Monica had been in the bathroom for close to an hour. Her hands were red raw from the cheap nightclub soap. The girl in the red dress had already been to the toilet twice, but Monica had soaped, washed, rinsed and dried her hands a hundred times between her visits.
Her mind raced, so she spoke to herself under her breath.
Just keep scrubbing, she told herself. Just keep scrubbing, and you won’t get sick. You won’t spread the disease. Wash them again, just to make sure the germs are dead.
As she worked the soap into the crevices between her fingers, she focused on her mantra. If she kept scrubbing, she wouldn’t have to think. She wouldn’t have to think back to a year ago.
Le cordon sanitaire. The policeman with guns who wouldn’t let her cross. The sombre newscasters telling her she must remain inside until the all-clear was given. The all-clear that got further and further away.
The first death. Living in fear every time someone coughed. The masks that they had to wear. The bodies piling up in the street, the crematorium too busted to keep up. The crime. The hunger. The thirst. The thousandth death.
The all-clear that came too late.
Her mother, lifeless on the sofa, her eyes weeping blood.
Maybe if she just kept scrubbing, it wouldn’t happen again.