TITLE: "She'll Be Her Own"
CATEGORY: General (rated PG)
ARCHIVE: You betcha.
SUMMARY: And in the shadows, she finds a way.
NOTES: Donna belongs to Sorkin/Wells/Warner/NBC. Incidental characters are ours. All the props in the world to Tori Amos.
She'll Be Her Own
*She's been everybody else's girl --
Maybe one day she'll be her own….*
Donna hoisted her overstuffed suitcase onto the bed, opened it, and started to unpack. "I really appreciate you doing this for me," she told her best friend for the twelfth time.
Casey smiled warmly. "I already told you it's no problem."
"I mean it, though. I know I'll be in the way--"
"Stop. What am I going to do, let you sleep in your car? Although, if you ask me, I think you should have thrown his ass out on the street instead of the other way around."
"The lease is in Dave's name," Donna confessed.
"Well. That's really dumb."
She held up a hand. "No. I mean, I know you were nuts about the guy, but what were you thinking?"
"I was thinking I'm in love with him," Donna replied, her voice shaky. "I was thinking I could trust him."
"Donna, you don't have the best judgement when it comes to men."
"Apparently not." Donna sat down on the edge of the bed, sniffling. "I just can't believe this."
Casey sat down next to her. "He's a jerk."
"You say that. My mother said that on the phone last night. How did everyone know that but me?"
"Like you said. You were in love with him."
Donna's throat tightened. "I'm so stupid."
"You're not stupid," Casey assured her. "You did some stupid things, for sure...."
The tears started to roll down her face, as they had frequently in the past two days. "I dropped out of school for Dave. I took this stupid job at the stupid mall for Dave. I've done a lot of dumb things in the last two years. I...." She buried her face in her hands. "I really thought everything was going to be all right, Case. I thought he was the one."
Casey gently touched Donna's shoulder. "I know."
"He's sleeping with some woman from the hospital. Another med student."
"God. I'm sorry. That's terrible." Donna sobbed into her hands and Casey slipped an arm around her. "He's worse than a jerk, honey. He's a complete bastard. If you want, I'll help you get back at him."
She tried to get herself under control. "How?"
"I don't know. We'll glue Gay Pride bumper stickers on his car, or something."
Donna couldn't help but smile, though she was still crying. "This is so humiliating. I just wish I was dead."
"No, you don't," Casey said comfortingly. "You can stay here as long as you need to, and you'll be all right."
Donna shook her head sadly, wiping her eyes. "I don't know. I just don't know what to do with myself now."
"How about we finish unpacking your stuff?"
Donna nodded gratefully. As they stood up and set to work, she caught sight of herself in the mirror. She paused and studied her reflection, the red-rimmed eyes shaded darkly against her pale skin. "Do you think I should cut my hair?"
Casey followed her gaze. "No. You just want to change something because of Dave. I wouldn't cut my hair for anyone who used me the way he used you."
"I do need to change something," Donna argued.
"Besides, you'd look awful with short hair."
"Thanks," Donna said sarcastically, lifting a sweater out of the suitcase. She looked at her friend seriously. "Really, though. Thank you."
* * *
Donna curled up on her side and watched beads of rain pound against the living room window. There was no way that it could be true. She had been sick for three weeks -- nausea, headaches, unrelenting fatigue -- but she had attributed it to the shock of the situation. When she realized it could be more than just stress, she took another week to work up the nerve to confirm her suspicions. Donna had spent much of the past month in tears, but when her suspicions were confirmed, she felt detached; she had a decision to make.
"Don?" Casey walked out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a dishtowel. "Are you hungry? I was thinking we could get Chinese from Twin Dragons. Moo shu pork, right?"
Casey raised her eyebrows. "I'm sorry?"
"I'm pregnant." Donna sat up on the couch and craned her neck to look at her friend. "Yeah."
"Oh, I... wow. Donna, what -- I -- wow." They sat in silence until Casey spoke again. "What are you going to do?"
"I can't keep it, Case."
"Have you thought about it? I know you've thought about it, but -- have you thought about it?"
Donna looked Casey straight in the eye. "I have no apartment, terrible credit. I'm barely making minimum wage, and I'll have to drain my bank account to make my car payment this month. I'm barely taking care of myself. I can't."
"Okay." Casey crossed the room and sat beside Donna. "What do you need me to do?"
"You're doing so much by letting me stay--"
"Enough with that. How much do you need?"
Donna shook her head. "Casey, really." She looked her hands, then looked up at her friend. "I'm sorry," she said softly.
Casey reached out and folded Donna in a quick embrace. Pulling back, the two studied each other for a moment.
"You still want Chinese?"
Casey squeezed Donna's hand before walking back to the kitchen and placing the order.
* * *
Donna let out a sigh through her clenched teeth and stared upward. The fluorescent overhead lights hurt her eyes. She tried closing them, but that made her feel worse.
It was a Sunday, the only day of the week she and Casey had both been able to get off work. The weather was chilly, but the clinic's heat was blasting, and it was almost oppressively warm in the small room.
She'd been taken aback, walking in, to see several other women in the waiting room; surprised that most of them were older than her. In a way, she reflected, it was almost comforting. It would have been terrifying to be the only one. Then again, when she thought of how many people must pass through the place in a week, a month, a year -- it was hard not to find that depressing.
Donna looked at the small pile of her clothes, on a chair in the corner. As light as it was, the paper gown still felt unnatural. She knew it wasn't the heat making her sweat. Her heart was beating a little faster than normal. Donna noticed it remotely, as if the discomfort belonged to someone else. It still seemed impossible that this was real.
She wished there was a window in the room, or a radio -- anything on which she could focus her attention. Her gaze wandered and settled on the calendar on the wall. *It's Sunday,* she thought. *Right now Dave is probably deep in his third cup of coffee and some obscure biology textbook. Either that or he's sleeping in. He only sleeps in when there's someone with him. If he knew....*
Donna banished the thought from her mind. She had decided almost immediately not to tell her former lover. Casey had encouraged her to give it more thought, but Donna knew. She'd already spent more than a month trying to stop missing him. She didn't want him to take her back out of obligation. More than that -- and she could scarcely admit this to herself -- she couldn't stand the likelihood that he wouldn't feel any responsibility toward her at all.
From a distance, Donna registered an unpleasant twinge in her stomach, and wondered if it was common for someone in her position to throw up, or what they'd do if she did. She blinked and made herself concentrate on the calendar. *It's Sunday. Mom and Dad must be at church. I wonder if they still have that fat minister with the beautiful voice. He'd be somewhere in the middle of the sermon right about now. I ought to call home tonight.*
As Donna had expected, her parents weren't angry at her. They'd weathered her turbulent years at college, her decision to quit school, her most recent disasters, all with nothing more severe than gentle dismay. She could picture them perfectly, sitting side by side in the small stone chapel as they did every week. She almost wished they'd at least yell at her, give her something to stand up against. Their subdued disappointment rankled with her deeply, but it would not have changed her mind.
The nurse stood by the doorway, looking bored, checking her watch every two or three minutes. The doctor was going through the steps routinely, if not downright mechanically. Donna was startled to realize that she wasn't sure of his name. She hadn't quite caught it when he'd ushered her into the room, and that bothered her intensely. *I can't believe I don't know his name. I'm lying here and he's--*
The words "ending" and "killing" crossed her mind at the same instant, and that was when it hit her. The physical pain and the anguish of her broken heart were suddenly interchangeable, parts of the same ache. The numb feeling was gone, and it was all very sharp, and very real. Her parents were in church. Her ex-boyfriend was sitting down to breakfast. Her best friend was waiting for her down the hall, and she didn't even know the doctor's name.
*I'm sorry, I'm sorry,* she thought, not knowing who she was apologizing to. Perhaps it was directed at herself. Donna lay still, and tasted panic, and desperately wished she could disappear.
* * *
Donna shut the closet door with a scowl. In desperation, she dropped to her knees and began rummaging under the bed.
"Lose a contact?" Casey asked from the doorway.
"My red sweater," Donna replied, her voice muffled. "You know, the one with the white things on it."
"I packed it this morning."
Donna emerged from under the bed, striking her head against the bed frame in the process. "Ouch. You did?"
"Yeah, the box is already in the car." Casey motioned to the box on the bed. "Is this the last one?"
Donna nodded. "Last one. Can you hand me the packing tape?"
"So tell me again about this plan of yours? Where are you going?"
"New Hampshire." Donna tried to tear the tape by hand, with little success.
Casey ducked out of the room for a moment and reappeared with scissors. "Do you know anyone in New Hampshire?"
"Do you have somewhere to live in New Hampshire?"
"Do you know anything about New Hampshire?"
"It's small. Oh, and it's cold there."
Casey regarded her friend. "Donna, are you -- why New Hampshire?"
Donna carefully labeled the box, then looked up. "It feels right. I think I can make it work."
"You also thought the Flow-Bee would work."
Donna playfully put her hands on her hips. "Hey, your hair grew back! I just -- I want to go do this, and I think I have to try."
Casey nodded thoughtfully and helped Donna load the final box into her car. When Donna closed the trunk, she turned and faced her friend.
"I don't know what to say."
"Say you'll call when you get there." Casey hugged Donna tightly.
"If you cry, you're going to make me cry."
Casey pulled back and quickly wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand. "I'm not crying. Call me when you get there."
Donna smiled and climbed into her car. "I will. I love you."
"Love you, too."
As she pulled away from the apartment building, Donna watched Casey's image fade in her rear view mirror. When her friend was no longer in sight, Donna turned on the radio and headed east.