So before you start this one, your challenge should you choose to accept it is to let me know in the reviews for this chapter why this story is called So Yesterday. All will be revealed in the next chapter- but no cheating!
This story is for the lovely Charley. She knows why :)
A massive thank you must go to Elleigator who came up with the concept for part I, and put up with me bombarding her with dialogue all week.
And finally, this story is NOT sponsored by Marks and Spencer. Although they do make amazing children section penguin onesies, which are totally acceptable to own in your twenties.
"If I book something… will you come with me?"
She doubts her Mum, at first.
Why Chloe doubts her when she's never let her down before, she doesn't know, but she does.
Perhaps it's this.
Perhaps it's the whole mess of a situation she's found herself in, the fact that everyone else she's spoken to about it before her and Dom has tried to guide her towards a decision that isn't hers, a decision that theythink she should be able to live with.
Perhaps it's because of Nicky, because of Cam, because of Phoebe, because of Essie and Isla and Dom and Lofty and William and… and him… of everyone around her convinced they have a right to choose that should belong to her and her alone, no one else, that she almost expects her mum to offer up her own opinion at the last possible moment.
That they'll have gone through it all so calmly, so… objectively, somehow, focus on her, what she wants, or what she doesn't know she wants but everything she's afraid of, only for her mum to come out with something that sends her into turmoil all over again, has her questioning the verdict that at last she's so certain she's reached.
"Yes." There's… surprise, almost, in her mum's voice as she responds, surprise that she even had to ask, that it wasn't a given, right from the start. "Yes."
How could she ever have doubted her?
She allows herself to be pulled into her mum's arms, relaxes, just for a moment, allows herself to believe that maybe, just maybe, there might be a light at the end of the tunnel, breathes in the scent of the Kingdom Scotland perfume she bought Ange for Christmas and the blueberry vape refill she wishes she'd ditch for nicotine patches.
"I'm so proud of you," her mum tells her softly. "I'm so, so proud of you. Always. So, we'll make you an appointment, okay? We'll sort it out first thing tomorrow. I promise. We need to make you a GP appointment, have it confirmed- I'm guessing you haven't done that? No? So we'll do that first thing tomorrow morning, and then we can get you booked into a clinic and…"
She'd forgotten this part.
God, she's stupid.
She's been so caught up in whether she wants to keep it or get rid and who wants what, who's going to support which decision, trying to work out what she wants herself in between, Chloe realises now, that this part had completely slipped her mind.
She'd forgotten she'll need proper confirmation, more than just the plastic stick of doom and desperation and history repeating itself Nicky rescued from the bins in the Darwin staff toilets, before anyone will put her out of her misery.
"Hmm?" Her mum pulls away, scrutinises, as though she's looking for the answers in her expression, trying to work out where this is going.
She doesn't know how to ask her.
She knows what can'thappen next, what she cannot possibly allow to happen unless she wants to be spending Christmas back in the outpatient unit, but she doesn't know how to ask her.
"Will you… will you do it? The… the scan. You know, to confirm it." She can't meet her mum's eyes, fixes her gaze firmly on the floor.
"Please, Mum?" Chloe whispers, voice trembling with desperation. "Please? Just this once? It's not… there's not going to be another time, is there, I'm going to take care of it, after this. It'll just be the once. I'll drag an ultrasound machine into your office, we can do it there. I can't let anyone else see, Mum, I can't…"
"Chloe," her mum sighs, shakes her head. "Chloe, sweetheart, I can't…"
"Yes, you can, Mum!" Chloe begs. "Please? I'd leave it, only I just… I'm scared if I leave it… I'm scared I'll just keep putting it off and off and then it'll be too late and I'll end up…"
A thousand different scenarios rush through her head.
Images, possibilities… him, his eyes staring back at her, both of them combined, their… their… and she can't do this, she can't, can't spend a lifetime trying to raise a constant reminder of… of… of how he pinned her down and held a knife to her and she knows it isn't its fault, knows it isn't him but she can't… she can't…
She can't do this.
She can't go through with this, has to get rid of it if she's going to keep her sanity.
And perhaps that makes her the most awful person, given how she was conceived, but she can't do it.
Chloe knows she can't.
She isn't as strong as her mum.
"No one else has to know," Chloe tries desperately. "No one has to know you did it, it can be off the record. You can just… get Dom to sign it off, or something. Or Nicky. Or Cam, just… anyone. I don't care. As long as you're the one who does the actual scan. Please, Mum…"
"Chloe. Chloe, listen." Her mum places her hands gently on her shoulders, steers her into her office, shuts the door firmly behind them. "I haven't done a dating scan since… since you were about seven, probably, I think obstetrics must have been my first placement out of med school. I don't have a clue what I'm doing, I won't…"
"It's not going to be difficult, though, Mum! Please? I just need you to confirm it so I can bypass the GP and go straight to book myself in with…"
"Yes, you do," Ange sighs. "Yes, you need someone who knows what they're doing with dating. Especially with that. I… you know what happened with you, what happened to me, when I was pregnant with you. I know you think it's from… from that…"
"Don't," Chloe pleads. "I know what you're going to say, Mum, and don't. Just don't."
She can't think about that.
She needs to cling to it.
That hope that in a week or so it will all be over, that this… this… parasite… will be gone, and she'll be able to move on with her life, free of him forever…
What if she can't?
What if she can't, what if it's too late…
"Chloe, come on. Come and sit down, sweetheart. Alright? Come and sit here. It's alright. You need to be absolutely certain." Gentle hands guide her over onto the sofa, grip her shoulder, let go, cup her chin, tilts her head. "Chloe. Chloe, look at me."
"I don't want to," Chloe whispers. "I don't want to hear it, I don't…"
"I know," her mum tells her simply, though her voice is breaking. "I know. But you need to. You need to be absolutely certain that termination is an option before you set your heart on it. Okay? I know you think it happened that day. I know that, and it's not that I don't trust you to… to, you know. But I… You need to be sure. When I was…" She sighs, shakes her head. "You know all this. I made it to twenty-five weeks with Dom, before I knew. I managed thirty-one with you, and that was afterhaving Dom, god knows I should have been familiar with the signs by the time I was pregnant with you, and I still missed it. We… I'm not telling you that to send you into a panic, Chloe…"
"It feels like you are!" Chloe protests. "It feels like you are, Mum, it feels like you're trying to…"
"Chloe. Chloe, calm. I'm not trying to upset you," her mum sighs. "I would never do that. I hate seeing you like this. You're my daughter, and I…"
"But that means I'm his, too," Chloe whispers. "That means I'm not just yours, I'm your ra…"
"No. No, Chloe, no." There's anger in her mum's eyes now, pure anger and fury, explosive, and yet Chloe knows her well enough to know that it isn't directed at her. "I never, ever want to hear you call yourself that again, okay? You promise? You're nothing to do with him, Chloe. I used a donor. Alright? To all intents and purposes, I used a…"
"You didn't, though, Mum."
"But that's how I want you to look at it," her mum insists. "That's how I see it. How I've always seen it. That man was not your dad, sweetheart. Not once have I ever looked at you and thought of him. Okay? He's not your dad. You've got absolutely nothing to do with him."
"I look like him, though," Chloe states shakily.
It isn't a question.
"What makes you think that?"
"I do though, don't I? Because… you and Nana are like carbon copies of each other, and I don't look anything like the photos you've shown me of Granddad, either. But you and Dom look so…"
"You look like you," her mum tells her simply. "You look like you, you're mydaughter. Nothing about you reminds me of him. Okay? You're not… you're innocent, of everything that was done to me, I don't ever want you to think you have to answer for… for that. You don't deserve this, Chloe. You've done nothing wrong, sweetheart, and I hate that you have to go through this, too. I'm not trying to upset you," she sighs again. "The last thing I'd ever want to do is upset you. But you need to have a proper dating scan, as soon as possible. With someone who knows what they're doing. Just so it's certain that… you know. That you haven't taken after me with the whole not realising you're pregnant until stupidly late thing. I'm sure you haven't," she soothes. "There's nothing of you, for a start. And you're… look, I was young and stupid, when I had Dom, I didn't think it could happen to me, I was… I was in denial, I think. And with you… you've coped with everything that's happened to you far better than I ever could have. I didn'tcope, after it happened to me. I missed all the signs with you because I was such a mess, but you've been amazing. I couldn't be prouder of you. I really couldn't. But we need to be sure, Chloe. We need to be sure a termination is an option, we need to know how urgently you'll need to be booked in…"
"But what if it isn't, Mum?" Her heart is racing now, breath catching in her throat and she can feel herself hurtling further and further into panic attack territory, knows she needs to try to talk herself out of it but whenever she allows herself to consider that alternative outcome, to imagine herself, as… with… she can't…
"And if it isn't an option, then we'll deal with it," her mum insists. "Alright? We'll deal with it, Chloe. I promise. Together. Come here." She pulls her into her arms now, warm, safe, calming. "It's going to be fine, Chloe. There are options. There are always options. And it might not be the option you would have picked as your first choice, but whatever happens, there are options. You don't have to go through with being a parent if you don't want to. That's fine. Look, we could go and have a quiet word with Obstetrics now, if you want?" Ange suggests gently. "Would that put your mind at rest? We don't have to wait until tomorrow to phone your GP if you don't want to- is that why you want me to do it? To get it over with now? I'll take you up to Obstetrics, sweetheart, we can…"
"You don't understand, Mum," Chloe whispers. "You don't understand, you don't…"
"Alright. Then help me to. Talk to me?"
She doesn't know how to tell her.
She's had this conversation with her mum too many times to count, over the last fifteen years, and still it never gets any easier.
It's the working out where to begin that she finds so hopelessly difficult.
She can't bear the look of pain she knows she'll see in her mum's eyes when she tells her why she's so desperate for her to do her dating scan herself, exactly what she's so afraid of.
It used to be disappointment that she feared, when she was a teenager.
She used to be so afraid that she'd tell her mum and see nothing but disappointment in her expression, that she'd know, despite everything she tried to tell her to reassure her, that her mum felt so let down by her, wondered why she couldn't just pull herself together, couldn't be more like her, stronger, couldn't just… just cope, couldn't be normal…
Chloe understands now, of course.
She knows it isn't disappointment that she's so afraid of seeing, knows now she's older, been through this cycle so many times that her mum will never be disappointed in her, not for that.
It's the pain she's so afraid of, now.
Chloe knows only too well the pain she'll cause her mum when finally manages to force the words out, and she just can't bear that she's about to put her through it all over again.
"I…" She can't bring herself to meet her mum's eyes as she tells her, gaze fixed firmly on the floor, clings onto her hand instead. "I… I've been… just since... I've known… well, since I suspected, really, but…"
"Chloe? Chloe, tell me honestly, please. Does this have anything to do with…" her mum trails off, squeezes her hand back. "Only… you were a bit… defensive, when you said you were going to get changed in the toilets…"
"How do you know I wasn't just worried you'd work it out before I told you if I changed in here?"
"Oh, come off it. No one looking at you would guess you were pregnant, don't be so ridiculous. So is it… is it pen, or…"
"Okay. Okay, and you're worried it'll be mentioned at a dating scan…"
"I know it'll be mentioned at a dating scan, Mum, it's… it's bad… whoever does it will know exactly what it is, and they'll think I'm…"
"Do I need to take a look for you?" Her mum's arms are around her again now, protective, steadying. "Because I can go and get…"
"An ultrasound machine?" she asks hopefully.
Ange closes her eyes. "Some dressings and a pack of antibacterial wipes out the cupboard."
"I don't need that." Chloe shakes her head firmly, desperate; because her mum isn't going to give in, she can already tell that she isn't, and panic is rising within her at record speed as the reality of the mess she's in now dawns upon her. "I'm already on top of that, it's fine, I just need you to…"
"Mum, come on, you can do it," Chloe begs. "We can drag an ultrasound in here- I'll drag an ultrasound in here, you don't even have to- and you can just say you're in a meeting, or something. Please. Please, Mum, I can't do it any other way. I don't mind you seeing, you already know what's under there, but nobody else. Not now. They'll talk. They'll… they'll take one look at what it is and where it is and, that… that I'm there because I'm… pregnant, and they'll jump to all sorts of conclusions, they'll…"
"Chloe, listen. You know they're going to want to do a scan at the clinic, too, before they go ahead with anything," her mum points out gently. "It's not as simple as I do the scan and that's that. Whoever looks after you at the clinic will still have to…"
"But I just need a couple of weeks," Chloe whispers faintly. "I just need to give it a couple of weeks, let everything heal, and then I can book an appointment to deal with it and no one will know, it'll just be old scars, they won't question it. But I can't let anyone else see when it's as bad as this, Mum, I can't, and like you said, I can't just leave it a couple of weeks to have the dating scan in case… I need to know for certain that I havea couple of weeks to let it all heal, I can't risk…"
"Chloe, lovely girl, I wouldn't have a clue what I was doing," her mum reminds her. "Not the faintest clue. Like I said, I haven't touched that kind of thing since Obstetrics, and I was as junior as it's possible to be, back then. You don't want me doing it. You need someone who can tell you for certain how far along you are, put your mind at rest, so you know what options you have. What if I call in a favour, hmm? Do you know Jenn, on Obstetrics? She won't say anything, I know she won't. She's working today. I could go upstairs now and speak to her, I'll explain everything, I promise she won't make a big deal out of it. She'll understand…"
"You don't know that though, Mum! What would you think? What would you think if you had a patient come in to confirm a pregnancy and when you examined her you found… you found… she'd…"
She doesn't mean for her voice to sound quite as fearful, on-the-edge, as it does.
"Chloe? Chloe, sweetheart, calm down. Come on." Her mum pulls her into her arms again, counts, methodical, controlled, battling against her breathing. "In for three? And hold, two three. And back out again for three. And in, two, three. Hold for me? And out for three. Good girl. I wouldn't judge," Ange insists. "I wouldn't ever judge in that situation- I know some doctors would, but I wouldn't. And I know Jenn wouldn't. I wouldn't even suggest her if I thought she might. I'll explain to her, okay? I'll make sure she reads your notes thoroughly beforehand, so she… she'll know, Chloe. I promise. She'll know this has been… something you've done… for a while, before she treats you, she won't jump to any conclusions. She'll be sympathetic. She'll get it done, and then you'll know where you stand, we can take it from there. And I'll be there the whole time. I promise, my sweet girl. I'll be right there with you. Through as much of it as you want me to be. Do you think that could work?"
"I suppose. But you'll… you'll… Mum, if…" Chloe shakes her head. "If she starts jumping to conclusions anyway, you'll…"
"I'll back you up," her mum promises. "Of course I will. But it won't come to that. Everything's going to be fine, Chloe. I promise. So we'll do that, then. Yeah? Shall I make a call to Jenn now, see if she can fit you in before the end of her shift?"
"Okay." Ange nods, pensive. "But will you promise me something in return?"
"Two things, actually." Her mum hugs her tightly, strokes her hair. "You let me have a proper look at… is it just your abdomen?"
Chloe nods faintly.
"Alright. So you let me examine you- I'm not angry with you, Chloe, I promise. I could never be angry with you for this. I'm not going to make you talk about it if you don't want to, I just want to be sure you're alright, you don't need any treatment. Okay? I know you can do that for yourself, I know, just… think of it as a second opinion. Will you let me do that?"
"Okay. What's… the other…"
"You promise me you'll mention it at your next counselling session at the SARC." Her mum's voice is gentle, soothing, and yet firm, makes clear that there's no room for negotiation. "You've got another one next week, right? So promise me you'll mention it then? I don't want you to hurt yourself," Ange murmurs, voice beginning to break a little. "I love you. I love you so much, I never, ever want you to feel the only way you can cope is by… doing that. I hate the thought of you being that upset. I know…. I know it's a lot to deal with. I know it's going to take time, I know that. Believe me, I know. And I'm so proud of you. You're amazing, Chloe. You really are. But I… I don't want you to be carrying on as brilliantly as you are if you're only able to because you're hurting yourself," she tells her, heartfelt. "That isn't going to make you feel any better in the long-run, is it? Hey?"
She knows she's right.
Deep down, she knows her mum is right.
It just doesn't make it any easier.
"We've been here before, Mum," Chloe whispers. "We've been here so many times before, and I'm sorry…"
"You've got nothing to be sorry for, Chloe. Nothing. It got better before," her mum reminds her, reassuring, calm, lighthouse in the dark. "Yougot better before, because you're brave, and you're brilliant, and you're determined and you're so, so strong. You're going to get through this. We're going to deal with it all together, I promise. You're going to be just fine."
"What do they…" Chloe stammers. "Everything I know about Obstetrics is pre-graduation… will they just…"
"Well, I'm not exactly an Obstetrics expert, either. Or an expert from the patient's perspective, either, ironically. But you know that. Jenn will talk you through it all, okay? But it will just be the basics, at this stage. She'll just need to confirm the pregnancy, be sure there aren't any complications- I mean, you can tell her what you want to do, of course, so it'll be a little different. She'll just need to make sure you're alright, too."
"Will I have to look? You know. At the…"
"Not if you don't want to," Ange promises. "This is about you, sweetheart. No one else. No one's going to make you do anything you don't want to."