A redraft of my story 'The Winner' What would you do if you won the lottery?
Saturday night had dissolved into a blur of elation, disbelief, and confusion. I struggled to keep my emotions in check, my heart racing as I stifled a scream within a tightly constricting throat. Saturday night had given me new opportunities to explore. There was plenty to think about and new plans to make. How was I going to put an end to the last twenty-five years of misery?
Sunday morning, in bed, the sleeping lump beside me, shifting It’s bulk with a porcine snort and resonating snore that never fails to shake the walls. I lay on my side cringing in nauseous revulsion, trying to avoid making any physical contact with It. Yawning, I rolled onto my back, stared at the nicotine stained, yellowing ceiling and regretted waking to the endless monotony of yet another day. Then, the jolt, the shock of realisation as I remembered. I really hoped that this was not some kind of cruel joke. Cautiously I pushed the quilt aside and slid out of bed; pausing to be sure, that It still slept.
In the bathroom, splashing cold water on my face, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Somewhere hidden deep below those jaded, sad brown eyes, the salt and pepper greying hair and the thinning, lined skin was the girl I had once been. Long ago, I had taken pride in my appearance. My eyes sparkled, My hair shone, My skin glowed, My mouth smiled and laughed at the sheer joy of being alive. I had been a popular girl for all the right reasons, it had been rumoured, amongst the boys that I was quite a catch, the girl they had wanted to be seen out with on a Saturday night. Then I met It. I was young and naïve. We had courted, married and for my part, I allowed life to happen to me. I had been stupid enough to believe in happy endings.
I needed to check again. Last night the ticket had gone in the bin with a flourish of perfectly executed disgust.
‘Anything?’ It had asked.
‘No’ I replied, a little too quickly, my heart pounding in my chest. ‘Not even a tenner.’
‘Waste of bloody time and money that... a ruddy rip off’ was uttered against the rustle of paper as It checked the TV listings.
‘Mmm’ I agreed noncommittally.
Subject closed. Nothing more was said for the next few hours until It spoke.
‘Bedtime for me.’
The Poe-faced newsreader had announced one winner at ten and I knew he was talking to me. The excitement was unbearable.
After It made It’s way upstairs each step groaning in protest under his weight, I examined the ticket again. Uttering a stifled hoarsely whispered YES! YES! I danced ecstatically on the spot and punched the air with sheer joy. I must have looked ridiculous but I didn’t care.
At first, I hadn’t minded the isolation. Life had felt so good, that feeling of how good it was to be so loved. He had wanted me and only me. I was his. Totally his. I hadn’t minded at all when he had said.
‘You shouldn’t need anyone else, just me, that’s what love is.’
I held him so tightly then. I surrendered everything that I was or would be to him. I had felt safe, warm, protected, and loved. Someone lovedme, needed me, and wanted only me.
The babies I longed for to complete us never came. My fault, the doctors had announced with a cold professional air, faulty plumbing. The life I thought I would always have faded and disappeared until my dreams became trivial, old, and forgotten. Within five years, the fragile web of lies he had woven about me turned from gossamer caresses into ice-cold manacles of steel. One by one, my friends disappeared. I could never understand why they disliked him. He was right; it was always my fault. I just never seemed to be able to do or say the right things. The pedestal on which he had stood had crumbled and now not even the debris of happy memories remained.
He never realised that I knew about the woman. They would meet and spend afternoons together in her house, in her bedroom, in her bed. I kept my mouth shut, my thoughts to myself. Now I wish I had said something. What exactly had I achieved by staying silent? Nothing. He thought he had fooled me, that he was one of the lads. I wasn’t hurt by the affair; it was already too late for pain and recriminations. At the time I thought, well at least he still comes home every night. What really hurt was the disrespect, the fact that he was playing around so close to home. I would get to know in the end and I did. Fine, I had thought, play the field but don’t shit my doorstep. I felt the shame of feeling that everyone knew. (and they probably did).
My precious passport still lay beneath the cushion. I started as I heard the thump of its feet on the floor, the retching cough as it cleared its nicotine infested lungs heralding the start to its day. It shuffles across the floor to the bathroom. It will be down in a minute expecting to drown its stomach in the grease of its expected Sunday Full English. I need to find a better place to hide the ticket. My brain was racing with panic. My bag and purse? No good. It thinks nothing of going through them. Where? Where? Thoughts clouded my head, how can I keep this secret to myself? It knows me. It can read me like a book. I can’t keep up the pretence. Why did It not notice last night that something had changed? If It found out, I could kiss this chance of a new life goodbye.
My one and only chance of escape would go up in the smoke of It’s celebratory Havana and the acrid aroma of Glenmorangie.
The heavy shuffle returned to the bedroom. It will be getting dressed now. Taking pleasure in the sensation of scratching at its distended belly, bloated with its Saturday night lagers and curry. That cough again.
I put the ticket in the pocket of my dressing gown and smoothed it down for security.
This moment is mine! And mine alone.
Two months ago, Callum arrived. I was in the kitchen when the knock came at the door. Tea towel in damp hands I answered the door to be greeted by a young man in a suit.
‘I’m sorry, I’m very busy. We don’t need windows. I am happy with my power suppliers and I don’t give to charity. Good morning.’
I shut the door in his face, congratulating my self on how well I had handled that little interruption as I went back to the kitchen. There was a slight pause and the knock came again. The shape hovering behind the frosted glass seemed familiar in the way that it moved as the figure looked up and down the street. Throwing the tea towel onto the worktop it slid gracefully to the floor as I slammed the kitchen door to register my annoyance. The young man pre-empted my anger by putting his hand against the front door.
As he blurted out.
‘I’m not who you think I am…I mean…I’m not trying to sell you anything or anything…I’m Eddie’s son’ The man hesitated and sighed ‘Oh hell…I didn’t mean it to come out like that. I’m sorry.’
I searched his face looking for a sign that he may be It’s child and there it was that same look in his eyes. The brown-eyed puppy dog look of years ago after yet another late night at work. Arriving home, stinking of alcohol and with the smell of nauseating perfume on his clothes, his hair and his skin. Yet there was also the echo of the younger Eddie, the Eddie I had loved, in his features as he smiled sadly. The sandy brown tousled hair that no amount of combing or product could control.
‘Perhaps we should start again’ He said offering his hand ‘Hello, I am Callum Fielding; I am led to believe that this is the home of Eddie Robinson. I am here looking for him. He is my father.’
That is how it began, a secret friendship with the twenty-year-old son of my husband. Callum’s childhood had not been easy, in and out of care before eventually being placed with people who loved and cared for him as any child should be. It refused to even meet with Callum. It was in total denial. That was It’s way never taking responsibility for any of his actions. I accepted Callum willingly and at first, perhaps cruelly as a way to irritate It. Soon the young man began to mean more to me as the child that should have been mine. The final ultimate indignity It had heaped on me would be turned into a victory through my friendship with It’s unwanted son.
On autopilot to the kitchen, I put the bread in the toaster and flick the kettle on. I turn my thoughts to what my first treat would be. Nothing too extravagant, not to start with. Just a little treat. Just for me. Callum is always saying I should treat myself more often. I open the fridge. The harsh white light reveals. Bacon, Eggs, Sausage, and Butter, in the cupboard, Tinned Tomatoes. The pan is sizzling, spitting on the stove. The kitchen door opens. It enters and sits heavily with a dull thwump, the seat groaning in protest. It coughs and lights the first cigarette of the day. Unfolding the Sunday newspaper, it begins to read.
Every morning It comes into my kitchen, invading my space, my sanctuary. It’s flesh filling the room with an unwanted and overwhelming presence. Regularly I had ferreted money away. Saving the pennies and the odd pound until I had enough money for the joyful Sunshine Yellow paint and the farmyard chicken curtains. The latest addition, a collection of pottery farm animals, that for me conjure images of a rural domesticity I often dreamily imagine what a life in the country must be like. A gentle black mare nuzzling at her foal, Cows, fertile, with swaying udders on their way to milking, A rooster, tall and proud, his gleaming feathers attracting the smaller hens I surrounded him with, A cat with her kittens in a basket snuggling together for warmth and comfort. All perched prettily on shelves Callum had fitted up for me. I love the bright colours and the summer sun filtering through the windows casting a warmth and light into the tomb It expected me to call home. A small reflection of the person I used to be. I doubt whether It even noticed the changes that took place over the years. The kitchen was just a place for It to shovel food into It’s mouth and feed It’s ever expanding stomach.
Can–opener, I need the can-opener, I open the knife drawer, the blades inviting me as the light hits them. A quick glance, He is too embroiled in the Beautiful Game and shaking his head at something revealed on the page. A couch potato football manager. Problem solved! I run my thumb down the serrated edges of the bread knife. The carving knife? The vegetable knife? They all need sharpening, all years old and never been replaced. Not today then.
‘Hmm’ I comment to myself.
Its only reply an impatient shake of the paper and a squint as It reads and draws with heavy lips on a cigarette.
‘I’ll be going shopping tomorrow’ I smiled.
New Kitchen Knives, the best Quality. A special gift to myself a little reward for all these years of drudgery and faded love.
I smile sweetly at It for the first time in years. I pat It on the back and plant a kiss on the top of It’s head as I place his breakfast in front of him.
‘What’s that for?’ He asks suspiciously.
‘Oh nothing,’ I replied happily.
Callum will be so surprised when he learns of our good fortune and how I have set us free.