(work in progress)
The foamy water in the bowl bubbled the skin from her hands and lower arms. The heat rendered itself into agony as she succumbed to the first waves of excruciating pain. She remained silent. Pursing her lips, clenching her teeth, and screwing her eyes tight. She would not whimper, squeal, or cry out. She would give him nothing about which to comment.
She removed her hands from the water, the suds continuing to scorch as she dripped onto the dishes below. Her smoked salmon limbs, scalded from just below the elbow, glowered and burnt. She held her screams inside. She was not willing to hear his mocking tone, his little three-word ditty.
Holding the tea towels under the cold tap for a few seconds, she knew she would feel relief before long. She leant on the draining board and wrapped the cool cloths around her seared arms. This was a tender swaddling process as her every nerve ending jangled at the merest brush against her shocked tissue. She exhaled, controlling her breath, a muted hiss puffed through her half open lips. Her stinging extremities cooled, still delivering harsh, burning pain every few moments. The time for screaming had passed though; for that she was grateful.
Turning from the sink, she checked the contents of the tray. Sandwich, coffee, biscuits, and an apricot – everything was in place. She gently unwound the tea towels and rolled down her sleeves, lifting the tray on her way past.
Padding along the hallway, her slippers made soft scuffs on the carpet beneath her feet. It was not really the sound of footsteps, more like the sound of clouds bumping into marshmallows. She smiled. Maybe she lived in a children’s show where all the noises were funny, and nothing ever went bang. There would certainly be no screaming or the sound of hammer on flesh.
She stopped smiling.
As she stepped into the lounge, she saw him in his full glory. He half-sat, half-slouched in his recliner; his cotton shirt had ridden up, exposing the fleshy belly of someone who was fond of the high life. His tight waistband pinched him in half, demonstrating that his epicurean lifestyle also demanded considerable investment in maintaining his fitness. The only short cut to Hedonism was through the dangerous valley of the glutton. It looked like he had ridden straight through it on a horse named Fat Bastard. She stifled a snort. Not now, no noise now. She was tired and needed to get to bed.
She quietly placed the tray on the small table next his chair. Carefully removing the empty cup without making a sound. He was engrossed in something on the television, the subtitles on and the volume muted. Why would she expect any different? His pudgy hand reached towards the tray and found a sandwich. He conveyed it to his gaping maw, teeth already grinding before the food had entered the chewing area.
She felt a slight gagging sensation: there was bile working its way up to her mouth. She had to get out of the room. Get out before she dry heaved, or worse, vomited. Turning swiftly, she clutched the empty cup to her chest and padded out of the room. She quietly pulled the door behind her but was careful not to make the final click of closure. Upon reaching the safety of her kitchen, she allowed herself a little gasp as she fought to regain control of her errant stomach. She breathed heavily. The water might still be hot enough to help her calm down.
No, she was not doing that again tonight. She could wait until tomorrow for relief. He had been and she was out of the room. She checked the kitchen clock. It was almost nine. A couple of minutes to wash the plates then she was done for the night. She could be in her own world until the morning.
Cleaning the few cups in the cooling sink, she quietly stood them on the draining board. The wall clock said that it had past nine. There was no chime of course, no ticking sound either. Even time ran silently in this house. However, the clock told the story, it didn’t matter, it was past nine and she could go. She turned to the back door and picked up her bag that she had already prepared, ready to leave. Changing into her shoes and putting her slippers to the side she stepped forward. Cautiously, she turned the handle. She was ready to hear him shout any second now.
Those three words that made her brain curl in on itself and brought blood to her face.
Any second now.
She opened the door, picked up her bag and stepped out into the cool night air. The sound of her shoes rang across the back yard. Suddenly she could hear every piece of grit and stone that she turned over. The buzz from a passing mosquito caused her to gasp. Straightening herself and shaking off her trepidation, she gently pulled the door shut behind her. This time she allowed it to click shut.
She was outside now, silence no longer held her prisoner.