Mud and Gold
saw a suitable pair some way further up the
hill from the house, in a spot sufficiently exposed to catch the
sun. Attaching the rope high enough so the clothes would not drag
on the ground was going to be a problem. Amy studied the branches,
and decided there was only one way to do it.
    If there was one thing even more difficult
than clambering over fences in a corset, Amy found, it was climbing
trees. But it had to be done, and by taking off her shoes and
stockings she had at least given herself a chance of getting a grip
on the tree trunk. She knew she would make a strange sight,
clinging to a tree branch with her skirt and petticoats tucked into
her apron strings, but no one was likely to see her. One leg had a
deep scratch by the time she had secured the rope.
    The wet clothes were heavy, and it
took Amy several trips to bring them up from the creek. She had to
drape them over the makeshift clothesline and hope they would stay
there, as there were no clothes pegs. That was another thing she
would have to ask for one shopping day.
    Amy stood back from her clothesline and
studied the washing. It did not look as clean as she would have
wished, certainly not as clean as she was used to, but it was a
good deal better than it had been before. The sun was hot enough to
dry everything in what was left of the afternoon. It was essential
that they did dry quickly, as Charlie only seemed to possess one
pair of sheets. No wonder he never bothered washing
them .
    By the time dinner was over and Amy had her
bread dough warming in front of the range she was drooping with
exhaustion, but she welcomed her weariness as a friend. I’m so
tired I’m sure to drop off as soon as he’s finished. Maybe I’ll
even go to sleep during it . That, she decided, was too much to
hope for. But another first had been conquered: her first washing
day. The sheets were back on the bed, smelling fresh and clean
instead of musty, and the clothes were all dry and ready for
ironing. It had been far more difficult than she could have
imagined, but next time would be easier. She wondered fleetingly
how she would manage during the scanty daylight hours of winter,
especially when the creek began to run muddy, but she thrust that
thought aside. I’ll just be miserable all the time if I think
about things like that. One day at a time, that’s the best way to
be. And at least I’ve got a clothesline now. I won’t have to do
that again. I’m not much good at climbing trees . She rubbed at
her scratched leg through her dress.
    Charlie put down his cup and rose to go
through to the parlour. At the door he turned. ‘You left my good
bit of rope tied to those trees,’ he said, frowning. ‘I had to get
it down and put it away. Now, don’t go bawling whenever you’re told
off, you silly bitch.’
     
     

3
     
    February – April 1885
    One day at a time , Amy told herself
whenever things threatened to weigh her down beyond bearing. She
was used to working hard, and strong enough to cope with the
drudgery of this house.
    Charlie allowed her to bring out her
bedspread, but he announced that her lacy doilies were too fussy
for his room, so they lay neglected in a drawer. Amy did not risk
asking permission to bring out her books, and she could not bear to
think of her mother looking down at the bed and all its horrors
with her loving smile. She left the photograph in a drawer with her
books.
    Her beautiful white bedspread looked out of
place in the starkness of Charlie’s room. Sometimes its familiarity
gave Amy comfort; she liked to stroke it as she climbed into bed,
remembering her grandmother’s hugs. At other times she regretted
having brought it from home to cover what took place in that
bed.
    Desperation taught her ways of coping with
the ordeal of her nights. She learned to make her body relax when
her instinct was to go rigid, and she slowly trained herself to let
her mind wander as Charlie grunted and moaned above her. She would
lie very still and plan

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