Part 4 – One big show.
“Charlotte! It is most unrefined to have your shirt pulled over your hands in such a way! Your poor mother must detest having to iron out the creases!” Mrs Collins snapped!
If only she knew why I had pulled my shirt over my hands, I thought angrily; looking at her, once again admiring her radiant beauty. For some reason it had started to bother me, how well groomed, well spoken and beautiful she was. It was becoming an irritant! How was she so perfect?
I released my shirt from my gripped fists and let it hang loose, thankfully I had been smart enough to sneak a bandage out of Mothers first aid tin before school, so know one would notice what a state I had made of my arm.
“That’s a big bandage! What’d you do?” quizzed Michael (Mrs Collins son)
“Nothing.” I replied casually.
“You are lying!” He pressed, “You wouldn’t have a whopping great bandage on your arm if you had only a little scrape! What’d you do?”
“I told you, I did nothing.” I said more aggressively.
Mrs Collins overheard and walked across to see for herself, “Charlotte, that is a mighty big bandage, what did you do my dear?”
I gave her a long look, hoping she would just drop it and move on, but she continued to stand in front of me, insistent I explain what had happened.
“I fell Mrs Collins, its just a little cut, its all my Mother had in her first aid box, I know its probably a bit much, but I didn’t want to get blood on my clean shirt.”
She looked at me in a concerned manner. I couldn’t tell whether she believed me or not. She turned round to continue her teaching. I let out a small sigh of relief. I was going to have to get a bit better at this ‘lying’ thing.
I had never had reason to not tell the truth before, but now I felt myself backed into a corner like a cat, ready to lash out.
Michael’s stares throughout the day were tiresome; so eager to take a look at my cut, he kept annoyingly requesting “Please char, let me have a look, I want to be a Dr when I’m older and its imperative that I get used to looking at cuts and injuries!”
“Well you won’t be looking at my cut!” I snarled, “Stop staring at me, can you not find something better to put your mind to? I don’t’ know, like maybe your work?”
The whole day I had felt in defence, it was all I had left, at home I couldn’t stop Father and what he intended to do, but at school I could, and I would stop anybody who wanted to take advantage of me! Here I could be strong! Here I wouldn’t be prayed upon! Or so I thought.
The winter months seemed to meld into one, it was always cold, always wet, and my god was it windy living on the moors! I detested Mothers kind attempts at making homemade woollen cardigans; they were so itchy that all of our skin would come up in rashes!
You would of thought our first Christmas at the farmhouse would of been one to look forward too, but that just meant more time at home, more time spent doing idle family things, and more time around family, which meant more time with Father.
The last month or two he had been so buried down with work and marking tests in the evenings after school that his interest in me had waned. Occasionally he’d tuck me in and kiss me, sometimes it would be just a brief touch of his hand over my bum whilst brushing past him between rooms, but the most recent move was him watching me undress before Id shower, he’d tell my Mother he needed to mark some books in peace in the study upstairs, when in fact he’d quietly sneak into my room and stand by the door, watching me as I remove my clothes, then he’d leave not saying a word. It was a regular occurrence when he would ‘accidentally’ stumble into the bathroom whilst I would be showering, yelling at me telling me to ‘lock the door!’ but when in truth, he had actually told me to leave it unlocked. It was all a show.
It was Christmas eve, Father and Mother were sat by the fire sipping port, the radio playing the usual cheesy Christmas songs in the background,
“Claire give young Charlotte a glass of port.” Father insisted, passing her an empty glass,
“John do you not think Charlotte is too young for a drink? It will most probably go to her head!”
“Claire give her a small glass, after all it is Christmas Eve!” he said, winking at me, whilst my mother unwillingly poured a small bit of port into a glass.
“Drink it slowly!” Mother commanded, hesitantly holding her arm out.
I took a sip, its sweetness and strength made my cheeks blush,
“Do you like it?” asked Father, smirking ever so slightly as he could tell I was flushed.
“Yes.” I muttered, “Thank you.”
James walked into the sitting room “Can I have a glass? Please?” he begged, doing his most ‘puppy dog eyes’ impression.
“No!” replied Father, putting his hand down on the coffee table.
“But why John? The boy is almost 16!” Mother retorted, astonished at fathers answer.
“Fine. Let him have some, but only a small glass Claire, I wasn’t intending on sharing the whole bottle with all the children!” Father passed him a glass whilst downing the remainder of his in one big gulp!
“Here you go.” Mother said, offering James the glass, he nodded respectfully and took a sip of the port.
We all sat round the fire that evening, though neither myself or James had much to say; we sat contently sipping on our drinks and watching Tabatha and Christopher put out milk and rich tea biscuits for Father Christmas,
“You can’t forget the carrots!” Mother said, chuckling as she watched Christopher run into the kitchen rummaging to find a carrot in the vegetable basket, Tabby waddling behind.
That night for a moment I felt a glimpse of happiness, it reminded me of the old days before we’d moved here, I remembered sitting on Fathers knee, he told me the same stories about Father Christmas and his elves as he did Christopher and Tabatha, we’d make mince pies, and hang our stockings on the mantel piece.
Although this hadn’t changed, our relationship had, I had, I was no longer a child, not in his eyes anyway.
Father kept refilling my glass each time Mother and James left the room, they were so pre occupied with my younger siblings that they didn’t notice Father was pouring me glass after glass.
“No more.” I said quietly, handing him back the glass.
“Drink.” He said, softly yet commanding.
“Drink.” Father pushed the glass towards me, I took it, but this time I swallowed the whole lot in one. It made me shiver.
“Charlotte!” squealed Mother, “I will not have my daughter behave like a hooligan!” She grabbed the glass from my hand, giving my Father an intense look of frustration, “she is too young to be drinking, I will not encourage her to behave in such an uncultivated way!”
“Claire she was just enjoying a glass of port, haven’t we all drunk a little to fast before?” Father said, putting an arm around her to try and urge her to sit down.
“Charlotte is a child John!” She yelled, grabbing the bottle of port and storming into the kitchen.
Fathers face changed. His expression disgruntled;
“Stay here!” he demanded, looking at us all.
Storming into the kitchen, he slammed the old oak door with such force it made the room shake.
We all sat on the coffee table listening to them argue, until we heard the sound of a slap and Mother crying.
The door opened and out walked father, red faced and fists clenched.
“Go to bed! All of you!” he yelled pointing at the stairs.
We promptly made our way to bed.
On the way up the stairs I caught a glimpse of mother on the floor in the kitchen, huddled in a ball and crying.
An hour or so had past, and the house was silent, Mother had come up and tucked Tabatha in and washed the boys faces, though she didn’t come in to say goodnight to me.
In walked Father.
He paced up and down my room; it was obvious he was still very much wound up.
“Get up!” he said coldly.
I got up. Normally I may have asked why or said no, but he was so riled up, that I didn’t want to make him any angrier.
Worried as to what he wanted to do, I stood up straight, the cold night air making my legs pimple. To my surprise he came up, and put his arms around me. Then, what I least expected would happen, he cried.
I stood still, until he unwrapped himself from me, he said nothing, but touched my cheek and sighed.
I watched as he took both of his hands and gently held the ends of my nightdress and lifted it up over my head.
I stood shaking in just my pants.
“Go to bed.” he said, running his hands over my breasts.
I turned and into bed I slipped.
He turned around and folded my nightdress, placing it on my dresser, and walked out.
The next morning mother came in, I must have slept in late, which to her was a shock, as it was after all, Christmas day.
“Charlotte, wake up dear, its Christmas.” she whispered in a soft, loving voice.
Opening my eyes, I noticed a big red mark across her cheek.
“Are you okay?” I asked quietly.
“Its not for you to ask my dear.” she replied stroking my head.
“Something’s are just between a man and his wife. Not the young minds of children who wouldn’t understand the complexities of a relationship. Now lets get you downstairs my dear, there may be something under the tree for you!”
Looking at her I couldn’t help feel guilty, if I hadn’t have downed the port, she wouldn’t have been slapped.
“I’m sorry.” I said, trying to hold back the tears that filled my eyes.
Mother didn’t answer, but instead pulled back the blankets, and stared at my naked skin.
“Where is your nightdress? Its a winters morning, you must be freezing!”
Turning her head to look around the room, she saw it folded on my dresser.
“You are silly! Its an old farmhouse Charlotte, you will catch a death if you don’t stay warm. Here, put it on.”
I took the nightdress and pulled it over my head, and followed Mother downstairs.
“Its Christmas! Its Christmas!” screeched Tabatha, so excited, looking at the presents neatly wrapped underneath the tree.
“He came!” yelled Christopher, pointing at the half eaten biscuits, carrots, and the empty glass of milk.
Mother smiled, pouring us each a glass of orange juice in a Champagne flute, whilst her and Father had the real stuff. “Merry Christmas!” she announced! We all clinked our glasses together, and sipped.
© Jasmin Elizabeth 2018