The following Saturday, Yvette had another shift at Ascent, and once again found herself on a cleaning shift with Joey. She hadn’t gone into detail with the other girls that she worked with about what was happening, but they were starting to get jealous that they didn’t have cleaning shifts with cute boys. Meanwhile, Yvette was feeling more and more convicted that no matter what the test result was, she was going to have to act with a little more discipline and self-control.
She was already filling the cart up with cleaning supplies when Joey showed up to begin his shift.
“Maybe we should just stick to cleaning today,” she told him immediately.
“Yup,” he said, looking around as he nodded to see if she meant it or if she was only saying this for someone other than him to hear.
Yvette felt a little guilty for putting her earphones in and ignoring Joey. Other coworkers had done it to her and she hated them for it, but she had a good reason. Joey took the hint and kept to himself. Their focus on their tasks allowed the work even faster and more efficiently than normal. They were halfway done the last room when Joey looked up and saw that they still had another two hours left in their shift. He was returning the bathroom cleaning supplies and arranging them when Yvette brought the vacuum back to the cart. When she turned toward the bed to collect the bedding to be washed, Joey gave her a quick shove onto the bed.
Yvette was caught completely off-guard and let out a surprised scream before landing safely on the soon-to-be washed bedding. She knew immediately that he would follow her, so when he did, she was ready with arms out-stretched, telling him to keep his distance. Being at least a year older and a lot more physically active, he was naturally stronger than she was, and she wasn’t trying very hard, so without too much trouble he was able to pull her close and meet her lips with his. The warmth of the embrace and the electricity of the kiss allowed Yvette to forget her resolve for a little while, but when she remembered, she was able to push herself away from him.
“No,” she said, “we can’t do this.”
“Did I do something wrong that you don’t like me anymore?” he asked.
Yvette wondered for a moment if she could tell him. Maybe then he would understand why she wanted to be left alone, but maybe he would freak out. Maybe he would start asking questions that she hadn’t figured out the answers to, like what she was going to do about it, or who else she was going to tell or what she wanted him to do about it.
“That’s not it at all,” she said. “You know I love working with you, I just want us to be able to finish a shift together where we keep our clothes on.”
“Wait. Are you just on your, um …” he started to ask.
She realized that this probably revealed that Joey either didn’t understand women or that he didn’t respect them if this this was the most logical reason why a woman would say no. Principles aside, it was a very handy excuse, and one she probably should have tried from the start. Obviously it wasn’t true, and he couldn’t know the reason why it wasn’t true, but she could use it.
“Yeah,” she said hesitantly, “but it’s not making me act crazy, I just want my space.”
“Okay,” he said quickly. “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
As the shifted continued, Joey had no problem giving her all the space that she wanted, and then some. They were both done all of their cleaning and were sitting in the staff room when Yvette’s phone chimed at eleven-thirty.
“Can you meet me for lunch?” it read.
Normally she would like to have stayed and had lunch with Joey, who was now finally almost back to normal after being grossed out before. The initial text from Naomi was quickly followed up by another one.
“I’ll bring another test along if you want.”
Joey was disappointed too when Yvette left for lunch, but he didn’t ask any questions when she said that she was feeling crampy and needed to for a walk in the fresh air.
Naomi knew a pizza place that was only a few blocks away from the conference center and suggested they meet there.
“I walk by here all the time,” Yvette said as she sat at the table where Naomi had been waiting, “and I always wanted to eat here, but I never have.”
“Oh, we used to come here all the time,” Naomi said. “The directors at the conference center never at at mostly french restaurants, so we would come here whenever we didn’t want them to hear us talking.”
Yvette didn’t respond right away, and the look on her face made it clear that she wasn’t really paying attention.
“Um,” she said sheepishly, “I sorta had to pee when I got your text, and I thought I should hold it in for the test, and now I have to go really bad.”
Naomi smiled and passed the test from her purse, under the table to Yvette who snuck it into her bag before rushing over to the bathroom.
When Yvette came back, with the test safely hidden again in her purse, Naomi was talking to the waitress in fluent French. Of course most people in Montreal are bilingual, and Yvette too had learned French in school and on the playgrounds of her childhood, but her whole family always spoke English.
“Can you tell how we’re related?” Naomi asked the waitress when they were done ordering.
“Right away when she came in I thought she must be your younger sister.”
“She’s my daughter,” Naomi answered.
“Wow, either you hide your age very well, or you must have been a young mother,” the older woman said with a smile.
“Maybe it’s both.”
When the waitress was out of earshot Yvette looked up at Naomi and said, “Why didn’t I know that you spoke French so well?”
“We used to come here to get away from the Ascent family,” she began. “A long time ago, the whole Overmann family came here from the states. Everything used to be based out of Rochester, New York, but then, around the time that I was born, for whatever reason, they packed everything up and headed north to Montreal. Most of the Overmanns learned some French, but they basically use just enough French to keep the language police happy, and no more. So, when you and I get to spend time together, we go to the English coffee shops and restaurants that your parents know.”
“I feel like I would have heard this all before,” a confused Yvette said slowly.
“It’s a big cover-up, they don’t like to talk about it.”
“So, how do you know about it then?”
Yvette always the way her parents would roll their eyes whenever she would relate one of Naomi’s stories to them, but either she had inherited their scepticism or this story just didn’t add up. Nobody had ever mentioned anything to her about living in the states, but there were never whispers or warnings not to talk about certain subjects. Her parents had always been very open with her, about being adopted, about why she was being punished, about the birds and the bees. They just weren’t the kind of people to keep secrets.
“I know this story because I grew up adopted into an Ascent family too,” Naomi said. “I knew your parents before they were even married, so when I got pregnant with you, they were right there for me. As soon as you were born though, that’s when it all changed, and the whole family has been a lot less supportive of me ever since. Things are getting better now, but for a while there they probably didn’t want to talk about me too much because they didn’t want you to end up like me.”
“And then I did.”
“No, no, no, girl. Getting pregnant is fine. They will help you. They helped me, they will help you. They don’t want you to turn to drugs to help find purpose, like I did. They don’t want you to become so dependant on alcohol that you can’t hold down a steady job, like I couldn’t. They don’t want you to think so little of yourself that you surround yourself with men who treat you like you’re worthless, like I still do. Listen, I love you. Your parents love you, and if you’re pregnant, and remember it’s still if, that won’t change anything about how anyone feels about you.”
“I guess you’re right,” Yvette said. She went on to talk about time in her childhood when she expected to get in trouble, like for not doing her homework, staying out past curfew or breaking some other kind of house rule and how her parents had been far more understanding than she anticipated. They were all relatively minor infractions, especially compared to getting pregnant, but pretty soon Yvette was feeling much better about the prospect of telling her parents, and Naomi was feeling better about having allowed the Greenes to adopt Yvette in the first place. By the time the pizza arrived they had almost forgotten about the test, and the result that would now be clearly displayed.
As they ate, Naomi told funny stories of what it was like to be a pregnant teenager, the insensitive things people would say, not being able to go to parties with her friends, and the connection she formed with other girls who were going through the same thing.
“I guess we should look at the test at some point,” Naomi finally said when they were done eating. “Do you want to look at it or should I?”
“I will,” Yvette said, pulling the box across the table.
She looked around to see if anyone was sitting close enough to see what she was holding. The side of the box explained that two bars would be visible if she was pregnant, and only one would appear if she wasn’t. She pulled the test out of the box and stared blankly at it.
“So, what does it say?” Naomi asked. “Are you pregant or not?”
Yvette didn’t answer. She just passed the test across the table to Naomi. One quick glance confirmed that this test gave the same result as the last one.
“Everything is going to be fine,” Naomi said immediately. “We’ll find a way to tell your parents. I can help you tell them if you want. And then you can talk to people at work and one of the Ascent doctors will help you with everything you need.”
Yvette nodded but didn’t say a word.
Naomi stood up and walked over to Yvette’s side of the table.
“Come here,” she said.
Yvette slowly rose to her feet and Naomi gave her a big hug. Yvette, who was afraid of giving birth as a teenager, cried into the shoulder of the woman who gave birth to her as a teenager. Naomi cried too, knowing the world of pain the young girl she was holding was about to go through, and sad that the happy and funny stories she had just told were by far the exception and not the rule.
Naomi paid for the pizza and they walked together back toward the Ascent office and conference center.
“Shoot,” Yvette said, looking at the time as they stepped out the restaurant door. “I was supposed to talk to Mr. Overmann about the new vitamin thing we’re working on. Now I’m going to be late for that.”
“We can walk faster,” Naomi said, surprised that Yvette was able to think about anything else.
“We’re just starting the research for it now, and I really don’t want to be in trouble right away.”
“I think with all the other trouble you have to worry about, he’ll probably understand.”
“No, but that’s the thing,” Yvette insisted, “if I’m already going to be in trouble, I don’t want to be in trouble for other things on top of that.”
“When I worked here, Mr. Overmann was always really forgiving about coming late,” Naomi said as they walked quickly down the sidewalk.
“Yeah, I can’t believe you worked there before me. Did you do the same job as me too?”
“Cleaning rooms and vacuuming hallways?” Naomi asked.
“Yup, that’s pretty much what I do.”
“This might be TMI for you,” Naomi started, pausing just long enough that Yvette looked over curiously, “but you were conceived in this building. I won’t go into the details, but they really shouldn’t have teenaged boys and teenaged girls working unsupervised shifts with a whole bunch of beds around.”
Yvette was quiet for a while before responding. “You and I have more in common all the time,” she finally said.
Naomi didn’t say anything, and even as they arrived at Ascent it looked like she was wanting to say something but what still thinking about what it should be. But before she could answer, Yvette interjected.
“Can we talk about this later? I really need to go see Mr. Overmann now.”
Naomi had a confused look on her face, but she nodded. Yvette gave her a quick hug before heading in.
“Thanks for everything,” she said.
“Mmhmm,” Naomi replied.
Inside, Yvette apologized to the receptionist for being late.
“That’s fine,” she said, “but Mr. Overmann is wanted to see you when you got back.”
“Is he mad?”
Her whole life she had never seen Jacob mad at anyone but she still didn’t want to disappoint him. From what she had observed, he treated everyone else in the scholarship program as well as he treated her. They all saw his as a kind of grandfather type figure. He took an interest in their schoolwork and he always tried to make sure that everyone in the program became friends. He was the one that noticed that Yvette and some of the other girls had started reading murder mysteries independently of each other, and he gave them all book store gift cards so that they could read the same books together. He was the one that put up an electronic dart board in the staff room after the noticed some of the guys watching a tournament on the sports channel one evening. He was also the one that introduced Yvette to Joey. She needed a math tutor, and he knew more than enough to help her out.
“Hello Evie,” he said when she walked in the door. He was the only one who called her that, and maybe it was because he had trouble with French names, but it still felt special for Yvette to have a pet name like that.
“Hi Jacob,” she said, using the first name he insisted she call him.
“How are things going for you here so far?”
“Good,” she said, as casually as she muster. She really hoped that being pregnant wouldn’t disqualify her from the program.
“Is everyone treating you alright?”
“Yeah, we’ve got a pretty friendly crew assembled here,” he said. “We’re quite proud.”
Yvette nodded. She certainly couldn’t deny the friendlines.
“Did you do the reading for this new vitamin trial we’re working on? What do you think?”
“I didn’t really understand it all, but I’m excited about it. I still can’t believe that I get to be a part of it.”
“You know, I was just talking to one of our students from a few years ago, and she was saying that even though she’s graduating from University this year, she is only now starting to do the kind of analysis that she was doing with Ascent as a sixteen year old.”
“That’s crazy,” Yvette said. “I talk about it with my friends at school and they have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s so much fun.”
“Maybe next year you can get in on the ground floor with a new drug, but with this one, we already have regulatory approval to make and distribute it. We just need to collect data on how well it works.”
He took a small bottle of the pills out of his desk and slid them over to her.
“You don’t have a name yet?” Yvette asked as she inspected the unlabelled bottle.
“No, and maybe you can help us come up with one,” he said, “but first we need you to take one of those once a day, maybe with your supper, and over the next few months we’ll monitor what it does the vitamin and mineral make up of your system.”
“Okay,” she said hesitantly.
“Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe. It’s safe for babies and it’s safe for cancer patients, so you know it’s safe for teenage girls.”
“So, when you say that you will monitor our systems, what do you mean? Like, how will you do that?”
Jacob opened his desk drawer again and took out a slightly larger plastic cup and passed it across the desk to Yvette as well.
“I know it’s gross,” he admitted, “but we need a urine sample. And trust me, you could be smoking weed and this won’t tell us that. It is simply a basic mineral count.”
“Okay, do you need me to do that now?”
“If you could. And I know it doesn’t always work right away, so take your time.”
Yvette walked out Mr. Overmann’s office and toward the bathroom in the lobby. She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to provide a sample, since she had used the bathroom so recently at the restaurant. Because of her worry she wasn’t paying as much attention to her surroundings as she maybe should have, and so she was extra startled when she walked in to the bathroom and she saw someone hiding behind the door.
“I knew it!” the voice exclaimed.
Yvette jumped back in surprise. “Naomi, what are you doing here?”
“Listen to me,” Naomi said with an intense look in her eyes that Yvette hadn’t seen in a long time. “When I got pregnant, I was fifteen, working for this company and taking the birth control pills they prescribed to me. Now look at you, fifteen, working here and taking Ascent birth control pills. It’s the exact same story. They did this to me, and now they’re doing it to you.”
“What are you talking about? The pills are fine. I just forgot to take them sometimes. That’s not Ascent’s fault, and they certainly didn’t make me have sex.”
“When I got pregnant, I was doing test for them too. It was some kind of zinc supplement or some garbage story like that too. Anyway, I ahd to give urine samples for that too, and I swear they knew before I did. That’s when it all changed. After that, they didn’t care about me anymore. All they cared about was you. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m telling you, if you pee in that cup, they’ll know and it will be all over.”
“You’re scaring me.”
“I know. I know. I don’t mean to freak you out, but if you just let me pee in that cup for you, I’ll leave you alone until I figure more out.”
Yvette wasn’t at all convinced. If anything she felt sorry for Naomi and was second guessing the wisdom of telling her first. But as hysterical as Naomi seemed, Yvette wanted to believe that she was doing this out of love. She wanted to believe that someday she too would be crazy enough to pee in a cup for her own child. Plus, after peeing at the restaurant, there was no way she was going to be able to fill that cup for at least another half an hour.
Yvette handed Naomi the cup and looked away. After she was done, Naomi put the lid on tightly and rinsed it off in the sink.
“You need to trust me on this one,” she said. “They will get weird as soon as they find out. If you want to tell them on your own time, that’s up to you, but don’t let them find out this way.”
Yvette nodded, trying to hide her scepticism.
“And I’m going to do some digging, and as soon as I figure anything out, I’ll call you. Okay?”
“I have to get back to work now,” Yvette answered. She took the sample and walked back out to the lobby. She didn’t look back, partly wanting to conceal the fact that Naomi was still in there, but also because she had no idea what to think.
With the sample properly deposited, Yvette went back to the staff room to finish her shift. Joey and the others also had submitted their own samples. They all talked about how weird it was, but Yvette, whose story would have topped them all, just smiled and nodded.