I awake three hours after falling asleep, in front of my mother's old wash bucket, full of water. I shake my head to clear my thoughts, but all it does is jumble them again.
I'd counted up all the money that my family owns, including the cost of todays washes. I have two gold coins, five silver, and four bronze. I good fortune, but so far away from survival. Gold coins are worth the most, containing ten silver coins worth. One Gold could buy a new, cheap, plain dress for Emily, or an outfit complete with sandals for me, but clothes are the least on my worries. I could get a good day's worth of food with one of these coins. The problem is, I only have two of them. The silvers are good pay too, but certainly not enough to pay for a trip away from town for more than a week. The Plague won't go away in a week, if it even does go away.
I gather the clean clothes and fold them neatly in the basket, then dig my hands back in the water and scrub Miss Darla's dress until I feel it's clean, and examine it the way Mother would-carefully and over again- before hanging it to dry in the poisonous air.
Within an hours I'm done, and daylight is seeping through the one window in the kitchen that we didn't board up when the Plague struck. I just have to wait for them to dry. By the looks of it, I'll have to go grave digging before they'll be completely dried and ready, so I prepare for work, packing another apple and a block of cheese the size of my palm in my sack.
My hand pounds on Miss Darla's front door, which has no red mark to signal Plague infection has been in that house. I marked mine with a streak of Mother's blood last night.
"Coming!" I hear a high voice squeal. It must be Miss Darla's daughter. I'd heard that she's only three. Miss Darla opens the door, the girl hiding behind her skirt.
"Sarah, go get Emily, please." She whispers down to the little one. Sarah smiles, nods, and runs off into the house.
"Hello, Jacob. How are you?" She smiles sweetly.
"Nicely, thank you. Um, your laundry is drying. I'll be sure to bring it before dusk, ma'am." I nod my head at her and look down, disappointed. My sister is staying with her for free, and I couldn't even bring her the clean laundry, that she's paying for? I feel ashamed. I should've never slept before knowing that my work was done.
"That's alright," Her finger finds my chin, and she lifts my head up, "I know you're doing a lot right now." Her smile falters as she pulls me in for a hug. She must be very fond of hugs. Just when I think I might suffocate, Emily's voice rings out from the doorway.
"Jacob!" She exclaims, running to me. I hug her instead, and plant a small kiss on her forehead.
"Where you good?"
"Yes." She giggles, twirling her hair.
"She is a great guest. Although I'm sorry I couldn't give her any food yet." I look to Emily, who leans in to my ear.
"I gave Sarah the apple. I left the Silver under the pillow, like you said." She whispers. I smile knowingly. How could a girl so small and fragile be so kind toward others when she herself is not yet taken care of? It's because she knows what it feels like, a little too much, what it feels like to lose someone, and didn't want that to happen to anyone else.