It was nice and warm inside. The fire lit up the large room making it glow with life. She put her soiled hands into the pocket of her thin green jumper. She could feel it, nice and cool, in her warm bony hands.
She started to go into her room, when a huge figure loomed ahead of her.
‘And where do you think you’re going?’ inquired the person.
She looked up to see the red hot face of her mother, half-smiling, half-angry.
‘Go and get cleaned up,’ her mother ordered.
She nodded her head and rushed off towards the small section of the house that was supposedly called the bathroom.
After scrubbing herself clean and getting rid of the muck and cow dung on herself, she looked like a porcelain doll, dainty, fresh looking and with perfect features.
She walked up to her bed. It was huge and had clean white sheets. She and her sister Maria shared the bed.
She lay her clothes down carefully on her side of the bed. She was sure to take the baby’s foot out of her jumper and hide it under her pillow.
She recalled what Michael had said. What if there really was a crazy man roaming the long dark streets at night, hiding in the dumps or narrow alleys, waiting to jump out on an unsuspecting person.
She shivered at the thought. Sometimes she let herself get carried away with her wild imagination. Her theory was most probably right. A child could have stolen the knife and cut off a dolls foot in a rage of sibling rivalry.
But how could a little child make such a perfect cut? She took the foot out and gently fingered it. There were definitely no rough edges on it.
‘What’s that?’ someone asked behind her, their voice interrupting her thoughts. She quickly stuffed it under her pillow again and sat up straight on the bed.
‘Nothing,’ she answered her voice shrill as she knew she was caught by surprise.
‘Nothing,’ she added, this time with an emphasis.
Her sister shrugged her thin shoulders and climbed into the bed. She quickly sat on her pillow and looked down at her sister, warning her that if she even dared to look under the pillow, she would be beaten.
‘But Beth, let us see.’ Maria asked.
Beth shook her head got off the bed and walked away. She turned round and gave another warning to her little sister before leaving the room. She had to help Mama to wash up and clean the house.
The next day Beth met Michael again. He was full of excitement and kept jumping around all over the place. Beth had no time for him. She had to go to the farm to get some milk, cheese and eggs. They had nearly run out of milk. She walked quickly trying to ignore him, but she couldn’t stand it any longer.
Full of curiosity she asked him why he was so full of excitement. He didn’t answer, just keeping a smug expression on his face. She sat down her basket, took hold of him and shook him until she could feel his teeth rattling. She asked him again.
‘P-put me d-d-down first,’ he whimpered.
She put him down and picked up her basket. What he told her next gave her a shock. She couldn’t believe it.
She asked him again to make sure, Michael nodded his head sadly.
Beth couldn’t believe it. It didn’t seem to sink into her head. She sat down on the dewy grass and shook her head which sent her golden curls flying around her angelic face. She started crying, sobbing at times, and banging her fists on her knees.
She had known Old Joe Meggarty since she was little. He was like the grandfather she never had.
She tried to visualise his face in her terrified mind. She remembered his kind, thoughtful expression and the way he smiled at her, whenever she visited him.
She remembered the times when she used to sit down on his knee while he sung to her, in his quiet lulling voice, which always seemed to calm her down.
She wept tears of anger and frustration. How could anyone do such a vile and cruel thing?
Michael put his arm around her and helped her to stand up. He handed Beth the basket and she wiped her tears away carefully, with a swipe of her hands.
Michael stretched out his arms and she was towards him. He gave her a hug and kissed her lightly on the forehead. She blushed bright red and smiled.
The reality finally sunk in, kind; caring Old Joe Meggarty had been found dead in his home. He had been killed in his sleep but there was one thing seriously wrong.
His left foot had been completely cut off, revealing his arteries, veins, bones and muscles. It had been a horrific shock for the maid when she found him.
Right foot cut off.
She felt the dolls foot in her pocket. She looked at it, in furious anger, swung her arm back, flicking the foot into the river.
It had caused bad luck, it was unlucky. Slowly, she turned around and started off for the market, her basket held protectively against her and Michael walking by her side.