Gertrude was putting on weight. She wouldn’t swear on it, but she thought her skin was changing. The colour ripened, the texture, well, and her breasts… were sore at times she would have to thumb them quiet.
She lifted the latch to the back door and stepped into the kitchen.
“Good aftanoon,” she said to her mother.
Ruby looked up from her sewing, “Good aftanoon.” Her foot-operated sewing machine stood in a corner, but whenever it came to stitching up hems or sewing on buttons, she would sit in the kitchen and listen to the garden noises. Taking the thread between her teeth, she would snap it in two, and think; thank God she learn a bit of sewing before him come along… She had no time for those women in the village who thought they should stay at home with the children and the man should bring in the money, is who dem tink dem is, white? A woman must have a trade and can earn her own money so when him bugger off she don’t stand there stupid. And she would think what might have happened if she hadn’t had hers. She heard Gertrude moving around the kitchen. She knew, alright, and she had been waiting over two months and Gertrude had not said a word. She watched her move around the kitchen and was furious.
She had been planning it, planning it all the way home from school; what she would say to her mother. How.
“Mummy – ”
“Wat yu want,” her mother snapped back.
“Me… me need some new bra.”
Ruby knew the time had come. And she was angry.
“New bra? Is how come yu need some new bra all of a sudden?”
“Me is pregnant.”
Ruby’s hands fell still. She put her sewing aside.
“Oh yes? Is how long yu know?”
Gertrude was silent.
“Well, me arsk yu a question!”
“Dis likkle while now.”
“ ‘An wat?’ she arsk me, like seh she no know is wat me deh talk ’bout. An who di farda?”
“Dat’s nat important,” she said quietly.
Ruby’s head jolted up. “Nat important? Nat important? How yu mean seh is nat important?”
“Is nat important,” is all Gertrude could repeat, foolishly.
“Yu mean seh yu no know?”
“Me mean seh is nat important.”
Gertrude waited. And waited.
“Yu wortless piece a trash,” her mother said quietly to herself as she resumed her sewing.
Gertrude didn’t know what to do. She hadn’t been slapped. She hadn’t been thrown out. Not yet, in any case. She hadn’t even been shouted at, yet she stood nailed to the spot as the tears gushed down her face.
Mother started to turn a tune around in the back of her throat, then broke it off, as if Gertrude wasn’t worth it, muttering to herself, “Wortless. Wortless.”
And when she heard the tune broken off, Gertrude felt her worthlessness fill the room and her tears would not stop.
You worthless piece of trash, her mother had called her. And for the rest of that day neither spoke another word.