The following is taken from Ascension. You can find it on Amazon by clicking the link to the right.
The girl who faces me isn’t Sarah. Or rather, she isn’t just Sarah. Her stomach is swollen and heavy; her birthing time near.
“Jessica.” It’s a flat statement, as if she’s not in the least surprised to see me or awkward that we have met like this.
“Oh! I had no idea,” I gush, trying to hide my confusion. I blink rapidly, trying to look delighted for her. “When did you get married?” I demand, when what I want to cry is, Why didn’t you tell me? Why wasn’t I there? and most painful of all, Why wasn’t I your bridesmaid?
I swallow back my hurt and my pride and try to be happy for her. Time and circumstance have caused us to drift apart and we are both at fault. Yet I wonder if she mourns the loss as much as I do.
Her gaze jumps away from mine, vivid green gaze fliting around the crowd as if seeking something. Whatever that is, she clearly doesn’t find it. When she looks back at me her eyes are sadder and somehow older, the green darker and more jaded than moments before.
She tries to smile, but more than anything she looks wretched. “Jessica Stone, you always did put your mouth out there on the ground before you jumped right into it, didn’t you?” The old exasperated tone she used to use with me is gone, replaced by something else, something harder. “Look!” She thrusts both hands at me hard enough to push me over.
Rocking back on my heels, I grab them to steady me. Strong and firm, her unadorned hands hold mine and anchor me to the spot. I search for the bright brilliance of engagement and wedding rings—and find none. In fact there are no rings on either middle finger. And no indentations to indicate that rings have ever sat there. Face as red as her hair, chin level with mine, she regards me challengingly.
“No, I never got walked down the aisle.” She laughs mirthlessly, her cheeks failing to dimple the way I remember so well, “Just rushed up the alleyway.” Her voice is harsh, tight and full of shame— but not broken. She intends no offence, offering merely a sweeping pragmatism to bring me face to face with her reality. But even so, her words shock me like no others could have done. The implications behind her meaning hit me like a sledgehammer. Somewhere deep down in my stomach a clenching wave starts up and I think that I have never, ever, experienced such fear as I now feel.
“Oh my God.” I hear myself whisper, the words echoing on and on in my head, the ramifications of her situation exploding in a thousand different images, each one worse than the one before. “Oh My God Sarah! You’re not married.”
She just stares at me, not denying the truth of my words, not demanding that I take them back, not offering any explanation at all. Waiting it out as if dealing with a recalcitrant child.
I can only imagine what expression of horror and shock is frozen on my face. I am at once ashamed of my feelings and angry at our religion for foisting them upon me.
“But… But… How?” is all I manage to stutter out.
“Come on Jess. Really?” Eyebrows raised, she regards me almost comically. It’s a momentary flash of the old Sarah, the Sarah who, even though she is the same age as me, has always seemed more mature and worldly, as if all of life was an open book to her.
“I think you know the how.” She half giggles, as if momentarily forgetting her peril, before fear settles over her countenance. “I guess it’s the why you’re interested in.”