Runner up: A Kind of Loving

By Linda Hurdwell

Linda writes: I live in Ascot, am a widow, have two adult sons, and a wonderful  cocker spaniel.  Now retired I have a life filled with past dreams/nightmares to write about. I also belong to Slough Writer’s group which is an asset.

“Come on Jules. I thought you loved me.” His voice was low and barely audible but Julie knew, only too well, it was going to be one of those nights again. 

She pulled at her long red hair and sighed before refilling her empty glass with more cider, noticing the smirk on his face. In the fading light of the evening the scar from his top lip to just below his left eye was highlighted. She had done that with the broken mirror from the bathroom a few months ago. He deserved it.

“Scarred for life,” he was fond of saying whilst touching the faint line almost reverently. 

The cider was starting to muddle Julie’s thoughts like it usually did. She flopped down on her black torn sofa suddenly remembering her little boy. Tears poured down her face. 

“I miss my Troy. I wish I could see him, I love him so much.” 

The man slapped her gently. “Your kid is in foster care you stupid bitch. Anyway you don’t need him, you’ve got me.” 

Julie stared up at him, her boyfriend: dark, tall, lean yet with the strength of two men when he was drinking. And he was always drinking. How could she stop drinking with him around? 

She screamed at him: “Get out, leave me alone.” She avoided his eyes, steely grey and menacing and she curled up into a ball waiting for the torrent of blows that would soon be rained on her. 

Sometimes Julie fought back, but not this time. Later, when it was dark, Julie crept into the bathroom. Turning the light on she peered at her face and saw her right eye was bruised and swollen. She dabbed some cold water on her eye to try and ease the throbbing pain.How could she see Troy now looking like this? She would have to cancel her contact with him yet again.

“Life sucks.” Angrily she returned to the living room and opened another bottle of cider. Anything to blot it all out. 

* * *

“He’s gone Amy. I got the police and they told him to leave, a couple of weeks ago now.”

Julie was standing beside the kettle making the social worker a cup of coffee, not for herself. She craved something stronger but poured herself a glass of water.

“Maybe I can get my Troy back now?” She knew full well what the answer would be. 

“But you are still drinking aren’t you, why don’t you let me put you on one of the alcohol programmes I was talking about?”

Julie punched the draining board making the drying cups jump around.  “Always the same you lot and no help at all.” She watched Amy leave and felt frustrated, helpless and very lonely. 

What on earth could she do all day long? With little money where could she go? That damn therapy wasn’t for her, she had tried it once and felt stupid. Why should she talk about herself to a bunch of strangers anyway? 

Well, now that Bill had gone she would overcome her need for a drink, it wouldn’t be too hard and then she could have her little boy home once more. 

Julie walked across the room to the window sill smiling as she held the photo of Troy at her sister’s wedding, looking so smart in his little suit. 

With his thick blond hair and big brown eyes he looked like an angel, yet like all six year olds he could be naughty and had a mischievous glint in his eye. 

How she regretted smacking him in the past. Now all she wanted to do was hold him close to her and cover him with kisses. Her flesh and blood, something good out of a painful marriage that never lasted more than a year. She kissed the photo of her child, her boy whom she knew had let down.

Julie turned on the television then turned it off again. She decided to go for a walk. Yes, keep walking. That would be the best thing to do. She grabbed her jacket as it looked like rain and sure enough as soon as she left her flat  she felt the first spots.

Soon it was torrential, but Julie thought she would walk over to her parents’ house even though they lived over the other side of town. That should help.

By the time she arrived, after walking for almost an hour in the pouring rain, she felt cold and wet right through. Her parents were out. 

Julie banged on next door in frustration. “Where are they?” she demanded. The elderly neighbour peered from behind the half opened door nervously. 

“They’ve gone to your sister’s for the day. You should have phoned.”

“Oh great,” Julie yelled, kicking the gate. “My goody, goody sister always gets everything.” She felt the old sibling jealousy rising. Her sweet-tempered sister wrapped everyone around her cute little fingers while she was pushed to one side. If only she could curb her fiery temper, things may have been different.

Julie turned back for home. Home. That was more like a dingy, scruffy box. Her fault. It might seem better with a lick of paint she thought vaguely, but that cost money and all her money went on drink. Well not any more. 

She would be a changed woman now. Perhaps she might find a job to keep her occupied. 

On the way back to her street, Julie diligently strode past four pubs, proud of herself for ignoring them. But by the time she came to the fifth,  only a few hundred yards from her block of flats, her good intentions flew away. 

Julie ambled up to the bar and saw the barman laugh out loud. “Good heavens, you look like a drowned rat.” 

“Well it’s teaming with rain innit?” Julie squeezed the water from her dripping auburn hair and took off her drenched jacket. Counting out her money she found there was only enough for two small ciders.

Julie downed the first one immediately and sighed beginning to feel calmer. The second one she drank more slowly. “Have to make this one last, no more cash,” she explained to the barman. She liked him, always cheerful and never asked questions.

Suddenly she shivered. “Ah if it isn’t my Jules.” Bill wheedled up to her. Trust him to be here. “Get away from me, you rat bag.” 

She saw him grin and touch his scar before pulling a stool beside her. 

“I’ll buy you another.” 

“No.” 

Julie grabbed her jacket and made for the door, determined not to let him into her life once more. She opened the door. Torrential rain poured upon a grey, alien and lonely world outside.

She glanced back at the warm inviting bar. Music was playing in the background. There was laughter and cheery talk. She wrinkled her nose, smelling the delicious aroma of chips which Bill would no doubt buy for her – if she let him. 

Julie stood still staring. It was hard, so hard to change. 

“Come on gal, have another drink with me, old times’ sake,” Bill pleaded and she saw his blatant wink. 

Julie stood holding the door undecided. “Well,” and she realised how hungry she now felt. There was no food in her flat, no drink and no-one to talk to. There was no-one that really cared about her. Bill cared a bit.

“A cider is it and some chips?” 

Guiltily she slunk back next to him. “OK just one more,” she agreed sullenly. 

“Love me?” he smirked as she took the glass from his bony hands, eager to drink it up and eat the chips that were coming.

“Yeah, yeah I love you.” Her answer was tight, and remorseful, but her mouth was now crammed with food and she looked up into his dark ebony eyes. She felt his arm tightening around her waist. It was good to feel human contact again. She winked right back at him. 

If only her parents had been in, she would have stayed there and not strayed into here.

“Best go back and get you out of these wet clothes,” he whispered. His face was almost touching her own. “Don’t want my girl to die of the cold now.”

She leant against him, her mind now blurring. It was good to feel Bill close to her.  

Troy was alright, she would see him again soon. 

Bill softly kissed her mouth and it felt rather nice. Bill loved her in his own way. 

Swallowing the last of the chips Julie stared into his eyes grinning. 

She felt his lips on hers again, harder this time, sucking away all her good intentions. She hoped it would be good tonight and wouldn’t come to blows this time. Julie stood up leaning against her man. He walked over to the door and opened it.

The rain had stopped. The full moon seemed to cast a magical spell across the grimy town. Maybe Julie could get her life back together again without Bill. “Coming girl?” he urged impatiently. Yet still she stood by the door undecided.