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Rebranded - A Memoir (Excerpt II )

"You're pregnant."

Those words spilled out from a middle-aged white man who looked like he was tired of saying it to girls my age. I sat numb. It wasn't a surprise. Periods had stopped some time ago, and a body I already didn't understand was becoming more of a mystery, but I knew missed periods was a red flag. He quickly told me I was too far along to have an abortion, saying it in a tone like he had said that exact sentence to someone else earlier. Abortion had not crossed my mind because I was still secretly hoping that my anxiety had tricked my body into thinking it was pregnant when I wasn't. Shame and guilt were stifling as I realized I was now a statistic. I was black, 16, unwed and pregnant. Me - the honor roll student, granddaughter of a pastor, daughter of a mother who was a vice president at a local hospital, a father who was a self-made businessman. Yes, I was pregnant and somehow had to find a way to tell the two people who chose me that I had failed them with my choices.

I had to tell Gerald (name has been changed to protect identity) first. I dreaded it and hoped that I was wrong about what I believed his reaction would be. He is the one who told me to go to the doctor because home pregnancy tests are not always accurate. What if, with this confirmation, he provided the support I needed from him right now? Of course, that is what I prayed for as I walked the two blocks to his house. I could feel my heart thump in my chest as I took short steps hating that I allowed myself to be in this position. I hated that I knew nothing about birth control or how easy it was to get pregnant. How did I know the pullout method wasn't effective when a teenage boy was doing it? Thoughts were cycling through my head of the many ways this encounter could play out. I wondered if I knew the sex of the baby would make a difference to him. With each step I took, the scenario played in my head. I wanted to disappear or reset time.

I reached his porch and knocked softly on the screen door, still hoping I would wake up from this intricate dream. I didn't. The strong thump in my chest was now double-timed as he opened the door at what I suspect was about a 24-degree angle, prepared to slam in my face at any moment. He looked at me like I was trash and regretted ever pretending to like me. I stood there shrinking as he didn't even have the courtesy of coming out of the house. He was already taller than me, and him standing in his doorway and me on the porch put him an extra foot above me.

"It's confirmed. I'm pregnant." He didn't mince words.

"How do I even know it's mine?" He asked, staring at me, anger in his eyes at the inconvenience I was causing him.

"Because you know I have never been with anyone else." Tears had started welling up in my eyes, but I fought them, clenching my teeth and forcing my jaw to tighten as I held back the rising emotion. It was bad enough I was standing there pregnant by a boy who couldn't care less about me. I didn't want to give him my tears at that moment too. He continued to look at me like I was a Jehovah's Witness interrupting overtime of the Lakers and Pistons in the championship game.

"What makes you think I want you to have my baby."

The word "you" was stressed like I was the most hideous creature on the face of the planet who had the audacity to be pregnant. His glare was piercing, burning a hole in me. The ground began to swallow me when I didn't think I could sink any lower. I felt worthless, and the callousness he addressed me would replay in my mind for years to come in other relationships.

"Don't try and tell my mom. She's not gonna care."

I hadn't even thought about his mother. I didn't have too much contact with her, but I knew she was protective of her sons and always felt girls were trying to trap them.

"I'm going to give the baby up for adoption." Those words rolled off my lips, foreign to my ears but extended as an olive branch, hoping his eyes would soften as they did when he wooed me downstairs to his room after school. What I would have given for him to look into my eyes and show me love, compassion, support, anything! But he was a child like me, and the only thing I saw was fear and contempt.

Standing there with that comment lingering in the air. I knew I would indeed do what was done to me to this unborn child, probably with the same hopes my birth mother had when she gave me up. The hopes of a mother and father that would love the child I was carrying.

Gerald and I stood there for a few quiet moments. He seemed to be waiting for me to break out in tears, and as a few fell, I was beginning to lose the battle of holding back the onslaught.

"Do what you want to do. It's not my baby." Were his parting words as he closed the door and left me standing there on the porch wondering - why I just couldn't have kept my legs closed?

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