“Mummy, what’s that lady doing?”
Jenny pushed Tom before her, guiding him past the other shoppers with a gentle, but insistent, hand on his shoulder. The sports shop closed in five minutes, and she had to make sure she got the right golf balls. She bought the wrong ones last time, and Mark had not been happy.
Tom craned his neck to look at the woman as they passed her by. She was holding a sign he couldn’t read, and shouting, her face determined.
“What does… ‘por-testing’ mean?”
The first spots of rain fell, and one landed on Jenny’s nose and made her jump. She reached out and pulled Tom’s hood over his head. Why hadn’t she brought the pushchair? At three and a half he was getting too old for it, but it sure made shopping trips quicker.
“Pro-testing,” Jenny corrected. “When you’re annoyed about something, you can tell everyone why and ask them to help you change it.”
“Like when Daddy is annoyed with you?”
Jenny smiled and shook her head. “Not quite, Tom. Bigger things than that. Come on, we need to hurry.”
The shop was in sight now, in the distance. As she herded Tom towards it, she saw a fit-looking guy in a polo shirt come to the door and flip the sign from Open to Closed.
“Shit!” Jenny couldn’t help herself.
She picked him up now and swung him into her arms, ignoring the sharp pain in her back from her fall down the stairs the week before. Mark didn’t want her to go to the doctors, but she might have to, because it was getting worse. Tom gave a cry of surprise as she began to run towards the shop, every step making her gasp.
The guy was outside the sports shop locking the door now.
“Wait!” called Jenny, “Please…”
He didn’t hear her. He gave a cursory glance left and right, looked at his watch, and sprinted off along Queen Street.
Mark was playing golf first thing in the morning. There was nowhere else she could get the right golf balls from in time for the game. Why had she left the sports shop until last? How could she be so stupid? Tears flooded her eyes as she imagined how angry he was going to be; the names he would call her.
“Mummy. You’re hurting me,” Tom moaned in her ear. His hood had fallen down, and strands of his damp, sweet-smelling hair stuck to her cheek.
She turned, ignoring the disapproving looks from shoppers as they were forced to divert their path around her, and put Tom down. Her heart was hammering and she could feel the dull ache of a migraine lurking behind her eyes. The thought of going home without the golf balls made her feel sick.
Tom tugged at her sleeve. “Look. It’s that lady. She’s coming over.”
Jenny glanced up. The woman’s eyes were fixed on her, scrutinising her as she approached. Jenny moved a hand up to her cheek, trying to mask the bruising before the woman saw it. But it was too late.
Tom was curious, and eager to try out his new word.
“What are you por-testing about?” he called out.
The woman reached them and crouched down to Tom’s level.
“I want to stop daddies from being horrible to mummies.”
Jenny sucked in a sudden breath, her chest tight with tension, about to launch a protest of her own. To her surprise, Tom, usually so wary of strangers, immediately opened out his arms and let the woman scoop him up. Jenny met her eyes over his shoulder, and saw that they were full of concern and recognition.
“It’s going to be alright,” the woman told her.
And Jenny began to breathe again.
. . .
Photo Credit: Engin Akyurt
It seems a good time to put up some links for people of any age who are experiencing domestic violence, or are noticing signs of abuse in others. What can you do about it? The sites listed below offer universal advice, so are all useful no matter where you live.
One thing is true; you do not have to be alone. Reach out to someone for help. If there is no one around you feel you can turn to, or if you are too scared to ask for help, please call a helpline.
All the websites listed below have the ability to exit immediately (Hide Page), in case you are worried about being discovered. And to find out how to cover your tracks, visit this link
NEW ZEALAND: It’s Not OK
UNITED KINGDOM: Refuge Against Domestic Violence
UNITED STATES: The National Domestic Violence Hotline
AUSTRALIA: White Ribbon
This short story is the fruit of the first task from ‘The Creativity Challenge’ by Tanner Christensen, who also has a website well worth a visit, called creativesomething.net :
PEOPLE WATCH: Go to a public place and quickly write a short story for some different people you see walking about. Combine the different traits and actions of your ‘characters’ into one compelling story.
In between writing books, I find I’m in need of a bit of reprogramming, and am hoping this book will help. I’ll be picking a different task every so often and posting the result on my blog.
In a creative slump? It would be good to have some company 🙂