by Rebecca Lake
Nora took another drag from her cigarette and shook her head. These country girls, she thought. What did they know?
This latest girl had been no different. She’d come in the night, begging, pleading. How they knew to come to her, she never knew. This one had that wild look so many of them had, the one that made it impossible to say no. Please, she’d said. Please. That one word had been enough to make Nora reach for the black bag she kept under her bed and set to work.
From the porch, she could see down the mountain, flashes of white clapboard scattered among the bare branches. Winter was slowly dying, taking with it its inevitable loneliness. Nora had never had a child of her own. The ease with which she was able to take life had only been matched by her inability to bear it.
In the bedroom, the girl was beginning to stir. She’d be awake soon, eager to escape the mountain, eager to escape Nora’s eyes. The sun was beginning to come up, a bloom of red flooding through the trees. Red was all she saw some days, it seemed.
Nora turned and went inside. The fire in the woodstove had burned down to almost nothing, sending a chill through her bones. The girl was awake now, mumbling under her breath, a plea for forgiveness. As she stoked the fire, Nora smiled ruefully.
These country girls. What did they know?