Warning: This story contains pregnancy by rape, although nothing is explicit.
Two weeks after her eighteenth birthday, Tori takes a pregnancy test.
She's terrified. However, she's fortunate enough to have support, and when the final bell rings on that cool October afternoon, she and her boyfriend, Beck push their way through the crowd before disappearing into a single-stall restroom.
Beck reaches for the light switch and flips it on. Tori is already removing a slender white stick from its box and taking a seat on the toilet. "I can't believe I have to deal with this right now," she says.
"Just relax," Beck says.
"Right," she snaps. Her eyes are filled with tears. "Beck, what am I going to do if this is positive?"
He kneels in front of her. "It's going to be all right," he says. He kisses her deeply before continuing, "No matter what happens, you will not be alone in this."
She sets the test on top of its box on the sink. She smiles weakly. "Thank you. But Beck, you shouldn't be tied down to me because of this, especially when it isn't even your child." She squeezes his hand. "Don't do that to yourself."
Before he can answer, someone knocks on the door. "Is anyone in here?"
He rolls his eyes. "I'll be out in a minute!" He turns back to Tori. "Are you ready? It's time."
She nods numbly. She picks up the test – and in that moment, her life forever changes. "Two lines," she says. As the room begins to sway, she reaches out to clutch the edge of the counter, letting the pregnancy test fall to the ground. "Beck, there are two lines."
"What does that mean?" He knows the answer, yet he hopes that somehow by asking the question, it will change it.
Her voice tightens. "It means…I'm going to be a mother. A mother to my rapist's child."
Beck sighs. "Come here."
He takes a seat on the cold tile floor and gently pulls her down with him. He wraps his arms around her and holds her as her composure finally breaks and she begins to cry.
News of her pregnancy spreads quickly – as do the rumors. Many believe she's a slut, a young woman unknowing of the father of her child. By the time the rumors make their way back to her, the damage is done, and no amount of claiming otherwise can fix it.
She begins skipping class, occasionally at first, then regularly over time. Even when she attends, she often leaves early, too ill to make it through the lectures. She begins to fall behind in her schoolwork and certainly doesn't have the motivation to bother catching up. Ever so slowly, her life seems to fall apart.
One evening, after a particularly difficult day at school, she lies to her parents, claiming to be spending the night at Cat's house. They believe her, of course. After all, she's never given them a reason to believe otherwise. She throws together an overnight bag and leaves.
It begins to rain just as she pulls up to Beck's place. She runs up to the door. However, as she lifts her hand to knock, she misses. Startled, she looks up and finds herself looking into a familiar, comforting pair of eyes.
"Tori?" Beck says, his face full of confusion. He opens the door further. "Are you all right?"
It's raining harder now, and she can only imagine how she must look to him. Her hair is pressed against her face, soaked. Mascara streaks stain her cheeks. Her eyes are bloodshot from crying. Yet at that moment, as he stands there in front of her, she can't care less.
Neither can he.
"No. No, not really," she says. "Can I stay with you tonight?"
"Yeah, absolutely," he says. He steps aside and takes her bag. "Come in. You've got to be freezing."
She steps inside. "I'm sorry to stop in like this," she says. She closes the door. "I just – I really needed to see you. You're the only one who really knows what I'm going through."
"You don't have to explain," he says. He sets her bag beside the door. He takes her hand and leads her to the bed, where they lay down together.
She closes her eyes as his strong arms wrap around her and pull her close. His breath is warm against her skin as he asks, "Do you want to talk about it?"
She's quiet for nearly a full minute before answering. "Do you ever wish you could just disappear?" She turns over in his arms to face him. "You know, get away from everything and everyone." She shrugs. "All of the drama would go away."
He smiles. "Sometimes," he admits. "Especially now."
"But that isn't going to happen." She lowers her eyes. "Sometimes I think the only way this will ever go away is through death."
He reaches up and caresses her cheek, pushing back a strand of her hair. He kisses her on the lips. "You don't mean that," he says.
She doesn't answer. She closes her eyes, and instantly, memories of what happened the night of her eighteenth birthday flow through her mind. She can still feel the true fear she felt that night.
Her hand guides down to where her child is growing inside of her. A moment later, she feels the distinct kick of her baby.
Something in her snaps, and suddenly, a new set of tears begin to fall. She whispers, "No. No, I don't."
She wakes up in pain.
She ignores it at first. She shifts in Beck's arms and tries to fall back asleep. But the pain is too much, and it's quickly growing in intensity. She knows then that something is very wrong.
Beside her, Beck begins to stir. "What's wrong, babe?" he mumbles, still half asleep.
"I don't know," she says. She winces as she pulls herself to her feet. "But something – something hurts really bad." She clutches at her stomach. "And it's getting worse."
Beck is wide awake by now. He rolls off the bed and reaches for his clothes. "We're going to the hospital," he says. Tori is in too much pain to argue otherwise.
After getting dressed himself, Beck helps Tori into her clothes, then reaches for her shoes. "Sit down and I'll help you with your shoes."
She sinks onto the mattress. She rests a palm on her stomach. "Beck…"
He glances up at her. "It's all right. Everything will be all right." He slips one arm beneath her legs and another behind her back. "Wrap an arm around my neck. I'm going to carry you to the truck."
A few moments later, she finds herself lying across the back seat of his truck. He pulls on her seat belt, then gives her one last kiss. "I love you," he says. "I love you so much." He caresses her cheek. "You're going to be all right."
She prays his words are true.
Her water breaks minutes after arriving at the hospital.
By now, she's completely panicked. She has only recently hit the twenty-four week mark in her pregnancy, and to have the baby now would be much too dangerous. But unfortunately, labor has already started, leaving doctors to desperately try to stop it.
In the labor room, Beck stays by her side the entire time, gently clasping her hand between his. He's scared to death, honestly, but refuses to show it. He knows he has to be strong through this, no matter what. He fixes his face into a very small, very forced smile as he continuously assures her that everything will be all right.
But even he doesn't believe the lie.
She gives birth to a beautiful baby girl less than two hours later. Weighing only a pound and a half, the little girl – Melissa – is underdeveloped and very sick. Almost immediately, she's taken away from her mother and rushed to the NICU. Despite her protests, Tori is taken to a room of her own.
"I can't stand this." Tori struggles to sit up in the stiff hospital bed. "I need to see her. I need to see her now."
Beck takes a seat beside her bed. "She's not stable yet," he says. "But as soon as she is, I'm sure they'll let you see her." He brushes his lips against her forehead. "Can I get you anything?"
She scoffs. "Yeah. A new life."
She is finally allowed to see her daughter late that afternoon. Beck helps her into a wheelchair and together, they leave Tori's room.
Clad in light green scrubs and gloves, the young couple makes their way through the aisles of incubators. As they pass each child, their hearts break a little more as they realize many of these babies may never leave the hospital alive.
"Where did they say she is?" Beck says.
Tori wipes at her eyes. "Over there, by the window."
Beck turns to the right, following her directions. A moment later, they stop in front of an incubator that contains a baby girl. Tori's breath catches when she sees her.
Melissa's hair is dark, bringing out a pair of bright blue eyes. Her father's eyes. Her skin is very thin and fragile. Tubes and wires run from her frail body to one machine or another.
Tears fill Tori's eyes. "She's so tiny," she says. "But she's – she's perfect."
"She's gorgeous," Beck says softly.
Melissa begins to fuss. Instinctively, Tori reaches out toward her daughter, but stops short.
"The nurse said you can touch her," Beck says. He squats down beside Tori. "Go ahead. It's okay."
She hesitates, then reaches through the incubator and places her index finger in Melissa's hand.
She doesn't get a reaction from Melissa at first. But after a few moments, she watches the child's fingers begin to close; they're so small that they barely close around Tori's own.
Tori can't hold back her tears any longer. She begins to cry harder than ever before.
A pair of comforting arms find her. She leans in to Beck's embrace. "It's all right," he says. "It's going to be all right." He squeezes her hand gently. "You should talk to her. She needs to hear your voice."
She turns back to her daughter. She takes a deep breath before softly speaking to her. "Hey, baby. It's Mommy." Her voice begins to break. "Hang in there, Melissa. I know you can. Don't give up."
Tori grimaces. She breaks her gaze from her daughter to look up at the newcomer. "Yes?"
A nurse is standing a few feet away. Her gaze is sympathetic. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid your time here is up. You're welcome to come back in a few hours to check on her." She starts for the incubator.
Tori nods. "Yes. Yes, of course." Very carefully, she eases her finger out of Melissa's grip. She glances at Beck, whose eyes seem to be glued on the child. "Are you ready, babe?"
He nods wordlessly and stands. He takes his place behind the wheelchair and the two prepare to leave. But before they do, Tori looks back at her daughter one last time.
"I will always love you."
Melissa dies later that night.
Doctors make every attempt to save the child. However, she's much too weak to survive such procedures, let alone to ever survive on her own. She passes soon after being rushed into the emergency room.
Tori doesn't sleep that night. She can't. Beck stays up with her and tries his best to soothe her, though he knows nothing in the world can possibly mend her broken heart. Finally, he just holds her as she cries, wishing more than anything that this was nothing more than a nightmare that would soon come to an end.
Three weeks after her daughter's death, Tori returns to school.
Pulling up to Hollywood Arts that morning, she feels like a foreigner. Beck steps out of the driver's seat and goes around to the opposite side of the car to open her door. When Tori finally steps out of the car, she can't ignore the gaping looks she receives from her classmates.
She swallows hard. This won't be easy.
Beck's hand slips into hers. "Ready?" he asks.
She hesitates, then nods. "Yeah," she answers. "I am." She takes a deep breath, and together, the young couple makes their way inside.
It isn't any better once they're inside. When she opens her locker, several notes that have been crammed beneath the crack between the door and the locker below it fall to the ground. She's not entirely surprised that a majority of them are nothing more than written abuse.
"Ignore them," Beck says. He scoops the letters up and dumps them into a nearby trashcan. "You know what they're saying isn't true. Don't let them get to you."
"Easy for you to say." She slams her locker shut. "You're not the one being called a slut." She starts to walk away. "I don't have to deal with this. I'm going home."
Beck grabs her arm. "Listen," he says. "I know you've been through a lot over the past several months, and the past few weeks especially – "
She scoffs. "You have no idea the hell I've been through."
"You're so much stronger than this," he says. His voice grows in desperation. He meets her eyes. "Please stay here, at least for today."
For a long moment, she's quiet, and he hopes that she's considering it. However, to his great disappointment, she answers, "No. I don't care how strong you think I am. I'm sick of this fight against the world, because I'm obviously losing." She shrugs. "I'm not graduating anyway, so what's the point?" She gives him a quick kiss. "I'll see you later tonight, all right?"
He tries to hide his disappointment. "Right." He steps back. "I love you."
She only smiles in response.
She spends the rest of the afternoon in bed, feigning an illness. In the darkness of her room, she finds herself staring up at the ceiling, her thoughts wandering aimlessly.
Memories flood her mind. She sees the face of her rapist first, followed by an image of her daughter, so tiny and ill, left dying in a hospital.
She hears the students' taunts at Hollywood Arts and sees their judging glares. She hates how they've impacted her life, but knows that she can never bring herself to set foot in the school again.
She hates how her life has turned out. Even more than that, she hates the man who caused it all – the cold-hearted, selfish man who picked her out of a crowd of hundreds to take advantage of that evening.
She hates it all.
Her heart heavy, she finally closes her eyes.
She realizes then what she has to do.
She has a date that night at Beck's place, but doesn't show up.
Beck doesn't think much of it at first. After all, Tori had been upset at school, not only at her classmates, but also at him. He has to admit that he isn't entirely surprised that she hadn't shown up.
But then, someone knocks on his door. It's Andre.
"Hey," Beck says. "What are – "
"Where have you been?" Andre interrupts him. He steps inside. "And why aren't you answering your phone?"
"My phone went dead," he answers. "Why? What's wrong?"
Andre sighs. "A highway patrolman found Tori's car a while ago. She drove it through a guardrail."
Beck's face pales. "Is she okay?"
Andre shakes his head. "She's missing."
By the time Beck and Andre arrive at the site, the entire bridge is blocked off. Beck parks his truck half a mile away, behind a long string of other spectators. The two then get out of the car and follow the crowd, hoping to get a closer look at the accident.
"I can't believe this." Beck runs a trembling hand through his hair. "I know she was upset, but she hardly seemed suicidal."
"Don't jump to conclusions," Andre says. He pushes his way through the crowd. "Maybe it was an accident. Maybe she lost control of her car, or…" he trails off and stops still as his eyes fall on the tragic scene. "Oh, my – "
A moment later, Beck sees it. In front of him, the guardrail is missing, leaving a gap several yards wide behind. Below, a small black car lays overturned and submerged in the raging water. Stray pieces of metal and parts from the car float away from the scene.
"No," Beck says. He pushes through the crowd to get even closer. "No, she can't be – she has to be – " He finally stops as he reaches the front of the crowd. "She wouldn't."
Around him, anxious voices continue to fill the air, but he blocks them out. Instead, he lets his gaze fall on the car. His heart clenches as he realizes he had played a part of his own in causing this tragedy.
Andre places a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. His face is grim and his voice full of sorrow as he says, "She did."
Beck goes to the Vegas' home early the next morning. David answers the door.
Over the past few years, Beck had seen David Vega in many different forms as he took on the role of both father and cop. But now, Beck can't help but notice that the man standing before him isn't even a ghost of the man he once knew. That man was gone, now replaced by a grieving, raging father.
"May I help you?" David asks. His voice is hoarse, his tone impatient.
Beck clears his throat. "I just – I wanted to know if you've heard anything since last night. Have the police – "
"You could have called to ask that," David spats. "But no, we haven't heard anything." He starts to close the door.
"Wait! I – I forgot something," Beck says.
"Well, what is it?"
He falls silent as he tries to think of an excuse to stay, even for a few minutes. If only he could get into Tori's room…
David is growing impatient. Just as he is about to close the door, Beck blurts, "I left something in Tori's room."
David's eyes narrow. However, he finally opens the door further. "Make it quick."
Wasting no time, Beck squeezes past the man and disappears upstairs. He goes into Tori's room, closing the door quietly behind him. He begins to search the entire room.
Seconds turn into minutes. His time is running out. "Come on, come on," he says. "Something's got to be here." He yanks out a desk drawer. Photos and old receipts are among its contents. He rummages through them, pocketing one.
Suddenly, he hears the sound of footsteps coming first up the stairs, then down the hallway. His time has run out.
Very quickly, he tries his best to make the room look as it had before he had arrived. He barely manages to slam the desk drawer shut before the door swings open and David steps into the room.
"It's been long enough," he says. He glares down at Beck, who is still crouched down in front of the desk. "If you haven't found what you're looking for by now, then it's not here." He nods toward the door. "It's time to go."
Beck only nods in response. "Yes, sir." He stands. "Thank you for at least letting me in to look."
"You're welcome. Now get out."
Beck fights the urge to glare back at the other man's hostility.
He can only blame the grief.
He buys a train ticket later that night.
The train leaves at midnight, and he just barely makes it through the terminal in time to catch it. He's the last person to board. He shows his ticket to the conductor, then searches for a seat.
He walks the aisle slowly, his eyes searching every passenger as he passes by. He finally comes to a stop near the back of the train, in front of a pair of seats on the right-hand side of the train. A woman is sitting there, alone, a small duffle bag at her feet.
He clears his throat. "Mind if I sit with you?"
She jumps at the sound of his voice. She turns and her face pales. "Um…no. No, not at all."
As he takes a seat beside her, she shifts her body so she is facing the front. She doesn't look at him as she asks, "How did you find me?"
Beck smiles. "I've known you for several years now. You're hardly the type of person to drive your car off a bridge just because your life has gone to hell."
Despite everything, she releases a short laugh. "All right, but that doesn't explain how you found me on this train."
"No, it doesn't." He reaches into his pants pocket and removes a crumpled piece of paper. "But this does."
She takes the slip of paper from him. She glances at it, then rolls her eyes. "A receipt for a train ticket," she says. She shakes her head. "I can't believe I left this behind." Then she looks at him, panicked. "Does anyone else know?"
"No." He shoves the piece of paper back into his pocket. He slips his arm around her waist, pulling her close. "Everyone else seems to be assuming you're dead."
She sighs in relief. "Good."
For a while, the two fall silent. The only sound is that of the train's wheels against the ancient track. Tori rests her head on her boyfriend's shoulder and returns her gaze toward the window. A star-filled sky shines back at her.
Beck finally breaks the silence. "Why did you do all of this? You really just planned to run away to New York to make everything all right again?"
She laces her fingers through his own. "Can't we disappear, if only for this one night? Can't we pretend none of this ever happened, and our lives had never changed?"
His thoughts begin to race. As she turns her gaze back to the stars, he considers the notion of running away, of taking the train all the way to New York, just as Tori had once intended to do herself. He considers it all and realizes what can truly come out of completely starting over. But would it be worth it in the end?
Beck kisses her softly. "We can't do this, babe," he finally whispers. "We can't run away forever."
She looks back at him, then, and her eyes are full of sorrow. She smiles sadly. Very softly, she says, "I know."