Ama by @robyncorum #NaNoWriMo #Excerpt



Written by Robyn Corum


Melinda Heads West
(book on Amazon)

NaNo Excerpt

Manhattan, 1876

Ama writhed against the faded cotton blankets. Drops of sweat glistened on her face and neck as she moved her arms against an unseen enemy, though her protests were quiet. “… please… don’t.”

The crowing of a rooster stirred her from the nightmare, and she blinked. Jet black eyelashes swept open, revealing haggard green eyes. Freckles dotted her features. She brushed a hand across her face and sat up.

Ama glanced to the other side of the cot. In the pale light, she could see it was empty. Her eyes trailed down to the center of the bed where blood and semen stains saturated the bedclothes, regardless of the times she’d washed them. Spying the fresh stain, Ama lunged for the slop pot kept under the bed for late night emergencies, and barely made it before her vomiting and convulsions began. Tears streamed down her face. She lay back against the bedclothes and wept.


After tiptoeing through the front room and between the sleeping bodies of her stepbrother and stepsister, Ama unlatched the wooden door and made her way down the dark stairs, carrying the contents of the various slop buckets. She had learned to be mindful of the rats that hid out in corners and often tried to trip her as she traveled. Two flights later, she exited to the small, outdoor space known as the ‘back yard’, which held the tenement privies and an open pump. Ama dumped the slop buckets into one of the privies and then rinsed the bucket, taking a minute to rinse herself as well. She filled another pot with water for breakfast use.

It was still early, but the back yard squawked with life. Three chickens and a rooster had the run of the place. Several women were beginning their day’s washing.

Looking high overhead, where the faint streaks of dawn could be seen over the buildings surrounding hers, Ama could see the impression of colors in the light and knew somewhere, someone experienced the full, breathtaking dawn in its glory. She released a sigh.

“Another bad night, eh, peach?” Mrs. Wilkerson, from “D”, looked at Ama through wary eyes.

Ama twisted her face from the brilliance of the dawn and turned toward the ground. “Oh, it wasn’t so bad. Cane had a bad day, is all. He was in a right sour mood.”

“How old are you, girlie?”

Ama shook her hair back. She looked Mrs. Wilkerson in the eye and stood a mite taller. “I’m seventeen. I’ll be eighteen in two months.”

The greyed old lady tut-tutted, but the woman with her interrupted. It was Mary Gladden, from “E”. “Will you be wantin’ to keep ‘Lil No Name today, then, Ama? Since ye had a bad night and all?”

“Yes, of course. I’ll have Lucy run down and get her from you after breakfast.”

“Only if’n yer sure?” Her green eyes probed Ama’s.

Feeling a well of tears beginning, Ama turned her face back to the growing light. “I’m sure, Mrs. Gladden. Your sweet baby brightens my day.”

“Well, then. That’s settled.” Mrs. Gladden’s gaze still probed. “But let’s go on up now. I’ve got somethin’ to put on those bruises so the children won’t notice them so much.” When Ama hesitated, sliding one pale hand to her neck, the old lady prodded her by the arm. “It’ll only take a minute. And I’m sure ye’d rather answer two busy old hens like us, than those wee ones. Eh?”

Ama handled the water bucket with practiced ease, barely spilling a drop on the way back up the dark steps. When they arrived in Mrs. Gladden’s rooms, Ama hesitated at the door. This set of rooms seemed lavish in contrast to her own. The table had five matching chairs and there was a set of china dishes in a wooden hutch.

“Well, come in, then.”

Ama side-stepped into the room, careful to avoid touching anything. From the left, a cooing came and Ama’s face brightened. She walked over to a basinet and found ‘Lil No Name playing with her feet.

“Oh, and there’s my girl!” she said, setting down her pot of water and empty buckets. She took the baby’s feet into her hands and began to play patta-cake. Her lips lifted in a lop-sided grin as ‘Lil No Name began to giggle. Ama bent and nibbled at the baby’s bare toes, bussing the site where rats had chewed off the last three digits on her right foot. “She’s the happiest baby I ever saw. Do you aim to be naming her soon?”

Mrs. Gladden paused with one arm raised toward a cabinet. “Oh. I’m not all that sure yet, pet.” She turned her head and coughed, reaching into the wooden box and drawing out a round container. “My other two were a right-good-size when they passed. It’d be better to wait a bit longer, I think.”

Ama sighed and walked over to Mrs. Gladden. She sat in one of the hard chairs and raised her chin, wincing and looking away, as the kind old lady began rubbing cream onto her skin. “I’m sure you’re right.” She couldn’t help the tear that came to her eye.

Author Bio

Robyn has been writing for more than thirty years. She fell in love with the written word early, through the works of E.E. Milne, James M. Cain, Margaret Wise Brown, Dr. Seuss, Mark Twain, Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling, and others. She loves whimsical, spirited, uplifting pieces with unexpected twists and turns.

She writes every day, and her interests include poetry and prose, for young and old alike. You can never be quite sure what she'll be working on next!

Robyn lives in a small town in Alabama with her wonderful husband, Reggie. She has three perfect children and an adorable son-in-law. All-in-all, she in blessed beyond measure.