The Kitchen is spotless. The ceramic tile floor freshly mopped. Black slate counter-tops, polished and shiny. Outside, the clouds are slate grey and the TiVo DVR in the Living Room warns of an incoming storm.
There’s a bang as the front door opens and closes, followed by heavy steps approaching the Kitchen. Cath immediately sets the table in perfect time for Rob walking through the door.
He sits at the table, grunting in approval, ignoring the mess his dirt-sodden work clothes are making of the chair, and the trail his muddy boots have left.
I’ll mop the mess when he goes to sleep… thinks Cath, as Rob tucks into his tea.
“What the fuck is this rubbish?” Rob says.
Her heart sinks. “It’s just sausage and mash, like you like it…”
“It’s not b—“
“Don’t contradict me. It tastes burnt to me.” The chair screeches as he stands up. He strides to the fridge and grabs a can of Fosters. The can spits as it opens.
“Sit down, sit down. I— I can make more.”
“Don’t be stupid. That’s just a waste of money. My money. That you use on your stupid kids. You can’t even cook right.”
“Our k— …Sorry, honey— sorry.” She glances nervously through the open Living Room door, where Charley and Adam are kneeling at the wooden coffee table over Adam’s school work.
Rob throws an empty can into the bin and sits back at the table as Cath rummages frantically through the fridge: Beer. Cheese. Beer. Butter. Beer. An egg. Beer. Orange juice. Beer.
A cheese sandwich will have to do.
She throws together the bread, the butter, the cheese and cuts it perfectly down the middle before placing it before Rob alongside a can of beer.
Rob stares at her. “A sandwich? A fucking sandwich?”
Here we go. Cath grips the edge of the table.
“I come home, from working all day, slaving away to bring home money and all you bring me is a pathetic cheese sandwich.” He stands up, grabbing the beer and the cheese sandwich as an afterthought.
He storms into the Living Room.
Cath exhales anxiously. She grabs some more beer from the fridge and follows.
He’s sprawled on the couch, flicking through the TV from one noisy channel to the next. Cath offers him a can— he snorts and takes it.
Closest I’ll get to a thank you.
Rob’s Timberland boots have traipsed even more mud onto the white carpets.
“Here, honey— I’ll take your boots off for you.” She kneels down at his feet and starts gingerly untying the laces.
“Leave them. They’re fine.” He kicks her away, getting even more mud onto the carpet.
Cath stands, lips tight, supressing a sigh and a harsh remark. She gives a warning glance to Charley and Adam who are still kneeling at the coffee table, working as if they were in a Library.
I’ll put the kids to bed when he falls asleep… Should be soon— Looks like he’s been at the beer all day.
Outside, the rain is starting to fall, the trees swaying as they desperately try to stay upright against the wind. Cath crosses and closes the curtains.
“…q-u-i-e-t” whispers Charley, leaning over her little brother’s homework. “Remember: ‘Q’ is always followed—“
“—By a ‘U’!” Adam interrupts, throwing his arms excitedly and dropping his pen. It lands next to his orange juice.
“Shhh!” goes Charley. Rob glances at them. “Okay next word…”
Adam reaches for his pen— but knocks over his cup. The juice spills over his work, turning the sheets orange and damp.
“For fuck’s sake!” Rob leaps abruptly to his feet. “Can you not fucking drink?!”
“Sorry…” mumbles Adam.
Rob storms into the Kitchen, returning with a rag clutched in his fist.
He throws the rag at Adam. It falls into his lap. “Clean this fucking table! You’re eight years old and you can’t even drink properly. Do I have to hold it for you?” He grabs the cup and holds it in front of his face. “Well? Do I?”
Rob slams the cup and his beer down on the table with such ferocity that some splashes out. “Do I have to put the rag in your hand for you, too?” He snatches it from Adam’s lap. He seizes his wrist and forces the rag into his hand. “Now move it in fucking circular motions like this.” Rob forces Adams hand to move in aggressive circles on the table surface, making the mess even worse. “There we fucking go.” He drops Adam’s hand and swipes up his can, spilling even more of its contents, and falls back onto the couch.
Adam keeps senselessly moving his hand in circular motions. His hand is shaking.
Cath stands watching by the window.
“Here, Adam, give it to me,” Charley whispers. She gently prises it from her brother’s hand and starts dabbing at the orange juice and beer. The sleeve of her shirt rides up her arm as she stretches.
Charley’s hand is shaking too.
Her wrist is green and purple.
When did that happen? Charley didn’t even come to me saying she’d been hurt.
Cath remains stationary by the window, mindlessly watching Charley help her little brother as if she is his mum.
Why are we still here? He’s their father but… he doesn’t act like one. But he does provide… he does bring in the money… I can’t just do nothing… she doesn’t even tell me when he’s hurt her…
Cath does what she usually would in this situation; she hands him another can. He mindlessly accepts it as he scowls at the TV screen. Thunder rumbles, followed by a flash of lightning 5 seconds later.
“Today, the London Eye has begun to be lifted into its new home on the South Bank…” chimes in the TV.
“Whose bloody idea was it to make this thing? The London Eye. What an eye sore! Pointless waste of money. They should stop moving it before it’s too fucking late.” He looks at Cath expectedly.
“Oh— oh yes, dear.”
Silence follows, broken only by the sound of the TV and the raging storm.
Eventually, Rob falls to sleep. His beer can falls from his hand and spills onto the carpet.
“Should we go to bed, Mum? I can help Adam if you want to clean this up…” Charley whispers, looking expectantly at her Mum.
“No. Not tonight, dear.” The two children look at her, confused. “I’m going to pack a bag. Get your brother ready, Charley; we’re leaving.”
Five minutes later, bags packed, coats on, they’re out in the rain. It’s surprisingly warm, like a shower washing away all the dirt. Cath turns her face up to the sky, drinking it all in.