On the day I was born, my parents decided on the name Matilda. Matilda Cooper. Since then, I’ve been dressed like a Cooper, educated like a Cooper, and taught to speak and behave like a Cooper. There’s a standard in my family; a standard I’ve always come close to reaching but have fallen short of each time. The Coopers hold themselves to a specific set of rules that have never failed to separate us from everyone else. My mother calls it “class.”
Though I went to the best private school in the state along, with the other “elites” in my hometown, I still stuck out like a sore thumb. I didn’t have any real friends but everyone knew my name. As I walked down the halls most people didn’t even bother to hide their dirty looks. There goes Matilda Cooper… I hate that girl. I never really understood that; how you could hate someone you didn’t even know. It was always just something I accepted. Everyone judged me because of my name so I never bothered to concern myself with any of them. And then I met James.
James transferred to Evermont halfway through my sophomore year and it was obvious he didn’t belong there. I suppose that’s why he interested me so much, he was just…different. He didn’t wear the most expensive clothes, live in the nicest house, or drive the newest car. He didn’t walk around like he was better than everyone and he didn’t care what people thought of him. James was the most intriguing person I’d ever met. Since leaving school, I’ve encountered several individuals far more interesting than James but at that time in my life all I’d ever been exposed to was snobs and gated communities. I knew I should’ve just left him alone, that he was the type of guy that would never have a real place in my life but I couldn’t help myself. He threw me into an absolute whirlwind and the second I laid eyes on him I was desperate to know more about him.
Despite only having one class with James, I found little ways to run into him throughout the day. I would take a different route between classes on the off chance that I might pass him in the halls. I strategically picked my seat at lunch so I could give him the occasional glance. And after school, I waited for my ride around the same place James hung out with his friends. It was extremely desperate and if James had ever confronted me about it directly I don’t think I would’ve been able to face him or anyone else ever again.
One day when I was waiting for my mom to pick me up, James slid next to me a cocky grin plastered on his face.
“What’s your name?” He asked without looking at me. I glanced up at his face but he wouldn’t look at me. He kept his eyes focused straight ahead of him.
“I’m uh…Matilda. Matilda Cooper.”
“That’s a pretty name. I’m James,” I opened my mouth to say something but then decided against it. We stood in silence for a minute or so before James spoke again.
“Would you like to go out with me, Matilda Cooper?”
“What?” I looked at him again and this time he turned to me, still smiling like an idiot.
“You know…like a date. I’d like to take you out to dinner. Maybe catch a movie,” just as I was about to turn him down, it hit me. I really did want to go out with this guy.
“Yes,” I said with more confidence than before.
“Great. I’ll pick you up tomorrow at seven. Okay?”
“Make it nine,” my mom pulled up to the curb and lightly tapped her horn, “I gotta go. Here,” I quickly scribbled my address on his hand then hopped into the passenger seat of my mom’s SUV.
“Who was that boy?” My mother asked as she eyed James suspiciously.
“Just a guy in my class.”
“What did he want?”
“Help with the homework,” I spit out the lie without the least bit of effort.
“You didn’t let him copy you, right? You could get in real trouble for letting that boy cheat off you, Matilda,” her voice was neutral but I could tell by her expression that she was accusing me of something.
“No, mom. I just told him what pages we need to do.”
“Well, alright. As long as you’re keeping yourself out of trouble.”
“I am, mom.”
“Good,” we rode the rest of the way home in silence.
. . .
About thirty minutes before James was due to pick me up for our date, I kneeled by my window and watched the street. Two minutes before nine I saw James’ beat up Bronco roll up my street. I quickly threw my window open and climbed onto the tree outside my room. James approached my front door.
“James!” I called out and he looked up at me as I maneuvered my way out of the tree.
“Matilda Cooper, what are you doing?” He smiled at me as I landed not so gracefully on the ground.
“My parents can’t know I’m gone.”
“My my, Mrs.Cooper, you’re more interesting than you look,” and that was the beginning of the best night of my life.
. . .
By the time James dropped me back off at my house, my shoes were caked with mud, my jeans were grass stained, and my cheeks hurt from smiling.
“Do you need help getting back in your room?”
“If you don’t mind,” he gave me a boost and I climbed the rest of the way up fairly easily. I slid my window open and eased my way inside. James perched himself on a branch and leaned lazily against my window frame.
“What?” I asked and James shrugged, “Do you wanna come in for a second?”
“Are you sure?” he leaned away. I glanced at my bedroom door to make sure it was still locked tight then I grabbed the collar of his shirt.
“Yeah,” I pulled him inside with a soft laugh and a smile.
. . .
I don’t know why I did what I did. It might’ve been an act of rebellion against my parents, or it might’ve been because I really liked James. I don’t know. All I know is that two weeks after I pulled James through my bedroom window, I was holed up in the school bathroom waiting for the results of my pregnancy test. The box says three minutes, which doesn’t seem all that long until you realize those could be the last three minutes you have before you become responsible for another life. I gripped the little stick tightly between my fingers and burst into tears when I laid my eyes on the two bright pink lines.
At lunch, James slid into the seat across from me, still sporting that same stupid grin. His smile disappeared the instant he looked at me.
“Matilda, what’s wrong?” he reached for my hands but I pulled them away, “Tell me what’s wrong,”
I looked around the cafeteria and leaned in close so no one could hear, “I’m pregnant…and…the baby’s yours.”
“We’ll be okay. We’ll figure it out,” he reached for my hands again.
“What am I gonna do with a kid?”
“We’ll figure it out. Together. Okay?” I could tell by his voice that he meant it and just for a moment I wanted to believe this was something I could do. That I could have this baby and everything would turn out okay.
. . .
I knew I was going to have to tell my parents I was pregnant before my body told them for me. I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. However, I didn’t quite anticipate it going the way it did. My father sat silently as my mother screamed relentlessly and tossed things around the room. By the end of our “conversation” I was so shocked that I could barely move from where I stood.
“You’re getting rid of it,” were my mother’s final words before storming out of the room. At this point, I was so exhausted from arguing that I didn’t bother to follow.
. . .
I didn’t go to school the next morning. My mother called to tell them I would be finishing the year at home and that we would come by later to gather my things. I ignored the stream of text messages from James, hoping he’d eventually just give up on me. It wasn’t until I was emptying the contents of my locker into my backpack that I was forced to confront him.
“Matilda, are you okay? I was worried when I didn’t see you this morning,” James stood next to my locker a look of concern on his face.
“I’m fine,” I closed my locker and exited the building.
“Matilda, where are you going?” he followed after me.
“Look, James. We can’t do this anymore, okay? I have to go…and I’m not coming back.”
“I’m homeschooling now. You can’t call me and you can’t come by the house. We’re done,” I tried to walk away but he grabbed my arm.
“What about the baby?”
“I don’t want to talk about that.”
“We have to talk about it. It’s our responsibility.”
“No, James, it’s not,” I yanked my arm away from him, “It’s my responsibility and I’m done discussing it,” I heard the beep of my mom’s SUV.
“Goodbye, James,” I forced myself to turn away from him and climbed in my mother’s car.
“Is that him?” she asked and we both watched him toss his bag to the ground and slam his fists against the hood of his car.
“Yeah,” my words were barely audible. I didn’t cry as my mother drove us to the abortion clinic. I wasn’t surprised that she wouldn’t let me have the baby. After all, having an unplanned child is not something a Cooper would do.