The Midwife’s Apprentice (part 13) FINAL CHAPTER

Anna’s hands flung open in surprise as her cabin front door flung open. Joanna came panting inside. She thrust a knitting bag at Anna. “Child, you must go if you don’t wish to marry David. His men came into my house! While I was trying to gather things. They made me tell them. I’m sorry! They’re off to tell David now. You must run!” Her dearest friend in the world grabbed her hands desperately, perhaps for the very last time. “They took my truck. I had to run here. Child you must go!”

Anna didn’t stop to grab her coat or gloves, didn’t stop to grab the last few reminders she had of her parents, didn’t stop to embrace her mentor. She ran. Ran through the open front door, ran down the path, ran through the wide country gate, ran down the dirt road that led to the highway. It had snowed the past two weeks and the house slippers on Anna’s feet were thin and slipped easily. She was nauseous from running and needed to pee.

She and Joanna had been preparing for an abortion. Because Anna didn’t want her life to change. She wanted to live in her cabin, her home, her community. She wanted to be the midwife someday, and to work by Joanna’s side until then. She had wanted what she had. She had been content with her life. And now all of that was ripped away, for a pregnancy and an abortion she had never planned for. What did that mean for her pregnancy now? No matter what Anna chose, her life would never be the same. Her cabin was gone. Her books were gone. Her place in a long line of midwives was gone.

As she turned onto the deserted highway, Anna desperately wanted to slow down to a walk but she was afraid David would soon be after her. Earlier cars had driven through the snow and Anna’s feet ran on in their thin slippers through brown icy sludge. At one point she fell and remained on all fours for a moment, shocked by the cold gravel digging into her palms. Coming to herself, Anna scrambled up and took off running again.

What would it be like to be a mother, if she didn’t have to be married to David to do it? What would pregnancy be like without Joanna there to guide her every step of the way? Would the birth destroy her, or kill her as it had killed her mother? Would she be allowed to keep the child? Would it be like David? Yet some part of Anna’s heart felt a warm flutter even as her cold body ran down an empty road, at the thought of a baby. Of rocking with it, singing to it, nursing it to sleep. Part of her wanted to protect her baby, from David and from any other harm. That was a decision Anna would have to make on another today. Today, she ran.

Eventually she reached a gas station at the edge of the town where the hospital was. A phone stood alone at the edge of the lot. Scrambling through her apron pockets, Anna laughed with manic joy as she found the scrap of paper with Nancy’s phone number there. With fumbling cold fingers, Anna dialed the number. But a voice that wasn’t Nancy’s came on the line, telling Anna she needed to deposit seventy-five cents to make a call. Confused, Anna went inside. She was grateful for the warmth of the little shop. She asked the man behind the counter if he could call her friend, and slid the paper with the number across the counter towards him.

“There’s a pay phone out there,” he pointed to the phone she’d tried before. Anna cried in earnest. Taking in her tears, muddy hands, old fashioned dress, and lack of winter wear, he changed his mind. He pulled a phone out from beneath the counter and dialed the number Anna had given him. She carefully put the number back into her pocket before taking the phone. Nancy answered. “Hello?” Anna sighed relief. “It’s me. Anna. I left and I need your help.”

“Tell me where you are. I’m coming right now to get you,” Nancy assured her. Anna passed the phone to the man, who told Nancy where they were and how to get there. “You can wait inside while your friend is coming,” he told Anna gently, offering her a box of thin paper squares. “Do you want a cup of coffee? On me.” Anna wasn’t sure what that last part meant, but a warm drink sounded like a good idea. “Do you have any tea?”

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