Drip, drip, drip … the sound, regular as a metronome, kept time with the throbbing in Lucinda’s head. Slowly, painfully, she unwound herself from the foetal position she had curled herself into for protection. Hauling her body up against the bed she listened intently, but all she could hear was that irritating noise.
Time to examine the damage: her skull felt stiff and sore where the kicks had hit home, there was a throbbing in her shoulder which made it difficult to raise her arm. Wincing, she touched trembling fingers to her cheekbone: sticky, congealing blood, a lump the size of a golf ball. Experience told her she would have a black eye in the morning. More excuses for the neighbours. What would she say this time … a car accident? She’d already used that one. Fell downstairs? Walked into the door? Each excuse was more ridiculous than the last. What did it matter? Nobody would believe her anyway. They’d all have heard the shouting. But they would pretend to believe her. Things were easier that way. With the passage of time she would believe it herself and that was the most important thing of all.
She limped awkwardly across the landing and listened again. Where had he gone? Finally, the source of the sound: it was the bath tap dripping. With one hand she eased open the bathroom door, her other raised in a gesture of self-defence. No need. He was in the bath, fully clothed, unconscious now from the effects of the alcohol he’d consumed. With each breath he took the water rose a little, slopping over the edge of the bath to the floor where a substantial pool had already formed. The bath tap was still running, ever so slightly, the drips pinging into the already full bath. One part of her began to worry about the pool of water, how it would soak through the floor, staining the newly painted kitchen ceiling below. The other half of her brain concentrated on the comatose figure in the water. How ridiculous he looked, a graceless male Ophelia, his clothes floating out from his bulk like a dark shroud. His chin and mouth were below water level, he breathed noisily through his nose.
Lucinda stood and considered. One little push and he would be under. She’d seen him like this before. He wouldn’t wake up. Some months earlier he’d come home from one of his all-night drinking sessions barely able to stand, incapable of lucid speech. He’d torn off his shirt and thrown himself down on a deckchair in the morning sun. He’d lain there until teatime. When he eventually awoke he was so badly sunburned he’d had to take two weeks off work, covered in some hideous ointment that had made his skin go black and peel off. She’d pretended that she’d tried to waken him but she hadn’t of course: sweet retaliation.
The house was freezing. There must be a heavy frost tonight she thought, registering the icy patterns on the windows; so beautiful, like great crystal roses. She padded across to the bath and looked down at him, hatred and disgust making her stomach churn. The pool of water chilled her feet. It was cold too. She had forgotten to switch on the immersion heater in readiness for his return, the cause of the argument in the first place. Lucinda shivered and bent over the bath. Placing her hands on the top of her husband’s head she began, ever so gently, to push.
Blood Sisters is Margaret Whittock’s second novel. It is currently available as an ebook on Amazon, at:
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