November 1986 – Rome, Italy
It had been a stupid thing to do, done for all the wrong reasons and now she was going to have to face the consequences of her actions. Fifteen-year-old Emily Prentiss paced outside the doors which led to her mother’s private office.
Emily’s mother was the American Ambassador to Rome and while she had a public office that she used for her daily work, this was her private office. The office she only used in the evenings when she retired to the East wing of the American Embassy which held the living quarters for herself, her husband and her young daughter.
Emily knew that in the evenings, even if her mother was in her office, she could walk into the room and her mother would set aside what she was working on and give her only child her full attention. Normally, Emily would just knock on the door and walk right in, secure in the knowledge that her mother would always make time for her.
Emily’s father was an author. He spent most of his days locked away in his bedroom, working on his latest book. But if Emily needed him during the day, when her mother was busy with her job, Emily knew she could knock on his door.
Emily was pacing now because she knew that when she went into her mother’s office and told her what she needed to tell her…nothing would ever be the same again. It would be different and, while she prayed it would be a good change, Emily somehow knew it wouldn’t be.
Emily had already had this conversation yesterday when she’d told her ex-boyfriend John Cooley and it hadn’t gone well. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that Emily had told John that not only was she pregnant but that it was his baby. John was 17 and not in any position to be a father.
Emily left his house that day, knowing that she’d probably never see him again. He’d somehow gotten the idea (and Emily hadn’t done much to correct him) that she would get rid of the baby. Emily honestly didn’t know what she was going to do but she did know that she needed to tell her mother.
Which was why she was pacing outside of her mother’s private office at the late hour of 11pm.
After another few minutes of pacing, of panic, of nerves, Emily finally took a deep breath and forced herself to knock on the door.
“Come in.” Emily heard her mother say and so she opened the door and braced herself for the conversation she knew wasn’t going to end well.
Ambassador Elizabeth Prentiss looked up from the papers she was reading and smiled when she saw her daughter standing in her doorway.
“Emily, come in and have a seat.” Elizabeth said before she glanced at the clock on the wall and noticed the time, “what are you doing up so late?”
Emily faltered a moment as she sat down on the couch that sat by the far wall. “Um, actually mom, I need to talk to you, do you have a few minutes?”
Elizabeth smiled again, “Emily, I always have time for you darling.” She got up from her desk and moved to the couch and sat down close to her daughter. “Tell me, what’s on your mind?”
Emily felt her mouth go dry and her mind go blank as the moment came to tell her mother the truth. In a sudden flash, Emily saw her entire life irrevocably change. Regardless of what happened, whether she kept the baby, got an abortion or put it up for adoption, her life was never going to be the same and the plans she’d made for her future seemed to crumble in front of her. Emily felt the tears well up in her eyes. The worst of it was that as soon as she told her mother, she’d have to see the disappointment in her mother’s eyes.
Elizabeth noticed the tears gather in her daughter’s eyes and she began to worry. “Emily? Please tell me, it can’t be that bad, can it?”
Emily took a breath and braced herself for whatever reaction her mother would have. “Well, ‘bad’ is a relative term I guess but, yeah this could be called bad. Um, mom…I um…I’m pregnant.”
Silence followed Emily’s confession as her mother tried to process the words. It felt almost surreal to Elizabeth to be sitting there hearing her fifteen-year-old daughter say she was pregnant. Elizabeth didn’t know how she was supposed to react to this kind of news. She still looked at Emily and saw a little girl, not someone who was old enough to be sexually active. She was fifteen for crying out loud!
Emily waited in the silence as her mother processed the news. She knew it was a big shock and it would take a few minutes so she sat and waited.
Elizabeth finally got herself back under control and she looked at her daughter. She heard herself asking the questions that she knew were clichéd but needed to be asked anyway. “Pregnant? How?”
Emily glanced at her mother and wondered how she was supposed to answer that. It didn’t matter because her mom seemed to realize what she’d asked, “I mean I know how I meant, when did you…” Elizabeth trailed off, unable to bring herself to ask outright when Emily had lost her virginity. Her daughter having sex was something she’d hoped she wouldn’t have to deal with for at least a few more years.
Emily looked down again and whispered, “five weeks ago.” Emily really didn’t want to have to tell her mother that it had been at a party, celebrating John Cooley’s 17th birthday. She didn’t want to have to tell her mother that she’d been secretly dating John and that she’d only had sex with him that one time as a sort of birthday present. Emily knew it had been a stupid reason, and she’d broken up with John the next day…but it had been too late by then, she was pregnant now with John’s child.
Elizabeth did a mental calculation and turned again to her daughter, “five weeks ago? Before or after you went to John Cooley’s birthday party?”
Emily couldn’t look at her mother as she answered, “technically, after but only because the other guests had left.”
Elizabeth put it together then, “I guess this means that John is the father?”
Emily could only nod. The tears coming back as she felt her mother’s disappointment wash over her. Emily braced herself for the anger.
Elizabeth wasn’t angry…not yet anyway; right now she was mostly in shock. “Emily, are you dating John?”
Emily did look at her mother then as she explained, “I was but not anymore. I—I broke up with him after the party.”
“Have you told John that you’re pregnant?” Elizabeth asked, not really knowing what to say. She knew what she wanted to do but that wasn’t an option just yet. She wanted to find John and hurt him for what he’d done but she knew that it took two people to have sex. Still…she knew that John was 2 years older than Emily and she figured he’d probably pressured her to have sex.
“Yeah, I told him yesterday,” Emily said, remembering John’s reaction.
Elizabeth noticed the new pain in her daughter’s voice and asked, a little wary of the answer, “how did he take the news?”
Emily stood up and walked a few steps away, needing to move around, “he…he wasn’t happy. He told me he didn’t want to have anything to do with a kid and that if I was smart I’d get rid of it and forget it ever happened.”
Elizabeth listened as Emily told her that John had told her to have an abortion. Elizabeth didn’t know how she felt about that. She wasn’t sure she would be ok with it if Emily wanted to abort the baby, but she knew that whatever decision her daughter made regarding the baby, she would stand by her. “Is that what you want to do Emily? Do you want to have an abortion?”
Emily took a moment to think about that and how she felt about it. She wondered if she could really kill the baby inside of her and move on with her life as if nothing had happened. Could she live with herself knowing she’d taken a life like that? Then she wondered if she was capable at 15 to be a mom. Could she risk her entire future to bring this child into the world? Then she looked at her mother, if she kept the baby, would her mother support her decision? Her mother was a politician after all, and an unwed, pregnant fifteen-year-old daughter was like poison to a politician. She knew if she kept the baby, it would put her mother’s career at risk. An abortion could be covered up and no would ever know. But a pregnant teen was harder to hide.
Emily cleared her throat and said, “I don’t know mom. I don’t know if I can do that and live with myself but on the other hand, I’m not old enough to be a mom. Plus, something like this would be easy to use against you. I just…I don’t know what I want to do.” Emily was crying by now and hugging herself.
Elizabeth got up and walked to her daughter and put her arms around her. She held her until the tears faded away then she lifted her hand and turned Emily’s face towards her so she could look into her eyes. “Don’t worry about my career sweetie. This is about what you want to do and I’ll stand behind you no matter what you decide. If you want to keep the baby, we’ll work it out. You can finish school and even go to college and I’ll be there to help you. Your father will be too. If you want to have the abortion, I’ll take you to the clinic and hold your hand through it all.”
“Oh God, I totally forgot about daddy. What’s he going to say when I tell him I’m pregnant?” Emily was suddenly scared. She knew her father wasn’t going to react well. Emily’s father had a very specific moral code and even though he spent most of his time at a typewriter typing out his stories, the man was well built and strong and Emily had a sudden flash of her father beating the crap out of John. She didn’t want that no matter what John’s reaction had been to her news.
Elizabeth smiled as a similar image ran through her head, “don’t worry about your father Emily. I can handle him. This is your decision to make, no one else’s.”
Emily nodded. “Thank you, mom, for being supportive but, aren’t you angry or disappointed or something?”
Elizabeth smiled then, “I’m sure we’ll get around to angry at some point but right now, I don’t think it’s completely sunk in. I’m not disappointed in you Emily, I was young once and I know how it can be sometimes when there’s pressure to do something. I love you, Emily. You’re my baby and the fact that you’re on the verge of having a baby yourself doesn’t change that. You don’t have to decide anything tonight. It’s late, how about we both turn in for the night and in the morning we’ll fill your father in on the news and we can discuss this as a family?”
“Okay sounds good,” Emily said, realizing she was getting sleepy.
“Good. I meant what I said though Emily. If you decide to keep the baby, we’ll make it work. One way or another we’ll make it work so that you can finish school, go to college and have a future.” Elizabeth knew she would do whatever was necessary to make sure that no matter what Emily decided, her daughter would have a bright future.
Emily hugged her mother and then they both went upstairs to their bedrooms. Emily fell asleep that night, feeling a little bit better about her situation than she had when she’d woken up that morning. Her mom had taken the news as well as could be expected. She only hoped her father would be in the same mind frame in the morning.