have to be done. She had a baby and scarcely a penny in her purse – not even enough to get her through tomorrow. The inertia that she had felt for so long suddenly drained away and she began to panic.
She twisted the wedding ring that she had worn since leaving Bootle. It wasn’t a sixpenny brass one from Woolies, but a real gold one that had belonged to her mother. She’d always known she could pawn it in an emergency, but if she just used the money to live on, then the time would quickly come when she truly had nothing. Of course, she’d never get the ring back; there was no way she would return to Portsmouth to redeem it.
She sighed and got to her feet. There were quite a few things she had to do if she was leaving the next day. One thing was to plan how she could get away without the landlord, who lived on the premises, becoming aware. If he realised that she was going for good, he’d demand a week’s rent in lieu of notice. She wanted to keep all the money from the ring for the train fare and other expenses on the way. She decided to leave the pram behind. It was second-hand and falling to pieces and would be a nuisance on the train. She’d carry Rosie in her arms – well, in one arm and the suitcase in the other hand.
‘I’ll go to Pearl Street,’ she said out loud. ‘Jess Fleming will let me stay with her until I sort meself out.’ She had lodged with Jess for months and she had been a shoulder to cry on when Dale had broken the news that he was married.
It took two days and four trains to get to Bootle. Some of the advertised trains didn’t run at all or were cancelled at the last minute because they were required by the military. Kitty and Rosie spent the night in a hotel by Euston station. Rosie, disturbed by the unfamiliar noise and movement, as well as inadequate feeds, cried for hours and other guests complained. The manager knocked on Kitty’s door and demanded she stop her baby crying.
‘How?’ Kitty asked simply when she opened the door. In fact, Rosie had just gone to sleep and had woken up again, disturbed by the man’s knock.
Next morning, they left at the crack of dawn, but the train they caught only went as far as Stafford. The next train stopped at Crewe, and waited there for ages until someone decided it was to go no further. It was nine o’clock by the time Kitty and her baby arrived at Lime Street station on another train. With a mixture of despair and recklessness, she paid for a taxi to Exchange station, where she caught an electric train to Marsh Lane.
She was home! Things hadn’t exactly gone swimmingly, but she’d managed to reach her destination after carrying a baby and a suitcase all the way from Portsmouth, though a lot of people had been kind and had helped with one or the other. Now all that was wanted was for Jess Fleming to be in and Kitty knew everything would be all right.
A young woman answered the door of number 10; a girl, in fact, of about sixteen.
‘I’m sorry, but Mrs Fleming left ages ago,’ she told Kitty. ‘She lives in Burtonwood now and has a different name. People often come and ask for her, but as I said, she’s gone.’
‘Oh dear.’ The news came as such a shock that Kitty had to lean against the door jamb for support. What was she going to do now?
‘Oh heck!’ the girl gasped. ‘Give me the baby and come inside. Sit down a while. Would you like a glass of water? I’m awfully sorry, we’re out of tea, though we have some horrible coffee.’
‘I’d like some water, please.’
Minutes later, Kitty was sitting in the familiar room in one of the chairs she’d sat on many times before. ‘I used to live here,’ she told the girl, ‘but I’ve been away and lost touch with everyone.’
The girl had forgotten all about fetching water and was playing with Rosie, who had just woken up. ‘She’s gorgeous,’ she said. ‘What’s her name?’
‘A pretty name for a pretty baby.’ She chucked Rosie under her