Silja and Maisy started to climb the stairs just as Finny and Anneka made it to the top.
Silja saw Annie turn her head to look for her and so smiled confidently back up at the anxious little face.
Reassured, Anneka let Finny lead her through a set of swing doors into the girl's dormitory.
"This is where I sleep. Well, me an' all the other girls. The boys aren't allowed in here. My bed is over there, c'mon, I'll show you."
Anneka followed Finny past the rows of different sized beds until she stopped at one and sat down on it. Anneka wondered how Finny knew which one was hers; there were so many beds!
Finny tapped the thin mattress with her hand and then helped Anneka climb up beside her. Maisy and Silja hung back by the door.
"See," Finny said, pointing down the long room. "All the older girls sleep down there and..." She turned, and Anneka's head followed the pointing finger. "...
all the littlerer ones sleep down there. I used to sleep down there when I first got here. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle now."
Anneka took in everything Finny was saying, comparing it and adding it to the world she knew. Questions started to form behind the brown, knowledge-hungry eyes.
Of course, being three years old, there was no guarantee that the questions were going to relate to whatever it was she was being told.
"Is that lady your Momma?"
Finny blinked. She glanced up to where Miss Maisy and Silja were keeping an eye on things. Thankfully there were no other kids in the dorm to hear Anneka's question.
Finny would never have lived it down. She leaned down and whispered in Anneka's ear.
"You mean Miss Maisy?"
Anneka pointed at Matron Maisy.
Finny went red. She could see Miss Maisy out of the corner of her eye, desperately trying not to laugh.
"Erm no. That's Miss... That's the lady who looks after us."
"Silja looks after me." Then, as an afterthought, "and Momma does." Anneka touched Finny's chin, gaining her attention. "Can I see your toys?"
Finny was still stamping down hard on the lid of the can of worms Annie had just dragged into the light. It took her a couple of seconds to respond to this new enquiry.
"Ummmmm." The simple question had a complicated answer.
Toys were a touchy subject in the orphanage.
If you had a toy, if you came into the orphanage with one, you quickly hid it and only ever took it out when you were absolutely certain nobody else could see.
The older kids religiously destroyed any toys they found. Finny wasn't sure why, but toys made the older kids really angry.
Finny didn't have any toys; life was easier that way. Except... Before Anneka's birthday, Finny had tried to make a doll for her as a present.
She had thrown it away because she hadn't thought it 'good enough' for a posh kid like Anneka.
That was the end of it until the little girl that was locked deep inside Finny remembered the wonky button eyes and the badly embroidered mouth, and had immediately instilled the discarded doll with a soul.
Rescued from the trash, the rag doll, secretly named Polly, now lived in Finny's lockbox. It would probably never see the light of day again, but Polly was safe.
"Ummmmmm..." Finny looked all around, just to make sure, before dropping her head to whisper again. "If I show you, you must never tell anyone okay. Promise?"
Anneka solemnly nodded her head and crossed her heart with her finger as Silja had taught her.
"I promise Finny."
Finny reached down under the bed and dragged her lockbox up onto the mattress with them. Then she took off one of her shoes and pulled out a small key.
Opening the box, she first gave one of her precious sweets to Anneka and then, with yet another nervous glance,
looked towards the door before lifting the doll she had made from its hiding place under a pile of drawings.
Annie snatched it immediately.
"It's you! Finny, look, see! It's you!" Annie immediately set about straightening the crumpled dress.
Made from a no longer wearable orphanage dress, it was a match for the shapeless bag Finny wore.
The brown rag hair tied into bunches with some red thread completed the look-alike appearance of the doll.
Finny was more than a little puzzled at the excitement on the little girl's face as she played with the rag doll. Compared to what Finny knew Anneka had at home...
She looked at Polly, then at Anneka.
From the doorway, Silja watched with a smile. Maisy touched her arm and mimed that she had to go. Silja nodded a thank you and returned to watching the two children on the bed.
Only half watching, though. The little rag doll had stirred memories.
After a while, Anneka, her nose wrinkling, looked up at Finny.
"I need a wee."
That little titbit of information didn't have any effect on Finny at first, because, well, hearing it had never involved her before.
Even when she realised that a three-year-old was likely to need help, she still wasn't overly concerned, after all, Silja was here. Finny looked up to where Silja...
was no longer standing by the door.
Where Silja was, was finding somewhere to hide. Across from the girl's, dormitory was the boy's dormitory, but a glance through the door showed her several occupants hanging around inside.
Maybe it was more a den of puppies than of lions, but if Silja were to go in, then the reaction from the boys would kill any possibility of hiding. Silja bolted upstairs.
"FinnEEEE!" Anneka was pulling at Finny's arm.
Colour started to drain from Finny's face. Peeing your bed was a major no-no, staff disapproval-wise for sure.
But more importantly, the social implications among the kids were too terrible to contemplate. "Finny Piss-a-Bed" was not a good nickname.
"Come on then Annie. Let's go find a toilet, eh?" Both girls trotted off in the direction of the door they had come in by. "It's just upstairs...
" It dawned on Finny that by the time Anneka had carefully negotiated the stairs the way she had before, it may well be too late.
Reaching the stairs, Finny bent down and bear-hugged Anneka around the waist.
She lifted the surprisingly heavy toddler (rich people eat more, was the thought that drifted through her subconscious) and clumsily carried her up the stairs.
On this floor were the ablutions which were shared, though at different times, by both boys and girls.
Up here, too, was the storeroom with spare beds, mattresses, lockboxes and collected attic junk from years gone. Exploring one day, Finny had found a locked chest.
Thinking 'treasure' she had picked the lock only to find lots of old papers and files and notebooks. Now that she could read, Finny planned to go back one day and see what they were.
When Finny put Anneka down, the little girl was already in the throes of the 'holding it in' dance, so Finny wasted no time by explaining where they were,
she just dragged Anneka into the ablutions and pointed at the nearest cubicle door.
"There! Quick quick!"
Anneka scooted towards the cubicle and pushed the door open. Then she stopped dead.
There was no familiar white porcelain bowl with her 'My Little Blightwolf' trainer seat ready and waiting for her.
Annie was rudely reminded that she wasn't at home anymore by the sight of a stained wooden bench with a hole in it,
and no sign of a friendly-looking blight wolf seat or any other kind of aid for a three-year-old. But that wasn't the worst of it. Still hopping from foot to foot, Anneka turned to Finny.
"It smells bad."
"Of course it smells, it's a toilet. Oh! Do you mean that? That's just dinner cooking." Finny made shooing motions to encourage Annie into the cubicle. "Hurry up before you wet yourself."
If it had been Silja, then Annie would have known just the right whine to use to get her nanny to make things better.
But Finny was an unknown quantity, so Annie resigned herself to having to make do. Rising to the challenge with a breathy huff, she entered the unfamiliar cubicle and shut the door.
Finny allowed herself to relax. Emergency averted. Then a little voice floated under the door of the cubicle.
"Finny? I canst undo the buttons."
Joe never said anything about this, Finny thought, pushing the door open. And where was Silja?
Silja, as it happens, was three cubicles along busy stuffing her fist into her mouth and trying not to fall off the seat from laughing.
Having persuaded Anneka that it was perfectly fine to sit on the hard, wooden bench and that she wouldn't get cooties,
Finny retreated and closed the door behind her to let Anneka get on with it. Her final thought before the door closed was, please don't fall down the hole.
Finny leaned against the wall and waited while all the usual noises signposted the current progress of the job in hand. Then there was silence.
Silence, when there should have been the sound of feet hitting the floor and the rustle of clothing.
"Finny? There's no paper." Anneka had looked all around the cubicle but there was no sign of any toilet roll.
Finny's eyebrows met in the middle.
"Yes, there is. Right next to you, hanging onna string."
There was a long pause.
"Ohhh. Um, okay Finny." Then the sound of tearing newsprint followed shortly after by the expected footfalls etcetera.
When summoned, Finny did her bit with the buttons and then led Anneka to the sinks to wash her hands. Finny watched Anneka determinedly manipulate the ancient plumbing.
The orphanage was a scary place of bad smells, cracked and missing tiles, strange noises and even scarier older kids.
That had been Finny's first impression when she had arrived a couple of years ago. Finny had kind of expected Anneka to be repulsed by the whole place.
Anneka, though, seemed to be taking it all in her stride, accepting the run-down surroundings and the sparsity of comfort. Finny smirked.
Even coming to terms with the concept of newspaper for toilet paper.