“I’m calling an ambulance.”

She left, heading for the field at the side of the house. Abandoned and overgrown, the grasses had grown so tall she imagined she could lie on her back in the center of it and disappear. She knew the flimsy smack of the screen door as well as the shape of her fingernails or the sound of the garage door opening when her father came home. As she walked, the sideways casts of her feet flattened the dry grass like a sickle and the angry edges of the upright blades made tiny red cuts on the bare skin of her legs.

She would have liked to sprint, running so fast that her feet lost her body and her bones burst outward like wings until she fell, landing like branches snapped away in a windstorm, but her body was too ungainly for running. She walked, a blue wool blanket over her shoulders like a cape, breathing a heavy, bearish pant, watching her feet under her swing forward and disappear again. The air roared through the high trees like a crowd, which she took as a good sign. In the center of the field she stopped to let a wave crash over her. This one left her wet, with water falling from her eyes and dripping down her legs. Her belly was firm and round as a skull between her hands.

She suspected that God was just another word for gravity.

“Where is he? He should do the responsible thing.”

Her mother’s hands had straddled the soft shelf of her hips. Her father’s knuckles had hit the kitchen table in a fist. The telephone had been brandished in the air like a weapon. She had offered tears in return, but they had not been accepted. Her mother had said, “God never gives us more than we can handle,” but had not clarified whose burden she was speaking of.

They wanted her white again. Swathed in sheeting and hidden from inevitable conclusions. They spoke of other people, people without faces who could make things go away: pain, fear, bad fortune, even unwanted children. Her mother had rubbed her forearm with trim, calloused fingers. “We can help you put this behind you.”

That was why she had hidden herself away. When her belly had begun to speak, she had tucked herself in the closet. A womb inside a womb, she thought, like a little matryoshka doll. She did not have to share, just as she had not shared the boy who had adored her. He had touched her face with his and breathed flowers into her pores and she had drawn him over her like a blanket, a warm and lovely protection from the cold.

Mary had birthed in a barn. There were things like miracles in this world.

“Stop being so selfish—do you realize what you’re doing?”

The air scorched her throat as her furious belly raged again. When she reached the place under the old oak she lay on the blanket and closed her eyes. Her body turned to stone and fire.

Her mind, however, melted back into the air and went home again, where there were napkins on the table and heat on the stove and soft steam in the air. There would be dishes to wash and pots and pans to put away. Her daisy chain bedspread would be rumpled at night and smoothed out again in the morning. In the spring she would dig the holes for her mother’s pansies and in the fall she would rake high the piles of her father’s leaves. Her classmates would smile hello in the mornings and wave goodbye in the afternoons. Time would be given and taken from everyone accordingly, she knew, as the sirens on the distant road were drowned out by her single cry being split into two.