Ron had the same feeling now. She seemed so fragile. He lit the gas grill,
then followed her into the house. Paige stood, peering into the open refrigerator. He watched her stoop and pull open the
lettuce bin. She was twenty-eight, married ten years, and still looked like a teenager.
“Paige, can you tell me why this thing about the protest set you off?”
“Set me off?” She thumped the head of lettuce on the sink edge
then pulled out the core and put it in the trash.
“Why it’s upset you so much.”
Ron watched as Paige pulled the lettuce leaves back methodically and ran cold
water over the head. She shook it over the sink and watched the water run down the waxed sides of the stainless sink to the
“Do you think Mary Conley
is a good woman?” she asked him finally, putting the lettuce on the cutting board and turning to face her husband.
“Pete’s wife? Well, yeah. But what’s that got to do with
“Did you know she’d had an abortion?”
Ron answered by shaking his head.
“She’s made it right, though. She’s been a nurse for years.
Now she’s doing counseling. . . trying to keep kids from killing their babies. She’s made up for it with God.”
“Maybe I’m wrong, but when we went to church with Pete and his
wife, I thought the preacher said you couldn’t get to heaven by doing good works. He said it had to do with your . .
. how’d he put it? Relationship with God’s Son? I’m not a real religious man, Paige, but I took confirmation,
and I remember that much. I remember some scripture, too. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn it but to . .
. now I lost it. Not to condemn it but. . . ”
“But that the world through Him could be saved.”
“Exactly. Not by yourself, but by Him.” Ron was fast getting in
over his head in the conversation. He’d been raised in church, memorized Luther’s Small Catechism, gone through
the confirmation ceremony. He was a Christian, he figured, just not a real good one.
Paige turned her back to him again. “It also says God can’t look
on sin. I need to make it right before I can even think about praying. . . let alone going to heaven. And I’ve got to
get there. That’s where she is. In the Bible it says Abel’s blood cried out to God to be avenged after Cain killed
him. Her blood cries out to me, too, but I can’t avenge her. I killed her. My own baby.” Her voice was rising,
her eyes glassing.
“Paige. Paige, stop.” Ron took his wife’s arm, but Paige
was shaking now.
“I hear her crying. I hear her, and I get up to see what’s wrong.
In my dreams, she’s in a nursery. A pink and white nursery. I walk down the hall and I wake up and . . . and there’s
no nursery. No baby. Just the crying that goes on and on and on. . . ”
Ron pulled her to him. This time, she let him hold her while she sobbed into
his shoulder. He thought again about that day in the field. What if he’d asked his parents for help? He imagined his
mother’s face; she wouldn’t have taken it well. He would have lied to her, of course. Said it was his kid. His
cousin lived on a farm sixty miles east in Limon. Pat would’ve understood. They thought alike, country kids with one
boot in city limits, the other in a cow-pie. But he didn’t tell his family, and he couldn’t tell them now.
“Paige,” Ron whispered. “What did you want me to do that
day in the wheat field, when you told me you were pregnant?”
There was silence, but he could tell, from the way her body stiffened against
him, she was thinking. Finally she answered, her voice barely audible. “I wanted to be rescued. I wanted you to make
it all right.”
“If I’d asked you to marry me, would you still have had the abortion?”
“Oh, Ronny. We were sixteen. We couldn’t have raised a baby.”
“Would you have had the abortion?” Ron asked again.
Paige pushed away from him, white-faced, and turned to look out the patio
doors at the setting sun. “No.”
That was it, then; it was his guilt, too. He could have stopped her. The baby
wouldn’t be dead. If he’d just done. . . the right thing. The honorable thing. No, wait. It wasn’t his child.
He had to remember that. It was Paige who fooled around. Paige who got pregnant. It wasn’t his responsibility.
But they were married now. Paige was his wife. If the baby had lived it would
be twelve, Ron realized. As it was, the child would forever be an infant, haunting its mother’s tormented dreams. Then
another realization hit him. For the first time in months, Paige had called him Ronny.