After a few minutes, I followed her to the table and sat down next to her.
“Was Mamma Barbara sick before she had Timothy?”
I nodded. “She’d been getting weaker and weaker for weeks. She wouldn’t stop teaching though; she said she didn’t want to burden the others.”
“What was wrong with her?”
Shrugging, I said, “Mamma Wanda tried to help her, but no one knew exactly what was wrong. There were no doctors—”
Jennifer snorted derisively.
“At least, we didn’t know there were doctors.”
“How was Wanda treating her if she didn’t know what was wrong?”
“She made her herbal broths and stuff like that. Nothing seemed to help.”
“The day Timothy was born, what happened?”
I told Jennifer about Mamma Barbara passing out in the schoolhouse and the other mammas moving her to her bedroom. I recounted the terrible screaming and the more terrifying silence that eventually fell on the house. I didn’t mention Mamma Wanda’s satisfied smile the next morning.
Jennifer dropped her head in her hands and ran her fingers through her hair, rubbing her scalp as she went. Finally, she said, “We’d better go. I want to be down the hill before sunset.”
When we left, I saw the strange-haired couple leaning against a wall. He pressed against her and they kissed each other hungrily.