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Page 33

testpreptraining

Thanks to the ecstasy I was still swimming in, this question didn’t put me on edge like it normally did. “Soon,” I answered him.

He ran his fingers through my hair and gave me one last kiss. “I’ll take that,” he said, gathering me in his arms as he got comfortable. “That’s an improvement over ‘someday.’”

I didn’t know if soon meant tomorrow, or next month, or next year, but . . .

“Damn, you two. That was freakin’ hot.”

Jude and I tensed at the same time.

“How’s a girl supposed to get to sleep after that?” India continued.

I would have been embarrassed if I wasn’t still in my postsex stupor.

“Sweet dreams once you do,” I replied.

Jude chuckled into the back of my neck, and, with his arms around me, I was asleep before I even knew I was falling.

SEVENTEEN

I’d blinked my eyes and when I’d next opened them, summer had passed me by.

It was the first day of class my senior year. Between working forty-plus hours a week, watching LJ another forty hours a week, taking a couple more flights to visit Jude, hosting Friday-night dinner and movie nights, and trying to squeeze in a couple precious hours of dance every morning, I felt like I had a severe case of mono.

After that Friday night featuring fireworks by Jude and Anton, Anton showed up only when Jude was in San Diego. It was a smart move. Overall, Anton was a good guy, and when he followed my rule and didn’t bring Jude up, we managed to get along most days. Thanks to the job he’d given me, I’d been able to build a decent rainy-day fund, and we’d even figured out a way for me to sneak in a few hours during the school year. Jude wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but he knew better than to push me on the issue. Anton was my boss, my good friend’s brother, a friendly acquaintance. Nothing more.

After some creative schedule juggling, I was still able to help Holly out with LJ, and Thomas was able to fill in on Wednesdays, when I had a night class. Thomas and Holly had been an item, a hot item, since that night they figured out Thomas was indeed straight, and were ready to admit they were attached to each other. Thomas had become a permanent fixture at the apartment. I was about to invite him to move in, but was worried about the problems that would arise from sharing one bathroom among four people who each liked to take long showers.

My last class of the day had finished early, and since I had some time before I had to be back to watch LJ, I headed to the dance studio in White Plains. I hadn’t gotten in near as much dance time as I’d wanted to this summer. What with the circus my life had become, it seemed that somewhere along the way, my priorities had started to shift. Not necessarily change, but realign. I was starting to get a better grasp on the concept that the world doesn’t revolve around Lucy Larson.

A concept I was still trying to work out in my mind.

The studio was empty, and I took a moment to enjoy it. Moments of quiet and alone time were so rare now, I savored them. It was ironic how a few months back, all I’d felt was lonely, and now I craved a few minutes of lonely.

I tied on my pointes and took my time stretching. I was in the middle of a quad stretch when my stomach turned. Followed by a clench and a rumble.

I grabbed my stomach, hoping it would pass.

When the whole turn, clench, and rumble repeated itself, I hurried off the stage and headed for the backstage bathroom. I hadn’t thrown up in years, but I don’t think a person ever forgets the queasy way she feels before she throws up. That was an unpleasant series of events that was forever branded into my mind.

I could taste the bile crawling up my throat as I raced inside the bathroom. There wasn’t a second to spare before my stomach tightened one last time as I heaved into the toilet. I coughed and hovered there, just in case. After a minute had passed and I was fairly certain there wouldn’t be any aftershocks, I flushed before heading to the sink to turn the faucet on. I rinsed my mouth and doused my face with cold water.

I was already feeling better by the time I dried my face, but I wasn’t going to chance it. If I was catching something I wanted to nip it in the bud before it got worse. I exchanged my pointes for my flats, slipped my sweater over my cami, and headed back to the Mazda. I was going to be watching LJ all night, and was hoping to take a quick nap before I started going sixty miles per hour until bedtime.

As I climbed the stairs to the apartment, that stomach-churning feeling was returning. By the time I was unlocking the door, it had returned with a vengeance. After another sprint to the bathroom, I barely made it in time to throw up for the second time in an hour. Thankfully I’d skipped lunch, or else this would have been an even more unpleasant ordeal.

“Lucy?” Holly knocked on the door, sounding concerned. “You okay in there?”

I groaned as my stomach churned again. This time it had mercy on me.

“I’m okay if you consider dying okay,” I said, wondering why the sink felt so far away.

The door opened and Holly slipped inside.

“Where’s LJ?” I asked, not wanting the little man to witness this. The kid would never be the same.

“Passed out under the table,” she said, looking concerned. “You got sick?”

“What gave that away?” I said, glad I’d just cleaned the toilet yesterday, since my cheek was resting on the seat.

She glanced at the toilet, her nose wrinkled.

“Oh, shoot. Sorry,” I said, flushing.

Holly grabbed a washcloth and ran some water over it. She knelt beside me and wrapped it around my neck. It was cool and made me feel better right away.

“I must have eaten something bad,” I guessed. My stomach was seriously pissed at me and revolting.

“You had Kashi cereal for dinner last night and your standard apple for breakfast,” she said, pulling my hair back and braiding it. “I don’t think it’s anything you ate.”

“Then it must be some kind of flu bug,” I said, starting to feel better. For how long, I wasn’t sure.

“It’s early September, Lucy. This isn’t flu season.” She wrapped a tie around the end of my hair before sliding the braid under my sweater.

“Then I must be one of the fortunate few who catches that rare summertime bug,” I said, not wanting to talk about why I was sick, but rather how I could get better. Fast.

Holly sighed and scooted around until she was looking at me. “When was the last time you had your period?”

I was startled at first by her question, which was as abrupt as it was random. Two seconds later I understood what she was getting at.

“You think I could be pregnant?” Now, in addition to feeling sick to my stomach, I felt a little faint, too.

“Well, it’s not like you’re exactly abstinent, Lucy,” she said.

“I’m on the pill,” I replied, feeling like I was trying to convince her as much as I was myself. I’d missed a pill here and there, but was usually so careful.

“Yeah, but did you miss the part where it says the pill is only ninety-nine percent effective in preventing pregnancy?” Her voice was as soft as Holly’s had ever been. She wasn’t saying this to upset me, but upset was just the way I felt.

“But sometimes we use a condom, too.” Though not often.

“So that means sometimes you don’t,” she said, grabbing my hand. “I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure ‘sometimes’ isn’t a guarantee that you won’t get knocked up.”

I was starting to panic now. I was breaking out in a clammy sweat, and my hands were trembling, because I knew what Holly was saying could be a possibility. I was on the pill, and we used a condom during the times I was supposed to be at my most prime for getting pregnant, but she was right: I wasn’t abstinent, so I couldn’t rule pregnancy out 100 percent, given the way I was feeling today. As much as I wanted to.

“When was your last period?” she asked again.

I couldn’t think. I could barely breathe, so it took me a while to answer her. “Um . . . a couple of months ago. I think.” This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be. “But I don’t get my period every month. It’s irregular.” It was a common thing for dancers to have sporadic periods, or even for them to stop completely. The lifestyle, paired with the low body fat, really messed with our cycles.

“Yeah, but you still get your period, so you could be pregnant.” Holly scooted toward the sink and pulled out one of the drawers. Shuffling inside it, she pulled out a pink-and-white cardboard box. “There’s only one way to know for sure.”

This whole thing got even more surreal as Holly waved the pregnancy kit in front of me.

I shook my head. “I don’t think I can do it.” One part of me already knew Holly was probably right, and I wasn’t ready for that to be confirmed. I wasn’t ready to think of how my life would change in a total and forever kind of way.

She opened the box and pulled out a white stick. “I’ll help you.”

I don’t know how long I stared at that white stick, but Holly had to help me up, because I wasn’t capable of moving. After telling me what to do, she waited with me while I peed on the test. A test that felt like it was holding my whole life in the balance. Like all my dreams, and hopes, and my future rested on the outcome of one or two pink lines.

After capping it, Holly set it down on the sink. “We have to wait two minutes.”

Two minutes might as well have been two decades. I wanted to sneak a peek just as much as I didn’t. Holly hugged me the whole time, rubbing the back of my neck and patting my back. It was moments like these when you were most thankful for your friends, because there was no way I could have made it through this without her.

“Okay, I think it’s time,” she said, giving my braid one gentle tug.

“Just tell me,” I said, closing my eyes. “I can’t look.”

“All right, Lucy,” she said. I heard her pick the stick up from the counter. She barely gasped, but it went off like a foghorn in my ears. “Lucy . . . you’re . . .”

I opened my eyes at the last minute. Two pink lines.

“Pregnant.”

And then I passed out.

The voices around me sounded like they were coming through a tunnel. They were all echoes. I wanted to open my eyes, but I couldn’t. Not because they felt heavy, but more because they felt like they’d been taped closed. I wanted to escape the darkness, but I couldn’t.

And then I heard a name. That was all I needed to kick through the darkness.

“We’ve got to call Jude,” a familiar male voice said.

“Yeah. Yeah, okay. I’ll get my phone.”

This was the final push I needed to open my eyes.

“No,” I said, my voice breaking. “Don’t call him. I’m all right.” I was laid out on the couch, and my head was propped up by a couple of pillows.

Holly and Thomas hovered above me, looking down at me like you’d imagine someone would look at a corpse.

“When did you get here, Thomas?” I tried sitting up, but my body wasn’t having any of it.

***

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