The sun was hot and bright, yellowing the landscape with its aura.

It was perfectly quiet at the ranch, with only the sound of the animals enjoying the afternoon.
A few clouds here and there moved with the barely-there breeze.
It was good weather, and a good day as any to do laundry.

Molly set out to do just that, bringing a washtub and a pail full of clothes. The heat dictated her to wear a hat,
and she decided to wear just that—one that was done in light straw and red ribbon.

Her clothes were faded and baggy (one of her old makeshift maternity shirts),
to prevent any great loss from stray splashes. She went out to the little stream that ran by the waterwheel of the farm,
where the water was cold and clean.

The rancher set out to work, dipping the tub into the stream and pulling up water before adding the detergent and clothes.
She had forgotten to sort through the clothes, and she decided to put all the colored fabrics in first.
The yellow blouses she liked and the thin summer coats her husband wore—they mixed with the others in a swirl of wet color.
Molly let the clothes soak and sat on a rock by the stream, looking at the stacked pile of white clothes.

A tiny sock caught her eye, and suddenly the day turned grey.

It was a beautiful winter when the first little flicker touched from just behind her bellybutton.

A joy it was, feeling something so amazing right from under her skin after spending autumn cautiously waiting for a kick.
Every cloudy gray day seemed a little brighter, and in spite of the weird, sickly feelings
Molly found it to be a beautiful thing to be with child.

Toby was there, and of course he was happy.
He didn't really go very giddy, but whenever they were alone he would absently run a hand over her middle,
imagining the life they would have.
They excited soon-to-be parents talked until they fell asleep, the three of them watching the stars,
thinking about wishes and dreams and hopes.

Those were the most promising months of her life.

Holding the sock in her palm, the rancher made a mental note

to put it away with all the other things—little shirts and tiny booties—in that one dresser drawer that she kept locked.
Molly wanted to look in it as little as possible. She wasn't ready yet.

(The key to that drawer she kept on a string around her neck, even now pressing against her breast
with a sentiment tattooed into her heart.)

After a long while and a certain amount of scrubbing, she drained the tub of water carefully until the clothes remained.
It was time to dry them, the farmer remembered,
and the house had clotheslines hanging from the roof—she could always get to them through the windows.

The little washerwoman carefully hefted her bundle and went inside the house.

A presentiment of doom engraved itself upon Molly's heart when the contractions came in the early spring.

Irene looked so grim with every passing hour, and Anissa grew paler that she looked like she would faint
had she been given the choice. They watched the poor little mother strain, longing to feel the little touches
of her child that reminded her of his existence.

The blood bath came with (what could have been, but was now what was left of) the tiny baby; the room went still.

The last clothespin went on the sheet, and Molly stepped back as she admired her handiwork from the second floor window.
The summer sun would dry them quickly enough, and she could make dinner while they dried.

As if on cue, Clarence made his way through the baking tiles and wooden roof deck.

The white cat was a solitary creature, and did not often show affection to its owners.
Nonetheless, the purring thing felt unusual today and graced his human's presence with a friendly rub of the head.

"Hi there," Molly murmured, feeling the softness of fur slip between her fingers.
She tried to scratch his chin, reaching her fingers out, and felt the white body slink away to the farther part of the roof.

Clarence tiptoed away, and vanished from her sight.

The life after the initial pain was hollow.
All the couple's energies for their child congealed into a bitter mess.
For the first few weeks, they were inconsolable.

Molly sank into a deep sadness, and visions began to cloud her dreams—crying and blood and regret and love.
Her eyes were often swollen at night, and it was a long time before any color came into her face.
She tried to pick herself up, but the pieces were too sharp to take without cutting herself.

Toby talked and ate less, and his already weather-worn face began to show even more. His quietness was one of sorrow, although he tried his hardest to pull it back. He buried himself deeper into work, and fell into a darker mood than anyone could recall.

(A faint line appeared when his wife brushed her hand against his forehead one night, but he smoothed the other's bleary eyelids with his thumb.)

One night he returned angry, and for the first time Molly shrank away from husband. He spoke roughly, and his breath smelled strongly of alcohol. The words that spilled out were those of anger and pain and blame. It was miraculous that he did not become violent, and slumped into his wife's arms at their bed.

"…It hurts so much," he murmured. Repentant, he pressed his lips to his poor spouse's forehead, who clung even tighter.

"…I'm sorry, sweetheart." Her tears flowed freely once more, and she was touched to feel dampness trickle down on her shoulder.

"…I'm sorry."

They clung to each other, apologizing, for a very long time.

It was evening now, and the laundry had been packed away, the supper made, the dishes done.

After a while, there was a turning of the doorknob, the sharp click of the key sounded out.
A tall shadow entered the entryway and carefully locked his entrance again.
The moon hung over the house, and pushed the man's silhouette farther into the room.

Toby found his food carefully covered, and his wife fast asleep.
The fisherman saw that his wife had tried to stay up for him, and had fallen into slumber.
He couldn't help but manage a weak pang in his chest, seeing that.

I shouldn't stay out so late.

He changed his clothes and crept next to her, and saw her wide brown eyes flutter open.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, silver hair reaching out towards the side of his wife's pale cheek.
Molly's fingers laced between his, and rolled closer.

They looked into each other's faces, and felt an unspoken connection bridge their hearts.
They exchanged little smiles, and closed their eyes.

Whatever happened, they would make it through together.



I tried a Seventh Sanctum generated writing challenge. It said:

"A character will do laundry.

A character is sad throughout most of the story."

This is what came out of it!

(Although, I felt sad while writing it. )