Margeaux crushed her cigarette on the crosswalk of Willett Street with her left Doc
Marten boot. She strutted into the CVS on the corner. It was February 8th.
She jammed her bone-numb hands in her leather jacket and walked right up to the clerk.
“Excuse me, where are your pregnancy tests?” she uttered with feigned confidence.
“Aisle 7,” the clerk replied, eyes glued to the counter.
Margeaux had been putting this off for weeks. She thought pregnancy was a possibility, as her period hadn’t come last month, but that was typical for her when she was on a smoking spree.
She had lost her job in early December. One of those, “we have to let you go,” situations. For fuck’s sake, she was the best server they had. The restaurant had been bought out by one of those hot, avant-garde owners. They were “totally revamping” the space. “Nothing we could do about it,” her boss assured her, himself getting replaced.
Margeaux picked up her old habit the next day, December 10th. Gone, never forgotten.
She and Knox had gone upstate to spend a sugar-coated white Christmas with his family. A week after New Years, Knox dumped her, as she was pouring them both cereal one morning. “We aren’t a good fit anymore,” he had assured. She knew this was an alibi for his family’s disapproval of her. His mom had never embraced her and chose to never try. Margeaux knew this would be the case from the second Kimberl
ey affected a veneered smile in that stuffy restaurant on the Upper West Side, their initial introduction. One look at Margeaux’s nose ring, and Kimberley dismissed her to the kitchen’s waste bin along with her overspiced, undercooked green beans. That’s how Margeaux felt around his family: overly spicy, stringy, and forked with, never tasted.
As Margeaux trekked the 3 blocks home from CVS, his mother’s cruel deprecations echoed in her brain, a chamber of resounding walls. Kimberley’s w
ords sliced just as hard as they did on Christmas morning, when Margeaux overheard Knox’s parents dissecting her over coffee in their white-marbled kitchen. She may have to work in the food industry forever, Peter. She doesn’t even have a college degree. And that smoking habit? She reeks, hon. Thank God she doesn’t do it in the house, but my Lord….
Margeaux arrived at her room back in the Lower East Side and slammed the door shut.
“Shit, sorry Keira, didn’t mean to slam!”
She ran to the bathroom, locked the door and turned the shower on, an ablution for her nerves. Tearing open the stick with her teeth, she leaned over to pee on it and counted to 30.
The two lines emerged, staring at her like daggered snake eyes.
Then they blurred together, alive and moving.
Margeaux turned to the toilet and threw up.
Margeaux and Knox had lived together for 8 months in Murray Hill. Margeaux moved in with her high school friend Keira 5 days after Knox called it quits. “You’re my saving grace,” Margeaux had gushed, showing up with only one suitcase and a pillow. Unfortunately, the job loss compounded with the breakup spirall
ed Margeaux into her self-loathing, mopey episodes, as she ignored the years-expired antidepressants in her suitcase and opted for cigarette packs she would deeply shovel in her purse and pockets. Keira had prompted her to get the pregnancy test.
“You look really skinny, Margeaux. I want you to look healthy again,” she had begun.
“I stopped getting my period.”
“Yeah no shit, you’re skin and bones. Listen, I’m going to CVS right now to get you a test, just to ease your mind, but also some chocolate bars and a bag of doritos to fatten you up,” she had offered.
“No, no, I’ll go now.”
If Keira bought it for her, she would owe her the result.
Margeaux flushed the toilet and stared at herself. The
positive result was too big a secret to hold in. She felt an onset of more nausea, and fingered her jacket pocket for a cigarette and turned for the door handle. She would get some fresh air and brush her teeth later. Her planning was interrupted by a knock on the bathroom door.
“Hey, are you okay?”
Margeaux opened the door, all droopy eyes and Eeyore. She clawed for the test on the counter and waved it at Keira’s face in circular motion
s, Hermione Granger casting a spell.
Keira snatched it. “Let me see….2 lines…wait…no way, Margeaux.”
Keira took Margeaux’s limp hand and dragged her to the couch, embraced her, and as Margeaux silently cried, browsed obstetrics clinics on her phone.
“You probably have Aetna insurance...okay, this should
be in-network.” 2 minutes later, her appointment was made for February 18th. Margeaux silently wondered if she had scheduled an abortion or an initial prenatal visit. She would see the doctor’s appointment details on her email confirmation later: Crenshaw and Davidson Obstetrics.
Margeaux spent the ten days from then until the appointment nonchalantly sending her resume to retail jobs online. She browsed abortion clinics online. She dialed the number and pressed call, then threw her phone on the floor. No. A child would bring her just what she needed - a reason to keep going forward.
“You’re carrying twins,” Dr. Crenshaw announced at her a
“Fuck,” was all Margeaux could manage.
On the metro back home, Margeaux shuffled through her email to see when her health insurance plan would expire. There was some kind of grace period for letting employees go, she recalled…she typed “employee benefit updates” and clicked on the email.
6 more weeks. Shit, not nearly enough to get her through to term. She needed to start job hunting now and get on an insurance plan. She began to chip off the ink-black nail polish on her thumb, while observing the couple in front of her playing footsie. She peered up at the train map pasted on the subway wall. Only 2 more stops until she could get above ground and light up again.
As she smoked and walked 2 blocks to Keira’s apartment, she did the math. The doctor had estimated she was eight weeks along….2 months ago was Christmas Eve. Yup, the last time they had slept together. The twins were conceived that night. She started drumming up Christmas-themed names in her head. Noelle, Angelica, Joseph, Mistletoe...no, who was she kidding, she wasn’t even religious…
Margeaux knew she had to quit smoking. Every day, sh
e postponed quitting to the following day, predicating her evidence on her grandmother, who smoked every day and gave birth to her perfectly healthy mother, who has remained perfect to this day.
On March third, Margeaux’s cognitive dissonance heightened. She passed a lustrous pregnant woman on one of her walks through Central Park, her cheeks round and pink, glowing, as they say. She was pushing a curly-haired toddler in a stroller, singing one of those Disney songs as her baby girl clapped and giggled. Margeaux threw her cigarettes in the nearest trashcan and pulled her glossy brown hair up in a sleek ponytail. She turned out of the park and wandered through the uppity Upper East side. She paused in front of a bustling Italian place and walked in, smiling as she took in the familiar marinara-laden air and walked up to the hostess.
“Any chance you all are hiring?”
She filled out the application and promised she would send her resume in as soon as she got home.
As she pranced to the metro, she pulled out her phone and scrolled through her contacts until she found Knox’s name. After 3 rings, she was sent to voicemail.
“Hey Knox, it’s Margeaux. I have some big news. Give me a call when you get this. P.S. Kimberley is going to be sooo hyped!” She smiled a quivery smile.
She hung up, slid her phone into her purse, and glanced
upwards, letting out a deep breath. She stood still for one minute, pedestrians darting around her like insects, consumed in their own destinations. The skyscraper buildings towered over her like redwoods. For the first time in a couple months, she felt grounded. She placed her hands on her belly and looked down.
“We can do this, guys,” she whispered. Her feet led her in muscle memory to her favourite diner she frequented, firstly as a teenager and again with Knox in their honeymoon phase. Her favourite bartender smiled at her from across the counter.
“One large strawberry milkshake, please, Reggie. I have twins in here to feed!”