That day was misery for Charley, sure everyone knew her humiliating secret. Not for the first time, she wished she had a close friend to talk to, but had learned to guard herself carefully to avoid exposing herself to treacherous classmates. Now that she had reason to be interested, she realized she’d heard girls giggling about “that time” and asking friends to “”check the back of my skirt.” She saw Margie Smith slip quickly into to gym teacher’s office and hurry to the bathroom and realized the reason. She slogged miserably through the next couple of days, terrified she’d give her secret away.
During study hall that day, she projected how many days would be ruined before she was forty and decided she just wouldn’t tolerate the indignity. Waiting till Cora went home for the evening, she emptied all the ice trays in the bathtub and lay in the tub as long as she could bear it, before washing her hair in the frosty water. Hard cramps and a splitting headache rewarded her efforts. She asked her father for some aspirin for the headache, avoiding mention of the cramps. Cora had apprised him of her situation, so he was prepared.
“Sure, Charley. Can I get you a hot water bottle.? If you having cramps, that might help. I only wish your mother could be here for you, now,” he told her. It was so hard raising girls without a mother. At least Cora was there for them.
Charley whirled and went to her room, mortified her father knew her humiliating secret. “I don’t need a hot water bottle!” Wild horses wouldn’t have dragged an admission of cramps out of her. She whirled and left the room in a huff. She pulled on her warmest flannel pajamas and went straight to bed with no sanitary pad, assuming she’d put a stop to her menstrual flow, thanks to Cora’s warnings. She slept deeply and peacefully once she finally warmed up, but was appalled to awaken to blood-stained pajamas and sheets. Charley felt betrayed by her own body and Cora. She’d taken her warnings as a promise. Ginny darted in her room, saw the causality and reacted with horror. “Ginny, get out! Now!”
“Daddy! Cora! Come quick! Charley’s bleeding!” She called out.
Charles started to rise from his paper and breakfast. “Don’t! I’ll go.” Cora said. “You’ll shame her.” She trudged up the stairs. “Ginny, you go on down. I’ll help Charley. She probably scratched the scab off a sore on her leg. Scat!” Ginny didn’t look convinced, but went to breakfast.
“Oh, baby, your pad musta slipped out of place. Go get cleaned up and I’ll take care of all this. Just run a little warm water in the face bowl and clean up with a washcloth. You can’t take a bath now! It’ll make you stop!” Cora said “make you stop!” like it was the gtavest of all threats.
“No, it won’t! I was trying to get it stoped an’ took an ice bath last night! It didn’t stop nothing! You was lying to me!” Charley’s mouth quivered with betrayal and hurt. Cora, her hero and protector had let her down.
Cora was stern. “Now, I know you hurtin’ an’ you hate all this growin’ up, but I been raisin’ you your whole life. I ain’t never lied to you in yore life an’ I never will, but I ain’t puttin’ up with none of yore back talk. They’s some things in life you gonna haf to put up with, like it or not. Do you think I been livin’ this long an’ had everthing my way? I had to put up with the curse, an’ I had to put up with a man that drank and beat me till somebody cut up him in a knife fight. I ain’t saying I missed him none, but it did leave me to raise three chillun by myself. We ’bout starved till I got started doin’ for y’all. Now, is you gonna git movin’ or do I haf to git yo daddy?”
“I’ll get ready. I didn’t mean to be sassy.” Charley backed down.
“I know you ain’t meant no harm. Just stick an extra pad in yore pocket an’ come down to breakfast. Ginny an’ yore daddy are worried ’bout you.” Cora told her.
“Be down in a minute.” Charley gave Cora a question city hug. “I know you ain’t never lied to me.