“And I kinda stepped on it wrong? I don’t think I can go to gym class today.”
I sighed as I examined Lori’s ankle. It wasn’t broken, but it was quite swollen. “Looks like you twisted it. Try to avoid putting weight on it and ice it when you get home, all right? I’ll write you a note to make sure you don’t get put in gym.”
Lori seemed mostly relieved, but clearly something else was on her mind. “Can you, I don’t know, bump me an ibuprofen? It really hurts…”
Ah, right. I examined the ankle again before I remembered the unpleasant conversation I had with Principal Dudley just a few days before. Every little thing had to be accounted for. If one pill went missing or my reason for giving it out wasn’t ‘reasonable’, it was my neck on the line. Just a damn ibuprofen though. Seriously. I glanced at the clock. Well, I was technically supposed to be heading out for lunch…
“All right, Lori?” I went to my purse and pulled out my Advil bottle. “I’m gonna advise you not tell the whole school about this, all right? Here.” I slipped the blue capsule into her hand and handed her a water bottle. “Swallow it whole, I’m sure you’ve been taking pain pills since, oh, about twelve or thirteen?”
I did catch a glimpse of a smile before Lori took the pill. When the water bottle lowered, she already looked relieved. “Thanks, Nurse Bradley.”
“No problem. Now go get your lunch.”
Meanwhile I was going to enjoy mine. Ham sandwich and an apple. I was already late for it, I’d just dig in here.
I had just taken a huge bite out of my sandwich when the door opened.
A familiar pair of clunky boots crossed the floor of my office. I glanced up, not bothering to hide my sandwich. “Alice. It’s not Algebra period yet, that’s usually when your headache kicks in,” I said, not hiding my sarcasm.
Alice tiredly smiled back. “Shut the fuck up, Dawn, I don’t come in for headaches all the time.”
“Oh, just when there’s a test.” I gestured her to sit. “Sit down, did your parents fighting keep you up late last night?”
Alice made herself comfortable on the opposing seat, crossing her legs and twisting the black/gold spinner ring on her middle finger. She’d gotten it last year for her birthday. “I mean, aren’t they always?” She shrugged. “No, no it’s not that. I uh, think I might be getting sick.”
Huh, a real sickness by the hooky player. Not surprising, considering her rough family life would stress anyone to the point of illness. I nodded and set down my lunch. It would have to wait for a while more. “All right. What seems to be the problem? And I see that, don’t pull out your hair. Spin the ring.”
Alice’s hand dropped from her hair and the ring was spun, but the speed was picking up. “Uh. I’ve been nauseated. Really tired lately too. Constantly peeing, and I keep having dizzy spells.”
“Uh huh. Anything new happen, stress wise? Or are you not eating enough?”
The spinning of the ring hit warp speed as Alice’s breathing sped up and she looked away. I frowned and lowered my laptop. “Alice? Is something wrong?”
Alice swallowed and she looked up.
“… Can… can I have a pregnancy test?”
It’s one of those moments you can have with working with teens. One week it’s trying to get out of a test you didn’t study for, or wondering if there was a way to make the clocks move a little faster so you could get out of class and have fun.
Then this week it’s two little lines on a white stick and life comes to a screeching halt.
Alice was holding herself together rather well, considering the situation. Sat across the chair, slouched over, staring at the positive test, chewing on her hair and spinning her ring. I sat close as I could and rested a hand on her back. “Alice, it’s going to be okay… do you know who the father is?” A rather unnecessary question, but one I could ask given that I was friends with the student.
Pulling the spittle covered bleached hair from her mouth, Alice took a deep breath. “Uh, kinda. I went to a party. College students. Lots of hot guys.” She laughed quietly. “I uh, met this guy. Sterling. Kinda nerdy. We really hit it off, and we ended up back in his room. I forgot to ask for a condom. Stupid, huh? I mean, he could’ve had fucking AIDS or something.” She pulled a strand of hair out and I didn’t bother to tell her to stop. “Jesus Christ, what now?”
My first job, school nurse. I stood up and starting going over the options. “Well, the first one that’s obvious is termination of the pregnancy. Lucky for you this state doesn’t require a parent’s permission for a minor-”
“I’m eighteen, that’s a nonissue anyway.” Alice stuck her tongue out, one of her hairs wound around it. She pulled it off with a quiet gag. “What next?”
“Well, you could have the baby and give it up for adoption.” I shrugged. “If you really don’t want to abort but don’t feel like you can take care of a baby, dozens of happy parents would happily take it off your hands. Then there’s of course actually having and keeping the child, but you’re eighteen, Alice.” Still a kid. She had these cute little cartoon stuffed animals hanging off her bag. She wasn’t ready to be a mother. “My personal opinion isn’t relevant but whatever you choose, you need to make it quickly. If you need a ride to the clinic though, remember I’m always here.”
Alice nodded before she reached into her bag and pulled out a half finished packet of cigarettes. “Uh, here. Just in case I give it up instead.” With that, Alice walked out of my office, her clunky boots echoing down the hall.
I took a deep breath before I threw my ham sandwich in the trash. I wasn’t hungry anymore.
The next few days went by as expected. Freshmen boys got into a fight and one got a bloody nose. The other wouldn’t stop crying. I patched Boy One up before sending him to the office with his friend. A sophomore came in with a fever. I might have not so kindly told their parents when they came in to pick them up that perhaps next time their child has chills to not let them come to school to spread it to their classmates. Thankfully the principal didn’t hear me. Alice came in because she vomited in the lunchroom, I let her take a nap on the table. We didn’t talk about her plans.
Life marched on.
A blonde junior girl marched into my office during my lunch break as well, forcing me to hurriedly swallow my peanut butter cookie and hide the evidence of my lunch behind my chair. “Bridget. Nice to see you.” I mostly knew Bridget because of Alice bitching about her, but I saw her around. Only came into the office once for a sore throat, I gave her a cough drop and sent her back to English.
“Miss Bradley.” She sat down. “I think I’m coming down with something. Call my parents.”
Oh god, now I could remember this girl better. I got the worst migraine after she came in about the sore throat. She had a high pitched voice which only got worse with her whining. I sighed and silently reminded myself that I had to take her complaint seriously as she gave me no reason not to. Not quite the frequent flier like some of the other kids. “All right, what’s wrong?”
Bridget wiggled in her spot. “Well, I’m nauseated. I’m sore. Like, especially, you know, here.” She poked her breasts, I had to avoid smiling.
“I see. Is it your period maybe?” A common problem among teen girls.
Bridget threw up her hands in complaint. “That’s the thing! It should’ve been here last Wednesday! I track it! And it’s late!”
A nasty feeling of déjà vu crept over me. I was already glancing at the drawer where I had two or three more tests tucked away. “I… I see. I’m not implying anything, but perhaps you should take a pregnancy test?”
This was the first time I’d ever been punched by a student. Yelled at, a few times. Cussed out, several. I had two or three spit at me, which resulted in immediate suspensions or expulsions. But never had I been flat out smacked.
But that was exactly the violent reaction I got out of Bridget. She wasn’t a strong girl, but my cheek smarted something awful as I stood back up straight, my eyes wide with shock.
Bridget was grinding her teeth in fury. “How… how dare you! Do you know who I am?!” She didn’t wait for my answer. “I’m the president, the president, of this school’s Purity Club! I’ve been the president since I was a freshman!”
Oh dear god. I took a deep breath and a step back to avoid another fist to the face. “I understand that. But sometimes accidents happen? Or slip ups? No one’s going to judge you if-”
“I’m calling my parents, they’re going to take me to my doctor, and I’m telling them you called me a slut.” Bridget stormed from my office, fishing her phone out of her purse.
I examined my reddening cheek in the mirror before I went right to the principal’s office to make a report. I also checked off ‘mood swings’ on Bridget’s list of symptoms even if it wasn’t my problem anymore. I was going home early and watching some House MD.
The next day I caught no sign of Bridget. Vengefully I hoped she had been expelled.
Thankfully Alice came to my room to talk about her ‘bundle of joy’ to take my mind off of what happened the day previous, and her answer was not the one I expected.
“I’m keeping him. And not giving him up for adoption.”
Alice had dyed her hair back to the normal chestnut brown, the dark make up cleaned off and even the tongue piercing taken out. Needless to say. Not what I expected, so I could be forgiven for asking, “Why?”
The girl shrugged before wrapping her arms around her belly. “I dunno, I mean I’m pro-choice. And I was gonna make the appointment yesterday but…” Another shrug and Alice squeezed her tummy. “I wanna take care of him. I’ll be graduating in the spring, I already plan on moving in with a friend. I know it’s fucking crazy. I swear I do. But… I wanna.” Her eyes flicked to the floor and her fingers fastened around the spinner ring, twisting it as her face burned. “You’re gonna tell me I’m crazy, won’t you?”
The word crazy absolutely crossed my mind, along with a few others. But I smiled instead of saying it. “It’s your choice. That’s why they call it pro-choice. I’ll set you up with some parenting classes? Maybe even try to find you a job that will help you balance a baby.”
Alice’s taut shoulders relaxed and she released a breath she’d been holding. “Oh man. Thanks Dawn. I uh, I’ll make you the godmother, if that’s all cool.”
“I’d be honored.” Alice didn’t have many friends. And someone needed to stand with this girl, right?
After my hours were up, I walked to my car and pulled out my keys. More medical dramas, paired with a glass of white wine and looking up classes for Alice before my Skype date with my mother. My kind of wild and crazy night.
I’d just gotten my keys in the door before someone roughly grabbed my wrist.
I jerked away and dropped the keys, trying to pull away from the grip before I recognized the girl before me.
Bridget didn’t look so good, she was white as a sheet. She licked her chapped lips before she started talking.
“Take me to the abortion clinic right now. I need it done today.”
I pulled my wrist back sharply. “That’s not how they do it, Bridget, they need twenty four hours in advance before appointments. And I thought you said you couldn’t be pregnant?”
I immediately regretted my nasty words as Bridget jerked back and tears pooled in her eyes. “I… I…” She scraped her shoe on the ground and looked around the parking lot, as if to make sure we were alone. “I was… at a party.”
Oh no. Oh god no.
“I don’t know, I just fell asleep on the couch after I had a drink, I can’t remember after that but…” Bridget sniffled and looked as if she’d rather melt into the ground before telling me what happened. “When… when I woke up, my clothes didn’t feel right, and I was… really sore. I just got out of there after that, I didn’t ask questions.” A sob slipped from her throat. “Oh god, I fucked up, Nurse Bradley, I really fucked up-”
“Shhh, shhh…” I extended my arms and brought her close, letting her hug me tightly. “No, honey, I’m sorry. This wasn’t your fault. This wasn’t your fault.” Words I wish someone had told me when I was her age. “Bridget?” I wiped off her face and made sure she was looking at me. “You didn’t fuck up. You did nothing wrong. You were just having fun, like any other girl would. I’ll help you, okay?”
I pulled a notepad from my pocket and quickly wrote a number.
“Call this number, schedule the appointment for tomorrow. Tell them Dawn Bradley is bringing you in, they’ll understand. I’ll drive you there and back. Meet me here?”
Bridget sniffled and nodded. “… I’m sorry, about hitting you,” She said.
I reached up and touched the now purple bruise on my cheek before laughing. “Nah, you hit like a girl. I’ll be fine.”
“Oh, that’s mean!” Still, that brought a giggle out of Bridget. I gave her another hug before heading on home.
That night I had one of those nagging feelings. One that something wasn’t quite right that had happened today. I wondered about my meeting with Alice, no, things were fine there. Bridget was distraught but I was going to help her damn it.
Unable to stop that little nagging voice though, I did what the kids call ‘Facebook stalking’.
Bridget’s Facebook revealed nothing.
However her mother’s? Revealed what I feared.
‘I can hardly believe it!!!!! Our doctor called to let us know that our daughter was expecting a child and she didn’t even tell us!!! Apparently she went to the school nurse first! Well that makes it clear that we should have never sent her to that place it has made her fall into the wrong lifestyle we’re pulling her out today!!!! After she finds the father of her child she WILL have a proper family mark my words!’
I nearly threw up. Apparently fanaticism has to be inherited.
All I could think about was poor Bridget, trying to find her rapist to have him involved in the unwanted offspring’s life.