Beyond the page…

and so it continues…

There was nothing near her feet – it must have fallen when she dropped the book. It wasn’t obvious on the floor close by either so she stood up and laid the book on the seat of the chair and scrabbled around carefully under it, reaching gingerly as far as she could reach. She felt nothing as far as her fingers could reach. The knife must had bounced underneath the chair, just out of her reach. She moved the chair completely to one side, sweating slightly with the exertion of pushing it because it was old and heavy – solid oak and with threadbare tapestried upholstery. The floor under the chair was bare apart from a thin layer of dust and crumbs from years of the hoover only reaching to the front of the chair, and no further.  There was still no knife to be seen. She was puzzled. It must have slipped down the side of the seat cushion then.

Playing at the back of her mind now was the fear that there was a murder weapon here, in her home – one it seemed she’d used – or had she? It was like a dream, or was it real? Whatever it was, it had been there and she’d been grasping it and it had been sticky with a dead mans’ blood and she had to find it. Her heart thumped uncomfortably in her chest and she felt the trembling rising in her again. She was afraid now. After half an hour of searching everywhere she could think of, in and around the chair, sliding her fingers carefully down the crevices in the upholstery and grimacing with disgust at the crumbs and sticky patches she encountered – this had been the chair mother had huddled in during her later years, and the accumulation of spilt meals and drinks probably accounted for the unpleasant detritus that Mary found – she admitted defeat. She plonked back into the chair and sat confused and uncertain what to do next.

It had felt so real, yet had she actually been the person acting out the drama, or had she imagined it all? Now the events that had unfolded were becoming a blur for her, just leaving the unsettling emotions she’d experienced buzzing at her like angry bees. She couldn’t even be sure of the sequence of events now – maybe there hadn’t been a knife, or had there? Had she stabbed – no, the woman – Belle –the man, or had she, or had it not happened at all? The more she tried to rationalise and document the events in her head, the more unclear they became, until eventually she wasn’t sure whether any of it had happened at all. She sunk into the chair and settled against the hard, high back of it. She was conscious of its rigidity and it was uncomfortable. Odd how, in all the years she’d sat in this chair, slyly when her mother was alive because it had always been mothers chair, and then by right when mother had died, almost like slipping into her mothers’ place without noticing, she’d never remarked on how uncomfortable it was. Now it felt hard and uncompromising against her shoulders and she shifted against it, wondering whether to move – but to where? The other chair in the room was not only similar, but also placed in the more drafty position – mother had always insisted on being out of all drafts. The settee – well that was just part of the set, and lower backed so it was not only hard and lumpy with its’ worn stuffing, but also left your head swaying around unsupported on a tired neck when you just wanted to relax. An odd thought strayed through her mind,

‘why don’t you get something much more comfortable then? She can’t stop you now…’

And she found herself agreeing with it – then pulling herself up short – now she was talking to herself too! Thinking about mother slipped her almost seamlessly into childhood memories – mother standing over her as she ate the ‘greens’ she so hated, mother brushing her hair hard with the stiff bristled brush so her scalp tingled, mother sitting prim and tight lipped on the edge of the same chair as father walked out of the door…

Now she was really shocked. When had father walked out of the door? Father – father? She couldn’t even remember him. He had died when she was very small and it had always been mother and her, in their routine. Get up, scrub her face with icy cold water because mother said you didn’t need hot water to wash in, clean her teeth, pull on her pinafore and blouse, dark wool tights – even in summer, and pull her hair neat and straight with the small white clip in one side – the only token gesture to femininity that mother had allowed.

She’d followed that routine into her teens, only varying slightly when going to work, to drop the pinafore and replace it with the skirt and blouse or skirt and jumper mother had applauded as looking ‘business-like’. Never walk around bare foot, or just in stockings – ‘you’ll catch your death’ – and everything had its place. Now father’s face was distinctly out of place, but she could picture him as clearly as if he was standing in front of her and she was mother perched on the edge of the chair as he was just walking out of the door, casting a pleading glance back at her.

Mary dredged her memories for an explanation – when was she remembering him leaving the home? Why? How old was she? Why did he look so sad? The droop of his full moustache added to the miserable expression, but his eyes were sad too, looking wistfully at…at her, no, at me – he was looking at me, not mother!   But I am mother – aren’t I? Mary concentrated hard, drawing the memory of the man back into the room, and there he was – almost as real as Belle had been.

‘You can go, I don’t want you here.’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘I want you to go, Frank. I don’t want you here anymore.’

‘Are you crazy, woman? I’m your husband.’

‘Maybe, but that doesn’t mean I have to have you here – sweating and upsetting my nice clean home, wanting to paw me in bed, expecting me to cook and clean for you. I hate you – I hate all you men. You disgust me, and I don’t want Mary warped by you either. ‘

‘Warped by me? What have I done? I am her father – I haven’t done anything wrong at all. I work all day at the bakery, I come home tired and all I want is a good hot meal and some affection from the woman who calls herself my wife and I’m told I’m a disgusting pig and I ‘paw’ you – I ‘paw’ you! You’re my wife and I’ve always shown you the utmost respect.’

‘Respect – pah! It’s no respect to have to do what a man wants me to. If you don’t go I’ll say you tried to paw Mary too and then they’ll make you go.’

‘Etta, Etta – what is wrong with you? Why this hatred of me – what have I done wrong? I don’t understand?

‘I don’t want a man here – any man here. I want you to go and I shall make you go.’

‘Etta…’ his face was pinched with surprise and pain. I knew from his slack stance that he was amazed and confused by mother. I looked from his face to mother’s.

‘Alright, you can stay here but I won’t have you anywhere near me and you must stay away from Mary. You can sleep in the spare room. I will leave you a meal for when you get in, but I don’t want to spend any of my time with you. If you don’t abide by my rules I’ll say you’ve touched Mary.’ She emphasised the word ‘touched’ but as Mary noticed it, she also realised the words were almost coming from her, and she was the icy cold, cruel woman damning the sad man lingering uncertainly at the door to a life of misery here or rejection away from them.

‘I’m sorry, Etta, I can’t live like that.’

‘You always were weak, Frank.’

‘Not weak, Etta, but that is no life – nor is it for the child.’

‘The child will do what I tell her to. So will you.’ The pronunciation was chilling, because I could see in father’s face that he realised he had no choice but to accept it. He was banished – however or whatever form it took – he was banished. He repeated his sad plea,

‘Etta, I can’t live like that – and why should Mary not have her father here? What have I done wrong – I don’t understand why you hate me so.’

‘I don’t want you here.’ The tone was implacable.

‘And what will you live on?’

‘You will send me some money every month.’ The tone was flat but dictatory.

‘I will… why would I do that when you banish me like this?’ It was the first time Father’s tone had grown harsh.

‘Because if you don’t I will tell Mary you are a monster and I will tell everyone else you touched her.’

Father just stood at the door, half in, half out of the room, just as he was in our lives. He was expressionless for a moment and then he sobbed. His face crumpled and he sobbed. Mary had never seen or heard a man cry before.

 

More to follow in chpater 3 next week …

Follow me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Debbie-Martin-author-and-writer/290947497649847

and on my website:

www.debbie@debbiemartin.co.uk

where you’ll find lots more to read and information when my books are published.

Debbie Martin

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