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Ellie Stevenson, 20 May '13

Dorothy Taylor breathed in dust like it was her own, her own worn bones being ground into dirt. Instead of being just a tired old floor, and hardly dirty, she’d swept it herself. Such a pity her head was pressed up against it.

She could feel Jack’s foot in the small of her back, could smell his shoes, and something else, the smell of old sock. Unwashed at that. She was surprised that Jack could afford leather shoes, he was only part-time, and when he was here he worked so little. And then she smelt something worse than socks, sweat and fear. She got to her feet as Jack released her, watched him leave, finally cowed, as bullies always were when they met someone bigger. The person in question was Alison Beaumont, she was bigger, and had the ear of the man in charge. Dorothy groaned.

Alison Beaumont was normally sharp but today the woman looked dulled with grief. Dorothy noticed the flash of her eyes and guessed the grief might come with a spark. The woman was angry, very angry.

‘Get me some tea, Doris,’ she said.

Beaumont could never remember her name, but today was not a day to argue. Dorothy sighed and left the room, following Jack into the corridor and then to the staffroom. When she got back, Alison Beaumont was by the window and staring out of the grimy panes.

‘These need a clean,’ she said to Dot, running a finger down the glass, which came away smudged with grease and dirt. She looked surprised.

Dorothy didn’t bother to answer, she was a carer, it wasn’t her job to clean the windows. But the Home cared less about people than money, and not having cleaners saved quite a bit. Dorothy knew she ought to tell, but also knew she never would. She needed the pay.

Alison Beaumont sniffed and sat down. ‘I’ve come to see you about my mother. Now that she’s dead.’

Old Annie Barton was better than you, thought Dot savagely, grief surprising her with its sudden appearance. A small, hollow pain was birthed in her gut. At least your mother, Annie, was kind.

Alison Beaumont leant towards her. ‘My mother left you a small legacy.’ The frown on her face was comment enough and pure displeasure, that and the stress on the word small. But Dot didn’t care, the round, hollow pain was replaced by pride. Dot was in a fantasy world.

What would it be, this small legacy? A simple gift, some flowers or a vase? Maybe money, but not that much. A little something to make a difference. She hardly dared hope.

Alison Beaumont pursed her lips. ‘You needn’t look like that,’ she said. ‘My mother left you a garden shed.’

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