Afterwards, Karen will blame Ray for what happens. She hates it when Doug brings his mates home, and she especially hates it when he brings Ray. She is already on her third glass of wine. She regrets this, when he appears in the living room. Red wine makes her tearful and emotional. She wishes she’d gone for the whisky.
Ray sits down, without being asked, and stretches out his legs. His foot nudges the coffee table, sending the pile of the books she has been marking onto the floor. He picks one of them up and settles back into the sofa with it. He smirks as he turns the pages.
‘Don’t you teach them to write any more?’ he says. Karen doesn’t respect him enough to explain. His opinions on teachers have been formed by the tabloids, and are set in stone. She empties the dregs of the wine into her glass and drains it in one go. Ray says something about drinking on a school night and makes an irritating tutting noise. He tosses the book back onto the coffee table, but leaves the others where they have fallen.
Silently, she kneels and gathers them up. She is conscious of him looking down her top. He tried it on with her once and she let him know that was once too often. He hates her now, but she can tell he still fancies her.
She goes into the kitchen, where Doug is drunkenly tipping an entire bag of oven chips onto a baking tray. Ignoring him, she takes the whisky from the cupboard, and pours herself a large measure, not even bothering to wash her glass. She glares at him. Oblivious, he hums quietly to himself. She goes back to the living room.
Ray’s feet are on the coffee table, neatly crossed at the ankles. She looks at him over the top of her glasses as she sips her drink.
‘Sorry, Miss,’ he says, in a high-pitched voice. His feet remain on the table.
Doug comes in and flops down on the sofa. Karen returns to her lesson planning. The words dance and blur on the screen. She gives up and snaps her laptop shut. Ray’s eyes never leave her, but it is Doug that he speaks to. He asks if he ever feels jealous of all the holidays Karen has. Schools seem to be closed more than they’re open these days. Doug just grunts, having heard it all before. Ray raises his eyebrows at Karen, waiting for a response.
She goes back to the kitchen to refill her glass, bringing the bottle back with her. It occurs to her than she will not be hungover in the morning, she will still be drunk. She is past caring.
Her failure to retaliate is making Ray angry. Did Doug read that piece in the paper, about the five-year old suspended for hitting a teacher? What have things come to, he asks, when a teacher can’t control a five-year old? He snorts in disgust. Doug laughs, knowing this is what is expected of him. Karen teaches five-year olds. She says nothing.
‘Bloody teachers,’ Ray says. His rants always end the same way.
The smoke alarm goes off. Doug goes to retrieve the oven chips, which have been reduced to charcoal. Ray says he has no appetite anyway. He shrugs on his jacket and leaves. Neither Doug nor Karen shows him out.
Karen sways into the kitchen and puts her glass in the dishwasher. She throws away the burned chips. When she comes back, Doug is dozing peacefully, a slight smile on his face.
Whisky always makes her aggressive. She grabs the nearest weapon, which happens to be her laptop. Holding it in both hands, she smashes it several times onto his skull. He doesn’t even wake up. There is an unpleasant crunching noise, and quite a lot of blood. She remembers that the laptop is school property. She sets it gently down on the coffee table.
Not bothering to check for signs of life, she goes to bed. She has school in the morning.