They said that it was time to unlock the doors, that the inmates should be given at least that freedom. Jess felt frightened she could not now remember when she had last experienced freedom. The gates to the old workhouse were left open, over time the inmates became used to walking down the long drive that led to the county lanes that crisscrossed the remote farmland and isolated villages hereabouts.
The intense darkness was occasionally broken by the sheet lightening from tonight’s storm. Briefly illuminating the bleak corridors that linked the equally bleak dormitories, the lightening was casting fractured shadows, deepening the sadness that Jess felt. She could not recall the events that had led to her being incarcerated in this isolated place. She recalled that this place had never been a home for her. Now she just wanted to return to her family’s farm, in spite of her fears and her aching bones she yearned to return home.
It had been so long since her mother had tucked her into bed, since her father had kissed her goodnight. Silently she slipped away from the former workhouse. Only a solitary owl watched her bent figure struggling down the long drive. These days walking caused a profound tiredness within her, tonight it was slowly overpowering her, it was developing into something totally beyond any anything she had experience before. Jess felt so tired and knew that she was failing in her attempt to find the family farm, everything looked so different to how she remembered. A need to rest was overpowering her, the shadow of the ancient tree bole beckoned and she allowed herself to sink into its meagre warmth. She found the scent of the wet earth comforting, it reminded her about her childhood. Jess closed her eyes and gave herself permission to sleep.
They carried away her body back to the former workhouse and buried her in an unmarked grave. A week later a solitary rose bush was planted near the tree where she was found by a farmer, the abandoned farmhouse he had just purchased was just a few yards from the tree were she had been found. Over time the once bleak hillside would become covered in vibrant yellow as wild roses flourished and spread across the valley.