The Crowsnest: 11

You may notice that the title of my little serial novel project has changed. You may also notice there is now a link to complete and updated chapters at the top of my home page.

This whole system of posting bits and pieces has several disadvantages. I can’t revise. And I feel forced to write consecutive segments, which apparently is darned near impossible for me.

Now, I’m free! I feel so relieved. I can change names and fix mistakes and patch in scenes, all on the novel’s own page.

This week, we’re again in flashback mode. Three cheers for backstory.



“He sent the ticket,” Edwina whispers.

As we slide into bed, my body stiffens at the news more than the cold. Edwina is unperturbed – or too distracted to notice, more likely – and she scrunches close to my back so we can share our body warmth. I can feel the place under the sheets where her abdomen used to be soft and now is ever so slightly rounded, distended, as if she’s eaten too many apples.

“You’re going?” I can’t keep the distress from my voice. We talked about this plan, of course. We whispered about it endlessly on nights just as cold as this one, but it seemed so strange, so outlandish, that I never believed it would work.

“Tomorrow,” she says. I can feel the smile in her voice, as if all her problems have vanished in a puff of steam engine smoke.

Tomorrow.

***

When I wake, Edwina is crying. She’s crying not like a girl who’s about to set off across the country, but like a wounded animal.

“What is it?” I whisper, sitting up. I scrabbled my hands across the table, searching for the candle stub.

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” she moans.

The flare of the candle makes me wince and blink and at first, I think the red is the searing of the light on my eyes. I blink again. And again. It’s all over me. All over my nightgown… red. Turning back toward Edwina, I pull down the covers. Everything’s blood. Her nightdress, the sheets, everything.

“God Almighty,” she says, her eyes wild, her arms wrapped around her stomach. I can see that her jaw is clenched tight, that she can barely speak.

Strangely, I hear my mother’s voice inside my head. “There’s no sense panicking the girl. Pull those covers up, child.” I do as instructed. I hide the blood.

“I’ll get Mrs. McLeod. We’ll call the doctor,” I say.

An arm snakes out from the blanket to clutch my wrist. “Are you insane?” Edwina says.

“You need a doctor.”

“She’ll kill me.”

I can still feel my mother with me. I can feel her calm. The way every emergency settled itself under her gaze.

“Okay,” I tell Edwina. “We need some towels, though, and we need to get you cleaned up. Maybe we can get you out of the house to the doctor.”

There’s no way she’s getting up on her own steam. I can tell just by looking at her.

“Stay here. Stay as quiet as you can. I’ll be right back,” I whisper, smoothing her hair behind her ears.

The grip on my arm loosens and I tuck her hand back under the blanket, patting her back as I pull on my robe. Then I’m racing down the stairs, already calculating whether it will be minutes or hours between the time Mrs. McLeod calls the doctor and the time help arrives.

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