York Amnesty Creative Writing Competition 2021 "Locked" — RESULTS

lock on a wooden door

The Results of the Writing Competition


Stuck ~ Ruth Pennington

Let me in. Please. I'm sorry.

The bedroom door stays stubbornly bolted, the brooding silence testament to her transgression, her devoted husband either unmoved or, more likely, already passed out. The futility of pleading weariness oppresses her – her need for sleep no excuse, punishable by days of simmering hostility turning her frantic with fear and guilt.

Afraid of waking the children, she holds her tongue, reflects. Earlier, ruddy-faced and red-eyed from drinking steadily throughout the evening, he'd received a text message.

Farewell pint for a mate who's leaving town? Won't be late.

Seeking her assent was a formality, a feint to foster the impression that the matter was up for negotiation. Against the longed-for respite of a few hours on her own, she'd set the knowledge of what more alcohol would bring.

You need rest after your operation. Maybe don't bring them home? And don't show them your scar.

She'd made it sound jokey – showing off the battle wound on his abdomen had become rather a party piece.

Later, torn from deep slumber by the familiar sound of drunkenness, the clink of glasses, the whoosh of the fridge door, the appreciative guffaws, she'd lain in that sickly, buzzing fug, her heart pounding. Time ticked by, the cacophony unrelenting. So she'd hauled herself up, wrapped her dressing-gown protectively around her shivering body, and hovered by the kitchen door.

Could you please come to bed?

His friends, sweetly apologetic, had gathered their coats and left with beery exhortations to keep in touch. Brimming with bonhomie, he'd seen them out, before disappearing without another word. She'd cleared up, putting away food and bottles, washing up, feeling her chest thud.

Now she's dead on her feet in the wee small hours with nowhere to sleep. She leans her face against the unforgiving bedroom door. The spare bedding is out of reach in the boys' room; she has no resources left to soothe a wakeful toddler. She goes into the box-room where her teenage daughter is curled up in bed facing the wall.

May I get in with you?

A small nod of welcome, and she slips in gratefully next to the warm sleepy form.

You should leave him, Mum.

The voice indistinct, the words crystal clear. Shocked out of the creep of unconsciousness, she opens her mouth to protest

But I love him, and he loves me.

The words lie unspoken. Why insult the intelligence of a half-grown girl who sees, hears, and records in her diary the daily humiliations, the outbursts of pettishness and rage, the family dance of appeasement which attempts to hold it all together? How is that love?

As ever, the events of the evening slip through the fingers of her mind. Letting sleep embrace her and lull her, she resolves like Mary to keep everything in her heart, to mull things over when she has the time, is not so busy, is not so bloody tired.

The needle sticks in the groove, the track plays on.