Agnes sat in the kitchen stringing beans, her skirt hiked up, the large aluminum bowl balanced between her shaking knees.
Her belly squeezed in rolling waves, a gnawing hurt that radiated into the space beneath her ribs and down deep into her thighbones. Convinced she was about to mess herself, she shifted the bowl to the table and pulled her body up, an older woman suddenly, grunting as she rose. A thick wet coolness on her skin upon standing, from where heavy fabrics flapped against her buttocks and clung. A flood of panic, that she had messed herself already, she turned to see the small dark smears on her chair seat. It was not a foul latrine-smell that had come out of her but an odor of coppery mud. A queasy feeling, her belly pulling inside itself, a hot stickiness between her legs. Blackened red drips formed small pools beneath her; more came down her leg and into the arch of her left shoe.
Her mother stumbled through the doorway and braced herself on the counter with one arm, held still to take in the sight of the floor, the chair, of Agnes’s bewildered paleness. She lurched toward Agnes and seized her wrist, spun the girl around to witness the dark stain soaking the back of her. Red-faced and sweaty, Mumma dragged Agnes by the arm, tearing across the parlor and upstairs to the washroom. Mumma shoved her into the deep tub and began to undress her quickly and roughly, whacking Agnes on the arms as she wrestled the blouse off, and on the legs as she yanked her free of the ruined skirt and turned on the taps. Agnes shivered in her thin wet slip, her shoes bobbing next to her, the clothing a soggy clot in the far end of the tub.
Mumma sobbed into Agnes’s neck as she squeezed her, petting her hair. My baby, cursed for a woman, she moaned. My baby girl.