The Beginning: An eShort Prequel to the Bridge

The Beginning: An eShort Prequel to the Bridge by Karen Kingsbury

Book: The Beginning: An eShort Prequel to the Bridge by Karen Kingsbury Read Free Book Online
Authors: Karen Kingsbury

    Fall 1971
    T he pains began at two-thirty in the morning.
    A sharp, twisting sort of pain that woke up Donna Barton and sent panic coursing through her veins.
    “Charlie!” She screamed his name, and immediately he sat up in bed beside her.
    “What?” He was breathless, frantic. Ready to carry her to safety or tackle monsters on her behalf. For a few seconds he looked from one side of the room to the other getting his bearings. Then he seemed to remember. His eyes met hers. “The baby!” Even in the dim moonlight it was easy to see the color leave his face. “Is it time?”
    Donna closed her eyes. The pain moved in waves down her stomach, across her lower spine. She tightened her legs, fighting it. “I’m . . . not sure.”
    “It must be.” He threw off the covers and ran across the room to a small heap on the floor. Yesterday’s clothes. He pulled on the pair of shorts and T-shirt.
    Sweat beaded on her forehead. Hurry, Charlie. Hurry. This was the hottest North Carolina fall in fifty-two years. The heat and humidity made her feel like she was underwater.
    He ran to her, his eyes wide. “Your bag’s ready. Stay here. I’ll get your clothes.”
    Something cool. She needed something cool. “Maybe my—” Her pain doubled. “Charlie!” Fear mixed with desperation. Each word came slowly. “What if . . . what if it’s too . . . strong?”
    “It’s not . . . it’s normal.” His voice was higher than before, strained and breathy. Like he was trying to convince himself. “We have to get you to the hospital.”
    The pain didn’t fade like Donna expected a contraction might do.
    Yes, that was what she was feeling. This pain was good and right and normal. Pains that would bring their baby into the world and make them a family. A beautiful pain that would erase all the pain she’d already lived through. They needed to go. She would wear her nightgown. She slid her feet onto the floor, but her lungs refused to work. “Help . . . me!”
    “Baby, don’t move!” Charlie was at her side, her bag flung over his shoulder. “I’ll carry you.”
    Donna felt her body go limp as he scooped her into his arms. Her breaths came in short, shallow gasps. “I’m . . . scared.”
    “Hold on . . . I’ll get you there.”
    She couldn’t keep her eyes open. Somewhere in the back alleys of her mind she felt herself moving, felt him carrying her. But the pain became a thick, dark, suffocating lava, pulling her in, covering her, consuming her. His voice was only a faint whisper now, and finally she couldn’t fight the pull another minute.
    In the blackness that overcame her, she reminded herself once more of the truth. This was a good pain. Her past swirled before her, the terrible sad reality alive again. Before the chapter when she met Charlie Barton, Donna’s story was dark and depressing, one pathetic page after another. The only child of a couple of drug addicts, Donna never stood a chance. Other boys and girls went home to hugs and help with homework.
    Not Donna.
    She would walk through the front door to her parents crashed on the floor or keeled over on the dirty sofa. Drugs sat in the open, plastic bags of white powder and dark green crushed leaves. Needles and mirrors and razor blades and matches. It was the sixties, but even so, Donna’s parents were ahead of the drug game.
    Donna wanted nothing to do with their world so she found one of her own. The world of books. She earned straight As and didn’t come home from school until she absolutely had to. None of her teachers was surprised when Donna earned valedictorian honors or when she received a full-ride scholarship to North Carolina State. Donna was tempted to believe that the sad parts of her story were behind her.
    She was wrong. Her mom overdosed on heroin three days before her graduation.
    Donna’s English teacher took her in until she headed off for North Carolina, but left alone, her father didn’t handle

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