Homecoming Part 2
‘You’ve got to hear this,’ my younger sister said, as Emily, the eldest of the three of us, arrived.
‘Not again,’ I protested.
‘Come on. It’s really funny,’ said Donna.
‘I didn’t think it was very funny at the time.’
‘Tell me,’ Emily implored, and knowing the battle was lost, I recounted the encounter with our elderly relative from earlier in the day. Though usually, when telling a tale, each repetition gains in detail, and exaggeration becomes the norm, with this sorry story, no embellishments were necessary.
The truth was quite awful enough.
Emily shook her head as I finished, wiping a bead of red wine from the corner of her mouth.
‘She’s well and truly losing it,’ she aid. ‘Always knew it’d happen, but I didn’t think you would be her first victim.’
There was an edge to the voice, though I chose to ignore it, the subtext obvious: I was always the clean cut one, the one who never brought any problems home. I’d never been in trouble with the police, never been in a proper fight, never so much as stolen anything from a shop.
Yeah, me and Emily were quite different, and we both knew it.
Donna sensed the mood changing slightly, tried her best to lighten things.
‘Let’s play cards.’
Emily again, properly frosty this time, staring at me defiantly, challenging me to say something out of turn.
‘I’ll play,’ I said.
‘Yeah, fuck you. I’ll play cards even if you won’t’ was the message. A tiny act of rebellion, true, but a rebellion all the same.
‘Why do you always have to ruin it, Terry?’
‘Emily!’ Donna protested, but it was too late. The words were spoken, the challenge issued, and I was never one to roll over.
‘What the fuck have I done?’ I demanded.
‘It’s no wonder she had a pop. You’re so bloody arrogant.’
The old accusation again, the old resentments.
‘How’ve I been arrogant this time, Emily? Is it the way I walk? Maybe the way I’m growing my hair. Am I growing my hair in an arrogant manner? Is that it?’
She smiled, her mouth a cold, narrow slit in her face, full of menace.
‘Just cos the sun shines out of your arse, you think you’re better than everyone else.’
‘What the hell are you talking about? Donna asked me to tell the story. That’s all I’ve done. You’ve only been here five minutes and you’ve started.’
‘Yeah, and is it any wonder?’
‘So what is it? Tell me. I’ve obviously pissed you off somehow.’
‘You haven’t done anything. It’s just who you are.’
‘Well that’s helpful.’
Dripping with sarcasm, but I couldn’t help it.
‘Maybe I’ll just travel back in time and ask Dad to fertilise Mother with a different sperm. Maybe I’ll turn out differently that way.’
‘See what I mean? The fucking smart arse answers. Always with the science and the knowledge. The Guardian tucked under your arm as you walk down the street, you think you’re some kind of brainiac. Well, you’re nothing. You’re like the shit on my shoe.’
They shouldn’t have done, but her words stung. I felt like I’d been slapped again and, unusually, I had nothing to come back with.
Something struck the front door.
We all became statuesque.
It came again, if anything louder than before.
‘What the hell is that?’ I asked, acutely aware of the look of genuine fear on Emily’s face.
‘Does he know where you live?’
She was addressing Donna, not me, but still it was I who spoke first.
‘Does who know where you live? What’s happening?’
‘Andy. Her ex,’ Donna explained tersely, answering Emily’s question with a jerk of the head, side to side. ‘Don’t think so.’
We were at Donna’s maisonette, a couple of miles outside of town, a couple of miles the wrong way, too, where all of the houses had the dilapidated look of neglect and disrepair. Being a maisonette, it was effectively two rows of terraced houses piled on top of one another, and we were in one of the top ones.
A new sound now, the sound of metal clattering, as whoever was outside meddled with the letterbox, perhaps trying to squeeze an arm through to reach for a key, should Donna have been foolish enough to leave it in the door.
‘Go see who it is,’ Donna urged me and, reluctantly, I stood, a bit shaky on my feet, the combination of alcohol and adrenaline causing a dizzying effect on my vision. I paused, allowed myself time to settle, then made for the hallway that led straight to the front door. I flicked the light on, half expecting to see an arm poking through, but instead the letterbox was propped open by unseen fingers, and all I could make out were a pair of eyes staring straight at me, through the opening.
‘Who the fuck are you?’
A male voice, deep, angry.
Christ, he sounded big.
‘I’m Terry. Donna’s brother.’
‘Oh yeah, Terry. Well let me tell you something: when I get through this door, I’m gonna fucking kill ya’.’
I believed him.
Something about the way the eyes narrowed as he spoke, something about the sheer malevolence in the stare, even from such an awkward position.
I believed every fucking word.
I dashed back into the living room, where the two women stood, each with their arms crossed tightly against their chests, worry etched across the features.
‘We’ve got to call the police,’ I said forcefully.
‘Can’t do that He’ll kill me,’ Emily said, shaking her head urgently.
‘And what do you think he’s going to do when he gets through that door? Pour you another glass of wine?’
‘Can’t do it anyway,’ Donna said. ‘Phone’s out.’
‘What do you mean the phone’s out? What’s wrong with it?’
‘They cut me off.’
Another bang from outside, loud, and I was certain I also detected the sound of timber splintering. It wouldn’t be long before he got through the door, no matter how sturdy it appeared.
I moved, headed to the window, looked out at the scene beyond.
‘I’m gonna have to do it.’
‘Do what?’ Donna asked.
‘I’m gonna jump.’
They both looked at me as if I were utterly demented but, with the sound of the maniac pounding away at the door, it seemed one way or another pain was about to be inflicted. Better to get hurt trying to go for help than sit here, waiting to be a victim.
‘You’ll break your legs.’
‘I know. Maybe.’
But I was already on it, moving to open the small, side window. Fortunately, the narrow gap was just wide enough for me to pass through and, by lifting the metal latch completely out of the way, the window folded right out, providing no obstacle to anyone wishing to exit the building via this route.
They were the plus points, but the clear negative still outweighed them: this was a second floor window, the drop to ground level probably thirty feet or so. I glanced down fearfully, pleased to note that the earth below was at least grass, but still my heart beat so hard I felt certain it might burst.
Another great smash at the front door was all the spur I needed. I dragged an armchair over, positioned it directly in front of the window, back to the wall, and clambered up, easing myself up and over the ledge arse first, barely able to breath, feeling a fear the like of which I had never experienced before. My knees balanced on the window ledge now, I reached down between them, taking firm hold before gradually easing myself out, past the point of no return, surprised at my own strength, adrenaline my ally, boosting my reserves of energy and providing me a muscle capacity I would not normally be capable of.
I hung there for a few seconds, stricken by abject terror, knowing there was no way back, but not wanting to let go.
There was no choice.
I released my hold.
Waited for the impact.
It came, quicker than I expected and, weirdly, it felt like something had hit me from above, not below, as my body just folded up on itself, my legs giving way, knees bent, fortunately, as I struck so they just collapsed, along with the rest of me. I hit the grass face first, blood gushing instantly from a nose that must surely be broken.
Dazed, I scrambled to my feet, not quite sure where I was, all sense knocked out of me, again unable to breath, though this time it wasn’t through fear, it was the impact, winding me as surely as if I’d been hit by a train.
A flat, green train.
At ground level.
Stumbling, I headed in any direction which seemed to be away from the building and slowly clarity returned, my eyes focused once more, and I spotted the red telephone box, just twenty metres away. Moving as quickly as I could, I chanced a glance back, and was reassured to see Donna staring back at me, presumably meaning the brute had not yet gained access.
As I dashed across the grassed area, I fumbled in my pocket, momentarily looking for change, abandoning the search as I realised 999 calls are free of charge and, the funny thing is, it wasn’t until some thirty minutes later, when the police arrived and Andy was hauled away in handcuffs that I realised the extent of the damage I had inflicted.
Both ankles were broken, the ambulance driver said. It was a miracle I had been able to move at all. Fear had carried me through it all, he told me, and it was hard for me to disagree.
‘Jesus, what a day,’ I thought as the back doors of the ambulance slammed shut, me strapped down on the bed within.
‘Welcome to Stourhampton,’ I muttered. ‘It’s fucking horrible.’
© Ian Stevens (2012 - 2017)
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