*SUMMER SHORTS* #ukcbcshorts
I’ve loved reading the ‘summer shorts’ on the UK Crime Book Club over on Facebook and although I am by no means a writer (but an ardent reviewer!), I have had a go and here is mine. Please be kind!
It was too hot in the waiting room and she fidgeted, noting the trickle of a bead of sweat as it made its way down her back. Her eyes were drawn to the poster opposite, to the juxtaposition of soft pastel colouring against the stark image of a woman cowering below a man aggressively shouting in her face. Despite the heat, she was reluctant to remove her cardigan and risk showing the tiny inky dark bruise on her wrist, and so suffered the humid air. The bruise had been an accident but she didn’t need the stress of trying to explain.
Prescription in hand she waited in line at the Pharmacy, a small smile twitched the corner of her mouth as she remembered the ‘Ask for Angela’ slogans and wondered if it would work the same way at pharmacy counter. In all honesty she doubted whether it would even work in a bar, surely the majority of the time some poor girl would pluck up the courage to ‘ask for Angela’ only to be met with ‘What?’, ‘Who?’ or ‘She’s not on tonight’ rather than the promised waiting arms of a sisterly angel who would swoop you away from potential trouble.
Back at home she pushed the box of sleeping tablets to the very bottom of the tea towel drawer before heading into work; it wouldn’t do for those to be discovered. Medication wasn’t the answer and she knew it but sometimes a good night’s sleep was needed rather than lying awake all night pretending to sleep and worrying about what he was up to.
Work was getting awkward. The continual texting and calling, the photos, the emails, keeping on top of it all actually sometimes got in the way of what she was paid to do but it was a necessity and pretty much the only way to keep things from getting out of hand.
Arriving home that evening she automatically searched for Suki’s friendly face at the window or on the drive before remembering, with a sad heart, that the little cat was no longer there. Her one friend throughout the turmoil had been Suki with her ‘naughty tortie’ face and an attitude to match but lessons had to be learnt and the loss of little Suki sure had hammered that message home. After making a cup of tea she sat gently on the bench in the garden and noted the mix of wildflowers and grasses that had begun to sprout on the small cat sized mound of earth in the corner. He had dug the tiny grave in the pouring rain before tossing her broken body inside and it was positioned so that you could see it from every aspect of the garden meaning even a simple chore such as pegging out the washing soon became a reminder that it was best to behave.
Lost in her thoughts, she jumped when she heard his car tyres crunch onto the gravel as he parked meticulously on the drive. Tossing her now cold tea to one side she leapt into action and greeted him in the hallway. Like seemingly every night these days it wasn’t long before the questions and accusations began. Every detail of the day had to be picked over from the journey to and from work, to who had initiated each conversation in the workplace and why. Work emails had to be checked along with calls and texts. What was worse was that this didn’t happen every day, sometimes these checks didn’t take place for a couple of weeks making it so much harder to remember all of the details and the (always) innocent explanations for any perceived over friendly communications.
Dinner was made and eaten in stony silence, there had been another text message from Chris which had a kiss at the end of it and no amount of pleading and explaining had been able to make it ok. Chris was just one of those people who put a kiss on everything to everyone, it meant absolutely nothing but somehow it now seemed sordid. After just a few mouthfuls of macaroni cheese she ended up scraping hers into the bin, her appetite ruined by the adrenaline surge yet again. Mournfully her thoughts returned to Suki and how she always seemed to know just when to be extra cute or loving – she hated him most for what had happened to that cat.
Bedtime always seemed to be a safe time, not much could go wrong – apart from the odd unexpected bruise (is that a love bite?) or lack of passion – but mainly bedtime was ok. To be sure though, she made them both hot chocolate and for once added sleeping pills to both of their drinks waiting patiently until the white powder fully dissolved before carrying them carefully up the stairs peacefully anticipating welcome oblivion.
The following day began badly. They overslept. He was clearly going to be late for his annual appraisal meeting and the agitation bounced off him in waves as he rushed to get ready. Well tough, she wasn’t helping him, although she was late too she found the woolly headedness to be almost pleasant and couldn’t help but smile as he grew increasingly flustered before heading out of the door with his face set in resignation of the fate that awaited him at work.
That day texts went unanswered, calls were sent to voicemail and emails were deleted. A cold hard rage boiled inside and solidified into something deeply unpleasant. Memories of Suki flickered and blurred as text upon text pinged into cyberspace. The evening was not going to be good. Had the worm turned? She didn’t want another failed relationship, especially as she’d been in an abusive relationship before and it never took look before people started talking about ‘common denominators’ – either way, things couldn’t carry on as they were.
‘999 call from a neighbour Sarge, show us as attending?’ PCs Brown and Lowe regretfully left their sandwiches but had at least managed to hang on to their take out cups as they ran back to their car and made their way towards the house, siren blaring.
‘Never any bloody parking round here.’ Brown said as he tucked the squad car artfully in between two enormous 4x4s. ‘We’ve been here before haven’t we?’
‘Yep.’ Said Lowe, with quiet resignation ‘neighbour quite often calls us out but it’s always a case of ‘no officer, just a lovers quarrel’ when we knock on the door.’
‘Sounds a bit worse this time though, dispatch said the caller sounded proper terrified.’
Silence descended as they approached the house, training kicked in instinctively and Lowe reported back that they had arrived while Brown knocked on the stylish grey front door; which he soon found to be unlocked. The scene inside the immaculately painted hallway was breathtaking, there was blood everywhere, literally everywhere noted Brown as he jump back before a drip could land on him from the Swarovski light fitting.
There was a wide stripe of blood along the highly polished flooring, which they followed through to the open plan kitchen where the couple both sat slumped on the floor.
‘Jesus’ muttered Brown as he took in the fading bruises layered among the new bruises, pale scars littering the torso whether from burns or previous stab wounds wasn’t clear but it was evident that pain had been inflicted frequently. The dark blackness of the gaping knife wounds left no doubt as to the source of the rich tang of the blood which filled the air. ‘There’s no pulse’ he shouted back to Lowe who had already requested two ambulances to attend the scene and nodded sombrely; neither of them had expected a pulse.
From the other side of the room she coughed and both Brown and Lowe turned towards her in slow motion incredulous that anyone had survived this bloodbath. Looking at her anew, Lowe’s eyes widened and she turned towards her partner seeking confirmation that they were both seeing the same thing.
The smallest nod of agreement from Brown was enough and Lowe leapt into action bfore the diminutive figure before them could wreak any further havoc. ‘You have the right to remain silent…’
It seemed the neighbours had been right all along ‘She’s going to kill him one of these days if you don’t stop her!’ They’d said on every single call.
© Lisa Hall 2019
Author’s note: if you have any concerns regarding your relationship, or the relationship of a friend or loved one, please seek advice and remember it doesn’t only happen to women. More information regarding the new laws surrounding psychological abuse and coercive control can be found here: http://coffeecurls.co.uk/advice/new-domestic-abuse-law/