“Katy, turn that music down!” Dad shouted up the stairs, though I was surprised he could hear it over the shouting. That’s all it was in the end, shouting. Shouting and smashing. Plates, windows, Dad’s fist against mum’s face. Not that anyone has ever actually admitted that. I was always ‘Oh, you’re mum slipped on the kitchen floor’ or ‘Your mum walked into a door.”
I believed them at first; maybe because I wanted to, I don’t know. It’s one of those things, you know it happens, but you never actually think it will happen to you. It’s the stuff television shows are made of. Domestic violence belongs on an episode of The Bill, not in your own living room. I remember when the arguments started; it was just after dad was made redundant. They had always argued, everyone’s parents argue, but this was different. Voices grew louder, mum’s crying more wrenching. The constant shouting, punctuated by the smashing of plates and the slamming of doors. I would lay in bed, pillow pulled firmly over my head, praying that the arguments would stop. They were awful. The things they said to each other, I couldn’t imagine anything worse. Until the hitting started.
Of course, I bought the stories they had concocted, why wouldn’t I? Besides, the way they acted, it didn’t exactly seem as though anything untoward was going on. You wouldn’t cook dinner and carry on like nothing was wrong if you had just been beaten up by your husband, would you? I don’t think I would. I don’t suppose you ever know, though.
It took a while for me to figure out what was really happening. Mum was never the most coordinated of people. Always dropping things, spilling things, burning things. I should have known though, she was my mum. I should have realised something was happening, we all lived under the same roof, after all. It was the day mum ‘fell’ downstairs, that I worked it all out. Dad really didn’t want to take her to the hospital, which made no sense, he’s usually so obsessive about doctor’s appointments. A slight sniffle and he’s on the phone, booking an appointment. Mum saying she was fine, when she obviously wasn’t, was no real surprise, she hates a fuss and has always soldiered on no matter what. I’m most like her in that sense. I remember sitting in the waiting area, watching dad’s face, filled with fear; not concern for his bruised and broken wife, but fear. He had done this to her, she hadn’t fallen, she had been pushed. Mum’s welfare was the last thing on his mind, it was himself he was worried about. Terrified, that he might get found out. I hated him that moment, absolutely, truly hated him. An overwhelming desire to punch him and kick him until he couldn’t hurt mum again, took over.
At first, I was afraid, would he lash out at me if I didn’t make my bed in the morning or if I was late home at night? For weeks, maybe months I was on my best behaviour. I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of his temper, nor did I want something I had done to be the reason mum ended up with yet another broken bone. I soon realised that there was no logic behind the attacks. I watched mum, nervously eyeing the kitchen clock at seven-thirty each day, as she put the finishing touches to another home cooked meal, no matter that she had been at work all day herself. I watched her clean already sparkling floors, and press his work shirts, not wanting to give him anything to complain about. She would agree with everything he said, no matter how blatantly wrong and she never voiced an opinion of her own, yet the beatings continued. It didn’t matter how hard I looked, there is no pattern, no reasoning behind it. It was like a game, where only dad knew the rules. Rules that he could change with no notice.
“Katy, turn that music down or I’ll come and turn it down for you!” dad’s voice bellowed again. Dutifully, I did as he said. More shouting downstairs. Dad’s voice, loud at the best of times, booming against mum’s muffled sobs. Pulling my earphones out of my school bag, I stuffed them in my ears, turning the volume as high as I could stand it. It wasn’t much use though, I could still hear something banging, another half-scream from my mum. I prayed that it would all be over soon; that the noise would stop and we could all go back to pretending we were the perfect family and that nothing was wrong. Another bang, and then quiet. Finally. Turning off my music, I listened for the gentle buzz of stilted conversation, to signal that it really was over for today. It didn’t come. Creeping to the top of the stairs, I peered over the banister. I could just make out dad’s shape in the kitchen. Venturing further, I stopped dead in my tracks, faintness washing over me as I fell to my knees. Though the image burned my eyes, I couldn’t look away. Mum’s crumpled body lay, lifeless at the foot of the stairs, blood gushing from a cut on her head. Tearing my eyes away, I caught dad’s stare. “She fell.” he mumbled.