There was a time Leigh-Anne Wallace could go to the supermarket and stand out no more’n you and me did. She was a plain girl; got her mama’s want for looks and got nothing ever from her daddy, who walked out of the house the day she was born and never looked back. No, Leigh-Anne Wallace never used to be one to catch your eye, but there’s something about a fourteen-year-old girl carrying a child inside her tummy instead of in her arms that grabs people’s attention. Folk stared at that big, white belly of hers like it was a car crash they couldn’t look away from even if they wanted to. Just like a car crash they wondered who caused it, whether they were drunk, and how many lives it was going to ruin.
The first life it ruined was Jeremiah Ford’s. He was the one who done the job; out in the cornfield behind his house he’d laid her down, slipped his pecker out from underneath his overalls and been just as surprised as she was when he managed to use it right. He never knew he’d made a baby, that day she asked him to make her feel something again. He was fishing down by Lake Furlong when Leigh-Anne’s older brothers came for him, no explanations given, beat him with copper rods they’d nicked from Tommy Ryan’s storage shed, beat him until he was black and blue and red all below the belt, that little dog of his barking barking barking the whole time til they put the copper into him too. By the time Jeremiah’s mama came looking for him, yelling how’s she supposed to cook him dinner if he won’t even catch her some damn fish, he was already dead, the tide nudging his broken body like the wet fingers of a curious child.