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Ihadaterribledream.Idreamedyouweredead."Thenshe'dtellhimwhatMissGarnderhad
saidandhe'dfindthewordstoconvinceherthateverythingwasallright.Shewaited,listening.
Maybeit
was
adream.Butno,nodreamlastedthatlong.Itwasreal.Papawasgoneforever.
Sheputherheaddownonthetableandsobbed."Mamadoesn'tlovemethewaysheloves
Neeley,"shewept."Itriedandtriedtomakeherloveme.Isitclosetoherandgowherevershe
goesanddowhateversheasksmetodo.ButIcan'tmakeherlovemethewaypapaloved
me."
Thenshesawhermother'sfaceinthetrolleycarwhenmamasatwithherheadbackandher
eyesclosed.Sherememberedhowwhiteandtiredmamahadlooked.Mama
did
loveher.Of
courseshedid.Onlyshecouldn'tshowitinthewaysthatpapacould.Andmama
was
good.
Here,sheexpectedthebabyanyminuteandshewasstilloutworking.Supposingmamadied
whenshehadthebaby?Francie'sbloodturnedicyatthethought.WhatwouldNeeleyandshe
dowithoutmama?Wherecouldtheygo?EvyandSissyweretoopoortotakethem.They'd
havenoplacetolive.Theyhadnooneinalltheworldbutmama.
DearGod,"Francieprayed,"don'tletmamadie.IknowthatItoldNeeleythatIdidn'tbelievein
You.ButIdo!Ido!Ijustsaidthat.Don'tpunishmama.Shedidn'tdoanythingbad.Don'ttake
herawaybecauseIsaidIdidn'tbelieveinYou.IfYouletherlive,I'llgiveYoumywriting.I'll
neverwriteanotherstoryagainifYou'llonlyletherlive.HolyMary,askyourson,Jesus,toask
Godnottoletmymotherdie."
Butshefeltthatherprayerwasofnouse.Godrememberedthatshehadsaidthatshedidn't
believeinHimandHe'dpunishherbytakingmamaasHehadtakenpapa.Shebecame
hystericalwithterrorandthoughtofhermotherasalreadydead.Sherushedoutoftheflatto
lookforher.Katiewasn'tcleaningintheirhouse.Shewentintothesecondhouseandranup
thethreeflightsofstairs,calling"Mama!"Shewasn'tinthathouse.Franciewentintothethird
andlasthouse.Mamawasn'tonthefirstfloor.Mamawasn'tonthesecondfloor.Therewasone
floorleft.Ifmamawasn'tthere,thenshewasdead.Shescreamed:
"Mama!Mama!"
"I'muphere,"cameKatie'squietvoicefromthethirdfloor."Don'thollerso."
Franciewassorelievedthatsheallbutcollapsed.Shedidn'twanthermothertoknowshehad
beencrying.Shesearchedforherhandkerchief.Nothavingit,shedriedhereyesonher
petticoatandwalkedupthelastflightslowly.
"Hello,Mama."
"HassomethinghappenedtoNeeley?"
"No,Mama."(ShealwaysthinksofNeeleyfirst.)
"Well,hellothen,"saidKatiesmiling.Katiesurmisedthatsomethinghadgonewronginschool
toupsetFrancie.Well,ifshewantedtotellher....
"Doyoulikeme,Mama?"
"I'dbeafunnyperson,wouldn'tI,ifIdidn'tlikemychildren."
"DoyouthinkI'masgood-lookingasNeeley?"Shewaitedanxiouslyformama'sanswer
becausesheknewthatmamaneverlied.Mama'sanswerwasalongtimeincoming.
"Youhaveveryprettyhandsandnicelongthickhair."
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"ButdoyouthinkI'masgood-lookingasNeeley?"persistedFrancie,
wanting
hermothertolie.
"Look,Francie,Iknowthatyou'regettingatsomethinginaroundaboutwayandI'mtootiredto
figureitout.Havealittlepatienceuntilafterthebabygetshere.IlikeyouandNeeleyandIthink
you'rebothniceenoughlookingchildren.Nowpleasetrynottoworryme."
Franciewasinstantlycontrite.Pitytwistedherheartasshesawhermother,sosoontobeara
child,sprawledawkwardlyonherhandsandknees.Shekneltbesidehermother.
"Getup,Mama,andletmefinishthishall.Ihavetime."Sheplungedherhandintothepailof
water.
"No!"exclaimedKatiesharply.ShetookFrancie'shandoutofthewateranddrieditonher
apron."Don'tputyourhandsinthatwater.Ithassodaandlyeinit.Lookwhatit'sdonetomy
hands."Sheheldouthershapelybutwork-scarredhands."Idon'twantyourhandstogetlike
that.Iwantyoutohavenicehandsalways.Besides,I'malmostfinished."
"IfIcan'thelp,canIsitonthestairsandwatch?"
"Ifyou'venothingbettertodo."
Franciesatwatchinghermother.Itwassogoodtobethereandknowthatmama,wasalive
andcloseby.Eventhescrubbingmadeasafe,pleasantsound.Swish-aswish-aswish-a
swish-awentthebrush.Slup-aslup-aslup-slupwenttheragwipingup.Klunk,flumpwentthe
brushandragasmamadroppedthemintothepail.Skrunk,skrunkwentthepailasmama
pushedittothenextarea.
"Haven'tyouanygirlfriendstotalkto,Francie?"
"No.Ihatewomen."
"That'snotnatural.Itwoulddoyougoodtotalkthingsoverwithgirlsyourownage."
"Haveyouanywomenfriends,Mama?"
"No,Ihatewomen,"saidKatie.
"See?You'rejustlikeme."
"ButIhadagirlfriendonceandIgotyourfatherthroughher.Soyousee,agirlfriendcomesin
handysometimes."Shespokejokingly,butherscrubbrushseemedtoswishout,
you-go-your-way,I'll-go-my-way.Shefoughtbackhertears."Yes,"shecontinued,"youneed
friends.YounevertalktoanybodybutNeeleyandme,andreadyourbooksandwriteyour
stories."
"I'vegivenupwriting."
KatieknewthenthatwhateverwasonFrancie'smindhadtodowithhercompositions."Didyou
getabadmarkonacompositiontoday?"
"No,"liedFrancie,amazedasalwaysbyhermother'sguess-work.Shegotup."Iguessit'stime
formetogotoMcGarrity'snow."
"Wait!"Katieputherbrushandscrubraginthepail."I'mfinishedfortheday."Sheheldouther
hands."Helpmetogetup."
Franciegraspedhermother'shands.Katiepulledheavilyonthemasshegottoherfeet
clumsily."Walkbackhomewithme,Francie."
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Franciecarriedthepail.Katieputonehandonthebanisterandputherotherarmaround
Francie'sshoulder.Sheleanedheavilyonthegirlasshewalkeddownstairsslowly,Francie
keepingtimewithhermother'suncertainsteps.
"Francie,IexpectthebabyanydaynowandI'dfeelbetterifyouwereneververyfarawayfrom
me.Stayclosetome.AndwhenI'mworking,comelookingformefromtimetotimetoseethat
I'mallright.Ican'ttellyouhowmuchI'mcountingonyou.Ican'tcountonNeeleybecausea
boy'snouseatatimelikethis.IneedyoubadlynowandIfeelsaferwhenIknowyou'renearby.
Sostayclosetomeforawhile."
AgreattendernessforhermothercameintoFrancie'sheart."Iwon'tevergoawayfromyou,
Mama,"shesaid.
"That'smygoodgirl."Katiepressedhershoulder.
"Maybe,"thoughtFrancie,"shedoesn'tlovemeasmuchasshelovesNeeley.Butsheneeds
memorethansheneedshimandIguessbeingneededisalmostasgoodasbeingloved.
Maybebetter."
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TWOdays,Franciecamehomeforlunchanddidnotreturntoschoolintheafternoon.Mama
wasinbed.AfterNeeleywastoldtogobacktoschool,FranciewantedtogetSissyorEvybut
mamasaiditwasn'ttime,yet.
Franciefeltimportantbeinginsolecharge.Shecleanedtheflatandlookedoverthefoodinthe
houseandplannedtheirsupper.Everytenminutes,sheplumpeduphermother'spillowand
askedwhethershewantedadrinkofwater.
Soonafterthree,Neeleyrushedinoutofbreath,flunghisbooksinacornerandaskedwhether
itwastimetorunforanybodyyet.Katiesmiledathiseagernessandsaiditwasnousetaking
EvyorSissyawayfromtheirownaffairsuntilitwasnecessary.Neeleywentofftoworkwith
instructionstoaskMcGarrityifhecoulddoFrancie'sworkaswellashisownsinceFranciehad
tostayhomewiththeirmother.McGarritynotonlyagreebuthelpedtheboywiththefreelunch
sothatNeeleywasallfinishedatfour-thirty.Theyhadsupperearly.ThesoonerNeeleystarted
withhispapers,thequickerhe'dbefinished.Mamasaidshedidn'twantanythingexceptacup
ofhottea.
Mamadidn'twanttheteaafterFranciebrewedit.Francieworriedbecauseshewouldn'teat
anything.AfterNeeleyleftonhispaperroute,Franciebroughtinabowlofstewandtriedto
makehermothereatit.Katielashedoutather;toldhertoleaveheralone;thatwhenshe
wantedsomethingtoeat,she'daskforit.Franciepoureditbackintothepottryingtoholdback
thehurttears.Shehadonlymeanttohelp.Mamacalledheragainanddidn'tseemmad
anymore.
"Whattimeisit?askedKatie.
"Fivetosix."
"Areyousuretheclockisn'tslow?"
"No,Mama."
"Maybeit'sfast,then."SheseemedsoworriedthatFrancielookedoutthefrontwindowat
jewelerWoronov'slargestreetclock.
"Ourclock'sright,"reportedFrancie.
"Isitdarkoutyet?"Katiehadnowayofknowingbecauseevenatbrightnoononlyadullgray
lightfilteredthroughtheairshaftwindow.
"No,it'sstilllightoutdoors."
"It'sdarkinhere,"saidKatiefretfully.
"I'lllightthenightcandle."
Bracketedtothewallwasasmallshelfholdingaplasterstatueoftheblue-robedVirginMary
withherhandsheldoutsupplicatingly.Atthefootoftheimage,wasathickredglassfilledwith
yellowwaxandawick.Nexttoit,wasavaseholdingpaperredroses.Francieputalighted
matchtothewick.Thecandlelightgloweddullyandrubyredthroughthethickglass.
"Whattimeisit?"Katieaskedafteralittlewhile.
"Tenaftersix."
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"You'resuretheclockisneitherslownorfast?"
"Justexactlyright."
Katieseemedsatisfied.Butfiveminuteslater,sheagaindemandedthetime.Itwasasifshe
hadanimportantrendezvoustokeepandwasfearfulofbeinglate.
Athalfpastsix,FrancietoldherthetimeagainandaddedthatNeeleywouldbehomeinan
hour."Theminutehecomesin,sendhimforAuntEvy.Tellhimnottotakethetimetowalk.
Findanickelcarfareforhimandtellhim,Evy,becauseshelivescloserthanSissy."
"Mama,supposethebabycomesallofasuddenandIdon'tknowwhattodo?"
"Icouldn'tbethatlucky-tohaveababyallofasudden.Whattimeisit?"
"Twenty-fivetoseven."
"Sure?"
"I'msure.Mama,evenifNeeleyisaboyitwould'vebeenbetterifhestayedwithyouinsteadof
me."
"Why?"
"Becausehe'salwayssuchagreatcomforttoyou."Shesaiditwithoutmaliceorjealousy.It
wasasimplestatementoffact."WhileI...I...justdon'tknowtherightthingstosaytomakeyou
feelbetter."
"Whattimeisit?"
"Aminuteaftertwenty-fivetoseven."
Katiewassilentforalongtime.Whenshespoke,shesaidthewordsquietly,asifspeakingto
herself."No,menshouldn'tbearoundatthattime.Yet,womenmakethemstandnexttothem.
Theywantthemtoheareverymoanandgroanandseeeverydropofbloodandheareverytear
oftheflesh.Whatisthistwistedpleasuretheygetoutofmakingthemansufferalongwiththem?
TheyseemtobetakingrevengebecauseGodmadethemwomen.Whattimeisit?"Without
waitingforananswer,shecontinued:"Beforethey'remarried,they'd
die
ifamansawthemin
curlcrimpersorwiththeircorsetsoff.Butwhentheyhaveababy,theywanthimtoseethemin
theugliestwayawomancanbeseen.Idon'tknowwhy.Idon'tknowwhy.Amanthinksofthe
painandagonythatcametoheroutoftheirbeingtogetherandthenitisn'tgoodanymoreto
him.That'swhymanymenstartbeingunfaithfulafterthebaby...."Katiehardlyrealizedwhat
shewassaying.ShewasmissingJohnnysoterriblyandthinkingso,torationalizehisnotbeing
there."Besides,thereisthis:Ifyoulovesomeone,you'drathersufferthepainalonetospare
them.Sokeepyourmanoutofthehousewhenyourtimecomes."
"Yes,Mama.It'sfiveafterseven."
"SeeifNeeley'scoming."
FrancielookedandhadtoreportthatNeeleywasn'tinsightyet.Katie'smindwentbacktowhat
FranciehadsaidaboutNeeleybeingacomfort.
"No,Francie,it'syouwho'sthecomforttomenow."Shesighed."Ifit'saboy,we'llcallhim
Johnny."
"Itwillbenice,Mama,whentherearefourofusagain."
"Yes,itwill."Afterthat,Katiedidn'tsayanythingforawhile.Whennextsheaskedthetime,
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FrancietoldheritwasaquarterpastsevenandthatNeeleywouldbehomesoon.Katie
instructedhertowrapNeeley'snightshirt,toothbrush,acleantowelandabitofsoapina
newspaper,asNeeleywastoremainatEvy'shouseforthenight.
FranciemadetwomoretripstothestreetwiththebundleunderherarmbeforeshesawNeeley
coming.Hewasrunningdownthestreet.Sherantomeethim;gavehimthebundle,carfare
andinstructions,andtoldhimtohurry.
"How'smama?"heasked.
"Good."
"Yousure?"
"Sure.Ihearatrolleycoming.Youbetterrun."Neeleyran.
WhenFranciegotback,shesawthathermother'sfacewasbathedinsweatandthattherewas
bloodonherlowerlipasthoughshehadbittenthroughit.
"Oh,Mama,Mama!"Sheshookhermother'shandandheldittoherowncheek.
"Wringaclothoutofcoldwaterandwipemyface,"mamawhispered.AfterFranciehaddoneso,
Katiewentbacktowhatwasincompletedinhermind."Ofcourse,you'reacomforttome."Her
mindveeredofftosomethingthatseemedirrelevantbutwasn't."I'vealwaysbeenmeaningto
readyourAcompositionsbutIneverhadthetime.I'vealittletimenow.Wouldyouliketoread
onetome?"
"Ican't.Iburnedthemallup."
"Youthoughtaboutthem,andwrotethem,andhandedthemin,andgotmarksonthem,and
thoughtaboutthemsomemore,andthenyouburnedthemup.Andallthroughthat,Inever
readoneofthem."
"That'sallright,Mama.Theyweren'tmuchgood."
"It'sonmyconscience."
"Theyweren'tmuchgood,Mama,andIknowyouneverhadthetime."
Katiethought,"ButIalwayshadtimeforanythingtheboydid.I
made
timeforhim."She
continuedherthoughtaloud."Butthen,Neeleyneedsmoreencouragement.Youcangoon
withwhatyouhaveinsideyou,likeIcan.Butheneedssomuchfromoutside."
"That'sallright,Mama,"Francierepeated.
"Icouldn'tdoanydifferentthanIdid,"saidKatie."Butitwillalwaysbeonmyconsciencejust
thesame.Whattimeisit?"
"Nearlyseven-thirty."
"Thetowelagain,Francie."Katie'smindseemedtobetryingtoclutchatsomething."Andisn't
thereoneleftyoucanread?"
Franciethoughtofthefouraboutherfather,whatMissGarnderhadsaidaboutthem,and
answered,"No."
"ThenreadsomethingfromtheShakespearebook."Franciegotthebook."Readabout''twas
onanightlikethis,'I'dliketohavesomethingprettyinmymindjustbeforethebabycomes."
TheprintwassosmallthatFranciehadtolightthegastoread.Asthelightflaredup,shehada
goodlookathermother'sface.Itwasgrayandcontorted.Mamadidn'tlooklikemama.She
lookedlikeGranmaMaryRommelyinpain.KatiewincedawayfromthelightandFrancieshutit
offquickly.
"Mama,we'vereadtheseplayssomanytimesover,thatIalmostknowthembyheart.Idon't
needalightorthebook,Mama.Listen!"Sherecited:
Themoonshinesbright!-Insuchanightasthis
Whenthesweetwinddidgentlykissthetrees
Andtheydidmakenonoise;insuchanight
Troilus...
"Whattimeisit?"
"Seven-forty."
...methinksmountedtheTrojanwalls,
AndsighedhissoultowardtheGreciantents
WhereCressidalaythenight.
"AnddidyoueverfindoutwhoTroiluswas,Francie?AndCressida?"
"Yes,Mama."
"Somedayyoumusttellme.WhenIhavetimetolisten."
"Iwill,Mama."
Katiemoaned.Franciewipedthesweatawayagain.Katieheldouthertwohandsasshehad
donethatdayinthehall.Francietookthehandsandbracedherfeet.KatiepulledandFrancie
thoughtherarmswouldcomeoutoftheirsockets.Thenmamarelaxedandletgo.
Sothenexthourpassed.Francierecitedpassagessheknewbyheart-Portia'sspeech,Marc
Antony'sfuneraloration,"Tomorrowandtomorrow"-theobviousthingsthatareremembered
fromShakespeare.SometimesKatieaskedaquestion.Sometimessheputherhandsoverher
faceandmoaned.Withoutknowingshedidso,andtakingnonoteoftheanswer,shekept
askingthetime.Franciewipedoffherfaceatintervals,andthreeorfourtimesinthathour,
KatieheldouthertwohandstoFrancie.
WhenEvyarrivedathalfpasteight,Francieallbutdiedofpurerelief."AuntSissywillbealong
inhalfanhour,"announcedEvyassherushedintothebedroom.AfteralookatKatie,Evy
pulledthesheetfromFrancie'scot,knottedoneendtoKatie'sbedpostandputtheotherendin
Katie'shand."Trypullingonthatforachange,"shesuggested.
"Whattimeisit?"whisperedKatieaftershehadtakenatremendoustugonthesheet;atugthat
madethesweatstandoutonherfaceagain.
"Whatdoyoucare,"answeredEvy,cheerfully."You'renotgoinganyplace."Katiestarteda
smilebutapainspasmwipeditoffherface."Wecandowithabetterlight,"decidedEvy.
"Butthegaslighthurtshereyes,"objectedFrancie.
Evytooktheglassglobefromtheparlorfixture,coatedtheoutsidewithsoapandattacheditto
thebedroomfixture.Whenshelitthegas,therewasasoftdiffusedlightwithoutglare.Although
itwasawarmMaynight,Evybuiltafireintherange.ShesnappedoutorderstoFrancie.
Francierushedaroundfillingthekettlewithwaterandplacingitovertheflames.Shescoured
theenameledwashbasinandpouredabottleofsweetoilinitandsetitonthebackofthestove.
Thesoiledclothesweredumpedoutofthewashbasketanditwaslinedwitharaggedbutclean
blanketandsetupontwochairsnearthestove.Evyputallthedinnerplatesintheoventoheat
andinstructedFrancietoputhotplatesintothebasket,removethemwhentheycooledand
substituteotherhotplates.
"Hasyourmotheranybabyclothes?"sheasked.
"Whatkindofpeopledoyouthinkweare?"askedFranciescornfullyasshedisplayedamodest
layetteconsistingoffourhandmadeflannelkimonos,fourbands,adozenhand-hemmed
diapersandfourthreadbareshirtswhichsheandNeeleyhadworninturnasbabies."AndI
madeeverythingmyself,exceptingtheshirts,"admittedFrancieproudly.
"Hm.Iseeyourmother'slookingforaboy,"commentedEvy,examiningthebluefeather
stitchingonthekimonos."Well,weshallsee."
WhenSissyarrived,thetwosisterswentintothebedroom,orderingFrancietowaitoutside.
Francielistenedtothemtalking.
"It'stimetogetthemidwife,"Sissysaid."DoesFrancieknowwhereshelives?"
"Ididn'tmakearrangements,"Katiesaid."Therejustisn'tfivedollarsinthehousefora
midwife."
"Well,maybeSissyandIcanraisethemoney,"beganEvy,"if..."
"Look,"Sissysaid."Iboreten-no-elevenchildren.YouhadthreeandKatiehadtwo.Amongus,
wehadsixteenchildren.Weoughttoknowenoughtobringababy."
"Allright.
We'll
bringthebaby,"decidedEvy.
Thentheyclosedthebedroomdoor.NowFranciecouldhearthesoundoftheirvoicesbut
couldn'thearwhattheysaid.Sheresentedherauntsshuttingheroutlikethat,especiallywhen
shehadbeenincompletechargeuntiltheycame.Shetookthecoolplatesfromthebasket,put
themintotheovenandtookouttwoheatedplates.Shefeltallaloneintheworld.Shewished
thatNeeleywashomesothattheycouldtalkaboutoldentimes.
Francieopenedhereyeswithastart.Shecouldn'thavebeendrowsing,shethought.Shejust
couldn't
have.Shefelttheplatesinthebasket.Theywerecold.Quicklyshesubstitutedhot
plates.Thebaskethadtobekeptwarmforthebaby.Shelistenedtothesoundsfromthe
bedroom.Theyhadchangedsinceshenodded.Therewasnomoreleisurelymovingtoandfro;
nomorequiettalking.Herauntsseemedtoberunningbackandforthwithquickshortsteps
andtheirvoicescameinshortsentences.Shelookedattheclock.Nine-thirty.Evycameoutof
thebedroom,shuttingthedoorbehindher.
"Here'sfiftycents,Francie.Gooutandgetaquarterpoundofsweetbutter,aboxofsoda
crackersandtwonaveloranges.Tellthemanyouwantnavel.Saythey'reforasicklady."
"Butallthestoresareclosed."
"GodowntoJewtown.They'realwaysopen."
"I'llgointhemorning."
"Doasyou'retold,"saidEvysharply.
Franciewentunwillingly.Goingdownthelastflightofstairs,sheheardahoarseguttural
scream.Shestopped,undecidedwhethertorunbackortocontinue.SherememberedEvy's
sharpcommandandcontinueddownthestairs.Asshereachedthedoor,therewasanother
andmoreagonizedscream.Shewasgladtogetoutontothestreet.
Inoneoftheflats,theape-liketeamster,orderinghisunwillingwifetoprepareforbed,heard
Katie'sfirstscreamandejaculated,"Jesus!"Whenthesecondscreamcame,hesaid,"Ihopeto
Christshedon'tkeepmeawakeallnight."Hischildlikebrideweptassheunfastenedherdress.
FlossieGaddisandhermotherweresittingintheirkitchen.Flosswassewingonanother
costume,oneofwhitesatinintendedforherdelayedmarriagetoFrank.Mrs.Gaddiswas
knittingonagraysockforHenny.Hennywasdead,ofcourse,butallofhislifethemotherhad
knitsocksforhimandshecouldn'tletgoofthehabit.Mrs.Gaddisdroppedastitchwhenthe
firstscreamcame.
Flosssaid:"Themenhaveallthefunandwomen,thepain."Themothersaidnothing.She
trembledwhennextKatiecriedout."Itseemsfunny,"saidFloss,"tobemakingacostumewith
two
sleeves."
"Yes."
TheyworkedawhileinsilencebeforeFlossspokeagain."Iwonderaretheyworthit?The
children,Imean."
Mrs.Gaddisthoughtofherdeadsonandherdaughter'switheredarm.Shesaidnothing.She
bentherheadoverherknitting.Shehadcomearoundtotheplacewhereshedroppedastitch.
Sheconcentratedonpickingitup.
ThespareTynmorespinsterslayintheirhardvirginalbed.Theygropedforeachother'shands.
"Didyouhearit,Sister?"askedMissMaggie.
"Hertimehascome,"answeredMissLizzie.
"That'swhyIdidn'tmarryHarvey-longagowhenheaskedme.Iwasafraidof
that
.Soafraid."
"Idon'tknow,"MissLizziesaid."SometimesIthinkit'sbettertosufferbitterunhappinessandto
fightandtoscreamout,andeventosufferthatterriblepain,thanjusttobe...safe."Shewaited
untilthenextscreamdiedaway."Atleast
she
knowsshe's
living
."
MissMaggiehadnoanswer.
TheflatacrossthehallfromtheNolanswasvacant.Theremainingflatinthehousewas
occupiedby aPolishdockwalloper,hiswifeandtheirfourkids.Hewasfillingaglassfroma
canofbeeronthetablewhenheheardKatie.
"Women!"hegruntedcontemptuously.
"Shutup,you,"snarledhiswife.
AndallthewomeninthehousetensedeachtimeKatiecriedout,andtheysufferedwithher.It
wastheonlythingthewomenheldincommon-thesureknowledgeofthepainofgivingbirth.
FranciehadtowalkalongwayupManhattanAvenuebeforeshefoundaJewishDairyopen.
Shehadtogotoanotherstoreforthecrackersandthenfindafruitstandthathadnavel
oranges.Asshecameback,sheglancedatthelargeclockinKnipe'sDrugStore,andnoted
thatitwasnearlyhalfpastten.Shedidn'tcarewhattimeitwasexceptthatitseemedso
importanttohermother.
Whenshewalkedintothekitchen,shefeltadifference.Therewasanewquietfeelingandan
indefinablesmell,newandfaintlyfragrant.Sissywasstandingwithherbacktothebasket.
"Whatdoyouthink,"shesaid."Youhaveababysister."
"Mama?"
"Yourmother'sfine."
"So
that's
whyIwassenttothestore."
"Wethoughtyouknewtoomuchalreadyforfourteen,"saidEvycomingoutofthebedroom.
"Ijustwanttoknowtheonething,"saidFranciefiercely."Didmamasendmeout?"
"Yes,Francie,shedid,"saidSissygently."Shesaidsomethingaboutsparingthoseyoulove."
"Allrightthen,"saidFranciemollified.
"Don'tyouwanttoseethebaby?"
Sissysteppedaside.Francieliftedtheblanketfromthebaby'shead.Thebabywasabeautiful
littlethingwithwhiteskinanddownyblackcurlswhichgrewdownintoapointonherforehead,
likemama's.Thebaby'seyesopenedbriefly.Francienoticedthattheywereamilkyblue.Sissy
explainedthatallnewbabieshadblueeyesandthatprobablythey'dbedarkascoffeebeans
asshegrewolder.
"Itlookslikemama,"Franciedecided.
"That'swhatwethought,"saidSissy.
"Isitallright?"
"Perfect,"Evytoldher.
"Notcrookedoranything?"
"Certainlynot.Wheredoyougetsuchideas?"
Franciedidn'ttellEvyhowshewasafraidthebabywouldbeborncrookedbecausemamahad
workedonherhandsandkneesuptothelastminute.
"MayIgoinandseemama?"sheaskedhumbly,feelinglikeastrangerinherownhome.
"Youcanbringtheplateintoher."Francietooktheplateholdingtwobutteredcrackersintoher
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Documents you may be interested