Story A Day May #16: Million Dollar Baby

Gabbie looked down at her formerly-taut belly and considered rubbing it, but the feeling wore off quickly. She put on one of many large sweaters and prepared to trudge to work; the fact that she was still able to work was a blessing, but considering how her life would be changing, it seemed moot to continue wiping tables and toilets at the coffee shop. She closed her eyes and imagined what she would do with the money, even though her mom and dad had already mapped it all down to the last penny. They planned to move out of the apartment and buy a small house in a suburb, get a better car, put some away for Gabbie and her brother. She wanted to take it all and run away like people did in the movies; have it all in neatly bundled packets in a briefcase with a snap lock on top that could be opened in a secret hotel room where she could then toss all the bills on the bed and swim in them. Gabbie didn’t know that swimming in a million dollars would be less a soak in the tub and more a wading-ankle-deep experience. She’d never seen more than a couple hundred together at one time, and that looked like a lot because it was all in singles.

She did her best to get through the shift because it was Friday and she had an appointment at the clinic in the morning. The deed would be complete there. Gabbie had begun to feel extra pressure as she walked to work and during her first break called Mrs. Brannagan, who she could see was excited. “Okay, take it easy for the rest of the day,” Mrs. Brannagan was saying. “You don’t want your water to break before tomorrow morning.” Gabbie knew the drill; the Brannagans had taken care of everything: prenatal expenses, clothing, extra food for the house. She certainly wasn’t going to screw it up so late in the game. The Brannagans had been unable to have children. Gabbie had been young, healthy, and stupid; she could do nothing but sit and cry when she found out she had gotten pregnant. Tony wanted nothing to do with her after she told him; she found it interesting that the fear of unsanctioned pregnancy had not existed, until it happened. There were no alternatives; she had to have it and care for it. Unless a family with means who trolled the underground market came along and wanted to pay. Gabbie didn’t tell Tony about the Brannagans, figuring if he’d been too chicken to stick with her no matter what, he was certainly not getting a cut of the profits.

After a fitful sleep, Gabbie and her parents headed to the clinic. It was way out of town and secluded; such transactions were frowned upon. The Brannagans were there, holding hands and looking like they should be parents. Mr. Brannagan pumped Gabbie’s father’s hand and Mrs. Brannagan hugged her mom. Gabbie’s parents moved to sit in the waiting room. “We’ll be right here, honey,” her mother called to her as she and the Brannagans went into the delivery suite. As the doctor began the process of inducing labor, Gabbie blurted out her wishes to be paid herself rather than having any money go to her parents. They understood and as she began to go into labor, Mr. Brannagan showed her the debit card that had part of the funds on it and the small stack of bills to finish off the payment. Grateful, Gabbie got as comfortable as she could in the birthing pool and followed instructions. After a short while, a splash and a yelp. A nurse helped Gabbie get herself together and after giving her a good dose of pain medications, instructions, and a bottle with more for later, she and the Brannagans prepared to part ways. The baby was healthy, if the sound of its lungs was to be believed; Gabbie didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, but by the look on the Brannagans’ faces, she knew it was what they desired more than anything in the world. She carefully folded the envelope with the money and debit card away into her bosom and asked the nurse if she would call her a cab; Gabbie slipped the nurse one of the bills from the envelope in payment for her departure being kept a secret from her parents. While the nurse went off to secure the transportation, Gabbie wrote a note to her mom and dad: Don’t worry about me. I’m going to be fine. I’ll send some money when I get settled. Please don’t try to find me; just tell anybody who asks that I took a job in Florida. I might just go there. I love you all. She watched the Brannagans as they left out of the back of the delivery suite, smiles glowing like the sun.

All fighters are pig-headed some way or another: some part of them always thinks they know better than you about something. Truth is: even if they’re wrong, even if that one thing is going to be the ruin of them, if you can beat that last bit out of them… they ain’t fighters at all. (Million Dollar Baby)

Today’s Story A Day prompt was:

Mentally travel ten years into the future. What if [a hot-button issue for you really care about] has come to pass/been squelched. What does that mean for everyday life? What will your hero face/do about it?

In the US (and probably other places too, but this is where I live…) there are debates flying about fertility/abortion/birthing rights. In the future to which I hinted, abortion is not only illegal but so is adoption. One of the most fearsome things I could envision coming out of this particular “rights” debate is that a woman would be forced to have AND care for a baby, no matter what. Her opportunity to offer the baby to a family who wanted to have it would be taken away. As in any situation where the law says what we can and can’t do, there is an underground. My protagonist found it.

(2) Comments

  1. Wow. Fantastic story. You have certainly painted a terrifying portrait of what would happen if the woman’s right to choose was taken away…very chilling.

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