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Free time wasn’t something Ainsley had aplenty, but about one Sunday a month, she could spend a few hours volunteering at the women’s health clinic on Mass. She didn’t do anything too terribly exciting, mostly just filed and sent out emails and other clerical work they needed extra hands in order to finish. Ainsley had graduated college with one of the younger doctors on staff, Vivian Baker, which was how she even knew about the place.

Vivian, much like the people Ainsley currently worked with and for, disagreed with just about everything Ainsley held dear, except for their core belief that women were not taught to pay the proper amount of attention to themselves, not trained to watch after the best interests of their bodies and minds.

For this reason, Ainsley committed herself to sifting through mail and Cloroxing counters at the clinic for free, so that Vivian could in turn be free to educate women with no resources otherwise.


Normally, on her Sunday, Ainsley was stuck in the back, where she could work in peace. But one Sunday when she came in, the clinic was short on desk staff, so Ainsley was put on checking in the walk-ins. All she needed to do was get a name, time of entrance, and vague idea of the issue. She learned pretty quickly that most patients didn’t really care to be vague, and instead would describe the problem in great detail.

Many of the women were there for complications of pregnancy, the onset of a UTI or yeast infection, a few with the basic season’s flu or cold. Ainsley was only half listening, if she was honest, until a girl who could not have been more than fourteen—and Ainsley thought that was probably a generous estimate—walked in. Ainsley asked for her name (Savannah) and what the problem was. The girl took a couple of deep breaths and opened her mouth. The second she started to talk, she burst into tears.

A fair number of the pregnant women had already cried or screamed, so Ainsley was prepared. She grabbed a few tissues and found a place for the girl to sit, and said, “It’s okay, sweetie. All you have to say is what hurts.”

Savannah took a couple of deep breaths. “I-- I’ve got this rash.”

Ainsley had a sinking feeling she knew where the rash was. Softly, she asked, “Down there?”

Savannah wiped furiously at her eyes. “He said-- He said that condoms hurt him. That he was too big to fit.”

Ainsley swallowed back her anger, and quite a few choice words unbecoming of a lady. “Your boyfriend?”

Savannah nodded. “He’s my first, you know?”

Ainsley’s first had been in college, after seven months of dating, and he had been the very picture of Southern propriety—probably well aware her daddy would up and shoot him if he was anything but. That said, Ainsley knew just what it was like to be in love, and be a little stupid with it. She couldn’t imagine having been in that place at thirteen or fourteen. Carefully, Ainsley said, “I know that your first is supposed to care about you as much as he does himself. He’s not supposed to lie. Condoms don’t hurt. The only thing that hurts is the stuff that happens when you don’t use them.”

“He said—“

“I’m sure he did. But he lied. Trust me. My friend is one of the doctors here, and I have plenty of male friends. Condoms don’t hurt.”
“My mom-- I want to talk to her about it, you know? But there’s three of us, and my dad took off and she just can’t be around much, with her job, and all. I didn’t know who to ask.”

For lack of a better answer, Ainsley said, “Someone’s always here.”


Despite it being Sunday, she went into her office that night to do some research. On her way down, she noticed Leo’s light on, and knocked softly on the frame of his door. He looked up and asked, “You do have a home, yes? Somewhere you go to change and shower and occasionally sleep?”

She smiled. “I notice you’re here as well.”

“I’m divorced and past my prime.”

“Hardly, Leo.”

“I presume you didn’t knock to have me criticize your workaholic tendencies.”

“I did not.”

“Out with it.”

Ainsley crossed the room to sit on his couch and give herself a second to figure out what she wanted to say. “Do you ever find yourself at odds with your own beliefs?”

“It’s part of a process I call growing up.”

Ainsley threw him an exasperated look. He asked, “What’s this about?”

For a second she thought of wishing him a goodnight and cutting her losses. But unlike Josh or Sam, he wouldn’t deride her for her beliefs, only challenge her in them. “I believe in abstinence only education. Children that young shouldn’t be having sex. But-- But if they do, then where are they to go to learn the things they need to know?”

“Isn’t the presumption of abstinence-only defenders that they will go to their families?”

“And if they have no families? Or those families don’t have the time? Or they don’t know how to ask their parents?”

Leo’s expression softened minutely. “Those of us who want sex-education that includes abstinence as a choice, but recognizes other choices, it is not because we desire the destruction of family units, or want teenagers hopping in bed with each other. It is because we want to give children the best chance possible to survive being young and stupid.”

“I still-- I don’t believe it belongs in schools.”

“But then where?”

Ainsley reached back to rub at the muscles in her neck.

After a few moments, Leo said, “Seriously, go home. There will still be loose teenagers roaming the streets in the morning.”

“On that note, I’m sure my dreams will be lovely.”

Leo made a shooing motion. “That’s what I’m here for, to give you people a pleasant night’s rest.”

Ainsley stood and made her way to the door. Just past it, she turned back and said, “Thanks.”

Leo looked up at her, his expression understanding. “Go.”

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile