Forever Yours

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Chapter 18

Winter brought with it a dense settling of fog. Absiscion had taken place and trees were bare and spooky at night. Creatures were difficult to come by in the woods and the lake had become too cold to swim in. Temperatures had dropped drastically, reaching as low as minus five degrees Celsius. However, it wasn't yet cold enough to snow, and there was little hope that it would; South Africa just loves the sun too much.
Rilah watched from her window, a bird adding some extra stuffing to her nest to protect her little brood from the harsh weather. The mama bird wriggled her body, shaking her tail feathers and settling into the nest to share her body heat. She's such a good mother, Rilah thought. Again, she was surprised by how she didn't think of her own situation when she saw this bird.
Rilah had come back from the hospital numb and in denial. She had told Sylvia and her mom about the allergy but decided not to tell anyone about the pregnancy. She quickly acknowledged that she was with child but couldn't feel any emotions that came with it. She did not start imagining her future with a baby, she didn't wonder whether it would be a girl or boy, or whether it would look anything like her. She did not look for a baby bump, or rub her tummy or talk to the foetus growing inside her. She definitely did not start browsing baby names. Besides changing her diet to dry foods only to avoid morning sickness, nothing changed at all. She was just indifferent to the life growing inside her and it bothered her.
Maybe she had prenatal depression. However, when she searched the symptoms on Sylvia's laptop, she found that she had none of the symptoms - or more accurately, no stress, sleep deprivation, food deprivation and feelings of worthlessness more than she'd had before she found she was pregnant. She just didn't care that she was pregnant - life went on. All she knew was that she wasn't going to give the baby up for adoption, considering what she was going through, and she didn't even consider abortion; it wasn't an option. She also knew that she'd need to leave the Daniels' house in about two to three months. She needed a job, as soon as possible. Florence would force her to abort the baby, and if she refused, she would not hesitate to do it for her. Luckily, Rilah had a friend whose mom owned a supermarket.

* * *

"You want a job? Right now? Like, while we are writing?" Sylvia asked incredulously.
Rilah nodded. "I can keep up. I'm already so far ahead, I've finished the syllabus for all subjects and I'm already skipping so many classes no one will notice."
"Rilah, that's ridiculous." Sylvia shouldered her bag and waved goodbye to her friends. She and Rilah were having another tutoring session this afternoon. "For a part-time job, you'd need to be there at least three days a week. You can't skip three days each week from school."
"It's not the whole day, right? I can ask for permission to get out early from school and I can work till late at the store. I can also make a plan to work Saturdays, please Sylvia."
Sylvia shook her head. They veered into the woods, using the shortest way to their homes. "Rilah, you are wanted at home by five and you barely make it outside on weekends. Actually, tell me, why do you want this job so bad?"
Rilah fidgeted, unsure what she should say to convince her friend but then she decided to tell Sylvia the truth. She took a deep breath, "I have to leave that place - the Daniels. I have to leave in about two months."
Sylvia's eyes were narrowed in suspicion. "Why now?"
"I realized that what you said is true, and I'm turning eighteen in December, so they can not force me to go back."
Sylvia shook her head, "No, no that's not the reason. Last time you just wouldn't hear it - you would just shut down when anyone mentioned it. What changed? Tell me the truth please!"
They stopped outside Sylvia's home and Sylvia waited expectedly. Rilah sighed in frustration and said, "That is the truth. It's just . . . something happened that made me see that I have to go but I don't want to talk about it."
"Always gonna be like that isn't it, Rilah? You are always going to obfuscate your way out of our questions. You will always say that Charlie and I are your friends yet you do not tell us anything. How do you expect us to help you?"
"I do not expect you to help me. I have never before asked for your help except for now, and you are drilling questions into me. The one time I need help Sylvia and you don't want to help me." She turned to go home and Sylvia followed her. She grabbed her arm and Rilah jumped back, startled and scared. However, Sylvia didn't apologize; she was too angry to care.
"We've always helped you Rilah! Just because you never asked for it doesn't mean we've never offered or given you help. We try Rilah, we truly try, to help you. My mom, dad, me but especially Charlie. He always goes out of his way to be there for you yet you are blind to that!"
"I'm not! I know he cares and I know you all care." How had this argument turned to Charlie? That was forbidden territory for Rilah. Or at the very least, a topic to be procrastinated.
"So why don't you acknowledge that? Why are you leading him on? You know he wants you, he has liked you for years yet you are not doing anything about it! Why?"
Rilah was shocked by what Sylvia said. Charlie has liked her for years? But why the hell would he want her? When she thought back though, she remembered times when Charlie sat with her when she was lonely in the cafeteria, how he always told the mean kids to shove off when they complained about the amount of time he spent with her. She remembered how he always teamed up with her in sports and she remembered a time when she was sleeping in his bed, and heard him say faintly, "Sweet dreams, sweet Lulu. I love you." She thought that it had been a dream but now she wasn't so sure.
"I didn't know Sylvia, at least until recently. I always thought he sees me as a friend or best friend to his sister. There are so many girls out there, infinitely better than me. Why would he want me?"
"Why wouldn't he want you?" Sylvia sighed, tired of the argument. She saw that Rilah was not convinced and it would take a miracle to do so. Whatever was stopping Rilah from going after Charlie was stronger than her; she'd have to sort it out herself.
"Listen, I'll talk to mom about the job. Charlie is coming a week after we close. It's either you get together with him or else end whatever charade you are leading. Tell him there's no chance you are going to be with him and let him lead his life without this guilt and burden of pining for something out of his reach." Sylvia turned abruptly, "Reschedule the tutoring session for tomorrow please." And then she walked away.
Rilah watched Sylvia walk back to her house. Although the words hurt, Rilah knew they were true. She'd have to tell Charlie that there is no hope for her. How she'd do that though, she didn't know.

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