The gynocologist smiled warmly as Schuyler settled herself down on the table. She pulled up her shirt showing off her stomach and watched as she put cold gel on it.
“Is this your first child?” the doctor asked, grabbing a device and taking her spot at the chair besides the examining table.
“Oh please, just call me Charlotte.” She smiled at her before fidgeting with the screen. Schuyler smiled back before glancing at the door.
“Did you want the father to come in and see the baby?”
Schuyler gave her a bewildered look and forgot that Charlotte had spotted Cohen walking into the office as she was walking out with another patient.
“Oh, he’s just a friend. Not the father.” she responded bitting her bottom lip.
“Oh, of course. Well, he is welcome in here if you’d like me to go get him for you. You know, support?” Charlotte’s hazel eyes met with Schuyler and they exchanged a silent conversation before Schuyler nodded approval to go retrieve Cohen. A few seconds later, he was standing by her side when the baby appeared on the screen.
Charlotte spoke, but Schuyler wasn’t paying a bit of attention while her eyes were glued to the screen. Her heart swelled ten times bigger than she expected and a weird experince of love overtook her.
Soon enough Charlotte left Schuyler to get situated as she retrieved ultra sound pictures. Cohen handed her napkins to wipe the goo off her stomach.
“So, that was pretty cool,” Cohen spoke breaking the silence. Schuyler lifted her head and noticed how impressed he seemed to be.
“Yeah,” she said voice catching in her throat. She tried clearing it, but the feeling came back, this time followed with hot heavy tears. Trying to not let her face show, she turned her back to Cohen and wiped her eyes quickly.
“Here you go!” Charlotte entered in a sing songy voice holding the picture in her hand. Schuyler tried paying attention as she gave her some last minute details and instructions while she escorted them out of the office and at the desk to schedule her next appointment.
The sun shined beautifully as they walked out the building, Cohen quickly walked over to his car and opended the door for her. With a raised brow, she sat in the passenger’s seat and waited for him to get in.
Schuyler looked out the window as they drove through the historic downtown area, passing Carey’s bakery and the little shops surrounding it. She began to dream of raising the child growing inside her, in this small town with seemingly sweet people that could one day be her friends. She glanced over at Cohen and for the first time felt grateful for his presence. He chose to be there with her, even with the known tension between them, and didn’t even argue about it.
Cohen stopped to let some kids cross the street from the town park, a red pick up paused beside them as well. When Schuyler looked over into the truck, a familiar face looked back at her, quickening the beats of her heart.
The Beater stared back at her and she felt his hands on her again though there was too much distance between them. He tilted his head forward and looked above dark sunglasses, revealing those piercing eyes. Before Schuyler could make a move or sound, Cohen moved forward, making his way back to Carey’s home. Mouth agape, she looked ahead with thoughts racing in her head. They reached the driveway of the house, but Schuyler didn’t dare make a move to get out. She felt her mouth getting dry and palms becoming sweaty with fear at the very thought of her last moments with the man in the truck.
“You good?” Cohen asked breaking the silence as he parked his car. He pulled off his seat belt and made a move to get out but Schuyler stopped him, “I can let myself out, thank you. And no, I’m not fine. But can you stay with me until Carey gets home.” A puzzled look appeared across his face but he nodded before opening his door.
As they entered the house, Schuyler made her way into the half bathroom, let the toilet lid down and sat, head in her hands. Those familiar eyes came to her mind and she began to cry. It was the first time in a while that she really let herself release all the pain and hurt and confusion she had been bottling up inside. She tried to cover her mouth to silence the sobs so that Cohen couldn’t hear her but they seemed to continue getting louder. She could feel tears and snot running down her face but she didn’t even care. Feeling herself become hot from the sobbing, she stood up and took a step towards the sink to splash cold water on her face before taking her seet on the toilet again. Her heavy sobs slowed down, chest hurting and an occasional hiccup escaped her lips. She knew at some point she had to get out of the bathroom but being alone felt better than having to face Cohen wherever he was in the house.
A door slammed and Schuyler wondered if he had decided to leave her in the house alone after all. She grabbed some tissues and pulled herself together as best as she could. Her chocolate skin was red and blotchy but she could care less. Wiping the last of her tears she gave herself one last look in the mirror before walking out and into the living room where Carey and Cohen sat whispering quietly. They hushed when they noticed her presence and gave her concerned looks.
Schuyler sheepishly smiled at them, “Hey Carey,”
“Oh sugar!” Carey said raising from the couch to embrace her. In her shoulders Schuyler released her tears and stayed there for what seemed like forever. When she had finally calmed down, she wiped her face with a paper towel that Cohen retrieved for her. She thanked him before sitting between them on the couch.
“I need to tell you guys something,” Schuyler said between heavy sobs. Fidling with her tissue, she told her story leaving Cohen and Carey sitting in stunned silence until she was finished. “So now,” she said “I can’t keep this kid. I have nothing to offer it and even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to. I’ve never had to take care of kids before and I’m too afraid to try. And I’d be putting it in danger living out here if he’s here.”
Cohen cleared his throat, “Maybe we can go to the police, give him a discription of the man that has been coming to you all these years and find him.” At his very words, Schuyler noticed his fists clinching.
“The guy who owned me, if he gets word of where I am, he’d come after me to cover himself. I’ve seen what he does to women that go against him…” Her voice trailed off as she she remmebered the time that she watched his friend carry a bleeding girl out after not bring him the type of business he wanted and she shuttered.
“First of all, sweet pea,” Carey interjected, “no one owns you. You aren’t a piece of meat for sale or something you can easily pick up off a shelf. You are a human being and should be treated with respect and love. So we won’t speak of such ownership. You are hear, with us and you belong here. You are free. And as for this child of yours, I can help you raise them. You stay long enough, there may be some other ladies at church that would love to help. We can be your family and your friends. And you can stay here as long as you want. Don’t stress about feelin’ like you have to leave or not be a burden to me. You aren’t causing me any set backs. And even if you were, you still belong here.” That motherly look appeared on her face and Schuyler could’nt help but smile at her as she pushed back her curly hair and nodded.
You belong here
The voice echoed in her very being as Schuyler let the words sink in.
“I belong here,” she declared in a whispered tone.