The first chance that they got, Liz and Jackie went with their sisters and mother to replenish their wardrobes and get new decorations for their bed- and dorm rooms. If nothing else, it gave them a chance to catch up on what they’d missed over the last several months. They stocked up on jeans, t-shirts, tennis shoes, short skirts, and sweatshirts. They bought every single thing they had not been allowed to wear in the Children. The freedom was exhilarating—no longer was someone dictating to them what they could and could not wear in public. The group also stopped by a salon. Jackie and Liz both sat down and got their hair cut. And while they were out, Mom insisted they take Liz to the doctor.
“There could be something seriously wrong, Liz,” she explained as they pulled into the parking lot of the family physician.
“But where will she start?” Eva asked sarcastically. Liz turned around so fast to glare at her sister that she almost gave herself whiplash.
“Mom, I’m fine. Really,” Liz said. In truth, she didn’t want another person to stare at her with that pitying look that had now happened the last five times she’d explained to someone she’d joined a cult and been abused.
“Honey, you need to get that wrist looked at. And the giant bruise on your abdomen. And I’d really like if you let her perform a professional…” Mom looked around the car at the other girls and dropped her voice to a whisper, “…pregnancy test…” her voice returned to normal, “since you refuse to take an at-home one. Just to be sure.”
“Mom, we all know what pregnancy is,” Dani said. “You don’t have to whisper ‘pregnancy test’ like it’s dirty.”
After another several minutes of arguing, Liz discovered she was sorely outnumbered and followed her mother and sisters into the physician’s office. Their mother made the younger girls wait in the lobby, but she and Jackie went with Liz back to the examination room.
“I’m not telling her. You want me to do this, you’re telling her about the rest of it,” Liz announced as soon as she was settled on the cold metal exam table.
Her mother nodded and shrugged and the three women waited in silence for the doctor to appear.
“Well, hello, Liz…Jackie…Jody,” said Dr. Worthington, a lady about the same age as the McLancy parents with a bright smile who had been the family doctor since Jackie’s birth. She nodded to each woman in turn before turning to Liz and asking, “What brings you here today?”
“I need you to check my left wrist to make sure it’s not broken. And my mom wants you to check my abdomen to make sure it’s not hurt…more than I think it is…and she wants me to take a pregnancy test,” Liz mumbled.
Dr. Worthington lifted Liz’s wrist and examined it closely before lifting the bottom of Liz’s shirt to examine her stomach. A bruise took up most of the skin and the doctor furled her eyebrows in concern and confusion.
“How did this happen, Liz?” she asked kindly.
Liz looked to her mother and didn’t answer. Her mom quickly jumped in, as she had agreed, and explained to Dr. Worthington that Liz had been forced into an abusive relationship while in the cult. As Liz had guessed, the doctor looked at her throughout the story with the same pitying look as everyone else had and Liz deliberately avoided looking in her eyes.
“That would explain the sudden drop in weight then, from what you’ve told me,” Dr. Worthington said as she stared at Liz’s chart. Liz nodded, still looking at her lap. The doctor then turned her attention back to Liz’s wrist and stomach. “Your wrist looks like it’s only sprained a little…the muscle was twisted in a way it didn’t want to be. It’s not too serious, so keep it wrapped for a couple weeks.” She leaned down and looked at Liz’s abdomen again. She prodded it for a few minutes before saying, “It doesn’t look to me like there’s anything further hurt in your abdomen. Nothing seems to be broken and your symptoms aren’t making me worry about hemorrhaging. Before you go to school, though, I want to make sure you get some tests done to be sure—x-rays, that sort of thing, nothing to be too nervous about.”
Finally, Dr. Worthington took some of Liz’s blood for a pregnancy test and promised to call as soon as the results came in. She shook all three women’s hands, told Liz she’d be in touch and not to worry, and then they left.
On the ride home, the subject of Drighton came up. Liz and Jackie both squared their shoulders and put determined glares on their faces—this was at least the third time they had discussed this issue.
“Maybe you should both go to college around here for a while,” Mom said suddenly.
Liz groaned without restraint and bent her head backward to stare at the ceiling in frustration. “We’ve already talked about this,” she said in an annoyed sing-song voice.
“But doesn’t the cult have a colony up in Drighton? Won’t that be…hard on both of you?”
“Mom,” Jackie sighed, “we’ve been over this a million times already. I don’t want to abandon my education at Drighton. I like the college and the colony is far away from campus. I want to have some semblance of a normal life right now.”
“And I want to go to Drighton, Mom!” Liz added, frustrated. “I like the campus, I like that Jackie and Morgan will both be there. And if I don’t go away and try to be a normal college student, I don’t think I’ll ever feel normal again. I just want to be normal, okay? I just don’t want to be one of those people that was sucked in by the Children anymore. I want to at least try to move on!”
The other girls in the car purposefully kept their silence during this exchange, having heard it many times over the last couple days. They all stared in opposite directions and merely witnessed the argument once more. Finally, their mother sighed, defeated, and the subject was dropped yet again.
When the phone rang later that afternoon, and Mom handed it to Liz with the announcement that it was the doctor, the entire house fell more silent than it had been in years. Every member of the family gathered around Liz as she spoke to Dr. Worthington.
“Hello, Dr. Worthington…yes, this is Liz…okay…okay…I will…thank you…” Liz spoke into the phone. She hung up and looked around at her family members staring at her, worry etched onto every single face. Why had she ever given this up?
“What did the doctor say?” Mom asked at barely a whisper.
“The test came back negative. I’m not pregnant,” Liz gasped. The tension left the house immediately as everyone flooded to hug Liz and congratulate her on dodging that bullet once and for all. As soon as the hugs had subsided, Liz planted herself in a kitchen chair and put her head in her hands, sobbing softly. She sobbed in relief, she sobbed for every member of the Children that would never leave, she sobbed for finally being reunited with her family and learning everything was okay. And then she sobbed for herself. She didn’t know what she would have done had the test come back positive. It wasn’t like Benjamin would have allowed the baby to be adopted—and she would have needed his signature—and it wasn’t like she would turn her baby over to a lifetime with its father in the colony. But it didn’t matter anymore. There was no baby, there was nothing else linking her to that man, and that was all that mattered at this very moment.