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The plank bridge bounced as Wyn crossed to the backdoor, parts of the flooded yard too deep to cross without wading through sewage water. A sandbag wall kept the worst out but the water inside was now up to the first step on the staircase and the backdoor had swollen to the point where it could no longer be closed.

Wyn flicked the light switch, no power. The fuse box was dead, and no amount of fiddling could coax it back to life. Wyn slapped it closed and listened to the quiet pub.

“Misha, has the power been out all day?”

Wyn's call failed to elicit a response, other than a torrent of water falling from the skylight. The bucket meant to catch the deluge now floated in the hall, having given up its hopeless task.

“Misha, Tom?”

“It’s just me, love,” Mo said poking her head over the bannister. She’d wrapped up against the rain with a large red hat, the sort fishermen wore when they sat by the canal, the hooped earrings adding to the ensemble. “I was waiting for you to get back.”

“What’s happened?” Wyn asked as she ran up the stairs. “Where’s Misha?”

“She’s not here, love.”

“Tom?”

“They left this morning.”

Wyn pushed the door open to the spare room, the bed had been made but Misha’s bag was gone, and Alex’s toys carefully packed into a box.

“Where are they, Mo?” Wyn asked as she came back into the kitchen.

“Sit down.” Mo pulled out a chair at the table. “I was able to make a flask up the last time the power came on. You’ll have to have it without milk though. We’re all having to make do with less right now.”

Mo unscrewed the cap and poured the steaming black liquid into a mug as Wyn sat down.

“There you go, love.”

“Thanks, Mo.” A cold weariness gripped Wyn, and she sat back, clutching the mug, letting the warmth seep into her hand. “They left?”

“Tom’s father sent a car to pick them up. Misha was running around fretting about leaving you, but Tom was adamant they go.”

“How did a car get down the road?”

“It was a militia wagon. Stopped the other side of the market and a pair of soldiers came into the pub. I damn near had a heart attack, but Tom seemed to know them. They said his father had sent them to pick him and his family up and take them to him.” Mo sat down opposite, her earrings jangling. “She didn’t have a choice.”

“You think they’re in the Gardens?” Wyn felt a strange sense of relief, her home was hers again, hers alone. “They’re better off if they are.”

“Misha told me about her father-in-law. A real piece of work but I think right now it’s the best place for her and Alex.” Mo placed a strong hand on Wyns. “She’ll try and come back to visit. She promised.”

“She won’t be able to. The loyal districts are locked down.”

“It’ll be alright, love. You’ll see.”

Wyn let out a deep breath and studied the kitchen. Breakfast things on the draining board, a few mugs left out on the side. None of it had changed in all the years Wyn had called the Magdala home, even when she lived elsewhere it had always been her home.

“What about you, Mo? What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to go and stay with my sister. She asked me a month ago. I stayed here to help Misha out but with her gone, there’s no reason...” Mo gave Wyn a pitiful look. “I’m sorry, love. I’ve known you since you were a girl. You were always so strong, independent, just like Auntie. You know I never realised just how much you're like her. I don’t mean in temperament. She was fiery and loud, so damn loud.”

Wyn gave a short laugh and took a sip of her bitter tea.

“I miss her singing,” Mo stared off wistfully. “She was tone-deaf. Thought singing louder made up for it. She’d have us rolling in hysterics.”

“Remember when she got the karaoke machine?” Wyn said smiling at the memory. “Every night for a month was karaoke night. I gave the microphone to Derek for him to hide.”

“It was you! She almost had the old bill down here looking for that. She wouldn’t let anyone leave without checking their handbag. Stood at the door making everyone show her they didn’t have it. I should have known it was you. You always were a smart one.”

“Not anymore, Mo. I’ve run out of answers.”

“You’ll find a way. Your Auntie never gave up. Not even when that bastard tried to put her in the ground. She got back up and made him pay. She never spoke to anyone but me about what he did, but that man deserved to be killed.”

“He tried to kill her?” Wyn asked.

Mo hunched her shoulders and sat up straight. “It’s not for me to say.”

Wyn looked around the kitchen. “There’s no one left. Everyone’s gone. If you don’t tell me then who will?”

“You were like a daughter to her. She loved you something fierce. I was with her in the hospital when she died, and her greatest fear was that you’d be alone. That she wouldn’t be there to look out for you, but I took her hand and said it was her Wyn that would be there for everyone else. That she wouldn’t be lonely because she wouldn’t let anyone else be alone. That her girl was a fighter and wouldn’t stop even when the bell was rung.”

Tears ran freely down Wyn’s cheeks and Mo got up to stand next to her chair, wrapping her arms around her.

“You weren’t her first child, and she may not have given birth to you, but she brought you into this world. Don’t you forget that.”

“I won’t.”


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