The atmosphere seemed to echo and scream with ejaculated shame. Cheap detergents attempted to over-compensate for the cloying odor of bathroom-blood and discarded flesh, but the artificially floral scent only added an extra layer to the unprofessional squalor. Here, in this horrific black-market abortion chamber, Cara's water broke.
Cara's whole body shuddered with an unexpected spasm of pain. She crouched against the wall, shivering with too much agony to even be embarrassed at the liquid trickling from her crotch onto the already stained carpet. She overheard Mrs Jen talking to an old man with glasses, catching partial phrases between the throngs of her contractions. "...Too far along...""....there has to ... " "...you can do..." "... help us." Mrs Jen sank to her knees in prayer, terrified tears distorting her makeup. The man with glasses lifted her to her feet and muttered something right before Cara passed out.
It was two years ago, on Cara's 8th birthday, that Mrs. Jen walked out the front doors of the F.P.F and came back some 6 hours later with Jam. Jam was about 10 yrs old and mute. Nobody knew where he came from; he was found wandering the streets by a local deputy, and after numerous failed attempts to find his family, was brought to the only foster home in town. The F.P.F (Family Placement Facility) or "Foster Purgatory Factory" as the children liked to call it, was a converted hospital building, home to 32 children, now 33 with the silent addition of Jam. Mrs. Jen ran the whole facility almost by herself, save for Mr. Frint, the Janitor, and an occasional volunteer from the local church.
Cara was there when Mr Frint showed Jam to his new bunk. He stared without fear at the big over-head surgery lights hanging from mechanical arms, and the bunk beds made of wheel-damaged gurneys screwed together into the walls. Cara remembered smiling at his curly black hair and dark eyes. None of the kids new anything about him, but if you went up and asked him what his name was, he delved into the pocket of his loose cargo pants and pulled out a battered empty sachet of Strawberry Jam.
Jam's silence was startling to the other children, but to Cara it reminded her of a far off faded memory of home... Somewhere quiet and peaceful, with no playing screams or scary mechanical noises. Day after day she sat with him down at the back garden wall, enjoying his silent company. At first she sat a foot away, giving him respectfully curious glances. Then slowly but surely he welcomed her closer. Each day she inched toward him on the broken brick wall out the back of the F.P.F, till one day they held hands and she leaned against him lovingly.
At night sometimes Cara grew scared of all the sleeping noises and the humming electrical generator. She used to try to imagine a home for herself, a quiet place with trees, to help her drift off to sleep, but lately she began to think of Jam instead. One night when something clanged particularly loudly, she crawled over to Jam's bunk and snuck in under the covers. He was awake too, staring out the window at the moonlight. His steady heart and silent eyes were so comforting. Jam smiled at her, and hugged her gently. She wanted to feel him closer, but she didn't know how.
During the next weeks the nights were cold and dark. Cara crawled back over to Jams bunk, and he cradled her warmly through the nights. Neither Cara nor Jam knew why their bodies were drawn to each other. They undressed simply to feel closer. Giddy with adventure, nervous fingers stickily caressed goosebumps and innocent instincts sweated against warm starchy sheets.
Cara hadn't told a soul in the foster home that her period hadn't come for months. Mrs. Jen was kind-natured, but she'd seen too much sin in her overworked years, and in effect she had instilled too much emphasis on the damning aspects of religion.
When a pudgy bump fluttered in Cara's tummy, her heart skipped with fear. She couldn't find the courage to tell Mrs. Jen that she was possessed by an evil spirit, or maybe a demon growing inside her. She didn't even know what it meant when her nipples leaked hot fluid in the night. Too scared to show anyone the crusty patches, she hid the milk-tainted nightgown in the darkest corner under her bunk and cautiously wrapped her chest in toilet tissue. She cried herself to sleep each night as the bump in her tummy grew bigger and bigger. Frightened for her soul, Cara began to nibble anorexically and borrow baggy clothes.
Cara's tear-snot grew cold and smelly on the dampened pillow top, so she flipped it over to the dry side, shifting herself into an equal huddle in the opposite direction. Her salt-stung eyes made out the sleeping silhouette of Jam. His deep steady breaths were highlighted by the starlight of the window. She wanted to crawl back in his bunk, to feel his warmth again, but she was too ashamed of her tears to wake him. She didn't want to face the confused expression she knew he'd give her, and she was scared that Jam might feel her tummy bump or find the chest tissues and know she was possessed.
After months of endless fear, Cara's secret was finally noticed by another girl at bath-time. Mrs. Jen panicked. she knew that she would be blamed for child abuse. No-one would believe the devil worked through children too. Breath ragged with desperation, Mrs. Jen looked to the street for solutions. She had heard of a retired Doctor in town who practiced abortions. Maybe the pregnancy wasn't far along. If only Mrs. Jen had thought more of Cara's corporeal safety, instead of praying for her souls transgressions, she might not have taken Cara to that doctors house. But now was too late. Cara collapsed onto the old stained carpet.
The next morning Mrs. Jen returned to the F.P.F with a tiny baby boy. She took him to the nursery and wrapped him in blankets in a little crib. At breakfast time she told the children that Cara had been placed with a new family. Most of the children let out groans of jealousy. But in the back of the room Jam's silent eyes swelled with grief. He stood slowly, as if with grave purpose, and walked out through the back door. Jam kept walking down past the broken brick wall, vanishing into the trees. Just like that, as mysteriously as he had arrived, he was gone. Nobody at the F.P.F ever saw him again.
After breakfast Mrs. Jen walked into the nursery and gasped in shock. The baby was missing. In his place on the little crib mattress lay a battered empty sachet of Strawberry Jam.