She Smiled

She clattered him in the mush with the frying pan and carried on until the son-of-a-bitch fell to the lino. He twitched, but a clunk or two more put a stop to that. She collapsed into one of the kitchenette chairs, staring at his body, lying there, not talking, not whining, not yelling, not screaming, not hitting.

She grudgingly began to cry.

He’d been some kind of bastard- the kind a girl could fall in love with. He was tall; broad shouldered and fit snuggly into his Wranglers. He carried himself with a brash confidence that caused the other girls to swoon, but not her. She saw the bastard in him but still she said “Yes”. He’d approached her in the pub when she was all of seventeen, too young to be there and too young for him, but he didn’t care. He had a job and a car and could be charming when he wanted to. Her father accepted him but her mother took her aside. “Jeanie, that’s the kind that causes trouble” She didn’t care, or rather, it didn’t matter. They had a church service. Her Dad cashed in his savings bonds and her Mum bought a new hat, with a pink ribbon from Marks ‘n’ Sparks. He was late. The priest said the words, “…for better, for worse, ‘til death do you part”. They danced at the Working Men’s Club at the end of the lane, or rather, she did. He was either too drunk or busy in the coat check for some reason. She’d stay up late and re-heat his dinner in the oven when he came in smelling of perfume and whiskey. She’d tuck him in when he passed out on the sofa. She’d have the breakfast ready when he woke and was always careful to whisper for the sake of his head. In the morning she’d wake early, have a cold shower- so as not to waste the hot water, dress as prettily as she could and put on her lippy. She’d wear high-heels, even though they hurt her toes and pack him a lunch, but she knew he’d throw it out and go to the pub instead. She’d hear the talk around the village, “She wears too much make-up!”, “She never goes out with him”, “I’d never be off his arm”, “He deserves better”, “Look at that dress!”. She would hoover the floors, polish the table, scrub the cooker and empty the cigarette stubs from her hanging baskets. The house would gleam, but he’d complain. He’d complain about the size of the house- but she couldn’t change that. He’d complain about the food- but it was the best they could afford. He’d complain about her clothes, her hair, her tights and her fingernails. He’d complain until he ran out of breath and had to use his fists. It wasn’t his fault. It was her fault- she was a disappointment to him. She wasn’t woman enough for him. She was a girl and girls made too many mistakes. It was for the best. He wasn’t happy. She smiled and picked up the phone.

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