The atmosphere in St. Clare’s Clinic was tense as the clock struck ten on a Saturday morning. A couple of nurses were walking back and forth amid the few anxious faces. Leila flung the door shut, walking out of the doctor’s room. She coughed, clearing her throat. The waiting room was empty except for a few chairs and a fishbowl on a table.

Settling herself into a chair, Leila gulped down a water bottle. She put her hands over her head and heaved a tired sigh. What the doctor told her had shattered her world in a mere moment. Her head screamed from the light in the room. She buried her face in her hands to hide her despair. Leila languorously dug her phone from her handbag and dialed her boyfriend. Today was the worst day of her life. Period.

As usual, Jayden was busy sipping an iced tea at the café two blocks from his college, only this time, he felt annoyed since it was rather deserted than bustling with the usual chatter and music. He cursed his friends under his breath for not accompanying him. Things weren’t always like this. Jayden was hardly into his first year at college, and most girls had been swooning over him already for his killer looks and devilish charm. Though a sea of belles vied for his attention, he fell heads over heels for Leila. He saw something special in her right from the very first day of college when they bumped into each other. A few Starbucks dates later, they had become inseparable.

It had been almost a week since she stopped responding to his texts and coming over to his place. As Jayden was about to take another sip, his ringtone disrupted his thoughts. The caller ID on his iPhone flashed, ‘Bae.’ With a bright smile, he picked up her call and said in a husky voice, “Hey, sunshine. I’ve been missing you like crazy.” He expected her to blow kisses over the phone. Little did he realize that he was in for a shock.

“Jay, listen! My body was feeling kinda weird over the past two weeks,” she shuddered. “I was a bit upset when I felt tired and noticed some early signs. So, I just visited a doctor to confirm my doubts. Aaand…”

What she said next sent a shiver down Jayden’s spine. Even the iced tea didn’t help him keep his cool.

“Wait! No, no, no, don’t tell me that you’re…” he said.

“Yes, I am! All thanks to your stupidity!” she fumed.

“You gotta be bloody kidding me! How could you blame me for this mess? I’m not even sure if I’m the ONE responsible!”

“What the fuck?! How dare you say that?” Leila exploded. “Grow a pair and face the heat instead of chickening out like a wuss. It was because of you and YOU only. It all started two weeks back when you came over to my apartment on my birthday. That night was a HUGE mistake! We shouldn’t have done any of that.”

“What are you? Ten?” Jayden said. “You’re making a fuss as if it was all my fault. You’re equally responsible for this. It’s not like I forced you or something. Don’t forget that I asked you first. Spare me your shitty tantrums and go, get a life!”

“Fuck off, Jay!” she shot back. “I had said ‘not now,’ but you forced me into doing it. And I had warned you a gazillion times to use protection. But you never cared to give a damn like always.”

“I always keep a set in my glove compartment. But I ran out of them that day. At least, you should have had the brains to wear one if you were so cautious.”

“Seriously?! You expect me to keep a box in my closet all the time? First of all, I never had the slightest hint that you would show up at night. You can’t expect me to do whatever you say.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, give me a break!” Jayden could no longer take it. “If the nearest drugstore hadn’t closed that night, I would have bought an entire pack. You want an apology from me, right? Okay, I am sorry. Is your massive ego satisfied now?”

“I’m the one who has to bear all the pain, and you think you could undo all this mess with just a fuckin’ sorry?” Leila sounded incredulous. “If my dad comes to know of this, you’ll be dead meat. Be thankful that I’ve not told him yet. I don’t know whether I have the courage to face him. I’m barely eighteen.”

Within seconds, she broke down. “I’m not ready for this! I have dreams to chase. What if medical intervention doesn’t help? I’ve heard of terrible things that’ve happened to other girls. What if something goes wrong? You’ll move on in life while I’m left to suffer.”

Not wanting to exacerbate the situation, Jayden tried consoling her. “Is there something you can do? You know, better safe than sorry. I mean, you could try asking the doc and see what you…”

“Shut the fuck up!” Her voice hit the ceiling. “I know what you’re hinting at. I already asked her. She said it’s too late.” Leila clenched her jaw. “It’s so easy for you to say that. Get out of my life, Jay. Rot in hell!”

Before he could say another word, she hung up and deleted his number. Leila was sick and tired of the toxic relationship that led her to this pathetic state. Wiping her tears, she stared at the fishbowl in front of her. A goldfish was floating upside down. Slowly, it sunk to the bottom of the bowl.

Two Weeks Ago

Leila stole glances at the clock, counting down to her birthday—April 5th, 2020. Two hours to go. It had been a few months since she moved out of her parent’s house to an apartment near her college. Unlike her previous birthdays, which were celebrated with grand parties, she was alone in her room, waiting to gorge on the cake all by herself. Just then, she heard a horn beep. On looking outside her window, she saw Jayden getting out of his car.

Within the next few minutes, he was at her door, a bouquet of fresh dandelions in hand. He smiled. “I thought of dropping by to spend some time with my princess on her birthday!”

Leila threw her arms around his neck. “But why did you come? Just a wish over the phone would have been more than enough.”

“I couldn’t live another second without seeing these gorgeous eyes,” he said, cupping her face in his palms, pressing his lips onto hers.

Leila gave him a tight hug, her head resting on his chest. Listening to his heartbeat, she said, “Two hours to go, Jay. Wanna watch some Netflix until then? I’ve been binge-watching loads of shows these days.”

“Nope. Boring!” Jayden shook his head. “I have a surprise for you.”

“What’s it?” She blushed with excitement.

“Well, a surprise is a surprise. Let’s go!” He grasped her hand.

“No, I’m not coming with you unless you tell me.” Leila let go of him and crossed her arms.

“Huh, fine!” Jayden admitted defeat. “A candlelit dinner by the beachside restaurant. I’ve even tipped them to play your favorite song.” He pulled out his car keys from his pocket and dangled it in front of her eyes.

“Forget it!” Leila frowned. “Are you crazy? The city will be crowded at this hour. It’s not safe.”

With a long face, he began persuading her, “I’ve been planning this surprise for almost a week. I thought you loved me, but it looks like you have other priorities.”

After five minutes of his sweet talking, Leila finally gave in to his whims. Locking his arms with hers, he walked toward the door.

“Wait! I’m not stepping outside without a mask. I hope you have brought a pair. Don’t you?” She furrowed her brows.

“Oh, come on, Leila! Do you want us both to be scared of a tiny virus and look like freaks?” Jayden smirked, flashing a condescending look. “No fuckin’ way! Stop following the sheeple. Love is in the air. Let’s feel it.”

“Just this once!” Leila muttered to herself, hoping everything would be all right, before walking out the door.