We stop at the Hesters’ before going home, and as I enter the kitchen I smell something good. Patience is baking bread. Danny plays with his tin truck on the floor and the baby sleeps in the sweet grass basket that Cypress, the grandmother from Hazel Patch, gave me.
Well, I had a lovely time. I thank my escort as I stand shivering on the walk and I’m surprised when he takes my hand.You’re a beautiful woman, Captain Wolfe says. Perhaps just a little too soft-hearted. . . . When he smiles, his white teeth gleam in the porch light.
Norman pulls me to him, holds me against his chest, and I think I could rest there forever. Comfort. Safety. You are a beautiful woman, he says again.When the low clouds open, the half-moon breaks out and illuminates the white world, a world of light and promise.There’s something I don’t like about this man, Wolfe. Captain Wolfe Becky calls him. I watch the two of them from my dark bedroom upstairs, watch them stand in the snow after their return from the ball. She’s shivering in her thin wool coat and he takes her in his arms, holds her in the moonlight for a full two minutes.
Becky is too innocent. And I fear he will hurt her. Cut her tender heart open like an apple, and take a bite with his sharp teeth. When the captain walks away, I can hear his saber rattle against his injured knee.It’s New Year’s Day and I think we all have the post-holiday slump. The house is quiet and there’s a center of gloom around Patience’s room. Each day I take her vital signs, listen to the baby’s heartbeat, and measure with my fingers how much the fetus has grown. I record the amount of fetal movement, the amount of bleeding, and whether there are any contractions.
The baby is strong, but Patience is not. When I really look at her, I notice that her face is drawn. Her skin is too pale. Her arms are too thin.
So? What did you do then? Patience questions me. I have just told her about the unemployed men picketing outside the Hotel Torrington.She nodded. He left me just after I went through my needing. I thought we’d been careful, but obviously…it was about three weeks afterward when I didn’t bleed and then I knew. I kept it a secret. I moved out of my family’s house, telling my parents it was because I needed space—they didn’t know until later what Sophy had done. That Oskar had gone with her.
She stared at what he was holding out to her, not understanding what it was—oh, a Kleenex box. She snapped free some tissues and tucked the rest under her arm.Her nose sounded like a foghorn as she blew it.
I was eight months along when the pains started. About two weeks later, I was in this house I’d rented…I started bleeding and… She blew her nose again and pressed the tissue wad to her eyes as the pain came back. I lost the young. She came out of me…and she was so tiny, so perfect. My daughter…The image of the young was carved into her brain, deep as a ravine, never to lose its contours no matter how many times she recalled it or how many years passed.