Fault

By: Nicola Hudson

I TRIED TO SCREAM BUT my brain was stuck on registering details: the cold kitchen counter under my cheek, the painful pressure of a drawer handle sticking into my hipbone, the stale alcohol on his breath as he groaned in my ear.


“It’s been a long time since I had a redhead. I bet you’re already all fired up, aren’t you?” He pulled at my leggings, the weight of his upper body keeping me pinned in place. The material refused to cooperate, stretching outward rather than moving down, generating a grunt of frustration.

“Please, don’t,” I cried as his hand ferreted between my legs, my clenched thighs unable to offer enough resistance. “Please. Please. Please.” My begging fell on deaf ears as he tugged again at my waistband. I knew what was going to happen and couldn’t believe that this was my fate. Vague memories of my brother Jake’s attempt at teaching me self-defence skirted at the edge of my consciousness, but I couldn’t move enough to stamp on his instep or hit his windpipe.

I knew I couldn’t give in.

Not yet.

I squirmed and shifted, fighting harder than I had ever needed to before.

“Stop it, you little bitch,” he spat before grabbing my hair and slamming my head against the counter. “Do you like it rough? Is that what you’re after?” Bile burnt my throat at the sound of his zipper. I heard the rip as the material of my leggings started to give way in his hands, my life and soul leaching out of me at what it meant.

I stopped moving.

I stopped breathing.

I stopped hoping.

And then there was noise, the cry of an animal in agony, and the dead weight of his body slumped on mine. I couldn’t work out what was happening. His guttural moaning had nothing to do with pleasure, and he repeatedly pushed into my back, but made no contact anywhere else. I took advantage of his loosened grip on my hair to twist my head.

And saw Mum stood next to us.

Holding a knife.

Dripping blood.

As she lunged for him again, I managed to pull myself away from the counter and felt the weight of him slide off me. Pain shot through my arm as the knife caressed my skin, leaving a red line in its wake.

“Mum!”

Silent waves of rage rolled off her, rendering her oblivious to my cries. She launched at him again, even though he was slumped, unmoving, in a growing pool of red. The sound of knife plundering flesh made me retch and I tugged at her, causing us both to slip in the blood. As we fell to the floor, I managed to knock the knife out of her hand and pull her to me.

“Mum, what have you done?” I tried to make eye contact with her, but she was like a wild animal, unable to make a connection. Even on her darkest days after Dad died, or her most hung-over days, I had always managed to get through to the hidden her. But not in that moment. She was beyond me, lost in a world I didn’t know how to get to.

A gurgling sound brought the realisation that the monster may not have been slain. The dilemma of what to do next was overwhelming. Who needed me the most? Mum still appeared unaware of my presence, staring into the abyss of her mind.

That left him.

I moved across the floor on my knees, warm blood soaking into my clothes, and turned him over. His front was covered in congealing blood and his eyes were glassy, staring into the same space Mum was inhabiting. I couldn’t hear or see any signs of breathing so I felt around his wrist, not knowing how or where to find a pulse but compelled to do something.

“Nine, nine, nine” was the whispered instruction from behind me. I looked at her, but her eyes were still elsewhere. Running to the hall, I picked up the phone, dialling as I returned to the carnage.

Looking back, I wish I’d sat there with her for longer before making that call. I wish I’d had the chance to try and find her, my mum, one final time. I wish I’d thought about how to protect Josh from it all. I wish I’d thought about whether I had the strength to deal with the ensuing chaos.

“Hello. Which service do you require?” There was a split second when I thought about hanging up, trying to get Mum away and finding a way to explain a body in the kitchen. But I knew it would be an act of utter futility. This could never be undone. The consequences had to be faced.

“Ambulance, please. There’s a man and I think he might be dead.” My voice was strangely calm.

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