Suddenly shivering, she hugged her knees tight, and glanced down. Sticking out from under the seat cushion was the tiniest corner of an old-fashioned manila envelope. She awkwardly pulled out the bulky package. After a moment’s hesitation, she ripped it open and fished out the contents. Monopoly money. The paint box colours of the notes glared out from her grey street-grimed hands.
She suddenly remembered how a year or so before her passing, her grandmother had started leaving bundles of notes hidden around her little flat. In a biscuit tin, under the pillow, under the cushions of her chairs. As she had become housebound, she had started to use the Monopoly notes from the board game under the coffee table. It had lain there from when Jeannie and her brother had spent wet Sunday afternoons playing with their grandparents. Jeannie looked around at the serried windows and doors hoping there was no one witnessing her sickening embarrassment.
A face moved from behind a curtain. An old lady smiled at her, pointing, and nodding her head encouragingly at the young woman.
Smiling weakly, Jeannie waved the wad of coloured paper, giving a “thumbs up”. She fell back into the chair and glanced over to her bundled belongings, the plastic carrier bags and bedding, ripped and muddy. She knew that if the stranger’s gift had been real money, she could have left her squalid life behind her and escaped to something better. The woman had reminded Jeannie of her beloved but demented old grandmother. Living alone, her life had started to unravel, with her flat becoming scruffy and even smelly and with her rejecting offers of help, acts of love.
“Just like me”. Jeannie thought and turned to acknowledge the small figure. The old lady had gone. Tears welled up and as they fell, they started to clear the smirch of the city from her face.