Bruised, battered and bewildered
Posted: 05 July 2017
Word Count: 881
Summary: For the flash fiction challenge 646
Bruised, battered and bewildered
Gulping harsh breaths of air, solid stone stinging the soles of her feet, she pounded along the pavement. Sweat streamed down her forehead and into her eyes, blurring her vision so that she barely noticed people parting as they watched the fat, middle-aged woman half run, half lurch down the street, dark semi-circles of sweat staining the armpits of her faded cotton T shirt.
‘Blimey, love, where’s the fire?’ One wag called out and other pedestrians tittered.
Marie didn’t hear. Her energy was solely concentrated on getting home as fast as possible. If she was lucky, she might just make it. What a stupid cow she was. Why, why, why had she not noticed the time?
She rounded the corner and slowed to a stop. She was too late. His car out was parked outside the house. For a second she panicked and her bloodshot eyes rolled like those of a bullock being prodded towards the slaughterhouse. Then she heaved a deep sigh and plodded forwards. There was nowhere else to go. This was where she lived.
The key shook in the lock as she opened the door and peered inside.
He didn’t answer. Maybe that was a good sign. She advanced through the door, closing it softly after her.
‘Sorry, I’m late. But Mum was in a right state and I had to sort her out, ‘cos the carers were late again.’
There was still no answer. A feeling of dread closed her throat, almost choking her. Stealthily, she opened the door to the living room and there he was - standing quite still, staring at her. She tried to smile but it faltered and died under the weight of his scowl.
‘Where’ve you been, you dirty slut?’
‘Dan, I told you. I’ve been to see Mum. That’s all. I’ll get supper straight away. It won’t take long.’
‘I don’t believe you. You whore. You’ve been to see him, haven’t you? While I’ve been working to feed your fat face, you’ve been lying on yer back.’
‘No….’ The word came out as a whine but she knew it was useless; as always, he was determined to believe she had a fancy man.
The blow hit her with a startling ferocity. Sometimes he just slapped her but this was a closed fist punch and her head rocked backwards. Another blow and she was down. Half crawling, half slithering into a corner, she protected her head with her arms as he started to use his feet. Pain closed over her until a merciful darkness arrived.
‘Mrs Rogers…..can you hear me?’
Sound swam to her out of a fog. Marie tried to open her eyes but even the slightest movement was agonising. Eventually she managed a slit-eyed squint then closed her lids with a sigh. She was in hospital – again,
‘Ah, so you’re awake now. That’s good. How are you feeling. You’ve been beaten up. Very badly. Are you ready to talk about it love?’
Marie needed a moment to think about that. She rolled her head to one side and looked at the woman sitting by her bedside. She tightened her lips. Completely out of her league; pretty, obviously intelligent, what was the good of talking to her? She would never know what it was like to be fat and ugly, the runt of the litter. Nobody had expected her to marry but then Dan had shown up. It still hurt to see how eagerly Mum and Dad had got rid of her. But Marie understood that. What she’d never understood was why Dan had wanted her.
‘My name’s Lucy and I’m here to help you. We know it was your husband Mrs Rogers. And it’s not the first time is it?’
Marie’s lips disappeared. She was not about to tell tales on her husband. Anyway, he was good to her sometimes, except when she annoyed him and that was down to her really. She wasn’t stupid, she knew he could be a bit rough but then again, she didn’t know what she would do without him.
The woman reached out and placed her hand gently on Marie’s. It was cool and soft, no dishpan hands there Marie thought.
‘It’s not your fault you know love. Can I call you Marie?’ ’ She paused then seemed to take Marie’s silence as consent. ‘It can happen to anybody. Shall I tell you about me? Like you, I’ve been beaten by someone I thought I loved. Eventually I ended up in hospital, again just like you. When I recovered, I realised he could kill me if there was a next time. Then, I got lucky. I was put in touch with a Refuge and stayed there until…..’
Lucy’s words trailed away as she looked at Marie. The woman’s eyes were closed and there was no expression on her battered face. She’d failed. The drawbridge had been raised and her words were merely sounds stroking solid oak. She sighed thinking about what her mentor had said that very morning.
‘We can’t reach all of them. Some of them have been abused for so long they come to accept it. Their self-esteem is so low they think they deserve to be slapped around. To them it’s just another day.’
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