And that was final. Tori found herself thrown off the bus six blocks short of her stop. Damn idiot driver, making a pregnant woman walk all that way on her own. Tori'd found more and more dark jokes popping up in her mind of late...
After pointing her in the right direction, Crystal hadn't been much help. Tori had tracked the story of the phantom abortion clinic through a dozen different people through two schools outside of her own, every time assuring them "Oh yeah, it's for this project on, uh, something."
It paid off when she found a girl who wouldn't meet her, wouldn't talk on the phone, but was more than willing to instant message the whole story - after some dancing around. The first time Tori tried to contact her, she got bombarded with "you a cop" and "i dont know you" and some gibberish she couldn't hope to understand. She wound up blocked and having to log in under a different screen name. This time she started with that odd password she'd been told to use, "i herd u liek mudkips." Things went much more smoothly from there...
Turned out she'd been on the cheerleading squad at her school and had gotten knocked up by her boyfriend of the time. She freaked out, crying and terrified of being kicked out of school for breaking the pledge but someone - she wouldn't say it was her parents or maybe her coach but Tori had gotten the impression it was someone in authority who shouldn't have been into these sorts of things - someone had "connected" her with a "group" way out in some ghetto.
Yep, some ghetto was where the bus left her. Or as close to the ghetto as that driver had been willing to get. Every TV show screamed at her this was a bad idea, especially with the five hundred in cash stuffed deep in her pocket - she'd intentionally left nothing of real value in her purse - but the other screaming in her belly convinced her to press on. She knew she could only be weeks before it started to show and then the questions would come and then she'd be out on her ass and coming back here to make a living. And Josh would keep his scholarship.
The neighborhood was surprisingly quiet. She'd expected shouts, a little breaking glass, maybe even a few shouts of "Hey, white girl!" But nothing. More surprising was the fact she wasn't the only white girl around. The steps of the decrepit buildings were populated by a seemingly equal number of blacks and whites - even a few Hispanics! How they'd evaded the mass deportations from a few years ago she couldn't begin to guess. The INS had even shaken down her school with dogs and big beetle-looking men in riot gear, all for the one custodian.
Tori followed what appeared to be the posted bus route the driver had refused to continue down - he had insisted said route didn't exist, or at least not anymore. It brought her past a pawn shop and more liquor shops then she thought were legal on the same block but she seemed to be making progress. At least she hoped so. Every building looked like it was on the verge of being condemned and the street signs not obscured by graffiti were bent out at odd angles, leaving it anyone's guess exactly where she might now be walking.
She strained to remember the street names around this place. Not that she hadn't written them done, but she feared looking too much like an outsider here. So far she'd kept calm and disinterested enough to pass for a local, but if someone saw her looking at a map — or worse, asking directions... Although she could really use some help finding her way.
She looked around, seeing the same smattering of tired people as before. Some men, some women, all old and wrapped in clothes that looked in desperate need of washing... it occurred to her she hadn't seen many people her age. Where were the teenagers? Or even little kids? Every block had felt like the times Tori visited her grandmother in the nursing home before she died.
Not that old people couldn't be helpful but... Looking around again, Tori wondered if any of them would help. They might not be too fond of what she had planned - not that there was any way they could know - or could they?
No. No, of course not. That was just the hormone-fueled paranoia talking. The paranoia grounded in the very real punishments reserved for her if she got caught. Damn...
Tori had been so caught up wondering if the locals would be willing to help or let alone talk to her, she hadn't noticed one of them coming up to do just that.
"I said excuse me," she said again, a stout and middle-aged black woman with thick glasses. "But you seemed a little lost."
"Oh, well, I mean the bus..." Tori fumbled.
The woman rolled her eyes. "Left up by the mailbox, two blocks on the other side, down the stairs next to the Seven-Eleven."
And she was gone, shaking her head and muttering "More of 'em every day."
Tori watched her leave, absolutely confused. "What? I mean - huh?" What could that be about? She didn't seriously mean...
Some eyes now turned to focus on Tori. Tired and sad eyes from several porches and she thought she even saw some movement behind the barred windows. She'd drawn attention to herself — a terrifying thought for a solitary white girl in a ghetto with the sun fast setting, turning the sky and the whole world under it a boiling red. How could it still be so hot so close to winter!?
She took off towards the mailbox, much faster than she wanted people to see. The only thing worse than drawing attention, she suspected, would be showing fear. Not all that different from P.E.
Rounding the mailbox, Tori began to slow. Why did she think that woman knew what she was trying to find? She certainly didn't believe in psychics, and it couldn't be that common a destination — unless it was some strange white girl from out of town. Maybe the only time someone unfamiliar showed up it was for an abortion. The woman had said something about "more of them..."
She would know soon enough. The Seven-Eleven loomed into view, not much more than another glorified liquor store. Maybe she could get a slurpee afterward? And she felt the now familiar desire to laugh and vomit. Damn hormones. At the very least she hoped this would fix her sense of humor.
Down the stairs she found a door marked "Centurian Travel" and the hours listed "7 - 9 Or By Appointment." The woman thought she was looking for a bus?! That certainly made alot more sense but it left Tori off track and stranded in the sort of place she only ever saw before in cop shows. She fished her cell phone out - no, her parents got the bills. They'd ask why she was calling a cab company and Crystal had been insinuating she wouldn't lie for Tori anymore.
...Maybe they had a phone inside? Or at the very least knew the local cab company - which she didn't, something which in her continued panic to keep her parents completely in the dark had just then occurred to her.
Inside, she found an empty plastic bench and a tired looking black man in a stained shirt behind a counter. "Hi," she said, feeling even more awkward then when she'd been out on the street. "I was wondering if, that is -"
"You a cop?" he said.
"Huh?" Tori looked behind her, wondering if someone had come in behind her. "Um, no?"
"'Cause if you a cop, you have to tell me," the man pressed.
"Of course I'm not a cop!" What the hell could he be thinking? She couldn't look that much older...
He jerked his thumb towards a door marked "Staff Only." "Go on back, Bill take care of you."
"Um, thanks..." Tori wanted to think he knew exactly what she came for, just like the woman. If TV were anything to go on she was about to buy drugs, but TV hadn't proven very accurate so far considering she hadn't been mugged or murdered or raped... Unless that's what Bill planned to do.
Had she anything to fall back on, she never would have walked through the door but the thought of being kicked out of school - and likely kicked out of home - of raising Josh's screaming little hellspawn while working some crap job at Burger King...
Through the door was a dim hall snaking left. Following it, she came to an office with a much younger looking and alert black man sitting at a desk, reading a paper. He looked her up and down as she approached, "I'm guessing Arthur sent you back here for the right reason?"
"Oh, of course," Tori said. "I'm not a cop." She hoped it was funnier then it sounded.
Bill, she assumed, set the paper down. "No, you're much too young. But that's exactly what they'd do so why don't you tell me exactly what you came her for?"
It briefly occurred to Tori that he might be a cop. Still, she'd come this far... "I want an abortion."
"That's illegal," Bill said evenly. "Any doctor who performs it risks the death penalty if caught. Same goes for the woman - or young lady - who goes looking for one."
"I know," Tori said, her throat feeling tight.
Bill let the silence in the room hang for a while. Finally, in a disarmingly friendly manner, "Just so we're clear. It'll be five hundred, up front in cash."
Tori blinked, shocked to have finally made it so far. "Seriously?"
Bill was clearing off the desk, moving the phone and laptop to different drawers. "Prohibition always drives up the price." From another drawer, he came out with a plastic tarp which he spread over the desk and a box of latex gloves. "Don't let the location fool you, I actually am a doctor. Used to work ER before... well, before."
He turned to a file cabinet — a false file cabinet that swung open to display a contraption with a hose. He brought it over to the desk, which with the tarp began to resemble something like a hospital table — in the middle of a war zone. "Okay, drop trou and hop on up," Bill said, snapping on the gloves. "Oh, and cash first. If you please."
Tori fished the money out of her pocket, a great big wad of twenties. Putting a hand to her belt, she hesitated, "I'm not so sure -"
"First, I am a doctor so you've got nothing to worry about," Bill said, readying the vacuum-like contraption. "Second, you're not in much of a position to complain anyway." Pointing, "Pants off and on the table."
The one time she'd taken her pants off for a guy had been Josh - and this is what it lead to. Blushing furiously, she shucked the jeans and underwear and climbed onto the desk-now-operating table, trying very hard not to meet Bill's gaze.
"Now, this is going to be a quick dilation and evacuation," Bill explained while gently parting her legs. "You don't really need any anesthesia but if you'd like, I've got a bottle of vodka somewhere."
Tori shook her head, closing her eyes as two latex fingers probed her. It reminded her so much of her one time with Josh, except that had been less gentle and over pretty quickly. She soon felt the instruments where the fingers had briefly been and tensed up.
"Just relax," Bill ordered. "I'm dilating you first, then inserting the cannula. It won't be long after that."
Tori bit her lip, trying to relax all the muscles that had clenched up from her waist down. She managed to get most of her legs, but judging from the poking and prodding it wasn't enough. Bill was gentle but he was also just doing a job and seemed a little rushed.
"Alright, I'm applying the suction. This may feel a little weird."
Whatever he was using - she suspected it wasn't originally designed for something like this - sounded like an outboard motor. Tori didn't know if it was the suction, the other little tools now jammed inside her, or just the damn hormones but she had a sudden need to pee and vomit all at once. She reflexively tensed up again but it didn't seem to bother Bill.
After a few minutes of sucking noises and weird pressure, Bill announced, "All done!" He quickly withdrew the various instruments and threw Tori's jeans and underpants across her legs. "Normally you'd stick around for observation but those luxuries don't exist anymore," he said while packing up the equipment. "Be sure to check yourself for infection for the next week... Of course I can't give you anything so you'd need to come up with a good story to tell your GP."
Tori just nodded, feeling sicker than she ever had since this whole mess started — but relieved. So utterly relieved to have it gone! Pulling up her pants she had the brief, silly notion to never pull them down again ever, except maybe to pee. She cleared her throat, concentrating on sounding as even as possible, "Thanks."
Bill just nodded. He was emptying something out of the vacuum-looking contraption and into a black trash bag. Tori was sorry she'd looked. As she started to leave, Bill said, "Just use a condom next time. I don't like repeat customers."
Tori hurried back out. She passed by Arthur again without a word, which he didn't seem to mind. He was reading a three-month-old magazine with ragged edges. Although, as she pushed open the door to the outside, he called after her, "See you next time!"
She didn't know if he was serious or just having some fun. Did they really get that much repeat business? Everyone but her had known exactly where she needed to go and Tori couldn't think of any other explanation than they saw alot of well-to-do white girls coming to their neighborhood looking for an abortion. Did that mean this was regular? Or were there regulars? She found it funny in a twisted way, "Hey, Nicole! We were wondering when you'd come out here again!" "So good to see you again, Kristin!" "Right this way, Ms. Johnston!"
So maybe it wasn't the hormones that had been affecting her sense of humor.
She hadn't been inside long enough for the sun to completely set and Tori was taken completely off guard by the black van that suddenly came barreling down on her. If it hadn't stopped on its own, it would have surely hit her. She stumbled back in shock as half a dozen men loaded down in riot gear poured out and past her, straight for Centurion Travel. The last one stayed back, smashing her in the face with the butt of his gun and a shout of "On the fucking ground!"
The blow knocked Tori off her feet and sent her sprawling on the pavement. She coughed on what must have been a whole pint of blood and a tooth that had popped out and tumbled down her throat. She felt her hands being roughly cuffed behind her back while the man shouted, "You're under arrest, whore! Anything you say can be used against you, whore!"
He continued like that all the way through her rights, only stopping when he was drowned out by machine gun fire. It wasn't too long before the rest came back, dragging the ragged bodies of Bill and Arthur. "Got these godless fucks!" one of them declared, very pleased with himself.
Through her own blood and grime stained hair, Tori could make out a few locals peering down at her from their windows. A few kept looking but most quickly drew the blinds, even going so far as to turn out their lights. She wondered if anyone would call the police, or if they had and this was the result.
"Throw the jailbait in the van," one of them called. Tori was hauled off the ground and stood up, but her head was ringing too much for her legs to keep her steady. She wobbled and started to fall.
"Dumb bitch can't walk!" one of them laughed as she went crashing back to the ground.
"She's just faking!" cried another. "Wants us to carry her skank-ass!"
Tori distantly felt a hand grip the back of her hair, lifting her head and with a grunt of "I ain't got time for this," had her face slammed into asphalt and darkness.
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