*Warning: Domestic Abuse and Substance Abuse*
“For Gods sake, turn that down!”
Oh dear, thought the little girl, daddy’s angry again.
She quickly fumbled for the remote and adjusted the volume.
Hmm. 100, 99, 98, she counted one at a time, settling at last for 88, because she liked how that number looked.
The cartoons continued on oblivious to the fact they had been quietened. This was the little girls favourite, she loved the purple dog and the silly things he did.
Over the adventures of her favourite purple pal she began to hear her mummy and daddy talking again, but she dared not move the volume from that lovely 88.
Daddy must be in ‘one of his moods’ again as mummy calls it, she thought to herself.
The purple dog on the screen threw his head back and let out his signature howl to which the little girl, sitting on her couch, joined in, howling to the ceiling.
“For Gods sake, that’s it!”, bellowed daddy.
The dreaded thud of footsteps thundered down the hall and the little girl braced herself for impact. Howling was a silly thing to do. Especially whenever daddy is in one of his moods.
The door burst open and slammed into the wall, the handle slotting into the well indented hole in the plaster.
Her daddy stood in the doorway, one hand leaning on the post. His bullish breathing ran heavy and his bloodshot eyes searched angrily around the room. The smell that always accompanied his moods filled the air and stung at her nostrils.
“What did I say?”, he half-shouted when he found her sitting on the couch.
She lowered her eyes guiltily in an attempt to imitate an apology.
In three staggered steps he lumbered himself beside her and snatched the remote, lowering the volume. The little girl never raised her eyes but guessed from the sound it must be around 50. She hated 50. She always heard too much at 50.
“There”, he said more quietly and calmly, “now I can hear myself think. Don’t you dare raise it any higher or I’ll…”
His threat trailed off as her purple pal howled out his signature again.
“And no more of that bloody howling, for Christ’s sake, I’ve enough to be at without listening that!”
She felt the thud of the remote as he tossed it beside her. Four staggered steps this time and the door closed more quietly than it was opened. His steps retreated up the hall to the kitchen once again.
The little girl returned her attention to the hushed cartoon but it had lost its appeal. She could tell what would come next. She dreaded what would come next.
“That make you feel like a big man?”, she heard her mummy say through the wall. “Shouting at a little girl?”
“Shut it. I’ll put manners in her. No one else bloody well does.”
“She hates you!”
The little girl winced as the crack of the slap penetrated the wall. The silence that followed was all too brief.
“You speak to me like that? You can’t make it two days before you’ve another needle in your arm! I’m the only one here looking after her. She wouldn’t make it a single day with just a smack-addict excuse-of-a-mother like you!”
Another slap. Sobs fill the silence this time.
The little girls fingers tickled the remote as she fought the urge to return the volume to the happy 88.
The dog lamented a howled again but the little girl didn’t dare to join in. Instead she lifted a handful of her suppertime sweets and filled her mouth with them, allowing a stream of drool to flow on to her sky-blue princess dress.
She watched as the blue darkened from that patch and spread out across her chest, mingling with the older stains, whose origins had been forgotten. Her dress hadn’t been this dirty when she put it on on Tuesday morning, but then she had been up to lots over the past three days.
She thought about how the nasty girls in school might tease her if they could see her now. They called her smelly and dumb and wouldn’t play with her.
She liked school though. The teacher was so lovely and always asked her how she was and how her mummy and daddy was. She was such a nice woman. She had been looking forward to school this week but mummy had been sick again and been in bed. Mummy said she needed her medicine this week again. But that she was sorry. Mummy was often sorry. She never got to school when her mummy needed her medicine. And daddy had been away with work. She didn’t see much of her daddy and she missed him, even though he always seemed to be in one of his moods when he was home.
She started with a jump when the three loud knocked rattled the front door.
“… at this hour!”, she heard her daddy say as him bulled his way down the hall to greet the visitors.
The voices at the door were low and the little girl paid no attention to them, and instead tried to focus again on her purple pal who was now stuck up a tree.
“What do you mean a noise complaint? From who?”
Fear gripped the little girl. 88 had been too loud. The neighbours must have complained. She’d get in trouble now and then daddy would really be in a mood and then…
Tears filled her eyes as she thought of the ‘and then’.
“And what if I have? I’m in my own house, I’m not driving, so unless it’s now against the law to have a glass of wine with dinner then I suggest you get out of my sight”, her daddy said to the late-night visitor.
More low voices.
“No you can’t come in. I don’t care what you have. Get your hands of me!”
The walls thudded and shook and her daddy yelled lots of words that the little girl knew not to repeat. But they faded away until they were gone and in their place were light footsteps coming up the hall and into the kitchen to where the sobs were.
The sobs grew louder and closer.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry”, she heard her mummy say as she accompanied the footsteps towards the front door and then she too was gone.
After a moment the light footsteps returned again, this time stopped right outside the living room. A gentle knock rapped the door and the smiling face of a blonde haired woman with a dark cap appeared.
“Hello”, she said smiling, “may I come in?”
The little girl nodded nervously.
The blonde lady stepped through the doorway. She was dressed in all black with POLICE written in bright white letters on her front.
The little girl remembered seeing a lady like this in school one day.
“Stranger danger”, the little girl said remembering the advice.
“That’s right! Well done!”, the woman said smiling, “you’re a clever girl! My name is Johanna, I’m a police officer, is it ok if we have a wee chat? I can show you my badge.”
The little girl nodded again.
Heavier footsteps came down the hall and a large man in a similar uniform stuck his head round the door, addressing Johanna.
“The bloke is away in the van to the station ma’am and the lady is speaking with social services in the back of the car. Do you want me to send the social worker in ma’am?”
Johanna smile tightened on her face.
“PC Davidson can’t you see I’m having a very important conversation with this young lady”, and she gestured to the little girl.
She then addressed her once again.
“Im sorry dear, this is PC Billy Davidson. But you can call him Silly Billy!”
The little girl giggled and Silly Billy waved and apologised for the interruption, still holding his station at the door.
“I have some friends with me who would love to meet you”, Johanna said warmly, “And they’re not strangers because they work with me. And we’re friends! Would you like to meet them?”
The little girl nodded slowly and Johanna signalled to Silly Billy who plodded off down the hall again.
“So”, said Johanna, “I’ll stay here with you while you talk to my friend, her name is Lisa, and then we could maybe go somewhere and get a hot chocolate! Does that sound good?”
The little girl nodded enthusiastically and Johanna sat by her and the two waited, watching the purple pal who was now driving a post van.
“Oh”, said Johanna brightly, “that’s my favourite cartoon! I love when he howls! Can you do it?”
And the two sat back on the couch and howled together.