I started this serialized story about 2 years ago now and then parked it. I was trying to recapture the memories of all those characters I’ve met, lived next to, went to school with, or worked with my whole life. I was just thinking about reviving it.
Maggie trudged down the dusty road with her tired feet and her aching back. Sweat poured from her bronzed forehead as the sun pelted down on her small frame. She swallowed hard to moisten her mouth.
A recent high-school drop out, she was a beautiful 17-year-old girl, with large brown eyes that had once held the innocence and vibrancy that only youth can portray. Now, as the 5 month old fetus inside her pressed down on her bladder she thought, God, I want to pee so badly. Having already slogged 3 miles, there was still another 2 to go. What had compelled her to try to find a job at this stage of her pregnancy?
“Sorry, girl, we need someone who’ll be around for a long time,” remarked one potential employer, eyeing her belly.
“This is a bottling factory, dear. We can’t afford the lawsuit if you get hurt on the job,” declared another.
Another one flatly put it: “We don’t hire pregnant girls here. You’ll have to be on your feet 9 hours a day at the checkout counter.”
And several of these: “You need at least a high school diploma to work here.”
Maggie had decided, against her mother’s wishes, to forgo her senior year of high school in favor of the love of her life, Stephen. He had moved to Riverside the previous year and gotten a job as a mechanic’s assistant. He also rented the tiny studio apartment above the shop. The two had met when Maggie and her mom visited the mechanic’s shop to have her car worked on. For 16-year-old Maggie at the time, the friendly and welcoming smile from the brawny and imposing Stephen made her feel special. Grown-up. He was built like an Adonis, with short wavy dark hair and tanned skin which indicated that surely he must have been plucked from the current issue of GQ magazine.
Within weeks of their meeting, Maggie was skipping school and hanging out with Stephen during the day. Her mother, Janet, didn’t approve. She was a single mother of 3 and was hoping that her children would all at least finish high school and get good jobs. Or join the military, at least. Janet, herself, didn’t accomplish this, having left school early to care for an ailing mother and 3 younger siblings. When Maggie told her that she was dropping out of school last year because she didn’t think she was getting anything out of it, Janet was furious. She shouted, she threatened, she pleaded with Maggie not to throw her life away. In the end, to avoid the constant nagging, and against her mother’s wishes, Maggie moved in with Stephen.
Three months later, Maggie informed her mother that she was pregnant.
Today, she had spent the last 4 hours walking the streets of downtown trying to find employment. She had enough cash to take the bus downtown to try to find work and then to return home. For the last four hours she had traversed the downtown streets in search of employment. However, at some time during the day, her basic need for food overtook her and so she had traded her return bus fare for a Snickers bar. She’d forgotten that she was eating for two and didn’t consider that she would need to eat before returning home.
She weighed her options and decided to buy something to eat instead and walk the 5 miles home, as she had done many times in the past. But this time was different. She had miscalculated the extra weight that the baby was placing on her and now felt like an over-inflated balloon about to pop.
Maggie stopped in a bus shelter and sat down to rest her leaden legs. She removed her shoes to relieve the pressure on her feet. If only she had something to drink!. She wished she’d thought about bringing along a bottle of water this morning. She wiped her face with some napkins she had stuffed into her purse earlier. Looking at the bump protruding under her clothes, she buried her face in her hands and began to sob.
Life was not going the way she planned it. She reflected that it wasn’t so long ago she told her mom that she was old enough to do as she pleased and remembered how furious her mom was that she had gotten pregnant. She’d never seen her mom cry like that before. She ignored it all though and told her mom that Stephen was quite happy that they were now having a baby.
But life through the eyes of a 16 year old and reality itself are often at opposite ends. In fact, Stephen was not happy that they were having a baby. Money was tight and Maggie and Stephen quarreled all the time. His income as a mechanic was not enough to feed both of them and the stress of planning for a third mouth to feed was overwhelming for the couple. They frequently rowed about Maggie spending while not bringing in any money at all.
The final straw happened when Stephen came home and found that Maggie had gone shopping for maternity clothes. A neighbor had to call the police to break up the fight. Someone had to leave.
That evening, with her tail between her legs, Maggie decided to return to her mother’s home.