Simple Tilly by Nonnie Augustine

Gusts of wind billowed Tillie's skirt and whipped her long, blond hair around her head. Leaves: gold, red, and muddy 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. Thank God she had the job of delivering the lunch buckets to the men who worked the farms belonging to St. Catherine's, or she might never had met him. Crossing the field with the silly old bull didn't even scare her anymore, once she'd met her Danny.

The week before she met him in the shepard's hut, 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 soft hay he'd found for them. 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.

"Something happened back there at the Home."

"All right. We can talk first."

His arm around her shoulders, he led her to the hay piled next to the stone wall of the rough shelter and they sat side by side.

"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 the laundress had told her I hadn't been having my monthlies.

'Why, that's the truth!' I says. 'I've missed them twice now.'

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 ifl 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?"

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

Danny, his young face pale beneath his sunburn, hugged Tillie tightly.

"Then what happened?"

thank you for telling me this, Sister. I love babies!"

Danny laughed and got his paper and tobacco out of his heavy corduroy trousers. He'd worn the pants so many years, the black had turned to green.

"But then Father Gerald said I couldn't 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 came. Istamped 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, and come to tell me all this."

"Oh, but Danny! I gave Gemma the bracelet you give me. So that she would lie for me. I made her sin, and I lost the fine bracelet of your poor dead Mamm's."

He 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.

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

"No! I want to keep my baby. 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, " she said. Her cheeks felt so hot of a sudden!

"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. I don't love her like I do you, sweet Tillie. And even if I am but eighteen, I'm a man and man needs to look out for his children. I've the two fine boys."

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

"What should I do, then?"

Nearly at the orphanage, Tillie clutched her purse of coins and prayed to the French soldier saint Jeanne Dark. Danny had planned everything. But oh, she was just herself, alone with her bairn inside her, and now she'd be going all the way to Cork to live with his cousin. The poor woman's young husband had gone down with his fishing boat, and she didn't have any babies. Danny said his cousin 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'm to creep down the back stairs, with my things in a blanket, and he'll be meeting me with a cart. We'll be in Cork by morning."

"To be sure, I do! I've been sleeping with the same one for fourteen year now. It must be mine, I'm thinking.

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

"I'll live with his cousin. 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's this sister's name, then?"

"Oh, thank you!" Tillie said as she held the simple piece to her chest.

With her old, bright smile, she said, "Oh la, Gemma. She has a good name-Hope. Her name is Hope."

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