Ann lay with the sheets pulled up to her noes so that it covered her cheeks which were numbed from the cold. The darkness hung around her the silhouettes of what little objects she possessed lit up by a stream of pure light that slunk through a gap in the lace blinds that covered her window. She reached out running her slim fingers over the shaped holes in the yellowed material. A musty smell cast off them filling her lungs and making her splutter her throat burning. When she was little she’d had, the same sounding cough a great whooping one, one that made her father awaken from his sleep in the dead of night and run through to her bedroom to see if she was alright. Coughs weren’t the same when you were a child, it could have been scarlet fever or polio it sent her father into a state. If she ever had one he would run himself down accusing himself of not feeding them well enough, when in reality it was never the fault of an individual. Now her cough came from the city smog, the pollution off the factories that stuck to your skin and hair or the damp that grew from the walls where she was housed.
She rolled over, turning her back to the light and staring into the pitch black. She could feel the cold nip at her legs as she lay in only her thin vest, the thick blanket over her shoulders the only thing covering the vulnerability of her bare flesh. Not that long ago she had lay in this bed with another body whose strong arms had wrapped around her chest and whispered bliss into her ear with his warm sweet breath. She had caved in, in those moments safe in a gentleman’s arms. Just outside had lay the cruelty, poverty, decay and the selfish desperation of her fellow humans. Survivors only at the expense of another. No. She wasn’t good. No number of acts could make her pure. As no human was. We are simply animals run on fear and instinct, poisoned and diluted by intellect. No one individual was evil. Only a society could be that. A facade of the masses that hid the cruellest acts of torture, oppression, and evil in plain sight.
That night had been a one-night stand with a high ranked man in the forces. Not a working man from the pit or the site. He was not one who would be drinking in a pub around her bit. He wasn’t their “kind”. He had fair skin and hair along with clean manicured figure nails, and polished boots. A white-collar boy. He’d lured her to him. Slid up to her at the bar and made her laugh easily. Had her in the palm of his hand from the first sentence. It made her feel special that he’d picked her. She was nothing. He’d paid for her drinks and joined her at her table filling her with lager shandes after a Friday shift. They’d chatted and laughed for hours about the cold weather, his work and politics. She wasn’t very aware of politics. She’d heard rumours of the suffrage movement going on in the cities although had not seen much in the newspapers they tended to ignore it, didn’t like to give it the attention even if it be negative treated it as a disease they feared would spread. Here in a small industrial town most woman lived in the dark over the topic. She knew her older brother voted liberal the party in power at present. And whenever he talked about it he would swear a lot. This man was a member of the conservative party and said for a fact there was to be a war. She’d dismissed it as guff. They’d never be a war. Not now with all the new technology, bombs and artillery they had nowadays. They weren’t that stupid. They’d kill us all. At eleven the pub was closing up and they had been thrown out by the barman with the other late-night stragglers. A group of men from the pits, a lone chubby man, and a thin ragged alchy. Outside the rain had been pissing it down and they’d made a spur decision to seek shelter at the bookies. He’d placed a bet on one of the horses in her name chucking on ten pound the equivalent of three months’ wages. “It will win” he’d announced. He’d a confidence and asserted way to him she’d marvelled at. He held himself up straight. There seemed to her no doubt that plagued his mind. Not like them here where they doubted themselves constantly wither they could put food on the table or heat their frail bones, constantly straining to not sink to the bottom.