What do you do when your partner betrays you beyond the point of forgiveness?
The punch came fast and hard splitting her lip as he wrested her purse from her hand, sending her crashing to the floor. ‘Piss off bitch, I need that money.’
Mandy spat the blood from her mouth, her head reeling, utter despair flooding her. She thought of Sarah. ‘But how will we eat, John?’ she moaned.
His eyes bulged with that out of control look Mandy knew so well ‘use the food bank like the other tossers’ he shouted before turning and slamming the door.
Sarah came creeping downstairs clutching her Teddy, her eyes large and fearful. Seeing the blood on her mother’s lip she squeezed the bear tighter to her chest ‘are you all right mummy?’ Her voice quavered ‘can I…’ she struggled, searching for the right word ‘can I mend you, mummy?’
Mandy rolled onto her stomach and climbed shakily to her feet ‘Sarah, darling, you’re only five and mummy is a big girl she can mend herself.’
‘Why does he hit you, Mummy?’
‘Cos he takes drugs, Sarah, he’s sick sweetheart, that’s all.’
Sarah stood trembling on the bottom stair ‘I don’t like it when he hits you, Mummy, I’m scared.’
Mandy picked her daughter up and sat down on the settee, wearily she gathered Sarah to her breast, ignoring the blood seeping down her chin. She cuddled her, stroking her hair ‘there, there, baby don’t you worry Mummy will always look after you.’
They had both been devastated when Sarah’s father had left them for another woman when Sarah was just three, then, a year later, she’d met John. At first, things were fine, they both worked hard and Sarah seemed to settle down; but then he got into drugs.
‘Why do people take drugs mummy if it makes them sick?’
Mandy reached for a tissue and dabbed her mouth, wincing ‘I don’t know sweetheart, I wish I did.’
‘Will he leave us and go to another lady like daddy did?’
Oh, if only Mandy thought, she was sick of living with John, and Sarah was being affected by his violence, too. The child seemed reluctant to be in the same room as him and lately, she’d started wetting her bed.
‘Will he Mummy? Will he?’ Sarah persisted, looking anxiously into her mother’s eyes sounding desperate.
‘I don’t know baby, you’ll have to ask him when he’s better.’
Sarah flinched and her eyes widened with terror. ‘No mummy, no, he’ll punish me again.’
Mandy’s chest contracted, gripped by a terrible fear ‘punish you? What did he punish you for, baby? What has he done to you? ‘
Sarah looked down at her teddy, her face contorted with dread ‘I can’t tell you, mummy,’ she mumbled ‘it’s secret.’
Mandy’s soul froze and her throat constricted ‘Sarah, darling, has he touched you anywhere?’ she whispered.
Sarah’s eyes welled, and she burst into uncontrollable sobs clutching Mandy around the neck ‘he says if I tell he’ll hit you and hit you until you die then some people will come and take me away’ Sarah wailed. ‘Please mummy, please,’ she pleaded ‘if he doesn’t hurt you it’s alright.’
Mandy’s heart almost burst as she rocked Sarah in her bosom, tears streaming down her face; the bastard, she thought, the rotten, evil, unspeakable bastard.
It took an hour for Mandy to gently ease the full horrific story from Sarah. Eventually, she calmed her down and put her to bed then sat thinking hard. If she reported John now Sarah would be taken into care immediately with all the attendant trauma. No, she could not have that, would not have that. She weighed her options, she had to protect Sarah at all costs, but how? Her fears hardened into a cold rage. She could knife him as he slept or poison him but that would result in her and Sarah being split up. Sarah had suffered enough. This had to be done right.
Slowly, an idea formed in her mind. Mandy reached into her bra and retrieved her meagre cash reserve. Slipping out of the house to the local off-licence, she bought a bottle of cheap rum and hurried back.
An hour later John returned full of contrition now he’d had his fix. ‘Mandy, I’m sorry I hit you, darling, really I am, it won’t happen again love, honest.’
Mandy wanted to scream at him, to thrust a knife into his chest, but she knew she couldn’t afford to. With a supreme effort, she forced a smile and shrugged ‘ah well, John, shit happens’ she held up the bottle ‘here, have a drink, peace offering.’
Soon John was snoring heavily, the empty bottle beside him on the floor where he had collapsed. Mandy went through his pockets and found his remaining drug supply. Having watched him preparing his fix she knew what to do. Feeling cold and calm, she put a ligature around his arm then inserted the needle into his vein. He didn’t respond. She sat astride him then and slapped him awake. He responded groggily at first, his eyes unfocused ‘wha’ the fuck?‘
‘I thought I’d tell you before you die, you bastard, I know what you did to my baby Sarah.’
Terror shone in his bulging eyes ‘I’m sorry Mandy, honest, I won’t touch her again ever, I swear. I’ll leave and never come back. Please.’
‘Correct arsehole’ she sneered ‘you won’t be coming back.’ She pushed the plunger.
When it was over Mandy rang the emergency services. ‘Oh, please help me, it’s my partner, he isn’t breathing.’
John’s death was registered as another accidental drug O D. Sarah would get her treatment now, and all her mother’s love. It would be a long hard road, but they’d stay together. Sarah would never know. It was Mandy’s secret and she’d take it to her grave.