Juliet O’Hara wakes up feeling decidedly ill, as she has for a full week. Clutching her stomach, she steps over piles of sleeping siblings- the twins hugging each other, little Hugh and Michael using each other as pillows- and stumbles into the narrow hall. She nearly knocks over Christopher in his stroller, but does make it to the small bathroom in time to vomit into the toilet. Which, by the way, is dirty and disgusting, and spurs another round of vomiting.
When she enters the kitchen in the hopes of washing her hands, a few of her brothers are already awake, and pestering Maryanne for breakfast. Juliet’s mother shoos them off, her intense Scottish accent not obscuring her point.
“Aye, if ya want any o’ this at all, ya’ll back off! I’ll give all o’ ya a slap on the ear!”
“Beat feet, boys,” Juliet adds, not in the least intimidated by the fact that they tower over her. “Let me at the sink.”
Maryanne regards her daughter with a penetrative eye. “Still not feeling well, aye, Juliet?”
“I’m fine, Mum,” Juliet mumbles. She knows exactly why she’s sick all the time. It’s not something she’s prepared to share.
“You don’t look it, dear. You’ve been sick as a dog all this week and half of the last. Why, the only time I’ve seen anyone close to that bad was when I was pregnant with ya’nd your siblings!”
Juliet eyes her mother’s growing belly. “So, quite often, then.”
“Don’t talk cheek to me, lass.”
“She’ll end up like you soon enough, Mum, carrying on with that rich boy like she does,” Ewan grumbles, tilting his rickety chair back until he’s resting on the wall.
Juliet roughly tips him back upwards. “Quit nosing into my business, Ewan! It’s not like that.”
(It is very much like that.)
“I don’t like the look of the greaser, Julie! He’s cruisin’ for a bruisin’, if you ask me.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t ask you!”
Maryanne ends the dispute with a dish towel snapped against Ewan’s arm. “What boy is he talking about, Juliet?”
“Nobody, Mum,” Juliet lies. “Just a nice boy from up the street. He buys me sandwiches sometimes, that’s all.” The lie tastes sour, making her want to puke again.
“Best be careful with those boys, darling,” Maryanne mutters, stirring the pot of oatmeal. “Men like that buy you a meal, they’re too bleeding likely to want something in return.”
“Yes, Mum.” Juliet slides a few pieces of bread into the oven. “I’ll wake the ankle-biters. Perhaps they’ll be close to clean by the time breakfast is ready.”
As the day goes by, the lies weigh heavier and heavier on Juliet. By the time she’s helping Maryanne with dinner, she’s not sure if it’s the lying or the pregnancy making her sick.
How bad could it really be, to tell her? She’ll have to find out, eventually… and she can’t be all mad, not when I know Declan will help us out… maybe there’s not really anything to be afraid of…
“Mum?” Juliet asks quietly, worry stealing her normally confident voice.
“What’s the matter, lass?” Maryanne doesn’t look up from her onions.
“Um, do you remember this morning, when Ewan was teasing me about Declan?”
“Oh, he has a name now, does he?”
“Uh-huh.” Juliet looks around, but her brothers are playing outside and Grace is washing up before helping. “Um, well. I may have lied, a wee bit.” Her own accent has been tempered by growing up in California, but it thickens when she’s nervous, angry, or tired. “I am sort of going out with Declan.”
Maryanne turns to look at her, squinting. “What do ya mean, ‘sort of’?”
“Well, I- he’s very nice, and he- he takes me places, just-just around, to spend time away from our one little street…” Juliet twists a dirty dish towel in her hands. “He’s a gentleman, mum, and he’s good to me. I told him no at first, but he kept suggesting it and- and I just wanted to make him happy…”
Maryanne shakes her head, disbelief in her gaze. “Juliet, a gentleman stops asking when a lady says no! And a lady don’t do things that should be saved for the wedding night with a boy she’s just met!”
“Mum, I didn’t just meet him! I love him!”
“So ya really did it, then? Ya let a random boy have what should only o’ been had by your husband?”
Juliet swallows hot shame, and can only nod.
“Bloody ‘ell, Juliet, you’re lucky ya ain’t pregnant!”
She stays silent. Maryanne watches her, slowly turning away from the onions. “No. No, don’t tell me…”
Juliet only nods, wiping at the tears that are beginning to flow. “I’m sorry, Mum…”
“Sorry ain’t gonna feed thirteen, ya filthy girl!”
“Mum, please, I need your help-”
“Ya should’a thought o’ that before ya went and spread ya legs for Mr. Rich Boy, now, shouldn’t ya?”
Juliet is openly crying now, tears streaming down her face. “He’ll help us, Mum, I know he will…”
“Ya’d better hope he helps ya, ‘cause I sure ain’t!”
Even if she’d known her mom would be upset, Juliet hadn’t been expecting this. Shock abruptly halts her tears. “Wh- what?”
“Ya heard me! I raised ya as best I could, but if you’re going to be acting like this, ya ain’t worth the effort it takes to feed ya! Bloody hell, what will ya father say?”
The door opens, and despite Juliet’s fervent hope for it to be Ewan or Thomas or any one of her brothers, Frank steps through, already frowning. “What will I say about what?”
Maryanne gestures in Juliet’s direction, emphatically enough for her to flinch. “Ya daughter’s gone and got herself knocked up!”
Frank turns a harshly disappointed eye towards Juliet. “Julie. You’re smarter than that. It ain’t true.”
Juliet nods. “I- I’m sorry-”
He’s shaking his head before she finishes the sentence. “Will the father be any help?”
She seizes the chance. “Yes, absolutely, I know he will-”
“Then maybe ya’ll get lucky enough not to end up in a maternity home. Get out.”
Juliet stares fearfully at her parents, both of whom look angry enough to set the house alight. Neither one shows any signs of relenting.
Maryanne shakes her head. “Leave, Juliet, an’ don’t come back.”
Juliet nods, numb, and stumbles through the door. Nauseous, scared, and utterly alone, she paces slowly out into the street.