After having taken a long, leisurely walk from her house, Lucy finally came to the children’s park she had frequented in her childhood. The park was completely empty, and Lucy headed straight for the swings. She sat down on one of them, making sure to swing very lightly or else she would get nauseous again. A warm breeze was blowing, and Lucy took a number of deep breaths, one after the other.
An ice-cream vendor passed by, looking hopefully in her direction. He was probably on his way home. Lucy wanted to buy a cone, and then realized she hadn’t brought any money with her.
‘No thanks’ she said to the vendor, but he stopped anyway. For a hopeful second, she thought he was about to offer her a free ice-cream cone. He looked like a kind enough man, and she wondered if he had a family to support with what he made from selling ice creams.
‘Two, please’ said a voice behind her. Lucy turned, and saw a girl approach. She handed the vendor the exact price of the ice cream cones and chose vanilla and strawberry. After the transaction was over, the vendor closed his cart and went on his way.
‘My name is Lucy. Which one do you want, vanilla or strawberry?’ the girl said to Lucy, as she approached her.
‘ pick’ Lucy replied.
‘Nah. Go ahead, before they melt’.
‘Ok, vanilla then’ replied Lucy, taking the ice cream cone gratefully. ‘Thanks a lot.’
The girl sat down on the swing next to hers, licking her ice cream with relish.
‘My name is Lucy too, by the way’ said Lucy. She stopped her swing, as the girl started hers.
‘Really? Cool. How old are you?’
‘I’ll be twenty-one in July. You?’
‘I just turned eleven. Just two years till I’m a teenager. I cannot wait.’
Lucy smiled. She remembered how impatient she used to be as a child to become an adult soon. Even though she was going to be a legal adult soon, she still felt no older than a high school girl.
‘I know everyone says life is better when you’re a kid, but I think it’s because they don’t remember the parts where it’s really crappy. No-one takes you seriously, you know. And they expect all kids to be the same, have the same mind, enjoy the same things, like we’re just a bunch of clones. That’s why I can’t wait till I’m a teenager so that at least, I won’t be treated like a baby anymore.’
‘There are crappy parts to being old too, though’ replied Lucy.
‘Well yeah, that’s true. But I don’t think I’ll miss being a kid.’
‘You will’ said Lucy, amused.
The girl slowed down her swinging, taking the first bite of the wafer cone. She was looking at Lucy with an almost apologetic expression on her face.
‘I hope you don’t mind my saying this, but I didn’t notice that until just now.’
She was pointing at Lucy’s stomach. Lucy looked down and involuntarily placed her free hand on her belly.
‘Not at all’ Lucy replied. ‘You wouldn’t have missed it if I had been standing though.’
‘My aunt’s pregnant too, but she’s huge, and she can barely walk. You look very tiny for a pregnant lady.’
Lucy laughed. ‘Well, I’m going to get bigger. Soon enough, I might be as big as your aunt, and have as much difficulty in walking.’
‘I don’t think so’ said young Lucy kindly. ‘Is it your first kid?’
‘Yes’ said Lucy. She had already finished her ice cream and wondered if the vendor had gone far. She could really use a second, or a third cone.
‘Is it your first child? Are you excited?’
Lucy didn’t answer immediately, even though she didn’t need to ponder on it. She was surprised to find that she felt glad when young Lucy asked her the question.
‘Yes, she’s the first, and no’ said Lucy, ‘I’m far from excited. I’m..’
‘Scared?’ offered young Lucy.
‘Scared is a mild word. I haven’t slept properly in months. Every morning, I look at myself in the mirror, and I see less and less of myself. I have another human being growing inside of me, and sometimes when I’m lying in my bed at night, I think about this fact and I have near panic attacks.’
Young Lucy was listening attentively and nodding her head sympathetically. Lucy immediately regretted having said what she had.
‘Sorry. You should know that I’m crazy. Normal people don’t talk like this.’
‘Nah, you’re not crazy. It’s normal to be scared. My mom said that when she was pregnant for the first time with my older brother, she cried all the time, and even after having him, she was still sad for a really long time, but it went away after a while.’
In her head, Lucy said ‘but the thing is, I don’t know if I want to keep this child’, and wondered whether she should say it out loud. She was afraid that her words might leave a lasting negative impression on the girl. She had probably already done some damage in that respect.
‘And’ continued young Lucy, ‘one of my friends from school, Lydia has a cousin who got pregnant in her teens. She was only seventeen, and she had the baby but it didn’t stop her from going to college or anything. Lydia says she just does everything with her baby.’
‘People are so brave’ remarked Lucy. ‘I’m not brave.’
‘It’s not that they’re brave. It’s just that they became moms. A lot of people are moms.’
Young Lucy shrugged as she said this, and she really looked as though she didn’t think much of it.
‘I don’t feel I’ll ever be ready. It’s strange for me to think of myself in that role. I thought of getting an abortion, but couldn’t do it. Now, I’m thinking of giving her up for adoption. I know it’s wrong of me to want to do that but really, she will be much better off being raised by good, loving parents, and not me.’
‘Well, it’s up to you, but maybe you should decide after the baby comes along. Then you might change your mind. Besides, you seem like a nice person. You’ll be a good mom.’
Lucy smiled in spite of herself. She had never thought of herself as a good anything. She hadn’t been a good daughter, a good friend, or a good girlfriend, and yet she thought she would have still done better in those roles than in the one that she might need to take on soon. She shook her head to hinder any more unpleasant thoughts from arising.
She looked at young Lucy, who was now looking ahead, closing her eyes as the breeze blew her hair away from her face. How strange it was that of all the people in the world, a girl with the same name as her would show up on this particular evening. She had chosen a Monday evening because the school children usually went home early on Mondays, and the park was mostly empty at this time. She had come to spend some time by herself to think about her situation calmly. At home, she found that she was always plagued with a number of unpleasant feelings like guilt or fear or stress or anger. She wanted to come to a quiet place and see if her plan to give up the baby still seemed like the right one.
Young Lucy had said to wait to decide after the baby came along. But she had already thought of that too. She knew that once she laid eyes on the baby, she would not want to give her up. She would hold her, look at her tiny hands, and she would smile, and it wouldn’t matter anymore whether she was a good person or not. She would want, more than anything else, to be a mother.
‘I wouldn’t be a good mom’ said Lucy finally. She looked down at her belly and thought she felt the baby move.
‘You can’t know that if you’ve never been a mom before’ replied young Lucy. ‘Hey, how come you know it’s gonna be a girl?’
‘I don’t.’
‘But you keep saying ‘she’ so I thought maybe you knew.’
Lucy blinked. In a matter of seconds, she felt her eyes well up with tears. She had cried so many times in the past few months- in her bathroom, in her bed, on the phone. But this time, the feelings that accompanied the tears were entirely different.
‘Sorry’ said young Lucy, immediately stopping her swing and looking at Lucy with concern. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to..’
‘No. It’s ok’ replied Lucy, wiping her eyes with her scarf. ‘I’m not crying because of what you said. I’m crying because I’m happy.’
Lucy made to get up from her swing, and young Lucy offered her arm in support. The evening breeze continued to blow, and as Lucy stood up, the younger Lucy remarked ‘your kid’s going to be lucky. She isn’t even born yet and you’re already taking her to the park for ice-cream.’
The two Lucys said goodbye to each other and went on their separate ways, the younger one skipping happily, completely oblivious to the impact her words had had on the older Lucy. Lucy went home, went straight to her room and looked at the mirror. The words formed in her mind ‘I was afraid of you because you came at a time when I hated myself. I thought ‘the world does not need another me’. But I’ve come to realize that you have come into existence not to make things worse for me but so that I could have a new purpose. Maybe I was not good for much ever, but I will be good to you. I’ll make sure as you grow older that you have some reason or other to smile every day.’
She ate her dinner, took a shower, brushed her teeth and got ready for bed, and for the first time in many months, she fell asleep within minutes of her head touching the pillow.