The doctor was right about one thing. It was touch and go. Ruby nearly died and it was three weeks before the haze of fever and pain subsided, leaving her weak and pale but alive. Eventually she could walk from her bed to the door, returning dizzily to fall with relief back against the pillows. Meanwhile Mary fed and changed the baby, prepared basic meals for Walter and cared for Ruby while he was at work.
“We need to register Annie,” Ruby said to Walter one day when she was feeling a little better.
“Well I can’t,” he replied rather shortly. “What with work and looking after you and the baby”.
Ruby managed to stop the retort that would only cause an argument. “Maybe Mary can do it. She’s probably done it before”.
Mary gladly accepted the chance to get out of the house for a while.
“Now I want her registered as Annie May Lane”, Ruby directed. “May is my second name and the name of my aunt. It has been a family name for generations.”
Several hours later Mary popped her head through the bedroom door.
“All done”, she said cheerfully. “Annie Mary Lane, just like you said”.
Ruby fumed at the cheek of the woman. She decided then that she must regain her strength because Mary had to go. She made an effort to eat everything on her plate, however unappetising, and began to take an interest in caring for her infant daughter.
Annie thought Mary was her mother. She wriggled and cried when Ruby tried to hold her.
The day came when Ruby diplomatically told Mary the news that she would no longer be required. Maybe Mary thought she would be there for months to come because she was furious.
“We can’t afford to keep you,” Ruby pleaded. “I must manage on my own”.
“Well! I wish you luck with that!” Mary scoffed. “All right! I’m leaving right now. Let’s see if you can do without me…and don’t come crawling back asking for me to return because I shall be otherwise engaged.”
She left the baby mid feed, put her in her cot and stormed to her room. In five minutes she was dragging her suitcase out the front door. Mary had left for good.