The scissors on the dressing table catch Libby’s eye, which means it is day time.

She takes another two pins, thrusts them into the doll’s eyes then puts the doll’s hand in hers. Hand in hand.

‘Come on, Mummy, let’s go to the corner shop.’

Libby makes the doll walk across her single bed. Doll has a face full of shiny pins. Next door in the box bedroom, Mummy is working at her sewing table. The hum of the Singer machine is continuous, from morning through to night time. Libby knows not to disturb Mummy when she’s busy working, but she is hungry.

She looks at the little pin-cushion doll Mummy made her as if she might tell her what to do. ‘Are you hungry, too?’

The humming stops. Libby puts her ear to the bedroom door expecting to hear familiar movements, like the rustle of fabrics, the snip of scissors, the cheerful rattle of the beads and buttons in those special see-through pots, even a scraping of the chair on the wooden floor – something. Mummy likes singing snatches of a song when her mood is happy. Fancy fabric like taffeta and silk for Mummy’s special customers make a rich sound, but that doesn’t happen very often.

The only sound is Libby’s heartbeat and blood rushing through her ears. Loud rumbling in her tummy. She wants to knock.

Libby fingers the poppy-red ribbons in her pigtails. One ribbon is frayed at the end where she has chewed it, but it is still her favourite because of its colour. When it’s time to go to school, she’ll wear them in her hair and everyone will notice her. Only Libby isn’t sure when school starts, or what day it is. She chews the inside of her cheek until a fly lands on the end of her nose.

Fly is tickly, unlike pin-cushion doll who is stuffed with cotton wool and stitched at the seams, made of gingham cotton in pink and red. Left-overs from something or other Mummy made for someone else. Always left-overs and scraps, hand-me-downs. Cold food from the night before, reheated beans, clothes with someone else’s name written on the label.

Buzzing fly is like the hum of the Singer.

Libby knocks on the door, desperate for food and reassurance. ‘Mummy?’

Spools of cotton in navy and black roll behind the door on the wooden floorboards, releasing a new and unexpected sound into the little room. As Libby edges inside the box room, she spots a red bead that looks like a splash of blood.

It’s a relief to see Mummy at her sewing table, her head resting on the desk for a nap after hours of her machine humming away. No wonder she is exhausted.

The Singer is humming even though Mummy’s hands and legs aren’t moving. Libby edges closer to the table, sensing something – an odour. She sees the peculiar angle of Mummy’s head.

‘I’m hungr—’

When Libby screams a swarm of flies, angry at being disturbed from the stinking corpse, enter her mouth. The humming doesn’t stop; it gets louder.

More flies crawl over the bleeding head with its pin-cushion face, eye sockets of pins, lips of pins, and in between, a flush of gingham pink and red.

∼ Louise Worthington

© Copyright Louise Worthington. All Rights Reserved.