Hate to Love You

By: Elise Alden


Chapter One

Mask of Horror

Brighton, 7 years ago

My mother told me the family secret when I was twelve years old, curled up in pain with my very first menstrual cramps. While I lay in bed daydreaming about growing bigger boobs and getting noticed by the older boys, she thought it was the perfect time to shock me with the evils of sex.

“I was a pregnant virgin, Paisley,” she said, her face clenched as tightly as my abdomen. “I was already carrying your sister when I walked down the aisle.”

A pregnant virgin?

One look into her dulled eyes told me she wasn’t joking. “But you said nice girls don’t let boys touch them.”

“Your father lied to me—he lured me into sinful intimacy with promises of marriage.” Her lips twisted with the sour taste of her memories. “He said I couldn’t get pregnant if he pressed his sword into the entrance of my forbidden passage but didn’t go any further. The devil was in me that day and I let him.”

I controlled the urge to roll my eyes. My parents may have been born in the UK but their uptight upbringing had been very much small-town Spain. They’d grown up a part of the tightly knit, ultra-conservative group of Spanish Catholics living in Trenmore Village, Sussex.

Sword and forbidden passage were about as graphic as my mother got, not that she’d ever spoken about such things to me before. I’d been eavesdropping on her conversations with Caroline. At nineteen and away at university, my sister got a lot of lectures on fornication.

“You can’t get pregnant this way, María,” my mother sneered, mimicking my father’s voice. “But as usual, Juan Carlos Benítez was wrong.” She spat his name out like a piece of rotten meat.

Years later I learned the mechanics of virgin pregnancy during a sex-ed class where the boys tittered and the girls tried not to blush. Basically, eager spermatozoids in a man’s sack take a preliminary look before the guy unloads, travelling up in his pre-cum to test the waters. If it’s warm and wet, they can go for the long haul and beat their stronger pals to the prize. Feisty little buggers.

My father had been true to his word, inserting only the tip before getting himself off. Alas, he left a little bit of himself behind. When my papi Honorio noticed my mother’s expanding waistline he marched my parents to St. Albert’s, where they were romanically and apostolically joined in misery.

Afterward they fled the gossiping tongues of Trenmore for Brighton, where my father still works as a construction labourer and my mother stacks shelves at Asda.

Caroline thought our parents’ past was humiliating but I laughed every time I thought about it, mentally sniggering when my holier-than-thou parents lectured me on morality.

But I wasn’t sniggering now. The Find Out pregnancy test sat in my hand like a piece of lead. Tomorrow was supposed to be the first day of my new, responsible life. For starters there would be less alcohol. No, make that zero booze. And no more ABCs either. Okay, okay, the upper in my pocket was burning a hole, but it would be my last one. My decision had been made: no drugs, no procrastination about college and definitely no self-pity.

Shit happens and if you don’t die you pick yourself off the fucking pavement before a dog claims you as his turf.

Sweat stuck my palms together as I prayed like I hadn’t since I was ten years old, back when I believed there was a bearded hippie sitting on a cloud listening to my pleas for Caroline to get adopted.

Three minutes to go.

The bottle of vodka in my backpack called to me and I tried to resist its pull. Two minutes, thirty seconds until... Fuck it. Onto the bed went the Find Out and into my mouth the Absolut. Strong and energising, the fiery liquid slid down my throat like water. I wanted more but we were having guests for dinner and I couldn’t indulge.

Michael Jackson’s “Bad” rang out from my mobile and I choked on my booze. My friend Marcia was in a retro phase.

Her husky voice sounded worried. “Should I buy a mega pack of Huggies or get you some condoms for next time?”

“Shit if I know.”

“You’re not preggers,” she soothed. “The drugs screwed with your cycle and it’ll take a while for it to normalise. You’ve been late before, remember? It’s probably stress. Living at home with parents like yours would do anyone’s head in.”

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