Brenda looked up from the floor at the shining knight in black silouetted armour and understood, weeping and abject that this must stop before he kills her, before she makes of him a murderer. Beyond fear, beyond pain, beyond lies, rising whispers, screams in silence. It must be over. There is no more left in her to take it, no part of her body that has not been bruised or wounded, no internal organ that has not absorbed a resonating blow, and no part of her mind that can still step aside to watch it all keep happening. As she watches wary and waiting for the next blow he growls “need a slash, clean yourself up”. He tiny steps away and she understands. Tell someone. Tell social services, tell the neighbours, tell the police. That is the only way, the only way out. But social services won’t be here for a few days, and the neighbours won’t believe her, will be too scared to believe her, see her wounds, believe her bruises. The police then. They’ll probably ignore her. Everyone does she reasoned. But they must listen, must see. So she will get herself arrested.
She waits until she hears the splashy jangling sound of recycled lager hitting water and struggles breathless to her feet. Wincing as she sneaks out into the hallway she grabs her coat and shoves eager feet into still wet shoes. Teeth clenched, her coat pulled tight around her, she runs, mouth shut grim tight, silent. In her coat pockets she has a set of keys, a Nectar card, a handful of change, a blood stained tissue from some other day’s wounding, and a highend mobile phone provided by social services but with no charge. In terror that he might be fool enough to risk being seen and follow her, Brenda runs fast along the lane in the almost dark, remembering to avoid the puddles and curiously conscious that if she gets too wet she might spoil the car seats and carpets. She must be careful, quiet and quick, in case anyone is watching. And the car might not be there still. Panic at what might happen if it was gone drove her faster, lungs burning, legs crying out, eyes streaming, bruises pounding a drum beat’s reminder. But with all this somewhere in the back of her brain an exhilaration drives her, a new fear and a sense of power she has never before experienced. She’s laughing and weeping into the rain.
She passes no one as she hurries through the lanes, only an ambulance, lights blazing in the dark, blue accusing eyes. We see you. We see you. Do you see the pounding in Brenda’s head? Do you feel the throbbing of the bruises on her back, to her face? Do you see the blood not drying in her hair, sending soft amber streaks along her wet cheeks? No, you do not because you cannot see. No you do not because Brenda is very good at hiding such things. Look harder and you might see.
When she reaches Turzel House, Brenda can see no lights blue or otherwise in the kitchen, only a hint of light creeping out from around heavy curtains in some other room. Feeling like someone else, not even pretending, really feeling like someone else she opens the car door with a confidence that she really owns, even though as Luke’s wife Brenda has never been confident. Fearless she slings her wet coat into the back seat, knowing that it would absolutely land on the seat but not caring at all if it landed on the floor. Bold and brazen she doesn’t even look.
As soon as the door shuts, the car’s clever sensors come alive and a friendly message on the dashboard tells Brenda to press the brake together with the illuminated on button to start the car. As she does so, a powerful engine explodes quietly into hungry life, the radio muttering something murmury, barely audible about a long dead composer. Keeping an eye on the front door of the house, Brenda puts the car into reverse and turns it around with unexpected alacrity. She nurses the engine with cautious stealth rather than pushing it to roar with power anxious, not yet to draw attention to her theft. It’s too soon, still too close. Brenda breathes deep and slow, cossetted in rich deep leather, cossetted knowing that her once handsome man’s days of punching her are over. Brenda is new, a thief stealing someone else’s car. She will very soon be arrested, but for a little while she would stay in this expensive stolen car’s embrace. Her life is changing. Vague thoughts of spending the night in jail soothed the pains in her head and back. Watching the wipers adjust their speed to the rain’s intensity, she turned off the car’s lights and smiled.
Brenda pulled out of the driveway, looking left and right and left again, almost daring him to have followed her. Her defiance overcome with reason, Brenda set off in the opposite direction to home, knowing that when she went back it would be with at least two police officers, maybe even a police dog. She passed no one on the empty lanes, no walkers, no cyclists, no cars. As she reached the next village she turned on the headlights and set off in search of a larger road. Radio 3 was playing jazz now and Brenda figured that once she found a main road, she had about an hour or so before the police pulled her over and asked for her driving license. With glee she knew she had no licence to show and with glee she expected her crime would be even worse.
She passed cars and people coming out of pubs, buses swishing and swooping in and out of the traffic, filled with faceless strangers, groaning along. Sometimes she tried to smile at them lane to lane, but was afraid her guilt would show. Instead of looking at the people and the traffic she focused only on driving and driving, waiting, listening to the radio, the news, the music, the evening play, the book at bedtime. The car carried her warm and safe and endlessly towards tomorrow. But there came no blue lights, there came no sirens and Brenda was yet further and further away in an alien beyond.