Chapter Three

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The darkness around the city was stifling, suffocating almost. It felt as though I was being choked from the inside out, the way the smoke had only hours before. I stumbled my way through the dark streets, trying to figure out what I was to do next, but no amount of stumbling helped me in my plight. The streets were quiet, eerily quiet. It was as though whatever was in the shadows was watching and waiting for their opportunity, waiting to grab me. As I walked further through the streets, leaving the factory in my wake, the sounds of drunken men from the alehouse travelled down the darkened streets. Some of the buildings were lit only slightly by a small candle in the window, but that didn't stop the noise.

For a moment, I debated going into one of the alehouses, asking for assistance and confessing the situation I found myself in. Perhaps, I thought, I could help the others by telling the truth about the factory; publicly admit that it's not a school. Only the longer I thought about it, the more I doubted myself. Drunk men were never good people to be around, my father had taught me that much, and I doubted they would believe me anyhow. With the drink and the far-fetched manor of the story, there was nothing I could do wait until morning. Wait until the darkness had lifted and I was able to get my bearings a little more.

I had no idea where I was, how far I had walked or where I was going to sleep. The sounds of the drunken men in the alehouses unsettled me beyond belief and the idea of spending longer than one night in their company was not something I wanted to happen, but I didn't think I had a choice. Whilst my legs were telling me to stop, to sleep, my brain told me a different story. I couldn't stop for even a second for fear of what may have been lurking in the shadows, what was hiding in the darkness. My hand and lungs ached from the day's events and the sleep I had taken that afternoon was clearly not enough to quench the fatigue that was creeping up.

Whilst I walked, the sounds from the alehouse faded into distant ruckus but it didn't make me feel any less uneasy. Nonetheless, I knew I had to find a place to bed down for the night but nowhere seemed particularly safe and I had no money for an inn, not that they would have taken me in my condition. After a little while longer, I noticed a small alleyway, almost like the one we used to eat our porridge in at the factory. As strange a place as it was, I had come to think if such crevices as safe, a place to escape the demons that plagued our lives. It may not have been the most comfortable, nor the safest, but it was all I could do.

That night was one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life, and I had shared a mattress on the floor with Isabel for seven years. The ground was cold and a little damp, the alleyway smelt, and I was more than certain there were several rats running behind me and across my feet. I don't think I slept that night. When the sun rose, I was more than willing to venture further into the streets of London in search of someone who could help me. Though it was going to far harder to find someone willing to help then I thought it was.

I stumbled out of the alley and into the glaring sun, my eyes bleary from a lack of sleep, and continued to walk the way I had the night before. The streets were full of people. People in top hats, people working on stalls, people wearing some of the finest dresses I had ever seen. There were even children running around, weaving in and out of their parents and other sellers, having what I could only assume was fun. I was awe at the freedom they had. In the factory, we never had five seconds to ourselves and if we did, it was right before bed when we too tired to do anything other than sleep. For the first time since being dismissed, I saw a small glimmer of hope in my perilous situation. After seven years, I could finally be a child.

As I made my way through the cobbled streets, I tried to ignore the stares and the looks the other people were giving me, looking at me with disgust. I knew my appearance wasn't up to much compared to some of the ladies, but I had hoped that the obvious injury on my arm would have been enough to gain some assistance. The truth of the matter was; no one cared. I was just a street rat on the prowl for something, possibly trying to find someone to pickpocket, or a stall to steal from. The men and women gave me the side-eye simply for walking to close to them whilst the vendors threatened to slap me if I came too close to them. It was like being a flea, and I knew all about those.

The Factory Girl // Book 1 in the Rosie Grey seriesWhere stories live. Discover now