A/N: This is a short story focusing on Wanda's feelings and thoughts when she realizes she might be pregnant. I know it's not a very original plot, but I'm mostly interested in her emotions, trying to keep it in character. Whether you like it or not, please read & review, I am always happy to receive your input!
Many thanks to my beta readers, Laughing Dragoness and Fireflies Glow! All your comments were extremely helpful, thank you so much for your time and effort!
Disclaimer: I own nothing. The Host & its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer.
Chapter 1: Worried
The dark passageway seemed endlessly long. I tried to walk as fast as my tiny, inexperienced body could manage, but my strides seemed annoyingly short and the uneven cave floor was making it even worse. But I had to talk to Melanie - she would know what to do, I was sure. Even better, maybe she would give me a different explanation, maybe she would call me silly and laugh at my excessive worry. I wasn't confident at all about that, but I wished for it with all my wildly beating heart.
I finally saw some light from the big cavern where Mel and the others would be, preparing the field for planting. I knew Ian would be there, too. I slowed down and took a few breaths; I was already panting. I stopped right before the entrance to peek at everyone while still protected by the darkness of the corridor. Mel was with Jared, of course, who was breaking the hard desert soil with a pick, while she and Lily followed with shovels at hand, turning the clods into usable soil. Ian was at the other side of the field, doing the same job as Jared, with Paige and Andy accompanying him. Despite the distance, I could see the sweat on his fair skin, glistering under the dazzling cavern light. He would be exhausted by the end of the day, but maybe this would be preferable today. Maybe he wouldn't notice my tension, assuming that it wouldn't be relieved by tonight.
I quickly turned my attention to the purpose of my visit. All my hope was on Mel now; I needed her advice more than ever. Ian was not facing in my direction at the moment so it would be a perfect time to get her without him noticing me. I hastily entered the big room and moved towards Melanie, while trying to calm down and put my disoriented thoughts in some order.
Mel saw me before I could speak.
"Hey Wanda! What are you doing here?" She eyed me suspiciously with a smirk on her face. I knew what she was thinking: that I was trying - again! - to work on the field with them. Last time I did, I literally collapsed from exhaustion and probably would have hurt myself with the shovel if Ian wasn't keeping an eye on me, and hadn't caught me. Since that embarrassing incident, they didn't even let me talk about working on the fields again. This wasn't the reason I was there now, though. Not this time.
"I just wanted to talk to you." My voice was hardly louder than a whisper, but still audibly strained. Melanie noticed it and immediately dropped her shovel to come closer to me.
"What's wrong?" She asked while brushing my arm softly.
I felt my shyness creeping over me and my eyes dropped to the ground. "Not here," I mumbled.
Melanie turned back to Lily and Jared. "Guys, I'll take a break for a while," she shouted, far too loudly. I sneaked a panicked glance at Ian, but he was too occupied to notice. Jared, though, did turn around and looked at us, startled.
"What's wrong?" He repeated Melanie's question, while his eyes flickered between her and me. Thankfully, Mel was fast to take things under control.
"Oh, nothing, Wanda just needs some help with her chores and, as always, she's too embarrassed to ask! I'll be back soon!" It was a believable excuse and Mel was a good liar, like all humans. Jared smiled at me in understanding, while Mel laughed casually, pulling me towards the closest tunnel.
She stopped us as soon as we were out of sight, just far enough in the dark corridor to be invisible from the cavern. Her previously relaxed expression was now replaced by a mixture of curiosity and concern.
"Okay, now tell me," she demanded, practically pinning me at the cave wall; patience was never her strength.
It was funny: I was in such a hurry to talk to her before, but now I was completely frozen, paralyzed, my lips unable to form a single word. It felt as if my worries were more real, more justified, the moment I would put them in words. I looked down, unable to bear her interrogative gaze and fought the urge to give some irrelevant, innocent excuse. It was too late anyway. I would never manage to trick her.
"Wanda?" She pressed, almost annoyed by my stalling.
I took a deep breath to brace myself. "My period is late," I muttered and I looked back at her, anxious to see her expression. What would she think? Would she be as alarmed as me? Her face showed nothing but surprise.
"Late? How late?"
"I think... a few days," I replied shyly, "if I calculated it correctly. Last time was when Jamie injured his foot while playing soccer..." I remembered clearly the cramps I had while sitting next to him in the hospital, trying to keep him distracted while Doc worked on his sprained ankle.
"Hmm... That was several weeks ago," she tried to think. "Jared and I went on a quick raid for medical supplies at least a week after that and I know I had my period a few days, maybe three or four, after we returned. And now ... it's definitely one... no, two weeks since it ended so that makes us... a little more than four weeks," she concluded.
Her eyes suddenly widened in shock. Once she was done with the math, she was hit by realization. I trembled knowing that the thought that I was so afraid to phrase in words had crossed her mind as well.
"Wanda," she hesitated, "you do take No Pregnancy, right?"
Souls had made everything simpler and contraception was not an exception. I was vaguely aware of the different, complicated birth control methods that humans were using before the invasion. Now all that was needed was a small pink tissue - just like No Pain - taken once a month. Candy, who remembered almost everything the healer once occupying her body knew, had advised us to take it on the first day of our period so as not to forget. This is what I had been doing ever since I moved in with Ian and everything was fine. Until now.
"Uh... I... I'm not sure," I mumbled.
"What do you mean you're 'not sure?' Wanda!" Melanie exclaimed in a panicking voice that only served to magnify my fear, making me cringe. I burst into tears.
"I-I can't remember taking it," I sobbed. "I spent all that day with Jamie... First in the hospital and then keeping him company while everybody else was playing... I-I remember rushing to my room to get a tampon thinking that I would get No Pregnancy later..." I exhaled, frustrated by my carelessness, "I didn't want to leave Jamie alone for long, he was in such a bad mood, and I -"
"Hey, it's okay," Melanie interrupted me with a soft, soothing voice, while pulling me into a warm hug. I only then realized how badly I was shaking. I tried to compose myself and dry up my tears, but I didn't leave the embrace. I needed the reassurance it provided, no matter how irrational it was. It was comforting that someone else knew as well and the burden in my heart felt lighter.
Footsteps suddenly echoed from further down in the corridor and we immediately pulled away from each other, instinctively starting to walk as well, as if we were on our way for some errand. Soon Aaron and Brandt appeared, but luckily they had their own conversation and didn't pay any attention to us.
"Let's go to your room," Melanie whispered as soon as we passed them.
We continued on our way in silence, both of us lost in our thoughts. I felt relieved after our conversation, but at the same time another source of nervousness kicked in. The possibility of a pregnancy seemed closer to reality now. I considered what I had learned from our discussion: Mel's reaction actually confirmed rather than dismissed my worry. It proved that this was not a crazy overreaction of mine: her thoughts, too, seemed to point towards a pregnancy. A baby, a human baby, born by a soul-occupied body - a soul that is unwilling to be a Mother of her own kind! Me... a mother? How could that be? It was insane just to think about it.
I was trembling again without realizing it and Melanie patted my shoulder encouragingly as we entered my room. I quickly sat at the edge of the mattress and curled myself into a ball, as if my posture could protect me from whatever was about to come.
Melanie sat next to me and silently rubbed my back for a while. Sensing that I was about to break, she approached me with an almost maternal touch, reminding me of the way she acted with Jamie.
"Wanda..." she spoke softly, "I know you're scared, but before freaking out it's better to be sure. I know Doc has some pregnancy tests. We got them on a raid a while ago. Let's go see him."
"No!" I shook my head frantically, "I-I can't go!" I couldn't face this, just couldn't. At least not yet.
"Isn't there any other explanation? Can't my period be late for some other reason?" I exclaimed in a last, desperate try to avoid the direction things were going.
Melanie considered this for a moment.
"I don't know Wanda, maybe there is no particular reason and it's just a bit late, but ... pregnancy does seem likely, especially if you didn't take No Pregnancy last month." She hesitated. "I suppose... you and Ian have..."
I rolled my eyes before she could finish her sentence.
"Okay, never mind, that was a stupid question. But Wanda, you need to know, you'll go insane if you wait. Besides, what are you going to tell Ian? He' ll understand something is wrong the moment he throws a glance at you."
There was no need to tell her that I didn't want Ian to know. She could understand how subtle the situation was. And she was right. There was no way I would manage to fool him. I could already imagine him questioning me with his scorching sapphire eyes. I ducked my head in defeat.
The southern tunnel has always been the most difficult tunnel that I had to walk through ever since I got here. I walked it in terror for my life, expecting to be tortured or killed at the end of it. I went through it in sorrow for my suffering friends, humans and souls. I walked it in pain, preparing myself to leave my human family and give up my life for their happiness. And now... Now it would be just as hard.
"You know," Mel suddenly spoke as if she had read my thoughts, "I can go on my own. I'll ask for a test for myself and then bring it to you to take it here. Does this sound better?"
Mel, my sister... Would you really do that for me? I felt my eyes watering, a lump forming in my throat. I looked at her, nodding slowly, trying to convey with my eyes how thankful I was.
She got up quickly, eager for immediate action - she was a lot like Jared in that respect. I wished I had her strength. "I'll be right back," was all she said and she disappeared behind the red and gray doors of my room.
I didn't know how much time passed, but it seemed like eternity. I was afraid to be alone, afraid to face the millions of thoughts that were floating in my head. Pictures of a baby were flashing in my mind: one time sleeping, the other feeding, crying, smiling... I couldn't imagine me next to it though, touching it, taking care of it. How could I? Souls didn't raise their children the way humans did. I didn't have a maternal instinct. How would I know what to do? What if I couldn't connect to the baby? How could I be responsible for such a small, defenseless creature?
I breathed deeply as I felt the panic building up once again in my chest. I thought of Mel's advice, "It's better to be sure before freaking out." Maybe the test will turn out to be negative and all this will be unnecessary, a false alarm. I looked around, trying to find something irrelevant to think of, something painless. But that was a mistake; for everything in the room reminded me of Ian - his clothes, his small pile of books, his pillow... The moment I thought of his beautiful face, I couldn't avoid another set of agonizing questions forming in my head: How would he react? Would he want a baby? He had never talked about having children; such an opportunity never occurred. What if he didn't, like Jared? But even if he did, would it be fair to impose such a situation on him?
Melanie finally showed up and I was grateful; I would soon drive myself crazy if I weren't distracted from my thoughts. She had a reassuring smile glued on her face but my eyes focused on her right hand. She was holding a small, white stick, the size of a pencil.
"Wanda, this is very easy," she said encouragingly, showing me the stick. One side was soft, while the other end was wider with a small display on it. "All you need to do is to put the tip in your mouth and wait for three seconds. Then the display will show a 'plus' sign if you are pregnant and a 'minus' if you're not. Candy said it's much better than the urine tests we had before. And like everything souls make, it is 100% accurate."
She brought her hand closer to me so that I could pick up the test. I held it with shaking hands, trying to examine it first. A small display on a stick - it looked so harmless, but it could change my life for ever.
"Wanda," Mel sighed, unable to hide the impatience in her voice, "the faster you do it, the sooner you'll relax."
I wasn't sure I would relax, but I put the soft tip in my mouth and closed my eyes. My mind went numb, free of thoughts for a change. The room was so silent I could hear my heart beating.
Thump... Thump... Thump...
"Hmm.. Wanda?" Melanie's voice was now low, worried. I opened my eyes to find her staring at the stick with a pained expression on her face.