Day 116 – The Night Before

I wrote this one with Alex Brown – I wrote the female, he wrote the male.

Alex can be found somewhere in the Borderlands.

 

My word count is: 976.

His word count is: 844

 

“Goodnight, mum,” Sheila called softly up the stairs.

Her mum was on the landing, looking down at her with pity.

“Are you sure you don’t want some company?”

“No, I’m alright – I just need a bit of time to myself…”

“Well if you need someone.”

“I know.”

Sheila retreated into the lonely living room. It was well after midnight. Her head hurt – it had been throbbing all day. She made to tidy up her son’s toys – lego was strewn everywhere. It looked exactly like her own home would normally look. She felt a sudden pain in her insides. Home… what was that anymore?

She fell into the sofa and stared bleakly around at her mum’s living room. A glint caught her eye. Several bottles of port and red wine in a cabinet lured her attention. Sheila was a timid girl; she kept her emotions to herself and rarely got angry. But she felt her anger rising at the way that these naïve bottles sat there. They were like hand grenades, their corks were the pins.

Her thoughts strayed to last night. It was like a bad dream or a scene from a film. Looking back on it now, it did not seem real at all but the bruises and marks on her son were told all truth.

She’d been out at her exercise class, trying to shift the pounds from Christmas. It had just started to snow and she was excited to get home and walk out in the back garden with Aiden and catch snowflakes with their tongues like they did every year – ever since her little boy could walk.

Jimmy had fallen asleep to the television – some sports channel. She crept into the living room and turned it off. The whisky was quite a few centimetres shallower than it had been last night. He was snoring. She had kicked off her shoes and had run up the stairs to drag Aiden away from his lego. But when she opened the door, he was nowhere to be seen.

She had called for him, but he did not respond. He was not in the bathroom either. She had then checked back in his bedroom; under the bed; under the desk. She went back out into the hallway – calmly keeping her panic at bay. She could never believe her son would run away. But it was there on the landing that she heard a soft sobbing; quiet sniffles almost untraceable if it were not for her motherly intuition.

She opened the airing cupboard door and there was Aiden, hiding underneath a bunch of towels. From there her memory was a blur. From that moment her world had crumbled around her; never to be rebuilt.

Sheila now found herself hovering by the front window at her mum’s. They had come there last night. She didn’t go into work today; Aiden didn’t go into school. Neither of them had left the front door all day. Sheila almost felt scared to do so; as if she were exposing herself to a judgemental world. It was her fault, she thought to herself, They would blame me… and so would I.

Maybe it was no coincidence that she taken a bottle of red wine from the cabinet. She stroked the cool glass bottle and dared to think of the pleasures it would give. It would make her feel better, she knew that. She needed something to calm down; but then did that make her any better than her husband? Would that make her a collaborator; would that make her guilty too?

There was a knock at the front door. Sheila almost dropped the bottle. There could be no mistake as to who it was on the other side. Sheila ducked out of sight from the window, catching as many light switches as possible on the way. The door knocked again.

“C’mon Sheila, I know you’re in there!”

He sounded drunk. His words were slurred.

“You can’t hide in there forever! You can’t keep on rejecting my calls… we-hic-have to talk!”

Sheila feared that he would wake Aiden. She knew her mum would be storming down the stairs at any minute.

She opened the front door. He was standing there in last night’s clothes. His breath stunk of alcohol.

“Sheila, please -”

He reached forward to touch her face.

“Fuck off!” she threw him back.

“Sheila… please.. please listen to me – I didn’t… I couldn’t – you know me better than that.. don’t you?”

Sheila shook her head, “I’m not sure I do.. no…”

“Can I seem him?”

“No you fucking can’t. I don’t know what you wanted by coming here – but you can leave now before I call the police. Look at you! You’re a filthy mess! I used to be able to excuse the drink – but now! Not after last night – not after what you did!”

“Sheila – I didn’t – Aiden! Aiden!” he looked up to the first floor window.

Sheila ran out towards him to push him out of the front garden, “No – you – don’t! You have no right to see him after what you did!”

“But I don’t remember! I don’t remember!” he shouted so that the whole neighbourhood could hear. A few lights turned on from the nearby houses.

“Convenient excuse Jimmy, convenient.”

But Jimmy wasn’t looking back at her – but behind her at the first floor window. Sheila’s heart sunk – she turned and saw Aiden staring out at them arguing.

“Just leave, Jimmy – just leave. We never want to see you again.” She shot him a look of pure loathing and stomped back into the house, shutting the door behind her and ensuring that it was double locked.

She ran right up the stairs to Aiden’s room, grabbing him away from the window in a tight hug.

“I’m sorry, Aiden, I’m sorry… This is all my fault….”

 

* * *
He walked fast, actively propelling himself forward with each step. The buzz of the night’s whisky was almost gone, and the night was cold. Her eyes, in that final glance she had given him as he stood open-mouthed and stupid on her mother’s front path, had been unfamiliar to him. He had never seen so much hatred in her.
He had hit Aiden.
No I didn’t, I wouldn’t, even wasted I wouldn’t do that. Something else, something else happened.
But it didn’t ring true. His protests seemed pathetic, somehow. He sped up even more, until he was almost running. The cold, the god-damn cold was impossible, intolerable. After his fifth phone call, ignored like the first four, he had flung on his coat and set out for Sheila’s mother’s place. Still drunk and shaking with anger, he hadn’t bothered with a scarf or gloves. Now he was paying for it; paying for having done something stupid. Some ugly, sightless creature writhed in his stomach. He passed the public library and the park, places they had taken Aiden, so many Saturdays.
He got home at half past one, and went straight to the kitchen without taking off his coat. He poured the whisky without looking, drank it with his eyes shut, felt the sting and burn of it, sat down and poured another one, more slowly.
He had hit Aiden.
The memory of it was there, behind the alcohol fog. It had been coming into view throughout the walk home, and he couldn’t fight it. It had happened. It was real.
What had the boy been doing? It had been some argument. Aiden had been shouting. He had wanted to stay up to watch a film, a 15-rated film on TV that night. The words came back suddenly, loud and ringing in his head: “Mummy would let me watch it! And mummy wouldn’t be drinking like you are!”
He had hit him, before he knew he was going to, without conscious thought. He hadn’t slapped him. He had made a fist, brought it around and into his son’s face. And seeing the shock and fear in his son’s eyes, something pathetic there, like a wounded animal not knowing what was going on, he had done it again. How many times? He couldn’t remember. That was all there was of the memory. He had passed out.
He finished the second glass, poured another. His hands shook as they went through the practiced motions, and he knew he had to stop; not decide to stop, not promise to stop, but stop right now, pour the whole bottle down the sink. But he couldn’t. He watched his hand lift the glass to his mouth, thinking I’ll stop, in the next nanosecond I will put this glass down, and then he drank it. Between each sip he thought last one. Halfway down the glass he started laughing because he was thinking of a scene from The Simpsons, of Bart saying “I can’t promise I’ll try – but I’ll try to try”. He was laughing at himself as he tried to try to stop drinking, even after it was too late, even after Sheila had taken Aiden and gone to her mum’s house, and even if he hadn’t hit him hard, even if it wasn’t serious, it was, because they would never trust him again. And why should they?
The laughter shrivelled, turned in on itself, dried up and became choked sobs, and he slumped forward with his head on the table. When had he last gone a day without a drink? A single day? He couldn’t remember. He had gone to sleep drunk the night Aiden was born. It had been with him before Aiden, before Sheila, it had been with him since he was fourteen and Billy Thiel had brought four cans of lager to school instead of his maths textbook, and they had gone to the woods after school. Even when he was sober, the drink was with him, talking to him, promising a better state.
Even as it got worse, he had told Sheila there was no need to worry. It was his way, it was how he dealt with the stress, with the shit life throws, that was all. And he had told the same thing to himself, even as he felt its grip on him tighten, a little more each day, a little more with each sip.
Jimmy opened his eyes. The empty glass, a single track of whisky-stain down its side, was inches from his face. He thought of his son. Climbing up the slide in the little park. Eeny-meeny-miny-mo-ing amongst the books in the children’s section of the library. Crawling into bed between the two of them in the dark.
Eventually he stood, and very slowly picked up the bottle, went to the sink, and poured away what was left.

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~ by S.G. Mark on January 31, 2012.

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