Bet stood at the kitchen sink with a greasy, chipped plate in one hand and a dripping cloth in the other, allowing herself to breathe for a moment and rest her eyes on the golden orange lining of the clouds as the sun slipped behind city rooftops and out of view. The untidy red braid she had carefully secured with pins that morning had begun to slip out of place and sweat caused by standing over a steaming sink of water and rushing about the kitchen made her long for a bath. Two more hours before she could go home. Her lips formed a single, mute word; the same word she had been repeating to herself since she was a child.
The matron who seemed to inspect and notice the smallest pauses or the slightest mistakes in work had left the kitchen with a bustling of skirts to go and tend to some other small duty and Abby, the chef’s aid, had given a slight smile to Bet as she put on her hat and coat and left for home. “You can manage?” she’d called back a little guiltily over her shoulder as she opened the back door, allowing the refreshing evening air to sweep through the hot kitchen. “Yes, I can manage,” Bet had responded cheerfully, returning the smile. “You go on home.”
Now the kitchen was empty of others, at least for this moment. She let the cloth slip from her soapy hand and lifted a finger to the window where perspiration from her heavy breaths and the steam had gathered. Hesitant lest the matron should come back and find her daydreaming, she wrote the word on it. Her word.
Bet sighed. Someday she would leave the grimy little hospital kitchen. Someday she would find someone of her own to look after, to cook for at night, and she would no longer mind. Someday she would fall in love - it seemed she had been dreaming for years and years - she would carve her name alongside his in the oak that grew close to the river of her hometown and they would go boating down there. They would have icecreams from the little corner shop and dance to the songs they loved, she would feel her hand safe in his, give her best smile each and every day for him. What is your fear, Bet? she would ask herself. And what is your dream? The answer was always the same. Someday. Everything she hoped for, everything she was afraid of, the adventure and romance, were contained in that sweet someday. Even if it never came - at least it made work less monotonous, gave her some slight relief during the day and at night when she couldn’t sleep. Please, God, she whispered silently. Please.
“Bet! What’s gotten into you?”
The harsh voice of the matron broke through the girl’s reverie and reminded her of where she was. With one swift movement of her hand she wiped the word along with the remaining perspiration from the window. Pursed her lips and swallowed her tears.