When I received the letter from France and saw it was from Mme. Francoise, and not Sabine, I knew it contained the gravest news. Sabine, I was told, had become pregnant, and my mother, when Sabine could no longer hide her condition, took to her bed. Mother refused food from that day forward, and within the month, she was dead. I could imagine her in her bed, gradually fading away, starved as a saint, the holy ascetic, her bones lifting out of her body, while she forbid her daughter entrance to the room. Dying before the birth of her grandchild, glad to have missed the shame. And Sabine was left to carry the burden of her mother’s death, too.
Sabine conceived even as I, a married woman, failed to do. Throughout her pregnancy, she never named the father. The Beast would only have denied his paternity and had her church-condemned for pointing at him. He would have called her a witch and turned the village against her. Perhaps, he was the first to suggest she climb the precipice, an act of contrition for her triptych of sin. I, the only one who knew him, hadn’t brought Sabine with me to America, hadn’t thought this thing possible for my little sister. I believed, like most children of abuse, that I deserved it, and that Sabine’s life would be full of ease and beauty.
She didn’t take her life for his benefit. She felt hers was over, and still she waited for the baby. Then one dark night, soon after the birth, she stood at a cliff’s edge and leapt toward the stars. But not before shearing her hair and passing through the kitchen into the scullery where amongst the shadows she stretched out her small, white hand on the scarred tabletop. While her infant slept in a warm cradle, a nurse snoring at her side, Sabine raised the small hatchet used to rid skinned rabbits of their limbs and brought it down. I heard the cry across the ocean, calling me back to the night she and I studied Thomas’s photograph of a woman who in grievous mourning had done the same thing. That night, Sabine had been in disbelief that a woman could suffer so. Sabine, by raising the cleaver over her hand, leaving the blood and her flesh there for the maids and Mme. Francoise, was telling me she knew pain that deep.
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