Her feet wouldn’t move; welded to the floor they were. She knew she needed to leave the bedroom, wanted to most desperately. But those feet were stuck in mud, or concrete. She looked down to check but the pink socks with the dirty fluffy soles were quite free of shackles.
His voice – hoarse from shouting – was still for some seconds. The silence more scary than the hateful words directed at the back of her head on the pillow a few moments before.
She had stopped arguing. Stopped trying to reason. He had an answer for everything, and was always right. He was so hard done by, he’d shouted. And he’d punched the wooden sections on the door to illustrate his frustrations. He had never hit her and was proud of the fact he would never hit a woman. The door beading had given way at one end, but the old pine held firm at the other and she watched as he knocked it back in place. Hide it from the kids.
“I want to sleep now. We will talk in the morning.” She heard the words leave her mouth and something willed her feet to finally move towards the door.
“Why don’t you sleep in the marital bed? Hey? Hey?” He was off again, pushing himself up from the edge of the bed, pupils dilated with anger.
Those few steps gained her some courage and suddenly she was out on the landing, passing him. It would be ok. He would sleep it off, the gin, and wake the nicer version.
“I’ll see you in the morning.” more calmly than she felt, she closed the door of the spare bedroom, old wallpaper from years of tiny people showing her the way to the single bed. She wobbled a little as the adrenalin started to falter, and felt for the edge of the duvet in the dark, soft and inviting between her fingers. She fought the urge to cry.
The cool sheets felt good as she extended her toes down between the unslept-in linen… and then heard floorboards move next door. She stopped and held her breath, praying he would slump into his bed and leave her alone.
The brass door knob moved; it turned and clicked and the door gently opened. His form clearly visible with the hall light behind, he stood in silence, filling the space.
Her heartbeat was bursting from her ears, she was sure he’d be able to hear it. From somewhere she found the strength to speak calmly, “what are you doing – go to sleep.” She then laid down and faced away; faced the wall and placed her cold and shaking fingers between her thighs and wished she was wearing more than a T-shirt. Jamming her jaws together, she lay there, determined her body should gain the sleep it deserved.
Some moments passed. He stood and stared. She could just tell he had not moved. Anger bubbled away, how dare he do this. She was conversant from her research that she should be free to sleep in her own home without fear. And yet here she was scared out of her mind. It was her fault he was drunk and angry. According to him. But she was determined to talk in the morning, when the sunlight in the kitchen made everything seem far less sinister.
“I want to go to sleep!” She could bear it no longer, and begged him to leave.
“Go ahead. I’m not stopping you. This is my son’s room and I will stand where I want in my house.”
She was stuck, well and truly stuck.