When the Pregnant Girls First Arrive At St. Eulalia’s Home for the Lost and Wayward by Audra Kerr Brown
When the pregnant girls first arrive at St. Eulalia’s Home for the Lost and Wayward, the nuns take them to see the Frozen Child. The Frozen Child, her feet locked in ice, her mouth wide and dark as an open grave. The grave is never satisfied, say the nuns, neither is the barren womb, nor the eyes of man. The girls rub hands over swollen wombs, think of their lovers’ eager eyes. The eyes of the Frozen Child are like white marbles rolled back in her head. The girls hang their heads and contemplate their sins. Sin, say the nuns, is conceived by lust, and sin, when finished, brings forth death. But the Frozen Child is not dead, think the girls. They think that dead can also mean asleep, like in fairytales, like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White waiting for True Love’s Kiss. Snow falls in big, wet kisses, and the girls close their eyes, catch the flakes on reaching tongues. The tongue, say the nuns, is a spark that sets the entire body aflame.
When the pregnant girls first arrive at St. Eulalia’s Home for the Lost and Wayward, the nuns take them to see the Frozen Child. The Frozen Child, her hands stitched into icy mittens and lifted toward the heavenlies. In heaven, the nuns say, there will be no crying, neither grieving, nor death. But the Frozen Child is not dead, think the girls. They think that inside her frigid tomb lies a bleary, slow-beating, glass-apple heart. The heart brims with betrayal and above all, say the nuns, the heart should not be trusted. The girls trust they will have a moment to hold their babies, time enough to note the color of their marbled eyes, to kiss their blood-apple cheeks. The Frozen Child’s sunken cheeks are like half-eaten apples, and the nuns have nothing good to say about fruit.
When the pregnant girls first arrive at St. Eulalia’s Home for the Lost and Wayward, the nuns take them to see the Frozen Child. The Frozen Child, a sheet of ice glistening atop her head like a crown. The crown of life, say the nuns, will be given to those who are faithful to the point of death. But the girls know the Frozen Child is not dead. They know she will emerge from her crystal cocoon one day, all wet and wobble-legged and hungry. Cold licks at the girls’ cheeks like a hungry animal, bites their mittenless fingers. The girls lace their fingers and pray. They pray their babies will make room in their hearts to forgive, that the nuns know not what they do. But the nuns know there will be a sound when the babies are taken, a sound like shattering glass, the sound of hearts breaking. Rows of broken icicles cling to the Frozen Child’s arms like jagged teeth. There will also be a great gnashing of teeth, the nuns know, followed by an even greater silence. A silence like the hush of snow falling as the girls clutch their hollowed wombs, wombs still and empty as robbed graves.
Audra Kerr Brown lives on a dirt road in Iowa. Her fiction has appeared in Best Small Fictions, Wigleaf’s Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions list, X-R-A-Y, People Holding, Flashback Fiction, Outlook Springs, and more. She is the Managing Editor at New Flash Fiction Review.