Final Straw

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
A moment of strength leads to a crisis for one Belfast woman.

Submitted: March 15, 2014

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Submitted: March 15, 2014

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The Newtownards Road was deserted this time of night.  There wasn‘t a soul about on the usually busy street but I kept to the shadows, just in case.  My heartbeat was loud in my ears and I desperately tried to control my breathing before I had some sort of asthma attack here in the street, alone in the dark. I had to get away from here!  I could almost taste my panic, my mind bouncing from the blood, to the knife, to the now.  Here.  In the dark.  With nowhere to go.
The outline of the burnt out shop appeared at the junction of the Albertbridge Road and I instinctively slipped inside. The smell of fire and ash mixed with urine and vomit from whatever street drinkers had used the place made me gag.  I listened to see if anyone else was here but it appeared deserted.  I could stay for tonight. Think. Plan.
I moved to the back of the building, dragging some discarded charred panels with me.  I was conscious of the noise, but since it was pitch black outside, and the pubs were closed, it had to be after 3am at least.  I knew it was deserted outside I was sure I was ok.  It was too dark to see anything, but I felt the wall in front of me, found the corner and created a crude, haphazard wall to lay down behind. Confident no one would see me from the street, I lay on the dirty floor.  
I closed my eyes and quickly opened them again. His face, shocked white, his hands holding his stomach as blood pooled, so much blood!, eyes looking at me in pain. I couldn’t close my eyes.  I had to figure out where I was going to go. I needed to get out of Belfast. Out of Northern Ireland of course, but definitely out of Belfast. Now. How? Where?
I woke up cold, and stiff and afraid.  It was daylight, but I had no idea of the time. I could hear the traffic and voices, but I was too scared to move.  Scared!  Ha!  Last night, knife in hand, was the first time in a long time that I felt in control of my life.  And now I’m cowering in filth. Too scared to move.  Even in death he has control over me! That rage, remnants form last night, surged through me again, but I controlled it.  I had to be logical here.  I had no choice but to wait for it to get dark again.  My head ached, from thirst and hunger, my muscles were stiff and sore, but there was nothing I could do right now.  Sirens in the distance, an everyday sound in  the city of Belfast, made me hold my breath in fear.  But they rose and fell as they passed on the main road outside. How stupid I was to slip into a building on a main road but I was desperate. I needed to go somewhere!
Arguing with myself was a good distraction. From the physical pain I was in now, from the grief over what I had done last night.  From the fear of lack of direction I now had.  I closed my eyes, MANDY!  My eyes popped open in alarm, certain someone had shouted the name from the street.  But yes!!!  Mandy’s house, just off the Belmont Road would be my safest bet.  I couldn’t go to family, the police would definitely speak to them, look for me at my sisters house for sure.  But no one knew about Mandy - I had kept our friendship secret because he had ruined all others.  Could I ask this of her? Did I have a choice?

We’d met at the Iceland up the road.  Both stuck in the doorway when an unexpected shower had us running for cover.  It was a simple conversation - talking about the weather mostly.  We said hi when we saw each other in the street after that, stopped for a quick chat about nothing of significance, and then, one day in Connswater Shopping Mall, I spotted her and turned on my heel.  I didn’t want to see her, but she called to me and I felt her hand on my arm.  She flinched when she saw my bruises, and I was shocked when she brazenly asked what happened.  Most people politely ignored the black eyes and split lips.  I was more shocked when I told her.  Told her about him. We went for coffee in the food court and I poured it all out: the trouble he’d been in, the years of physical abuse, the guilt I’d felt, the responsibility. Mandy had wept with me, listened to me, talked to me, told me what she thought I should do, while respecting me enough to not force me into anything.  “Anything” being go to the police.  Its just not the done thing where I‘m from. You don’t call the police on your family. You deal with it yourself.  

Mandy was my closest friend, my only friend, but could I do it?  Should I do it?  Put her in this impossible position?  I saw no other way.  I had plenty of time to think and could see no other option.  Only Mandy.  My parents had passed on, my family was too obvious and over the years I had distanced myself.  Not through choice of course.  I had no other friends.  She lived alone - her daughter was grown and living in Cardiff, her husband had left her two years earlier.  I could go to her.  It was Mandy or nothing.  It was getting dark, I felt secure enough to crawl around my tiny space at the back of this empty husk.  I saw an open doorway and crawled through, once clear from the door I stood, stretched and laughed quietly to myself.  I was six feet from a doorway that offered a safer space to wait for darkness and there was a toilet! I relieved myself and didn’t dare flush.  Still smiling at my own stupidity - why didn’t I poke around more last night?  Could have been slightly more comfortable.  I moved slowly thought the small kitchenette, opened the cupboards and found a loaf of stale bread. Bluemoulded through to the one middle slice. I ate hungrily. I peered through the grimy window.  It was raining, which made it hard to see clearly but I figured this would be the best way out - out this back way, cut behind the old Bank of Ireland, through the car park at the doctors, and come out at the library. A quick walk with my head down and I could be at Mandy’s in twenty minutes.  I prayed the rain would get heavier, no one looks up when its raining, everyone keeps their heads down, and walks fast.  Drivers concentrate on the road, not a soaked pedestrian. If I was half-running I would look like someone who just wanted to get out of the rain.  I tried the back door - it was locked shut!  After a fire?  I felt tears sting my eyes in frustration! Where was the random acts of destruction to derelict property that usually happens?  Why was the window not smashed? The door not booted in?  I was too scared to try myself - scared I couldn’t kick the door in, scared the sound of glass breaking would produce a nosy someone who would find me…my throat closed in fear.  I would have to go out the front way. - step out of this burnt shackle and onto a main road, with rush hour traffic, probably at a stand still because of the weather.
I moved with caution to the front of the shop, the traffic was heavy and it was dark out. It must be at least half five - rush hour.  The traffic was moving, but very slowly.  I took a deep breath and slipped outside taking the first left down the side street and cut across the darker pathway.  Fewer streetlights, less traffic.  My breathing eased a little.  I was behind the old bank and into the car park within a few minutes.  The rain was making me walk quicker naturally.  I kept my head down and hood up.  I couldn’t see if there was anyone else around because I didn’t look.  That child mentality of “If you can’t see me I can’t see you” I guess.  I moved behind the library, and on to the Holywood Road. This was going to be the hard part. The streetlights were all in perfect working order and that was not good for me.  The heavy rain was still an advantage though and I swiftly joined the other pedestrians on their walk up the road.  My back to the oncoming traffic offered a little comfort, but I just wanted off this busy road.  
I was at the junction at the Strand Cinema, where I had to wait for the lights to change. I quietly issued a prayer to whatever God was listening for the lights to change. My eyes were glued to my feet as someone stood beside me. I held my breath. Waited. The beeps of the green man had me scurrying across to the less well lit street.  A car beeped its horn but I didn’t look. Was it someone I knew? A taxi? Had I almost been run over?  I just couldn’t think.  I didn’t want to draw attention to myself but I just needed to get to Mandys house. That was my sole focus now, blocking out all other thoughts.  I saw the sign for Sydenham Drive and practically ran round the corner.  There was even less streetlights now, a sole walker on the opposite footpath with a small dog.  I stayed in to the wall, quickening my pace - just a commuter getting home.  I turned right on to Edenvale Drive and looked for Mandy’s house.  I couldn’t remember the number, but I knew which one it was - the wooden chime outside, the three ninja gnomes on the lounge window sill.  I could see it up ahead - lights on! Thank God!
I slowed, I tried but couldn’t imagine the reaction I would receive.  I took a shaky breath and rang the doorbell.  I had no choice.
“Dee?! Hi!!!!  Come in out of that rain!!!!”  
Bathed in the hall light, I stepped into the warmth and shuddered for a full ten seconds.  I didn’t know how to process this reaction but I was happy the door hadn’t been slammed in my face.
“Dee?  You ok?” Mandy was looking at me with nothing but concern.
I burst into tears.  There was nothing I could say, nothing I could do.  The horror of the last twenty four hours seemed to hit me in the face at once and I just broke.  He was dead, gone, I was relieved, but needed to grieve. I didn’t understand my feelings - how could I feel loss for him?  Why do I feel loss for him?  Hunger. Thirst. Tiredness. Fear. It all reached me here, in this warm hallway and I crumbled.
“Upstairs, come on.”
I felt an arm hoist me to my feet and I followed meekly up a flight of stairs and into a dark bedroom.  I was pushed on to a bed and then a door opened and a light came on.  I could hear the rush of running water.
“I’ll run you a bath - you’re soaked to the skin! I don’t know what’s happened Dee, but you can stay here as long as you need and we can talk.”
I found my voice then.  “You don’t know what’s happened?” I asked, incredulous.  “You haven’t watched the news?”.  I saw the six o’clock headlines and the first story before you knocked the door - Stormont Eecutive meeting to discuss flags…again!” She laughed.  “What did I miss?  What’s happened?”
“I….it….I….it wasn’t on the news?”  
“Dee what is going on?”
“I killed him.  Tony.  I…..stabbed…and he….fell….I…”
“What are you talking about Dee?”
I felt hot and sweaty, vomit rose into my throat and I ran into the ensuite, searching for the loo.  I was violently sick several times, wretching when there was nothing left.  I couldn’t believe this!
“Dee…” Mandy’s voice was very small.  Scared.  I knew then.  I’d messed up, My only friend.
“I’m sorry Mandy” tears again “I didn’t mean to…I…I’m sorry I came here.”  I tried to stand up, but my brain wasn’t working.  I slipped on the tiled floor. Banged my chin on the on the toilet seat.
“Dee - you killed Tony?”  Matter of fact, just like that.
I turned and looked at her.  I could deny it now…but I couldn’t.  I didn’t have the energy.  
“Yes.” I said simply.
She stood.  Turned off the taps, walked to the bathroom door and turned to me.  
“Have a bath.  I’ll leave pyjamas on the bed.  Come down when you’re ready.  We can have a cuppa and sort this out.”
I heard the soft tread on the stairs as I sat, numb on the floor.  I didn’t understand Mandy’s reaction - or lack of reaction.  I didn’t understand how she’d missed the news story.  I sighed and pulled myself upright.  The bath looked so welcoming and the warm air was making me drowsy.  I stripped out off my stale smelly clothes and stepped into the hot water.  I gingerly lay back in the bath, trying to ignore the bruises Tony had inflicted before I…snapped I suppose they’d say.  I tried not to think about it but now I was here, alone, feeling somewhat safe, I replayed it.  His angry voice as dinner had been later than usual, he shovelled it into him like a pig then left the plate at his feet, took the last £10 from my purse and walked out. Didn’t ask, just took.  That’s my Tony.  I tidied up, made a cuppa and put my feet up.  I must have dozed off on the sofa.  He came home drunk. Shouting up the stairs.  I didn’t want the neighbours banging on the walls ‘cos last time that happened he blared music til 4am just to piss them off.  I ran from the living room to the hall and met his fist.  I stumbled back and moved to the kitchen - that side of the house wasn‘t on the neighbours side of our end terrace.  It was my way of keeping it quiet I suppose.  The shame is worse than the beatings.
He was there then, grabbing me.  Slapped me when he saw the blood from my nose.  Called me an easy target then laughed and shoved me against the counter.  The knife was there in the block to my right.  I don’t remember the rest.  Suddenly a knife was in my hand and Tony was on the floor.  I dropped the knife in the sink and I ran.  I can’t remember if the front door locked behind me, I don’t know what time it was, only that it was pitch black and both the Con Club and the Eastern Bar were closed so it was after 2 at least.  
The water was cooler now, and grimy from my night on the shop floor. I got out, dried myself with a towel and then wrapped myself in it before going into the bedroom.  The pyjamas - fleecy ones - were on the radiator, warming.  A gesture like that, so simple, thoughtful, had me close to tears as I put them on and I knew thenI had done the right thing.  Mandy was a good friend.I went downstairs, and true to her word, there was a teapot and two mugs on the coffee table.  I sat down in the chair by the fire.  Drawing in the heat as if it were the courage I needed to explain myself.  And I did.  I told Mandy everything.  She listened, she was shocked, I could tell - of course, but she listened to it all.  
“Well” she said.  “Dee, it hasn’t been on the news, I checked teletext when you were in the bath - its not on the news now.  Love, Tony didn’t have a job.  I don’t man to be cruel but who would be looking for him?  His drinking buddies? Sure if he doesn’t show, he doesn’t show.  He has no real friends, no family, no one who cares other than you…sorry, sorry Dee I wasn’t thinking!”
“I failed him!!!  You’re right, I’m his family, I’m the only one who cares and look what I did!!!!!!” I could feel the hysteria, the realisation.  I killed someone! Not just someone…TONY!!!
There was a loud knock on the door and Mandy and I jumped, I spilled tea but Mandy was out the door before I could apologise for staining her pyjamas and the rug.
I could see the guilt on her face as two police officers walked into the room, Mandy stayed at the back.  She mouthed “sorry” and turned her back.  My friend.
I looked at the officers then, took a deep breath and told them.  
“I killed Tony last night.  Anthony Wilson, my son.  I killed him.”
 


© Copyright 2019 Bea Robinson. All rights reserved.

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