The child was just there

adult alone backlit black and white

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She ran, out the door, through the open back gate and down the ginnel between the houses and out onto the street. She didn’t think about where she was going or take in her surroundings, she had her head down running hard and tears were making her vision blurred. She didn’t see the red brick terraced miner’s houses or smell that distinctive coal smoke smell coming from just about every chimney on this cold winter’s night.

She turned the corner at full pelt just avoiding knocking over old Mrs Blacker, on her way home from bingo. Up the incline, straight across the road, without thinking of looking for traffic and onto the playing fields. She finally stopped running when the darkness consumed her. She slid down a goalpost and rested her back against it, pulled her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around her legs. Faced buried in her lap she let the tears come but silently so that no-one knew she was there.

Her tears slowed and thoughts crowded her young mind, she had no idea what she was going to do but she knew she couldn’t go back. She also knew that her mother would be taking a beating right now, rather than her, from her drunken step-father.

The batterings had been getting worse ever since the colliery had closed. He would get his benefit money on a Thursday and drink most of it away before coming home and taking his feelings of inadequacy out on the family. Today he was particularly unkempt, having gone out without shaving or brushing his hair, wearing creased clothes he’d picked up from his bedroom chair that morning. As he came through the back gate and door, slamming them so hard they bounced off their latches, her mother must have seen a new threat in his eyes. Their sausage and mash tea abandoned, her mother screamed at her to run.

She pushed herself up from the goalpost and started to walk towards her grandmother’s at the far end of the village. It was common for her to turn up unannounced when trouble flared at home. She came off the playing fields and into the grounds of the Methodist chapel. She was mentally and physically exhausted as she climbed the few steps, looking for some respite from the cold before she continued. The front door being locked broke her and she curled up where she was.

About an hour later her mother found her, having second guessed the direction her daughter would take trying to find safety. The child was just there on the steps in the dark, hugging herself against the cold, all cried out and nearly sleeping.

They hugged in silence for a while, then the child looked her up and down, surprised not to see a busted lip, black eye or worse. Her mother wrapped her shivering child in her big winter coat and that is when she saw the blood, dried and dark now, smeared across her mother’s clothes. Both of them too tired to talk they turned and walked towards grandmother’s, they were safe.

Author: Liz

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