She woke up. There was no one around. Instead, a mixture of condoms and syringes enclosed her. She felt pain, both in her head and below. She could see dried blood beneath her. What was going on? She could only remember being clubbed on the head from behind, then darkness… darkness… swirling her…

She went to the doctor. Doctor something-or-other said, "You're pregnant." She could only respond with a dumb "Oh". The world enclosed her. Who was it? …But did she care? Not anymore. After all, what's the use?

She went to her parents. Confessed. They looked at her. Without a word, they threw her bodily out of their house. With the promise that they'd flay her within an inch of her life if she dare return. And slammed the door in her face. They couldn't even stop screaming at each other, let alone at her. She turned her back on the closed door, and walked away.

She went to her friends. They looked at her like she was dirt under their shoes… or worse. They turned their backs on her. With unspoken agreement, their friendship broke. She scattered the shattered pieces into the air, and turned away.

Enclosed. The walls closed in on her. She had no one. Or so she thought.

She got a low-paying job. It wasn't too noticeable yet. She knew she needed all she could earned before others knew… and started asking questions. She lived alone in the attic of a dingy house, all she could afford with her measly salary.

She was at the hospital, pain as she'd never known surging through her as her child screamed for the right to live. He succeeded. She looked into his eyes, and knew what she had to - would - do. It was enshrined in her heart, along with the love she felt for her child, though born of a criminal father.

She raised him up alone. No others would help. Yet she was no longer alone. She had someone. Someone who wouldn't turn her away. Someone to spend the rest of her life with. Someone to love. Life was almost normal for a moment.

She saw him at elementary school, being bullied by other children of "normal" birth. Her gut twisted as he came crying to her. She framed his innocent, tear-streaked face and told him passionately, "Do their mamas love them as I love you?"

She fetched him home from high school, and saw other mothers' stares. She held her chin high, and smiled at him when he walked proudly towards her, not like a dog with his tail between his legs.

She was forty, dining with him at a restaurant in celebration of his twentieth birthday. He asked her to dance, and they were happy until a harpy, one of her former pals, butted in and insulted her about taking men into her arms even after "that disgusting incident". She looked at the woman coldly and turned away, while he told the bitch, "I love Mama. Can your children honestly say the same?"

She went to the police station. She saw the man, without remorse, without sorrow. She told the man baldly, "I feel sorry for you. You'll never feel love. All you have is your own insecurities to wallow in, always wanting to prove to yourself that you're the victor… when you're anything but." She missed seeing the man's expression of bewilderment as she walked out, cool as cucumber.

She walked up the podium stairs. It was her moment.

She addressed the audience, mostly filled with women in similar situations as she. She told them of "the incident". She spoke of her despair. She spoke of her lost. "And yet, I knew straight away that I could, and would, keep him. He has a right to live. I gave him a life, however unwittingly, and it belongs to him. And I knew I could offer him love. So I kept him.

"We are not weak. On the contrary, we are stronger than they. That is why they seek to force themselves on us, to pretend that they are stronger. The very act itself condemned them. It spoke of their weakness, that which they never sought to conquer, but avoid. We know better. Never be ashamed. We have love, but they have nothing but malicious and cowardly thoughts. They should be ashamed that they could never be what we are. We are who we are precisely because we can love, and they can't.

"Never make a decision purely because of the perceptions of society. They might reject you, hate you, when you have done nothing wrong, only to be yourself and do what is right, do what they dare not do. You dared to be unique, to be you, and not another clone like them. Celebrate it, and love yourself as you love everyone around you."

And applause rose. A standing ovation. Acceptance enclosed her. But, though she could see her parents waving at her frantically, trying to get recognised, or her ex-friends, looking to seek her approval, she had eyes only for he who had never forsaken her. Him. Her world was bright once more.

Enclosed in love.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
Gandalf the Grey, in Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Rings

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.
Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi, in Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

Finis –