NINE OF SWORDS
The tea has grown cold in the evening, yet her fingers still grip the cup loosely in her fingers. It's better than getting up and moving; she's too goddamn tired to do anything now with how large her belly is and how her son moves inside of her.
Just thinking about the fact that she had a son growing inside of her made Molly hopeful and happy and sad all at once. She had tried not to look at the ultrasound, had tried not to ask the doctor, but that waiting room full of mothers and fathers of people clearly happy to be there... She couldn't help herself. She had asked the sex.
She'd gotten her answer and now she felt more attached than she ever had.
Idly, her foot pushes the bench swing she sits on back and forth, her hair lifting slightly with the wind coming off the mountain landscape. Crickets chirp in the distance on and off, and when she inhales, she can smell woodsmoke. The tress line the horizon, the other houses near them almost indistinguishable from the tress, sounds of their inhabitants muffled. Everything here is picture perfect, and it should soothe her nerves the way her Aunt intended it.
It doesn't quell things, not entirely. She doesn't think that it can anymore with things growing to a head.
She had months to go turning into weeks, dwindling and dwindling down, and nothing makes her confident in her decision anymore. Not the thought of adoption, not the thought of becoming a single mother, not the thought of being able to co-parent, not the thought of a real, breathing baby in her arms.
"I really fucked myself on this one," her hand strokes her belly, laugh welling up in the night. There is no answer except a kick that makes her wince with the force behind it.
"You did, didn't you?" Julia's voice pulls her away from the sensation, leaning against the doorway of her home Her curly blond hair is pulled back at the nape of her neck, the sweater around her pulled tight.
It makes Molly crack a smile at her, dipping her head as she tapped the space next to her on the swing. "Kind of game my mom more than she could bargain for."
"Yeah, well," Julia takes the offered seat, "Your mother didn't count on a lot of things. I think it makes her a better person though. Can you imagine the kind of brat she'd be if she got everything her way?" She makes a scoffing noise as Molly devolves into giggles beside her. "God, she'd be one of those power executives in those bad suits barking into phones."
Molly laughs harder and easier than she ever has. "you got that from a movie. No one does that anymore."
Julia grins back at her. "Oh, really? I wouldn't really know since your mother has that market cornered." She pulls her feet beneath her as Molly laughs into her hand, the kicks less vicious now. She leans her cheek on her hand, watching as Molly finally calms down, blue eyes sharp.
Quiet settles back down between them, the sky turning a vivid purple, as the sun sinks further down into the horizon. Molly's foot pushes them back and forth on the swing for a long minute, voice quiet when she finally interrupts, "You don't want me to give him up."
"No, I don't," Julia sighs, "I don't think you should be forced to after everything that you've been through. I also don't think that you should have to carry that so young, either. It wouldn't be easy, and you're a child to me. You shouldn't even be pregnant."
Molly nods, putting the teacup down on the porch rail, not hearing the admonishment there so much as an observation, a care. "If I kept him, would you let me stay?"
"If you kept him, would you want to stay?" Julia counters immediately, eyebrows raised.
She shrugs. "Maybe. I definitely don't want to go home."
Julia nods, confident as always. "Then yes, I would. I'd be perfectly happy to let you two stay with me. Your room's big enough for two, and this isn't the only place I have."
The thought materializes then: Of waking up with her son, day by day. Living here without her family, without the secrets and the wondering and the doubt. Raising him with Julia, quiet and peaceful. It sounds... nice. Content.
And lonely. All those mothers in that waiting room had been older than her. They had husbands, they had weddings and had already lived before they'd had their children, had already had a taste of real freedom. They'd made the choice of it.
Her shoulder slump and Julia reaches out, across the bench. Her hand is warm, and she squeezes Molly's hand tight.
"You have time," Julia says.
Molly takes a breath and nods. "Yeah. I can worry about it later."
Julia helps her stand up, supporting her back as the sun finally dips beneath the horizon. She helps Molly inside the house, and settles her down on the couch with a warm blanket and the last of the cookies from dinner.
Molly turns on the television, as spotty as it is, and leans back, fingers idly tracing her belly as the lights from the other houses turn on in the windows. The cicadas calm down, and eventually the blanket and the house's warmth lull her to sleep, deep and dreamless.
(later, she'll wish that she'd had the guts to stick to that dream, to cling to the childish idea that she could have made it there with Julia she'll wish she had never called her mother the next morning, she'll wish that she'd never let her mother talk her out of it again, and she'll wish that she'd been strong enough to go forward with her son. she'll blame herself for years, let the shame eat her up and always ask herself: what if, what if, what if?)