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These pages are a collection of stories from the Writer's Group at Box Hill U3A.

The New Life
Her head ached, she ached all over, as she sat at her machine in the darkened factory. What would she do without her fags and her coffee? She'd been there since early morning and must keep on. The deadline was next Monday, when the reps needed her new designs. Competition was tough and you had to get in early: only she could design and make the first garments. There was a wonderful market out there for embroidered children's garments and she had been so lucky to have learned to use these newly invented machines, when she did. Money to be made, if only she had the strength! To-night was the dead-line; to-morrow the samples must be ready for the machinists to make the colour range. Her machine roared into action as she stitched yet another forget-me-not on the bodice of a wee garment.

No wonder she had a headache. What was she going to do about Jenny? Poor little Jenny! Well she was not so little, ten years old. "She has been my whole world for as long as ever she can remember" she mused," and now I have married John. I've let her down. I've not handled it well. But I needed to work to keep us and I was so tired. Now she's torn upstairs to bed, refusing to eat her tea and sobbing herself to sleep. John had made some perfectly normal remark, but she saw it as telling her what to do. Out she burst. "He was not her father, he couldn't tell her what to do. He should mind his own business." John of course reacted, this brat shouting at him and that hadn't helped. Off Jenny had flounced in great distress. What was a mother to do? She should go and comfort her and she had for a while, but the work had to be done. John was upset, Jenny was upset and she was upset! She wiped the tears from her eyes and got on with her job.

What a mess she had made of her life when she had married Jenny's father! Everyone had told her not to, but she was so smitten by him, she just couldn't see. Her sister had just married and it had all been so exciting, she had to try it too. But just as they had said, Len was no good and had been out with another woman, the night Jenny was born. He'd promised to reform, but of course that hadn't happened. Life had been so distressing and she'd gone back home. Her parents had been wonderful, caring for Jenny, while she earned a living and they loved the little girl dearly. She'd tried several differ ways of making money, but the children's frocks seemed to be the most lucrative and she did have some skill in that direction. May as well use it! But there was so much more to it. The book work, the marketing, the need to employ people, to train and supervise them; it was all far more than any one body could achieve. When John had come on the scene it seemed the answer to her prayers. He was happy to take on all these extras and he had the expertise.

It was well past midnight before she was able to leave the factory in darkness and drag herself upstairs to bed, with the job at last completed. She'd need to be up at seven to get Jenny off to school, lest any further upset occur. Last night's episode was not the first of its kind; these incidents were becoming far too frequent. Now she was pregnant. Something would have to be done and fast. John had suggested boarding school; with their business doing so well, they could easily afford it. There was a vacancy at the girls' grammar and it was easily one of the best schools in the city. Jenny would be a very lucky girl. But convincing her would be difficult. She would see it as bring got rid of. However, she would make new friends and get a very good education; surely it would work out eventually. The shrill clatter of the alarm woke her and she struggled up to face the new day.

Mim Egan