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Ruby between the cracks, p.16
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       Ruby Between the Cracks, p.16

           P.D. Workman
 

  Chapter Fourteen

  TIM WALKED SLOWLY DOWN the street with Ruby. Her feet hurt. She was sore and tired and walked slowly. Tim didn’t say anything for a while, though his thoughts were heavy.

  “Ruby...”

  “Uh-huh?”

  “That doctor I took you to before... for the abortion?”

  She looked at him with a frown.

  “What about him?”

  “I went back to talk to him yesterday.”

  “Why?”

  “I didn’t get to talk to him, actually. He wasn’t there. So I talked to one of the other doctors at the clinic instead.”

  “What about?”

  “About you,” Tim said impatiently. “I know you’re still pregnant. So do you.”

  “I can’t be,” Ruby objected. “You were there; I didn’t chicken out of it. They did the abortion.”

  Tim nodded.

  “I know. That’s why I talked to the doctor. It’s really rare, see. You must have been carrying twins, and he only aborted one.” Tim said it all in one breath.

  Ruby looked at him and didn’t say anything. She couldn’t think of anything to say. It seemed like it didn’t matter what she did, she couldn’t avoid having babies. She just looked at Tim, trying to fathom it.

  “They said you should go see a doctor,” Tim said quietly, trying to break it to her gently, “because the baby could be... badly damaged.”

  Ruby stopped walking and just hung onto her stomach, going green. She leaned against the wall.

  “What if I get an abortion now?” she said finally.

  “You can’t, Ruby. That was months ago. It’s too late now.”

  “I don’t want a baby.”

  “I know.”

  “Neither does Marty. She’s got her hands full with Stella.”

  Tim just nodded. There was nothing he could say.

  “Why didn’t they get it right the first time?” Ruby demanded angrily.

  Tim didn’t say anything. Ruby staggered into the alley and threw up. She leaned against the side of the building between heaves.

  “Sorry,” Tim told her, when she came back.

  She walked along slowly, trying to work it out in her mind. She changed her mind about going back to the apartment and seeing the other Jags. She decided to go back and see Marty instead. She and Tim separated.

  Ruby took the bus, and was exhausted by the time she got home. She sat down on one of the kitchen chairs, putting her feet up on another. She rubbed her ankles, closing her eyes. She just sat there, thinking. Eventually Marty’s mom got home. Marty and Stella were out somewhere.

  “You’re looking pretty serious,” Mrs. Rodger commented, seeing Ruby there.

  “I have a problem,” Ruby agreed.

  “Do you want to talk about it?”

  Ruby nodded, but didn’t know how to start. Mrs. Rodger waited without saying anything. She sat down. Ruby moved her hands over her stomach.

  “I guess I’m pregnant.”

  “Again?”

  “Yeah. But there’s something wrong.”

  “You saw a doctor?”

  Ruby bit her lip. She shook her head.

  “I didn’t know. I—I had an abortion. But…” she broke off, and tears started down her face. Ruby swiped at them angrily. “The doctor screwed it up,” she finished hollowly, “because I’m still pregnant.”

  “Oh, boy.”

  Ruby tried to dry the tears from her face and keep up a tough front. Mrs. Rodger took one of her hands.

  “It’s okay, Ruby. We’ll get it worked out. How far along are you?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “You know the baby may be handicapped.”

  “Yeah.”

  “Have you talked to the father about this?”

  Ruby stared at her, and then shook her head.

  “Don’t you think you should? This is something you should be deciding together.”

  “No.”

  “It takes two people to make a baby, Ruby.”

  Ruby shook her head.

  “No. I don’t want nothing to do with him!”

  “You two are not on good terms?”

  “Uh-uh.”

  “Well, the first thing to do is get you to a doctor. So we can get some more information about when you’re due and what kind of damage the baby has.”

  “What’m I going to do? I don’t want this baby.”

  “We’ll talk to the doctor about your options. Okay? It’s going to be all right, Ruby.”

  Ruby swallowed and nodded.

  “Okay.”

  Marty’s mom noted that the lab tech didn’t bother to warm up the gel before squirting it on Ruby’s belly. Ruby jumped when it hit her. A lab tech who didn’t like teen moms, Mrs. Rodger guessed. Chewing gum, he put the transponder to Ruby’s stomach and moved it around to get a good picture. Mrs. Rodger immediately picked up the sound of the baby’s heartbeat, strong and steady. Ruby stared straight up at the ceiling and didn’t glance at the monitor. Mrs. Rodger tried to make out details on the screen. She watched the masses of light, trying to make shapes out of them. The technician studied the monitor.

  “I’d say you’re about four weeks from delivery,” he informed Ruby. Ruby didn’t acknowledge him.

  “That is what you wanted to know, isn’t it?” he questioned Mrs. Rodger. “The age of the fetus?”

  “Yes, that and the condition of the baby.”

  “Strong heartbeat. Fully developed spine and brain. I’ll bring the doctor in to take a look, but everything looks normal to me.”

  He put down the transponder and went to find the doctor. Mrs. Rodger looked at Ruby.

  “Everything will be fine,” she assured Ruby.

  Ruby didn’t answer. The doctor came in after another half hour of waiting. He took the wand and checked Ruby over. The sound of the heartbeat filled the room again. He turned it down, smiling.

  “Well, mommy, looks like you have a good healthy baby there.”

  Mrs. Rodger moved closer when Ruby didn’t answer.

  “This pregnancy is the result of an unsuccessful abortion,” she explained.

  The doctor raised his eyebrows.

  “Well then, this is something you only see once in a lifetime. You’ve got quite the miracle baby here, mommy. Not only did she survive an abortion attempt, but she doesn’t appear to have suffered any serious handicaps.”

  Ruby looked at the doctor for the first time.

  “It’s not deformed?”

  “Not that I can tell from the ultrasound. All organs appear to be fully formed and functioning. We can’t tell anything for sure before you deliver, but everything looks normal from here.”

  Ruby rubbed her eyes and looked at the monitor.

  “I’ll just give it to Jamie, then.”

  “Is Jamie the father?” Mrs. Rodger questioned.

  “No.”

  “You’re sure?”

  She shrugged.

  “Are you sure he’ll want to take care of a baby that’s not his own?”

  “Yeah. He said he would. He loves babies.”

  Mrs. Rodger studied Ruby’s uncovered stomach. With Stella, Ruby had put on some weight. She hadn’t looked ready to deliver, but she had looked pregnant. This time, even with her gown up, it was hard to tell. You could see her ribs, and her stomach bulged a little, but not much.

  “How big is the baby?” she asked the doctor.

  “She’s small. Not unusual for teen moms. Especially ones who smoke,” he said pointedly, glaring at Ruby.

  Ruby didn’t respond.

  “She? It’s another girl?” Mrs. Rodger questioned.

  “Yes.”

  She held Ruby’s hand.

  “I’m sorry we can’t take care of her for you, Ruby. But we’ve already got our hands full with Stella.”

  “I know. I don’t care. Jamie wants a baby.”

  “Has he ever tried to convince you to get pregnant? With his baby?”

  “
Yeah... a couple times,” Ruby admitted.

  “Well, I’m glad you stood up to him.”

  Ruby scowled.

  “I’d rather be carrying his baby than this thing.”

  “Whose baby is this, Ruby?”

  Ruby didn’t answer.

  Ruby lay in bed beside Marty, with her hands over her stomach. She felt like she was being punished for something, but she didn’t know what. She didn’t know why she had to keep going through this. She did everything she could to avoid having babies, but here she was again. She didn’t know why she was being punished. She knew that most people wouldn’t agree with the way she led her life, but it hadn’t all been planned, it hadn’t all been her fault. It was just the way things had happened. Why should she be punished for something out of her control?

  She rolled over onto her side and put her arm around Marty. Throughout everything, Marty was always there, taking care of things. Ruby thought herself mature, but when you looked at Marty, she had so much more responsibility. She took care of a baby not even her own, looked after every need of a baby who wasn’t healthy or normal. She could have just turned Stella over to Social Services at any time. She didn’t have to do what she did.

  Ruby closed her eyes and tried to ignore the constant cramps and go back to sleep.

  Ruby had been giggling when she went to bed. She was high as a kite on her pills and booze. She had been a lot lately. Tim had trouble putting her to bed. She struggled with him when he tried to help her undress, and he eventually pushed her into bed still half-clothed. When he climbed in beside her, she wouldn’t leave him alone. Tim put his arms around her and held her wrists tightly. She struggled for a while, protesting, but eventually she tired herself out and lay still. Tim fell asleep with his arms around her.

  When she awoke in the night he moved away from her, one of his arms numb from lack of circulation. Ruby groaned, and he sleepily rubbed her back to settled her down again. Ruby rolled over and grabbed his arm in a vice-like grip. Tim tried to pry her hand off.

  “Ruby, let go. Come on.”

  Ruby didn’t relax her grip. She groaned again, and Tim propped himself up on one elbow, rubbing his eyes.

  “Are you okay, Ruby?”

  She put her hand over her stomach and released his arm. Tim lay back down and drifted off back to sleep. He slept restlessly, waking and dreaming. When he woke up, Ruby was tossing and turning, almost frantic. Tim put his arm around her.

  “Relax, baby. Go to sleep.”

  She pushed him away. It was starting to get light out, and Tim could see her dimly, her face lined in a grimace.

  “Ruby... are you okay? Are you all right?”

  She shook her head, eyes screwed shut. Tim sat up.

  “What is it, sweetie?”

  Someone else muttered at Tim to shut up. Tim brushed the hair out of Ruby’s eyes and felt her forehead. She was sweating. Her arms were rigid, her hands clenched into fists.

  “The baby,” Ruby said through clenched teeth.

  Tim’s heart raced. He swore.

  “I’ll take you to the hospital,” he promised. He got out of bed and pulled on his shirt and jeans.

  “Okay?” he questioned nervously. “You gonna be okay?”

  “What’s going on?” one of the other boys demanded.

  “Ruby’s in labor,” Tim snapped.

  There was dead silence in the room. Although Tim had known about Ruby’s condition almost as long as she had, most of the gang didn’t have a clue about her pregnancy. Tim looked at Ruby. She made no movement to get up.

  “Ruby.”

  She didn’t move. Tim pulled back the blankets to encourage her to get up. They were soaked with blood and water. Tim stood there just staring. He hadn’t even felt the wet sheets when he was lying in them. He took Ruby’s hand.

  “Come on, baby. Let’s get you to a doctor.”

  “I can’t.”

  “You can, come on.”

  “No.”

  Someone turned the light on. Ruby covered her eyes. The other boys sat up, rubbing their eyes. A couple pulled their blankets over their heads.

  “Should I call an ambulance?” Tim questioned.

  Ruby shook her head.

  “No.”

  “What do you want me to do?”

  “Nothing,” Ruby said through clenched teeth. “Don’t do nothing.”

  Tim stood there staring at her awkwardly. Ruby held both arms crossed over her stomach, her face taut and pale. Tim sat uncomfortably on the very edge of the bed.

  “Ruby... You’re going to have this baby. Tell me what to do. What if there’s something wrong?”

  “Then the baby will die,” Ruby said flatly.

  Tim suddenly understood. He got up.

  “I’m getting an ambulance,” he told her.

  Ruby tried to protest, but Tim didn’t listen. He stepped into the front room and flipped open his phone to call the emergency dispatcher. A couple of the other Jags milled around, eyes wide, expressions curious, and sort of sheepish. They didn’t know what to say to Tim. Tim handed the phone to one of them.

  “Give them directions.”

  He went back into the bedroom. There were tears on Ruby’s cheeks. Her hands were clenched into fists. Tim rolled one of the other Jags out of bed.

  “Get out of here, you guys. Get out.”

  The rest of the boys who had remained quickly left the room. Tim bent over Ruby.

  “Are you okay?”

  Ruby nodded. She shifted onto her back and closed her eyes.

  “Oh, man, it hurts, Tim.”

  “I know, baby. The ambulance is coming.”

  “I don’t want this baby!” she protested.

  “I know. I know. You don’t have to do anything. It’ll be okay.”

  He held her hand. Ruby gripped him tightly and lay there tense and stiff with tears running down her face. Tim stroked Ruby’s hair with his other hand, trying to get her to relax. When the emergency medics got there, Ruby was sobbing and gasping for breath. Tim was ordered from the room while they examined Ruby.
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