A door opened, the click of the latch enough to startle the occupant of the room into full wakefulness. Hissing at the light hitting her eyes, the woman –the sole occupant of the room—lifted a hand to shade her eyes, casting an irritated glare at the half pulled blinds not keeping out the lowering rays of a sunset. It didn’t help that the room itself was decorated all in white, making the glare that much more eye-watering; white walls, white furniture, white sheets. Of course that was to be expected since she was in a medical facility.
The soft tapping of little feet on the floor brought the woman’s attention back to the doorway, catching a blur of dark hair and a white dress as she squinted to see her visitor. Bemused, she stared down into blue-green eyes surrounded by a fringe of long dark hair, with rounded cheeks creased in a hesitant smile. “Hello,” the woman said, lips twitching up at the corners. “What are you doing in here?”
As if that was a signal, the little girl beamed up at her, stepping right up to the rails on the bed and grabbing hold. “Visiting!”
“That’s not what I-,” the woman cut herself off, frowning a little. Taking a breath, she tried again. “I mean what are you doing in my room?”
“I wanted to talk to someone, since I can’t go home yet,” the girl replied easily. Then she frowned, looking a little hesitant, and asked, “I can talk to you, right?”
The woman opened her mouth to refuse. Something stopped her, maybe the hope glinting in large blue-green eyes, maybe the way the little girl’s lip trembled a little before she bit her lip just like how the woman herself does whenever she is nervous. Whatever it was, what came out of her mouth was, “Yeah.”
The mega-watt smile was back. The girl also seemed to take this agreement as permission to clamber up onto the bed next to the woman’s body, scooting until she had her legs dangling off the end.
Groaning internally, the woman resisted the urge to rub at her eyes. I don’t know anything about children. Heck, I don’t even like them! That’s the whole reason I’m here in the first place. And now here I am, letting a random little girl stay here just because she’s bored!
Returning her attention to the little intruder, the woman let another sigh escape her as she observed the girl. Let’s just get this over with, she thought. At least she’s cute.
“What did you want to talk about?”
The woman was rewarded with an impish grin, followed by a steady stream of chatter.
Surprisingly, the woman found herself relaxing as they talked. It was about trivial things mostly, but it was nice all the same. Weirdly enough, she felt like the girl was familiar somehow; like a small favorite cousin or a friend’s kid, but closer. She didn’t know why she felt like that, but the woman wrote it off as the drugs still impairing her judgement. Why else would she be so blasé about this interaction?
Eventually though, she thought to ask what the girl was doing in the hospital, and more importantly about supervision.
“My momma’s here,” was the simple reply.
“And why aren’t you with your mother right now?” the woman asked as patiently as she could.
The little girl bowed her head and whispered, “Momma didn’t want me with her.”
Frowning, because that was a red flag if there ever was one, the woman pressed, “In the hospital room?”
The little girl look down, biting her lip again, before she peeked up. “Why are you here?”
Okay. So she doesn’t want to talk about that. Eyebrows raised in a look of I’m-on-to-you-but-letting-it-slide, the woman answered without thinking, “An abortion.”
Tilting her head curiously, the girl made a questioning noise. Her white dress flared up a bit as she started swinging her legs.
“Well… its’s…” Frantically her mind scrambled for an answer, something kid friendly to head off any unwanted questions. “Um… it’s getting rid of… well, an unwanted pregnancy.”
The blue-green eyes went wide, the legs ceasing their movement. For a moment, the only sound in the room was the sound of the heart machine beeping in an increasingly flustered pace. And then:
“You killed your baby on purpose?” It came out in a horrified whisper.
“No!” the woman blurted. “No. It wasn’t killing; it was only a fetus, not a real person. Besides, I’m not ready to be a mother. I have too many responsibilities and bigger problems right now.”
“But,” the girl began sadly, “won’t you be lonely?”
“I can’t feel for something that wasn’t alive,” the woman replied practically.
The girl looked at the floor silently for a long moment, her hair a curtain that hid her expression. It made the woman uneasy, for a moment before she brushed the feeling aside. Blue-green eyes peeked out beneath her bangs as the little girl tilted her head towards the woman and asked in a soft, curious voice, “If you’d had your baby, what would you have named it?”
Taken aback, the woman thought for a while before answering slowly, “Well, for a boy, John I guess. And for a girl, I’ve always liked Anna.”
“Anna…” the girl repeated to herself, carefully mouthing the name a few times. This time the smile the woman received was the brightest yet. “It’s pretty! I like it!”
“Well, I’m glad you like it,” the woman replied dryly. A thought came to mind, and she found herself voicing it. “Do you like your mother?”
Instantly the girl’s face lit up, like the sun bursting out on a cloudy day. “Yup! I love her this much!” She flung her arms out as far as they could go, stretching to add an extra inch. “She’s nice, and pretty, and she loves music!”
“Oh?” the woman encouraged, amused despite herself.
“Yeah,” the girl agreed, nodding enthusiastically. “She’s in a band, and plays the guitar, and she’s the bestest in the world!”
“Really?” The woman couldn’t stop the smile that was creeping across her lips. The girl was just too adorable, even she could admit that. “I play a guitar in a band, too. What’s your mom’s name? Maybe I’ve heard of her.”
But the little girl wasn’t listening anymore. She had turned towards the door, biting her lip with a complicated expression. The woman opened her mouth, words on the tip of her tongue, when the girl turned back.
“I have to go home now,” she said, her little face all earnestness and solemnity.
“Oh,” the woman said lamely, not sure what else to say.
The girl nodded, a faint grin flashing across her face, before hopping off the bed and trotting to the door.
“Hey,” the woman called out, at a loss, not really wanting to see the girl go. It was too abrupt, like a movie paused halfway through; no revelations, no climactic resolutions. The woman couldn’t put the feeling into words, but she knew that the moment that girl walked out that door, some piece of the woman would leave with that small figure, irretrievable.
White sandaled feet stopped, tiny hand hesitating on the doorknob as the girl looked over her shoulder.
Half in a panic, the woman blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “Why’d you pick this room?” And, belatedly, “You never did give me your name.”
A heartbreakingly sad smile was her answer, as the girl turned the knob. The door opened to a blindingly bright light and the girl stepping into it, twirling around to answer. “My name is Anna. I wanted to talk to you, just once.” Her white dress glowed, backlit from the white light. It looked like a halo surrounded the girl, highlighting her features one last time. “I have to go home now, He’s waiting for me.” One last smile, just for the woman in the bed. “Goodbye, Momma.”
Brisk hands shook the woman awake.
Someone was making the most awful sound, a keening sob tearing through the quiet. Numbly, the woman realized it was coming from her, and choked it back down her throat.
A nurse stood over her, professional mask cracked to show a cursory concern. “Are you alright, ma’am?”
“Fine.” And then: “Did they do the abortion?”
“Yes, they finished a little while ago. We just have you resting here until you’re ready to go,” the nurse answered, regaining a professional smile. A glance out the window showed the sun had vanished under the horizon, taking the last of the light with it.
Something in that smile triggered an image of a flash of blue-green eyes, dark hair, and an impossibly bright smile. The woman smoothed a hand across her lower abdomen, a distant part of her mind wondering how she could be so calm, especially with the searing pain beneath her palm. It was flat; empty.
Something fragile shattered inside. Trembling hands reached up to cover her streaming eyes. Repeating the same two sentences over and over like a mantra, voice ragged. “My baby, my Anna. Oh God, what have I done?”
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”