There Will Be No Lace

19th century nun with baby
There Will Be No Lace

by TM Upchurch

Your lips bubble and slurp, a sweet shik-shik suckle of air as I curl around you, smelling your butterscotch breath. You pause to gape a greedy smile, swallowing the night; you are ready for this life.

They tug at my shoulder. They say, Don’t you be making a fuss, now.

I shrug them loose, lean in and swaddle you tight so you won’t feel the cold. Pretend I’m still here. Your eyelids close, open, close, open less… As they slide down, sealing you into sleep, I am still here. I brand my mind with the moment, breathing in deep, sucking you into me before they take my wrists.

I flinch. No, no, they say, you know(What you did. What happens now.)

I reach forward to whisper into your mouth, for you to taste my words; you were, are, will be loved… if I could— If I could reach, I would whisper.

They grip my elbows and my father nods.

Wheels on cobbles; my breath jolts and stops, and I have to make promises to coax the air back in. You’ll grow up beautiful, I’ll come back. While I’m gone, I’ll make lace napkins and pray to share a meal one day.

They teach me mea culpa, dress me in black and steer me down stone corridors. It’s too late to marry your father so now I’m to marry God; I’ll sleep under sorry-thin sheets and wake with cold sides. Each morning, I’ll grow stone knees and give thanks for the walls around me. There will be no more children. There will be no visits home, not even the sad return of a widowed bride — not unless God dies before me.

They say, Pray for your sins.

I pray, rejoicing in the sin that made you. I pray you grow strong, pray that no-one ever steers you by your arms, and I pray that you have your own napkins because they’ve told me already, there will be no lace.

TM Upchurch lives and writes in a small house overlooking the Atlantic. Her fiction has been published in print and online, and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, Bath Flash Fiction Award, and HISSAC short story competition. She is currently working on her first novel. She tweets as @tmupchurch and blogs at

Image from Awful Disclosures of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery  (New York, 1836).