Within minutes there is a roaring blaze. Mai opens her eyes and basks in the unusual warmth. I smile - she is getting some colour back into her thin face.
“Are you hungry?” I ask, and instantly realise what a stupid question that was.
“Am I hungry?!” she repeats, laughing. “What do you think, Jenny?” I smile sheepishly.
“Sorry. Stupid question.” I reach into my bag and find a tin of baked beans. In books they would just heat it up and eat it, but I don’t have a saucepan. Why didn’t I think of that?
“How am I going to cook this now?” I exclaim, and Mai laughs.
“Isn’t it obvious? Peel of the label and cook it in the tin. Just make sure you put something round your hand when you pick it up!” I am glad to see that she has cheered up, even though her voice is still nothing more than a whisper.
I follow her suggestion, and am amazed to see that it works. She gratefully digs in, but cannot swallow more than a few mouthfuls.
“I’m sorry; I’m just not used to so much food…”
“That’s okay,” I say normally, but I am in shock inside. Has her stomach shrunk so much that she can eat only three mouthfuls of baked beans?
After I have finished eating I go over to Mai, who has fallen asleep again.
“Mai, I need to have a look at your arm,” I say. She wakes immediately.
“Why?” Her hand goes automatically up to cover it.
“I have to clean the wound. It could have all sorts of germs in.” She is reluctant to show me the cut and I am not surprised. If it weren’t for the fact that there was blood on her sleeve I would not have known there was a cut there at all, but the copious amounts of red liquid told me that it was a bad one.
I push up her sleeve and look at the wound. I gasp as I see the picture.
But it’s Mai at her worst.
Broken, defeated … and alone.