+ Plus You Are,
Minus You’re Not -

    Scott put a comforting hand on Mel’s shoulder. He squeezed gently and ran his thumb over her shoulder blade, pushing up her red sweater, pulling it down, over and over as he softly caressed her tight muscles. Mel sat on the floor between his legs, her back against his chest.

    “It could just be stress,” he said. “You know, ‘cause of prom and debate and whatever.”

    “Maybe,” Mel responded, but not with the tone Scott was looking for. Her voice was distant, and he knew that she was hardly even considering this thought.

    “Sure, just stress. They taught us about that in health class my freshman year. Sometimes outside influences affect it. Like pollution and health and cigarettes and stress and stuff. Maybe it’s…”

    “I don’t smoke.”

    “Yeah, I know, but Dana does, and you’re with her a lot, and with everything else that’s going on...”

    “Yeah, maybe.” Melissa leaned back on Scott’s chest, and he wrapped his broad, linebacker arms around her. She put her hands on his wrist and sighed. “Y’know, I was reading in a magazine about this girl...”


    “She and her boyfriend never had sex. Not once. But she got pregnant anyway. From petting or something.”

    “Yeah, you’ve told me. That must have been one happy little sperm.” Melissa laughed, but then stifled it. Scott could always find a joke in any situation. Mel had told him once that he could find humor in a car crash.

    “But that didn’t happen with us,” Scott said confidently.

    “How do you know? You can’t.”

    “We never - we - you can’t be. We never, like, swapped love fluids or anything.” Again Melissa laughed.

    “It only takes one...” Melissa slid her hands into his, and they laced their fingers together, squeezing each other’s hands tightly. “It’s just - what if I am?”

    “What if you are?” Scott kissed Mel’s cheek gingerly.

    “God, Scott, what are we going to do?” Mel began to sob, and turned in Scott’s lap to cry on his shoulder. “What do we do?”

    Scott squeezed Mel tightly and put his chin on her shoulder, sighing deeply. “Well, I think that’s pretty much up to you. I can say what I think, but in the end, it’s all your decision,” he said. “But whatever you, whatever we decide, we’ll make it, Baby. First thing’s first, though…we’ll wait and see.”

    Mel looked up and sniffed, trying to keep her nose from running onto Scott’s sweatshirt. “My mom said - she said they’d kick me out of the house.” The comment came out of nowhere, and Scott sat, stunned for a moment.


    "She said she’s done being a parent, and she’s not going to give up her life just because I ruined mine.” Melissa squeaked out the last word and buried her face into Scott’s shoulder again.
    “Sshh, sh sh, c’mon now, Baby.” He took her hands and began twisting her rings around and around her fingers.

    “I think...” she looked up again, gazing into Scott’s eyes, looking for understanding, searching for some redemption in his deep Irish eyes. “I think - I think I’ll get an abortion.”

    Scott looked down for a moment, then clenched his eyes shut. “I know. I’ve known you would for a long time.”

    “Oh, God, you’re not going to love me if I do, are you?” The tears began streaming out of her eyes again.

    “What?!” Scott twisted Mel’s face to his and stared, shocked, into her eyes. “How can you say that?! Do you really believe that? Oh God Honey, tell me that you don’t really believe it.”

    “I don’t know...I mean, you’re Catholic, and...”

    “I’m also in love with you and scared for you. Right now, I’m not concerned with what the Church says I should do, I’m concerned with what we decide to do.”

    “But I’m telling you that I’m going to kill our baby.”

    Scott closed his eyes again. “I know. But - if this is what you need to do, if this is what’s best for you, then you have to do it.”

    “Oh, Scott - why are you so good to me?”

    “I’m not.”

    “Yes you are. You’re so good to me.”

    “Don’t say that.”


    “If I were so good to you, you wouldn’t be pregnant!!” Both teenagers paused for a moment.

    “Shit, listen to us. I don’t even know if I am.”

    “I know. I’m sorry I blew up at you.” Scott started to chuckle. “All this, and we’re probably going to find out you’re late ‘cause you’ve got gas or something.” Scott and Mel both laughed, until their laughter turned into tears, and they squeezed each other tighter, both sobbing.

    Mel ran her hands down onto her stomach. She rubbed her abdomen, feeling more than her own body, feeling another body inside of her. She felt a tiny little creature, attached to her, part of her, taking from her, giving to her. She felt another human life, felt it like she’d never felt anything before.

    She felt the first heartbeat of the new life, felt the first impulses as the fetus became a neurological being. She felt it’s first kick, felt, what? It’s first breath? It’s first step? It’s first word, first day of school, first crush, first love, last breath... She felt a life, a life that she was responsible for creating, could conceivably be responsible for raising, or for taking.

    Scott put his hands on Mel’s stomach too. She wondered if he could feel all that she could, if he knew that her womb was harboring another person, half his, half hers. A little person who would, in time, become an obvious production of the two young lovers.

    She wondered if he felt what they had together created.

    Melissa Sandberg and Scott Reilly held each other in silence for a moment. The only noise in Mel’s bedroom was the “tick, tick, tick” of her watch. In the resounding emptiness of the room, each mark of Father Time’s passage seemed to echo, to reverberate, and to tear through their consciousness. Each movement of the second hand seemed to be beating out a steady rhythm, like a tiny heartbeat – “tick, tick, tick, lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub.” As each minute of her past died, a minute of her future was born.

    Mel and Scott both jumped as the digital timer in the bathroom beeped loudly twice. The sound seemed to linger an eternity, calling to them, daring them, challenging them to come and look at their fates, a fifteen dollar fate that Scott bought for them at Walgreen’s. A fate that would determined by a plus sign or a minus sign on a stick. A plus or a minus sign that would tell them which path their lives would soon be taking.

    Melissa stood up, and held Scott’s hand as he rose too. Together they walked into her bathroom, reached out for the cup that held the results of Mel’s home pregnancy test, removed the slender stick, and looked at their future.