Lights flickering sickly and yellow through the drawing room window. Peter shuddering against the cold and wanting to turn back. A moment’s hesitation, a decision made.
He lifted the knocker and waited as the tappity tap of someone walking in high heels grew louder and the door was thrown open.
“Darling, I thought you’d abandoned me”. She flung her arms around him and he was enveloped in his sister’s delicate scent.
Emily was beautiful, so beautiful, and so alive. He looked into her face. How he loved her, nothing would ever change that, it was as it had always been. Just as the drawing room was, just as it had always been with a fire burning in the grate and drinks laid out on the mahogany side table all ready for the annual rite.
The meal that was not to be eaten, the words that were not to be said, the memories that could not be remembered.
He downed the whisky in one, the cheap liquor burning his throat, and poured another. He must be careful not to drink too much, you never knew if things might turn bad.
“Will father be joining us for an aperitif?”
“No darling. Martha is having a little trouble getting him ready. You know what father can be like.” She shivered involuntarily and poured herself another stiff drink.
“It’s a wonder we’re not all permanently drunk” he smiled and reached for the decanter as the door screeched open.
The glass shattered to the floor.
“For god’s sake Martha, you scared us half to death skulking around like that!” Emily spat the words at the enormous woman standing awkwardly in the doorway.
“No, it was my fault. Come on sis give your big brother a hug.” He embraced her soft, bloated body, noticing with revulsion the taint of decay.
She turned from him.
“I’ll clean this mess up! God knows what daddy will do if he sees it.” Her voice was deep, deeper than he remembered.
“It’s OK little one. I’ll do it” he offered.
She shook her head. “No. You won’t be able to find things.”
He knew that everything would be where it had always been. That, for this house, time had stood still these past 17 years. But he let her carry on. He didn’t relish going out into the cold kitchen on his own.
Martha scrubbed desperately at the carpet removing every last vestige of the stain. She stood up, her enormous bosom heaving from the exertion, sweat beading her bushy eyebrows. She seemed to have changed over the past year. She was coarser, different somehow. Emily stretched out a hand to her but Martha ignored her.
“Martha, I think this should be the last year we do this. None of us can even remember why we go through this charade.”
Martha began to whimper, “Please don’t say that. Please be nice tonight. Don’t upset him, I can’t stand any more. It’ll be like when we were little, sticky fingers punishing us in the cellar with mummy crying. Poor mummy always crying.”
Emily snapped, “For God’s sake of course it won’t be like that. We’re adults now we can stand up to him.”
The floorboards creaked as they often do in old houses and Peter remembered a time when the house was full of the noise of rats scrabbling in the cellar.
“I’ll fetch daddy now.”
It was a quiet meal with daddy sitting at the head of the table. Peter thought he looked a tad more delicate than last year. He didn’t eat a thing. Mind you daddy hadn’t eaten for over 17 years, ever since his children locked him in his room without food, without water.
Try as they might they couldn’t remember why. Yes, he’d been horribly unkind to them but Peter and Emily were sure there had been more to it than that. Poor Martha, left to tend to the many needs of daddy’s corpse, didn’t care one way or the other. She just wanted to keep him as amenable as possible.
Peter, looked across at his father. He laughed. It all seemed so absurd. “Emily’s right. This is the last time. We’ve been like children playing a game, but it’s over now. Tomorrow, I’ll bury him in the cellar and that will be the end of it.”
“There will never be an end.” The death head grinned obscenely, “Martha, be a good girl. Peter has been very naughty indeed and must be punished. You know what you have to do.”
Emily stifled a cry as Martha lumbered over to Peter and grasping him in a bear hug carried him down the stairs. He struggled but it was useless she was so strong.
As she bolted the door he saw in his mind’s eye a little boy, his brother. A pretty little boy with enormous eyes who’d been starved to death for laughing. Peter shuffled over to the remains of his brother and his mother. He lay down beside them and waited.
There would be one less for dinner next year.
Bio: Megan is a law librarian who loves research, writing and a whole host of other things.
|< Prev||Next >|