“The Decision” by Marissa Wells

Hannah got in the car as quickly as she could. Her mind was running wild; she could barely breathe. She started the engine and as she backed out of the parking space, her phone began to ring. It was Meredith, who was probably wondering how her doctor’s appointment went.  

“Mere,” she said in a shaky voice as she picked up the phone.  

“How did it go? Is everything alright, Hannah?” she asked. 

“Well, it’s not what I was expecting…” she replied as she trailed off to remember what transpired in the doctor’s office. 

There, she sat down on the plastic wrapping and anxiously waited in the cold room for the doctor to come in. She had described her condition to the doctor believing that the fatigue and nausea with vomiting was caused by the stomach flu. The Doctor had run some tests to determine what it may be. The doctor finally returned with an interesting look on her face. “Well Ms. Walker, you don’t have the flu.” she said.  

“Hannah? Are you still there?” Meredith asked. “I think the call may have dropped…” 

“Yes, I am still here,” she replied. 

“Well, what did the doctor say?” She asked. 

“Well… that I am expecting…”  

“I know it wasn’t what you were expecting but what was it?” 

“No, Meredith, she said I am expecting… I am pregnant.”  

“Oh my god! That’s so exciting!”  

Meredith was more than just her sister; she was her best friend. They were inseparable at an early age. As little girls, they would often dress up and play with their baby dolls, pretending to be mothers taking their babies to the grocery store or tending to them in the play house they had in their backyard. 

Although she was seven years older, people always thought that Meredith was her twin. They both had long brown hair and bright blue eyes with the same “button nose,” as their Mother described it as. The only significant difference between them was that Meredith was shorter than her and much more outspoken. Meredith had a rambunctious personality. She was fun to be around and everyone loved her. Meredith wasn’t afraid to speak her mind or stand up for herself, which was something she admired about her sister, since she was much shyer. Because of that, Meredith always took it upon herself to protect her, especially recently.  

“Yeah, it is…” Hannah said with anxiety masked by enthusiasm. 

“So… are you going to tell him?” she asked.  

“I’m not sure…” she replied. 

“Well, you are about to move to Charleston and you won’t see him again so I don’t think it’s worth the trouble. It’ll only cause more tension between the two of you and more stress for you.” Hannah clenched the steering wheel. “Oh, I am going to call you back in a moment, Mom is calling me.” Meredith said. 

Only Meredith would be this comfortable speaking so candidly about the situation to her sister. She was always brutally honest even in circumstances like these. And she was right, talking to Joshua would cause Hannah anxiety. She wasn’t exactly ready to face him after everything they’d been through.  

As she waited at the light, she noticed an empty park bench at the bus stop. It reminded her of when she and Joshua were sitting on a park bench silently, a little over two months ago.  

The bench was facing towards the playground. It was a hot day so there were only a few kids playing. Hannah was wearing short jean shorts and a solid red V-neck shirt. Her hair was in a high ponytail and she had a little bit of makeup on, but most of it had been wiped off. Joshua was wearing a light blue shirt with khaki shorts. His brown eyes, which were masked by his sunglasses, were the same color as his hair, which was so dark, it almost appeared black. His short hair had grown out a bit and was blowing with the breeze. His skin already appeared slightly sun-kissed after only being outside for about twenty minutes. As he sat back down after throwing away the remnants of their sandwiches, Hannah anxiously fiddled with her wedding ring.  

“This isn’t working, Josh…” she said without looking up at him. 

“We can work through this. These past few months have been hard but we can start over.” He replied defensively. 

“No, we can’t, Josh. As much as I want to, we can’t.”  

“Why not?” he asked as he turned towards her. “I still feel the same way about you and I think you feel the same about me too.”  

“You’re right, I do. But we don’t want the same things anymore. I’m not even sure we ever did, we got married so young,” she said as she looked up at the playground. 

“Well, I want to be with you,” he replied, taking her hands tenderly. 

“But I want to have a family, Josh.” she whispered. She moved her hands away and brushed the baby hairs off of her forehead, as they often bothered her when her hair was up. “I want a divorce,” she said with a shaky voice, her voice breaking with sadness as tears blurred the lines of the monkey bars. 

“If that’s what will make you happy, that’s all that matters to me.” He said as tears formed in his eyes.  

Later that week, Hannah moved out of their home and into her sister’s apartment. She officially filed for divorce and looked for jobs through her company as far away from Greenville as she could, while remaining in South Carolina.  

Even though that conversation happened two months ago, it still made Hannah sad when thinking about it. Even now, she still loved Joshua. He had been her first serious boyfriend and her first love.

The car behind her honked, reminding her that she was still driving. She turned right and continued thinking about Joshua. 

She and Joshua had first met in band camp at the beginning of their junior year. She was wearing a light blue shirt that brought out the color of her eyes with jean shorts and brown sandals. Her straight, long hair was down in its natural position, but styled nicely with the blue headband wrapped around her head. She was wearing mascara that highlighted her long eyelashes. As she held her clarinet and scribbled notes on her sheet music, she felt a tap on her shoulder. It was one of the trumpet players, a guy she recognized from a few of her classes, but didn’t really know. He was wearing an American Eagle graphic t-shirt with athletic shorts and tennis shoes. He was a little scrawnier and more youthful than he looked that day at the park. 

Clearly embarrassed, he asked her, “Can you grab my pencil for me? It fell under your chair.” She smiled, nodded, grabbed it, and handed it to him.  

He flashed a soft smile, to avoid showing his retainer, at her in return and whispered the words, “Thank you, I’m Josh by the way.” 

“I’m Hannah, nice to meet you,” she replied with a smile and turned around before the band director could notice. 

In that moment, she didn’t realize the effect that conversation would have on her life. She also would’ve never predicted that they would both go to Furman University together or that they would eventually get married.  

Even when they began to picture a future together, the way the events unfolded didn’t necessarily go according to their ideal plans. In fact, even though their engagement was perfectly planned, they didn’t anticipate being married only a few months later at the age of twenty. They didn’t plan for Hannah to get pregnant with Hope after they got engaged causing them to move up the wedding date. They especially didn’t anticipate that a week after the wedding, she would have her first of many miscarriages, five to be exact, and that their inability to have a baby would ultimately draw a wedge between them.  

Hannah was determined to have children. She wanted to see every doctor she possibly could. She wanted to invest the money, time, and energy into having a family after the heartbreak of losing her first child. Joshua was dedicated and supportive throughout the process, but it became hard for him to watch Hannah experience so much physical and emotional pain every time she miscarried. He no longer wanted to try to have children. He believed they couldn’t afford the financial or emotional struggles that came with investing so much in having a family. 

For this reason, Hannah thought it would be best if she kept her pregnancy a secret. She didn’t think that Joshua wanted kids anymore or that he ever did at all. She didn’t want to burden him with this again, especially since this is the one thing that drove them apart. She thought it might be best to raise the baby on her own, if she was able to have it at all. 

However, part of her was not satisfied by that decision. Deep down, she still wanted a happily ever after with Joshua. She still wanted to raise children with him and grow old together. She knew he would be a wonderful father. She was just worried by his reaction to the news.  

For a moment, Hannah was so lost in thought that she forgot what she was doing or where she was. She was sitting at a stoplight. As she waited for the light to change, her phone rang. 

“Hi Mere.” Hannah said as she answered the phone. 

“Hi Han. Sorry, Mom was calling to check in. I didn’t tell her your news, I figured it wasn’t my place to tell her and it should come from you.” Meredith replied. 

“Thank you.” She replied as the light turned green and she continued driving. 

“Have you decided whether you are going to tell him about it?”  

“Not yet, it’s a tough decision. On one hand, I think he deserves to know. But at the same time, I think you’re right. It may only add a greater strain on our relationship.”  

“Well, you don’t have to make that decision today. Are you coming home soon? I want you to get some rest because you have had a big day.”  

“Yes, I am pulling up now, so I will talk to you when I get inside, okay?” 

Meredith hung up the phone without a word as if she was excitedly running towards the door to let Hannah inside. Hannah parked the car in the driveway.  

She got out of the car and reached into her purse for her keys as she walked towards the house. When she grabbed them, she finally looked up and truly saw it for the first time. 

It was a two-story house with red bricking and a black pitched roof. In front of the house, there was a beautiful flower garden that appeared as if it hadn’t been tended to recently. There was a small porch by the door and front window. On it there was a small, white loveseat that had grown dirty.  

When she realized where she was, a flood of emotions and memories came to her. She remembered him picking her up and bringing her in through the white door for the first time, as husbands always do to their new brides in movies. She remembered tending to the garden while Joshua was mowing the lawn. She remembered sitting on the bench with Joshua, drinking lemonade during their first summer as a married couple there. 

She couldn’t believe that after two months, she subconsciously drove to their house. She felt like it might be a sign. Before she had time to process what had transpired, a figure emerged through the door. 

“Han? What are you doing here?” He asked with a shocked expression on his face. It was clear by his appearance that he wasn’t expecting anyone, let alone her. He was wearing athletic shorts and one of his old t-shirts and had a five o’clock shadow.  

She was completely taken aback, but in that moment, as she began to cry and he slowly stepped out, barefoot, onto the gravel driveway towards her, she knew what she had to do.