It forced itself into the world by ripping her body a part. Cindy could feel it slide from her abdomen to her pelvis, breaking through layers of tissue and carving up her genitals as if a blade were opening her up for entrance. She was screaming and crying, but the doctors and her mother were cheering with joy. She could hear its heinous sound beneath the chatter and applause, as the doctor cut the umbilical chord and handed it over to its grandmother. Maura gazed upon it with adoration and slowly approached Cindy so that she could hold her young, but the new mother would not open her eyes. She could only feel the aches and pains that tormented her body and she begged her mother to let her sleep. “Hold your baby Cindy!” Maura demanded, but Cindy just could not. It was out of her now and she didn’t want to let it back in.
When it first got in her Cindy could not believe it. Only sinners had babies without husbands, like the women her mother spoke to across from the Planned Parenthood parking lot. Those women were whores and murderers, who denied their role under God’s law. Maura showed them little compassion as they’d walk by. When Cindy was a child, she’d carry her in front of the patients and yell at them to show their babies mercy. When Cindy was old enough to protest alongside her mother, she created her own sign to hold. It read “Mary was a mother and so are you.” The sign depicted baby Jesus resting his little head upon his mother’s chest. Cindy was a remarkable artist and painted the picture herself. She was also quite proud of the slogan, as it differed from some of the more gruesome messages the protestors used to make their point. In truth, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for the unfortunate women that approached the clinic. The ones who listened, and turned around to get back in their cars, were saving themselves from the wraths of Hell, but the ones who went ahead inside were condemning their souls for eternity. Cindy prayed for these women every night and asked the lord to protect the souls of their deceased and forsaken children.
Cindy was fourteen years old when blood dripped down her thighs, staining her white schoolgirl tights for everyone to see. The boys hollered in disgust and the girls giggled and teased her. Cindy ran out of the classroom and hid in the bathroom stall until one of the nuns found her and sent her to the nurse. At home, Maura gave her a pad and told her she had a responsibility to God now. “You must now accept the role that He has created for you.” She said and Cindy thought of the women at the clinic, their tears, their confusion, and their grief. The role for women seemed unfair to her. Why must women bleed and carry children, and not men? Why must men do what they please? “Because men” Maura told her daughter, “have important roles too. Their job is to care for the women and children and make sure we are safe and provided for. Find yourself a good man and you will have everything you need.”
Brad O’Connelly smiled at Cindy in the halls and poked her waist while sitting behind her in Biology. He had orange-red hair and freckles that blended with his bad case of acne. His constant attention was rather burdensome to Cindy, but even if she ignored him or told him to get lost he still pursued her. When Cindy started her period in class, Brad would say to her, “You better hike your skirt down a little more. I can see your tampon string,” or “Hey Cindy, did you have fish for lunch or is that just your twat?” This caused Cindy to fret about showing her face at school, but Maura hardly let her skip a day, even if she was ill. So Cindy bypassed Brad and his snickering friends by speed walking through the halls. One day Brad followed Cindy home after school let out. “How come you don’t say hi to me no more?” Brad asked.
“Leave me alone!” She warned him, holding her books tight against her chest.
“Look, I know I’ve been an asshole, but the truth is, I really like you.” Cindy stopped and searched his eyes for signs of trickery. She could not find any, and when he asked to kiss her she shrugged and reluctantly removed her bubble gum. He put his tongue inside her mouth and wiggled it around. His saliva tasted like a blend of cigarettes and cafeteria meatloaf, but something sparked in Cindy. She had never had a boyfriend before, and she realized that Brad’s obsession with her was more flattering than daunting. Kissing him wasn’t half bad either, and when she laid down for bed that night, she imagined doing it more.
Not long after that, the two started making out on the slide at Gretel Park and exchanging notes during biology with Xs and Os and winking smiley faces. Then Brad graduated to illustrating Cindy naked with exaggerated breasts and a skinny waist. Cindy considered what the nuns at school might think of her and what her mother would say. She would be banished and denied of her dignity, just like the poor troubled sluts whom she’d seen enter Planned Parenthood with their heads lowered and their hearts heavy. Then Cindy remembered a girl she had met once while picketing with her mother. She was a teenager, fourteen or fifteen, and through her tears she stood strong with her young boyfriend and told the demonstrators that they were not sinners. They had slept together because they loved each other. To which Maura replied that it was love that made their child. Cindy assumed her mother disapproved of any affection outside of wedlock, but if she could sympathize with the girl’s desire to experience physical love, surely she could not hold Cindy accountable for her own desires. She didn’t know if it was love that made her curious to explore with Brad, but she did hope to marry him some day in order to assume her life’s duty. “Meet me at the park after chorus,” she wrote Brad through text.
The teenage couple huddled together under the playground structure and kissed and fondled each other. They could hear the chains of the swings squeak in the wind as they fumbled to get undressed and joined together nervously and without much talk. Cindy was dry and tense and she whimpered as Brad pushed himself in. She held onto his bumpy, pimpled back and bared her teeth to keep from screaming, and then it was over.
The next time they did it, Brad lasted longer, but the harsh strokes of his pumps still caused Cindy discomfort and she didn’t know how to touch him or what to do beneath his weight. After the third time, Brad didn’t kiss her on the lips, and avoided her at school for weeks. When she finally approached him, he told her he felt suffocated and wanted to see other people. Cindy was devastated. She held her stuffed lamb, Lilac, and cried in her mother’s arms. Maura cradled her daughter and brushed her hair soothingly to mend her broken heart. “How could he hurt me like this Mama?” Cindy asked.
“Men don’t always stay put.” Her mother replied.
“Yes. Men sometimes need to spread their seed. It is God’s way, and God has a special plan for us all.”
“Mama, I don’t think I’m ready for God’s plan.”
“But you are,” Maura said with a smile, her eyes soft and kind. “God’s plan for you has just begun.” Cindy figured her mother was referring to the start of her period, but she was uncertain. Maura’s tone seemed to suggest something greater and more monumental. Then Maura put her hand on her daughter’s flat belly. “You haven’t been using your pads.” She said. “You haven’t needed to. A child is growing inside of you.” And with that, Maura slapped her daughter hard across the face, causing swelling and redness around the young girl’s left eye.
Mary was a mother and so are you.
But it could not be true, it just couldn’t. She was a good girl and she was only fourteen. She and Brad had sex so few times, and those few times were quick and painful. They could not possibly have done this to her. Anyway, this was different from the teenage couple at the clinic. They were in love, and Brad had moved on.
Maura brought Cindy to the doctors where she had an ultrasound and was able to see what Brad had put inside her. Maura’s eyes watered at the sight of her grandchild, but Cindy didn’t believe the image was real. She thought maybe her mother and the doctor were lying to her, in order to teach her a lesson about giving up her sacred virginity. Even when the nausea began, Cindy was convinced her mother had poisoned her food and she began feeding her dinners to the cat just to make sure.
At twenty-two weeks Cindy’s belly protruded beneath the buttoned down white shirt of her schoolgirl uniform. Gossip emerged from the girls’ locker room and Dr. Mueller, the school principle, asked Cindy not to return to campus until after she had given birth. “But my geometry test is next Friday!” Cindy cried, knowing that it would do no good.
“I’m sorry Cindy, but we can’t have pregnant girls walking through the halls of St. Peter’s High. It’s a liability and we have an example to set.” When Cindy arrived home she went to the bathroom and tried to push the thing out of her, but it wouldn’t budge. She could now feel it kick and turn inside her, like some alien gestating, waiting for the right time to wreak havoc on her simple and steady life.
Gradually it got bigger, making her ugly and round, and her ankles thick and shapeless. Maura arranged a baby shower for the girl and invited Cindy’s friends and family to offer gifts and encouraging advice. Cindy was greeted with plenty of questions she could not answer, such as “was the baby a boy or girl?,” “what names did she have picked out?,” and “who was the father?” Of course, close friends of Cindy knew Brad from school, and when they were asked about him, Cindy learned that he had a new girlfriend and claimed that the baby wasn’t his. Cindy’s misery and stress intensified when her mother tore open her gifts as if they were meant for her. She posed for pictures, displaying each toy and child-bearing facilitator high in the air, as Cindy watched with an overwhelming sense of dread. Grandma Jean showed Cindy a photo album of the family lineage and spoke of ancestry, bloodlines and generations. But her stories seemed to bounce off Cindy like a dart to a stone wall. The praises and congratulations from her guests were mentally blocked and Cindy found herself sinking under the pressure of diaper disposals, breast pumps, bibs, and pacifiers. Mary was a mother and so are you. She dismissed herself and fled to her room for peace, squeezing Lilac and sucking her thumb hungrily.
When it arrived it was wrinkled and purple. Its toothless mouth and bald head made it look like a miniature old man, the kind that preys upon children by acting sweet and harmless to fool its victims. Cindy’s nurse taught her how to feed it through her nipple, but the thing screeched and rejected her and she begged the nurse to take it away. At home, Cindy used her breast pump and Maura fed it with a bottle. She watched as her mother sang to it and spoke in a tender, high pitched voice. When Cindy could not come up with a name to call it by, Maura began to use the name Nick, after her brother who killed himself with a shotgun. Cindy remembered her Uncle Nick. He was warm and funny, and gave wonderful bear hugs. She missed him and liked his name, but monsters didn’t have names. Nothing so ugly and so evil could ever deserve a good Christian name like that.
It had burning red hair and slept in a bassinet beside Maura’s bed, crying all the time. Cindy would watch it from afar with leaking tits and growing anxiety. Its constant cries made Cindy rip out chunks of her hair, and if her mother was away she’d lock herself in her room and cover her head with pillows. Cindy would then suck her thumb and cry for Mama, but when Maura refused her any affection, she would piss her bed instead of using the toilet. Finally, when the smell became more than Maura could bear, she stripped her daughter of her clothes and threw her into a searing hot bath. When the girl was washed and her sheets were purified, Maura took Cindy by the arms and led her into the thing’s room. As always, it lay in a bassinet with horrible shattering howls that plagued Cindy’s ears. “Pick him up!” Maura yelled.
“I can’t!” The girl cried.
“Do it! Pick him up!” But what Cindy saw was not a baby. It was an ugly, horrid creature, much like the images she saw growing up within the prolife community; a mangled fetus, recently ripped from its mothers’ womb. Carefully, Maura took it in her arms and shoved it against her daughter, whose arms flew open, letting the creature fall to the carpet with a frightful shriek. Cindy dropped to her knees, bellowing madly. “You nasty witch!” Maura shouted and she scooped it back up and checked for signs of trauma. As she comforted it and kissed it with desperate love, Cindy noticed that it no longer looked like the gory sight from before. It had the ability to disguise itself, make itself adorable, so that Maura would love it. However, Cindy was shocked that her mother, a woman of God, could not see through the manipulation. It was that thing that was evil and inhuman, the devil manifested, come to possess her and torture her for sinning so deeply. She wondered if that’s why women did what they did when their pregnancies were unwanted. Perhaps it was the only way to beat a demon.
Cindy wrapped the thing in blankets and placed it in its carriage. She told her mother that she was taking it for a stroll. “Let me come with you.” Maura insisted.
“No! I want to do it alone,” she said. “I need to.” And she walked for six miles until reaching the Planned Parenthood clinic. Mary was a mother and so are you.
“I need you to kill it.” She said to the woman at the desk, who wore a white uniform and a badge.
“Please kill it for me! It’s destroying me!”
“My god, child! What on Earth are you talking about?
“Isn’t that what you do here?”
“Certainly not! Aren’t you Maura Hendrick’s daughter? What kinds of things does she plant in that brain of yours?” Cindy panicked and escaped through the front doors, leaving the carriage behind. But by the time she got home, Maura was already pulling into the driveway with the demon strapped into the back car seat. It wasn’t going to go away so quickly, even baby murderers knew it wasn’t a baby that could be easily abolished. Maura brought the thing inside without a glance toward Cindy.
“Mama?” Cindy murmured, but her mother said nothing to her. Calmly, she fed the demon its bottle and bounced it while singing sweet melodies. When the demon had finally dozed off and all was still and quiet, Maura busied herself with a crossword puzzle in front of the TV.
Cindy then made her way into her mother’s room where the thing napped beneath a blue blanky with teddy bear prints. Next to its heaving chest was Lilac, Cindy’s stuffed lamb. She huffed with fury, as she realized how it had taken from her everything and everyone she’d ever loved. It had controlled and deceived her mother and stalked her to the point of insanity.
Had she known the extent of punishment, she might have never let Brad touch her. There was only one thing left to do, and that was to exorcise the demon for good.
Cindy removed a feathered pillow from off her mother’s bed and raised it high over the bassinet. She took a deep breath and stared at the thing sleeping, its face angelic and peaceful as it made suckle motions with its mouth. Cindy lowered the pillow, realizing she could not do it, and a quick and sudden blade cut through her throat.
Blood poured from Cindy’s gash, as brutal and as agonizing as giving birth had been. Cindy wrapped her hands around her neck and collapsed to see her mother standing above her with a reddened knife. “Mary was a mother and so are you.” Maura hissed. Cindy coughed up blood from her mouth and thought of life and responsibility. She thought of motherhood and all the things it was supposed to be, and all the things it wasn’t. She thought of blood and sex and God and everything that brought her to this moment. She thought of Hell and wondered if she’d ever see her beloved mother again.
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