Match Twenty-Nine: Atlas Cedar:
Lydia sat staring at her hands.
“I told him,” she said. Her therapist glanced up at her from her notes.
“That’s good,” she said. Lydia fidgeted as her stomach turned.
“I don’t know what to do with the baby yet,” she admitted in a quiet voice.
“Do you want to keep it?”
Lydia shook her head. She rubbed along her cut down thumbnail.
“You have to make up your mind before it’s too late. If you decide to get an abortion past the right term, you will get turned away.”
“I don’t want that!”
“Shhh. Please keep your voice down.”
Lydia took in a deep breath. “You’re right. I’m so sorry.” She pressed her lips together again.
“He’s going to be supportive of me no matter what I decide to choose,” she added.
“Do you need a pamphlet?” the therapist asked. Lydia lifted her head.
“What?” she asked. The therapist reached into her desk and pulled out a stack of pamphlets.
“I can’t make the decision for you,” she said. “But I can give you information to look at.” Lydia picked them up. They were information about abortion and adoption. She looked up at the therapist.
“Thank you,” she said.
“All you have to is think about what you want to do,” the therapist added. Lydia nodded.
“I am going to do it,” she said. The older woman raised her eyebrow.
“Do what?” she asked.
“Testify,” Lydia said. “I am going to do it.”
“That is good to hear,” the therapist said. “You might save another girl from him.”
“Am I really though?”
“Between you and me, I think so.”
“Why doesn’t it feel like it?” Lydia looked down at her lap. “Can we just sit here and be quiet for a bit?”
The therapist closed her pen. “Sure, dear.”
“Thank you,” the young woman said.
Alfred held Baby Florence in his arms. He couldn’t let his worries from that dream he had last night go away. The American man couldn’t help but notice his friends were acting strange lately. No one was talking to each other like they used to. Everyone seemed to be uneasy. Japan seemed to be doing better least.
His attention came back to earth when he heard the phone rang.
“Hello?” Alfred asked. A female’s voice came through whispering on the other line.
“Hello? I can’t hear what you are saying,” he said. “What? What?” The whispering kept going as if they hadn’t heard him say a word.
“Hello? Hello?” the American man asked. Then the line went dead. Alfred looked at his phone.
“Hm?” he asked. That’s strange. Wrong number? It reminded him of the time he could a strange girl looking to get into his neighbor’s house. She stuck out like a sore thumb. Alfred spotted her when he was walking home one evening. The American man watched her for a moment as she tried to look in through the bay window. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Should he call the cops?
Finally, Alfred got out of the car and walked up to the girl as she tried to open the window.
“Hey!” he shouted. The girl turned and ran off. Alfred wanted to go after her, but he had the baby in the backseat of the car. The American man ended up calling the police. Not much came of this case. She hadn’t really done anything. Alfred didn’t get a good look at the girl’s face. The police promised to look around the neighborhood.
He didn’t know why he thought about her. Could this be connected to the phone call?
Lydia left the therapist’s office. It was a good thing she had her therapy sessions in the morning. There were still people around in the public. Lydia looked around. Usually, she could walk through a crawl just fine. Some days were good. Some days were not so good. What is this morning going to be like?
Lydia lifted her chin and took a breath. Right.
She started walking down the street. The woman could feel the eyes on her. Lydia shoved her hands into her pockets. She called Alfred in the lobby before handing out.
“How was your session?” he asked.
“Fine,” Lydia said. She nodded as she spoke. The young woman gulped.
“I am coming home,” she said.
“Okay,” Alfred said. “See you then.” Lydia hung up and walked outside.
Her eyes shifted back and forth. It’s only this bad when triggered. It would just take a smell. The smell of beer. He smelt like beer that night. Lydia shuddered and shook her head.
Just get home.
She forced herself to keep walking down the street. Lydia made it to the bus stop without incident. The young woman sat down on the bench. She pulled out her phone. Close to ten now. Just a few more minutes. Lydia moved her arms behind her head.
It didn’t take her long to notice that she wasn’t alone.
A shuffling noise drew her attention forward. An old homeless man sat down on the other end of the bench. At first, Lydia tried not to pay any attention to him. But then there was the smell. Lydia froze.
What… is that?
She slowly turned her head. The old man looked to be nodding off. They weren’t that close. But she could still smell him. Body odor, tobacco, and booze. Lydia’s stomach turned as she covered her nose. Yuck. The woman started to gag. Her head began to swim as old memories filled her head.
No. Please don’t.
“Excuse me,” she heard next to her. Lydia whipped her head around. A man in a nicely dressed suit knelt over her.
“What?!” Lydia shouted. The man blinked.
“Uh… are you okay?” he asked. Lydia shook her head.
“No!” she wailed. She swatted his arm away. By now, the old man jerked his head upwards. He made such a loud snort that Lydia turned her head. The old man sat blinking away the sleep from his eyes. Lydia stared at him with big eyes.
“Sir?” she asked. “Could you please back away from me?” The old man gave her a strange look.
“Huh?” he asked.
“Please?” Lydia pleaded. Her eyes started to well up with tears. The old man looked so confused.
“What are you talking about?” he asked. She could barely hear his voice. Her mind started going back to that night. She only talked to that monster once. That was all it took to latch onto her. Lydia hadn’t expected to ever see him again. How did he even know where she was staying? She hadn’t told anyone which room she was staying in.
Oh god. Oh god!
“Miss? What’s wrong? What are you talking about?” the old man asked.
“Hey!” the man in the suit yelled. “Back off, buddy!” Lydia started breathing heavily. Stay away! Stay away from me!
Suddenly, the bus pulled up into the stop. Lydia managed to jump and run towards the doors.
“Miss?” the old man asked behind her. Lydia sat down on the bus, panting. She didn’t notice the two men looking confused. The young woman could only calm down when the bus pulled away. She tried to push that beer scent out of her head. Her heart pounded against her chest. Tears ran down her cheeks.
Her hands trembled as she pulled out her phone.
“Hello?” Alfred asked. Lydia whimpered as she tried to speak.
“Lydia?” the American man asked. “Lydia, is that you? What happened? What’s wrong?” The young woman finally took a breath.
“I’m fine now,” she said in a shaking voice. “Just had a trigger.”
“Are you okay? Where are you now?” the American man asked. Lydia took another deep breath.
“I’m coming home,” she said. “I’m on the bus now.”
“Do you have your water bottle with you?” he asked.
“Yes,” Lydia said.
“Good. Just take a drink and breathe,” Alfred said. She reached into her bag and pulled out a bottle of water. Lydia twisted the cap off and took a drink.
“Better?” the American man asked.
“Yes,” she said in one breath.
“I’ll stay on the phone until you get home, okay?” he asked. Lydia closed her eyes.
“Thank you,” she said in a low voice. The movement of the bus seemed to calm her down.
“I’ll get you something for dinner, okay?” he asked.
“Sure,” Lydia said. “Thank you.” It would be close to an hour before she got home.