The story so far… Old Wives’ Tale
She sat by the coal stove, trying to warm her hands. In her lap was a skein of wool yarn, worked from sheep her Mister sheared while they were moving through Tejano, Texas. The clicking of her needles was unrelenting, a rhythm matching the beat of her heart, the pace of her breathing.
The familiar diversion helped keep her mind off her babies. They were sweet little girls, named for each of their grandmothers – Emmy and Jessie. Typically quiet babies, they were fussing tonight. The cold was making them irritable. Their little legs curling painfully in their basket.
A quilt she pieced together from her Mister’s old work clothes was tucked around them, giving them some comfort, but the winter chill was working into their disfigured bones. She dared not take them out in this weather, avoiding both the possibility that they were seen and worsening the babies’ ague.
The Mister blamed her for their daughters’ deformity. She had offended that voodoo woman in Louisiana, and she cursed their unborn babies because of it – two babies, one body. The other travelers shunned them, and farmers didn’t want to take them on, afraid their profanity was infective.
They were too poor to take their daughters to a real doctor, and the snake oil peddlers that attached themselves to the caravan only made warding signs to repel their evil. They were alone in their suffering.
In her grief, she pondered the life her precious babies faced – the intolerance toward their conjoined bodies, the ignorance and superstitions that they already had to bear. A thin, woolen rope coiled at her feet, knitted in precise brioche stitches. She had so little time left before her Mister returned from the travelers’ camp. He went there every night since the girls’ birth to drink away his pain.
She would tell him the little girls finally succumbed to their fever. He wouldn’t ask questions. He would only feel relief. They would dress them in their christening gown, say a few prayers, then wait out the winter. They would travel to Tennessee in the spring, back to the valley were the people were so friendly. There they would find a final resting place for their beautiful daughters, Emmy and Jessie.