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Suspense

TW: abuse

I held my gun and aimed. The target sat with a newspaper in her lap—she had no clue. Red hair covered her face and blocked her view. I've got you now. With soft feet, I crept closer. “Bam!” Pretend bullets flew into the living room; one hit Mommy, others smashed into the sofa.

 

“You’re dead, Mommy, you’re dead!” Mommy looked up from her newspaper with big eyes, then held her chest. She fell to the floor and rolled around, before going still.

 

I sneaked to her, still pointing my gun-shaped hands. “Mommy?”

 

She jumped and grabbed me, taking us to the floor and laughing like she used to; then Mommy stopped and said, “Isaac, should a seven-year-old be playing make-believe guns?” She was frowning now.

 

“I’m nearly eight,” I said, getting up and standing tall with my chin up.

 

The calendar on the wall told me there was one month till my birthday. My smile disappeared.

 

Last year there were no birthday or Christmas presents. Mommy and Daddy had no money and Santa put me on his unlucky list. I didn’t even know about the unlucky list until Daddy told me. None of my friends were on it—it wasn’t fair.

 

My wristwatch was the last present Mommy and Daddy had given me, two years ago. I sometimes set alarms and pretended to wake up from sleep when it beeped. But Mommy didn’t smile at that anymore; she didn’t smile at most things these days.

 

As I stood next to her now, I noticed a big mark on her cheek. Mommy was always getting marks on her face, sometimes her arms and legs too. They were black sometimes or purple. Some were tiny, but others were massive.

 

“Were you and Daddy playing a bit too rough again?” I asked.

 

She took a sip of water and made a loud, swallowing noise. Her eyes got watery, but no tears came. “Yes, Darling, a bit too rough.”

 

“But why is it that you always get marks and Daddy doesn’t?” My finger softly touched her cheek. “Does daddy always win at your game?”

 

Tears rolled from her green eyes. “Daddy always wins,” she said. Her hands shook.

 

Today was Saturday. I liked Saturdays because Daddy was out all day working and the house was quiet.

 

I wanted to know if they’d got me a present this year, so I waited till Mommy was cleaning dishes, then I headed upstairs. I was good at sneaking. If I made too much noise in the house, Daddy would sometimes shout.

 

I stopped outside Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom.

 

The sound of kitchen tap water and plates being stacked came from downstairs, so I didn’t worry about the creaking noise from their room door. I opened it. The room was always dusty and messy, like all the rooms in our house. There were piles of clothes in the corner, some with stains and bad smells; others were folded nicely. Their bed wasn’t even made, but they still moaned about my messy room.

 

My eyes went straight to the cupboard closest to the window. I’d seen Daddy hide things there before and hoped I would see my present. I walked faster. A giggle escaped me, so I covered my mouth. I opened the cupboard door but saw nothing. Both hands searched, only finding socks and a few letters. Don’t worry.

 

They still had lots of time to buy something. I would have to wait.

 

Next Saturday came and Mommy took me to the park. It was the only place I went on weekends. My friends always talked about cinemas and bowling; I pretended that I went sometimes. But really, I kicked around old balls that had no air, and I climbed stuff—that’s all. Mommy promised that one day we would go to the zoo. That was two years ago.

 

We were home by afternoon and I waited for Mommy to watch her movie, then I went straight upstairs to check the cupboard. Perhaps they had time to buy my present while I was at school this week. I needed to find out.

 

I was back to sneak-mode because Mommy had the TV volume low. I opened their bedroom door, making sure the creak was almost silent, then I tip-toed in. I looked at the cupboard, but my legs stopped and I held my breath. Daddy was home. He was in bed snoring.

 

What should I do? If he saw me, he would shout for waking him and ask me what I was doing. I carried on playing statue. Mommy told me that if I had an important decision to make, stop and think about it first. So, I rubbed my head to wake my brain.

 

I could easily escape without him knowing; I was only two steps into the room and turning around would be simple. But what about the present? I needed to know. If I played the stalking tiger game, sleeping-Daddy would never see me. I carried on.

 

It ponged in their room when they slept and I breathed through my mouth and pinched my nose. A few more steps and I would be there. What would they buy me? I’m always talking about board games and magic sets. Or perhaps I would get Harry Potter books. Whatever they get—

 

The floorboard creaked. I stayed still and closed my eyes. Stalking tiger. I waited and waited. He didn’t wake.

 

Two more steps and I was at the cupboard and Daddy was still sleeping. But his snoring had stopped. I would have to be as silent as a dead pigeon. I reached out with my hand, it was shaking and I was sweaty. The cold metal doorknob made me shiver, but I held on. Pulling slowly, I opened the door.

 

There was a tiny squeak from the cupboard. It was shadowy inside, and at first, there was nothing. But as I bent closer, I saw it. Red and shiny wrapping paper covered a box. I closed my hand and punched the air. Laughter was inside me, but I kept it locked. I had to get out, then I could cheer all day.

 

My watch alarm beeped—louder than ever. Fingers pressed and pressed but I couldn’t find the button. “No,” I whispered before finally switching it off. Sweat rolled down my face and I wiped it with my sleeve.

 

I turned around and took one step before I saw the eyes. Monster eyes, staring at me.

 

“What the hell are you playing at, Isaac?” Daddy sat and looked at me.

 

“I… my ball, Daddy. I lost my ball.” Tears were running down both cheeks and I hurried to leave the room.

 

“Out of here!” Bits of spit came out of Daddy’s mouth as he shouted, and his face looked like an exploding pizza. When I was near the door, I saw him picking up his slipper. He threw it and I heard it smack the wall behind me just as I got out of the room.

 

I ran as fast as my legs could take me and hugged Mommy on the sofa. “Isaac! What happened?” she asked.

 

I trembled and cried in her arms. “Nothing Mommy.” She checked my head and body. “I’m not hurt.”

 

I couldn’t sleep that night. I dreamed of Daddy hunting a tiger, but also of wrapping paper noise.

 

That week at school, I told my friends it was two weeks till my birthday and I was getting a gift. When they asked if I was having a party, I ran and hid. I didn’t have birthday parties.

 

One week till my birthday and it was Saturday again. Daddy did go to work today. I saw him walk out the door, get in his car, and drive. I jumped up and down on my bed and went down to play pretend guns with Mommy, but she was staring out the window. “Mommy, are you okay?”

 

When she faced me, I saw another bruise near her eye; it was as big as my hand. “Mommy, I don’t like this game you play with Daddy. It looks dangerous.”

 

She smiled, but I knew it was a pretend smile. “I know, Sweety,” she said, “not all games are fun.”

 

I shook my head. “Then why do you play it?”

 

“It’s… complicated,” Mommy said. “Look, Honey, I’m going to laze on the sofa for a while, please can you play in your room?”

 

On my way up, I stopped at Mommy and Daddy’s room. I could guess what they got me if I touched my present. Daddy was out and Mommy was resting. I went inside, not worrying about creaking doors and floors; I headed straight to the cupboard and opened it.

 

There it was. Wrapping paper prettier than I remembered from last week; the red patterns were like swirly ribbons—it was big. It could be a board game or books. I didn’t care.

 

My small arms struggled to lift the present. As I pulled it closer, a little name tag swung out. I read it and dropped the present back into the cupboard. “What?” My mouth went dry. I tried to walk away but stumbled and almost fell. I rushed to my room and lay on the bed. Tears made my pillow soggy and I didn’t come down till dinner time.

 

Another week went and the 28th of March had come. I looked at my calendar to make sure—yes, it was my birthday. Had they got me anything or will they do anything nice? When I got downstairs, Mommy and Daddy were there with their whitey-yellow teeth showing.

 

“Happy Birthday!” they both said. Mommy brought out a tiny cupcake with one candle and I looked around the room as they sang to me. I couldn’t see anything else; no shiny gift, no decorations. No love.

 

I blew the candle out with all my hate.

 

They hugged me. Mommy had her fake smile that I didn’t like. When they let go of me, Daddy began to go upstairs. Am I the only kid with a life like this? It wasn’t fair. I felt sick in my tummy.

 

 “Don’t I get a present?” I asked. They looked at each other and didn’t move for seconds.

 

Daddy came down next to me and stooped to my height. “Look, Sweety. Things are very tough. I’m working hard, but we just don’t have money for presents.”

 

My lips were shaking. “But—”

 

“We promise that we’ll treat you by summer,” Mommy said before I could finish.

 

I looked at their faces and said, “But why did you buy a present for Amy and not me?”

 

“What?” Mommy said while laughing. “We don’t know anyone called Amy, Darling, why would you say that?”

 

“In your room.” I pointed upstairs. “In Daddy’s secret cupboard, you have a present for Amy.”

 

Mommy blinked a few times and said, “What?” She looked at Daddy, then at me, then back at Daddy again. “I don’t understand… what do you… who’s Amy?” She stared at Daddy. I’d never seen Mommy look like that.

 

She rushed upstairs.

 

Daddy shouted, “Melanie!”

 

I heard Mommy moving things around. Then she screamed. She said some F-words and words I didn’t understand. Daddy hurried upstairs. But all I heard was Mommy shouting and crying. I felt dizzy and needed to sit.

 

I lay on the floor, covering my ears until the shouting stopped.

 

A few days later, me and Mommy packed bags and moved to Grandma’s house. She said there would be less Daddy in our life. I didn’t understand, but I didn’t cry either.

 

When I was alone with Mommy, I told her, “I think you’ll be happy, Mommy. You won’t get any more marks on your face. I think we’ll be fine together.” I held her hand. “I don’t need birthday presents.”

 

She wrapped her arms around me for ages, then took me by the hand and led me towards the lounge.

 

“Where are you taking me, Mommy?”

 

“Close your eyes, Sweety, and don’t open them until I tell you.”

April 16, 2021 14:24

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2 comments

Asha Pillay
20:13 Apr 20, 2021

Aww! What a sweet sad story.I enjoyed reading it

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Sasha Senaratne
08:49 Apr 21, 2021

Many thanks for reading it, Asha! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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