Over the Seawall

Installment two

Bernadette made certain that her sister was occupied.  She quickly took the certificate out of the scrapbook in the nursery and tucked it under her arm.    She took a swift glance down the stairs, and she could hear Julianne rummaging around in the basement, she had about 3 minutes.  She tiptoed hastily into the study and found the photocopier.  She made an instant copy of the birth certificate, and her heart was pounding as she placed the copy back in its sheath and slipped the original into a brown envelope. 

the nursery

“Bernie? I found the bottle, Bernie? , What are you doing up there?” Julianne stood at the foot of the stairs with the Chardonnay and 2 glasses.

“You know me, Jules, I just had to have one more peak at her, she’s so cute, sound asleep and her little lips are ever so slightly trembling, I think she is snoring a bit.”, said Bernadette. 

“Well come on down, if you want to visit, we don’t have much time before she wakes up and my life becomes no longer my own again.”

Bernie closed the nursery door, shouldered her bag, and plodded down the white carpeted stairs. The sisters settled on the large white leather couch, curled their legs up under themselves and settled in to talk.     

A stranger looking in through the bay window at these two would never suspect they were sisters.  Julianne was a tall willowy woman, slightly freckled, pale, with long bouncy thick lustrous red hair and jade green eyes.  She had put on just enough curves in motherhood to complement her lean hips and bosom.   She was surrounded by signs of wealth, her choice in furniture, wine, lighting, and fashionable white metropolitan décor impeccable, yet wore torn jeans and youthful printed t shirts.  She was unaware of her beauty, and casually wore it with an unassuming confidence.   

Her older sister Bernadette looked more like their father.  She was stronger, shorter, but just as lean, with sleek shiny jet black short, bobbed hair and blue green eyes that were round and stunning.  She was a head turner, took most men’s breath away, but had an intensity that was off putting and made some folks uneasy.  Her eyes pierced one’s soul, and she seldom broke gaze but bored through a person as if trying to see their insides.  Jules wanted to tickle her; Bernadette could be most serious.

Today they sipped their white wine and talked about Bernadette’s upcoming trip to China.

It was her first business trip without her husband.  Julianne was not surprised that Bernie was going solo.  She knew that her sister and husband had been quarreling and that their infertility had placed a strain on the relationship.   Bernie had not been away since she had researched and written about the effect of the one child policy in China and Jules hoped the trip would be a good distraction for her. 

The sisters had married two brothers, real estate lawyers, and often spent much time together as the husbands were over occupied with the firm.  Tierny and Tierny was truly getting off the ground, and 16hour days and countless weekends were not uncommon for the husbands. 

Brent and Jarret Tierny were 2 years apart and marveled over their good luck when meeting the Charette sisters at a party in Quebec City over thanksgiving weekend 5 years previously. 

Yanarra stood in line chatting with her best friend and neighbor Mercedes.  The two had grown up together, attended school together and now, lived next door to one another in the tiny village.  Life was simple, backbreaking, and repetitive.  Once a month they stood in line for the rations.  The usual rations were a large bag of black beans, a bag of rice, cooking oil, a package of harsh disgusting cigarettes, a bar of soap, and dry milk powder for the children.  Occasionally a piece or two of chicken but only for families, not for singles. 

“I found 2 cups of rocks mixed in with the rice last month”, said Mercedes.  “I know,” Yanarra replied, it is getting worse.  Last week it took me a good hour before dinner to pick each tiny one out.  Fernando told me to just do it 3 cups of rice at a time because it can take you all day if you do the big bag all at once”.

Mercedes responded, “My mom now needs to use a magnifying glass to see well, and it takes her several hours to prepare the rice, as she has to hold the bowl between her legs and the glass in one hand, and then pluck with the other”.   They both laughed.

The fact that rocks were put into the rations to make the bags seem heavier was just an accepted part of their daily lives.  Each tiny shack in the village had mounds of rocks from the rice bags in the backyard, some homes with completed gravel rice rock pathways.

The lineup consisted of mostly women and was 10 people long, including a few older men.  Yanarra chose not to tell Mercedes about the pregnancy, not today, not in line.  She decided to wait.  Too many listening ears and busybodies in a small village.  Having some control over the timing of her announcement, made her feel as though she had some control over something.  She would savor her family’s secret news for a while longer.

The women shuffled home with their rations along the potholed, dung smeared searing concrete.  Music from a tinny sounding radio was blaring, the sun beat down, and dogs barked at them as they dodged the bleating goats, chatting, and hoisting their rations home.

Stay tuned….

Jennifer Currie May 2022