Earth Trolley

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When I Had To Right My Future Wrong

I found myself beside the freezers, in the same place I’d been right before talking with awful-looking Jim, and I realized something was still wrong. I moved forward and felt the heaviness in my middle again. I looked down and saw only my interview clothes in the present. Hadn’t I already been here? Frustrated, I moved to the meat mirrors to be certain. Yes, it was the same day, the same moment. I was in the same cutesy pregnancy blouse. I looked at my left hand holding the buggy. I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. Then I looked at my reflection in the mirror to see if I had a ring on my finger, wondering if I had to reunite with Jim because of Hope. Two rings were on my finger, the engagement solitaire glinting in the light shining on the ground beef. So, we were still married, and I was pregnant with Hope? I looked over the dates on the packages and saw “exp April 6, '20.” This was happening a year before the breakup. Did that mean I was supposed to do something here to keep the breakup from happening? Was that possible?

Then the same pain hit. I gripped the handle this time, realizing this was important. I was going to have to endure this and find Jim. When the tight wrenching in my abdomen finally subsided, I began to work through the trips into the future I'd made, remembering Jim's words that Jaelyn had been like Hope all over again. This had been a tough pregnancy then—was continuing to be one. Another contraction hit, and I wanted to let go. I tried to bear it, but it felt impossible. I couldn't do this! I couldn't!

“Lyn! What's the matter?” It was Natalie. She took one look at my face and said, “Oh, honey! Let's get you to the back.”

I stood there, unable to move, and she waited. She helped me to the hall in the store room, once the pain let up.

“Here's a chair.”

“I don't want to sit down,” I told her, tightening my fingers around the cart handle. “Thanks, though. Can you get Jim?”

“I'll get him. You call your doctor.”

I groaned, feeling the tired muscles constrict again, and Natalie hesitated.

“Get Jim,” I said through my teeth.

She was off, and I was left to take the immeasurable flood of pain as it rose until I thought my body couldn't handle anymore. Then it got worse. I had tears rolling down my cheeks as the contraction ebbed. It felt like hours had passed before she returned with Jim, but I was between contractions when they found me. I'd moved to rest against a stack of empty plastic pallets lined against the wall in a corner.

“Have you called Dr. Eaton?”

“No. Sorry, I...”

“Don't be sorry, sweetheart. I have his number.” His phone was to his ear as another contraction began. I took a deep breath and tried to hold it. I began to groan again and pressed my back into the corner of the pallets to counter the pain with the jabs of the sharp plastic into my spine. I knew Jim was talking on the phone, and I knew Natalie was telling me something to comfort me, but I couldn't concentrate on anything but the agony I was in. When it finally left, my entire body shuddered in exhaustion.

“He's calling in a prescription. He wants us to come in. Can you—” Jim was taking my arm.

“No. No!” I refused to let go of the cart. “I've got to do something.”

“Lyn?”

“Listen to me: you love me, right?”

“I do, Lyn. I love you.”

Natalie began to back away. “Please don't leave, Natalie,” I said to her. The muscles in my limbs were tight, cringing in expectation of the next onslaught of pain.

“We are going to have this baby, Jim.”

His young face seemed to grow old before me. “Oh, Lyn. I'm sorry I put you through this again.”

This had happened before. I’d been pregnant before and something had gone wrong. “You aren't putting me through this,” I told him, “and don't you dare give up on Hope!”

I didn't care whether I blabbed everything about the future, but there wasn’t any time to explain. The next wave was beginning.

Natalie tried to reach out to me, but I backed away, keeping the Earth Trolley between us. I was scared something would happen to take me out of this before I could do what I was meant to do. And I didn't think I could go through this again, even if I had another chance.

Her lips were pressed into a tight line. “Honey, I don't know if this is the right thing to say to you, but you've got to... Oh, Lyn. Don't do this to yourself. Let me help you to the toilet. Look at your leg.”

I looked down and saw my slacks in the present. I couldn’t see what Natalie saw in the future, and I scrambled to figure out what she was trying to tell me. The contraction was short, but draining. Something seemed to be different after that. I shifted on my legs to be certain. I didn't feel pregnant anymore. That life I’d felt—so real and present—was gone.

“My water broke,” I told her, though I couldn't see it or feel anything. That's what she'd been telling me.

She nodded and started crying.

“Jim.” Dejectedly, he lifted his head from the pallets he was leaning against, and I saw our names displayed on his wrist. “I think I've lost the baby.”

“It’s okay, sweetheart. And I promise you, we won’t go through this again. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure we don’t go through this again.”

I didn't catch his meaning until I looked at the resignation in Natalie's face. Then it hit me. Jim and I wouldn't try for another. This baby hadn't been Hope. If he kept his promise, we wouldn't have Hope. I looked at Jim's drawn face. We wouldn't have us.

“You listen to me, Jim... Jim Huey! We are not giving up. Maybe not this baby, but we will have a baby. I promise you! Don't you dare do anything!”

“Let Natalie help you clean up so we can go.”

“Promise me. Promise me you won't—”

“I won't promise you that!” He looked so angry.

“Then I won't leave. Not until you promise me.”

“Fine! Whatever you want. You wanna go through this again? Fine.”

“Promise,” I pressed. “Promise me!”

“I promise,” he said.

“I hope that's what I had to do,” I whispered and let go of the Earth Trolley.

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