Prologue: A Surprise Baby
"Do you want to keep the baby?" Sandy asked tentatively, eyes fixed on her best friend's pregnancy record book in her hand.
Charlotte glanced down at her belly that was hidden under her maroon hoodie. Last week, she didn't know that there was a bun snuggling inside her womb, depending on her for life. Today, after the doctor confirmed that she was twelve-week pregnant, her world had instantly turned upside down.
"I don't know," she replied, almost whispering.
Charlotte wanted to do so many things in her life. She loved to challenge herself, she was thrilled to try stuff most people wouldn't, and she was open to exploring the morally grey area because she hated to limit herself. Her bucket list ideas about what to do before she died were getting longer and longer, but having a baby was none of them.
"It's not too late if you want to abort it," Sandy mumbled, sounding uncertain with her own idea. "I mean, it was conceived in one drunken night which you don't know who the father is. Plus, you'd been drinking until last week, just because you suspected you were pregnant. And I'm no expert, but I heard that carrying a baby in your last year at college is hard, especially when the father isn't in the picture. Those are valid reasons, right?"
Charlotte pursed her lips, considering her best friend's advice while trying to see all the possibilities. "Maybe I can go back to that frat house and ask around? Maybe I can find that motherfucker."
Sandy raised her eyebrows. "Ask around how? Something like, 'Hey, do you guys know the guy I fucked three months back in one of your parties?'" She scoffed. "Do you even remember what he looks like? His hair color? His name?"
"No, not really." Charlotte sighed before throwing herself backward onto Sandy's bed. "I do remember his eyes, though. It's green, emerald green. And he has dark hair."
"Dark as in black or dark brown?"
"I'm not sure. The room was too dark to notice those trivial things."
"Any recollection of his name? Nickname maybe?"
Charlotte knitted her eyebrows, trying to remember anything that might be useful from that night, and she shook her head.
"Whose name did you scream when you had an orgasm then? Don't tell me you moaned Ethan's name."
Charlotte shot her friend a glare that could freeze a dragon's throat. "Can we not discuss my orgasm now? A more important matter needs to be addressed. Urgently."
Sandy put her hands in the air. "Sorry. I was just curious. How could you not remember anything about the guy you banged all night."
"I was drunk! It was the night Ethan broke up with me. I was so lost and in need of cock," Charlotte replied, wincing inwardly after listening to her own answer.
"You got one alright, and you've got the bonus, too. There." Sandy pointed at her belly.
Charlotte groaned as she put both her hands over her face. "I swear we used a fucking condom that night. That rubbish," she cursed under her breath.
"Are you sure it's not Ethan's?"
"I'm sure as hell. We hadn't had sex for weeks when we broke up. If it was his, I would've been four months preggo."
Sandy nodded her head as she frowned. "Seriously though, even if you find him, what are you going to say to him?"
"That we are pregnant? Maybe we can figure out what to do together?" Charlotte knew she sounded like the dumbest person existed at that point. Or maybe she could blame it on her pregnancy brain.
"We? There is no we. You two aren't a couple. And what makes you think he remembers you?" Sandy pushed further, earning a shrug from her friend. "If he remembers you and what happened that night, he will easily say 'abort it'. If he doesn't recognize you, he will think you're a mad girl who is desperately in need of a random guy to father her child."
Charlotte let out a painful moan. She hated it when Sandy was right.
The scene of the wild party flashed in her head. She was so pissed and disappointed with Ethan that night because he chose to break up with her instead of working on their problems. She begged him to give her a chance to explain, but his mind was set. The next thing she knew, she agreed to Willy's offer to go to a frat party at his campus and forget about her shitty night.
'Never go to a frat party and drink your ass off after a messy breakup'. Charlotte wished she'd listened to this piece of advice, but she didn't. As the night wore on, she kept dancing her pain away and chugging down any alcohol within her reach. Luckily, she didn't puke from too much drinking, but she did get horny. Very horny. Her lucky stars seemed to shine so brightly when she bumped into a hot dark-haired guy with a pair of mesmerizing green eyes. Just what she needed, he was at the same stage as she was: drunk and eager to fuck.
One thing led to another and in the next thirty minutes, they ended up in one of the empty bedrooms, playing hide the sausage. It was bliss. Despite how much she wanted Ethan back that night, this guy helped her numb the stinging pain from the fresh break-up for a while. At least until she woke up the next morning, naked, with a painful hangover, and a nude stranger sleeping next to her.
She got dressed and ran.
Charlotte groaned again from the memory before rolling herself to the side, burying her face in Sandy's fluffy throw pillow. "What am I going to do?" she asked helplessly.
"I would think, terminating the pregnancy is a wise choice right now."
"I don't know, Sandy. I saw it on the ultrasound monitor this morning. It already looked like a real baby!" Charlotte whispered in horror. "I can't kill it, or that image will keep burning into my head for the rest of my life."
"So, you want to keep it," Sandy concluded for her, but she couldn't confirm it either.
Instead, she muttered softly, "My parents will kill me."
Sandy, who was always on the rational side, stared at her with sympathy, almost pitying her; the look that her best friend always gave her every time she screwed up and she hated it. Because she always screwed up. She didn't need a reminder from anyone else that her life was a mess. A gigantic ball of mess.
"If you want to keep it, you need to figure out how to break the news to them sooner or later," Sandy said matter of factly. "The sooner the better."
"I know," Charlotte grunted. "They will go livid for sure. It'll prove them right that I'm still the impulsive girl who never learns and has no reservations for her future."
Sandy stood up from her chair and sit next to her best friend. She ran her fingers through Charlotte's brown lock that partly covered her face, brushing it backward gently. "You might be a little bit impulsive but what I see from you is a brave, open-minded, and non-judgmental person. And you give a fucking damn about your future. Don't let their words get in your head."
Charlotte squeezed Sandy's hand that was still on her hair and smiled. "You always know how to make me feel better."
"And you know that whatever decision you make, I will support you. If you want to terminate it, I will be there during the whole process. If you want to keep it, I'll help however I can until the delivery time comes."
Thinking about the labor was enough to make Charlotte's stomach twist. It felt like her vision of life ended when her water broke. She couldn't think of anything further than that because it was too terrifying to picture. Once realizing that she would have to deal with it in six months if the baby arrived on time, she shivered. "How will I raise the baby?"
Sandy frowned. "Huh? Do you want to raise the baby yourself? I thought..."
"I would give it away?" Charlotte finished Sandy's line, feeling a small jab in her chest.
Sandy nodded. "I thought you wanted to keep it because you just didn't have the heart to kill it," she said, slightly confused. "You don't want it in the first place, right? I mean, after the baby is born, you can make another family happy with their new little bundle, and you can move on with your life."
Ignoring the unsettling feeling that grew in her, Charlotte had to agree that Sandy was right. Her life might be put on pause that very moment, but she could move on after making sure the baby was in good hands. Because she deserved a future too, hopefully with Ethan back in the picture.
Charlotte forced a smile. "I guess I can do that."