Svetlana’s body could longer stand the cold; she shivered at the bus stop while fingering the cross around her neck. She’d moved to Prague from Most, away from her parents, and from their neighbours’ stares and the gossip that echoed the halls of their apartment building. She placed a hand on her swollen belly. She was pregnant, due in four weeks.
When the bus arrived Svetlana covered her face with her scarf. The bus driver’s eyes fell to her hand. There was no ring. The bus driver muttered something. He accelerated hard and Svetlana struggled to keep her balance. With her eyes lowered, Svetlana slowly made her way to an empty seat.
She arrived at a free clinic. Her last check-up before the baby was due. Svetlana’s legs jittered. When the baby was born she was going to hand it over to the state. She felt the baby inside of her. She would hold the baby in her arms while in the hospital, but she would leave it at a hatch.
Her entire neighbourhood had been told of her pregnancy. Her family doctor told the entire community. Word spread fast in her town and pretty soon everywhere she went she could hear whore. Her father’s face drained of colour when Svetlana told him and her mother. They had looked at each other silently, until her mother asked “so when is the wedding?”
When Svetlana told her boyfriend, Branislav, she had been holding his hands. She’d played out the scene in her mind before telling him, imagining Branislav tearful, kissing her, and happy. Instead, his eyes had darkened and he’d slapped her so hard she’d fallen. He’d slammed the door as he left. She hadn’t seen him since.
The pain during labour was excruciating, Svetlana had never known pain like this. For the first time in months she prayed. Prayed for this ordeal to be over.
The baby was tiny, the size of a notebook. It was a girl, but Svetlana couldn’t name her. The baby was wrapped in a blanket. It was late at night, and no one was there to witness it.
When Svetlana got back to her apartment she packed her belongings and paid the rest of her rent. She walked back to the bus stop, fingering the cross around her neck.