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Chapter 1


Written by Karen Bruce
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 1

She sits with

tears on

her cheek

her cheek on

her hand

the child

in her lap

his nose

pressed to

the glass

- Young Woman at a Window by William Carlos Williams.


She boarded the train in the middle of the night, dressed in an anonymous brown coat. The turned-up collar hid the lower half of her face as she slouched her head into her chest, staring down at the metal floor, at the antiseptic grids of iron.

:: How could everything have gone wrong so fast?:: she thought as she sat on the cheapest seat in the cheapest compartment, bundle in her arms. ::How could he ask me to do this? And more importantly, how could I agree?::

Sighing, she pressed her head against the cold, smeared glass of the window, exhausted by the psychic and physical stress of the evening. Outside, lights, people, lives passed in a blur, glimpsed for a few seconds then gone forever.

::Like this:: she tightened her grip on the heavy burden in her arms. ::Always like this::

The woman folded her legs beneath her, trying to get more comfortable despite the cracked, naugahyde seats. Presently, she fell asleep. Her stop was left behind somewhere along the line as the train whistled its way through the lightening dark into the dawn.

The man rested his pen on his desk, rubbing sleep from his heavy eyes, yawning. It had taken him all night, but he had succeeded. He had erased a life with a neat stroke of his bureaucratic blue pencil and a few dollars in the right pockets. The b . . . no, *it* had ceased to officially exist.

The streets smelt of bleach, the woman thought as she walked along the roads of the French Quarter. The irony was not lost on her. In a sense, she was whitewashing her past, erasing the one object in her life of which she was ashamed. Soon that shame too would pass. She had missed her stop, ruining her neat plans, but there always was an alternative. Always. She smiled as she saw the large building, silhoutted against the morning sky, hanging over her like a dark cloud. Gently, she deposited her bundle of sadness on the steps.

Sister Evangeline opened the door, hearing the rapidly-retreating footsteps outside the convent in Ursuline Street and wondering what unfortunate was in need of help that day. The road was deserted, save for a small, white bundle on the steps. She picked it up, carefully unwrapping the swaddling cloth. It was very warm, and the light sound of breathing could be heard emanating from it.

"Doux Jesu," (Sweet Jesus) she whispered, clutching her rosary automatically as she saw the contents, "C'est un 'tite demon blanc." (It's a little, white demon)

A baby - little more than two weeks old - looked solemnly at her with the fiery eyes of the devil himself.

The woman stripped off her brown coat, discarding it in a trash-can before hailing a taxi. Some beggar could make use of it now. Someone who would be cold on the winter nights; who had no arms to hold them or bed to call their own. She carefully smoothed her white suit, custom-made by Dior, as she stepped into the car and told the cabbie to drive her to the nearest airport. She was a lovely woman now that the lines of worry had vanished. Her face was a masterpiece of plastic surgery and her nose a triumph of rhinoplasty. The carefully applied, muted make-up was calculated to bring out her delicate facial structure. Her curled, set hair was never out of place. A perfect, porcelain statue. Sighing, she removed her phone from her handbag and dialed a number. Tapping her manicured fingers impatiently on her knee, she eventually left a message on the answering machine.

"Honey, it's Felice. Our little problem is resolved. You can run for Senator without any scandal now."

That being done, she replaced the phone in her small purse, and leaned against the seat. Outside the window, the lights of the streets of New Orleans went past in a blur, red to gold to white, as the taxi drove away into the night.

'Its mother

had melted into the rays of the rising sun,

her face glittering with innocence

her heart as pure as untrampled dew.'

- An abandoned bundle, by Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali


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