My mind is racing as I exit the squadroom. As if I hadn't had enough to think about before today, the universe has once again saddled my hormonal, pregnant ass with more information than it wants, or needs, to handle.
It's bad enough that I'm pregnant again. Bad enough that it's by a lying, cheating asshole who'll flirt with any woman if she so much as blinks at him. Bad enough that I'm tired, and I'm overworked, and I'm stressed, and just about ready to die. Bad enough that I'm contemplating making a decision that goes against one of my most deeply held convictions. I've always taken for granted a woman's right to choose what she does with her baby; her body, her life, her choice. End of story. But I've always taken one fact equally for granted: the fact that, if faced with the decision, I myself would never ever, not even for the briefest of moments, consider killing my child. My unborn life. My baby. My choice. End of story.
But I am- I'm contemplating the uncontemplatable, the inconceivable. I'm considering doing something that would make me a pariah if I were back in Georgia, something so casually discussed here in New York. Something that I'm not sure I'll be able to live with myself for doing.
I think it's fair to say that I already have enough on my plate. And I don't think I can cope with any of it. I was already at breaking point.
And now this.
I'm not entirely sure what to make of Olivia's revelation- to be frank, I'm not even sure what 'this revelation' is. One of the most infuriating things about my boss is her inscrutability- so valuable when she's interrogating perps, so fucking annoying when she's just being Liv. I'm honestly not sure what she was specifically trying to imply -whether she's had an abortion or knows someone who has, or is just guessing- and I'm not even sure if I care. I don't even know how I feel about her putting her foot in it in the first place.
I stop myself mid- thought. Of course I appreciate Olivia's help. She was delicate and gentle and she didn't judge me, and she didn't push any of her opinions on me. I needed her help, and I showed her I wanted it, and she gave it to me. I can't blame her for anything. I only have myself to blame for any of this- for having sex with someone I knew was a dick just because I needed a shag and I knew he wouldn't turn me down. For not bothering to ask him to use a condom. And for not being able to fucking think straight.
What I need is a drink.
What I really need is a glass or five of cheap whiskey and a cigarette and a game of poker. Or blackjack. Or roulette. Or even fucking go fish. I need to gamble. I need the buzz, the release, the feeling of control that I get when I win. The illusion I get that I can control my own destiny. Or when I lose, the reckless feeling of spending money I don't have. The feeling that even though I've relinquished control, it doesn't matter, because I don't have to care. I don't have to be responsible- at least not while there's liquor in my glass and chips in my hand.
I stop dead in my tracks, right in the middle of the street.
No. I can't do this. Not now. Not after what happened last time Not now I'm finally rid of my demons, now I can finally go days, sometimes weeks, without even thinking of gambling. Not now I have Jesse to think about. And this new one, the one I'm not even sure I have the strength to keep yet. I have too much to lose.
I take a deep breath. I can feel myself shake as I struggle to retain control of my body. I can feel myself falling apart.
I don't want to have a breakdown in the middle of the street. I manage to pull myself together enough to slip into a nearby coffee shop. I head straight for the restroom, and, locking myself in the nearest stall, I begin to cry quietly into my folded arms.
I've needed to do this all day.
This case, this kid, this family, have all really fucked me up. If this is what happens when a messed up parent tries to raise a kid, what the fuck have I done to Jesse? What could I be about to do to this new one, if I choose to keep it? And should I keep it? Wouldn't it be kinder, after all, to kill my child than to drag another life, kicking and screaming, into this cruel world?
I sit with my racing thoughts and my tears and my self pity for far longer than is decent, considering I'm occupying a public restroom in a busy coffee shop. Still, I remain uninterrupted until I'm finished and ready to face the world- I'm red-eyed and puffy faced, but feeling all the better for it. I'm grateful that I've been allowed to have this moment, the catharsis of my own tears, in peace. Along with the release of my mounting stress, the temptation to gamble has all but been suppressed, and it is with renewed willpower that I re emerge into the hustle and bustle that is New York City
I look around me, temporarily disoriented as I leave the coffee shop. I'm not in my neighbourhood, and I don't immediately recognise the buildings around me as I cast around for a familiar landmark. Then I realise. I'm about a block away from Olivia's apartment. I've been walking here without even realising, as if my subconscious knows exactly what I need. I think she may just be right. I need Olivia.
I pull out my phone as I continue to walk. I send a text message to Carisi asking him to relieve Jesse's sitter. I know he won't ask questions. He'll do this favour for me and for Jesse, because he cares for us both in a way that I'll never be able to reciprocate. I feel terrible for exploiting him, and most of all for leaving my daughter without me for longer than is necessary, but I force the guilty thoughts from my mind. I can deal with that later. For now I have myself to focus on, and then and only then will I be of any use to my daughter. Jesse is better off with no mother than one who is so fucked up that she's seriously contemplating murdering her unborn baby. I hesitate, heart in my throat, finger hovering over Olivia's contact on the glowing screen in my palm. I'm now right outside her apartment building, looking up at the imposing construction towering above me. With a deep breath, I begin typing.
~ are you at home? ~
The reply is immediate.
~ Yes. Do you need me for a case? I'll need to call Lucy but I can be there in 20~
I take a deep breath
~ No case, Liv. I'm outside. I need you. Can I come in? Please?~
I wait with bated breath for her reply. I'm aware how stalkerish I sound, and I can only pray to God she doesn't tell me to fuck off. I don't know what I'll do if she does.
I'm wrenched from my thoughts by the sound of the door in front of me opening. A worried looking Olivia steps out of the building and walks the few steps to where I'm standing.
'Amanda? Are you okay?' She asks. I bite my lip and nod.
'I need to talk to you. Please?' I say, avoiding her worried brown eyes. Now that I'm here with her, I'm reminded of how intoxicating she is. Her warmth, her smell, her aura. She is so infuriatingly impossible to be around. Olivia takes one of my hands, and I flinch slightly at the unexpected contact. She always manages to do this. To set every one of my nerves jangling. To make me feel so safe and yet so unsure at the same time.
'Amanda,' she says, softly, as my mind whirls. 'Why don't you come up with me, okay?'
I nod dazedly, and let Olivia guide me into the building. The elevator journey is short but torturous- I can feel Olivia’s worried eyes on me as we ascend, but I fix my gaze decidedly on the floor in front of me as I strain to hold myself together. It wouldn’t do to come apart now, and if I allow myself to meet her honey brown gaze, I might just crumble. It’s a relief when we finally reach Olivia’s floor and get out. She lets us in and guides me towards the sofa. I sink down gratefully into the soft cushions, and Olivia settles herself next to me, a careful distance away.
‘Do you want to tell me what this is about?’ she asks.
‘I’m not really sure’ I mutter, voice dry. Now that I’m here, with her, my mind has gone completely blank. I don’t know why I wanted to come here. I have no idea what I want from her. All I know is that a few minutes in Liv's presence has soothed my rattling nerves. I'm finally able to breathe again. Olivia is still looking at me patiently, waiting for me to gather my thoughts.
'I have no idea what to do.' I whisper finally. 'I need your help, Liv. I don't know what I'm supposed to do.'
Olivia's eyes fall to where my hand is resting absentmindedly on my stomach.
'About your pregnancy?' She asks quietly. I close my eyes and nod, balling my hand up into a fist and pushing it, first gently, then increasingly harder into my rounding belly. It's as if I want to crush the little life inside. 'Careful', Liv says. Gently but firmly, she grasps my hand and guides it away, safely away from my unborn child until she's holding it by my side. She gives it a gentle squeeze, and we lapse into a comfortable silence. I know Liv will wait patiently until I feel ready to open up.
'Do you think it would be kinder?' I ask, suddenly.
'What do you mean?' Liv frowns
'For this baby, I mean. Do you think it would be kinder for me to just... kill it?'
Olivia’s eyes meet mine, sharply. 'No, Amanda. Of course not.’ She pauses, all the while holding my gaze with her intense brown stare. ‘It’s important that you never start thinking like that. You’re a great mom, Amanda, and you already have a beautiful, radiant, happy kid. You have done a brilliant job of raising Jesse, and if you do choose to have this baby, I know that you will do everything in your power to make its life a happy one. Granted, there are things that happen are beyond your control, beyond anyone's control. I can't promise you what will happen to your baby. But what I do know that your baby will be happy. It will have a good life, I’m sure of it.' She smiles and laces headed hand on my shoulder. 'You'll make sure of that.'
'What about Sam?' I ask, referencing our latest case. ‘He was raped by his father for his entire life, and now he’s gonna spend the rest of his life in jail, because he murdered two of his classmates. His life has never been and never will be worth living. And if he’s never been born those two children- those two, little, innocent children, would still be alive, happy, with their families, and the world would be all the better for it.' Olivia looks at me strangely.
‘That’s... quite an extreme example, Amanda. Is that why you don’t want to have the baby? Because you’re worried it will become a murderer?’ Olivia is looking distinctly concerned now. ‘I really don’t think you have to worry about that, honey. Like you say, Sam was raped, constantly, by his father, as a form of punishment for not being man enough- that’s what pushed him over the edge. Not his birth. And I doubt you plan on raping your children, Amanda.'
‘Of course not,’ I say. ‘It’s just- God, I don’t even know how to articulate it- but you're a mother Olivia. Surely you understand sang I mean, the constant fear. I’m just so scared, Olivia. What if I can’t raise this kid well enough? Or what if it gets kidnapped and raped and murdered, or gets an awful disease, or gets depressed and kills itself? Or what if it’s just born evil? Some babies are like that. Jesse seems to have turned out okay, but at least Jesse has good genes on her father’s side. This one will have a hot mess for a mother and the absolute scum of the earth for a father.’
Olivia looks me steadily in the eye. ‘I cannot believe that you of all people, Amanda Rollins, are using this argument to me of all people. You know that my father was a rapist. And that my mother was an abusive drunk, not that I blame her exactly,’ she says, lightly, ‘and I like to think that I turned out okay.' She half smiles, oddly, and although her voice is perfectly calm, I can tell that, under her facade, she's affected by my thoughtless remark.
I feel terrible. I know about Liv's past, about her struggle with her identity, with her violent conception and with discovering what that meant, how it shaped her as a human. I know she's struggled hard, harder than she's ever let on to anyone. And I've just gone and put my foot in that pile of shit.
‘I’m sorry, Liv.’ I say. To my mortification, I start to well up. I seem to be crying at anything recently. ‘I shouldn’t have said that to you. You’re the best person I’ve ever met, and you’re just trying to help me and you’ve let me into my home and I am so sorry.’ Despite my best efforts to keep them at bay, my tears are beginning to flow thick and fast. I lean into Olivia, needing her warmth and her comfort, and she pulls me in close. I bury my face in her chest and let is woman comfort me until I’ve finished crying.
It’s a while before I feel like I can resurface. I pull away from Olivia and sink back into her sofa cushion, wiping my eyes with one hand. ‘Thank you, Olivia.’ I say croakily. 'I'm sorry for crying on you. God, why do I keep doing that? I know what you must think of me, I’m just so -all over the place right now. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.’ I realise I’m babbling, and trail off. ‘I really am sorry for what I said.’ I say, earnestly. ‘I didn’t think.'
‘It’s fine, honey. I wasn’t offended. Just trying to illustrate a point.'
‘You smell really good.’ I say, randomly. Immediately, I regret opening my mouth. I flush with embarrassment and bury my face in my hands. ‘Sorry!’ I blurt, ‘I have no idea why I said that. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, it's like my brain is everywhere at the moment.'
Olivia chuckles. ‘It’s okay, Amanda. I’m flattered’
‘I’m sorry.’ I repeat
‘No need,’ she smiles. ‘Trust me, I am chalking all of this up to pregnancy hormones. And I can imagine you're under a considerable amount of stress.’
Of course. That's why you've been feeling so untethered. You're not crazy. Just pregnant. Hormones and stress. Duh.
A sudden thought registers in my head, and I blurt it out without thinking. Hormones and stress.
‘Is that why you don’t want me to have an abortion? Because your mom could have aborted you?'
Liv sighs. ‘I don’t necessarily not want you to have an abortion, Amanda. I just don’t want you to be unhappy with yourself. I want you to consider everything thoroughly before you make your decision. Whatever you choice you make, I will support you wholeheartedly. I just hope you won’t regret it.'
‘You didn’t answer my question.'
‘I don’t want to say anything that will unduly influence you.' Olivia says vaguely. I snort, annoyed.
‘It’s a bit late for that, Liv. Don’t tell me if you don’t want to tell me, but don’t make half- assed excuses.’ Olivia shifts uncomfortably. A haunted look flickers across her face, and I can tell I’ve affected her. I soften. ‘I’m sorry Liv. You don’t have to tell me.’ I squeeze her arm. ‘It’s okay.' Olivia looks at me. She really looks at me, and then she shakes her head.
‘No. You know what? I want to tell you. I need to tell you. I think it’s time I got this off my chest. Or at least, some of it.’ Olivia looks down, and I shift so I can wrap one arm around her shoulder. She takes a deep breath, and I can feel her composing herself. She closes her eyes. 'I've never told anyone this before. Ever.' She shakes her head nervously, then exhales.' When I was 17, I got pregnant. And I got an abortion. And to this day, I regret having it.’ She breathes. ‘I’ve never told anyone that,’ she laughs shakily. I'm silent. I don't know what to say. Olivia continues.
'You know, the weirdest thing is that if I hadn’t had it, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t be a cop, I wouldn’t ever have met you, or the squad, or Elliot or David or Brian or Tucker or any of the people who mean or have meant so much to me. I mean, I would never have met Noah, and God only knows where he would be now if I hadn’t found him. God knows where I would be now if I hadn’t found him. My son means the world to me, and I would never change him for the world, but I still regret it, every passing day. There’s not a night that goes by that I don’t think of her before I go to sleep. My little girl. My Amanda.’ I look up at her in surprise, and she smiles. ‘That’s what I would have called her. It’s one of the reasons I was such a bitch to you when you first joined.’ I have no idea what to reply to this, so of course I ask the stupidest most irrelevant question possible.
‘You knew the gender?’ I ask. She nods.
‘I was about 20 weeks along when I had it done. I delayed and deliberated for weeks- it wasn't decision I made lightly, even at that age, in that mindset. I specifically asked to know the gender at the scan. To try and make it harder for myself.' Her voice has acquired a distant air to it now, almost as if she's forgotten I'm in the room. She's talking to herself, justifying her own decision to herself. 'But in the end, feeling her growing inside of me, it disgusted me. I just couldn’t handle it, and I didn’t want to make her life a misery, like my mom made mine. That was a big part of it, witnessing firsthand my mom go through the exact same process. I didn’t want to hate my baby for what her father did to me. Like you said. I thought it would be kinder for her if I just... let her go.’ She trails off into a whisper. I'm alarmed now. The way Olivia is talking it sounds almost as if-
‘Liv, were you raped?’ I ask, gently. I'm concerned, hoping against all hope that the reply is a resolute "no".
Olivia shuts her eyes, and when she opens them, they’re sparkling with tears.
‘I was raped’.