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I walked into the house, tired from a long day, wanting to be near Thomas. Anywhere near, if it was nothing but just snuggling on the couch during some inane sitcom that he loves so well.
"Thomas?" I called as I set my keys in the bowl beside the door. No answer. I saw a note pasted to the mirror in the hall hat rack, and I could quote it without even looking.
"Dear Parker," I still haven't told him my first name, and I won't, "I'm sorry, but I was called away on a job. I'll call you tonight, or if I miss you, here's my number in Seattle. Call 555-8972 and ask for me at the Hilton. I love credit cards. Love you, my dear Parker. Save a kiss for me when I get back. Yours always, Thomas." Signed with a flurish, and enough to bring tears to my eyes. Thomas seems to be gone more often these days, and I can't help but wonder if it's my fault, if I'm driving him away. 'Silk and satin, fire and ice,' he likes to call me. Thomas grounds me, keeps me from going mad in a strange world.
Might as well get comfortable for a lonely night, I told myself. Going into the bedroom I change into the pajamas that Thomas gave me, a horribly ugly logger's plaid flannel that is the most comfortable thing I've ever had on. Much better than silk. I grab a cup of coffee on my way through the kitchen and go to the living room, flipping on the tv as I snuggle down in the overstuffed couch. If I can't have Thomas to snuggle up with tonight, I can at least have the next best thing. Just when I got settled, and Thomas's favorite show had started, the inevitable happened. The phone rang.
"What?" I really wasn't in the mood to talk that night.
The chuckle from the other end of the line didn't improve my mood, either.
"What do you want, Jarod?"
He chuckled again. "Just to hear your pretty voice again, Miss Parker. It's been so long since we last talked."
I put my hand on my forehead, trying to massage away the sudden headache. "I was hoping to keep it that way. What can I do for you, Jarod?"
"Hmmm....I don't know, Miss Parker. A civil greeting isn't too much to ask, I hope."
"It is tonight. Get to the point. You never call without a reason, so hit me." That mocking tone he uses is too much sometimes. It just makes me want to slap him through the phone.
"Miss Parker, I know."
"You know what?" I wasn't sure I liked the turn this conversation was going.
I heard Jarod's voice turn a little sadder. "I know what you've hidden from Thomas. Miss Parker, you can't live a lie your whole life! How were you planning on hiding it in a few months?"
"I wasn't. I was going to take care of it, nice and simple."
Jarod snorted. "Right, Miss Parker. Like I haven't heard that one before. It's *never* nice. It's *never* simple. You don't realize it, Miss Parker, but if you go through with it, you'll regret it for the rest of your life."
"Oh, and I suppose you're an expert on it? What makes you think you can tell me what to do, Jarod? You've been out for what, three years? How could you possibly know the things I know?"
"Because, Miss Parker," he sounded so patient, so understanding, "Because I've seen it first-hand. I've been there when it happens. I've talked to the women after a few years. I *know* You have to trust me on this. If you do it, you'll never get over it. Thomas *will* find out, and he will hate you forever. You don't want to admit it to yourself, but you know it's true. Miss Parker, please don't make a mistake that will ruin the rest of your life! Call Thomas, tell him, let him comfort you. I know he will understand."
I leaned my head into the soft back of the couch and closed my eyes, feeling a tear squeeze out as I did. The truth of Jarod's words cut so deeply that my soul hurt. I knew the truth, that if Thomas ever found out he would leave me, and that if I went through with the abortion my soul would hurt forever. If the gentle pain that washed through me now was any indication, I would be constantly tormented, and unable to do anything normal again. I can't believe that I'm turning into such a sentimental sap, but Jarod was right. I felt tears running freely down my face, and suddenly Jarod's voice registered in my ears.
"Miss Parker? Are you still there?"
I rubbed the bridge of my nose and sighed. "Yes, Jarod, I'm still here. Look, if you're such a fount of great advice, why don't you tell me what I should tell Thomas."
Jarod chuckled softly, an oddly soothing sound. "I can't tell you that, Miss Parker. He's your boyfriend, and the words must come from your mouth, not mine. Please, just tell him soon. I'm afraid that he might not have much time."
I sat up on the couch and gripped the phone tighter. "What do you mean, 'might not have much time'? What are you saying?"
"Miss Parker, you work at the Centre. He doesn't. Do the math."
My eyes squeezed shut again as the truth of Jarod's words hit me. That boy has no idea how much he affects me, calling out of nowhere and showing me a truth that I've missed in my constant struggle with everyone, including myself. "Jarod, please help me. I don't know what to say, I don't know what to do. I don't know how to tell my father. You know he's going to kill me when he finds out."
"Miss Parker, I can't help you do something that must be done on your own. You're going to think this is incredibly sappy, I'm sure, but I heard it once on a movie. Trust your heart. Listen to that inner voice. Thomas will understand, and your father can't do anything about it. Please, just set things right while you still can."
"You're an idiot, Jarod. Do you know that?"
"I'm taking that as a compliment, Miss Parker," he said dryly. The dial tone buzzed in my ear and I hung up the phone, sitting back on the couch and hugging my favorite blue pillow to my chest.
"Oh, Jarod. Why did you have to be like you are?" I felt a trace of sadness as I realized that I'd never see Jarod again, for he was a Pretender, and if he didn't want the Centre to catch him, they'd never catch him. I no longer even think of myself in the same sentence with that awful place. Not since Thomas. Not since I found out that I was carrying his child. With a sigh I made up my mind. Picking up the phone I dialed the number that Thomas had given me and waited for the concierge to pick up.
"Thomas, please." I knew I didn't have to give his last name, for Thomas made an impression everywhere he went, and only used his first name. He would be remembered. The phone rang again, and I waited until I heard his musical voice before letting the tears flow again.
"Thomas!" I choked as my voice cracked, and I disolved into tears. Blast it, I hate getting sentimental! Thomas soothed me until I could talk again, then asked,
"What is it, sweet Parker?"
"Thomas, we need to talk."
We talked far into the night, and when I finally hung up, four hours later, I felt like a burden was lifted from my shoulders and I could almost fly! Thomas and I are going away together, and soon we'll all be free of this horrible place, all three of us.