Today’s post on the blog is a short story, written in response to a title suggested by a friend. It contains themes which some readers may find upsetting and some strong language. Please read with care.
Two things I hate. Heights. And dark places. Especially cars. The first time was in a car. My uncle. Well, not a real uncle. Dad’s mate. He used to bring me up to here to look at the stars. He’d park right on the edge. He had a telescope. I chattered. He pointed out Orion and the Great Bear. Told me wild stories of hunters. Battles. Ancient warriors. Put his arm round me to steady the telescope. A strange blend of fear and security.
The first couple of times, he got out of the car. Came back a few minutes later. Zipping his trousers. I thought he’d peed in the hedge. I was only eight. When it finally happened I cried.
“Don’t want none of that crying. You’re a big girl now.”
We drove home in silence.
“Best not tell your mum and dad. They might not understand.”
I watched the car disappear round the corner before I went into the house. One of the rear lights was out.
I dreamed it all night a few days later. Woke up sweating and screaming. Mum came rushing in. Rocked me as I shook and sobbed. She stiffened when I tried to tell her. Held me at arm’s length.
“Don’t be silly dear. It was only a dream.”
She tucked me back in bed. Withdrew.
I threw up all day the next time he came. Mum gave me hot, sweet tea. Wrapped an extra scarf around me.
“Don’t worry. You’ll be fine,” she said. “Have fun.”
“It’s your fault Mousie,” he said afterwards. “Shouldn’t be so fucking pretty.”
The stars are bright above me. Orion’s belt pulled hard around his hunter’s waist. I hurt. The grass is wet. And someone’s dog’s been here. I should move. I was twelve the last time. Two days after my birthday. My first period. I tried to tell him. Couldn’t find the words. He found the pad in my knickers. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes. Pure revulsion.
He backhanded me. Threw me on the ground. Pinned me and spat in my face.
He drove off and left me.
Mum was furious when I got home. He’d called. Said I’d run off with my friends. He wasn’t coming any more. Couldn’t trust me. No use telling her the truth. He was a grown-up after all. Who would she believe? She asked about the bruise on my cheek. I said I caught it on a swing.
“Serves you right,” she said.
I was grounded for a month.
It’s cold. The dog-smell’s getting worse. I hate it when people don’t clean up after their dogs. There’s no excuse. Even if you’re in the state I am. I always clean up. If I see her do it of course. She’ll be fretting. Sammie. Joe upstairs says she cries when I’m working. I felt bad about that. Not because it disturbs him. For Sammie. Downstairs wouldn’t notice. She’s flat out. Worse than I am. She’ll be working anyway.
Sammie’s all I’ve got at the moment. Tom’s away. To be honest it was a relief when they came for him. Miss him like hell now though. Better the devil you know. He’ll be out in a few weeks. So long as it’s not like the last time. He broke my jaw. Wouldn’t believe I hadn’t been sleeping with Joe. I had actually. But only when I needed money. That’s not the same thing. Not really.
What day is it? If I could work that out I might know why I’m here. I know where I am. The grass. The stars. How could I forget? I’ve no idea how I got here. My ribs hurt all down the left side. I cracked one last year. Fell down the stairs. This feels the same. Tom was shouting. Swore he never pushed me. He kept making me laugh afterwards. I don’t think he knew how much it hurt.
This is crazy. I should move. I could die here. Maybe I wouldn’t mind that at the moment. Someone’s dog might find me. Out for a proper walk. Lick my face. Like Sammie does to wake me. Sleep without nightmares. Sounds like heaven. My luck it’ll be the same bloody dog as left this lot I’m lying in. Not the dog’s fault. I know. It’d be the right place for me to die, mind. Where it all started.
The sound of his footfall makes my stomach clench. I’d know it anywhere. Especially here. Even after all these years. I play dead. Total relaxation. They taught us in prison. Anger Management. I’m better at it than Sammie. We play at home sometimes. She gets bored. Yawns. Goes off for one of her toys. Nudges me till I get up. He’s standing over me. Zipping his trousers.
He spits. The warm slime slides down my cheek. Onto my nose. It’s all I can do not to gag. He kicks me. I flop. He grunts.
Through my eyelashes I watch him settle. On the edge. Hunch over a roll-up. Pull a can out of his pocket. A sick silhouette against the fading darkness. I’d kill for a rollie right now. And a swig from that can. He twists to look at me.
“Bitch. See I was right. Knew all along you were nothing but a slag.”
He sucks on the roll-up. Mutters and curses. Fumbles for the lighter.
“Why’d it have to be you?”
He grabs my ankle. Shakes my foot. It’s limp. The shoes flies off. Over the edge. Damn. I liked those shoes. He drops the foot again. Like it’s a piece of dirt.
“I’m not going to prison for a worthless slag. No way.”
The rim of the sky’s beginning to be pinkish. I drift off. See the car door open. Another faceless punter. I get in. He reaches over. Locks the door. Before I have a chance to run. Then it’s fists. Teeth. Booze-fouled breath. Steel-capped boots. Fingers twisting up my hair. Yanking my head. Tearing at my scalp. I’m out before it’s over. I know what’s happening though.
“Question is, what do I do with you, Mousie?”
He stubs his cigarette. Grinds it in the grass. My stomach knots. I haven’t heard that name for years.
“Can’t leave you here. You might wake up. Tell ’em all what happened. Can’t be having that now, can we?”
He prods my naked foot. As if he thinks I’ll answer. Then he makes to stand. His foot slips. Dislodges a skelter of earth and stones. For one blissful moment I think he’ll go slithering down the scarp along with them. He scrabbles. Frantic. Twists. Falls on his knees at my feet. Snarls
“Don’t you be laughing at me.”
He staggers to his feet. Stumbles out of my sight line. A safe way from the edge. Stooped. Scrubbing at the grit and chalk dust on his jeans.
I can’t feel my feet. My right arm has pins and needles so bad. Maybe they’ll have to amputate. He’s chuntering behind me. Odd words float by. Bitch. Trouble. Why her? The sky’s lighting up. Peach. Plum. Orange. Flame red. Like someone’s gone wild with a hundred lipsticks. Squashing. Splattering. Scribbling. Only that so doesn’t do it justice. Nowhere near. I’ve never seen this place in daylight. Should bring Sammie here. She’d love it. She’d go nuts.
The pain’s so sudden. Immense. It knocks the breath right out of me. I didn’t hear him coming. Forget playing dead. The boot’s on its way for the second kick. I summon up the fury of twenty years’ survival. Roll. Catch his ankle. Yank. With every ounce I have. He howls as he flies over me. It’s the weirdest sound. Half screech. Half moan. He thuds. Crunches. Echoes down the chalk face. A clatter of grit and stones all follow in his wake. Till the last one rattles down. Everything goes quiet.
The sun appears. Pours onto the grass. In liquid warmth. At last. No need to move. I think I’ll bring Sammie up here later. There’ll be police cordons. Obviously. Still plenty of space to run though. She needs to run. She’ll be so happy. I’ll go get her soon. Right now I need to sleep a little while. That’s all.
I’m blogging to raise funds for a charity close to my heart. I’ve given up NOT being a writer for 125 days in support of One25’s work with vulnerable women in Bristol. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you can find out more about what I’m doing by visiting One25’s website at http://www.one25.org.uk/. You can also support them by visiting my fund raising page at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=JeanMutch where you can make a donation and suggest an idea for a short story or a post on the blog. Thank you.