Kate’s limbs feel stiff. She tries to stretch her spine, flex her calves, the soles of her feet, but her body will not move from its rigid pose. She sits at the table, tea set before her, though she doesn’t remember boiling the kettle, fetching the pot, the tin with its green scented leaves.
She doesn’t recall sitting down. Where was she before this?
There was a dark room, heavy red curtains and beads the colour of rubies and sapphires, her father’s mill pond after heavy rain. There was the smell of dust and snuffed candles, the dim glow of a lamp.
The old woman. There was an old woman, swathed in shawls, heavy with gold jewellery and hanging at her neck a doll with chain link joints that made the limbs dance with every breath and Kate had so wanted the doll, so wanted to touch it.
But more, she’d wanted it for herself, the need so bad it bit harder than any she’d felt for men she’d fought over, any pair of boots she’d snatched from a display or feathered nonsense to decorate her hair. There had been a row – a fight – a shard of broken glass. Then … Nothing.
And now she sees her.
Dressed in black, the old woman stands by the window, staring from beneath her bonnet, face part hidden by the crepe frills, hand outstretched, reaching, reaching.
A scream bulges in Kate’s throat, pressing at her lips, forever trapped.