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Marietta Miles
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meant4me2.jpg
Art by Lonni Lees 2015

Meant For Me

By Marietta Miles

 

Kitty Tyler’s eighth grade teacher spies an angry sore on the back of Kitty’s neck. The wound peaks and sneaks from under the girl’s yellowed collar. Kitty smells of infection. Her jagged nails are black with dirt and there are knots in her long brown hair. The teacher finds ten more reeking, green and pink scars splayed across the girl’s pale back.

After putting awkward, intrusive questions to an overly innocent Kitty the school staff determines Kitty’s mother had been lifting more than just a hand to the girl. School and County officials step in and foster a best course for Kitty. The sheriff pulls her from her mother’s derelict house. Soon, Kitty casts her mild, moony eyes on her mother for the last time.

“I’m just trouble,” Kitty mumbles to the see-thru partition between the front and back seat of the squad car as she is taken away.  She believes, if she had been a quiet girl, a better girl there would have been no need for the cigarettes, the iron or the belt.

Hastily, Kitty is dropped at the home of her Aunt Ruby, a girl she had never heard of, much less met. Kitty will make a home with her mother’s younger sister, her husband, and their two small children. Aunt Ruby is no more than nineteen, Uncle Lonnie twenty-two at best. Their little ones, Leon and Lacey, are two and three years old. Home is a trailer set on bricks in the small town of Turnip.

Thanksgiving passes uncelebrated and Christmas slips by without attention. In frozen January Uncle Lonnie loses his job at the fertilizer plant up river. Aunt Ruby is waiting tables in town most evenings and weekends. Kitty minds the little ones and misses school. Lonnie stalks the trailer.  His nose grows like a bulb from rot-gut, his belly spills over his belt. Uncle Lonnie lets go of what little resolve he has left. He tugs, pulls, shoves and forces his will on to an unworldly Kitty.

***

It is September and a heat wave grips the valley. Windows are thrown open and the whole of the trailer park can hear Aunt Ruby screaming and smashing things. Ruby has chased poor Kitty from one side of the moldy trailer to the other. Now, Kitty is hiding, locked in the tiny bathroom, crouching on the floor between the toilet and the sink. Kitty hears glass breaking against the wood panel door.

“Get out here! Whore!” Aunt Ruby is bellowing. Her voice is gravely from smoking and yelling. Aunt Ruby is throwing her ninety pound body against the door. “Fat!” Bang! “Little!” Bang!  “Pig!” Bang!

The shower curtain rod snaps under Uncle Lonnie’s dead weight and he slides down the pole. The thin black belt, now a noose around his throat, catches on the extender joint and his body stops quick. His knees groan, his shins fold awkwardly underneath his body. His purple hands graze the bathtub, like praying in the shower.

Ruby throws herself against the door once more and slides to the floor. Kitty barely hears Leon and Lacy crying from their shared crib on the far side of the trailer. She hears the rough breathing of her aunt on the other side of the door and the afternoon stories on TV.  She hears wet dripping from Uncle Lonnie’s mouth. The little bathroom smells sick. Lonnie had lost his bowels after he hung himself.

Loud banging on the front door startles Kitty. She sees blue lights flashing and flickering. Each pass of the light sets her nerves tingling. The front door falls in and Kitty feels the trailer lift slightly with a gust of wind.

“This is my house,” Aunt Ruby yells at someone. “My business,” she runs at the bathroom door again. The wood cracks and there is a murmur of voices.

The bathroom door pushes in and breaks backward off its hinges. A tall man, old enough to be a grandfather, fills the doorframe. He reaches into the bathroom, past Uncle Lonnie’s body, and offers his hand to Kitty.

“Come on now,” he says in a deep voice. “Let’s get you out of here.” Kitty thinks he looks like a cowboy from an old movie.

Kitty takes his hand and he pulls her up from the floor. Her swollen stomach throws off her point of gravity and she nearly tips over. The sheriff gently rights her. She passes into the living area. A deputy holds Aunt Ruby in the corner. She is spitting and scratching. The babies stand in their crib with heavy diapers and snot across their faces. Kitty steps outside and the sheriff helps her into the car.

“Got to be careful,” he says. “Especially in your condition,” he grimaces and Kitty rubs her big belly, feels a weak kick.

“Where are we going?” Kitty asks after the sheriff slips behind the steering wheel.

“Saint Mary’s Villa,” he answers, peering into the rear view mirror.

***

Kitty watches a nurse sever the delicate umbilical cord. She sees her baby. He is such a tiny boy, mewing like a kitten. Nurses quickly, roughly wrap him in a blanket. Kitty sees little bears with pink ribbons, small and scattered on the worn cotton. She wants to tell them that they have the wrong blanket. Her baby is a boy. But, he isn’t her baby anymore. Kitty opens her mouth but cannot manage a word. The tall nurse holding her boy turns her back on Kitty and takes him away. A sister from Saint Mary’s scuttles next to Kitty and sets her ancient, knotted hand on hers.

“I want him,” Kitty cries.

“Now dear, you just bury that baby in your mind” the nun grabs Kitty’s hand roughly. “He was not meant for you,” she walks out.

“Ether, Adele,” the doctor calls from between Kitty’s braced and buckled legs to the nurse on his left. Before Kitty can start to argue she is breathing in the gas. Her head grows thick and she flops back to the table.

***

Saint Mary’s Villa for Girls roosts on a high hill at the edge of black mountains. Acres of bright green grass surround the stately two story brick. An oak tree huddles close, hugging the front corner. Just beyond the surrounding meadow Foggy Top Mountain rolls out her dark forest. Two gravel roads take opposite directions from Saint Mary’s. One path leads to the small town of Deep Water, barely two miles away. The other path leads to a small crop of poorly-looking wood homes.

The top floor of Saint Mary’s, overlooking a green and gray valley, is for delinquents. Here is a thirteen year old, she nicked her mother’s Buick for a joyride and had been caught by an ill-humored, strictly by-the-book state trooper. One young girl had been sent to Saint Mary’s for robbing a donut shop. Her mother had left the family weeks before, followed a man who hated kids. Her brothers were always so hungry. She had used her little brother’s Hudley Hawk cap pistol to scare the register lady. Here is also a sixteen year old girl who has remained with Saint Mary’s for over a year. She tried to kill her father and brother by setting their small house on fire. She is not sorry and eagerly talks of trying again.

The offender’s floor is cramped and tight. Most times there are three girls to a bedroom and there are five bedrooms. The fifteen girls share two upstairs toilets. There are bars on the tall, ornate windows. A state trooper is on duty twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. An elderly sister from Saint Mary’s watches the front desk from 9-5 most weekdays.

The ground floor is known as Allegheny Hall. Here it is quiet and shadowed by the oak tree outside. And though there are no bars on the lower floor windows it feels like the dark, wooden floor is nervous and the tense, shadowy air is just waiting to exhale. The girls of Allegheny are expecting, they are with child, but they are not married. The sisters say these are the “fallen” girls. They have been brought or sent to Saint Mary’s by family or by the state. After a baby is born in Saint Mary’s he or she is quickly taken to the state run orphanage, Winchester House, by the attending doctor. If mothers are lucky, after the sordid business of birthing is through, they may be welcomed home by their family. But, most girls are not so lucky.

On the front steps of Saint Mary’s portico, girls are in line. Across the front yard a county school bus chugs and chokes. The driver pauses to look both ways and swings into the circle. Kitty can hear the pop of gravel under the bus. A large stone shoots off, hitting the welcome sign, making a deep wound. Saint Mary’s is the last pick-up for bus number 78. The bus is full with kids from the surrounding area. By the time Saint Mary’s girls board there are only a few seats remaining.

Kitty slips into the empty backseat, enjoying how the diesel fumes make her head feel light. Her books are resting on her lap. She is just putting her knees up on the seat in front when a new girl slowly sits next to her. The girl is pretty, with dark hair and quick, black eyes. Kitty gives her an almost imperceptible smile. The bus lurches and hits the circle far too fast. The girl slides into Kitty.

“Oh hey, sorry,” Charlotte White smiles. “Wide load, huh?” They both look down at Charlotte’s enormous, round stomach.

Far below the pit of her belly Kitty begins to ache and twinge. It is the kind of hurt that nearly feels good.

***

Overnight, fall clouds had crumbled to mist and a fine pink sky now hovers above the rolling hills. Kitty and Charlotte sit close together on the bus. Kitty stares, almost digs, into Charlotte’s wide eyes as the girl chirps on about everything and nothing. Charlotte glows under the attention; for all her talking very few have ever listened.

“Wait. He left 'cause you’re having his baby?” Kitty blurts.

“Junior was just done. He didn’t want anything to do with me and just left,” Charlotte says. “He’s funny that way. You know?” Charlotte explains.

“No,” Kitty answers.

“What?” Charlotte is thrown off by Kitty’s seriousness. “No, what?”

“I don’t know how your boyfriend is funny,” Kitty says. “Doesn’t sound very funny. He sounds awful.”

“Kitty, you are so stupid,” Charlotte lightly slaps Kitty’s hand. “He’s funny like, he runs off when he is mad,” she explains. “He’s not really funny. He just gets mad. And does things. Stupid, not so funny things.”

“Things?”

“Things,” Charlotte lifts her hand, balling her fingers into a fist.

“Oh,” Kitty looks down, sadly.

“Yeah,” Charlotte looks out the window.

                                                            ***

 

Friday afternoon and most kids are in Deep Water, loafing in the empty parking lot of the closed down Big Star grocer or nursing root beers or floats at Chubb’s Burgers and Shakes . Girls from Saint Mary’s Villa are expected to return to the home immediately after school, whether it is the weekend or not. After hanging the laundry, baking and setting the bread to rise, oiling the wood staircase, weeding the vegetable garden, mopping the kitchen, preparing dinner and cleaning the restrooms girls are free to visit town. However, Kitty and Charlotte, feeling brave in each other’s company, decide to walk to Chubb’s for an ice cream soda straight off the bus.

“You got any money?” Charlotte asks Kitty, hopefully. “I spent my cash yesterday,” she pulls a cigarette from a half-empty pack. Kitty notices Charlotte’s chipped, dark red nail polish.

“Sure.” Kitty is showing Charlotte the shortcut to Deep Water. There is a post-office, bar, grocer, diner and pharmacy. Farther down the main street there is a pit barbecue joint, a farm stand and a little second hand store run by St. Mary’s.

“Thanks,” Charlotte smiles.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Charlotte beams, showing a brown front tooth Kitty had not noticed before. “I got a letter from Junior.”

“Junior,” Kitty rolls her eyes.

“We’re getting back together.”

“What?”

“He’s got friends in Winchester. They own a mill up on Foggy Top,” Charlotte drags on her cigarette. “He’s going to be gone a lot,” she looks thoughtful for a moment. “But, we’ll be fine. I’m sure.”

“But, he hurt you.”

“Yeah, but I’ve hit him, too,” Charlotte shakes her head. “I know there are things I shouldn’t say to him, in front of his friends and stuff. You know?”

“How can you?” Kitty voice was getting louder.

 “We’re going to be fine,” Charlotte pats her swollen stomach. “You’ll see.”

Kitty and Charlotte slow their pace as the path winds deeper and aims steeper. The surrounding trees grow close and thick, making the path dark.

“He said that his buddy has a trailer we could live in for a while,” Charlotte blows out smoke and quickly takes another deep drag. The cigarette pops as it burns.

“But, he hurts you, and—” Kitty comes to a dead halt behind Charlotte. Kitty’s voice is loud and stern. Charlotte stops and keeps her eyes on town.

“Look, I know,” Charlotte flicks her cigarette to the ditch and turns to face Kitty.

Jagged and heavy the rock hits Charlotte on the temple, like and egg breaking. Charlotte’s head falls backward, her eyes big and round and she sinks to the ground like a sack. The rock falls where she drops.

“He hurts you,” Kitty repeats softly, falls to her knees and crawls to Charlotte. She kneels next to the injured girls head. Charlotte moans and grunts. She tries to sit up. Kitty takes the big rock and smashes Charlotte’s head down to the ground. Charlotte is shivering and twitching. Kitty covers her own mouth with her hands and screams into her palms, her body shakes.

“I’m so sorry,” Kitty whispers, putting her open hands over Charlotte’s belly, over Charlotte’s baby.  Kitty throws her school bag to the ground and begins roughly rummaging through. She finds her old cigar pencil box and pulls out the faded orange Fiskar scissors.

***

Kitty wraps the baby in her sweater and then in Charlotte’s fleecy blue jacket. She coos and kisses into the little fold. She can see the small nose and perfect mouth. The baby is so quiet and just barely latching to Kitty’s little finger. Kitty gently bounces the bundle and walks towards the soft lights of town. She puts her lips to the baby’s cheek. The pain in her stomach and between her legs, the tweak in her chest feels good, makes her almost weak. 

“You were meant for me,” she whispers.





Marietta Miles has published stories with Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Flash Fiction Offensive, Yellow Mama, and Revolt Daily. She has been included in anthologies available through Static Movement Publishing, Horrified Press, and Out of the Gutter. Marietta Miles is on Facebook. Please find more stories at www.mariettamiles.blogspot.com. Her first novella will be available in spring 2016 through All Due Respect Books. Born in Alabama, raised in Louisiana, she currently resides in Virginia with her husband and two children.

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