After volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center, Kennedy Stern finds herself a pawn in a deadly game of intrigue, at the mercy of those who consider a few innocent lives a small ransom to pay for victory.
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“Hello?” The voice was so quiet and mouse-like Kennedy could almost feel the hairs in her ear straining to grasp as much of the faint sound as they could.
“Hi. You’ve reached the Cambridge Pregnancy Center.” Kennedy waited for a response. Did the caller hang up?
“Can I help you?” What else was she supposed to say?
“I just had a question.” The girl wasn’t exactly whispering. It sounded as if her body was so tiny and fragile she couldn’t spare an ounce more breath to make herself heard.
Kennedy hurried to the corner of the student union. “Sure. What’s your name?”
There was a pause. Had Kennedy scared her away?
“All right, Rose. Ask me anything.”
Kennedy waited for another silent eternity before the voice asked, “Do abortions hurt?”
Of course, that would be the first question. Not the clinic’s hours, although Kennedy didn’t even know that much. She tried to remember some of the arguments she heard her dad spout off when he went on one of his anti-abortion spiels.
“Well, the brain is fully functional very early on …” Was it two months? Three months? She had never bothered to memorize the statistics. “And there are ultrasounds that lead us to believe that yes, babies can experience pain during an abortion.” Was she getting any of her facts right?
The voice made a little gurgling sound that might have been a stifled cry or else a miniature cough. “No, I mean, does it hurt you.”
“Oh.” Kennedy had never thought about that before. All the pro-life arguments she heard growing up focused on the baby, not the mother. “Well, I know it’s a complicated procedure. There are probably risks involved …” If she were back in her room, she could Google the question and have an answer in a second or two. Maybe she should head back there now. “So, are you considering an abortion? Is that why you’re asking?”
“No. I’m calling for a friend. That’s all. She was just wondering.”
Nice job, Kennedy chided herself. “And how old is your friend?” She tried to make her tone sound trustworthy, inviting. She had no idea if she was succeeding or not because her pulse roared in her ear, making it nearly impossible to hear anything else.
“She’s thirteen.” It felt like Kennedy’s whole abdominal floor dropped several feet to the ground at terminal velocity. “I mean eighteen,” the voice corrected. “She’s eighteen and already out of school.”
Kennedy’s heart accelerated so fast her pulse felt like a long, continuous flutter. Thirteen? “And so your friend is thinking about an abortion?”
“Well, she just wanted some information, really.”
“I see.” Kennedy shot up a wordless prayer to heaven, a silent plea for help that rose up from her spirit before she had time to translate it into human language. “What is it you’d like to know?”
There was silence for such a long time Kennedy wondered if there was a problem with the antique cell phone. Finally, Rose asked, “And so what happens if you get pregnant, and you’re too young to actually have a baby?”
Defying all laws of inertia, the acceleration of Kennedy’s heart rate crashed to a halt like a car plowing into a brick wall. “What do you mean?”
“Like, what if you’re too young but you still get pregnant?”
“How young?” Kennedy spoke both words clearly and slowly, as if rushing might drive the timid voice away for good.
Kennedy paused. Ripples of foreboding crept up her spine until they wormed in and settled in the base of her neck. “Are you asking because you might be pregnant?” The question itself made her dizzy, as if speaking the words aloud could send her head into some kind of tailspin.
The adrenaline that had flooded Kennedy’s entire nervous system seeped out of her body in a single moment, dissipating out of each pore. She leaned against the wall and reminded herself that her job was to help and encourage the caller, not have some sort of fainting dizzy spell in the middle of the student union.
“And you’re how old?” She braced herself for the answer she knew was coming.
A little sharp breath, the sound a startled animal might make when it notices its prey. A fear-drenched whisper. “I think it’s my dad … I gotta go.”
“No, wait!” Kennedy nearly shouted into the phone, but Rose had already hung up.
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