Sacrifices

Sacrifices

A Story by Luna Evangeline

“Get out of my house, you damned woman, and don’t come back!”

            This was the cry that drove Margaret Edwards from her own home on the night of June 4th, 1934. Even after she had darted out of that door, with her husband’s outraged bellows echoing after her, and even after she’d mounted her prized black stallion and taken off across the plain with plumes of dust billowing after her, she’d heard that venom-filled cry pierce her ears again and again, she’d seen Eddy’s flushed face in her dreams, and she’d felt the growing sense of despair festering like an infected wound inside her.

            She lies on the ground, an injured lamb, mud and sweat caked on her skin. The terribly humid night air is a smothering blanket, choking her every breath, but the water in the air was no match for the torrent of tears flooding her cheeks.

 

 

~Margaret~

 

 

I can’t see my toes anymore, and there’s something growing in my womb that was not invited to be there. I don’t want to become huge and swollen like an overinflated balloon. I don’t want to waddle around, I don’t want to cry for foolish reasons, and I most certainly do not want to leave my bakery.

            Most of all, I just really, really, do not want a child.

            I’ve run away, but what good will it do? This unwanted being within my body is growing ever larger, and surely at some point Eddy will demand that I return home. Oklahoma is not where I want to be. There is nothing there, nothing but barren fields that cough dust into the wind and an endless road of sweltering days doing housework. The only serenity I can find anymore is my nights at the bakery, where the kneading can soothe my nerves and work out the terrible knots that have found their way into my back, but even then the sun must rise (all too quickly, may I add) and I must return home to do work alone and think over and over again that my life has been forever ruined by the one thing that most women desperately want.

            A stinking, vomiting, little slug that does nothing but wail and mess his diapers.

            The doctors say I have four months left. Four months until all that I’ve worked for will be dust in the wind, and nothing more. And here I lie alone, whimpering to no one, dreading every second that wastes away until my privacy is invaded by a doctor and nurses and a child that will be placed in my arms, and it will shriek and cry, and at that point I don’t suspect that I could get any more miserable, since I’m supposed to look down into that thing’s watery blue eyes and expect some kind of motherly love to twine me to the child’s heart forever.

            Perhaps Eddy’s sister would like to adopt a child. She’s got three of her own but she’s that kind of irritatingly charitable woman who would do it because “God’s will must be done.” That’s what I’ll do. I’ll have the thing and send it off to Edna. Eddy may be angry but he’ll be able to go visit the kid. That should be good enough.

            There are spidery purple lines weaving their way across my stomach. The doctor told me they would appear. Although I know it will do absolutely no good I scrub the marks every night with a bar of soap until they’re raw and stinging. Every morning I wake up with a sort of stupid hope that they would be gone, yet I open my eyes, eagerly take off my sleeping gown, and see them still there, little violet lines tangled across the growing bulge of my abdomen.

            I am doomed. I used to be standing on the very edge of a cliff, but now I am falling, plummeting like a rock to the churning waters below, and unless God may think to give me wings I will crash and drown in the waves eagerly rising to take me. I’m not ready for this responsibility, this womanhood, this human being that needs love and care, which I don’t have.

 

 

            Over the following months, Margaret’s stomach grew bigger, bigger, and then bigger yet. She made friends with the man who owned the barn in which she had taken refuge"Jack was his name, and he had a frosty beard and spoke with a faint wheeze"and she had made no effort to contact Eddy. Jack brought her meals of chicken, potatoes, and carrots, and gave her books to read aloud that his wife had once read while expecting, many years ago. One particularly old book, Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes, sparked a fondness in Margaret that she was regretful to have. When Jack had given it to her, she’d felt something, a soft, almost unnoticeable anticipation of nights by the candle reading to a small, sleepy child tucked into the nook of her arm, but the image was gone as fast as it had come, yet every time Margaret’s fingers brushed that old leather cover, there was a stirring warmth in her abdomen. 

            It terrified her.

            She began to enjoy quiet nights alone in the barn, where no one spoke to her but the wind that wound its way cleverly through every crack and fault in the walls, and where the dawn and dusk sent little splinters of sunlight slanting through those cracks like a blinding, golden wink, and where she was not at home but felt more welcome than she ever had anywhere in her life. 

            The life inside of her started to make its presence known, with little nudges here and there, a sharp kick, or a sudden pang of hunger. She would begin to rub her belly, humming a tender melody that came from seemingly nowhere, but then she would stop and scowl and remind herself that she was not a mother. She was a baker. And no matter how angelic the face of her baby was, she would not raise him. Not because she didn’t want to but simply because she couldn’t. She had no instincts to kiss a scraped elbow, or to brush a lock of hair off of a sweaty brow after he had awoke from a nightmare. Those feelings were not there.

           

 

~Margaret~

 

            I had a dream last night that made me wake in uncontrollable shivers. I was in labor, screaming, crying, damp with sweat, but when the doctor reached between my legs he did not reveal a child but a loaf of bread. He looked at it and laughed, then tossed in the trash with a wink and said, “You won’t be needing that anymore, Margaret.” I was sobbing, tears blurring my vision, and I rolled myself out of the damned hospital bed onto floor and crawled to the wastebasket, but when I lifted the lid the loaf was already stale, mold-coated, useless. Now I am curled into a ball on the ground, having rolled off of my bed of hay in the night, and I cannot stop bawling. I have a terrible feeling that I know what the nightmare meant, but I don’t want to speak it or even think it. Bringing it into words would make it real.

Homesickness is wrenching at my heart and I think of my bakery, shuttered and quiet, waiting for me. It’s too painful of an image so I stand up shakily, make an attempt to brush the dirt off of my dress, and head out into the field.

            Jack is standing there, looking morosely into the sky as a hot summer wind sweeps by and takes with it a train of dust. I pat him on the shoulder.

            “Morning, Jack.”

            “Mornin’.” His voice is but a grunt as his faraway gaze travels lazily over the horizon. “You likin’ it out there in that barn?”

            I nod enthusiastically. “Really, Jack, I do love it. It’s so nice to be alone out there for a while. Thank you.”

            He is quiet for a moment, eyes shaded by wrinkled folds of skin, staring hard at the ground. Finally he speaks.

            “Just like Edna, you are. That woman would always want to sleep in a dirty ol’ barn rather than our house.” He shakes his head slowly, and I can see in the taut lines of his face how much he misses her. “‘Come sleep in the barn with me tonight,’ she’d say. I don’t get it. Musta liked the feelin’ of bein’ closer to nature.”

            I pat Jack’s shoulder again gently. I don’t say anything, but I don’t need to. We have a quiet companionship, and although neither of us say much, our friendship is one of the strongest, since we’ve both lost something huge in our lives.

            “Coffee?” Jack mumbles. I can easily see that he wants  a moment alone.

            “I’ll go get it,” I say cheerily. We take turns bringing out the morning coffee. Jack has a limp leg so I offer all of the time to do it, but he’s a stubborn old man.

            The house is about a two minute’s walking distance from the fields and the barn. I am walking along a well-beaten path, stamped into the ground by the wife, children, animals, and farm-hands that Jack used to have, my mouth clamped tight against the gusts of dust-polluted wind that keep rushing into my face. It’s a beautiful morning, warm and flawless, but the barren land offers no beauty to accompany the sunrise. Jack has no crops in this year and I have no idea what he is going to do.

            I’m not even ten yards from the house when I feel a sudden rush of liquid between my legs. For one wild, hysterical moment I think that I have suddenly urinated on myself, but then I realize what is happening to me. A horrible, searing pain shoots up my back, and I drop to my knees. More stabbing pains bombard my spine. I crazily think that I’m dying.

            “Jack,” I cry feebly. “Jack…”

           

            I dive in and out of consciousness on our way into town. The pain is horrendous. I am lying in the seat of Jack’s car, writhing in agony. There’s no words, there’s no feeling, nothing except pain. Terrible pain that sends me diving into the blackness again…

 

           

            The infant placed tenderly in Margaret’s arms is slimy and slick. His watery blue eyes peer up at her almost shyly, with a sense of wonder that Margaret’s sure is reflected in her own. His tiny fingers quiver, and he lets out a loud, piercing wail, but she only smiles and gently strokes the small tuft of hair upon his head. Something in the back of her mind reminds her of how ugly babies are, and of how she never wanted one in the first place, but all she can think of was the small spark of love unfurling like a flower in her chest. She’s never felt like she could die for something before, but now she’d beg a murderer to set her own wretched self on fire rather than even thinking of bringing harm to her angel. He has thick, chubby limbs that he flails feebly, but she only laughs with a carefree grin. She leans down to lightly kiss the boy’s sweaty forehead and brushes aside any lingering feelings of remorse which she once held for the miracle that squirmed restlessly in her arms.  Margaret can feel his heartbeat, fluttering like a hummingbird’s wings as she flits from feeder to feeder, and she can see within the twin pools of his eyes the man that he will grow to be, and even though the doctor’s alarmed cries begin to echo in her ears and her vision begins to blur, her last slurred thought is that maybe she truly will die for her newfound heart-holder. She can feel the blood pouring out of her body, she can feel her heartbeat slow, and she can feel her arms’ strength give way beneath the tiny weight of her baby boy.

 

 

~Margaret~

 

            My soul is lifting, floating up like a wistful sigh, descending glistening stairs. I feel weightless, carefree, just an afterthought that life has discarded.

            But then I remember. And I look back.

            Beneath the glistening stairs, I see a woman’s body. My body. Her arms are empty, but I know there should have been something there. The body"me"I am dead. But I must go back. Because I remember.

            I race back down the stairs and fling myself into the air"I fall and fall, clouds whipping by, until I land with a terrible slam in my body. I breathe. I blink. I feel as if I’m a balloon, desperate to float back up into the sky, but I hold on. I cough. There are surprised gasps"“She’s alive!’’"but I ignore these things. Because I remember. I remember my baby.

            I whisper, “Name him John. John William.”

            And then…

            My soul is lifting, floating up like a wistful sigh, descending glistening stairs. I feel weightless, carefree, an angel sent to Heaven to love from above like no one has ever loved. To love the most unbreakable love, to love without fail. To love like a mother.


© 2013 Luna Evangeline



Author's Note

Luna Evangeline
This is just the basis. I'm going to go through and add more. Tell me what you think of it so far.

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Reviews

I wouldn't normally read a story about a bitchy pregnant woman but this piece is written well enough for me to keep going from one line to the next and I wasn't expecting the ending. About a third of the way through I was like "Okay, I get it already, she doesn't want a kid" but the story line changed up so that was good. All and all for the WC this is some outstanding prose work. Great Job...

Posted 4 Years Ago


Well my new friend, I think that it is incredible. If you were to leave it as a short story, even with the ending the way it is, it would be a great piece. Should you want to expand upon it, as you say you will do then I'm sure that this is a great starting point to move forward with. You have a lot of mystery in the opening, where Margaret is cast out, for the reader has no real idea why, but is forced to imagine after the story progresses if it had to do with the pregnancy or something else. Where this story takes place at the turn of the 20th century, the term "damned woman" could mean a lot of different things. I personally, if there is nothing immoral about the way that Margaret became pregnant, would use harsher language in the scene of her being cast out. That you have used the words "damned woman" opens up many possible avenues to different genres of literature. Also, the history of the character "Jack" is still unwritten and open for exploration. Lastly, the name that Margaret gives the child is another mystery to the reader so, it shows cause for the story to continue. All in all, great job. The ending is a bit ambiguous as the reader isn't sure if she is dead or alive that is why it could be an ending or a beginning.

Posted 4 Years Ago


A interesting story. I like the description and the internal thoughts. I like how you described the struggle and concern in the story. I did like the positive ending.
"My soul is lifting, floating up like a wistful sigh, descending glistening stairs. I feel weightless, carefree, an angel sent to Heaven to love from above like no one has ever loved. To love the most unbreakable love, to love without fail. To love like a mother. "
Thank you for the excellent story.
Coyote

Posted 4 Years Ago



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Added on July 15, 2013
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Author

Luna Evangeline
Luna Evangeline

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If Walt Whitman were still alive I'd be his groupie. more..

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A Chapter by Luna Evangeline