15 The whole pile?!

Beth walked around the place cluelessly, dodging busy slaves and haughty servants. It was as if no one seemed to have time to stop and take a breather. Everyone was running around as if their life depended on it. It reminded her of the streets in the upper town. The two places couldn't be more different.

"Twenty-three!" Someone called out to her from ahead.

Beth raised her head to see who it was. Not many knew her. It had only been a day in heaven, though it seemed like she had been laboring for a lifetime. Her face dropped at the sight of the girl standing at the intersection a few steps ahead.

"Great." She murmured irritatedly.

Fifty-eight rushed to her, beaming like a happy dog who met its master after a long day. Beth nodded to the girl, displaying a hesitant smile. With much ease, the girl fell into step beside her as she kept going forward. For once, she regretted not asking around for the route. Maybe she would have been left alone. She was too tired and didn't have the energy to do small talks.

"Going to collect laundry?" Fifty-eight asked, tucking away her stray baby hairs into her pony.

"Yes," Beth replied, uninterested in carrying the conversation forward.

"Don't worry. They would have already kept the clothes in the wash area." Fifty-eight said, blind to the attitude of Beth. Grabbing her hand, the girl said, "Come, I'm on washing duty as well today."

Beth stared at the hand that gripped her wrist with a sea of mixed emotions. "Oh," was all that came out of her mouth.

She felt like it was her first time getting touched by somebody. And it was not a feeling that she appreciated much. What kind of a life had she lived on earth? She wondered as the girl led her through a winding street to another.

-------

Beth stared with a gaping mouth at the pile of laundry in front of her. They were at the washing-area, and many slaves were already at work, sitting around the huge pool that dominated its surroundings. The area was protected from the harsh sun by a roof that was made of dried leaves and sticks.

Each piece of cloth was carefully rubbed with some kind of soap and then dipped into the water and was then rubbed again by hand before giving it a final rinse. It looked like a tiresome job, and she was sure that she'd faint straight into the water by the time she finished a fourth of the clothes in the pile assigned to her.

"You must be kidding me. Do we have to wash it by hand? The whole Pile?!" Beth exclaimed in a hushed tone.

"You'll get used to it," Fifty-eight said, nervously looking around. She quickly started piling her own bundle of clothes into a wooden basket that was identical to the one Beth got. Lowering her voice, she warned, "Be careful with the clothes. You don't want angry gods smiting you."

Beth huffed. "Why can't they wash on their own? Don't they have magical powers or anything?" She asked, waving her hands around in a show of frustration.

It was ridiculous that gods who were in the bodies of fully grown adults needed slaves who had the bodies of ten-year=old children to do their laundry for them. Beth still wasn't used to the idea of being a slave. After all, who would if they were in her situation?

Fifty-eight quickly hushed her. "Keep your voice down. The servants might hear you." She said, grabbing her hand.

Beth sighed. Pushing the stinking laundry into her own wooden basket, she followed the girl to a side of the pool that looked comparatively unoccupied. She dropped the basket as soon as she reached the bank and sat down on the cemented slab. While Fifty-eight immediately started her work, Beth laid back on the slab, slipping her legs into the pool. That felt much better, she thought, taking a nice long breath. The water was cool, and so was the slab.

"Ugh. I wish I didn't die. My life must have been way better on earth." She said, staring at the ceiling.

Her eyes were starting to get heavy. Sleep was slowly pulling her into its seductive arms.

"You look tired. Let me help you with it." She heard Fifty-eight say.

"Sure. It's all yours." Beth replied, waving at her sleepily.

Maybe having someone to talk to wasn't that bad at all, she thought to herself as she slipped further into the heaviness that weighed her body down. Tiredness was much like an anesthetic. It made one immune to every sense that otherwise would have bothered them. But her moment of peace didn't last long.

*THUD*

A loud sound jolted her awake. She stood up on the slab like a startled deer. The noise had come from just beside her ear. Beth turned to her right with an irritated expression. Who was it that woke her up from sleep?! She thought, looking the person up and down. A boy at least two inches taller than her was standing there, looking more annoyed than her. Beth looked at him with a puzzled expression. She was still groggy from sleep.

"What do you think you're doing?" He asked, narrowing his eyes at her.

Beth didn't reply. What was his deal? She thought, looking him up and down. He looked like a slave as well. From the state of his clothes, she would tell that he had been here for a while.

"I'm asking you. Are you mute?" He asked, grabbing her sleeve and yanking her towards him.

Beth gasped, startled by the sudden move. She was now wide awake. She struggled in his arms as his grip tightened, making the hem of her sleeve cut into her arm.

"Leave her alone, Sixty-two!" Fifty-eight shouted, trying to push the boy away. But he didn't budge. Instead, he pushed Fifty-eight away.

"Then why don't you wash my pile too?" He shouted at her, pointing to the wooden basket that he had dropped beside Beth only a few minutes ago.

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