Alexis was sitting in the nursery of her church on Sunday morning. As she was watching the children play as she had every week for the last nine years she began to think back to her junior year in high school. She thought back to her friend Jessica. It was weird because over the years she rarely thought about those days. Jessica was such a distant memory it was almost as if she never knew her, but that day watching those kids and their reaction when their parents came to pick them up just hit her that day.
It was their junior year Jessica and Alexis were best friends. They had been joined at the hips since first grade. But as the year went on and Jessica began dating Brandon her time for Alexis seemed to be less and less. As the school year when on Alexis began to notice little changes in Jessica. Then a few months before school would be over she noticed that Jessica had been missing school a lot and when she was there she seemed to always be sick and going to the bathroom a lot. When she confronted Jessica she said it was just the flu. Then a few weeks later she noticed Jessica had not been to school in days, and the other kids in school were starting to talk. The rumor was that Jessica was pregnant and that she would not be back to school.
Alexis knew that in the small town they lived in, a girl being pregnant or even having sex before being married was looked down upon, especially when the girl was so young. In fact, this was the first time it had ever happened in their town. Alexis knew she had to found out the truth. She tried calling Jessica all weekend but her parents just kept saying she was not home and Alexis was too afraid to tell her parents why she needed to talk to Jessica so bad. So Monday Alexis decided she had to confront Brandon in school and find out what was going on. He told her that it was none of her business and that he had broke up with Jessica awhile ago.
Alexis knew the rumor had to be true. She was scared for her friend; she could only imagine what must be going through her head and what she was going through at home. She decided to stop by Jessica’s on her way home that day. When she arrived at Jessica’s she noticed that her car was not there and when her mother answered the door she said Jessica had gone to stay with her grandparents for awhile. Alexis asked her why and she just said “she needed to get away from this town and the people.” She continued to tell her that Jessica would be getting her GED while at her grandmother’s and they were not sure when and if she would be coming back.
All night Alexis kept replaying the day in her head. None of it made sense. If Jessica was going through all of this why didn’t she come to her? Why didn’t she let her try to help her through it all? She didn’t know what she could do, if anything. But she wanted to be there for her friend.
It was about a year later when Alexis got an email from Jessica. She was so surprised and a little upset that it took her so long to get in touch. But once she read the email she just felt sad for her friend. The email read:
Hi Alexis. I am sorry it has taken me so long to get in touch with you. As I am sure you have heard I had to leave school last year because I was pregnant. I just could not face the town and what they were saying about me. I could not stand looking at my parents and seeing nothing but disappointment on their faces and knowing I was the cause of it. They told me that I had to get rid of the baby, that there was no way I could keep the baby. They made sure I knew that if I kept the baby they would have nothing to do with me or the baby. They made sure I knew there was no way that I could ever take care of my child or give him/her the life they deserved. After listening to this every night I started to believe them. I felt like the only thing I could do was to have an abortion. So I told them I would move to my grandmother's, get my GED while I was there and have the abortion. I have to be honest; when I first got here I was hoping that my grandmother would not agree with them. That maybe by some chance she would not feel that I was some kind of embarrassment, that maybe she would help me to make a decision that was based on my feelings and not the opinions and feelings of others. But she felt the same. That a girl my age having a child and not being married was one of the worst sins a person could commit. So I finally gave in and put my feelings aside and went to the clinic here. I was not showing yet so no one in the town knew of my “condition” and still don’t. I was able to get my GED and I am starting my new life here. I work full time and I am attending the local community college. I moved out of my grandmother’s recently because even though I did what everyone wanted I could tell they had not forgotten and would not forgive me. I found a small apartment and I am doing well. I wanted to come to you in the beginning but I knew that you would be supportive and that would make it even harder for me to ignore the voice in my heart telling me to keep the baby. So I just had to distance myself from everything. I hope that you can understand. I know that you are not a supporter of abortion but hope that you can find it in your heart to someday forgive me for going through with it. I am sorry I was not a good friend to you and I pushed our friendship aside when Brandon and I got together.
Alexis found herself in tears as she finished reading the email and she was unsure what to write back. So she simply replied, “Jess, I hope you know that I would have been there for you. And I could never hold what you have been through against you. I am glad to hear you are doing better now. Keep in touch.”
That was the last time she had any communication with Jessica until that Sunday after church. Alexis was driving home from church with her own son in the back seat. As she looked back at him and thought about the other kids in the nursery it made her think about how her life would be if she had been in Jessica’s shoes. She thought about all the amazing times she had with her son and the wonderful feeling that motherhood gave her and it broke her heart to know that Jessica missed out on all of that because of the way people reacted to her when she was pregnant. So she sent Jessica another email to try and see how she was doing, but she never heard back from her. It was as if Jessica had just disappeared again.
Nicol Fake decided to respond to Maxine Hong Kingston's "No Name Woman," a non-fiction excerpt from The Woman Warrior (1976). Nicol decided to borrow an incident from this assigned work to write a piece (story) of her own.
LIT160 Introduction to Literature--Spring 2008
Posted with the author's permission.