Sunday, 3 November 2013

73. One thing led to another

Gin is pregnant.

"What happened?" says Amanda.

"I went round Jason's to get the last of my stuff and we had a few drinks. One thing led to another. You know how it does."

She thinks.

"Or it could be when I slept with Freddy after the Silver Street gig. I have to stop fucking my exes."

"Freddy doesn't count," I say. (Gin went out with Freddy for four years and in the end I lost track of which of them had had more affairs. Amanda has had sex with Freddy at least twice. I have never had sex with Freddy, but that's not because of lack of trying on his part and I am well aware that I have a standing offer. "There's always Freddy," is something we traditionally say to each other after break-ups and knock-backs.)

Amanda giggles. "Freddy vs. Jason," she says. "Sure you haven't done Michael Myers as well?"

"Which of them do you think it was?" I ask.

Gin shrugs. "I could speculate but in all honesty I don't know. The two um sperm donations were within a week of each other. I'd forgotten to buy any condoms."

"Seriously?" says Amanda.

"I know." Gin looks shamefaced. "I've been tested for everything and I'm clear."

Amanda says: "You need to wait until it's born and see whether it has a Paul Weller haircut and a little trackie top -"

" - or comes out covered in tattoos and making rock devil horns," I finish.

We are sitting in the sun outside Amanda's local pub. I am drinking wine. Amanda has a pint of Old Bumscratcher. Gin is drinking orange juice. The man at the next table has two scruffy dogs and one of them keeps sniffing my left foot.

"What are you going to do?" I ask.

"It's not really a decision, is it?" Gin says. "I'm single, I have no family locally, no savings, no assets, and I live in a shared house. I can't give a child a proper home. Childcare costs too much to work at the same time, so it would mean four years - at least - of trying to survive on benefits by myself. You know what kind of money we're talking about? We wouldn't be able to eat properly, let alone afford shoes and winter coats and toys and all the other stuff children need. It's not practical."

Amanda inhales, breathes out smoke.

She says: "I hate the Government. It's fucking depressing that people literally can't afford to have kids. That's not how we should be taking these decisions, doing sums."

"I know," Gin says sadly. "But that's the way it is. It's just impossible."

Amanda says: "Yeah, it is. I know it is. I'm just saying it's not right." She thinks. "If things keep going the way they are, civilisation is probably going to collapse within the next ten years anyway. You don't want to be burdened with a child when we're all fighting roving Mad Max gangs over food."

"I want children," Gin says, offended. "Just not right now."

There is a moment when we all look at the table. I'm not sure what everyone else is thinking, but I'm thinking about the fact that I'm 35, Gin is 34 and Amanda is 37. The countdown to infertility kicked in some time ago for all of us. I think Gin is probably the most likely candidate for motherhood - Amanda would probably end up in the Daily Mail after accidentally leaving it in a bar, and I am not comfortable with the idea of myself as a parent - but she's correct in saying that being a single parent is an impractical choice for her at the moment.

"Who wants another drink?" says Amanda.

"I can't," says Gin. "I'm pregnant."

Amanda says: "You're about to have an abortion. I don't think whether you drink alcohol or not matters at this stage."

"I still feel weird about it," Gin objects. I realise that, whatever she says, she isn't happy about the idea of an abortion. It would be possible, and she knows it. Just extraordinarily difficult.

I put my hand over hers. She says in a small voice: "It might be my only chance."

We are all quiet for a moment. Gin rubs her hand across her eye.

"Will you both come with me?" she says. "When I get it done. I might need - I don't know how this is going to work."

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