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38

She was Niles Tignors wife, and she was having Niles Tignors baby. These were days, weeks, months of surpassing happiness. And yet, like any young wife, Rebecca made a mistake.

She knew: Tignor did not like her behaving in any over-friendly way with men. He had made it clear to her. He had warned her, more than once. Now she was pregnant, her skin glowed darkish-pale as if lit from within by a candle flame. There was often a flush in her cheeks, often she was breathless, moist-eyed. Her breasts and hips were more ample, womanly. Tignor teased her, she was eating more than he was. Almost hourly, the baby in her womb seemed to be growing.

Of course Rebecca knew (from the illustrated pamphlet Your Body, Your Baby & You), that in fact the fetus more resembled a frog than a human being, yet by the twelfth week, in May, she fantasized that Baby Niles had already acquired a face, and a soul.

There are men crazy for pregnant women. A woman blown up like a goddam whale, still theres men who Tignors voice, bemused and disdainful, trailed off. You could see that he, Tignor, was not inclined to such perversity.

And so Rebecca knew, to shun the attentions of men. Even elderly men. She was aloof and indifferent to the most innocuous of greetings-Good morning!-Fine morning isnt it?-cast in her direction by men in hotel corridors, elevators, restaurants. Yet she had a weakness for women. Now in her pregnancy, she was avid for the company of women. Tignor was annoyed by her gabbing with waitresses, salesclerks, chambermaids for more than a minute or two. He liked his exotically good-looking young wife to be admired, to be vivacious, and to display personality: but he did not like too much of this, behind his back. In the hotels in which Niles Tignor was known as a frequent guest he knew he was talked-of by the staff, he knew and accepted this but he did not want Rebecca to tell tales of him, that might become exaggerated in the re-telling, and make him into a figure of fun. And now that his wife was pregnant, and would soon begin to show her pregnancy, he was particularly sensitive.

It was in May 1955, that Tignor returned unexpectedly to their room in the Hotel Henry Hudson in Troy, to discover Rebecca not only gabbing with the chambermaid who was making up the room, but helping the woman change the bed. In the corridor just outside the door Tignor froze, observing.

For there was his wife deftly tucking in bedsheets, tugging at a sheet as the other woman tugged at the other end. With girlish eagerness Rebecca was saying, this baby, hes always hungry! He takes after his daddy for sure. His daddy wants him bad as I do. I was so surprised! I thought my heart would burst, I waswell, I was so surprised. You dont expect men to have those kinds of feelings, do you? My birthday was last week, Im nineteen and thats plenty old enough to have a baby, my doctor says. I guess Im a little scared. But Im very healthy. My husband is always traveling, we stay in the best hotels like this one. He has an important position with the Black Horse Brewery, maybe you know. You know him, I guess?-Niles Tignor?

When Rebecca glanced around, to see why the maid was staring so fixedly past her shoulder, she saw Tignor in the doorway.

Quietly Tignor told the maid, Out. I need to speak with my wife.

She would not try to elude him. Vividly she recalled her father needing to discipline her. Not once but many times. And Tignor had been sparing with her, until now. Pas way had not been to slap but to grab her by the upper arm and shake-shake-shake until her teeth rattled. You are one of them. One of them! Rebecca no longer knew if she had ever known what Pa had meant by these words and what she had done to provoke him but she knew shed deserved it, her punishment. You always know.

The bleeding began a half-hour later. Cramps in the pit of her belly, and a sudden hot surging of blood. Tignor had not struck her there, Tignor was not to blame. Niles Tignor was not a man to strike a woman with his fists, and not a pregnant woman in the belly. Yet the bleeding began, a miscarriage it would be called. Tignor poured bourbon into glasses for them both.

The next one, you can keep.


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