I hadn’t reckoned it would wind up this way, my head on hard pillows with everyone looking at me funny like they are now. Most don’t know what to make of me, some think they have me all figured out and want me punished for my sins. But, I’m not really sure what I did wrong.
I’d always hated those dances Mammy made us go to, it was only because she’d made me a fancy dress which had ‘nearly broke her fingers’ she told me… I like the music they play for us, but the magical atmosphere they promise is always ruined by the strangers there. Especially that fella with the red cap. He’s always there, and looks at me strangely always grabbing that chance to whisper things I don’t understand into my ear. I would have been miserable at that dance that night if it wasn’t for Joe.
Joe knows me, he knows my moods and I know his. He doesn’t snatch hard work from me like most boys do, he hovers and helps and cracks jokes. He’s great at catching chickens. At dances like these he never asks me to do anything I don’t want to… we keep each other from being lonely is all. I don’t know how to explain it.
I escaped that night, the fog of heavy meaningless noise drove me away. That, and the fella with the red cap. Joe saw me leave and followed me to the barn where he listened to me cry and showed me how to make a Saint Bridget’s Cross with straw to distract me. I fell asleep with the noise of cackling music in my ears with him beside me and I felt safe.
The noise had gone when I woke, startled. All was calm and silent, but when the glow appeared at my feet I started, desperately wondering where I was and where home was and wasn’t Joe here somewhere?
The glow brightened, it turned from wisps of gold and silver into a grey form with enormous wings and heated me up with its presence against the cold wind in the barn and it terrified me but I knew it was more like a firework in its overwhelming state, under its own control. It told me I was to have a baby, that this baby was to be the saviour of something… I was to look after it with every grasp of energy I had, my path ahead would surely be difficult. Saviour of what? The man in the red cap? Difficult how? The apparition had dissipated before I thought to ask it questions.
To say I walked home in a daze would understate it. Joe caught up with me not long before I reached my front gate and commented on my paleness, he claimed I’d seen a ghost which maybe I had… I don’t know, I can’t remember. Either way it was why he held my hand as I reached my front door to confront Mammy, which was maybe our undoing.
I explained to her what had happened, every detail. Her face decreased into a state of scowl that eventually made me realise that I’d made a mistake in telling her the honest truth, especially when a few weeks later my blood didn’t appear. She told me For Shame. She asked me what my elder priest brother would think and cursed Joe’s parents. Then she sent me off to this place.
This is a place with endless laundry and meaningless power. I’m made to pray and work and confess things I didn’t do and meanwhile my stomach grows bigger with every passing week and still Joe visits me, but not Mammy. I keep thinking of that ghost, and what it meant by saviour. Even when those nuns beat me and tell me my child is not worthy of me, even when this thing inside me, whatever it is… beats the inside of my navel and pushes my abdomen around like the demon they tell me it is, I know it’s pure. And it’s mine.
It kicks most when Joe is there at the gate, when I’m supposed to be picking weeds from the garden… he whistles to me and the bump in my tummy jumps in reply. Joe shows no remorse that he didn’t put it there and I don’t worry that the bump will have to go away someday, but because of him and the ghost I know that everything will be okay.
I’m not sure what that something is and I’m not certain what okay means, but that something is definitely not the nuns. Maybe it is these women my baby is to save?
I hope so, for the sake of the women around me and for the sake of mankind, I hope so.