‘That’s rubbish and you know it!’ There wasn’t any distance between them.
Ready for the blows that she expected to come, Martha cowered. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘Why are you sorry? I shouldn’t have got angry,’ Chris said, and created space between them.
‘I killed him.’
‘The first time I was in prison I killed my old man. He was a bastard who thought nothing of whacking me with his belt when he felt like it. He would hang it up on the wall for my mum and me to see.’
The flash of a belt buckle, Martha touched the scar on her face. It didn’t hurt any more, but the reminder of his last breath wouldn’t go away.
‘He only hit her once.’
‘Once is more than enough, and she heard things you wouldn’t imagine.’
Martha thought back to the vodka she found in her daughter’s bedside cabinet. ‘Laura hates him.’
It was the first time she said it out loud, but there was truth in her words she couldn’t deny.
‘For good reason too – even with all these years in and out of prison – I’d kill my father again. The bastard deserved all he got and more.’
‘How could you have killed your dad?’
There was a hardness when Chris talked of her father. ‘He walloped my mum until she had no life in her left . . . Alan too. Mum tried her best to shield me when my brother left, but then she couldn’t protect me any longer and he started on me. Any excuse his temper would fly. I killed him while he slept off yet another long drinking session. He had just beat my mother in front of me. I’ve no regrets. Neither should you.’
‘I didn’t even try to save him. I’m a monster.’ Martha opened up her palms.
Chris dragged Martha to a small, round mirror on the wall. Avoiding the reflection at first, she tried to find sanctuary in her bare surroundings, but she was too strong. In the end, there was no choice but to agree to her demand.
‘You have to see sense. That scar didn’t appear by accident.’
‘No, it wasn’t like that – I fell down the stairs. I hit my head on the corner of the bannister.’
‘I know the scar from a belt buckle, my back is covered in them!’
This wasn’t happening. Any time soon she would wake up from this nightmare. She continued to shake her head – this stranger had no right to impose. Yet, something in her words scrambled through.
Chris rolled her eyes, pushing Martha closer to the mirror. ‘Spare me love. I’ve heard it all. I bumped into a door, I tripped, oh and the best one, I’m just so accident prone!’
Martha avoided her own reflection. This woman was wrong – wasn’t she?
‘From an early age I knew my dad wasn’t fit to wear my mother’s shoes. Just like you she kept on defending him, even when the truth was staring right at her face.’
‘I’m sorry about your dad, but my husband was a good man.’
‘A good man wouldn’t have made that mark on your face. Don’t you get it – he was an animal – and even now-even now, you are making excuses for him!’
Released from her grip Martha’s shoulders sagged. Now she couldn’t look away, it was as if her reflection had lured her into the ultimate betrayal. Tears rolled down, as the ruthless sunlight pierced through the room like a dagger.
Shoulders lurched forward – Chris stopped short of the doorway.
The room became like a hostile hornets’ nest. Martha turned around in circles. She didn’t want to go back to the mirror, but her legs were sinking into a quicksand of her own making.
Just as she was about to fall, she leaned against Chris’s strong shoulders.
Staring into the space between reality and dreams, Martha allowed herself to be steered towards the bed. She curled up on her side. An illusion of Buddy appeared on the bed. With it pulled closer to her chest, Martha closed her eyes.