Martha Rudd by Lynda Byrom

The uniform’s gone, but I still smell of lye. Fingers wrinkled and broken nails. I wander down the avenue of trees and wonder what the future will bring. My clothes feel odd, scratchy, like they don’t belong to me at all. My spirits rise. It’s a beautiful day; a playful breeze tugs at my hair. I shake my head, relishing how it feels. I’m not sorry to leave. The work was hard but we all pulled together, boiling, bleaching, rags tied round our noses to blunt the smell of rotten flesh. I won’t go back into service, not again. And there they are: Sarah, Molly and Gertie. My friends. We aim to start a business. Thomas, my fiancee, saved the Colonel’s life. It cost him an arm. He’s going to finance our venture. Linking arms, we walk off to a new future.

Linda Byrom