry I married you. I’m sorry I came to live here. I’m especially sorry I’m carrying your baby. But none of that can be reversed. So now I have to do what I need to do. I’m sorry.”
And with that she walked out of the room and into the cold Antarctic night.
Angie boarded the plane from Antarctica to SFO. It had been so long since she’d been on a plane that she’d forgotten how it worked. She turned to the woman boarding next to her, a little old woman maybe in her eighties.
“Excuse me?” Angie tapped her on the shoulder. “Can you help me?”
The woman looked at her. Angie’s stomach was bulging out of her shirt and she had tears running down her face. She was pale and shivering from the cold.
“Of course dearie!” the woman exclaimed. “Here let’s see.....” she looked down at Angie’s ticket. “24A. You’re right next to me! Oh I feel like this will be a good flight!”
They got on the plane and took their seats.
“So what happened sweetie? You have little baggage, I’m guessing you’re pregnant, and you don’t look good.”
“Oh, it’s just-” Angie paused. This woman, this stranger, didn’t have to know about the psycho colony she used to live in. She couldn’t. “I’m going home today. I came here on vacation.” She paused again. “My husband lives in San Francisco. We live in a nice house with a picket fence. We have a dog.” Angie started to cry. But for some reason, it didn’t feel weird crying around this stranger. She felt safe.
“Well I came here on a cruise and the ship left without me. I don’t know why I thought I could do a trip like that. I’m too old. You know I used to go on adventures. One year I traveled all over Africa and South America. But that was a different time.”
They sat in silence for a while, both content in their worlds that couldn’t be. The plane landed in SFO and they got off.
“Bye!!” Angie waved to the woman as they exited the airport. The woman waved as she stepped into her taxi.
Angie took a deep breath and smiled the biggest smile.
“It’s nice to be home,” she said.
Angie wandered the streets for hours, happy to just be in fresh air, to be somewhere she could actually shop, to know she was near her family.
She fished in her purse for her phone, the one she’d kept hidden from Connor when they moved to Antarctica. She dialed her parents’ number, and waited for it to ring.
“Hello?” a low voice perfectly recognizable as her father’s said on the other end of the line. There was a long pause while Angie tried to think of something to say. She had gotten married and completely disappeared from their lives two years ago. Never a phone call, never a letter. But she was their only child! They had to at least-”Angie?” her father said quietly. “Where are you?”
“I’m-I’m near SFO,” she said nervously.
15 minutes later, a silver volvo drove up with her parents in it. Her dad stepped out, arms wide open.
“Welcome home, baby,” he said as she ran crying into his arms. “Welcome home.”