The Parker pen fell from her hands, and she couldn’t stomach to read what she had just written. A profound breath in, she closed the diary. She thought of the others in the chest in the loft. They weren’t all full of hate. Some of her early musings were full of praise for Thomas. Over the years they changed. The more Martha succumbed to Thomas’s will, the more her diaries spoke for her.
Carefully replaced, and the drawer firmly closed, Martha lurched towards the bathroom.
She barely saw her face in the medicine mirror. Even her foundation wouldn’t hide this mess. With trembling hands she pulled at the hinges, and it slid open. A bottle of paracetamol, Citalopram, Savlon, plasters and reems of bandages stood next to each other on the shelf. Her hand hovered over the paracetamol bottle before she took down the Savlon cream instead. Not that it would do much good, but at least it helped a little with the stinging.
The last time it was this bad she had gone to accident and emergency. The Indian doctor wanted her to call the police. It had been considered, but when he came back armed with tea, sympathy, and love – Martha changed her mind.
Scared to even touch them – both eyes puffed with an ugly purple hue – Martha wrapped her hands around some tissue. Gentle dabs were administered on the worst offenders. Martha couldn’t cry. Her tears only caused more discomfort.
Her arms, a mass of black and yellow caved in on each other. It was too easy to blame Thomas when she had to share some of the responsibility. When he had brought the champagne the other night, Martha should have said something then.
Her Citalopram was ruminated at length. It would be easy to take the whole bottle and everyone’s life would be better. She wouldn’t have to suffer his outbursts ever again. Thomas would be free to marry his mistress. However, even as the thought crossed her mind it came to a shuddering halt.
‘No!’ She told herself sternly, placed the bottle back and washed her face with warm water. ‘Stupid woman!’ Even with Thomas away from the house, his bitter voice crashed through.
With all the strength she could muster, she made her way back downstairs, cleared the table and tidied the front room so that it looked like nothing happened. If Thomas came home now, he would find perfection.
The real tree, with its emerald branches remained steadfast. She twisted one of the coloured bulbs, and it lit up once more. On the mantelpiece, three Christmas cards stood in between her Wedgewood ornaments. One from Mrs Carmichael, one from the Stoddart’s and Fred had sent one. Santa was stuck in the chimney, with his legs dangling outside. Thomas called it common, but Martha had put it there anyway. It made her laugh.
The other two cards, which were sent to each other, were either side of his mother’s crystal vase. Martha opened the card she received from Thomas and read the inscription inside. ‘For my beautiful wife at Christmas – my life has no meaning without you.’ There were no kisses at the end of his signature.
One last look at the front door, Martha half expected his key to turn in the lock, but there was no-one there. Her feet were fixed in position. Hands held on to the door, Martha winced as she picked up the keys and hung them on the hook
Back up the stairs, her legs ached from all the moving around. It wasn’t fair for Thomas to come home and find blood on her clothes. Her walk-in wardrobe slid open. She reviewed the items inside. It would have to be something that covered both her legs and arms. Gardening jeans and a few cheap T-shirts in various colours hung at the back. She wanted to spend the evening in them. She reached out to touch the delicate cotton. It felt so indulgent.
She chose Thomas’s favourite blue trousers, and beige shirt. Arms were covered by a thick mohair jumper. Her attention was firmly on the floor. The mirror wasn’t going to be her friend today. It would serve no purpose picking at her bruises. Another week and they could be covered in foundation anyway.