Chapter Nine

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The sun streamed through the small window at the top of the wall, it illuminated a small square of flooring and gave me the light I needed. Standing in the square of sunlight, I glanced down at the small ball of clay that Robert had given me the day before, running my fingers over its smooth surface. I squeezed the ball tightly in my hand, feeling it flatten out and start to flow through the gaps in my fingers, as though it had turned to liquid. On the bed, Esther rolled around in her sleep. I ignored her and continued to roll the ball around in my hand, squeezing it to try and loosen the stiffness in my fingers.

After several minutes, the stiffness passed, and I was able to use my fingers properly for the first time in days. The clay looked as though it was going to do its job, I just hoped it would last long enough to get through the day, or at least until lunch. I stuffed the ball of clay back into my pocket, rubbing my darkened fingers together to try and remove the residue from my fingertips. Very slowly, the clay started to peel off, but I knew I would have to wash my hands to get rid of the clay completely. Sighing, I glanced back at Esther who was sprawled across the bed, her foot poking out the bottom of the blanket.

Trying not to get clay residue on my dress or apron, I crossed the room hands outstretched and headed towards the kitchen. The kitchen was silent, Miss Jenkins had yet to arrive. The main table was devoid of anything except a small china plate with crumbs on it, possibly placed there after everyone had gone to bed. Leaving the plate on the table, I turned and walked towards the sink, putting the stopping in the drain before using the pump and filling the whole sink with water. Once full, I grabbed the bar of carbolic soap off the counter and set to work removing the clay from my hand.

"What are you doing up so early?" Miss Jenkins voice said behind me. I jumped slightly, dropping the soap into the sink with a small splash.

"You scared me," I said, fishing around in the water for the soap.

"I apologise, I just wasn't expecting to find you in the kitchen before I was. Couldn't sleep?"

"My hand ached a little, I thought I would see if the ball of clay would make a difference."

"Did it?"

"A little, yes. Only my hand is covered in clay, so I came to wash it."

"Well, since you're here, can you go and wake Esther for me? You can put the burn cream on whilst you are up there."

Nodding, I quickly dried my hands on a towel and left the room, following the stairs back to the attic where Esther was still fast asleep on the bed. Her foot was still sticking out of the blanket, whilst one arm was thrown over her head, her mouth open slightly. I crossed the room and grabbed the jar of burn paste, twisting the lid off before smothering the thick paste onto the burn. With the burn now a pale pink colour, and my fingers almost back to normal, it was as if my entire left arm was back to normal. Though I knew it wasn't.

I put the jar back on the chest of drawers and turned towards the bed, silently grabbed Esther's discarded dress, balled it up and threw it directly as Esther. The balled-up cloth hit her directly in the face, causing her to panic and roll directly off the bed and onto the floor. A loud thump echoed through the small room as Esther collected herself off the floor, looking at me with a startled expression. I bit my lip to contain a laugh as Esther pushed herself up and grabbed the dress off the bed and glared at me, finally realising what I had done.

"Next time just shake me rather than scaring me half to death," she said, straightening out the dress.

"Sorry, my hands are all greasy from the burn paste, I didn't think you would want your nightdress covered in grease."

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