Broken

:This is a short story to illustrate Suspense.

‘Stupid BITCH’

Cerise cringed. She dropped the dishcloth. What had she done? What hadn’t
she done?
Before she could utter a sound Ben flung himself into the
kitchen. He held his plate out before her eyes. The plate quivered in his
clenched fingers.

‘I – said – no – BACON!’ He dropped the plate on the granite bench top. A
crack ran across the china and the plate fell neatly into two halves. The
poached egg she had placed so carefully on the toast slid through the
break and the bacon oozed grease on the immaculate polish of the granite. Her
husband pushed his fingers under her chin. ‘Look at me you idiot! Look
what you’ve made me do.’

Cerise raised her eyes to meet his gaze. She saw tiny red veins pop up
around his nostrils as they flared white. Spittle from his raging mouth
flecked her skin. She dared not wipe it off nor drop her attention from
his face. He made a loud huffing sound, raised his hands and stepped back.
‘Clean that up!’ He looked at his watch. ‘I’ll have to get breakfast out –
thanks to you!’

Cerise let her breath out in a huge sigh when she heard the car leave. The
rumble of the garage door as it closed permitted the first tear to gather.
‘No,’ she whispered. ‘No,’ she said aloud. She swiped the back of her hand
over her eyes. Addie told her to ring her when she felt like this. Her
hands shook as she searched in the drawer for her mobile phone. It wasn’t there.
She had hidden it so carefully too underneath the recipe books. He’d taken
it again.

Cerise dressed with care. The bruises on her arms made her so ashamed. All
her dresses had long sleeves now. She wore black tights even in summer.
Those hid the broken skin. She knew she was clumsy and forgetful. He
brought in the income. She had no financial worries and she knew he loved her in
his way.

‘That is not love,’ her friend Addie told her the previous week. Cerise
had met her at Mothers’ Group a year ago and Addie had gone out of her way
to always invite her out to coffee afterwards. She had been so kind that
lately Cerise found herself telling her how frequently Ben was upset with her. She had never
said anything to anyone before. Now she admitted she just couldn’t seem to please
him. Maybe it was because she was so clumsy or forgot things that were
important to him. Cerise couldn’t stop a few tears. Addie’s face changed
from kindly enquiry to clear concern.
‘What does he do?’ she asked.

Cerise had to admit that he threw things sometimes but she couldn’t bring
herself to confess that he had hit her. Addie wouldn’t understand. Cerise
knew it was just Ben’s way of coping.
‘I need him,’ she told Addie. ‘How can I pay for my
boy’s things and school? How would we live? And anyway, I do love him.’
Cerise wondered about that last sentence. She wasn’t so sure any more.

When she’d gone home after that time with Addie, her words seemed to keep
ringing in her head.
‘Ben needs help with anger management, Cerise. You have to see a therapist.’
When Cerise demurred Addie became more forceful.
‘Next time we meet I want to know you’ve talked to Ben. If you don’t, I
will.’

For the first time when Cerise left her friend, she felt torn instead of
uplifted. She knew what Ben would say – or not. More likely Ben would answer with his fists if
she even hinted she had talked about herself and Ben to Addie.

The beatings had lately gotten worse – much worse. She had woken yesterday
half way down the stairs with no recollection of how she had arrived there.
Her nightie lay rucked up past her waist, her legs splayed apart. The back of
her head ached. When she reached her hand to the spot an enormous lump met
her fingers. She remembered then. She had forgotten to lay out his
pyjamas. She hoped desperately that her boy hadn’t heard her scream or seen
her tumble down the stairs.

Addie had told her all sorts of things. Things she hadn’t known – who to
see, what to do. Now she knew she needn’t be so alone any more. And her boy would be
taken care of too. That was what had worried her more than anything. If her husband
lost his temper that badly with her son that could be the end of him. She
had to do something soon for her boy’s sake. If she didn’t tell Addie
tomorrow she’d talked to Ben, Addie would come over and confront him. She
knew Addie always meant what she said.
Cerise had run out of time. She must act now.

As Cerise opened the front door she noticed her boy had left his toy car on
the landing again. Ben never said a word if his son left anything anywhere. That was Cerise’s
business. What else was she going to do at home all day but keep it clean
and tidy? So lucky he had gone out the back way this morning…Cerise
closed the door and sank down beside the toy. What if…?

 

When Ben arrived home in the evening he almost choked with rage. She had
bolted the back door to the garage. He hammered on it till his fist hurt.
He groped for his mobile. He’d ring her to come down and let him in and he’d
let her have it too! He pulled out his mobile from his top pocket and
pressed the quick key to ‘wife.’ Moments later his briefcase sang ‘Stormy
Weather.’ Ah blast it! He’d forgotten he’d put her phone away there last
night. She needed little lessons like that from time to time. She needed
reminders about who was boss.

Blast it! He’d have to go out into the dark and cold and go in the front
way.  She was going to get it and good this time. His hands bunched into fists as
he left the garage. Despite the cold a grim smirk twisted his mouth. A wife
had to know her place. He knew how to do that.

 

Cerise returned home from picking up her son. When she put her key in the
lock she found something heavy lay against the front door and she could not
open it. She went to ask a neighbour’s help but he couldn’t budge the door
either.
‘I think we should get the police here,’ he suggested. ‘I don’t like the
feel of this – you know we’ve had a spate of burglaries lately. Where’s your
husband?’
‘He must be on the way home,’ Cerise said. ‘I don’t have my phone.’
‘Just wait there.’ The neighbour ran back to his house. Shortly afterwards
Cerise heard the clear sound of her husband’s jackhammer call signal from
his phone – just behind the door. Her suspicions seemed to be verified..
‘Daddy might be sleeping.’ She crouched down beside her boy. ‘We’d better
be quiet.’ Her son knew how to that. His discipline had been the same at
Ben’s hands that she had suffered.

The neighbour returned.
‘Couldn’t get hold of your husband,’ he said. ‘I’ve called the police.’

 

‘Oh if only he hadn’t taken my mobile!’
Cerise wept into a large handkerchief of Ben’s from the dresser. The
police woman was very kind. She patted Cerise’s hand.
‘I would have warned him I’d bolted that back door. I had to rush out to
pick up my boy and we’ve been so worried about burglaries. I never
thought to pick up the toys – I was going to call him to wait at the
office.’ Cerise gave a huge sob.
‘It’s alright. We’ll take care of it.’ The police woman patted Cerise’s
hand again.

Cerise heard grunts at the foot of the stairs. The ambulance had arrived
and the men were having a little difficulty lifting Ben’s large corpse.
Cerise blew her nose and thanked the police woman for her thoughtfulness.
She wondered whether Ben might be learning something of his own about
discipline now – somewhere hot and fiery…
Writers' Retreat Weekend 020

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