Malcolm confronts the noise.
|Malcolm woke with a start. He sat bolt upright and stared into the darkness. He cocked his head to one side and listened. Thump…Thump…
‘Oh no, not again?’
He’d rubbed his eyes, he’d been allowed to stay up late to celebrate his father’s election. It’d been past midnight when he’d finely fallen asleep in the chair. The house had been busy with people he’d never met; Mummy's new friend was there though, Malcolm liked him.
There it was again... It sounded like a table or chair being dragged across the floor.
Malcolm pushed himself off his bed and stood motionless in the dark, his cotton pajamas protecting him from the cool night chill. He pictured the location of a wardrobe, and a desk with a stool tucked beneath. The window offered no assistance as he moved across the room, any light from outside had long since disappeared. He moved across his room without fear, because unlike most ten-year olds, he always kept his tidy.
Malcolm approached the door and fumbled for the handle. He caught hold of the cold steel and pushed down. The door clicked open, and he peeked around its edge. His eyes struggled to find something to focus on. He knew he shouldn’t be up; he knew he’d get a smack if found out.
The aroma of polish accompanied him as he peered through gloom, a grandfather clock stood in the corner. Apart from its rhythmic ticking, the hallway lay quiet.
He saw a chink of light under his parents’ door and turned towards it.
A strange dull noise found him through the darkness, different from the usual ones he’d hear. It didn’t sound happy; this was more serious. His pulse quickened.
Malcolm crossed the hall and stared at the thin chink of light. Movement passed through it, he hesitated knowing he should go back, but curiosity got the better him.
He stared at the door; his hand trembled as he eased it open. The light hurt his eyes, and a strange smell surrounded him.
He stood in the doorway; a woman sat on the floor, and a man stood over her with his fist clenched. He gasped.
“DADDY” This time his raised voice punched through into his father’s focus. With his breath heavy the man turned towards the door. Malcolm saw nothing but darkness in his eyes.
His father turned back and stared at the woman cowering on the floor. With tears flowing, she averted her gaze, a redness beginning to show on her cheek. The long grey silk night dress she always wore draped over her pale body and her loose hair covered her face. Mal noticed her bare legs; he remembered seeing them once before when he’d wandered into the bathroom unannounced, she’d covered her naked body, embarrassed her young son had seen her.
“I’m sorry…. I should have seen it” She said.
“It’s too FUCKING late for that you SLUT”
“Nothing happened; I promise I didn’t know how he felt….”
Mal ran and threw his arms around her.
A strong grip tore Malcolm away. “GET AWAY FROM HER; YOU LITTLE SHIT!”
He flew through the air and crashed against the wardrobe door, sending a wave of pain down his back.
“Ahhh..." He landed in a heap on the bedroom floor, the deep pile carpet helping to soften his fall. Malcolm’s mind raced, what’s going on? Why is Daddy so angry? He should be happy…he’d won…
“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Malcolm flinched at the force of his father’s outburst. A shiver ran over his body; his eyes widened searching for a reason.
With tears streaming down his face, he saw his mother move towards him. His father stood between them; he blocked her path then grabbed hold of her hair in a tight fist and threw her backwards. She let out a scream as pain tore through her already beaten body.
“KEEP AWAY FROM HIM, YOU SLUT…HE NEEDS TO LEARN."
Malcolm covered his head with his arms confused at sight before him, why was he being like this? What had they done? Only a few hours ago they were so happy… together as a family… celebrating.
With her arm out stretched, she pleaded “Not Malcolm…Please no.” She said.
He glanced at his mother; they must have done something VERY wrong for his father to be this angry.
A look of horror flashed across Malcolm’s face as his father moved towards him. With dark and empty eyes, he lashed out and the back of his hand landed on Malcolm’s cheek; the noise of the impact travelled across the room and bit into his mother’s fear.
The slap jarred his head and he fell to the floor. He struggled to get away, but his father reached out and grabbed hold of him. Malcolm kicked back and thumped his foot into something solid. Scrabbling on the thick carpet, his knees burned as he crawled under the bed out of his father’s reach.
The room filled with his mother’s scream, “LEAVE HIM ALONE... It’s my fault, not his” She slid across the floor on her knees and grabbed hold of her husband’s arm.
Malcolm saw feet and his mother’s bare legs as she sat knelt on the floor. He heard a dull thud as the punch landed and watched his mother fall. She slumped to the floor; her unconscious state signified by her blank expression.
Malcolm’s father stood silent in the centre of the room, his chest heaving from the exertion. He dropped to his knees next to his wife then put his head in his hands… with a broken voice, he whispered “No…no…not again?”
Malcolm lay cowering under the bed. His hands covered his face. He peered through his fingers and watched his father sobbing but he couldn’t take his eyes off the sight. The weeping man stood and left the room.
Malcolm crawled from under the bed and went to his mother; she opened her eyes and hugged him.
“It’s ok,” she said rocking him back and forth. “It’s ok…” The tenderness returned to her voice; she'd never wanted her son to see this.
Malcolm wiped a tear from his mother’s face.
“Why is Daddy angry?”
“He doesn’t mean to be…he has a very important job, sometimes he can’t get his own way and gets frustrated…you know how he likes to have things done properly don’t you”
“Do the other politicians leave their toys all over the place”
“Yes something like that, come on let’s get you into bed”
Mal stood and helped his mother stand; he took her hand and followed her across the hall.
“He won’t do it again will he? I don’t like it”
“No, I’m sure he won't; he's just tired that’s all”
Mal climbed back into his bed, and his mother tucked him in.
“Are you ok?”
“Yes, I’m fine…go to sleep” She kissed his head and smiled, surprised at her son’s resilience… at least they had that.