breakable as anyone, and here I was, breaking her. It gave me no pleasure.
Pete grunted and came, then pulled away, falling back into the driver’s seat. When the heat of him spilled out of me, it smelled like wet leavesand something fetid, and soon the smell was inside the whole truck. Hefound some crumpled napkins in the back seat and offered them to meto clean up, mumbling something I couldn’t and made no effort to hear.
He pulled back out on the road, making a U-turn toward the highway. I looked out at the woods for a glimpse of the ruins that lay beyondthem, but the trees obscured the view. The stain of his semen grew coldalong my underwear.
I could get pregnant, too. It was not outside the realm of possibility.One death traded in for new life—my mother’s nine months ticking upagainst the clock as my body swelled up. I imagined the next few weeksstretched long with anxiety and confusion. Sitting alone in endless waiting rooms as I avoided Pete and Roz. My period would be late, but possibly due to stress. I’d consider calling him, then stop, wondering if Ieven wanted him to know. If I didn’t tell him, he’d never guess. Whata mystery—an immaculate conception. The Sunday Sisters would praymercy upon my soul as my child grew alongside Rosalind’s. The twoof us could sign up for prenatal yoga, compare bellies, trade books onparental folly. I’d present my miraculous bundle to my mother on hersickbed, show her something she could be proud of, something worthsticking around for, but it would be too late. I’d care for the child myself.The two of us make it work somehow. We move somewhere warm andsunny. We spend weekends collaging, snipping and stitching beauty outof scraps. Like all children, mine grows up too fast. I’d be sitting at thegraduation ceremony—premed or something equally practical—waiting for my child to walk across the stage when I’d rise with the suddenurge to pee and hurry to the bathroom, too much on my mind to be inany way prepared for the blood clotting the tissue paper. I’d have to aska stranger for a tampon.
“We’re here,” the stranger said, back in front of my mother’s house.
“Laura.” Pete hesitated.
“I know,” I said. “I won’t tell.”
“She’s my whole life.”
I nodded and gave his knee a squeeze to ease his pain a little. Then I
walked back into the empty house. I stripped the sheets from my moth-
er’s bed. A patch of the rosy red that had leaked from her lungs stained