Consciousness came and went like the slow movements of a calm, drifting tide. Mary Anne could hear the cries of a newborn, the bustling in the room – she heard Ellen yell “No, let me stay with her, please!” and then the crack of a cane, and a squeal, and the scampering of feet.
No more from Ellen after that.
Mary Anne didn’t know how long it was before the nuns ran her from her bed, accusing her of milking the situation far too much, telling her that she should have been up and back to work long ago.
Conscious and with her mind functioning properly again, Mary Anne wondered where her baby was.
As she was being ushered roughly from the room, she turned to ask the nun – it was Sister Francis, one with a nastier reputation than a lot of the others, but Mary Anne was determinded nevertheless – where her baby was why she hadn’t been allowed to see it yet.
“Stop wasting time with your silly questions, girl,” the nun snapped, putting her hands on Mary Anne and guiding her in the direction of the door.
“No!” Mary Anne shouted. “Where’s my baby?”
“You’re not going to see that child!” the nun retorted, raising her voice. “This is an institution of hard work, not a holiday resort!”
Mary Anne stood in the doorway, her dress still stained in the sweat she’d excreted during labour, her hair still greasy and lank, her face pale, her eyes dark and sunken and brimming with tears.
“What’s happening here?” came a voice from behind.
Mary Anne felt very cold all of a sudden. She spun around to see Sister Augusta, staring her down with her hard grey eyes.
“She thought she’d get to keep the little bastard,” Sister Francis explained.
“Please!” Mary Anne cried, looking from one nun to the other. “Please, you can’t do this! Please, let me have my baby!”
“I’ve had quite enough of this,” Sister Augusta murmured, grabbing Mary Anne’s arm. Mary Anne flinched – the nun’s hand was cold and her nails were now longer and sharper and dug deep into the soft white flesh.
And she was dragged through the convent once again.
“No! Don’t put me back there!” she screamed, dropping to the floor, pressing her cheek against the cold tiles, tears drowning her face.
“I’d swear, the Devil is in you, child!”
Sister Augusta took a handfull of Mary Anne’s hair to pull her to her feet. Mary Anne shrieked and stumbled, and in the end decided to just close her eyes.
Until she felt herself being flung once more through the door into the dark passage.
“If you thought the last time was bad, you’ve seen nothing, girl!” the nun hissed before slamming the door.
In the blackness, Mary Anne curled into a ball and hugged her now thin, empty body. She was truly alone now. She cried for hours, for days.
Cried for the child she would never see.