Angela’s eyes are splintered with not sleeping, she lies scrunched like a question mark at the bottom of the bed, blankets tight around her shoulders, not just to keep out the cold. A fire smoulders in the ashes of the grate throwing off heat, making the room too warm, adding a gleam of light and heavy scent of burning clinkers. Karen sits on the edge of the couch, wrapped in a nightgown. A lit cigarette sits in the ashtray at her feet among blackened douts, picking at pink nail polish on her fingers and feigning watching the telly, which is just a noise with pictures, but like Angela she is waiting for Jaz. The uproar of the pubs at closing time, men babbling and milling about on Dunbarton Road and shouting farewells, rises up and tells them how late he is better than the Westclock with its illuminated hands on the mantlepiece.
The footsteps on the stairs are Jaz’s. Angela hazards a look from her hidey hole. Her mother pats the bulge on her stomach and the sound of his steps passes like a wasp sting across her face, and she hold herself and rocks from side to side. She covers the strain of waiting, and no longer waiting, by staring straight ahead at the telly. When the door opens she flutters up. ‘Is that you, Jaz,’ she peals in a frothy tone.
He bounces against the lobby wall, all subtlety lost on him, mockit with the drink. A can of McEwan Pale Ale peeks out of each pocket and a white plastic bag clenches his fingers into a fist, the smell of curry sauce breathing through the knot. His eyes flicker like candles not resting on anything or anyone and swerving past her and making his way into the kitchen.
‘I could go something to eat,’ he says. His head droops and he holds the bag up in triumph, as if it just appeared on his wrist.
‘I’ll get it.’ She prises the plastic bag away from his floppy hand. It’s like peeling a jumper from a wain that is holding onto the sleeve, by pulling it over its head. Somehow his jacket comes off, at the same time, and falls to the linoleum and an unopened can spill out and lies beside the leg of a wooden chair.
‘Put some music on,’ he says. ‘I want tae hear some of my records. Some Faces.’
‘It’s too late.’
‘Put some music on, he says again, raising his chin and looking at her as if just seeing her for the first time. ‘I want tae hear some of my records.’
‘It’s too late.’
‘Don’t fuckin’ tell me it’s too late.’
She takes a step back, tries a different tack, and opens the bag. The container lids aren’t sealed and curry sauce pools in a stain in the corner of bag with a white plastic spoon and grey rice soaks some of it. She turns her back on him, searching in the top shelf of the cupboard for a clean plate and rattles through the drawer at the sink for a knife and fork. Banging the two trays onto the plate she mixes them together with a wooden spoon.
Picking up the fork he spears cubes of chicken in curry sauce and chews standing up, swaying to the music in his head. ‘Have some,’ he says. ‘It’s good.’
‘I don’t like that foreign muck.’
‘Look at the state of this place.’ His glance orbits the kitchen, dishes in the sink, the cupboard door with a hole in it where he’d punched it and rest back on her. ‘Look at the state of you. Fat as fuck and good for fuck all.’ He points fork prongs at her. ‘I bought this Chinky fer you. You better take a bit.’
She veers around him as if a three-foot, electrified, fence spikes out and takes a fork from the murky water in the sink and runs it under the cold-water tap. Through the window, a full moon hangs in the sky, resting in blackness and far pinpricks of light. He scrapes the seat across and sits, chewing, burping, and she’s not sure he’s going to be sick. When she turns around he looks up, her presence forgotten.
‘Better get to yer bed,’ he mutters. ‘And get to sleep.’ Rouses himself. ‘Where’s the wee yin?’
'Sleepin', she says.
‘That’s good. I’ll need somebody to coorie up tae. You’re fuckin’ useless.’
‘But Jaz—’she says, her voice a fragile thread.
‘But Jaz, fuckin’ nothin’, dae as I telt yeh.’
Angela waits for the sickly smell of boozy breath to possess her, his weight to roll onto her and pin her down. She constructs a cathedral in her head of the time she was under the water in the canal, the bells peeling and everyone cheering.
‘Yer lucky, you’ll be well broke in for the boys when yer older.’
Her mother has her back to them and feigns sleep, but Angela hears muted sobbing. She is like her daughter, there and not there.
No. No. No, circles, a sound in Angela’s head and the words have arms and legs, a shifting shapelessness in her life and body.
‘Yes,’ he says, a he comes inside her, blood and semen, a rosy bloom spilling onto the top of her legs, when he pulls out of her and quickly falls sideways into a drunken sleep.
His snoring lights up the night and Angela falls asleep, doesn’t see or feel her mother getting up from the bed and going into the kitchen, cold feet on the linoleum, staring out of the window into the cold night.