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On a frigid night in early January, ladders from earlier in the day laid on the sides of the concrete buildings; the town laborers had taken down all of the holiday decorations from around the town; the glimmering hanging lights would stay on for a few minutes, blink a little, recede into the darkness, turn back on, and repeat. On the sides of Warner Street, people stood outside the most populated venues of the night, laughing, talking, and smoking. The smoke from the Parliaments steadily rose through the air, creating a dense cloud for the next pedestrian to walk through and inhale the deadly fumes. Old Christmas music continued to play, and the song of the drunks in the bars could be heard from the sidewalk. Quinn could see all of this in her peripheral vision. At night, she always kept her head down, and she paced in a quick manner along the sidewalk to get to the train station. Quinn enjoyed taking the train; it was a time where she could have some peace to herself and forget about her mother who hangs onto her youth through her and her father who believes he’s still 17 and captain of the basketball team. She felt a little lightheaded, and then a wave of nausea flew over her. She ignored it. It was 12:47 AM and Quinn had to be home by 12:30. Her parents didn’t care though; they had more important things to worry about, like catching the marathon reruns of How I Met Your Mother that ran until four in the morning and staying awake to get the best deals from the nightly infomercials on stuff like wearable towels and Doc Bottom’s Aspray. When Quinn would get home late, her parents would just give her a nod and maybe say “try to get home earlier next time” and push it aside.
The next train that stopped in Beacon arrived shortly after Quinn arrived to the platform, and she was home by 1:24. She unlocked the door and started to quickly sneak up the stairs that were located in the front hallway. Before she went up, she glanced beyond the stairs to the living room where she saw her father in the antique reclining chair that her grandparents had left for them; the lights from the TV gave his skin a bluish-pinkish tint. The screen lights only hit the high points of his face, revealing the prominent hollows in his cheeks. The infomercial for the latest ab exercise machine craze was on, but unfortunately for him, he wasn’t awake to see it, otherwise one of those machines would be sitting in the living room in approximately seven days.
This was the most peaceful Quinn had seen him in weeks.
When she went upstairs, she looked to the right in the direction of her brother’s room. She could see from under his door that the light was still on; Johnny liked to stay up during all of the hours of the night until five in the morning, then he slept through most of the day. Quinn tried her best to break Johnny of this habit, but he persisted saying that staying up at these hours where no one was awake can set off different hormones in his brain that could make him more superior to those awake in the daylight; she believed he was full of s***. She turned left and made her way to her bedroom. Being careful to go unnoticed, she passed her parents’ room; the door was half open, allowing for Quinn to see the faint outline of her mother’s body in the total darkness. She was curled up into a ball under all of the sheets on the side of the bed as far right as she could go. Her mother had been going to sleep earlier and earlier with every passing day. This has been going on for the past few years. She liked to sleep in the bedroom while Quinn’s father stayed downstairs.
Quinn opened the door to her room that she shared with her sister expecting to see her. She wasn’t totally surprised to see the empty messy bed. Margot had a history of being unpredictable at times. The time was starting to approach two AM, and Quinn knew that she shouldn’t be expecting to see Margot until at least five AM when she was awoken by Margot’s intoxicated stumbling around the room, struggling to make it to her bed. Sure enough, when Quinn woke up, she found Margot face up in her bed; her heavily applied smoked-out shadow was smeared under her eyes, extending to her temples, with globs of mascara mixed into the mess. Her hair was half up and half down; the parts that were up scrunched into the roots of her hair, displaying an effect that made Margot look like someone dragged her with a car (which someone very well could have- Quinn wouldn’t be surprised). It was half past nine, and Margot had to be up in fifteen minutes to attend her 10:00 psych class at her community college that she was almost failing out of. Quinn shook Margot screaming, “Wake up! What are you doing? You have class in 30 minutes!” Margot jolted awake.
“What? Huh? What are you saying?”
“Wake up, Marg. You have to clean yourself up and make yourself look presentable. At least just put on some sweats and brush your hair. Oh! And remember to take off all that s*** on your face and brush your teeth.”
“Shut up… you’re not my mom. Go back to bed or something I don’t care.”
“I will drag you by your hair out of this bed… get up.”
At this point, Margot started to get up; Quinn knew saying that would do the trick… she has dragged Margot by her hair before in a very similar scenario. In about ten minutes, Margot was cleaned up and and leisured out the door without a care in the world. Quinn had been concerned about Margot’s well being for a while. She was almost always inebriated with some substance, whether it’s alcohol, pot, or worse. Margot had no more motivation for success; she constantly skipped classes at the community college she had been attending since she had been kicked out of Saint Rose University for failing all of her classes. Quinn has attempted to bring Margot’s madness to the attention of her mother, but she did not want to hear it. Quinn’s mother had always known that Margot had a substance abuse problem and had tried to talk to her about it, but Margot had refused to receive any treatment. It almost seemed as if she were a lost cause at this point, but Quinn continued to try and turn her life around.
“Quinn! Come down here!” her mother screeched.
“Morning to you, too”, Quinn replied.
“What’s your plan for today? Whatcha doing?”
“Just going out with a few friends… nothing special… I’m not sure when I’ll be home.”
“Ok. Don’t do anything stupid.”
“Goodbye, mom,”Quinn said with one foot already out the door. She started to make her way to her best friend, Faith’s house. Quinn walked up the cracked cement stairs and profusely knocked on the door. Faith presented herself ready to go with her car keys on hand and the two of them hopped into Faith’s parents’ car that she was borrowing for the day. “Where are we going?” Faith asked.
“I don’t care- anywhere we can get breakfast.”
The two drove to Dunkin Donuts, got their food, and went back to eat in the car parked in the lot. There was no one in there that either of them really wanted to see.
“Start making your way towards Fishkill.”
“What? Why? Why would we go there? What’s there that we can’t do around here?”
“Let’s just go. We don’t have anything else to do.”
“Ugh, fine. Just give me money for gas.”
The pair started to make their way to the town over. When they arrived, the little town seemed vacant. There was nothing to do and no one to see.
“Pull up here. I just need to run in and grab something really quick.” Quinn said.
“Want me to park? I’ll come in with you.”
“No it’s fine. I’ll be two minutes.”
Quinn got out of the car and hustled into the pharmacy. She put her hood on and her head down as she paced to the feminine products aisle. What are you doing? No one is here to see you. Just do it. Take it, pay for it, use it, and you will know. It almost seemed as if Quinn had been standing there for hours, standing in front of the item that would determine her future. She looked to the right and back to the left to make sure no one was watching her. Her hands, quivering with fear, grabbed the box and she went to the checkout. When she left, she ran back to Faith’s car and shoved the bag underneath the seat. She took an extra look out the window to reassure herself that no one she knew was around. “What did you need to get?”
“Just some stuff for that time of the month, you know.”
“Quinn, what did you get?”
“I just told you.” Quinn could tell that Faith knew she was lying.
“Show me what’s in the bag.”
Faith reached over from the driver’s seat and went to grab the bag from underneath Quinn. Quinn dove down to steal the bag right back from Faith. The two tugged on the plastic bag from both ends until the bag split open. The bag’s containments fell into the cup holders where Faith snatched it before Quinn could get it. Faith looked at the box and read the label. Quinn saw her eyes widen and her skin turn pale. An anvil dropped in Quinn’s stomach; she had to explain herself. Faith demanded, “What are you doing with pregnancy tests? When did you even-”
“A bit over a month ago. I wasn’t in my right mind, but I also was. It only happened once… My god, I’m such a mess. I’m late Faith… I’m late and I don’t know what to do.” Tears swelled in Quinn’s eyes and then trickled down her full pink cheeks. “This shouldn’t be happening to me. I never do anything like this.” The slow rolling of tears soon turned into a fierce rainfall. She embraced Faith, and the pair sat in the car, hugging, crying, and wondering what path would be ahead. Time seemed to stop as if that rusty old car would frozen in front of that tiny, little, beat-up pharmacy forever.
“You don’t know for sure though. Maybe you’re not pregnant.”
“Faith, I don’t know. I just don’t know. Oh my God I just don’t know.”
“Go back inside, ask for the bathroom, go and take all of the tests in that box and bring them back here in this bag.” Quinn went back inside and followed Faith’s instructions. She found the bathroom and went inside. She closed the door and looked in the mirror to see her splotchy, teary complexion looking back at her. Her eyebags seemed more noticeable than before. As she stood, she remembered back to that night- the night where everything happened.
It was about two weeks before everyone got out of school for holiday break. Quinn was in New York City for the weekend staying with Margot and her friend, Paige, in her two-bedroom shared apartment on the lower east side. On that Saturday night, the three of them met up with a few more of Margot’s friends and went to a club. Walking through the streets that night gave Quinn a burst of adrenaline; this is one of the only times where she felt like she didn’t have to babysit her older sister since there were a bunch of people there to look out for her. Quinn was free. The neon signs that sat in the windows of the store fronts electrified the streets with adventure and mystery of where the night would take her. When they got to the club, a whole new world was discovered for Quinn. There was nothing like this back where she lived. She was vibrating from the base exploding through the floor and up through her feet. The whole scene was glorious, yet it was still very overwhelming. Quinn thought to herself that this would not be a regular thing she would do; she would not go down her sister’s path; she would not go down her mother’s path. She entered the room and let her body sway, turn, and levitate off of the ground. “Quinn!” Margot called, “Get over here!” Quinn went in the direction that she heard the faintness of her sister’s scream and found them at the bar. “Take it, Quinn,” Margot handed Quinn a miniature glass; it was one of the most disgusting scents Quinn had ever smelled. Pinching her nose and on the count of three, Quinn knocked her head back and let the liquid trickle down her throat. She felt a shake through her body and then let out one last gag before gathering herself. “See, that wasn’t that bad… was it?”
“I’d rather not do that again.”
“Ok, then just drink this and if you want another, come back here and put in on our tab.”
Quinn took the drink and proceeded to make her way back to the dance floor. She periodically sipped and started to dance with a bunch of strangers. As she was moving backwards, she bumped into one of the most handsome boys she had ever seen: he had messy dark hair that perfectly swooped in front of his eyes, which gleamed with the surrounding lights reflecting off of them. He was about a head taller than her, and when their eyes met, the corners of his mouth turned all the way up to the ceiling. The two continued to dance for a time after that and then made their way back to the bar. They sat down and introduced themselves to each other. They continued to talk; the music seemed to grow louder and louder to the point where not a word could be heard.
“Do you want to go somewhere more quiet?”
She nodded, her mouth widened and her dimples deepened into her face. Quinn found one of the people that she had come with and told them that she was leaving before going of with the young man she had just met. They left the venue and started to walk to Paige’s apartment. When they got there, the moon lit up the room. The young man turned to Quinn, took her close to him, and softly kissed her. The two made their way to Quinn’s room and did not leave until dawn. Orange light beams struck through the wide glass windows; after a long night completely with the company of each other, the young man woke and nudged Quinn awake. He picked up an old label from a can of soup from the ground and a nearby pen and wrote down his number. His firm hand slipped the label to Quinn, who took it, held it for a few seconds close to her heart, then put it on the side table and flopped back into the young man’s arms. They lay for a few minutes when the young man pulled himself off the cot and began to dress himself; he had to go so that he could make it to his eight o’clock shift at the local art gallery. The young man looked into Quinn’s deep hazel eyes and gently placed his lips on hers. “When can I see you again?” Quinn begged.
“Sometime soon. Keep coming back to New York and find me.”
He let out a smirk and then walked to the door, creaking it open to make sure no one else could hear it. With the final thud of the door closing, Quinn looked into the void where this unreal reality once stood and wondered when she would again see him. Margot barged into Quinn’s room and screamed, “Quinn! Come on! Pack your s***!”
“What’s going on, Margot? Our train isn’t for another four hours.”
“Someone’s looking for me and it’s not anyone I wanna see. Come on! And clean up this s***. Paige trashes this place enough I don’t want your scum all over the place too.”
Is she serious? Quinn could not believe her ears when she heard that Margot actually had some sense of hygiene, even if it wasn’t for her own good. Before Quinn could notice her, Margot snatched trash from the side table and chucked it into a bin, including the soup label. She glanced over to the side table; her stomach plunged when she saw the label wasn’t there anymore. Quinn ran to the trash and rummaged through all of the empty water bottles and dried up takeout food. She searched and searched and finally had to give up when Margot came in spirling with all of Quinn’s stuff packed and ready to go. They left the apartment, leaving behind any ties to the young man.
Back in the bathroom of the rusty little pharmacy, the timer went off and the tests were ready. Her eyes were paralyzed; she tried to look at the tests, but her eyes wouldn’t allow her. Finally, her head looked down to see two lines on each and every one of those tests. Quinn couldn’t stand to look at them any longer and tossed them into the plastic bag and sprinted back to Faith’s car.
Quinn, with a pale face and bloodshot eyes, handed the bag over. “Positive”.
The rest of the car ride home was silent. No music. No communication. Silence. They arrived back in Beacon where Faith dropped Quinn off back home.
“Are you going to tell your family?”
“Not before I tell the father.”
“Well who’s the-”
Quinn slammed the car door and ran into her house with the plastic bag clutched in her hand. She hopped up the stairs and smashed the door so hard into the framing it seemed like the door would shatter into a million pieces as if it were made of glass. On the far wall in her room, she opened the window to let the cool air in and she crouched where the walls met. Looking out into the rest of the room, she saw nothing there; it was all just blank space; there was nothing. Nothing. There was simply no emotion to describe the chaos piled up in Quinn’s head. A pile on Margot’s bed shot up into the air as Margot emerged from under the sheets, “What the hell do you think you’re doing why’dya slam the door?”
“Margot, don’t talk to me.”
“The hell’s your problem… shut up.”
Quinn could smell the whisky on Margot’s breath from across the room. Normally, she would ridicule her for being so irresponsible for coming home from class early, let alone coming in drunk. Now, she felt as if she had no reason to try to help others when she couldn’t help herself. How do I find him? What do I tell him? Quinn ran down the stairs and into the “office” to use the desktop to research all of the art galleries in New York City. She couldn’t remember the name of the one he worked at, but finding the art gallery was the only way she could think of to reconcile with him. When she entered her search, an overwhelming amount of results shot up through the screen; a sense of hopelessness struck Quinn’s heart as she slid back into the old wooden chair. Although there was a slim chance of actually accomplishing this task, she looked up the train schedule to find a route to Grand Central the next upcoming Saturday and planned out her journey to find him. Once she had everything planned out she ran back up to her room to call Faith and update her about the plan. When she opened the door, she found Margot, hunched over the bag with two tests in her hand.
“Margot… put it back… please.”
“Were’ya going to tell me? Were’ya gonna tell anyone?” Even though her speech was slurred, Quinn had never heard Margot talk in such a serious and concerned tone.
“Just, please, don’t say anything yet. I’m going to tell the father this weekend. He should know before I end it.”
“What money do you have to end it?”
“I’ll figure it out. I promise.”
“And what if ya don’t figure it out? Are ya gonna turn out like mom? You know, I ruined her perfect little teenage life.”
Turning into her mom was the last thing Quinn wanted. Her mother gave birth to Margot at age 16 while her father was 17. A year later they had Quinn and two years after that, Johnny. By age 19, her mother was a mother of three. Her mom never went to college, but her dad managed to take a few classes here and there. He found work on different construction jobs and other little jobs he would pick up along the way. Years ago, her mother worked a steady job at the front desk at a physician’s office, but she was let go. Nothing ever seemed to work out for her mother. After the physician’s office, her mother fell into a more depressive state than usual; she still went out to find work, but whenever she was home, she interacted with her kids on a minimal level. Throughout Quinn’s life, she had never seen either of them truly happy. They only married because of Margot, but were they ever in love? And if they were, how short after did they fall out of it. Her parents’ lives are the prime example of what Quinn did not want for herself. She would fix this without them.
The week passed by. It was Friday and tomorrow, Quinn would go to the city to break the news, if she found him anyway. It was around three in the afternoon and Faith was dropping Quinn off home. “We’ll go to the train station at eight tomorrow, okay?” Faith said.
“Thanks for coming with me.” Tears swelled in Quinn’s eyes. She decided that after she told the young man of the news that she would try to terminate the pregnancy in New York. “I’ll see you tomorrow”, Quinn muttered. When she opened the screen door and walked into her house, she heard a crash on the ground through the thin walls. She followed the sound upstairs to investigate when she found her mom, sitting on her bed, and all of the pregnancy tests scattered on the floor. Her mom’s tired eyes were completely fixed on the test in hand; the shadows illuminated the bags under her eyes. Her face was scrunched up and highlighted her incoming wrinkles. With her lips quivering as she spoke, her mother airily said, “I thought you were better than I was… You’re just so smart; you have so much ahead of you in your life.”
“Mom, please please please it was a mista-”
“How could you do this?” she croaked.
Quinn paused for a second. Time did not exist between the two of them in this moment. Once time was restored, Quinn sprinted to her handbag and snatched all of the information she printed out on her dresser. She grabbed a duffle bag from her closet and piled clothes in until it was overflowing. “Where are you going? What are you doing?” her mother questioned anxiously. Quinn ignored her and continued to grab her things. “Answer me, young lady!”
“Why do you suddenly care? You didn’t care what I did for the past seventeen years of my life. Why now? Was getting pregnant the only thing big enough to grab your attention? Was getting straight A’s not important enough for you to notice me? Was caring for the wellbeing of your two other children not enough for you to step out of your depressing life and maybe just pat me on the back? Did it have to be something so huge for you to suddenly decide to start being my parent? I won’t let this lead me down the wrong path like the one you went down. I will never be like you and I will never want to be. Hang your responsibilities as a parent on someone else that’s not me, or even better: take them yourself! Whether you like it or not, I’ll be gone for a few days to figure my s*** out without you.”
Without allowing her mother to respond, Quinn left the house and started to make her way to the train station. The train would carry her off somewhere where she wouldn’t have to deal with her mother’s unsupportive and hypocritical attitude. Quinn felt amazing when she stood up to her mother, but she also wished that it didn’t have to come to the point where she had to leave her home. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Quinn had always known that she had wanted to leave home at some point, and maybe this could be her chance where she was finally able to focus on herself and find who she was meant to be. She didn’t have a set plan; she would go to New York without Faith that day and figure out where to stay while on the train. It was uncertain if she would ever find the young man she spent the night with again. Quinn had been grown up her whole life, but now she would take care of herself instead of others.