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“What?! What is it?!” I ask.

My eyes search the darkness, seeing nothing, before I reach for her drapes and yank them open. Dust spirals in the air as light rushes into the room, hungry to devour the darkness. My mother lets out a little mewl of pain.

“Vampire,” I say under my breath. But then my breath is yanked from my lungs as I stare at the bloody mess in the corner of the room.

I look at my mother, who is clutching her swollen stomach, rocking back and forth. I now notice the bloodstains on her hands and legs that I hadn’t seen before. Shivering in the bright light, the blood on her pale skin looks garish and frightening.

“What is that?” I whisper.

She doesn’t answer me. I take a few steps closer. My hand flies to my mouth as my esophagus swells with vomit. “What have you done?!” My voice rumbles through the small space. I sound demonic as I drop to my knees in front of the baby. A baby. Can you call it that? Tinier than anything I have ever seen, its skin is purple, matted with blood and a foamy white substance. I touch it, pull back, touch it again. No pulse, no breathing. It’s too little. It—a girl. I groan and rock on my heels. How had she hidden it? How had I not seen? A billowing red robe. She no longer asked me to stay with her when she bathed. Had she done this on purpose? Rid herself of the baby. The answer is on her face, relief mixed with the pain. A baby, a little girl. I want to pick her up, carry her somewhere warm and safe.

My mother, gasping for breath and bleeding profusely, falls to the ground behind me. I take one last look at the little girl in the corner and walk out of the room.

I take my time walking to Judah’s house. Delaney has a phone. My mother has a cell phone; I’ve always assumed it’s how she makes her appointments with her various male clients, but there’s a passcode on it. I’m not sure if it will let me call the ambulance. And I want her to die. By the time I reach Judah’s gate, I am sobbing. Delaney opens the door. The smile falls from her face when she sees me. I’m sobbing so hard I can’t get her to understand what I’m saying. I point to the cordless, and she runs to get it.

“Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?”

Suddenly, I am sober of the grief I was feeling. Sober enough to summon words, thick and clumsy.

“My mother,” I say. “She’s … had a miscarriage. I’m afraid she might bleed to death.” I hand the phone back to Delaney, who looks at me in shock, then repeats my address into the receiver. I walk home, soulless.

The ambulance comes; its wail cuts through the warm Wessex day like a thunderstorm, calling people to their windows and doors. I sit on the step and wait as the paramedics pound up the stairs to my mother’s bedroom. I don’t know if she will leave the eating house alive or dead. After I leave Delaney’s, I don’t go back upstairs. The paramedics leave.

They come to see my mother’s body—two men in navy blue uniforms with stars on their chests. Policemen. I want to clean away the blood on her face and hands, but they tell me to leave it. The morgue will take care of all of that after the autopsy. They’re asking me questions, wanting to know if I’m the one to contact about the autopsy, and if I’ll be making arrangements for her funeral.

“The autopsy?” I ask in a hollow voice.

“Standard procedure. You need one to be able issue a death certificate,” one of the cops tells me.

I look at the bottles of pills next to her bed, overturned and empty.

“My mother wanted to be cremated,” I tell them. My mother wanted no such thing. Or maybe she did, but she never told me. I don’t want to deal with her body—coffins and gravestones. Give her back to me as ash in an urn, and I’ll be happy. They ask me how old I am.

“Eighteen,” I tell them. They ask to see my driver’s license, but I don’t have one. I show them my school ID, and they look almost disappointed that they can’t cart me off to a group home. They won’t be putting me in the system tonight, or any other. I’ve never been so grateful to not be a minor. They hand me a stack of papers, some brochures for funeral homes and crematoriums. There is one with a flower on the cover that is for a grief support group. I watch the police talk to the two guys from the morgue who have come for their bodies, leaning against the rotted siding of the eating house. Judah finds me there, his face drawn and concerned. “The morgue is here to pick up the bodies.”

“My mom told me,” he says. “She wants you to come spend the night at our house.”

I look past him to the bad people house. All of the bad people are outside, drinking beer and waiting for the body bag. Some of them are shirtless; a man and a woman are kissing by the back door, coming up for air every few to look toward the eating house.

“That’s the difference between the rich and poor,” Judah says, following my eyes. “The rich peek through their drapes to see the neighborhood tragedy, while the poor don’t try to hide the fact that they’re looking.”

“Thank you,” I say. “But I’d prefer to stay here.”

“I’ll stay with you,” he says quickly. “Just let me wheel home to get some of my shit.”

I think about saying no, but, in the end, the idea of sleeping in the eating house frightens me. I nod. I watch him go, the muscles in his arms pressing against his T-shirt as they work the wheels of his chair. He stops when he reaches the bad people house. A couple guys swagger up to where he’s stopped, giving him daps and offering him a beer.

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