"Indeed, yes! We believe that all life is sacred. That's why we're so very concerned when a pregnant woman is put in danger, why we go out of our way to be certain that she is well cared for. Her baby is a precious gift from God, and it is our duty to protect it."
"Yes," she said, casting about for a way to ease the tension, "I have read many good things about your work here. That was why I came."
"Now then," he said, "about your accommodations. We do what we can to create a sense of community among our guests, so we like to place women with children on one wing so that the children can play together. You've noted that you have no children with you. Are they being cared for by relatives?"
"I have no children, sir. I have never been married."
Green considered that briefly, but said nothing. He wrote a few more notations on her paperwork, rose, and invited her to take a brief tour of the facility. While they walked, he pointed out several members of the staff, and explained the center's rules. When they were finished, he showed her the room she'd be using, told her a bit about her immediate neighbors, and left her to settle in.
Relieved that she at least had a place to stay for the moment, Rahila showered, and changed into clean clothes. Feeling calmer, she walked to the activity area where three of the women residents were chatting while a group of children played together. A uniformed member of the staff, one of the attendants, stood near the far wall. One of the three women looked up and smiled. "Come," she said, "sit."
"Thank you," Rahila said amiably as she reached a vacant chair. "Which of them is yours?"
"Sanjit is the one in red. Is your child with you?"
She smiled politely. "I'm afraid I have no children. I am alone here."
"No children? But certainly you're old enough to have had one. Is there a medical reason, perhaps?"
Rahila shook her head. "No. I suppose I could have had children if my life had been different. But I haven't."
"Perhaps you still can. You're healthy, and you certainly look young enough."
"Thank you. I'm forty-two, actually. My mother looked younger than her years as well. As to having children, though, I guess my karma has flowed along other channels. Still, there are compensations. I do get to enjoy my nephews and nieces when I visit with siblings."
The women glanced nervously at one another. The one to Rahila's right self-consciously tugged at her sleeves to cover the bruises on her wrists. "And where is your husband?" she asked. "Is he the reason that you are here?"
"I'm here," Rahila said, ignoring the first question, "because I lost my job and could no longer afford the rent."
"I understand. It often takes two salaries to make ends meet these days."