Annette tugged nervously at her scarf, pulling it lower over her forehead, her shaking hands travelling down to pull her collar high against her neck. Her eyes darted along the street, there seemed to be no one that would recognise her. She stepped out from the shadow of the crumbling building and hurried toward the clinic. Without sparing time for doubts she pushed open the main door, setting off the dangling service bell and let it swing closed behind her.

The waiting room was a white glow as the harsh fluorescent lights glared down on the sterile bench tops, the white plastic seats. Annette approached the front counter, only slightly readjusting the height of her collar as she went. The receptionist worked hard to ignore her and carry on with her phone conversation.

"Uh-huh... No I agree. Absolutely." Annette pursed her lips, her eyes boring into the secretary who kept her gaze lowered. Her nametag read 'Cindy'. The minutes ticked by, seemingly like hours for Annette. Trapped in this sanitary bubble, no sounds from the street, nothing but the soft whirr of the air conditioning and the one-sided conversation of Cindy.

At length Annette could not help but clear her throat, her indignation was even greater than her embarrassment. The other woman's eyes flicked upward fleetingly.

"I think you should do it, really... No, it'll be great... For sure babe. Look I have to go, I'll call you back in ten. Ok hun? Sure, seeya-bye."

The phone clicked into place and the receptionist looked up at Annette as though she had only just arrived. "Welcome to Southern Cali Clinic! How may I help you today?"

She was so neat and trim in her tiny white uniform, so irritatingly perky that Annette considered tipping the nearby pot plant over onto her. What other reason would a woman have for being here? Was this humiliation really necessary? Annette supposed that little Cindy got a thrill out of feeling superior to those that came here for help. Kick them while they're down.

"I'm here for a procedure." Annette replied firmly. She would not allow this stupid woman, who would never amount to anything, humiliate her.

"Certainly, I'll just need to ask you a few questions." She picked up a clipboard; a form already fitted perfectly to it, as she clicked her pen and eagerly prepared to make notes. "Have you been diagnosed with any sexually transmitted diseases, or do you believe you may have contracted such a disease?"


Cindy carefully placed a tick in the 'No' box near the printed question.

"Are you, or have you ever been a smoker?"


"Are you aware of any family histories of disease, these might include but are not limited to, heart failures, strokes, diabetes, cancer?"

"My father died recently from a heart attack."

Cindy expressed far too much puppy-like sadness for Annette to believe she was truly sincere, as she neatly scrawled, 'Father: Heart Attack', onto the form. She continued with her well rehearsed quiz.

"Are you currently using, or have you used, since the time of your last menstrual cycle any form of recreational drug, including alcohol?"


"No." Cindy mirrored sarcastically as she made another definite mark with her pen. "What is your reason for wanting this procedure?"

The question caught Annette off guard. "I don't think this question is very pertinent, or anyone else's business." She spat acidly.

"I'm sorry but it's just standard procedure, I have to ask everyone." Cindy smiled innocently at Annette; she couldn't possibly exude any more false cordiality.

"I don't know who the father is, and I can't raise it by myself. I'm studying law, and it's too intense and too important for me to be distracted by an unwanted, illegitimate child."

Cindy's eyes glimmered as she passed the clipboard to Annette. She noted that her answer had not been written anywhere on the form.

"You can fill in your personal details and a nurse will be here shortly for you."

Annette took the clipboard and pen without thanks and seated herself on one of the hard chairs. If they thought she was going to provide them with her actual details they were sadly mistaken.

'Susan Parkes...' She scrawled onto the form and a fake address followed behind. She would pay for the procedure with cash, and there would be no physical evidence to come back to haunt her. Annette had plans for the future, great ambitions. She would not let something even as standard as this smear her reputation.

She returned to the desk and handed the form back to Cindy, who gave her another simpering smirk and disappeared through a nearby door with her form. Annette stood by herself in the waiting room, not caring to take a seat again. At length the glass door at the end of the room slid open and an elderly matron stepped through.

"Miss Parkes?" The nurse asked and Annette nodded. "Follow me please." She was taken down a short windowless corridor, to a small, boxlike room.

"Please remove your clothes and arrange yourself on the bench." Annette did as she was told, much preferring this woman's straightforward and professional approach.

The procedure was over in a matter of minutes and Annette redressed herself as the nurse wheeled away the remains of what could have been her child. She was led back to the waiting room, back into the clutches of Cindy.

"Thankyou, please come again!" The girl trilled as Annette pushed open the door. She crushed the large printed receipt in her hand and grit her teeth. With every effort to regain her composure, she shrugged off Cindy's annoying airs and stepped out into the bright daylight, feeling a great burden lift from her with each hurried step she took away from the clinic. Annette watched her feet gliding over the pavement and thought to herself that with each step, with every action she made she was altering the future. She was stepping away from what had been a possible destiny, into one that she would carve for herself. Annette could not help but grin at her own fancy notions. The future looked bright indeed.