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MSJBy Mikaela Shea

“Are you coming in with me?” Nicki asks.

“Nah, I’ll wait in the car. I’ll look like an idiot in there.” Jace avoids Nicki’s gaze as he says it, tinkering with the radio.

“Whatever,” she says, slamming the door, walking across the parking lot. Between the doors, she wipes the tears that have streaked lines of mascara down her cheeks.

“Hi,” the receptionist says. “Do you have an appointment?”

“No. I…” Nicki leans closer. “I need the morning after pill.”

“Name?” The receptionist says, fingers hovering over the keyboard.

“Nicki Vincent.”



“Last period?”

“Uh…three weeks ago. Last week of June.”

“Any chance you might already be pregnant?”

“No. We…” Nicki looks around at the pregnant women sitting behind her with their husbands and boyfriends, flipping through magazines, a young girl with her boyfriend’s arms wrapped around her. Here she is alone. She lowers her voice. “We use condoms, but…it broke last night.”

“Okay. Take a seat and it’ll be ready in a few minutes.”

Nicki watches the young couple kiss and smile at each other. The only time Jace is affectionate with her anymore is when he wants her clothes off. Her phone vibrates and she looks down at it. You about done in there? I’m supposed to be at Medina’s house in an hour.

Would you rather be a little late or have a baby on the way? Nicki looks down at her thin stomach wondering what she’d look like pregnant. Would it look like she swallowed a basketball or would she get fat all over? Thinking about giving birth to a basketball-sized baby makes her shudder. She saw the birth video in her health class and swore off ever having kids, yet she found herself thinking, Would our baby have Jace’s straight strawberry blond hair and red cheeks or my wavy brown hair? Would our kids be muscular like him or thin like me? His green eyes or my blue eyes?

“Nicki?” the receptionist calls. Nicki walks to the desk. “The directions say to take the two pills 12 hours apart, but take them both at the same time. Any questions?”

“What if it doesn’t work?” Nicki’s voice trembled.

“Well, most people get their period within a week. If you don’t get your period within two weeks, you’ll need to come back and get a pregnancy test.”

“Okay.” Nicki sighs and walks back to the car, the box of Plan B in an anonymous brown paper bag.

When Nicki gets back to Jace’s green Grand Am, he doesn’t say anything. His cheeks are a blotchy red for no reason.

“You could have come in there with me. I was the only girl all alone in there. It takes two, you know.” Jace turns up Pantera. Nicki feels as if they’re screaming at her. “Stop at the gas station so I can get some water and take this!” she yells over the music.


“I’ve been thinking…” Jace says as Nicki swallows a mouthful of water and reaches into the bag for the box of Plan B, “We should take a break.”

Nicki chokes on her water. “But…but, why?” Her voice wavers. She crumples the bag closed.

“It’s just…we’re too serious. I love you but, I’m only seventeen. This is too much for me. This morning after stuff. I’m too young to be worrying about babies.”

“You weren’t worried last night when we were…when we were…I thought you loved me, Jace. You don’t do this to somebody you love!”

“Please,” he says, looking at her for the first time since leaving Planned Parenthood, “stop crying.”

Nicki wipes at her wet face. “I never would have…never would have lost my virginity to you if I knew you really didn’t love me,” she sobbed. “You’re going to throw away eleven months because this is suddenly too much for you?”

“I guess I am. Like I said, it’s just a break.”

“That’s bullshit! Breaks aren’t real. It’s a way of breaking up with someone and trying to give them hope. But I’m not that stupid.” Jace turns onto Nicki’s street. “No, take me to Katie’s house. I can’t go home like this.” Jace drives past Nicki’s small grey house and for a moment there is silence. “Is it because I cried last night? When it broke?”

“It’s not just one thing, Nicki. It’s all just too much.”

Nicki crosses her arms and looks out the window. She thinks about that night four months before. On the night of their winter formal, which also happened to be Valentine’s Day, he showed up with a dozen red roses, the first flowers she’d ever received. He wore black pants and a blue dress shirt that made his green eyes pop. She wore a long peach sequined dress that showed off the summer tan still lingering on her skin. At the botanical center, trees and plants hovered over them as they danced pressed together, the scent of exotic flowers enveloping them. They left early, made love in the dark.

Afterward, they went to Katie’s house with the rest of their group, laid on the couch together until Jace got kicked out for breaking the “feet on the ground” rule. Nicki forgot to put on her coat before walking him outside to the porch so Jace wrapped his arms around her waist. They stood like that for a while and for the first time Jace said, “I love you, Nicki.”

She could hardly contain her smile. “I love you too.”

“I really do,” he whispered into her ear. Her heart had never beat so hard.

That night was so perfect. What happened? she wonders as Jace pulls his car into Katie’s driveway.

Nicki hesitates before getting out of the car, crushes the brown bag in her hand, and slams the door behind her.

“Wait,” Jace says, following her. “Come here.”

Nicki pauses, looking at him, then her shoulders sag and she walks back to him. Jace pulls her into a hug, gives her a long kiss. She doesn’t know why she is letting him do it and tears are running down her cheeks. “I might never kiss you again,” she says when he stops.

“I’m sorry.” He hugs her again and she tries to take note of what it feels like—her face against his hard chest, his strong arms wrapped around her shoulders and lower back. She pulls away and walks up the driveway, the memory of the first “I love you” replaced by this moment.

“If you were sorry, you wouldn’t be doing this.”


“Nicki, what the hell happened?” Katie says when she answers the front door, this time a purple streak in her hair instead of green.

“Is your mom home?” Nicki asks, walking past Katie.

“No. Do you want me to call her?”

“No.” Nicki plops down on the maroon couch.

“What happened?!” Katie asks, sitting down beside her.

“We just came from Planned Parenthood.”

“Oh, my God, Nicki!” Katie says, jumping up and pacing “No. You’re not…you’re not pregnant are you?”

“No, I got Plan B. The condom broke last night.”

“Oh, thank God! You scared me!” Katie sat down again. “So…why are you so upset?”

“Because…because he broke up with me.”

“Are you kidding me? What the hell for?”

“We’re too serious, he said. I think having to take me to Planned Parenthood and worrying about getting me pregnant scared him. But I’m younger than he is and nothing about us is…was scary for me.”

“He had no problem taking your virginity, even sleeping with you last night and now he dumps you? That bastard!”

“Um, who are we calling a bastard?” Katie’s mom says, coming in from the garage, paper grocery bags in her plump arms.

“Jace,” Nicki says.

He’s the bastard,” Katie adds. Her mother looks over at her with pursed lips, then back at Nicki.

“What’s wrong, honey?”

“He…he…he dumped me.”

“Oh, sweetie,” she says, setting her bags down on the counter and sitting next to Nicki on the couch, stroking her hair. Nicki leans against her and cries. “I’ve always thought you could do so much better. He never treated you like you deserve.”

“But I don’t want to do better. I love him and I want to be with him.”

“Someday you’ll see what a jerk he was.”

“I really don’t think so.”

“I had a boyfriend kind of like him in high school who told me he wanted to take a break because his parents were getting divorced. They are still married and I never heard from him again.”

Nicki thinks about never hearing Jace’s voice or feeling the weight of him press down on her again. “I—I gotta go,” she says, standing up and walking out through the garage.

“Nicki, wait,” Katie says, following her through the garage and down the street. “Nicki. I’m sorry about my mom. You know parents. They don’t understand.”

“Nobody understands how this feels. Please just leave me alone.”

“Fine,” Katie says, stopping in place, watching Nicki get further and further away.


Nicki arrives home a mile later, her cheeks hot from the June sun. Standing at the kitchen sink, she fills a glass of water and looks out at her backyard, vast and green. An old swing set her father built in the middle of the yard reminds her of being a child, of pretending the fort was a pirate ship, of her first kiss.

The paper bag crinkles as she digs for the rectangular box. She grasps the two small blue pills for a long time. “Nicki?” her mom calls from somewhere in the house. Nicki opens her sweaty hand, sees that the pills have started to dissolve, leaving blue circles. She sticks her hand under the faucet and watches them swirl down the drain.


MIKAELA SHEA is a MFA candidate at Columbia College Chicago. To pay her overpriced rent, she is a blogger and a nanny. She has published two short stories in Foliate Oak Literary Journal, a story in Columbia College’s annual Story Week Reader, as well as a children’s book at the State Historical Society of Iowa. Mikaela is currently writing a novel and sending out various short stories for publication.

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