Crumbled (lost faith in the institution of family)

Submitted into Contest #102 in response to: Write a story about someone losing faith in an institution.... view prompt


Contemporary Suspense

Crumbled (Lost Faith in the Institution of Family).

Behind Closed Doors.

My bedroom door is closed but I can see light flickering around the jamb intermittently. I pull my duvet up to cover my mouth and nose, leaving my eyes exposed and to peer above it. Raised voices are heard through the wood, but the words are not understood, they are just a cacophony of noises, mixing with sobs and tears.

The room is dark and with the night light off I am pretending to be asleep. I cannot sleep as I am on edge, fearing what I am imagining is happening in the next room, and what might enter the threshold if it is known I am awake.

I must sleep, having not slept well for days, or weeks and I have school returning for Year 6, term 3. I will be a wreck, falling to sleep at my desk and not wanting to answer the questions the teacher may ask me.

My eyes dart to catch what I know is not within the room. The darkness and light are playing tricks on my frightened brain. Outside of this blackened safe space, the television volume is on, but I cannot hear, it is masking the argued disorder, I know is out there. As I pull the duvet tightly over my head, I curl into a ball and imagine I am disappearing altogether.

I know I am not invisible but as I am covered and feigning sleep, I know I am safe for now. I sink my flattened self onto the mattress trying to let is absorb me. My hands are now over my ears to block the muffled noises that I know I shouldn’t hear but I can. What is happening?

The noise and actions suddenly cease, the lights dim and flash, but no other sound or movement. I am in fear that my door will open, and I will become involved in their melee or the be the brunt of it. This is not what a daughter should witness, I don’t want to be part of it, that is between father and mother, not for me. Enough.

Ready, Set, Go.                                

Nancy didn’t know how or what to feel, she was now numb and in the middle of something she could not get herself out of. Knowing it was going to be tough on her own but that is how it must be now. She had made the most difficult choice and she knew she had to manage the consequences. She had never been on her own, she had gone from her family home to bad relationships, one after the other, and ended in this horrid marriage. She would now be free of it but did not know what to do now.

She did not enjoy her own company or more correctly had never had to be alone before today. Did she even like herself? After what had been her horrible life, she was sure that she didn’t the woman she had become, so why would anyone else? She had attracted partners that were wrong and different to what she knew she deserved.

Having such a low opinion of her worth made her attract these people around her. Everyone in her past, including her birth family had taken advantage of her and of her kindness. She knew that but could not control it, until today, she had changed.

Something just clicked in her psyche and today was the day to change her fortune. Frank would not even miss her at first. He would be home late as usual drinks with the boys after work. He would come home, eat the meal Nancy had prepared and then move to the lounge and watch TV and fall asleep in his drunken stupor. He would wake as the sun rises and Nancy would be making his breakfast. But not tomorrow. Nancy would be long gone.

Working towards and planning her departure for weeks, months or maybe years. But today it just fell into place. She had had enough. Frank was not worth her anguish, she had to go.

Years of emotional abuse, some verbal abuse and then physical abuse began. Starting as unwanted sexual advances, but Nancy thought the wifely duty was hers and let it happen. Then as she protested it became more physical as did the sexual abuse.

Sick of explaining her accident-prone nature, she shied away from the local hospital. Her multiple visits and the concerned questions about her ‘accidents’. Relying on her local GP for medical advice, he too, got suspicious, so Nancy would doctor shop after each event. The ever-accident-prone Nancy was the talk of this small town, although she was not privy to all that was gossiped.

Then she just snapped, today was the day. Months of planning this very escape, today, it had to be today. Money had been squirrelled away, bags packed, car loaded and tank full of petrol Where she was going, she did not know or even care. All she knew was that she couldn’t be here anymore. Enough.

Same but Different.                              

Danny slinks into the half-opened door of the sitting room. Everything is the same, but different. The television is the centrepiece but the difference being that the volume is to zero. The picture flickers and making him blink frequently.

Gazing forlornly at her slumped posture draping the single seat settee, hands covering her face as she audibly wails and sobs. Not having heard him enter he doesn’t know what to say. No words could ever be enough after this.

Standing as erect as a soldier on parade but paralysed by an atrocity he witnesses before him. Quietly taking it in, daring not to move even an inch closer for fear she may see or hear him, and he disturbs her grief. Wanting to comfort her and to tell her that she will be okay, but would she? He has no answers.

His stare seems to awaken her to his presence. Tilting her head, her hands come away from her face. There is blood on both hands, flowing out of her nostrils, and cuts and abrasions to her lips. Both eyes are partly closed from immense bruising and swelling. Has she seen him?

She did but her eyes but cannot widen her gaze to see him. Her swollen lips and cheeks attempt to speak, ‘Come on son, we need to leave, this time Daddy went too far’. Enough.

The Aged Pugilist.

Joseph recalled the room to every detail as he had etched that day into his memory. The last time he saw his father. It had to end.

The room was like on any other day. His mother had made sure of that, nothing was ever out of place. His father was home from his workday waiting impatiently for his dinner. Joseph arrived at the house after his day of school then after to study at the library. The matriculation exams would soon be upon him, as with all the students in his final year.

His father was perched on his usual chair and was as unusual, ready to pounce. Facial expressions, gestures and posture meant he was angry. Joseph knew very well to avoid his father when he was in a mood. His father did not handle stress well and was also an egotist. Everything must be done his way. The family had become used to keeping his peace, but these outbursts did not make it right.

As soon as Joseph entered the house, it began. His father bounced to standing, arms, and hands in fighting pose, like an aged pugilist but in contrast had the energy of a youth.

The booming strength of his father’s voice beamed accusations and threats before Joseph could even announce his arrival. His father shouted and pushed him away and Joseph faltered from his own uneasy stance. Joseph was not a fighter, but primitive instinct kicked in pushing his father away.

The older man toppled from his wavering stance but remained standing, but unsteady and teetering. He had not seen his son retaliate in any of their previous altercations, suddenly his son was a man. If he had not been so shocked at the change, he would be ever so proud of his son right now.

Joseph could not believe that he had become his father. He did not like that fact at all. He had always said he would never become like ‘him’.

Everything that he detested in his father he had now shown outwardly. The argument continued mostly one-sided; Joseph wanted it to end. He did not want it to continue. It had to end.

Joseph turned from the fight and left the house again. This was the last time he saw his father and also his mother. He had to go, a difficult decision to leave her, but enough was enough.

Answered Prayers.

Alone. Nothing had changed, but everything has changed. Sitting in his chair looking at the strangely unfamiliar array of items that make up the décor of collected stuff around me. Having been here for decades, as he did not like change, everything was to be the same for him. But now I am not blinded, I see everything very differently now.

The settee was second-hand when it arrived to us. It was dated and well-loved back then, but it was free. That was our life, full of freebies. The dresser or sideboard was his deceased Aunt’s, the lamp found on the street clean-up. All these things, battered and worn, much like me.

The painted hues and décor have not been restored or redone since the week we moved in. The out-moded, out-dated colour scheme is not one that would even exist together today.

I sit with both lamps glowing and the television flashing with the volume down. Something I would never have done before, as I needed the distraction, but today I am, a change, enough.

The silence around me is deafening, hearing everything so clearly for once. Before today every noise had been amplified and thrown together in an awkward symphony.

Everything has changed, I had wished and hoped for this change for many years. It had to end, it had to change. Now he is gone, my ordeal is over. My heavenly prayers had been answered. I came home today and found him still and cold, he died of natural causes. Enough.

July 15, 2021 06:44

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Sharon Williams
07:53 Jul 22, 2021

Hello John. Critique Circle here. I liked the concept of writing this story from different perspectives. Your descriptions of each characters' feelings and sensations were well executed. There were a few typos, as in: usual chair and was as unusual. I think that it should have read 'usual chair and was as usual.' Every piece I write has a few of these mistakes in, no matter how many times I read it through! Hope this helps. Good luck.


John Filby
06:05 Aug 26, 2021

Thanks Sharon. I like honest critiques and learn from fellow writers every chance I can. Cheers :)


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Cass Marie
18:55 Jul 19, 2021

As all fiction is rooted in some truth, I'm not sure if I should empathize with the characters or if I should be proud they survived to the end. Either way....rivotting read!!! I find some of my own reality in this story. Great writing. Looking forward to more, and following.


John Filby
06:06 Aug 26, 2021

Thanks Cass, I try to put honest characters even when they may be faulty or negative. We should listen to all humans as they have a story for us to learn or one for us to teach them. Cheers :)


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