They are two China teacups, one pink, one blue, huddled in a cupboard. Nellie is flushed, her nose and cheeks ruddy with cold. Darlene has become as death, her skin as fine porcelain—so thin, it’s almost transparent. Her veins show through, like latticework on her hands, her face. It pains me to hear her cough, her body doubled-over and looking as if it may split open from her throat down.
But, Sunday came. That morning, Nellie was fretful, asking every nurse who would give her ear, and some who would not, whether she could see some doctor, anyone, and sort this whole thing out. No one gave her any heed. And, the baths did come; we all lined up, and were sent back, raw-skinned, shivering, the new girls veering about, cowed.
Nellie would not stop frantically insisting that Darlene needed to be kept warm, that she’ll give up her own stockings, they'll be hell, that if only the doctor would see her. The nurses promptly replied that the State required at least weekly bathing, and the cold will flush out the fever anyhow. Even up to when Darlene was next in line, Nellie would not stop her complaints; by now, they had become something more akin to shouts, her voice course. A senior nurse was beginning to mumble she would drown the bitch when Darlene’s hand was grasped by the bath-nurse.
Nellie gave an awful cry. She threw herself through the line, onto the nurse, wrenching her hands off Darlene with teeth barred. She then stood over her, while Darlene insisted she leave her alone, she can handle herself, in a voice that was shrill, like the cries of a trapped bird. Nellie turned her back to the nurses, now starting to pull at her hair with some force, screaming that no one would listen to her, that Darlene would die, that they were all beasts, bitches, idiot whores every one.
The male attendees were briskly called, and shoved her back, slamming her head into the porcelain tub. She was dazed for a moment, and someone let out a scream when she stumbled to the ground, and upon the bath was a smear of blood. The attendees pulled her away, chunks of hair and smears of blood trailing behind them. Girls were starting to pull away, voices high with terror. Nellie groaned and growled, more a wounded wolf than a woman, and Darlene gave a great shout to let her go, return her, struggling with all the strength she did not have to reunite, her voice still reedy, thin as a child’s.