Adam's telephone calls were neither accepted nor returned. His letters were sent back unopened. On the last letter Jennifer received, she wrote the word "deceased" on the envelope and dropped it in the mail slot. It's true, Jennifer thought. I am dead.
She had never known that such pain could exist. She had to be alone, and yet she was not alone. There was another human being inside her, a part of her and a part of Adam. And she was going to destroy it.
She forced herself to think about where she was going to have the abortion. A few years earlier an abortion would have meant some quack doctor in a dirty, sleazy back-alley room, but now that was no longer necessary. She could go to a hospital and have the operation performed by a reputable surgeon. Somewhere outside of New York City. Jennifer's photograph had been in the newspapers too many times, she had been on television too often. She needed anonymity, someplace where no one would ask questions. There must never, never be a link between her and Adam Warner. United States Senator Adam Warner. Their baby must die anonymously.
Jennifer allowed herself to think of what the baby would have been like, and she began to weep so hard that it was difficult to breathe.
It had started to rain. Jennifer looked up at the sky and wondered whether God was crying for her.
Ken Bailey was the only person Jennifer could trust to help her.
"I need an abortion," Jennifer said without preamble. "Do you know of a good doctor?"
He tried to mask his surprise, but Jennifer could see the variety of emotions that flickered across his face.
"Somewhere out of town, Ken. Someplace where they won't know me."
"What about the Fiji Islands?" There was an anger in his voice.
"Sorry. I - you caught me off guard." The news had taken him completely by surprise. He worshipped Jennifer. He knew that he loved her, and there were times when he thought he was in love with her; but he could not be sure, and it was torture. He could never do to Jennifer what he had done to his wife. God, Ken thought, why the hell couldn't You make up Your mind about me?
He ran his hands through his red hair and said, "If you don't want to have it in New York, I'd suggest North Carolina. It's not too far away."
"Can you check it out for me?"
"Yeah. Fine. I - "
He looked away from her. "Nothing."
Ken Bailey disappeared for the next three days. When he walked into Jennifer's office on the third day, he was unshaven and his eyes were hollow and red-rimmed.
Jennifer took one look at him and asked, "Are you all right?"
"I guess so."
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"No." If God can't help me, love, there's nothing you can do.
He handed Jennifer a slip of paper. On it was written, Dr. Eric Linden, Memorial Hospital, Charlotte, North Carolina.
"Thank you, Ken."
"De nada. When are you going to do it?"
"I'll go down there this weekend."
He said awkwardly, "Would you like me to go with you?"
"No, thanks. I'll be fine."
"What about the return trip?"
"I'll be all right."
He stood there a moment, hesitating. "It's none of my business, but are you sure this is what you want to do?"
She had no choice. She wanted nothing more in the world than to keep Adam's baby, but she knew it would be insane to try to bring the baby up by herself.
She looked at Ken and said again, "I'm sure."
The hospital was a pleasant old two-story brick building on the outskirts of Charlotte.
The woman behind the registration desk was gray-haired, in her late sixties. "May I help you?"
"Yes," Jennifer said. "I'm Mrs. Parker. I have an appointment with Dr. Linden to - to - " She could not bring herself to say the words.
The receptionist nodded understandingly. "The doctor's expecting you, Mrs. Parker. I'll have someone show you the way."
An efficient young nurse led Jennifer to an examining room down the hall and said, "I'll tell Dr. Linden you're here. Would you like to get undressed? There's a hospital gown on the hanger."
Slowly, possessed by a feeling of unreality, Jennifer undressed and put on the white hospital gown. She felt as though she were putting on a butcher's apron. She was about to kill the life inside her. In her mind, the apron became spattered with blood, the blood of her baby. Jennifer found herself trembling.
A voice said, "Here, now. Relax."
Jennifer looked up to see a burly bald-headed man wearing horn-rimmed glasses that gave his face an owlish appearance.
"I'm Dr. Linden." He looked at the chart in his hand. "You're Mrs. Parker."
The doctor touched her arm and said soothingly, "Sit down." He went to the sink and filled a paper cup with water. "Drink this."
Jennifer obeyed. Dr. Linden sat in a chair, watching her until the trembling had subsided.
"So. You want to have an abortion."
"Have you discussed this with your husband, Mrs. Parker?"
"Yes. We - we both want it."
He studied her. "You appear to be in good health."
"I feel - I feel fine."
"Is it an economic problem?"
"No," Jennifer said sharply. Why was he bothering her with questions? "We - we just can't have the baby."
Dr. Linden took out a pipe. "This bother you?"
Dr. Linden lit the pipe and said, "Nasty habit." He leaned back and blew out a puff of smoke.
"Could we get this over with?" Jennifer asked.
Her nerves were stretched to the breaking point. She felt that at any moment she was going to scream.
Dr. Linden took another long, slow puff from his pipe. "I think we should talk for a few minutes."
By an enormous effort of will, Jennifer controlled her agitation. "All right."
"The thing about abortions," Dr. Linden said, "is that they're so final. You can change your mind now, but you can't change it after the baby's gone."
"I'm not going to change my mind."
He nodded and took another slow puff of the pipe. "That's good."
The sweet smell of the tobacco was making Jennifer nauseous. She wished he would put away his pipe. "Doctor Linden - "
He rose to his feet reluctantly and said, "All right, young lady, let's have a look at you."
Jennifer lay back on the examining table, her feet in the cold metal stirrups. She felt his fingers probing inside her body. They were gentle, and skilled, and she felt no embarrassment, only an ineffable sense of loss, a deep sorrow. Unbidden visions came into her mind of her young son, because she knew with certainty it would have been a boy, running and playing and laughing. Growing up in the image of his father.
Dr. Linden had finished his examination. "You can get dressed now, Mrs. Parker. You may stay here overnight, if you like, and we'll perform the operation in the morning."
"No!" Jennifer's voice was sharper than she had intended. "I'd like it done now, please."
Dr. Linden was studying her again, a quizzical expression on his face.
"I have two patients ahead of you. I'll have the nurse come in and get a lab work-up and then put you in your room. We'll go ahead with surgery in about four hours. All right?"
Jennifer whispered, "All right."
She lay on the narrow hospital bed, her eyes closed, waiting for Dr. Linden to return. There was an old-fashioned clock on the wall and its ticking seemed to fill the room. The ticktock became words: Young Adam, Young Adam, Young Adam, our son, our son, our son.
Jennifer could not shut the vision of the baby out of her mind. At this moment it was inside her body, comfortable and warm and alive, protected against the world in its amniotic womb. She wondered whether it had any primeval fear of what was about to happen to it. She wondered whether it would feel pain when the knife killed it. She put her hands over her ears to shut out the ticking of the clock. She found she was beginning to breathe hard, and her body was covered with perspiration. She heard a sound and opened her eyes.
Dr. Linden was standing over her, a look of concern on his face. "Are you all right, Mrs. Parker?"
"Yes," Jennifer whispered. "I just want it finished."
Dr. Linden nodded. "That's what we're going to do." He took a syringe from the table next to her bed and moved toward her.
"What's in that?"
"Demerol and Phenergan to relax you. Well be going into the operating room in a few minutes." He gave Jennifer the injection. "I take it that this is your first abortion?"
"Then let me explain the procedure to you. It's painless and relatively simple. In the operating room you'll be given nitrous oxide, a general anesthesia, and oxygen by mask. When you're unconscious, a speculum will be inserted into the vagina, so that we can see what we're doing. We will then begin dilating the cervix with a series of metal dilators, in increasing sizes, and scraping out the uterus with a curette. Any questions so far?"
A warm, sleepy feeling was stealing over her. She could feel her tension vanishing as though by magic, and the walls of the room began to blur. She wanted to ask the doctor something, but she could not remember what it was...something about the baby...it no longer seemed important. The important thing was that she was doing what she had to do. It would all be over in a few minutes, and she could start her life again.
She found herself drifting off into a wonderful, dreamy state...she was aware of people coming into the room, lifting her onto a metal table with wheels...she could feel the coldness of the metal on her back through her thin hospital gown. She was being rolled down the hallway and she started to count the lights overhead. It seemed important to get the number right, but she was not sure why. She was being wheeled into a white, antiseptic operating room and Jennifer thought, This is where my baby is going to die. Don't worry, little Adam. I won't let them hurt you. And without meaning to, she began to cry.
Dr. Linden patted her arm. "It's all right. This won't hurt."
Death without pain, Jennifer thought. That was nice. She loved her baby. She did not want him to be hurt.
Someone put a mask over her face and a voice said, "Breathe deeply."
Jennifer felt hands raise the hospital gown and spread her legs apart.
It was going to happen. It was going to happen now. Young Adam, Young Adam, Young Adam.
"I want you to relax," Dr. Linden said.
Jennifer nodded. Good-bye, my baby. She felt a cold, steel object begin to move between her thighs and slowly slide up inside her. It was the alien instrument of death that was going to murder Adam's baby.
She heard a strange voice scream out, "Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!"
And Jennifer looked up at the surprised faces staring down at her and realized that the screams were coming from her. The mask pressed down harder against her face. She tried to sit up, but there were straps holding her down. She was being sucked into a vortex that was moving faster and faster, drowning her.
The last thing she remembered was the huge white light in the ceiling whirling above her, spinning down and going deep inside her skull.
When Jennifer awakened, she was lying in the hospital bed in her room. Through the window she could see that it was dark outside. Her body felt sore and battered, and she wondered how long she had been unconscious. She was alive, but her baby - ?
She reached for the bell pinned to her bed and pressed it. She kept pressing it, frantic, unable to stop herself.
A nurse appeared in the doorway, then quickly left. A few moments later Dr. Linden hurried in. He moved to the side of the bed and gently pried Jennifer's fingers away from the bell.
Jennifer grabbed his arm fiercely and said in a hoarse voice, "My baby - he's dead!" - !"
Dr. Linden said, "No, Mrs. Parker. He's alive. I hope it's a boy. You kept calling him Adam."