I feel the eggs rise in my throat. They seem less like food and more like tiny baby chicks that never got to be born. I know Miss McCaully says they were never there, but it’s all I can think of and I can’t swallow.

“Are you feeling alright, Lizzy?” Miss McCaully says.

I tell her I’m fine and I try to eat some toast. She rises to clear her plate and places a mug of Earl Grey in front of me. I don’t make a fuss like the last time it started. Instead, I warm my hands with it and inhale the steam. Maybe she won’t notice, and I can keep things to myself this time, at least for a little while, but she notices right away.

“Something wrong with your tea?”

“No ma’am. I just…maybe…may I have something herbal?”

Her face stiffens and she doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t even give me the usual spiel about how I can call her “Debbie” instead of “ma’am.” She just turns her back to me and pulls the tea chest from the cupboard.

She pours me a fresh cup of mint and sits back down at the table staring at the untouched Earl Grey cooling and blackening in front of me. My mint tea is nearly gone before she finally says, “Do you think we should make an appointment with Dr. Myer?”

I shake my head. “No. I know what to do. How to care for it, I mean.”

She steeples the cloth napkin and flattens it against her place mat. I can tell she’s trying to work out what to say. “I know that, dear,” and she folds the napkin, and smooths her hand over it, “but maybe we should just confirm with Dr. Myer.”

I know that there’s no way around it. I’ll be seeing Dr. Myer again, but it’s okay, because I can feel the weight in my tummy and the soreness in my breasts. I tell Miss McCaully that I’m going to go lay down for a bit and I plug a pair of earbuds into my Discman and set it to loop on my favorite hymn. I stick one of the buds in my belly button. I pipe “Eye Has Not Seen” in there for my little miracle and try not to think of all the times before, especially the first time and how it ended.

Miss McCaully knocks on my door. I tell her she can come in and she enters with a glass of water and the pills that Dr. Patel wants me to take. I tell her I won’t take them because they’re not good for the baby and she looks like she’s going to cry. It makes it even harder to tell her that I don’t feel well enough to go to school.

“Well,” she says, “we can ask Mrs. Johnson again about home school.” She wrings her hands, draws the curtain beside my bed, and says into the window, “She’ll definitely be paying us a visit when it gets back to her that I’ve called you out of school again.”

I just nod. She thinks it would be more comfortable for me to home school because I’ve done it all my life, but I don’t see what I could possibly learn from Miss McCaully. She’s not God Incarnate! I don’t say that because people get upset when I call Him that. One time I did in front of Mrs. Johnson, and she said under her breath, “He should be more than just in prison,” and I knew she was talking about the hellfire and that she was part of the persecution. He taught me about them. He said they might come for Him and they did. That’s how I wound up here. I couldn’t trust Mrs. Johnson after that. Maybe that’s the real reason I don’t say that to Miss McCaully, because I can’t bear to know it if she’s one of them.

“Okay, dear. Rest up for now. We’re going to Dr. Myer in the afternoon. You’ll need a note for school,” she says as she leaves, and she shuts the door behind her.

That’s when my thoughts begin to race and I remember what the doctors at the hospital told me about my first baby, about why he died right before he was born. They said it was because he was the product of incense, and so I figured that they must be Catholic, because I remembered some things that He had told me about church, not the one on the ranch that the disciples helped Him build, but the one He went to when He was a boy.  He told me about the altar servers pluming fragrant smoke down the aisles of the huge cathedral. Maybe that’s what they thought our church was like, but it wasn’t. I was worried that the doctors, Christians or not, might be part of the persecution. Pretty much everyone that didn’t live on the ranch could be part of it. Even people that did live on the ranch could be part of it, like Joshua, who went against His orders by holding a gun to Him and dragging me, limp and bleeding, into the truck to take me to the hospital that day. I know the doctors said my baby died because of my age and because of incense, but I can’t help but feel he died because I didn’t fight the persecution hard enough. There are things I could have done, even weak as I was. I could have turned the gun on Joshua while he was driving. It doesn’t take so much energy to lift a gun, and yet I didn’t.

It’s unpleasant to think about the past, so I breathe in and out to the count of four like Dr. Patel taught me, and once I’m calm, it’s easier to think of nice things, exciting things. I rub my hand over my belly. I can feel it poking out a little more than yesterday and I try to figure out when the Holy Ghost might have visited me. As far as I can remember, it hasn’t been since I came to live with Miss McCaully, but the Holy Ghost can even come while you’re sleeping, and you don’t remember. I know that because one day when I was still at the ranch, I went down one night to get a glass of water and I peeked into the den and He was showing one of His disciples a video tape of the Holy Ghost visiting me in the barn and I’m just lying there with my eyes closed and I definitely would have remembered that if I wasn’t sleeping. Usually, the Holy Ghost just visits me in my room and usually it looks like Him, but not always, so I wasn’t that surprised when the Holy Ghost looked like strangers in the video. Sometimes it looks like other disciples, and one time it even looked like an orderly at the hospital. That was before I came to live with Miss McCaully, but it means the Holy Ghost can visit places outside the ranch. So, why not at Miss McCaully’s? She tells me all the time that it’s not possible, but I don’t think Miss McCaully knows very much about the Holy Ghost. I shut my eyes and pray that I wake up if the Holy Ghost visits me again, and I can prove Miss McCaully wrong.

When we get in the car to go to Dr. Myer’s office, I try to keep doing the counting with my breathing. Last time on the way there, Miss McCaully told me about the chickens and the eggs and about how the eggs we eat don’t have chicks in them because they don’t get fertilizer. She said she didn’t want me to be unprepared and disappointed. I don’t know what the chickens have to do with me and my baby that disappeared, but I know that today, she isn’t talking about eggs or fertilizer or disappointment and I feel hopeful, until I sneak a glance at her when she’s changing lanes. I see her chin quiver and I think maybe I shouldn’t feel hopeful. Maybe she knows something I don’t about the baby growing inside me. Maybe she knows what a product of incense is, and she can tell that this baby will die, too, or that it will disappear like last time, and the time before, and if all those babies had a product of incense, but I’m too scared to ask. I sit quietly alongside her, gazing out the window and counting to four while I breathe.

I walk into the waiting room and the receptionist recognizes me. She smiles and says, “You can go ahead and have a seat, hon,” and she lowers her voice to talk to Miss McCaully at the desk.

I try hard to hear what they’re saying. For a moment, I think I hear “incense” in their whispers and my heart skips a beat. Miss McCaully raises her voice, and I can just make out what she says. “Right, but the insurance doesn’t cover pseudocyesis, so last time they just acted as if the urine screen came back positive. It was the only way they would cover the ultrasound, but, you know, she needs to see the ultrasound,” and I realize that incense isn’t what she said at all, it was the other word, SUE-DOE-SIGH-EE-SIS, and I’m reassured, because even though I don’t know what it means, at least it’s not incense and I hope that means my baby won’t die.

“Oh, yes. I’m sorry. I see the note here on her file,” and she pecks a few keys on her computer, looks back at Miss McCaully, and lowers her voice, but I can still hear. “Right. What would a dash on a stick mean to a girl raised like that? Poor thing.” She shakes her head with a pout. “No other way to get rid of that kind of pregnancy,” and she gives Miss McCaully a knowing look.

I can’t hear anything they say after that because the blood is roaring in my ears. I put it all together in that moment. My first baby died because of incense and my other babies disappeared because of the ultrasound and Miss McCaully wants Dr. Myer to give me the ultrasound. The receptionist said, “Get rid of…” I’m sure of it. My heart starts hammering in my chest and the nausea is crashing over me like a wave. Now, I know for certain that Miss McCaully is a part of the persecution; they all are, even the doctors and nurses that are nice to me. I feel the blood rushing to my temples.  I get up and bolt out of the door and don’t look back. I hear Miss McCaully yelling after me, but I don’t stop. I run across the street and cars screech to a halt mere inches from my thighs and I’m scared. What if I got hit? What would have happened to my baby?  But I keep running because I have to protect my little miracle and I know I can never stop.