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Project 365 (2018) | 15 July

Encouraged by my mother, I became friends with a new girl in my class. Sally invited me home for tea after school, but when we arrived there was no mention of food, no plates of sandwiches passed around.

Her mother told her to show me her toys. Sally blushed and sighed, rummaging in the back of the cupboard under the stairs until she found her solitary toy, hidden among worn out shoes and dirty mops.

The doll had a left arm and a right leg — the other limbs were missing. It had a full head of hair once, but only a few strands remained clinging to its battered head. It wore a ragged dress, smudged with coal dust and grass stains. Sally put on her bravest face, and we did our best. I pretended not to notice as we lay baby Jayne down in a cardboard shoe-box crib, tucking in the dirty tea towel, covering her arm and leg and cooing to her like proud new mothers.

I secretly longed for the moment that my mother arrived to take me home.

Some time later I passed Sally’s house. The family had skipped town, moonlighting to escape the bailiffs. What was left of the doll, her only toy, lay abandoned in the yard.

Now, when I think of Sally, all I can remember are those startled-sad doll’s eyes.

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