“You’re in a bad mood,” his mother said, when he entered the kitchen. “You’re putting me right off my breakfast, with that face-like-thunder.”
She grabbed his left hand and bent back his two smallest fingers. He used to think they would break, it hurt so much, but she knew when to stop.
He felt a tear roll down his cheek, despite his best efforts not to show he was in pain. His mother let go. She made a sound that resembled a chuckle.
He went over to the sink and pulled a bowl from the pile of crockery and gave it a rinse under the tap and a wipe of the towel.
“Giving me the silent treatment, are you boy?” she said.
He said nothing. He could feel her eyes burn a hole in his back, as she watched him pour cereal into the bowl.
“There’s no milk,” she said. He could hear the laughter in her voice and could picture the expression on her face. That one sided smirk, that glint in her eye. She was trying to make him angry again, she wanted the excuse. He wouldn’t give it to her. Not this time.
“You’ll have to go to the shop,” she said. “I need milk for my tea.”
He kept silent. He returned to the sink, and found a spoon, and took his bowl to the table. He sat down and concentrated on eating his cereal. It was dry and tasteless. It took all his saliva and a lot of energy to chew it, and swallow it down. But he was used to swallowing things that tasted bad.
“Don’t make me ask you again, boy,” she said, after a while.
He could hear her unwrapping a packet of cigarettes, but still he said nothing. He stared at the remaining cereal in the bowl, and chewed. He heard her lean back in her chair, heard the click of the lighter and heard the sharp intake of breath as she inhaled. He waited and was rewarded with a cloud of smoke blown into his face.
“Go and get the milk, love” she said, her voice suddenly gentle, kind even. “There’s a storm brewing, and I wouldn’t want you to get caught in it.” He flinched as he felt her hand stroke his cheek. “Hate you to catch your death,” she said.
He raised the spoon to his mouth, but it never reached it’s intended destination. He flinched again, as much at the sound of the spoon clattering against the cupboard door, as the feeling of his mothers hand as it clamped his own to the table.
He said nothing but raised his eyes to meet those of his mothers. He knew what was coming. It had happened before. Many times. This time he wanted to look her in the eye as she pushed the burning tip of the cigarette into the flesh on the back of his wrist. The pain wasn’t as bad as the first few times. But it hurt, all the same. She would bandage the wound later, and he would wear long sleeves. He always wore long sleeves.
She held his stare as steadily as she held the cigarette, as she gave it a final twist before releasing her grip. She left the cigarette, were it was and leaned back on her chair.
“You think you scare me, boy?” she said, reaching for another cigarette. “You think, I haven’t seen that look, before?” She toyed with the lighter, and waved the unlit cigarette at him. “Your father was an evil man, boy,” she said. “And it is my job to see that you don’t turn evil, too.” She lit the cigarette. “I will break you, boy, just like I broke him”.
He said nothing. He stood up. The crumpled cigarette fell to the floor. He picked it up and put it in his bowl. He fetched the spoon, and placed them, carefully, in the sink.
“Money’s in the top drawer, boy,” she said. “Better get some more cigarettes, whilst you’re at it, and a bottle of gin,” she smiled at him. “You’re a good boy,” she said.
The money was there, as she said it would be. He took it. He paused at the open drawer, staring at the thing which lay at the bottom.
The storm came then, as he knew it would. He had felt it building for a long time.
Later, when the rain came, he stood outside.
He lifted his face to the sky and wondered if ten-year-old boys could live by themselves. He stretched his arms wide and let the storm wash his mothers blood from his face, hands and clothes.
Written by Bruce Arbuckle (November 2012)
This story was entered into the Weekly Short Story Contest on http://www.writingforums.org/ (8th November 2012)
Theme: The Storm
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.