She trudged up the stairs, feet leaden, her eyes searching for the child whose laughter she could hear. He was higher up the stairs, his mother beckoning from below; she turned to catch her eyes and smiled, placing her bag on the floor and starting to look for her key, catching the mother’s eyes in a warm smile. She watched as a mop of black hair atop a teasing face slowly came into view in her arms. Feeling her tiredness begin to recede under the force of that beatific grin, in front of the warmth of the stranger’s smile, she waited until they had left, made sure they had really left, before she stopped pretending to search and discreetly took her key from its hiding place inside the shoe-box.


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