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Joan Tully

"I wondered when someone would catch up with me." Ruby dumped her pile of dirty laundry on the floor and fell down on top of it. "Still, I'm glad it was only you coming in." She eyed her short, lumpy friend cautiously. "This linen cupboard seems to get smaller every night. What I wouldn't give to stretch me legs out a bit more."

"Don't get too comfortable," her friend, Joyce, cut in. "You know we can't stay in 'ere long.

"'Ospitals!" Ruby sat up and stretched. "Don't know why we stick with this building."

"We'd be a lot worse off without this cushy little number," Joyce chided, "and I'd really miss the old place."

"What, this cramped little cupboard?" Ruby laughed.

"No, course not. But at least we can come in 'ere without them sisters having a go at us. No. I'd miss the children's ward. All them little kiddies tucked up in snow white beds; they look like little angels when they're asleep. Reminds me of when my kids were little. Best time of me life that was - all snug in me little semi-detached." She sniffed and looked at the floor. "Now they couldn't care whether I'm alive or dead." She shuffled her feet in her boots and wiped her creased forehead with the back of her sleeve.

"Still, them kids up there are always glad to see me. They come stumbling along, half asleep and clutching their teddies." She laughed. "Strange how I always just happen to be changing the loo roll when they see me."

"I think what I'd miss would be that ward full of old folks on the second floor. Poor old dears. There's always one awake and wanting a chat and a hand to hold - even my rough old thing." Ruby rubbed her misshapen knuckles and broken finger nails. "Seen some hard times, these hands have, but I can still share a bit of happiness with 'em.

"I wandered into that X-Ray department once by mistake," Ruby went on. "Thought they might take me picture," she added, running her hands through her hair and posing saucily.

"They'd have a job to see your ribs through that little lot...." Joyce prodded her friend's thick clothing and laughed.

Ruby stopped her abruptly, hearing footsteps outside the door, "It's getting noisy out there. Must be time to clock out."

"S'pose so," Joyce agreed reluctantly, grabbing her coat. "You go first," she added. "See you at the bus shelter if it's raining. If not, see you here again tonight?"

"Alright, ducks." Ruby cautiously peeped out the door. "Unless, of course, I get a bed for the night in that warehouse they're doing up for Christmas. That'd be better than trying to sneak into a quiet corner in 'ere."

"Yes," whispered Joyce, "but be thankful for small mercies. It's better to be in 'ere than on a park bench, like common tramps."

They both chuckled again, then shuffled down the corridor, taking all their worldly possessions with them.

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