‘I’m sorry love.’
‘Bring me a whisky with my dinner,’ he said.
‘But it’s early Thomas. Are you sure you don’t want some juice instead?’
‘Stop worrying Martha, after the day I’ve had, I want a whisky not juice.’
‘But Thomas, it’s hardly the evening yet.’
‘I’m a grown man, and if I want a whisky with my dinner, I bloody well deserve it!’
As Thomas charged out the room, Martha mechanically took two bowls from the cupboard and filled them with the stew. Trying to steady shaking hands she neatly cut three slices of fresh bread. His dinner and a glass of whisky were brought to the table. She only returned to get her own when Thomas’s needs were met. They hardly spoke over dinner. Each time she tried to start talking, Thomas poured more whisky in his glass. It was pointless trying to engage any further.
Martha went to bed early but woke up in the early hours of the morning. He reached out to her then but grumbled when his fumbling came to nothing. For the rest of the night, he slept with his back to her.
How had Thomas become this cruel and vindictive? Was it her fault he couldn’t resist temptation? Could she have been more supportive and understanding? She couldn’t answer any of her own questions and just let the blame fall on her shoulders alone.
The next morning, Martha’s bones ached more than usual.
To the brim, the bath was filled up. As she dropped her nightdress to the floor, she stepped inside. Soothing water allowed her some respite, but troubles travelled round her head like a song on repeat. Laura, Tabitha, Theresa – Laura, Tabitha, Theresa – Laura Tabitha Theresa. Martha missed their warmth, comfort, and love. Never seeing her child and grandchild again filled her with dread.
She had a nice home and lifestyle; yet it wasn’t enough. It had never been enough. What good was her new washing machine, if it couldn’t hug you and take away the sins of the father. Possessions didn’t give comfort – family did. Martha decided to phone Laura once she was out of the bath. If they couldn’t spend Christmas together, at least they could have a few hours where they could pretend. It would take time to change his ways. A good mood followed by honesty had passed, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t happen again. If she were a little more honest about the effect drink had on them both, then her family could be saved.