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At what price?

A Kathryn Blake fragment . . .

She shut herself into a cubicle and struggled to compose herself. She had almost succeeded, and a moment later would have been in the open room, when the outer door was flung open and a little drama played itself out for her. She did not need a word of the language to understand it. There was the mother, harassed, rushing, her sympathy worn down by circumstance. The first child, fretful and in need of imminent relief. In the background a second child, sulky and uncooperative. The party charged out, and in her distraction she had washed her hands and stepped towards to the door before she saw the gift.

The mother’s handbag, unregarded by the counter.

She moved fast, knowing that she would have seconds to look innocent when the door crashed back – as it soon must. She took a single note from the wallet, enough to make good her worst deficits and face the day in some kind of order, and she was halfway to the door with the bag outstretched before her and a suitable expression of concern before she was interrupted.

She was ready for suspicion, perhaps for anger. The woman was so helplessly grateful it almost melted her resolve.

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