Haley Fry and her twin sister, Jamie, have been compared to one another since birth. Haley is the quieter twin, a lover of music who prefers solitude to spending time with multiple friends. A prodigy on the saxophone, she dreams of a career as a musician. Jamie, on the other hand, is the athlete of the family who prides herself on her popularity and how many boys are after her. The twins’ parents, Larry and Maggie, place more trust in Haley because of her calmer nature. They expect the unexpected from Jamie, but not Haley. When Larry and Maggie learn that sixteen-year-old Haley is pregnant, they are shocked. Surprising everyone, but mostly herself, Haley faces a life-changing decision: Does she abort the baby or become a teenage mother? Choice presents Haley’s dilemma in a unique way. The first half of this novel narrates what happens when Haley chooses an abortion, while the second half reveals Haley’s life when she chooses to keep the baby. Told through the eyes of the entire family, Choice illustrates the tough decisions involved in a teen pregnancy.
There's a lot that goes through your mind when you are standing at the precipice of a life-altering situation. Here were my thoughts: How can I get out of this? Can I avoid dealing with this right now? Who should I tell? Would Scout want to know? If I get rid of it, do I have to talk to him about it? What are my parents going to say? How am I going to pay for this? Will I regret this if I decide to go through with it? The one worry I had above all others, when I took the future into account, was what my life would be like from that point forward if I kept the baby. Actually, I was calling it "it" because that was a hell of a lot easier to deal with than anything real or tangible. Babies were squirmy little things with eyes and mouths and ears and hands and feet; the "it" inside of me was nowhere near that stage. It was probably still a microscopic nothing-of-substance at week three. I couldn't remember what it was called – a zygote or something? Whatever it was, it was no child. I had used every test Jamie and I bought and each of them had the same result: a bright pink +. "What should we do?" my sister asked me when we were both lying in bed that night. I instantly felt a rush of gratitude lodge itself in my throat making it hard to answer. "We" she had said. "I guess…start calling up some Planned Parenthoods, right? See if I can get an appointment?" There was no reason to ask these as questions other than to have Jamie's further confidence in this plan. "Are you sure? I mean, it's your decision, but, like, do you maybe want to wait a little and think it over? You just found out…" I turned toward her in the dark, looking at her face illuminated by the moonlight streaming through our window. "Do you really think I even have a choice?" "Of course you do, Hales. I mean--" "No. I don't. What do you think Mom and Dad would say? Don't you think they'd want me to get rid of it?" As liberal as my parents were, we had never discussed the topic of abortion as it might pertain to our family. I mean, we were all pro-choice, that went without saying. All I knew was that my mom had made a conscious decision to wait to have sex until she married my dad after her own mother had had her so young. For all I knew she wouldn't want me to abort because of that fact, or she would want me to know how hard her mom had it with her. "Are you going to tell them?" Jamie asked. "You’ve gotta be kidding. I'll start researching for clinics tomorrow," I said, turning back over and closing my eyes, though I didn’t fall asleep until hours later. * There were 78 Planned Parenthoods in New York. The closest to me was the Margaret Sanger Health Center on Bleecker Street. I called them when I got home from school, telling Scout I couldn't hang out with him like we usually did because I had a doctor's appointment – only a half-lie really. When I spoke to the receptionist about making an appointment, I couldn't say for what. "Is this an OB/GYN appointment?" she asked me. "Uh…kind of?" I was pacing in my room, cell phone in hand. I momentarily balked, not knowing if this number would show up on the bill, which my dad paid monthly. "Is this an anonymous call?" I asked her just in case. "No worries, Planned Parenthood won't show up on your statement. Do you need to make an appointment for our abortive services?" "Yeah. Yes," I told her. “Well, there is a procedure to go through. You need to come in for a check-up and a pregnancy test before anything else. Let’s see,” she said, ruffling through papers from what I could hear over the line. “How about this next Tuesday? 6:00 p.m.?” * I had never been to a gynecologist before. Mom said we really didn’t need to until we went to college, unless we were sexually active, which she assumed we weren’t. At the time of that conversation, I hadn’t been. Things change. Fortunately, my preliminary appointment was when I was usually at band practice. I figured I wouldn’t make my parents suspicious that way, and I told Scout and Billy I had a major test to study for the next day. I considered asking Jake to come, but I was having trouble even telling him I was pregnant, period. Knowing he would be able to tell just from the tone of my voice that something was wrong, I had purposely ignored his calls since those pink + signs were burned into my retinas. I thought about bringing Jamie, or at least asking her if she wanted to come with me, but didn’t. I had gotten myself into the mess in the first place, and I knew I’d already be asking my sister a huge favor in coming with me on that day. Plus, part of me just wanted to man up (so to speak) and deal with the…situation, I guess, alone. Or at least try. My first impression of the clinic was that I was in the company of a lot of other girls who had gotten themselves into a similar predicament. I swear, not one of the six women in the waiting room before me was older than twenty. It was sad, and made me even sadder when I realized I was one of them, not some outsider who pitied these unfortunate teenagers. I was to be pitied, too, in some respect. I had brought my iPod to listen to while I waited, choosing some old school Miles Davis to soothe my nerves. I liked to listen to some modern stuff too, like Kings of Leon, or even Death Cab for Cutie on occasion. But there is nothing like a little jazz to calm you down. I only had to wait half an hour or so before I was called in and led into a room toward the back of the building with a standard table, a sheet of paper covering it for my exam. I did notice the stirrups for the first time, though, which I hadn’t seen in person before. I peed in the cup the nurse gave me before undressing, putting on a cloth gown, and sitting on the table. Looking around the office I saw posters for STDs, with pictures and all, plus various stages of pregnancy inside the womb. I quickly looked away, focusing on what could only be the ultrasound machine. With the weight of the reason for being there heavy on my mind, I honestly can’t recall many specifics of the appointment. The doctor came in, explained what she would do with her fingers and something called a speculum. I lay on the table and held my breath when she started inspecting me from the inside. She said she wouldn’t be too intrusive before the ultrasound. That was just plain alien to me: the goo on my stomach and the television screen that supposedly showed me the implanted embryo. She said she could see it, and pointed to a fuzzy spot in the vast ocean-like view of my uterus. I didn’t really believe there was anything there…probably because I didn’t want there to be. But there was, she said, and my urine and the miniscule dot confirmed it. I don’t remember her name or her face, but I do recall her saying, “Haley, I’d like you to think about your decision for a few days before we make your appointment. This isn’t an easy choice for anyone, so make sure you give it the time it deserves.” And with that, I left, telling the receptionist I’d pay in full at my next appointment. There really wasn’t anything to think about.
A. J. Walkley earned a B.A. in literature from Dickinson College, Pennsylvania, in 2007. She was a U.S. Peace Corps health volunteer in Malawi, Africa. Walkley is currently a United Nations correspondent, freelance writer, and novelist in Connecticut. She published her first novel, Queer Greer, in February of 2009.