Fall, 2006
24-Hour Short Story Contest
2nd Place Winner!

She turned away from the crisp fall wind, shivering as her long skirt billowed wide and her hair slapped her face. She'd lost her prayer kapp again. Mamm would be real mad. Dry leaves were racing past, heading in the same direction. She'd always wondered where all those leaves ended up, year after year. Some were already brown. That made her sad. The dark orange ones reminded her of Mamm's pumpkin cookies and she turned toward home. She walked slowly, fingering the package hidden in her apron and thinking about the Bishop's visit yesterday, when he'd said she was too simple-minded to care for a baby...

Simple Tillie
by Nonnie Augustine, Panama City Beach, FL

Gusts of wind billowed Tillie's skirt and whipped her long, blond hair around her head. Leaves, gold, red, and dead-looking brown blew past her and settled in drifts along the stone wall she had just climbed over. She headed back to St. Catherine's School for Orphans slowly, her old boots sinking into the bog with a squishing sound every few steps. Under her apron she held the purse Danny had given her. Only a week ago she'd told him everything, and he'd already found a way to help her.

She'd met him in the shepard's hut that day, as she had been doing every week for months, just like he told her to. She'd been late, and was afraid he'd be mad at her.

* * *

"Hey, pretty lass, what took you?" Danny asked as he rose from the wall he'd been sitting against.

Tillie wrapped her arms around his back and buried her face in his woolen jacket for a few seconds, then raised her chin for a kiss. Danny obliged and kissed her softly at first, then with hunger. Knowing what might come next, Tillie broke away and took a step back, her hands on his chest, holding him off.

"Danny, I need to tell you something."

"All right. We can talk first."

They walked, his arm around her shoulders, to where Danny had piled blankets on the floor, and they sat side by side against the stone wall of the rough shelter.

"I'm sick, Danny. Every morning I have the heaves, and I don't want food, and things smell strange to me."

"Ah? And what else, then?"

"Sister. Alice Frances called for me the day we last met. She said she knew I was sick and she wondered if I'd had my monthlies. Why, no! I says. I've been missing them two times."

Danny dug in his jacket for a fag and lit it. The smell of the smoke made Tillie feel bad again. She wished he wouldn't.

"And then?"

"Well, two days later the priest came and I had to talk to Father Gerald and Sister Alice Frances, together with just me. They asked me if I had been sinning. No, I says. I'm good. Then they talked about boys and girls, and if I had lifted my skirt for a boy. Yes! I said. Lots of times I do for one boy I know. But he said it was good to do it and I like it. I told them it didn't feel like telling a lie or doing some bad thing."

"Tillie, did you tell them my name?"

"Oh, no. They asked me, but you told me never to tell your name; so I didn't say it."

"Then what happened?"

"Well, they said I needed to go to another kind of place because I was going to have a baby! Oh, la. I danced a jig right in the room there with them, I was so happy! A baby, I says! Of me own-oh thank you for telling me this, Sister. I love babies!"

Danny laughed and lit a new fag from his old one.

"But then Father Gerald said I wouldn't be allowed to keep it, because I'm too young and simple-minded to care for a baby. He said I'd have to give the bairn away as soon as it cameÖI stamped my foot at them, Danny. I said I never would. I cried, and cried, and they called Sister Marion to take me to the chapel to pray with me for obedience."

Tillie's dark blue eyes watered and she looked down at her lap. After sitting very quietly together for a few minutes Danny took her hand.

"I'm glad you got away, Tillie. I'm glad you come and told me all this."

"I had to do something bad. I gave Gemma the bracelet that you gave me, Danny. So that she would lie for me. I made her sin, and I lost the fine bracelet of your poor dead Mamm's."

Danny stood up and walked back and forth on the dirt floor. Tillie watched him to see if he was mad at her, but he didn't look mad. He looked worried.

"Tillie? Do you want to do what they say?"

"No! I want to keep my baby. But Gemma says I'll get a bump soon."

"Aye, that you'll get. Is there anyone you can go to Tillie?"

"I don't know anybody but you, Danny. And them at the orphanage."

Danny sat down next to Tillie again and hugged her gently. With his mouth close to her ear, he said softly, "Do you know it's my baby, too?"

"Gemma told me about the boy's part in things."

"Sweet Tillie. I can't marry you, see, because I'm already a married man. And you can't do that more than the once. My wife isn't as pretty or as kind as you are, but we have two children. A man needs to look out for his children."

Danny's green eyes looked so sad, thought Tillie. She loved his eyes and his bright penny hair..

"Danny? What will I do, then?"

* * *

She was getting close to the orphanage. Tillie clutched her purse of coins and prayed to her favorite saint, Jeanne D'Arc. Danny had planned everything. But oh, she was just herself, alone with her bairn inside her, and if she did what Danny said, she'd be going all the way to Cork to live with his sister. The poor woman's young husband had died from drowning, and she didn't have any babies. Danny said his sister would help her take care of her, no their, baby.

Tillie crept up the back stairs to her dormitory to put on her house shoes and wash her face and hands before supper. Gemma was there waiting.

"I'm scared for sure, now, Gemma. When all the lights in the house are out, Danny will throw a small rock at our window. Then, when I hear the sound, I go down the back stairs, with my things in a blanket, and he'd meet me with a cart and take me to Cork. We'd be there by morning."

"Then, what will happen in Cork, did he say?"

"I'll live with his big sister. And in the spring, my baby will come out of me stomach."

"Take this back, Tillie-Dillie. You should have your heart charm bracelet. What is this sister's name, then?"

"Oh, thank you!" Tillie said with her old, bright smile. "She has a good name - Hope. Her name is Hope."

What Nonnie won:

$250 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)

Contest guidelines are HERE.

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