By Louis P. Burns aka Lugh © 2001 / 2006. All Rights Reserved.
Editor - Catherine Edmunds.
- Sundays were the worst. The day always started the same. Tom would have a stinking hangover from his drinking spree which began every Friday and a string of excuses for why he was skint, yet again.
Maureen would have to wait until he was having a bath before she dared get her stash of pound coins and loose change from the coffee jar under the sink. This was money she'd scraped together through the week.
There were lines on her face etched by years of tension. Her body reflected an exhaustion that pulled at her from deep down inside. Small things like having to lie about the window cleaner’s bill made her weak - £2.00 when his fee was only £1.50. She'd also have to lie about the milk, bread and corner shop bills as well. He liked his Sunday roasts.
She'd go to the supermarket and buy chicken or a leg of lamb while he washed and sang loudly out of tune. A few weeks earlier she bought pork chops for a change. His response was to rise from the living room chair and punch her on the side of the head.
"Pork chops is a weekday meal, ya stupid slut!" he roared as he crossed the room to pick her up and shake her. His breath reeked of stale alcohol and his mad, bloodshot eyes glared at her. She was like a dead animal in his arms. As she cowered from him, he shook her and growled threats which had become inaudible over the years. She was punch drunk from years of abuse.
There'd been violence in her family for as long as she could remember and even now, as she walked to the supermarket, she was shaking with fear. She wondered how it had all turned so nasty. She had known from the outset of the relationship that he had a temper, but thought most men had attitudes like this. Her father and brothers behaved exactly the same.
She thought about her mother. One thump to the nose on a cold December night broke an upper bone and left her brain damaged. She remembered nursing her every day for two years until the coma deepened and she died. She remembered how her father told the police she fell down the stairs; how afterwards he began to drink even more and encouraged her brothers to do the same. She learned that silence was her only salvation...
She felt the chickens in the chilled food section for freshness. Her only thoughts were of him. At least he likes chicken. He won’t lose the plot the way he did over the chops. Can't he see I'm doing everything for him?
Her best friend was her neighbour Christine, a mother of six, whose husband worked away in Johannesburg. Sometimes she'd go over to Christine's, just to get out of the house and listen to her talk about what she was going to do with the décor. For a few hours most weekdays she would lose herself in talk about colour schemes, fashions, life or the neighbours. If Tom ever found out she was here, he'd go mental. Once, about a year ago he banned her from leaving the house while he was at work. He threatened to kill her if she disobeyed. She still did it though; always leaving Christine's at 3.30 sharp. The look in his eyes that day had been enough to convince her he wasn't bluffing. He knew her fears and how to manipulate them. He also held onto most of his wages. She'd never be free.
Moving on to the vegetable stall to get potatoes and greens, she noticed a blue collection box sitting by the scales. It was for Combat Suicide. On the front it read; Please Give Generously. This was when the idea came to her. This was when everything became clear.
She paid for the groceries and helped the checkout girl bag them. Then she bought ten cigarettes and a box of matches. There was about seventy pence left, and as she walked from the store she put it all into another one of the collection boxes.
She could see the roof of her house from the car park but set off in the opposite direction, struggling against the wind to light a cigarette. As she walked her mind became still. Eventually there was a spring in her step. She passed two children playing in a front garden and smiled at them. When she moved on her smile faded. Memories re-surfaced. He used to beat her before sex and call her frigid and infertile. Maybe if she could have had children, things would have been different. Then she remembered how she missed her period once and thought she was pregnant. When she told him, it caused an argument and he punched her in the gut, yelling at her: "We can't afford to feed a baby! Feck did I see in you? Ya daft bint!"
Her fear of him made her avoid bringing a child into the world.
As she crossed the main road that led to the newly developed community farmland and riverbank, it began to rain. Ahead of her the road forked off in two directions - one to the farmland and the other to the bridge. A small black dog began to follow her. She tried to shoo it but then stopped, fleetingly seeing herself in its eyes. She sat down on a grass bank and unwrapped the ready-to-eat contents. The dog sniffed the air, drooling at the scent of the chicken. She gently tore chunks of the hot meat from the bones and threw them to the dog, all the while soothing it with softly spoken kind words. She reached to pat it on the head but it growled. She got up, put the rest of the food back in the carrier bag and moved on.
Making her way up the banking, she threw away the the groceries and enjoyed fresh air and rain as it danced around her. She climbed over a small fence. At the other end of the bridge was the hospital where her mother spent her dying years. At this end a large green sign read Belfast 154km. She turned and faced the breeze, took a few deep breaths, and jumped.
As she hit the fast flowing, mud coloured water below, she felt her pain wash away. The final loss of consciousness came as welcome relief...