The instant you become a mum you also become a light sleeper. Your mind
and ears become aware of every noise, every rattle, every sound
that’s out of the ordinary. With two under fives, Angela
White was no exception. But since her husband had gone just over two
months ago, that awareness had heightened.
So it wasn’t surprising that what sounded like someone
fiddling with the front door lock brought her out of her sleep. At
first she didn’t move, but squeezed her eyes shut and held
her breath. The noise that had been on the edge of her consciousness
had stopped. But it had been replaced by something else. Unease. An
awareness that something wasn’t quite right. Or maybe she was
wrong. Maybe all was well, and maybe she’d just imagined, or
even dreamt, that scraping noise of a key scratching round a lock.
The ache that grew in her chest reminded her to start breathing again.
She slowly exhaled and inhaled. Still no more noise from downstairs.
Had she imagined it? Was it simply in her head? Or more likely, was it
Jamie or Georgie that had made the noise in their sleep?
She whispered a curse. Why did it have to be tonight that her mobile
was downstairs, charging in the kitchen? And the house phone was
sitting in its cradle on the hall table. She closed her eyes willing it
to float up the stairs into her hand. She shook her head; who did she
think she was? Hermione Granger? There was only one thing for it.
Her body slid out from under the warm duvet. Ignoring the dressing gown
and slippers, she crept to the door in a series of small, cautious,
unhurried steps. Her toes curling into the sheepskin rug with each slow
step. Holding her breath again, she inched the door open. When it was
open wide enough to go through, Angela paused again, listening for the
slightest hint of something not quite right, the merest noise out of
place – but there was only the snuffly noise of four year old
Georgina in her bed coming through the slightly open door of the next
She inched her way out and along the landing to the open door where the
two children that she loved more than life itself were sleeping. With a
light touch, she eased open the door and peeked in. As if to say
“I’m here too”, Jamie grunted a baby
grunt and turned over in his cot. The tense ache in Angela’s
chest was complimented by the wave of affection that flooded her
insides at the sight of the two of them. Taking a slow deep breath
Angela turned back out of the room.
She stopped with a sharp gasp at the sight of the figure six feet from
her. Then she shook her head, wanting but not daring to laugh. The
figure opposite did the same. The full length mirror showed a woman of
five seven, loose three quarter length pajama bottoms, a loose strappy
top, her medium length curly hair looked seriously wild in its
unbrushed state. She grinned again at the thought that the sight of her
without make up would frighten the life out of anyone. What she needed
was a weapon.
I always knew Auntie Marjorie’s brass candlestick wedding
present would come in useful one day. There it was, on the window ledge
halfway down the stairs. Angela took another deep breath. Her mouth was
dry in anxiety and tension. She swallowed and licked her lips in an
attempt to generate some moisture. She got to the top of the stairs and
took a big step down, missing out entirely the top step. Four and half
years of running up and down those stairs had taught her that it
creaked. Badly. No, it wasn’t four and half years of going up
and down the stairs, it was four and half years of lying in bed waiting
for the creak of the step. The creak that signalled the drunken bastard
that she’d finally found the courage to throw out, was coming
up the stairs to their bedroom. She remembered the nights when
she’d just lie there praying that tonight he’d just
go to sleep. The bruises had finally all gone, and her last two
physical reminders of him were asleep a few feet away. But there were
other scars that simply weren’t visible. But even they were
slowly receding into the past.
She stopped dead. That wasn’t her imagination. There was
definitely someone in the living room. Her hands reached out and her
fingers slowly curled round the cool, smooth, comforting metal of the
heavy brass candlestick. Not far to the telephone. Each careful step
brought her closer to the hall table and the cordless phone. It was
when she was on the last step she stopped, her eyes fixed on the empty
cordless phone cradle on the hall table. Angela closed her eyes and bit
her lower lip in a silent curse. She’d had a call from her
sister just before coming up to bed. She could visualise the phone on
the arm of the settee she’d been lying on. The phone was with
whoever was in the lounge, and her mobile was in the kitchen. The only
way to that was through the lounge. Bugger.
With a cold smile, she realized that it had taken more courage to do
what she’d done a few weeks ago than what she was about to do
now. Gripping the candlestick tightly, in a slow, smooth motion she
pushed open the lounge door.
The figure, dressed in black, was crouched down facing away from her.
He was too preoccupied with unplugging and stealing the Hi-Fi to notice
he was no longer alone.
The man in black had been sitting in his car fifty metres down the road
and had seen the bedroom light go out. He’d then smoked his
way through another three or four cigarettes until he was sure that the
woman would be asleep.
Feeling secure in the dimly lit shadows he crossed the quiet road to
the house he’d been watching. His black trainers made no
noise as he got to the front door. After a bit of scratching around,
that he was sure was too quiet to be heard, the key went into the lock,
and he gently turned it and with a slow but smooth movement, swung the
door open. Once inside, he eased the door shut behind him, holding the
handle so it wouldn’t make a loud click. He listened, no
sounds came from upstairs so he took a deep breath and, afraid a light
would come on any minute, made his way to the lounge.
Making as little noise as he could, though to him every rustle sounded
like a thunderclap, he took the black sportsbag off his shoulder and
headed for the CD and DVD collections that were neatly stacked on
shelves near the TV and Hi-Fi unit. With his torch he scanned the
collection, picking out the titles he wanted and leaving those that he
didn’t want untouched. When he’d finished there
were only a handful in the bag. He quietly knelt down and turned his
attention to the Hi-Fi. He unplugged the speaker leads, and was just
unplugging the power lead when he stopped. Something had changed, he
didn’t know what, but his senses all screamed that there was
someone else here. He turned. He saw the woman’s silhouette
at the door. He also saw the outline of something odd in one of her
hands. The other hand was on the lightswitch.
With a resigned sigh, he stood up. The lightswitch clicked and they
both blinked as their eyes struggled to adjust. He looked at her for
several long seconds, he stared into her eyes trying to read her
intentions. His head made a small nod in her direction. Then he turned
back to the Hi-Fi, and picking it up carefully he placed it with the
CD’s in the bag. Every second his back was turned he expected
the lights to go out as she smashed his head with the candlestick. Mrs
White, in the lounge with the candlestick. How ironic. But no blow
came. He stood and faced her again, his eyes didn’t leave
hers as he put the bag over his shoulder. She stared in hatred and
defiance. He stepped toward the door, then stopped. He looked over to
the sideboard – there was a close up photograph of the woman
and next to it another close up of two smiling children.
In an act of defiance and confidence, he walked over to photographs and
picked up the one of the children. He looked back at the woman, and
without taking his eyes from hers, put the photograph with his stash in
the sports bag. Then he walked towards the door. Angela hesitated then
stepped aside, letting her husband past, but keeping a tight grip on
As he got to the front door, he turned and she tensed again.
“Thanks Ange.” The words were flat and his face
unsmiling. Angela looked him in the eye, oozing more confidence than
“If you’d asked and sent someone round to collect
you could have had it with a lot less trouble. So this is the last time
I’ll tell you to get out. And this time stay away from us.
You can have the speakers, just don’t come and collect them
yourself. Oh, and I don’t know where you got that spare key
from, but you can leave it on the table.”
The door clicked shut, Angela leaned back against the wall, and slid to
the floor, and hugged her knees, tears of relief rolling down her
cheeks. She was sure at last it was all over. He was just like any
other bully, stand up to them and they show how weak they are.
Ken Orford, 2007