SUNDOWN HAD BLOODIED THE HORIZON over the uneven rooftops of South Boston. Birds were perched on every roof and seemed to be watching the girl walking slowly below.
Kathleen Beavier made her way down a shadowy side street that was as alien to her as the faraway surface of the moon. Actually, she was here in Southie because it was so frozen, so obscure to her. She had on a fatigue jacket, long patterned skirt, and black combat-style boots — the urban streetwear look. The boots rubbed raw circles into her heels, but she welcomed the pain. It was a distraction from the unthinkable thing she had come to do.
This is so spooky, so unreal, so impossible, she thought.
The sixteen-year-old girl paused to catch her breath at the sparsely trafficked intersection of Dorchester and Broadway. She didn't look as if she belonged here. She was too preppy, maybe too pretty. That was her plan, though. She'd never bump into anyone she knew in South Boston.
With badly shaking hands, she pushed her gold wire-rimmed glasses back into her blond hair. She'd washed it earlier with Aveda shampoo and rinsed it with conditioner. It seemed so absurd and ridiculous to have worried about how her damn hair would look.
She squeezed her eyes shut and uttered a long, hopeless cry of confusion and despair.
Kathleen finally forced open her eyes. She blinked into the slashing red rays of the setting sun. Then she scanned her Rolex Lady Datejust wristwatch for the millionth time in the past hour.
God, no. It was already past six. She was late for her doctor's appointment.
She pushed forward into the ruins of Southie. Ahern's funeral parlor loomed in her peripheral vision, then slipped away. She hurried past the crumbling St. Augustine's parish church, past hole-in-the-wall bars, a boarded-up strip of two-storied row houses, a street person peeing against a wall covered with graffiti. She thought of an old rock song, "Aqualung," by Jethro Tull.
She whipped herself forward, as she often did to protect herself against the New England cold. Tears ran from her eyes and dribbled down over her chin.
Hurry, hurry. You have to do this terrible thing. You've come this far.
It was already twenty after the hour when she finally turned the corner onto West Broadway. She instantly recognized the gray brick building wedged in between a twenty-four-hour Laundromat and a pawnshop.
This is the place. This ...hellhole.
The walls were smeared with lipstick-red and black graffiti:
Abortion = Murder. Abortion is the Unforgivable Sin. There was a glass door and beside it a tarnished brass plaque: WOMEN'S MEDICAL CENTER, it read.
Sorrow washed over her and she felt faint. She didn't want to go through with it. She wasn't sure that she could. It was all terribly, horribly unfair.
Kathleen pressed her hand to the doorplate. The door opened into a reassuring reception room. Pastel-colored plastic chairs ringed the perimeter. Posters of sweet-faced mothers and chubby babies hung on the walls. Best of all, no one was here at this late hour.
Kathleen took a clipboard left out on a countertop. A sign instructed her to fill out the form as best she could.
Ensconced in a baby blue chair, she printed her medical history in block letters. Her hands were shaking harder now. Her foot, trapped in her trendy combat boot, wouldn't stop tapping.
Kathleen probed her memory for something, anything, that would make sense of this. Nothing did! This can't be happening to me! I shouldn't be in the Women's Medical Center.
She had made out with boys, but damn it, damn it, damn it, she knew the difference between kissing and . . . fucking.
She'd never gone all the way with anyone. Never even wanted to. She was too old-fashioned about sex — or maybe just a prude, or maybe just a good girl — but she hadn't done anything wrong. She'd never been touched down there by a boy.
Wouldn't she know it if she had? Of course she would.
So how could she be pregnant?
She couldn't. It wasn't physically possible. She was a good kid, the best. Everybody's friend at school.
Kathleen Beavier was a virgin. She'd never had sexual intercourse.
But she was pregnant.
Excerpted from CRADLE AND ALL Copyright (c) 2000 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission from the publisher, Little Brown and Company. All rights reserved.