Chapter Six

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On the night she expected Daniel, icy rain came down like razors on her walk home. She was soaked through her thin coat and uniform by the time she reached her flat, and one side of her face was numb from the cold.

It had been weeks since she'd had the flat to herself. Sometimes she craved the solitude that came when Charlie was gone for the night. She'd wander around in her bedroom slippers, with nothing but the creak of the floorboard for company. She'd get into her nightdress and read The Call of the Wild for the umpteenth time, and sleep would come easily.

She would have given anything to have Charlie's incessant chatter driving her up the wall that night. She'd take Charlie at his worst over what was to come. He'd gave her a funny look when she suggested he spend the night with the Barrett twins but was nonetheless happy to take Ian's old duffel and get up to no good with his friends.

She ran a bath. As the tub filled, she went into her wardrobe and pulled out her thin summer gown. It was hardly anything to make jaws drop, but it was sheer and lacy and feminine and she had nothing else.

No, that wasn't true. She had a beautiful blue kimono that had been her mother's. She'd taken it from the house the day she'd left. She'd wanted to keep Ena Murphy from getting her hands on it. It had been a Christmas gift from the children, and Sarah had loved it more than anything else she owned.

Dorothy knew why: when she put it on and the silk whispered over her skin, it was like becoming another person altogether -- a duchess, a princess, a queen preparing her toilet before bed.

Dorothy liked to imagine that the day would come when she would have her own house with a cozy little bedroom to retreat to. There'd be a big brass bed and a pristine white vanity like the one in Mrs. Monroe's room. She'd keep pots of perfumed cream that smelled like a summer garden. She'd take just a few minutes every morning, draped in that kimono, and laugh to herself that there was once a time when she cleaned someone else's home and wore shoes that always had holes in them.

The robe could certainly show off her figure, but she wouldn't dare sully something of her mother's for the likes of Daniel Monroe. He probably wouldn't think it was so fine. He'd probably finger the sleeve with an unimpressed look, then get on with getting it off of her.

Though she'd swore she was done with tears for the day, she sank down into the water and her eyes burned.

She couldn't pretend that tonight would be a singular occasion. Somewhere down the road, there would be another week when no money came. Charlie's winter clothes might not make through the season. Mrs. Monroe might get particular about the state of uniforms and demand they be replaced immediately.

Or Ian might not come home at all, and she could be on her own.

She supposed she could become fond of Daniel Monroe over time if she had to.

Once out of the tub, she jabbed the coals in the stove and put on her nightgown. She wrapped her ratty old sweater around her and sat on the edge of the bed to await the next horrid chapter of her life.

The wait wasn't long. The heat from the outer room had just begun to seep into the bedroom and warm her damp skin when she felt the inner door shudder as someone entered below. Heavy footfall thumped up the stairs and paused midway up.

She hoped he wasn't drunk. It would be hard enough to pretend to enjoy having him paw at her while he was sober, but to have to endure the stench of bathtub gin in her face would be too much.

The footsteps resumed. Dorothy rose from the bed and quickly smoothed the floral bedspread. Then came another pause, and she held her breath.

She was sure the man on the other side of the door did the same, though she couldn't imagine her visitor needing a moment to compose himself like she did. Daniel was probably smoothing his hair or checking his breath, or maybe counting his money.

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