“When the baby----” I start, but Mama’s mouth smiles in a silencing way.
She keeps touching her face, the way she always does when she’s anxious. So much so that, lately, sores have appeared along her jaw. It’s as though she’s in there, somewhere, still a mother enough to worry----but part of her mind and soul have been taken. As if her body isn’t her own anymore.
I know how she feels.
I close my eyes, wishing myself away from here. One day it will be just me and my baby, Anna. A better life, one day soon. God, please let it be one day soon.
Mama chews at the scabs on her lips and nods to the hills across the street, to the waves of wheatgrass seeded with wildflowers. Closer to the road, poppies grow in bright clusters that make the roadside more vibrant, even in the dull light of our cloudy day.
“You used to play in those fields,” Mama says.
I don’t say anything. Mama doesn’t mind if I’m quiet. I just have to nod along as she tells her stories, as she lives in the past, talking about how Pa used to take me to the carnival and how Pa used to braid my hair and how Pa used to take me to see the horses. I think it makes her feel better.
I’m old enough to know I should be angry with her. Old enough to think she could’ve stopped him. But I’m not mad, and I don’t blame her. It was the Darkness that did this to our family. They took Pa when I was twelve. Made him different, first with his unnerving stares and discomforting touches. Then something more. The Darkness blinded Mama, or trapped her somehow. But the Darkness never took me.
Well, not directly.