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Page 4

Jane Downing

While the receptionist reached under the counter, hauled up a gold-clasped bag and rummaged within it, Beatrice and Arthur had time to let their curiosity out. There wasn’t much to see. The mirror behind the counter was mounted in an elaborate but common gold frame, and the print on the far wall was a tasteful Rubens. The woman let a five dollar note drop, wafting like a feather on the wind, to land atop the dragon’s hoard of silver and gold coins. A gust of pine forest scent hissed into the room from a mechanised supermarket air-freshener. Arthur ripped off a receipt. Beatrice readied herself for a push back into the heat, not sure she had ‘a story’ for the knitting circle on Wednesday, though she’d tell the girls anyway.

You can go through. They’ll all want to donate, the receptionist offered. A click echoed as the lock on the padded door to her right released.

Arthur thought, In for a penny, in for a pound.

They’d been together all those forty-seven years, so it was not surprising that Beatrice also thought, Golly gosh, but I suppose, in for a penny, in for a pound.


When their daughters were teenagers, they’d been typically messy. Dirty clothes piled on the floor, a mascara wand left to paint tracks on top of the chest-of-drawers, enough badly placed cups of tea to create Olympic symbols in the wood polish. The number of times Beatrice had stood at the bedroom door with her hands on her hips to chivvy them into cleanliness. Clean up! she’d cry, Your room looks like a brothel.

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