The house would have to be on fire for me to move right now. I had a few chores to carry out when I got home, but I made the mistake of falling onto my bed and letting my body relax. They can wait till tomorrow. It’d be nice if my mom came in and done them, but I don’t need to fall asleep to have such dreams that will never come true.
My feet are throbbing as I kick off my plimsols and peel off my tiny socks. Wiggling my toes, it’s liberating not to be cramped up. It’s how I’m about to feel when I take my bra off, the best feeling of the day. I worked a double shift today because Rae’s son was poorly. I don’t particularly feel anything for them or their sickness bug, but I do care for the extra cash. It’s very much needed. Mom doesn’t bring in a stable income, and it’s certainly not enough for her to survive on her own so I can move out and into my own place. I’m a glorified babysitter to my mother, who at forty-six years of age should be acting her age, instead of a carefree and responsible free teenager. It doesn’t help that she looks a lot younger than her years and she has guys wrapped around her all the time. I’ve had more ‘Uncles’ than I’ve had hot meals. All she has to do is walk into a bar and sit alone for a couple of minutes, she’ll be chatted up and joined by the first guy trying his luck, if she doesn’t like the look of him, or she’s not feeling him, she’ll pass him over and another takes his place.
I pull the sheets over me and roll onto my side as the front door crashes open and mom’s laughter breaks the glorious silence I was just enjoying. Her earlier message said she was going out with Simon tonight. Simon isn’t the worst she’s been with over the years, but that doesn’t mean I like him. His deep voice booms through the house and mom’s laughter fills the air.
Is it too much to ask to fall asleep in peace? The walls in this house are paper thin, and it worries me when there is a big storm that I’ll come home from work and my mom won’t be in Kansas anymore. Not that we’re in Kansas. Another crash fills the air and I can’t help flinching. Mom’s laughter turns to a whimper and I tense. No, not again. It doesn’t happen often, but there have been a few times where mom’s boyfriends, my so-called uncles, have been heavy handed with her. I’d wake up in the morning after hearing their argument during the night and she’d have a black eye, or a split lip.
Tonight, she could have fallen because she’s drunk. I close my eyes, welcoming sleep, hoping she was clumsy. However, I’m not that lucky. Simon’s yelling has the ability to shake the walls so much I know I’m not going to get to sleep any time soon.
Especially not when I hear the distinct sound of skin slapping skin, and then mom’s cry. Springing out of bed like a jack-in-the-box, I throw open my door and for a second, I’m grateful I didn’t change into the t-shirt I normally sleep in. Mom is on the kitchen floor, cradling her cheek in her hands, and Simon is looming over her ready to strike her again.
“Leave her alone,” I yell, but he doesn’t listen.
He rarely listens to me, or even acknowledges me, which I am glad for, so him ignoring me tonight doesn’t surprise me.
Before I can say another word, he grabs her hair and yanks her up onto her knees. This is the worst I’ve seen, and I jolt into action. I have no idea what I should do, well I do, call the police, but how long will they take? My mom doesn’t have time to wait for help, she needs it now. Her screams fill every inch of my head and I move. I move until I’m jumping onto his back and yanking on his hair, see how he fucking likes it. He juts his shoulder forward hard, and I clasp my arms around his neck to stop myself from being thrusted off him.
Mom falls to the floor in a heap as Simon focuses his energy on me. He grapples at my hands, but I lock my fingers together. He isn’t getting to her without me making it damn hard for him.
“Leave her alone,” I repeat.
“Get off, you little bitch,” he hisses, waving his hands around to try and get at me, but he’s not quite reaching me.
“Harper, get off him,” Mom screeches.
I ignore the both of them and squeeze my arms around his neck. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to squeeze out every breath he has, but in this moment, for laying hands on my mom, I’m going to give it a good go.
His neck is thick and lined with sweat, usually it would make me gag but tonight, it’s not getting in my way.
“You’re making me angry, Harper Warper,” he mocks, playing with my name and makes my skin crawl.
“Mom,” I yell. “Help me.”
She hasn’t moved from the floor since he let her go and if I let go of him, he’ll take it out on her and she isn’t strong enough to stop him, fucking hell, I’m not either. I hold onto him like I’m holding onto my life, my mom’s life, a life that’s shit but a life that’s mine. It’s no use, he backs us up and slams me into one of the cupboard doors. My arms break away to brace myself for the pain and he spins around and slams his fist into my stomach. Doubling over, I wheeze through the winding and watch helplessly as he turns on my mother and drops to his knees. Latching onto her hair, he yanks her head towards him and growls in her face.
“All you had to do was…”
I don’t hear him say anything else, one of the knives is still laid on the chopping board from their dinner and the noise around me becomes white.
My legs shake as I climb to my feet using the counter top as my aid. There is no light, there is no noise, there is no one here but the three of us and only two of us are good people. His aggression escalates, and he pounds his fists into her stomach and thighs as she curls up into a ball like I’ve seen gorillas do on the documentary channel.
Every strike, every time he raises his fists to deliver another blow, I want to vomit.
“Simon!” I scream.
Why isn’t my mom trying to run, or trying to fight back? Why?
With every blink I make, the scene changes before me.
I’m climbing up the side.
I’m laying my hand on the knife.
Simon and mom are back in my line of sight.
Everything is red.
“What have you done?” Mom shrieks, and the room clears.
There are no marks on her face.
He slapped her.
There should be marks on her. Her cheeks are flushed from the fighting but there are no hand prints or bruises forming. Why am I noticing this right at this moment?
She pulls me towards the sink and runs the water, shoving my hands under the warm spray of water. I go to look over my shoulder, but she blocks my view.
The knife clatters against the unwashed plates and cutlery and it’s covered in more blood. “Is he dead?”
“Harper, listen to me. You have to go shower. Are you listening?”
“Yes, I’m listening.”
“Go, now,” she urges.
The sprays of water hit me and I’m now standing under a weak stream in the shower. Bubbles cover my skin like a clean blanket and it feels so soft.
My legs are sliding into my gym pants and I throw on a clean hoodie. I laugh because I’ve never set foot in a gym. I like the leggings because they’re tight and guys look when I’m wearing them.
Tying my hair up onto my head, I gingerly walk back into the kitchen and the smell of bleach assaults my nose.
Simon’s body is wrapped in the rug from the living room and mom is on her hands and knees wiping over the floor.
The red is gone.
By the kitchen door are four bags, and his body, and mom is a lot soberer than she was when they came back.
It’s so calm and peaceful now. For the first time in a long time, there is no white noise in my head. My mom isn’t flouncing around like a teenager. She’s taking the lead and I’m waiting to be told what to do, like how it should have been my whole life.
“What are we going to do, mom?”
My own voice is strangled and childlike. It’s foreign to my ears. Over the years, I’ve adapted the perfect authoritive mom tone to keep my own mother in check.
Stepping over the body like it’s a bag of trash, she takes my hands in hers and that’s when I see the tears threatening to spill over.
“We’re going to bury that bastard and then we’re going to see your uncle.”
I nod. “Uncle Slade will know what to do,” I agree.
He’s in a biker club and he always looks out for us.
“No, darling. We’re not going to tell him about this, we’re not going to tell anyone.”
Wait, I suppose that makes sense. You shouldn’t go around telling people you’ve stabbed someone, then again, Slade isn’t just anyone, he’s my uncle and he belongs to a motorcycle club, he’d understand. Especially since it was self-defence. My head is spinning, and I crash.
“By the time we arrive in Willow’s Peak, this will all be behind us and be a distant memory that we will forget. Like it never happened. Slade won’t let anything happen to us, and I won’t let anything happen to you.”
A tear falls heavily down my cheek. I don’t know why I’m crying. For the life I took, or for this moment with my mom being a mom. God knows I’ve waited long enough.
“Harper, once we’re with your uncle, we’re safe. If no one knows what happened tonight, did it ever happen?”
I’m not sure it works like that, but I guess in time, we’ll find out.