Please stop looking at me, Schuyler thought to herself as she scooped gumbo with her spoon. It didn’t take her long to noticed Cohen giving her these admiring looks from across the table, but she didn’t hesitate to give him a cold one back. He played along though, with his playful green eyes and great smile he and Carey had conversations about anything and everything and would send a wink when the host wasn’t paying attention.
“Schuyler what do you do?” Cohen asked breaking into her thoughts. His words threw her mind into a loop and she desperately scraped for answers that may be believable. It had been a few years since anyone asked her about herself.
“Schuyler just moved into town. Remember? I told you that yesterday at my bakery. She’s still getting adjusted, maybe you can show her around” Carey said quickly as if giving Schuyler time to think.
“Yeah, I can show you around,” Cohen said leaning back into his chair. There he was giving her those looks again. Schuyler scooped the last of the rice and seafood goodness into her mouth without a word. She wasn’t going to take him up on his offer of ‘showing her around’, not now, not ever. All she wanted and needed was to figure her life out. Before she can give a cool, annoyed delivery, she felt the nausea in her stomach again; forehead breaking out in a cold sweat and hands becoming clammy. Carey could see the panic on her face and immediately jumped to her aid, pulling her up from her seat and into the kitchen towards the sink.
“What’s wrong?” Cohen followed behind them throwing the napkin down on the table. Carey removed the few remaining dishes quickly from the larger side of the sink just before Schuyler threw up inside of it. She turned on the faucet to rinse it down the drain and damped a clean dish towel to press again Schuyler’s forehead when she finished.
“She’s got some type of stomach virus,” she replied “she’s been doing it all afternoon. Can’t seem to hold anything down.” Her forehead was now creased with worry as she fanned Schuyler and rubbed her back.
“She should probably lay on the couch,” Cohen now standing beside Schuyler and offered his arm. He watched as she took it hesitantly and let him guide her to the living room sofa. When she became comfortable he sat down on the floor beside her.
“Let me see if I have something in my bathroom that could help you with your stomach,” Carey yelled over her shoulder.
Schuyler laid still with the towel on her forehead, eyes closed. “Can this get any worse?” she mumbled.
“You could be pregnant. That could be kind of worse,” Cohen spoke picking at a stranded piece of string, “but then again it is that time of the year that everyone gets sick. You probably just need to rest. Drink lots of fluids and sleep.”
“Yeah, I haven’t been very sick lately, and when I finally get out–” she stopped herself quickly realizing what she was about to inform this stranger about herself.
“Never mind, it’s not important”
“You can talk to me you know?”
“I barely know you to tell you anything, actually.”
“Just thought I’d try.” The room settled back into silence. Carey walked back in the room, empty-handed and shrugged.
“Thought I had something for you, but I guess I don’t. We can go to the store and find something to settle that nauseous feeling in a minute. Maybe grab you some popsicles?”
You could be pregnant
Cohen’s words rang in her ears since the car ride to the store and rang louder as she stood in the family planning aisle alone.
It was a possibility, she knew, but it could be stomach bug as well.
“Please be a stomach bug,” she mumbled grabbing a pregnancy test and walked to where she left Carey.
“Find what you were looking for?”
Schuyler placed the box in the shopping cart, keeping eye contact with Carey. Carey looked at the box briefly and then looked again at Schuyler.
“Well alright then,” and continued looking through the aisle.
Schuyler walked behind her, picking through the shelves trying to not to look at the box.
You could be pregnant
They echoed into walls of her body and brought a new type of fear, greater than being beaten by a man or being someone’s sexual object.
The job of loving another human being when she couldn’t even find love for herself brought hot tears to the surface. It already seemed too heavy to bear and she didn’t even know for sure yet. Carey’s soft fingers wiped away the tears that had already spilled over on Schuyler’s cheeks. She looked up and saw more warmth and love than she had in her whole life.
” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”
“You made that up?” Schuyler asked
“No. God did. It’s something that I have to say to myself when things don’t work out the way that I planned, good or bad. I can’t fathom what you’re feeling right now, but know that nothing in life is too big for us to handle, even when it feels like it is, it’s not. You are here, with me and you are safe. Everything will be fine, whether stomach virus or pregnancy.”
Schuyler did as the still small voice commanded. It had spoken to her on few occasions and she found it reassuring some.
“We should go home now,” Carey linked her arm through Schuyler’s while pushing the cart with the free hand, “we have junk food to eat and a test to take.”
He recognized her from the very moment that she stepped into the church doors to when she entered the grocery store with the baker lady. Panic rushed through his veins all throughout. He had heard through the grapevine down in Nashville that one of his girls broke out a couple of weeks ago but he didn’t think he meant her or that she’d be in the town he resided in.
She seemed distant and sad, not like he usually saw her when he paid to use her, but then again he was drunk most of the time and never remembered much. He appreciated the fact that she never really looked up as she walked throughout the store. He watched as she spoke with the old lady, to her helping pick out certain things and then walk alone down the family planning aisle where she picked up a pregnancy test. After that, he went in the other direction but came across her again at check out. Her eyes seemed puffy then and he figured she had been crying. He couldn’t risk her spotting and recognize him, so he dumped the grape jelly by the snacks and walked out the store before she started unloading the shopping cart onto the belt.
Hopping into his rusty truck, he pulled out his cell phone and scrolled through the contacts until he found the number he was looking for. The call connected and he waited for the person to pick up, but no answer. Planning in his mind to try again later, Scott fiddled with the peeling leather on his seat while he figured out his next move. He couldn’t very much turn her in without being found out that he was very much apart of why she left in the first place, but he could bring her back to where she belonged.
As he started the ignition, he spotted her exiting the store, bags in hand, and the lady not too far behind. He hair swirled in her face from the wind and she gave a slight smile as she tried whipping it away. He watched them load the car up, get in and drive away before he followed suit, going in the opposite direction from them.
On the drive home to his apartment, he knew that waiting for the man to call back would better suit him instead of taking matters into his own hands.
For now, he’d sit, wait and keep an even lower profile until he heard back. Thank goodness the Beater was a patient man.