Forged in Flames (Made of Steel Series Book 2)

Chapter 1

16 Years Old

Flashback

This can't be happening. I tried to take a deep breath as I paced back and forth in the small restroom. My feet stopped when I caught my reflection in the mirror. I barely recognized the person staring back at me. The newest bruise along my jaw was clearly showing through my foundation. My cheeks were hollow. I brushed away my tears with my fingertips and turned away from the mirror.

No matter how much I delayed looking, I knew it was inevitable. I could feel the change. I swallowed hard and closed my eyes tight. For years I had thought my life couldn't get any worse. But this was worse. I wanted to crumple down onto the tiled floor. I'd rather my life end right now than face this alone. I was terrified to handle this on my own. It felt like I was hyperventilating. All I needed to do was open my eyes and look down. Then I'd know. I could plan what to do next. But I really didn't need to see the results. I could feel it.

Please, please, please let me be imagining this. I opened up my eyes and looked at the ceiling. Part of me wanted to pray. But I knew no one would hear my pleas. Even when I screamed no one could hear me. I took a deep breath and turned back toward the bathroom sink. Nothing could get worse, could it? If anything, maybe Don would be nicer to me. Maybe this would be a good thing. He wouldn't hurt me once he found out. Would he?

Someone knocked on the restroom door. "Are you almost done in there?"

I didn't answer. Instead, I slowly looked down. The little plus sign staring back at me felt like a stab in the heart. No. No, no, no. I tried to wipe my tears away again. I couldn't even protect myself from him. How was I supposed to protect a baby?

All I could hear was my own heartbeat. I felt sick. But for the first time in a few days, it wasn't because I needed to throw up. I put my hand on my stomach. This baby was going to be half me. That should have felt like a blessing. But all I could think about was that it felt like a curse. Because it was half him too. It felt like a demon was growing inside of me.

"Is anyone even in there?" the lady on the other side of the door said as she jiggled the doorknob.

It felt like my life had just come to a halt. But no one gave a shit about me. I couldn't even remember the last time someone asked me if I was okay. Nobody cared. I had no one. I grabbed the pregnancy test and tossed it in the trash before pushing the bathroom door open.

"Finally," the stranger grumbled as she walked past me.

She didn't see the tears streaming down my face. She didn't see the pain in my eyes. I was invisible. I kept my head down as I walked through the public library. The afternoons I had off after school, I usually came here. It was where I felt safest, surrounded by people, far away from Don. Now it felt like I had tarnished it somehow. Like I had brought a darkness here. That's how I always felt. It seemed like darkness seeped into the ground every place I stepped. I pushed through the glass doors and quickly walked down the stairs.

Snow was starting to fall. The wind made it dance across my path. I remembered a time when I loved the snow. Now it just reminded me that I had nothing to protect myself against the cold. I wrapped my arms around myself. My winter jacket felt threadbare against the gusts of wind. A bus was pulling to a stop in front of the library. It wasn't the route home. It would wind around the city, making aimless stops for a few hours, before stopping back at the library. Before I could overthink it, I climbed up the bus stairs. Staring out the window of a moving bus had always been calming. It was like the possibility of escape was right at my fingertips. Not that I'd ever try that again.

As I made my way down the aisle, I told myself that I could think it all through on the ride. I could figure out what I needed to do. I shook my head as I sat down in the back of the bus. I didn't need time to think. I knew exactly why I had gotten onto this bus. I knew exactly what stops it made. Yes, this baby was half mine. But it was half monster too. The doors closed and the bus pulled back onto the street.

I knew what I had to do.

 

***

 

The doctor pulled up a chair and sat down beside the examination table. "Are you sure that's the route you want to take?" She stared at me like she detested me. Like I was the sinner in this situation. Like it was my fault. "There are so many couples out there that would love to adopt a baby."

It's a demon inside of me. "I'm sure." But I wasn't sure. I had sat in the waiting room for over an hour, with the question rolling around in my head. It's half me. My whole family was dead. This baby was a piece of me. How could I do this? How could I get rid of it?

 She nodded. "You are early enough to get medication instead of surgery, which minimizes the risks involved. But it is expensive." She was no longer looking at me, just staring down at her clipboard. But I could still see the look of disgust on her face. She loathed me. And she should. I loathed myself.

I can't do this. It's half me. "How expensive?" I said, instead of voicing my concerns.

"It would be about $600 without complications."

How the hell was I supposed to get $600? Did I even want to?

"And you're only 16, correct?"

I nodded my head. I was trying to do the calculations in my mind. I barely made enough money for food. I was biting my lip so hard that I started to taste blood.

"So you'll need to have parental consent in order to terminate the pregnancy."

The calculations in my mind stopped. Terminate the pregnancy. The words sounded harsh to my ears. I put my hand on my stomach. "My parents are dead." What was I doing here? How could I even consider abandoning this baby the way my parents abandoned me? I loved them. I missed them every day. But I fucking hated them for leaving me to face this all alone. They left me. Just like my grandmother had left me. Just like Miles had left me. Miles. Why the hell was I thinking about Miles? I hadn't heard from him in years.

She pressed her lips together. "I'm sorry to hear that, Summer. But that means you'll need consent from your guardian then. Anyone under 18 needs written consent."

I shook my head. "I can't get consent from my guardian." No matter what choice I make, he can't know. If I kept the baby, I needed to get the hell out of Colorado. And If I decided to get rid of it, he'd kill me, or at least try. The last time he had put his hands around my neck, I had gone to the police. I had shown them the bruises. No one listened to me. They sent me back home to the monster himself. A doctor who clearly despised me wouldn't listen to me. She had already written me off. I hated the look in her eyes. I hated that she was judging me when she knew nothing.

"I know that situations like this may seem hard at first," the doctor said. "But I'm sure your guardian will learn to accept this. You just need to give it time."

Time. I knew why I had been thinking about Miles. Because I had pictured starting a life with him. I had pictured our kids and a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. Time had robbed me of that life. God, I was so naive. But still, I found myself placing my hand on the center of my chest where the pendant he had given me rested. I loved the smallest constellations. I couldn't give up on the tiny baby inside of me. I wasn't going to become a monster like Don. I wouldn't let him turn me into one.

I quickly stood up. "I'm sorry, this was a mistake."

The doctor looked relieved. "Does that mean you'll consider adoption? You're only 6 weeks along. You have time to decide."

Time. My heartbeat quickened. I wouldn't let anyone rob me of anything else in my life. But I was running out of time.

"Summer?" she called after me.

I walked out of the clinic without looking back.