Day 5: Anne heard the front door open. David was back from Tesco. Did you manage to get wine and beer? Yes, got everything except eggs. All gone.
Day 10: Anne walked into the kitchen and David was unpacking the groceries.
Oh, you got more drink? But we still have loads. David did not answer. He silently stacked the bottles into the fridge.
Day 15: I’m just popping out to get some beer, David said.
Are you driving? But you’ve already had a few!
There will be no guards at this time. I am fine.
Let me go. Just keep an eye on Timmy. Anne stood up and grabbed her cardigan.
David pushed her back down. Ouch, she yelped.
I said I will go.
She sat on the sofa, rubbing her chest.
She heard him returning 20 minutes later, bottles clinking.
Day 20: Anne came into the kitchen. The kitchen table was strewn with bottles, and remnants of crisps. She began cleaning up furiously before Timmy woke up and came down for his breakfast. She went into the living room and David was sprawled on the sofa, fully dressed, one leg stretched out onto the glass-topped coffee table. It was a beautiful, sunny day so she kept Timmy in the garden most of the day, helping him with schoolwork, and then playing games. It got chilly around 4 pm so they came in. David was sitting in the kitchen, still dressed in yesterday’s clothes, bleary-eyed. Hello, my man, he said to Timmy. Anne gripped Timmy’s hand tightly, preventing him from going to his father. Go upstairs, Timmy, she said. Timmy ran out, sensing her anger.
How much did you drink, last night? She demanded. David shrugged.
I had to clean up the kitchen this morning and you were comatose on the sofa.
Don’t start. My head is exploding, he growled.
Exactly, Anne’s voice was low. She didn’t want Timmy to hear them. I need your help. We are all stuck at home. But I am doing everything. And you’re drinking all the time.
Be quiet. Just shut up.
Dinner was a tensed affair. Timmy kept glancing at both of them. David had cleaned himself up but his eyes were bloodshot and glazed, like he had jumped into a highly chlorinated pool with no goggles, and then stuck his finger in his eyes several times.
Eat your veges, Timmy, Anne said, trying to make conversation, and instantly regretting it.
Timmy stabbed a piece of broccoli with his fork but did not put it in his mouth.
Eat it, Timmy, David instructed. Your poor mother is so tired from doing everything so you should eat it or she’ll be really angry.
I am not angry with you, Timmy, Anne retorted, daring to meet David’s eyes. He smirked.
After dinner, she sent Timmy to the living room to watch cartoons, and started to clean up. She opened the fridge to put the leftovers in, and suddenly, felt her body being jerked backwards. She screamed in shock. David was dragging her backwards by pulling on her shirt.
Let go, she yelled. She struggled to reach for his hands but he pulled even harder. She heard her shirt rip.
You tore my shirt!
Is that all you care about, you bitch?!
Day 30: Where are the keys? David’s voice roared.
Anne was lying in Timmy’s bed, hugging him close to her. Don’t worry, he will leave soon, she comforted his shaking, thin body.
She could hear David opening and closing drawers, slamming doors and throwing things around.
Come out, you bitch! Give me the keys! It’s not your car! It’s mine! He was yelling so loudly. Anne wondered if the neighbours could hear him. Would they call the guards?
She heard his footsteps on the stairs. She felt Timmy’s body become rigid. Don’t be scared, baby. She stroked his hair.
He pounded on the door. I will smash this door down! Give me the keys! I am just going down the road to get a couple of beers. Suddenly, his voice softened. What would you like? I will bring back a bottle for you.
She buried her face in the pillow. He kicked the door a few times.
She heard David crashing back down the stairs. She heard him rummaging in the kitchen drawers.
Fuck you, he shouted. I am going to walk. She swore under her breath. She had forgotten that the back door key was still hanging in its keyhole. She heard him opening the back door and stumbling through the back garden. She disengaged herself from Timmy’s quivering limbs, and tiptoed to the window. She got there just in time to see him pull open the side gate and step out.
It’s okay, Timmy, she said, opened the room door and stepped out into the landing, to the window that faced onto the front. David was standing there, hands on his hips, looking up at that very window. She fell onto her knees. She didn’t know if the lace curtain had hidden or revealed her form. After a minute, she slowly stretched up and looked out. He was gone.
She ran down the stairs. The place was a mess. Chairs were lying on their side, fruit was strewn all over the floor, cutlery crunched under her slippers. She opened the top right kitchen cabinet and took out the jar of lentils. She plunged her hand in and pulled out a zip lock bag that contained a set of keys. She dashed out and locked the side gate, ran back in and locked the back door. She left the key in the keyhole. That should keep him out. She checked that all the windows were all closed tightly. She dashed back upstairs, coaxed Timmy to brush his teeth and get into his pyjamas.
I don’t want Daddy to come back, he sobbed. She kissed and soothed away his tears. She put Timmy to bed. She had her phone, her purse, her charger, a bottle of water, all house and car keys on the night stand.
Day 31: She woke up and checked her phone. 3.18am. Had David come back? She hadn’t heard him. She crept to the window and looked out. She couldn’t see anything in the dark. She grabbed her phone, chose the torch app, and swung her hand back and forth. She still couldn’t see anything. She tiptoed to the door, opened it and crept down the stairs. She used her phone torch to tread across the kitchen floor. She pressed herself against the door and switched on the back garden light. The garden lit up in a stream of white light. She peered intently through the glassed surface of the back door. She could make out a figure lying face down at the bottom of the garden. On a bed of lavender. She lightly stepped back, switched off the light and scuttled upstairs. She locked the room door and got back into bed with Timmy.
I usually teach English as a foreign language but now I have returned to doing what I enjoy most – writing creatively. Radhika’s debut collection of short stories, ‘Why are you here?’, is available here.