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The Unexpected An Unplanned Journey through Choice

TaLisa Sheppard

PMG Publishing House GAHANNA, OHIO

Dedicated to the unborn and the women that carry them. May you experience God’s love and find His peace.


The Test


he was late. Almost two weeks late. Lena sat on the bench enjoying the sunshine and occasional light breeze that cooled the autumn heat. She loved watching her

kids play in the park with their friends. Although everything seemed normal, she knew that something wasn’t quite right. Her period had been as regular as the landlord and came by the fifth of every month for the past three years. "How could I be late by two weeks?" She kept repeating to herself. Going to college part-time, with two kids and barely making it, she couldn’t afford another child. Lena grew up in the church and knew better. Fluent in Christian-ese, she knew how to act and what to say. Before Lena was seven years old, she knew how to shout, catch the Holy Ghost, and take a good nap on one of those hard wooden church pews during one of three Sunday services. Although her heart told her that God was real, religion had given her a recipe for redemption. One public cry on an altar, several monetary offerings, three days of fasting, two good deeds, and all would be well with her soul. To her, God was distant and punitive. She often wondered where the burning bushes and parting of the seas were in her life.

The Unexpected As a single mom, she was used to struggling and often thought she wasn’t important enough for God to care about her little problems. After all, she wasn’t starving in a third world country, homeless or a victim of a natural disaster. Life as Lena knew it was manageable. Lena got up from the park bench to tell Renée and Sammy it was time to go. She never felt this way with her other two pregnancies. Why now - she wondered. Lena took pride in being prudish and had been celibate for two years prior to her recent relationship with Jose. A couple of weeks ago, she had finally broken up with him for the last time. He was fifteen years older than her, and in addition to his bullying and aggressive behavior, she suspected that he was not faithful. Lena knew that he was not the kind of man she wanted to spend the rest of her life. He already had several children and a demanding career in pharmaceutical sales. He was a nice guy some of the time, but nice didn’t mean right and Lena knew that she could do better for herself and her kids. Although she never felt loved by Jose, at times, he made her feel wanted, sexy and desirable. He could afford to take her to fancy restaurants, buy her clothes and spa retreats that let her recharge from the taxing moments of single parenthood. But that was no longer enough to keep her bound in an unloving and unhealthy relationship. Lena dreaded the thought of contacting him, especially since she didn’t know for certain. She hoped she was simply overreacting and momentarily convinced herself that she needed to confirm the reality of this non-pregnancy with an over-the-counter

TaLisa Sheppard pregnancy test. Or maybe she just needed to wait for her period to arrive. There had been a lot of drama at her job. The new Director of Operations did not like her and assumed that Lena was not qualified for her position in the business office. Lena was the only young person and female in the department. She often felt the unspoken pressure to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’. "That’s it. I’m just stressed by work and I’m overreacting", she thought. On the way home from the park, Lena made a conscious effort to stop the negative thinking. She put the kids to bed a little early and took a long hot relaxing bubble bath. That was the first night that she ever prayed to God for her period. The next day, Lena went to the pharmacy and purchased a pregnancy test before picking up Renée and Samuel. They arrived home, exhausted from a long and busy day. Although she knew extreme exhaustion was her tale-tale sign of pregnancy, Lena excused her fatigue with a hard day’s work. “Mommy, can you make spaghetti tonight?” asked Sammy. “Yeah, with the biscuits” added Renée. “Not tonight honey. I am exhausted. Go look in the freezer and pick out a frozen meal. Later, you can have some ice cream. How does that sound?” “Yes!” exclaimed Renée as she skipped to the kitchen. “I can pick up whatever one I want?” asked Sammy. “Yep, whatever you want.” “Thank you, Mommy,” said Sammy as he ran to the freezer.

The Unexpected Lena leaned back on the sofa and put her feet on the coffee table as she opened the mail. There were two utility disconnection notices. She tossed the bills on the floor and closed her eyes. Her thoughts gravitated toward the pregnancy. The test, if positive, would not just mean that she was pregnant. It would represent a life lesson that she should have learned a long time ago. It would symbolize a cycle of carelessness and a failed future. A negative test would represent hope and another chance to keep their lives manageable and the opportunity for her to accomplish her dreams. “Mommy, we picked em,” said Renée as she nudged her arm. “Alright, let’s see what you chose.” “I got chicken fingers and Sammy got chicken nuggets. He wants the bigger ones, but since I’m the oldest, I told him he has to get the nuggets, cause he’s smaller” explained Renée. “Sounds rational. What kind of sauce did you want? Ketchup or barbecue?” “I want ketchup,” said Sammy. He was sitting at the tableclearly disappointed about getting the smaller nuggets. “Barbecue sauce for me,” said Renée. Lena warmed up their frozen dinners and gave them two small scoops of chocolate chip ice cream for dessert. After their baths, hugs, and kisses, she braided Renée’s hair and put them to bed. She took the pregnancy test from the plastic bag and laid it on top of the bathroom sink. She opened it and stared at the instructions – reading them repeatedly. There was only one major step: Urinate on the tip of the plastic tube, - so she did. Lena flushed the toilet, washed her hands, and sat on the edge of the tub. While waiting, she closed her eyes and prayed for the

TaLisa Sheppard test to be negative. After several minutes, she opened her eyes and picked up the test. It was two pink lines. Two pink lines? She quickly grabbed the pregnancy test box and looked at the back of the directions. Two pink lines Positive. Lena stood there frozen – as the chilling tinges of fear started to pile on her shoulders. Panic, fueled by adrenaline, raced through her body and she could not stop the tears. As the room closed in on her, she couldn’t hear anything but her beating heart and clamoring thoughts. She felt her body get heavy and leaned against the door, as she slowly slid to the floor. Gradually, her cry got louder and harder. She crawled across the bathroom floor and turned on the sink faucet, hoping the sound of running water would drown out her cries. She didn’t want to wake Renée and Sammy. Like a song on replay, she kept repeating in her mind - this can’t be- this can’t be happening. Her reaction was a far cry from the pregnancy test commercials she saw on TV. There was no soft music, no flowers, no pastel colors, no joyous celebration, no sighs of relief, and most of all no certainty-just two pink lines and utter devastation. Although she could not say a word, there was definitely a conversation going on inside: “What are you going to do now?” “How could you be so stupid?” “Could this be the one percent chance of error noted on the pregnancy box?” “How are you going to take care of three kids?”

The Unexpected “What about college?” “How is the family going to react?” “How can you go back to church after this?” “Will you have to care for this child by yourself, too?” “How are you going to afford this?” There were no answers, just questions, and more questions. After a long hot shower, she cried herself to sleep.

The Unexpected: An Unplanned Journey Through Choice  

Thought provoking debut novel by TaLisa Sheppard, aabout a college student and single mom, named Lena Bradford. Lena longs to be free from t...

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