Mary turned her broad, belligerent face toward me as I stood behind her at the store.
“What you starin’ at?” she asked.
She must have felt my gaze through the back of her worn woollen coat. I don’t know how she knew; you’d think she’d have been used to being gawped at by now.
“Nothing, I was just…”
I glanced past her to the counter. The shopkeeper caught my eye and hastily finished wrapping the last of Mary’s purchases. Scowling, he thrust the package into her hands.
“Stop causing trouble and be on your way.” he told her.
I saw Mary grab her groceries and turn toward the door. She passed close enough for me to see the tears moistening her eyelashes. Her cheeks flamed as I flinched away from her. She stomped out of the shop, letting the door close roughly behind her. The brass doorbell bounced on its spring, a strangely merry knell for the passing of one who had unwittingly killed so many.
You see, Mary was famous. I’d recognised her from the photograph in the newspaper — killer cook, angel of death. I almost reached out to comfort her as she left; almost confessed that I too was such an angel.
“What can I get you, young lady?” the shopkeeper asked, smiling. I handed him a shopping list, beautifully scribed by my mother. He smiled again and bustled off to assemble my order.
He never guessed that I, a young golden-haired cherub, was also a healthy carrier of the Typhoid.
I let stupid, ugly Mary shoulder the blame alone. Wouldn’t you?