Chapter Thirty-Three

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That night, I barely slept. When I did, it was infrequent and sporadic, as if my body knew it needed sleep but wasn't prepared to simply hand it over. Instead, I spent a large portion of the night staring blindly at the ceiling as though it was the most interesting thing in the world. Whenever I did sleep, images of the fire plagued my mind. The flames flickered across my eyes and the smell of smoke filled my throat and lungs making it impossible to breathe, but none of it was real. All of it was my mind tricking me, bringing me back to being in the factory, being in that space.

As I laid there, I watched as a small strip of sunlight broke through the gap in the curtains and worked its way across the ceiling. That small strip of sunlight reminded me of a similar ritual we followed at the factory. In the Summer months, when the sun rose early, we would watch it pass along the ceiling and the walls of the dormitory. On the wall, Suzanna had marked a line with a stone and the moment the light hit the stone the morning bell would ring. By marking it out on the wall, and with the sunlight bright enough to wake us before the bell rang, no one was ever late in the Summer. That line became our lifesaver.

Watching the strip of sunlight, I wished, deep down, that I was back within those brick walls. Back crawling across the factory floor with my bucket, listening to the sounds of the other girls breathing and the machines whirring. I wanted to go back to those morning walks across the courtyard with Isabel, spending our breaks dreaming up ways to take revenge on the foreman and Mr Thompson. It may have been dangerous, it may have been risky, but I was with my friends and nothing else really mattered.

"Rosie? Are you awake?" Matilda's voice carried through the door, the sound of a knock following shortly after.

"Yes," I replied, pushing my hair off my face and sitting up against the headboard.

"Excellent. Father wants to have a look at the cuts on your hand, the burn and the cut on your cheek before he allows you to talk to the Constable."

"What am I going to wear? Both of my dresses have blood on them."

"That's where I come in." After several seconds of shuffling outside of the door, the handle moved, and it swung up to reveal Matilda carrying a piece of fabric across her arms. She entered the room and closed the door behind her. "Miss Jenkins is still working to remove the blood from your old dress, but I found this one at the back of my wardrobe. I haven't worn it in years and I'm not sure it'll fit me now, but you're smaller than me so, with any luck, it should fit fine."

"The last time I wore one your dresses you almost tore my head off."

"That was different." She paused. "Well, not really. I'll leave you to put it on and I'll come back in five minutes or so."

"Thank you."

With a small nod and what might have been a hint of a smile, Matilda left the dress draped over the chair near the window and left the room. When the door was shut, I pushed the blanket off my body and approached the chair. The dress was a pale pink colour with a strip of white fabric that wrapped around the middle of it to act as a belt. It looked identical to the servant dress I had been wearing only with the addition of the belt and the fact that it was pink and not grey. I ran my fingers over the fabric, feeling the smoothness of it against my skin. I almost felt like an imposter, wearing something that wasn't mine all because I had failed my friend.

Sighing slightly, I pulled my nightdress over my head and grabbed the dress before pulling it over my head and allowing it to settle over my body. The belt hung loosely down my sides and the dress came just past my knees. The sleeves were loose against my arms and stopped three-quarters of the way down my arm. Both the burn and the bandage were on full display for the world to gawk at if they saw fit. Having the burn on display, I knew it was going to become a constant reminder of the factory, of what had happened, and it was never going to go away. I was always going to be connected to that place, to that man and there was nothing I could do about it.

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