There were only a few stragglers sunbathing at the Santa Monica beach; it was around three and Mila found it odd for a Saturday. Two girls not too far from where she was setting up watched her behind their sunglasses. They seemed a bit older than her 20-year-old self, maybe in their late twenties. Mila could feel their stares as she shimmied out of her shorts. The sand burned the bottom of her feet with such rage it seemed like the universe was still mad at her for reasons she wholeheartedly agreed with. The girls started giggling as she bent to lay her towel down. She felt the pit of her stomach start to burn, waiting to erupt. Mila knew they were laughing at her stretch marks; they probably thought she lost the weight too fast through some Jenny Craig diet. They would probably try to snap some pictures to show their friends the ex-fat girl they saw at the beach. Little did they know that was far from the truth, but she didn’t need to explain her life to a couple of strangers she hoped to never see again.

She lay on her stomach hoping she could take a short nap while she tanned her back. She used her arms to rest her head and closed her eyes, sighing as she felt her tense muscles relax. Just as sleep was about to overcome her, she heard a baby laugh. That joyous sound took Mila back two years to her freshman year at USC, where she had met someone who she had fallen in love with, but the decisions and actions they made had eventually broke her. It was then that she learned that life sucked and the world looked to punish people in the cruelest ways, but that was speaking from her experience. At 18, she had felt much older than she was, and even now she tended to keep to herself, finding no joy in her daily life. Mila, now wide awake, let her eyes travel to the pier, where a man held up a sign: “God Bless You.” She internally snorted at the sight but didn’t dwell on it as her eyes wandered around the beach, which was almost empty, but she didn’t feel completely alone; she was always in the company of grief. Mila heard snickering behind her, her ears perking up as she heard them make jokes about giving her their plastic surgeon’s card to help her get rid of her muffin top. She decided she had heard enough and put on her earphones to block out their voices. The weight of her loss was heavier today than usual as two girls made fun of her for her body on a day she would never forget. A girl like her would never be the same again, Mila thought to herself. She couldn’t help but wonder if she would have gone to heaven as well?

Mila knew she shouldn’t have hooked up with him, but she wanted to and after a few drinks had approached him. She wasn’t one to drink or have one-night stands, but she hadn’t been thinking straight after her parents called her to let her know they were getting a divorce. She loved her parents, and the news was rather surprising since her parents always seemed happy together. Mila hadn’t planned on sleeping with anyone that night, but then she caught sight of Ryan. She couldn’t remember much after she started flirting with him, but she knew what they had done. It wasn’t until a month later when she went to the doctor thinking she had the stomach flu that her world changed. The doctor had done a series of tests, and when she came back, her face was blank as she told her, “You’re pregnant.”

Ryan appeared to be cocky and a bit promiscuous when she first met him. It had made her wonder how he had made it this far because he didn’t seem like the type to care much about school. Mila was proven wrong when she actually got to know him; he was smart and so handsome and charming, she couldn’t help but like him. She had developed feelings for him before that night and decided to finally make her move at the party. It was there that she saw a side of him she hadn’t seen before. He loved to party in more ways than she cared to acknowledge once the alcohol took over. It was on that fateful, stupid night that they conceived an innocent, pure, and perfect baby.

It really only takes one time. Not soon after she told him that she was pregnant she came to realize that Ryan was unreliable and a drug addict. Mila had a hard time coming to terms with his study drug addiction. He had only intended to use it once during finals, explaining that he had a hard time keeping up with the workload as a freshman. On their second semester, he had spiraled out of control and couldn’t get a handle on it. Mila had come to accept the idea that maybe she would have to raise this baby alone; if Ryan wasn’t going to help her, then she wanted to do this on her own. Her parents would want to help, she knew it; they would be furious when she told them, but she would do everything in her power to give this angel everything it needed. Surprised after his confession that although he was dealing with an addiction that he wanted a chance to have a family, Mila, wanting the same thing, gave him a chance knowing that he could potentially make her fall in love with him, only to break her heart in the end.

He asked her to be his girlfriend about two months into the pregnancy and played the role of a supportive boyfriend quite well for a few months after that. When she looked back at the time they spent together, she believed that he actually did come to love her and the baby. Ryan looked at her in a way she had never been looked at before; he would hug her from behind while resting his hands on her six-month belly. Everything was going great, but nothing great lasted forever. Mila thought she could deal with it, help him in the hope that he would want to better himself for his baby. It was Friday, and she had been trying to get in contact with Ryan all week. She shouldn’t have been worrying about him at seven months pregnant, but he had been blowing her off for a week, and she couldn’t help but think he had finally done it. The possibility that he had overdosed was unsettling, and her heart sank at the thought of not having him hold her hand through labor or even the rest of their lives.

As she headed to his apartment once again in hopes that he was there, she felt a shooting pain in her stomach. It went before she had time to react. Her thoughts were focused on Ryan; not once did she think that something could be wrong. Mila saw him as she drove up. Her heart beat with anxiety once she saw him throwing his suitcase into his car and noticed that it was already jam-packed with stuff. As she walked up to him, he set the box he had in his hands on the floor. He took her hands in his and apologized for worrying her. He had relapsed and had been at rehab trying to get help. He had decided on not telling her until he was out; he didn’t want to be a burden to her, especially this late in the pregnancy. Mila believed him. If she wouldn’t have been so distracted by the joy of having him alive in front of her, she would have noticed how his hands were shaking and how much thinner he looked. It had been true; he was getting help but going through withdrawals. The shooting pain in her stomach came back, but this time she would have collapsed if Ryan hadn’t been there to catch her. He picked her up and gently sat her on the passenger side of his car. The pain was unbearable; her hands were in search of something to hold on to when she became aware of how fast Ryan was driving. She told him to slow down, but her voice was just above a whisper. She couldn’t remember what happened next. She woke up in a hospital. She remembers throwing the TV remote and a few flower vases at him. Mila cried and yelled at him. Once the anger was gone, the grief took over; she sobbed on his chest as he held her while he repeated the word “sorry” over and over again.

Mila jumped up in a panic, her hands going straight to her belly before she realized she wasn’t in a car and she wasn’t pregnant. She had fallen asleep and now her back was paying the price as it felt like the volcano had exploded after all. The commotion of what sounded like a car screeching to a stop followed by a loud crash had woken her. Losing the baby had destroyed her. After the accident, she took a semester off, and when she finally went back, she saw no future. Still, she was trying; finishing school as soon as possible was her first priority. She distanced herself from her friends. She was drowning in her own misery. Mila hoped she could one day forgive herself and exist in a world she could live with. Deep down, she wished she had died in that accident. Her stretch marks were the only reminder of her baby, something Mila liked to call angel scratches. They were something that she would wear for the rest of her life. As her heart rate began to regulate after being jolted awake, her eyes wandered around the pier once again, only to find a guy staring right at her. Mila noticed he wasn’t looking at her in that way she was used to by now with disgust or sometimes even pity. He was looking at her with familiar interest, but she couldn’t precisely see his face as the sun blinded her tries, so she looked away trying to focus her eyes somewhere that wasn’t too bright.

Mila would never forget that Friday, but there was no point in thinking about how she should have done something different to protect her baby and herself. She shouldn’t have gotten in his car with him in his condition. She shouldn’t have gone to look for him in the first place. Ryan had been trying to get clean for her and the baby but was still going through the process. In reality, the accident hadn’t even been his fault; the other driver was drunk but she couldn’t help but think they would have had a chance if he had been clean. She forgave him because no one was perfect, yet she knew he would never forgive himself. Mila missed him. She still loved him.

Ryan’s face came into view as she opened her eyes to see why the sun stopped beating her with its rays. She held her hand up to touch his face, thinking that maybe she was dreaming. He smiled at her hesitantly looking unsure of himself. Mila automatically smiled back at him letting him know it was okay. He looked older in the same way she did, and healthy, something she had noticed right away. Mila finally felt at peace as Ryan took her hand in his. They looked into each other’s eyes like they had been waiting for this moment. Today they were different people. Maybe this time life would go easy on them.