Epilogue 21

Elsbeth was glad to be back at work. The charity shop had fallen into disarray in her absence so she busied herself organising the motley collection of unwanted offerings into attractive displays. She had a gift for making the ordinary look exceptional and applied it well. The busyness helped her to forget the dull ache that had been her ever present companion in recent weeks. She enjoyed the interaction with Mabel who managed the till, and even the occasional gruff encounter with Anne-Marie the area manager, who despite her dour fa├žade had shown Elsbeth surprising compassion when she needed it.

The door opened, clinking a little bell to announce the arrival of a potential customer. A slender young woman entered, dressed in an ill fitting plain, floral frock that hung awkwardly on her bony frame. Elsbeth asked if she needed any help, but she declined. After some time she settled on a set of porcelain pigs and brought them to the till for payment.

Elsbeth smiled at her. "Those are lovely."

The girl nodded shyly, looking nervously at the ground while paying, and then hurried out of the shop clutching her purchase.

Mabel turned to Elsbeth. "Troubled little one, that."

Elsbeth nodded.

"Did you see the needle marks?"