1. The Last Straw

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However, Sally was a mess all the same.

She wanted to see her little girl, to comfort her and to feel Amy wrap her tiny arms around her neck knowing everything will be alright, now that mummy’s here. She could handle just about anything, pull off just about any stunt, come up with just about any cover story, but when it came to her daughter something touched her heart in the way that made Sally the vulnerable, lonely woman she truly was. All defences broken, all lies and tricks washed away.

Sally just wanted to keep her safe. But most of all Sally wanted to kill that sore excuse of a husband. This would be the last time she let him break her trust. And he can forget about any of his alcohol. She’s going to pour it down the drain first thing tomorrow. Well, maybe she’ll keep a bottle or two for guests, but that is going to be under lock and key. He will never lay a hand on Amy again. He will regret the day he first put his glass to his lips. Sally was shaking violently now, without even realising. The bastard. How dare he taint the only good thing they shared? Their daugher. But what could she do? Leave him? And what then? Go home, disgraced and ashamed just like her sister Frances? Never.  Forget about any of his alcohol, that’s rich, she thought. She couldn’t make him do anything. She groaned and collapsed her head in her lap. She was so stuck.

“Scuse me ma’am. Are you alright?”

Sally looked up, startled. A tall man stood above her, holding his hands together awkwardly.

“Only, you looked like you might need some company.” The man explained.

Sally looked at him with bewildered eyes.

“You’re waiting for someone.” he noted. “Do you know if they’re gonna be ok?”

“I...I don’t.” she stuttered. The gentleman smiled sadly, took a step forward and sat down on a chair beside her.

“Yeah me either. But, it’s… it’s actually a fairly common occurrence for me so…eh, nevermind… ” the man trailed off.

Sally’s interest peaked a little. Could it be she wasn’t the only one hiding something from the world? This was clearly a topic the man didn’t want to talk about.

“Anyway, I’m Jack Cranford.” He smiled, holding out his hand. Sally examined him. Neat, blond hair, dark blue suit. Big sun-tanned hands and deep blue eyes asking her to trust him.  Not forcefully like everyone else. Everyone else expected her to trust them.  The man asked quietly. As if he was pleading to be acquainted. But why? This whole situation seems a little out of context. Sally was entangled in his glance, wide-eyed, and embarrassingly unable to look away. There was something in those eyes- a peculiar freshness.

“I’m Sally White” she said, reluctantly shaking his hand, and finally peeling her eyes off him. She had to get a grip on herself. She couldn’t just go around inviting strange men into her life, despite that little part of her that maybe wanted to. She had to be the grown up in the household and bear the weight of this responsibility. He could only bring trouble.

“What’s your angle mister?”

The man opened his mouth, offended, then closed it and shook his head smiling.

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