We both wanted the double yolked egg but, of course, my mother gave it to my brother. He was a handsome child with wavy blonde hair and blue eyes and, though inquisitive and naughty, in my parents’ eyes, unlike me, he could do no wrong. One of his favourite pranks was hiding, sometimes for hours, causing them to fear he’d been abducted. Then, all innocence, he’d reappear, revelling in their relief.
Being a girl, the menial chores fell to me. The one I most loathed was taking our washing to the local laundry. The metallic clanking of the machines hurt my ears. Clouds of foul smelling steam billowed out, stinging my eyes, making me cough. Sometimes a toothless crone emerged, blinking, and grabbed the laundry bag.
My tales of the laundry enthralled my brother; I knew they would. He begged to be allowed to accompany me. At first my mother said, ‘No’, but she could refuse him little. One November morning she bundled him up in his coat and scarf and handed me the washing.
‘I expect you to take good care of him,’ she said, as we set off under a sombre sky.
I tried, I really did, but he slipped away into the bowels of the laundry, lured by its sounds and smells.
‘Count to ten,’ he called.
I’d reached one hundred when I heard the machines groan and grind to a halt. I picked up the shoe that rolled under a screen and began the walk home.