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     “Mama! Mama! Something’s wrong!” Lilia burst the kitchen door open to find her mother gathered with a few of her lady friends drinking their morning coffee.

     “Lilia! What’s wrong?” Maria’s concern grew as Lilia’s face flushed red as a beetroot.

     “I’m bleeding, Mama! There’s blood everywhere!” 

Maria quickly scanned her daughter and saw no signs of a cut or wound. “Bleeding? Where?”

     “Down here!” Lilia pointed between her legs and uncurled her fingers to reveal the scrunched-up bloody undergarments in her hand.

     The women burst into laughter when one of them yelled out, “It’s your menstruation, dear. You got your menstruation!” The woman shot a baffled look at Maria. “You didn’t tell her?

     “I got my what?” Still holding her cramped belly, Lilia’s eyes darted around the room—she was confused and becoming increasingly annoyed at the smug looks on the women’s faces, as well as the word she didn’t understand.

      Maria threw her hand up nonchalantly, delivering a brief explanation through her friends’ giggles. “Your menstruation means you’ll be bleeding every month like the rest of us. It means you’re an adult now, Lilia, and your body is preparing your womb for a baby for when you become pregnant one day.” Her face turned serious. “And don’t even think about getting pregnant before you’re married, young lady, do you hear me? That’s all we need! Now go wash those soiled undergarments at the pump before anyone sees them.”

     Lilia stood there soaking in the cruel laughter. She felt shamed and mocked, not only by her mother, but by the neighbors. She wanted to burst into tears. 

     Why didn’t Mama tell me? Why didn’t my sisters prepare me? When will this happen again? How will I know? I don’t want to bleed every month! 

     Lilia immediately felt a rush of pride, knowing that her privacy was at stake. “Please, Mama, don’t tell Papa!” Lilia peeled out into the street to wash and wring out the bloody garments before the stain set in. The chuckling echoed out the window, while Lilia died a slow and agonizing death inside.

     Hours later, she passed her father on the stairs, and he shot her a wink and a broad smile. “I heard you became a woman today!” 

     Lilia was mortified and nearly froze on the spot. Despite his congratulatory grin, her father’s expression seemed to have changed. Lilia felt he no longer saw her as his little girl but as a young lady…one who bled! She wanted the earth to open up and swallow her whole. Sweltering embarrassment and anger burst through her pores as her eyes welled with tears once again. 

     Her mother’s act of betrayal seared her brain. How could she! What if the whole village knows? I hate my life!

Lilia ran to the outhouse, the only place where her mournful cries wouldn’t be heard.

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