Extract from YA novel - The Last Refuge
© Dianne Bates
From a crack in the plaster where the bottle has smashed, tomato sauce dribbles down the wall. A splattered egg drips from the table onto the floor. There's a steak lying on the lounge, its juice staining the Hessian cover. All the rest of his dinner-the peas, carrots and chips are scattered over the living room floor with fragments of glass and crockery.
I bend to pick up the larger pieces of plate, my head throbbing and my insides churning. I feel like throwing up, but force myself not to. It's bad enough that I have to clean up this mess: I'm not going to add to it. More than anything I want this day to be over, I want to go to my bed and pull the blankets over my head and shut out everyone and everything.
'I'll go to the pub whenever I want, it's my money!' His words echo through the flat, then fade so I can't hear what follows, except for a slurred curse now and then. It's suddenly punctuated by: 'Don't look at me like that,' and the blood-stopping sound of flesh being slapped. Almost at the same time Mum shrieks, 'Stop it! Stop it!'
God, what is he doing? When will it ever finish? A lump as big as a fist forms in my throat, tears run down my cheeks and dribble onto my neck.
I must keep busy; keep my mind on other things. Try to block out what is happening there in the front room. Where is the damn dustpan? I've never seen such a mess. I have to clean it up-and fast before someone cuts their feet.
As I step carefully into the kitchen to check in a cupboard, I hear sobbing coming from the laundry. Rowie is there, huddled in a corner beside the tub. She's rocking backwards and forwards, squeezing her teddy bear to her middle.
What's she doing there? I'd thought she had escaped when all the trouble began, and here she is, likely to cause more trouble if Dad catches her carrying on. 'Rowie, what the hell are you doing here?' I ask.
The gabbling noise she makes is part sob and part sentence.
'Not so loud! He might hear you. Why didn't you go with Marty?'
She doesn't answer, but gabbles again, louder. I can't stand it! 'If he comes out and finds you crying, you don't know what he'll do, so shut up!'
She gives one last shuddering sob, wipes her face with her jumper sleeve and then looks at me with such sadness that at once I'm sorry I snapped at her.
'Would you like to come and help me clean up?' I say my voice gentler now.
We're scraping away the last of the upset dinner, still mesmerized by Mum and Dad's fight, when Marty returns. The front door opens without a sound and his head peers 'cautiously around the corner. His face looks panicky, his eyes fearful.
'Has he gone yet?' he whispers across the room.
I freeze, hoping Dad won't appear. Marty and Rowie look silently at me, and I manage a half-smile, trying to reassure them that things will be okay.
Suddenly in the front room Mum screams as something wooden-a chair perhaps-is smashed. Marty disappears as quickly as he came. The door closes noiselessly behind him.