Her father found her, as she feared he would, and he pulled her out from the deepening snow and carried her back into the house. He stood her in front of the fire rubbing her hands and her arms and her legs till they were red and hot and they hurt. He spoke to her harshly, for he did not know tender. He called her cruel and thoughtless and silly, and he swore. And he beat her about the shoulders with birch-stick guilt, so that she might never do again what she had just tried to do.
“You’re all I have,” he said and there were tears in the saying of it and plea there was also. “How could you, Lucy? What would your mother have said?”
Her reply came slow as ice melting and the words all shiver and soft.
“I just wished to be clean,” she said. “Bloodless. White as paper before it is written on. Just to be clean.”
Her father wanted to tell her again it was not her fault. Not anyone’s fault. Just a fact in the story of Lucy’s life and the story of his. That’s what he wanted to tell her, for that was the truth even if it held little comfort. He wanted to say to her over and over that sometimes mothers die and it’s never the fault of the child being born. Instead he just held onto her, thinking he was saving Lucy—but really it was as if she was saving him.