"Roman. Before he does something. He can be dangerous. You mustn't be rude to him or he will hurt you."

"I am not rude to Roman."

"Not with your mouth." She tapped the side of her skull. "In your head."

"Marriage is not for you. But you could have it if you want it. Men will want you like they want a glass of rum. Drink you up and pee you out. One man will love you. But you won't love him. You will harm him. You will destroy his life." Now, she was looking at me as if she didn't like me. My stomach was jumping like there were frogs in it. "I never hurt anyone." My voice sounded small.

"You don't believe me. That don't matter. Just now you start to menstruate. Tassi will let you stay home from school, but only for one day because"—and this part she said in a high voice—"you have to get accustomed to that pain like all women do in the world." Then, "You'll see."

I don't know why, but I said, "Aunt Tassi is good to me." "They tell you things about your mother and father," she said, and nodded. Then she seemed to be listening to someone else at the back of the room.

"Forget them. Forget them or make blood spill. You will make blood spill." She gasped a little and then she nodded again. She kept nodding.

"The one you love will break your heart in two." Her voice was higher now. "You don't care what happen to get what you want. It don't matter to you." She shook her head. "You won't die in this country. You'll die in a foreign place." Mrs. Jeremiah shuddered as if she was cold. Then she tossed something into the air, and I caught it. It was a piece of black rock, the size of a big tooth. "Carry this with you always. It come from the rock, right here. It will keep bad luck at bay and save you from the hard life you will make for yourself." She got up and put her hand out. My heart was beating fast.

"Now I will exorcise you," she said. Then, in a calmer voice, "Come. I will help you."

Mrs. Jeremiah began to speak in a language I could not understand. Father Carmichael had talked about speaking in tongues, but I could not imagine this ugly speech was the language of saints and angels. I turned and ran through the veranda, almost knocking over the bowl of water, and I ran down the steps and onto the path and I kept running, all the way down Stony Hill until I reached the main road which was lined with other little houses. These had lights glowing inside and I saw shadows moving in the light. I ran past Mrs. Maingot's house and Campbell's Hardware Store and along the curved road to Jimmy's bar. For some reason I went inside and looked for Roman but he wasn't there. Someone shouted something but I didn't hear what it was. I ran past the church and wondered if I should go inside, but then I saw the door was locked, so I kept running to where the road separates along the track to the house. The lights were on and I could see Aunt Tassi's big dark shape in the kitchen. Vera and Violet were sitting in the veranda. I flew up the steps. Aunt Tassi was standing over the stove. I arrived panting and sweating and puffing.


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