Elly didn’t have Japanese 301 Wednesday morning. She didn’t have to be at school until two o’clock to teach her Japanese 101 class. Her plan depended on one other variable.
At breakfast she said to Melanie, “There’s something I have to take care of in Salt Lake. I was wondering—”
“Need the car?”
“Only for a few hours.”
Melanie mulled over the request. “Nope, my schedule’s open.” She got the keys and tossed them to Elly. She grinned. “Going to see Kevin?”
“Who?” and then “No.” Elly rolled her eyes for emphasis. “I should be back before noon.” She grabbed her backpack and left with a “See you later.”
“Alligator,” Melanie replied.
Elly didn’t volunteer an explanation because she didn’t want to lie, and no way was she going to tell the truth. She blamed that kid Kevin, the RM from Two Cats, Nebraska. And she blamed Melanie. If you really want to go where no man has gone before, you can always get pregnant.
The possibility hadn’t occurred to her before. Now it occurred to her like crazy. She had no desire to test Mormon belief in immaculate conception. Not when her father was a mission president, her grandfather was a General Authority, and her uncle taught at BYU.
The night before at the library, she googled “birth control” and got back fifteen zillion hits. Good grief. She eventually ended up on the Planned Parenthood website. But even narrowed down, there was more information on the subject than she knew existed. Starting with: “Eighty-five percent of women who don’t use a contraceptive during intercourse become pregnant each year.” Well. That ratcheted up the fear factor. Though she couldn’t help wondering, What’s the pregnancy rate for intercourse that takes place in an alternate universe?
Still, she reasoned, since she only imagined she was having sex, couldn’t she imagine she was using a contraceptive? Except that she couldn’t shake the distant but vivid memory of Girl’s Camp and the snapshot that almost ruined her life. She wouldn’t be so lucky twice. Better safe than sorry.
Never had she imagined, not in a billion years, that she’d visit Planned Parenthood. But she sure as hell wasn’t going to the BYU Health Clinic.
She set up the appointment from a payphone. Drug dealers must feel like this. Calling Salt Lake was long distance and she didn’t want it showing up on the phone bill. The part she’d dreaded most was borrowing Melanie’s car. She could take the bus, but worried about making it back to Provo on time.
The hard part turned out to be the easiest.
The clinic was located two blocks east of Trolley Square. Elly drove around the block, reconnoitering the scene of the crime. Planned Parenthood wasn’t on anybody’s evil-protesting radar screens that morning. Mormons were not by nature the protesting type, and the official Church position on birth control was one of those things everybody was sure about but nobody could articulate. The refrain, “It’s between you and the Lord,” covered a lot of ground.
If the Lord wanted different, He would have done something about her dreams.
She drove back to Trolley Square and returned to the clinic on foot. No hesitating, no second thoughts—she walked in as if she worked there.
And discovered that a waiting room is a waiting room. “I’d like to get a prescription for birth control pills,” she told the receptionist, who responded so nonchalantly Elly almost expected her to say, “You want fries with that?” She handed Elly a consent form to sign and a medical history to fill out.
Elly found a seat. She dug a pen out of her backpack and adjusted the forms on the clipboard. Did she smoke? No. Did she have high blood pressure, angina, or heart disease? No. Ever had a stroke? No. A bleeding or blood-clotting disorder? Breast, uterine, or any other hormone-related cancer? Liver disease or a history of jaundice? Abnormal vaginal bleeding? Migraines? Asthma? Seizures or epilepsy? No, No, No, No, No, No, No.
Checking off all those boxes made her feel much better about the state of her own health. She signed and returned the forms. The nurse escorted her to an examination room. Height, weight, blood pressure, temperature. More questions: Diabetes? No. Surgeries? Only wisdom teeth. Ever been pregnant? No. Any sexually transmitted diseases? Definitely No. (She left out the “definitely.”)
The nurse made the necessary notations and said, “Doctor Starley will be with you presently.”
Elly sat on the examination table, trying not to crinkle the white paper. The door opened and the doctor walked in. A woman, and how she was grateful for that.
“Elaine Packard? I’m Doctor Starley. Mary, if you wish. Now, you said you’d like to get a prescription for birth control pills. Have you ever used contraceptives before?”
“Are you sexually active?”
“Not yet,” was the answer that came out.
I have BYU written all over my face, Elly thought. And suddenly she was on the verge of bursting into laughter. What was she thinking? That she was going to get pregnant from a dream? How dumb was that? So what was she doing here? What am I doing here?
Dr. Starley said, “You know that oral contraceptives don’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases?”
“It’s to keep from getting pregnant.” She hardly hesitated a beat. “I’m getting married.”
“Congratulations.” Mary handed Elly a pamphlet that described the hormones used in oral contraceptives, dosages and regimens, and ranked the common brands. In the end, they decided on Alesse.
Mary opened a drawer and retrieved a sample blister-pack, four rows of seven tablets. “Take the first pink pill the Sunday after your period begins. The last row of green pills you take during menstruation.”
“They’re placebos, right?”
“Yes. Try it for two months and see how you react, menstrual flow, tenderness in the breasts, and any other side effects. It takes about two months for the body to adjust to the hormone levels in an oral contraceptive. I can give you a one-month prescription. You’ll have to get a pap smear before getting it refilled. When you do, I would recommend discussing other birth control options with your Ob/Gyn, such as the IUD.”
“Thanks,” Elly said. “I will.”
At the back of her mind—perhaps because of the association with female reproduction—she had made a connection between Planned Parenthood and Relief Society. The difference was, Planned Parenthood only cared about Elaine Packard, here and now. Nothing else. Her soul was her own business. And so the unexpected answer came to her in this atmosphere of nonjudgmental amity, so casually that at first she thought she was lying. But she knew she couldn’t lie that glibly.
An hour ago, she couldn’t have explained what she was doing there. Now she knew exactly what she was doing there, and for that she was truly and deeply grateful.
“You’re welcome,” said Dr. Mary Starley.
Elly arrived back in Provo a little after eleven. In her room, she took the cellophane-wrapped box out of the white plastic bag and examined it thoughtfully. Begin the Sunday after her period started—the Sunday after next. They’d get married at the end of August then.
Connor spent Thursday morning at the library. He didn’t go home for lunch. He ate at the Cougareat, something he rarely did. He didn’t see her. He went up to the mezzanine. She wasn’t there either.
He paced the walkway, watching the summer camp kids mill about the courtyard. I didn’t cause this, he said to himself again. You always leave, was her reply. As if they were doing something wrong. Like they should stick around for the cops to show up.
Then again, maybe they were and maybe they should. He walked down the steps and across the Quad to the JKHB. He had to get to work. Besides, he knew a better place to wait.
In so many words, Darlene said she’d had a change of heart. Elly wasn’t convinced, but she couldn’t resist the call to redeem the prodigal. Maybe Darlene had multiplied a 2.0 times a four-hour class and didn’t like what the arithmetic told her. Whatever the reason, she was eager for extra credit. And that meant more work for Elly.
So now Darlene and Bradley followed her down to the basement of the JKHB. Bradley was asking her why the continuative form of iku wasn’t “going,” as in, “I’m going to the store.” She was letting him talk because her answer was: Just because. It was difficult keeping a chapter ahead of the class when some of her students kept racing to the end of the book.
They filed into the TA office. Someone was sitting at the carrel in her cubicle. It was Connor McKenzie. “What are you doing here?” she asked in Japanese. Tomoko peered over her carrel. Elly realized that this was the one place where Japanese provided no more privacy than English.
Connor answered in Japanese, “I wanted to talk.”
“So call me.”
“You’re not in the book.” The student directory, he meant.
She said to Bradley and Darlene (in English), “Wait here. This won’t take long,” and walked out.
He caught up with her in the hallway. “Hey,” he said.
He accompanied her up the stairs and through the doors into the hot sunlight.
“So, talk.” She continued down the sidewalk to the triangle of lawn at the north end of the Quad, pulling him along in a wake of repressed fury.
“Look, I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on, okay?”
“What is there to figure out?”
“What’s not to figure out? You think this is normal?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Then what are you saying?”
“I don’t know, Connor.” She flapped her arms in frustration. “Except that whatever’s happening between us, it can’t be undone.”
He didn’t know what that meant. “So what do you want?”
“I don’t want you to leave me,” she state emphatically, loud enough to attract the attention of curious passers-by.
Connor leaned in close, an effort to create a small sphere of privacy between them. “I’ve never even dated you. How can I leave you?”
“You do. Every time. You leave me every time. I have to know what’s going to happen next. You can’t go on leaving me forever.” The catch in her voice revealed the presence of something other than anger hidden deep in her soul.
A new and completely unexpected interpretation blinded him like a flashbulb. For the first time he heard what she was actually saying. “You don’t want this to stop?”
“Of course not!” she exploded under her breath. “Why in the world would I want it to stop? It’s about what you are trying to prevent.”
The substance of what she was saying stood at stark contrast with the fierce way she said it, which only emphasized its veracity. She could tell he was genuinely surprised, and she was genuinely surprised that he was surprised.
Elly only then realized what she’d confessed. She blushed furiously. “Forget it,” she said, pushing him away from her. “Just forget it.”
He stood there, a statue rooted in the green grass.
She stopped at the lavatory before going back into the TA office. She splashed cold water on her face and stared at herself in the mirror. She reached deep down in her gut and found the anger again. At him. For forcing her—in all his gallant stupidity—to confess the sordid nature of her desires. It wiped away the confusion and smothered the embarrassment and chagrin. There, that’s better.
Now back to work. Darlene and Bradley were waiting.