Marta and I didn’t have much chance to talk after that. Momma and Dad came home, and we passed Marta’s tears off as the fear that she hadn’t done well on one of her exams. We went through our afternoon like nothing was different. I tried to forget that there was a difference, vaguely aware that this might be my last chance at a normal afternoon ever. We didn’t even talk about it as we got ready for bed or sat in the darkness waiting to fall asleep, although I could feel the tension in the air that meant it was on both of our minds.
The next day was a day full of church. We were five days away from Christmas, and Momma still insisted that we both perform in the choir and the bell choir at the Christmas day service, so we had to go to a full day of rehearsals to make sure that we were all ready for the big day. I’ve never felt so uncomfortable in church before. All I could think about as a looked around at the men and women who I’d known my whole life, all who promised to love me and Marta unconditionally through our lives, was how many of them would still be talking to us in nine months’ time.
The day after that, Marta had her “Christmas Volunteering” at a local pet shelter all day, so she was gone before I could wake up, and was exhausted by the time she got home. While she was gone, I went to the library and I did some research on any question I could think of. The day after that, I was supposed to go out with Bradley, but I told him it was sister problems and canceled. Marta and I told our parents we were going to the movies and headed out. By the time we’d parked in the mall parking lot down the street, I was fit to burst. “What are we going to do?” I asked as I threw the car in park and turned to Marta. “The stress of it is killing me and I’ve only known for three days. We’ve got to come up with a plan here, Mart, or I don’t think I’m going to make it.”
“This is why I’m kind of glad it happened to me, not you,” Marta said slowly, “I’m a little less prone to hysterics.”
She gave me a teasing smile, so I stuck out my tongue. But then I fixed her with a more serious look. “You are being remarkably calm about this all, Marta. Are you okay?”
She laughed, turning to look out the windshield. “Okay? Uh—I feel like that’s a very loaded word at the moment. I think—well—I’m probably in shock, you know? I don’t really believe it, you know but at the same time, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to find out that this is a false alarm, so it’s not like I’m holding out to find out that I’m wrong. I’m just—“ Marta held up her hand, and I could see that it was shaking, “There really isn’t any preparing for a life changer like this, is there?” Marta seemed to be asking herself more than she was asking me. She folded her hands in her lap and turned back to look at me again. “Avery, I think you had a very good idea. We need a plan. This will be much easier to process if we have a plan.”
I reached into my purse and pulled out the stack of papers I’d printed out from the library yesterday, balancing them carefully on the console in between the seats. “I guess the first question, the most important, is—Marta, is abortion a consideration?”
I knew the answer almost as soon as I asked it. I could read it on Marta’s face. “No. No, I’ve thought about it, but, I can’t. Avery, this is my kid. I can’t kill it. I just can’t.” She looked at me pleadingly, like she needed some confirmation on her decision. I nodded because what else was I supposed to do.
“I looked into it. We can make an appointment at Planned Parenthood. They can get us a pregnancy test to confirm the results that you got from the over the counter, and they can help you come up with some prenatal care to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself the way you should be. They don’t need parental permission, and they can only release information with your permission. That way we don’t have to tell Momma yet or go to Momma’s doctor.”
“Right,” Marta nodded, flipping through the pages.
“Have you given any thought to when we’re going to tell Momma? Because I think she’ll notice eventually. Have you told Natalie or any of the other girls? Do you want me to tell Bradley, or keep it to myself, or do you not care either way? Do you want for me to call and make your appointment or would you prefer to handle that yourself since you’re familiar with your schedule?” Marta looked up at me with a smile and I stopped short. “What?”
“You’re too good to me, you know. You don’t have to do any of this.” I gave Marta a shrug. I was just doing what I thought would ease my mind, I didn’t really know how to explain that I was just being selfish. “Also, Questions McGee—you’ve asked a hundred questions except possibly the most obvious.”
I searched my mind, trying to think of what Marta meant. When I came up with nothing I asked: “What’s the most obvious?”
Marta put down the stack of papers and began to fidget with the hair tie around her wrist. “How in the world am I going to tell the father?”