She was never called The Woman, only, A Woman. Her locks were long and shining and her face was pure as snow, her lips the color of berries and her eyes wide and blue. She was the one who every night took the husbands to bed and showed them what a true dance of the spirits could be. She yelled in song and praised in plenty and never knew a slap or a whip or a curse. Her needlepoint was precise and intricate and her fingers were still soft because a needle never pierced her skin. She was the one who joined the twelve of them in harmony and peace, and the jealous wives tales became untrue when she was around because they were all the same, and how can you be jealous of a woman? Her children were bright and playful and she stayed young through the fretful winters and broiling summers; her hair never grayed and her skin never creased. They wondered about her but she only lived in this town, among these twelve, silent as a whisper. She was the one they turned to when there was nothing left to put on the table, no crumbsleft in the fridge, when their men had hit them and their children misbehaved. She was there when they were mocked because they didn’t know how to add or spell or read and write, and when their backs broke from the weight of sorrow; when their mothers died and they got feverish and black. She was there most of all when they looked in the mirror, a crack splitting their faces in two and she was between the crack and holding them together tight. She would whisper in the ears of the twelve and remind them of their beautiful locks and berry lips and the songs they sang together like birds going south. They would look into the mirror, straight into her eye, and they would know who they were. They would know that they were the thirteenth.