Last night wasn’t too bad, she thought, as she helped David in to his coat. He’d been in a better mood and only someone in her position could understand what she meant by this. When he wasn’t too far gone, he used the back of his hand on her and she got the odd punch in the ribs, but there were darker times. Times when the drink brought an impotent rage surging to the surface and he used his fist. At such times, the floor as it rushed up to meet her felt softer than his knuckles. Yet no matter how hard he beat her she still clung to him, hoping one day…but that day would never come and she knew this, deep down. Any tenderness he felt for her was replaced with a simmering loathing. He blamed her for his inability to hold down a job, even through he’d managed to stay in his present one for the past six years. He saw the children as a weight around his neck, but his Catholic upbringing forbids her from using contraception. He was unaware of the packet of pills she’d hidden under the mattress. This kept her going, the fact she wouldn’t have any more children. Though she loved the ones she had, she knew bringing more into the world was a greater sin than taking the pill. No child should go without the most basic things, especially food. This reminded her there wasn’t anything for their lunch and the familiar gnawing pain in her gut started up.
“Ready?” She looked down at the children, who had clustered around the front door.
“Our lunch?” Abbey asked.
“I don’t know,” Lorraine felt tears prick the corners of her eyes. “I don’t have any money left and your father won’t be paid for another two days, I just…”She gasped and started to rummage in her bag. Pulling out a book, she flipped open the cover and stared at the coupon inside. “I almost forgot,” she laughed.
It was her children’s allowance book and the payment was due today.
“We’re rich,” she hugged the children to her, but Abbey pulled away.
“What are you talking about?” She thought her mother was mad.
“Look, see,” Lorraine pushed the book towards her. “I can go to town with you and cash this. I’ll wait around and drop off something for you at lunch time. We can meet outside the school gates.”
“Oh, o.k.,” Abbey grudgingly agreed.
They set off for the short walk to the bus stop in much better mood. Lorraine couldn’t help, but noticed how threadbare David’s coat was, but she needed the money from the allowance for other things. There was no coal for the fire and it’d need to be ordered. At least now she could buy enough food to last them till payday. Tom took most of her money for drink. What little she did manage to hide from him, or steal from his pockets when he rolled home too drunk to fight, soon went on necessaries. She’d been undecided about visiting the doctor, but now she’d have too. It meant a four hour wait until the children’s lunch break and the warmth of the waiting room would be a haven if only for an hour of two. This was the one occasion when she hoped there’d be a queue and she’d be spared having to stand around in the cold.
The children from the surrounding houses joined them as they walked. The other mothers nodded to her as she passed.
“I don’t know what she has to smile about,” one of them said, loud enough for her to hear. “You should’ve heard the racket coming from that house last night. It’s a disgrace if you ask me.”
Lorraine ignored her, but Abbey looked back at her mother and the accusation in her eyes stung.
“It’s not my fault,” Lorraine whispered, but her daughter looked away in disgust.
“Did you hear me?” The woman who’d been loudly voicing her complaint caught up with Lorraine.
“I’m sure even the dead heard you, Mrs O Brien,” Lorraine had enough bullying to put up with at home without taking it from her neighbors as well.
Though she was terrified of any sort of confrontation, there was no way she was going to have a harridan like the O Brien woman shouting at her in the street.
“I’d a good mind to call the police,” she shouted, and all those walking along the road stopped to listen.
“Then why didn’t you?” Lorraine turned to face her.
“I’d have send Joe down to the phone box if it hadn’t been so cold,” she retorted. “I don’t see why my husband should catch his death for the likes of you.”
“The likes of me,” Lorraine asked. “And what exactly does that mean?”
“Well,” for a moment the woman seemed stuck for words, then. “You should be able to keep that man of your under control, that’s all I’m saying. We don’t want to know your business,” she looked around at those assembled for support. “It’s not nice having to listen to screaming and fighting night after night, you know.”
“Do you think I start him off for my own amusement,” Lorraine asked. “Do you for one minute think I enjoy being hurt?”
The woman had the good grace to blush, when Lorraine pointed to her split lip.
“You leave my Mummy alone,” David took her by the hand. “Come on, Mummy, never mind the nasty woman.”
There were no further remarks as they climbed the hill to the bus stop. Getting into place behind those already gathered, Lorraine smiled to see Sarah Jacobs and her brother were already there.
“How are you, Sarah,” she asked.
“Better than you, Mrs Ryan, I imagine” she nodded at the puffy lip.
“Yes,” Lorraine laughed. “That’s true.”
She was fond of Sarah, and she knew like her, her life was not an easy one.
“Was that Mrs O Brien doing all the shouting?” Sarah asked.
“Yes,” Lorraine leaned closer and whispered. “It seems the sound of Tom’s fist hitting my face is disturbing her.”
“Take no notice of her,” Sarah craned her head out to glare at the woman. “She’s a bitch.”
Yes, Lorraine had to agree, and so was life. Just one long round of bitchiness.