Maeve had first seen the fence, bright and glaring in the autumn sun, on the day her father took her out of school at thirteen to work with the rest of her family harvesting other people’s crops. An intelligent, quiet girl, she loved animals, loved nursing their hurts, and had an unvoiced dream of being a veterinarian, but she never entered another classroom.
After she left school, every day for weeks, Maeve walked past that fence and the house it enclosed on her way to and from field work. She came to hate the Donaghy girls who peeked at her from behind lace curtains and laughed. Warm and smug in their fine, large house, the Donaghy girls didn’t wear ill-fitting, hand-me-down clothes, didn’t get their hands so dirty they never came clean, didn’t walk inside a dirt-floor house and get chicken shit between their toes. The Donaghy girls had the ability to choose; Maeve didn’t. The Donaghy girls chose what to wear, where to go, who to see, what to do. Maeve could only do what she was told—by her father now, by a husband someday.
The white fence’s pickets mocked her the day her father walked her to the front door of the Donaghy house, barefoot, in a dress made from flour sacks, and pregnant. As her father demanded justice from the Donaghys’ oldest son, Maeve glanced over her shoulder, out the sitting room window. The fence looked like sharp teeth in a maw ready to devour her. She wanted to tell her father it was someone else, but before she could Donald Donaghy said, "It’s all right. I’ll do what’s right by her."
Maeve shuddered as the fence snapped closed on her, shutting her inside the house she would come to hate even more. She felt a quiver somewhere behind her navel. Her reprisal—the child not quite real to her—had moved.
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