Story

Secrets

***Story does contain swearing.

Kaitlin, stop running through the fuckin’ house, ya know it pisses me off… an ya father hates it,’ Sarah, Kaitlin’s mother, added for effect.

Four-year-old Kaitlin stopped in her tracks. She looked to her mother with her bottom lip shaking as she tried to hold back the tears. her lip shook for a few seconds more, then they began to flow from her big brown eyes. Her father, Rob, never gets upset or angry with Kaitlin. He loves her so much, he’s willing to stay with Sarah, an abusive, manipulative bitch who uses the threat of the unknown to instil an uncertain fear into him and his daughter.

A quiet sob escaped the little girl’s lips, and the fear of what was to come made her shake as she saw watched her mother walk to where she stood. Sarah grabbed her by the arm, picked her up the six feet until their eyes met.

‘If ya don’t stop cryin’ ya lil bitch I’ll give you something to cry about,’ she said so quietly it exhaled like a hiss, and her foul wine and cigarette fuelled anger parted Kaitlin’s fringe, and it was rarely an empty threat.

Sarah then dropped Kaitlin to the floor from a height low enough not to break anything, though high enough to make her point. Kaitlin got to her feet, and wiped her small hand across her eyes, leaving a trail of fresh dirt in her tears. And as it turned to clay, her mother growled expletives then grabbed a filthy tea towel, took her small chin in her large hand, and ferociously scrubbed Kaitlin’s face. She tried to remove the patches of mud, but her intent was to harm and instead of cleaning the little girl up, she created red splotches and raised welts all over Kaitlin’s face. Kaitlin shook trying to hold back her tears until it was over.

‘Get to ya room,’ her mother screamed, after taking one last swipe at her face, ‘an’ don’t come out ‘til ya dad gets home.’

Even at four Kaitlin knew if she remained silent her mum wouldn’t know she was there. The click of her door closing behind her was a sanctuary for the little girl waiting for her daddy to get home.

***

Rob, a man who’d do anything for his daughter, arrived home at five on the dot. He pulled into the carport and sat for several minutes preparing himself before turning the engine off. He’s never sure if that would be the day he’d pull out again and keep driving.

Kaitlin, he thought and removed his seat belt. He caught sight of her chair in the back, I’d never leave you with her, my sweet girl.

He opened his door, took a deep breath, and exhaled as he took those first few steps. He felt like a man on death row. When he reached the front door of the house, he raised a hand to open it, but pulled back, then reached for the handle again after he’d prepared himself for the barrage that was to come.

Always is one.

Moulding his face into a smile, he swung the door open and called, ‘Daddies’ home.’

Kaitlin ran from her room straight into his arms. Rob swept her up and gave her a bear hug, then saw slight bruising around her right upper arm, then the red marks and welts on her little face. He kissed her on the nose and put her down. Squatting to her height, Rob looked his daughter in the eyes with love.

‘Can you go back to your room for daddy for a little while?’

‘Yep, daddy.’

‘I’ll come get you real soon and we’ll go out for dinner, all right?’

‘K daddy,’ she said, and starts to run back to her room, but catches herself and stops.

Rob watched his daughter walk down the short hallway. Made sure she was in her room. He hadn’t heard the grunt of acknowledgement yet, but knew Sarah was on the sofa.

As usual.

He was seething when he turned to her. He’d finally had enough.

Last straw, he thought.

‘What happened to her face’ he gruffly whispered crossing the room.

‘Dunno what ya talkin’ ‘bout,’ Sarah said climbing out of her nest.

She was taller, bigger than Rob and always used it to intimidate him. Little did she know he only ever backed down for the sake of his daughter. They stood toe to toe… he wanted to see the lies spark in her eyes as she tried to tell him Kaitlin fell, or slipped, or walked into the door. She began to speak, but Rob put his right hand up and stopped her.

‘Stop making excuses,’ he said. ‘Every day Kaitlin has a new injury. Do you think I’m an idiot?’

‘She’s just clumsy…’ Sarah trailed off.

The white of her freckled face flamed red with anger, highlighting the bright orange of her long frizzy hair. Rob could see it, smell the danger ahead. He knew if he didn’t back down things would get ugly… er.

Nope! Today, he thought, today’s the day. I’m taking off… not going anywhere without Kaitlin.

Looks taller than usual, Sarah thought, nah, just Peacockin’.

‘I’ve had enough,’ Rob began, ‘you’ve pushed me too far. I’m leaving and I’m taking Kaitlin. You don’t deserve to even have access to her.’

He saw her seesawing on her haunches with her usual smug smile and knew what was to come… or so he thought.

‘Ya won’t do that,’ she leaned down to scream into his face, and that disgusting wind of cigarettes and old red cask wine lifted the edges of his short blonde hair. It made him want to hurl, but he wasn’t showing her any weakness that day. ‘Ya won’t do it, ‘cause then you’d have to look after the little bitch ya-self.’

Rob took a step back, his mouth agape, his eyes wide in amazement, and full of anger.

‘What did you say?’ he asked to make sure he’d heard right.

‘I said,’ she began, breathing into his open mouth, ‘she’s a bitch!’

Brushing his hair from his eyes and closing his mouth, Rob collected himself before saying another word.

‘Do you really think our little girl is… is—’

‘A bitch? Yeah, she’s a bitch and I’d give ‘er away if she didn’t pay for me smokes an—’

‘How could you? She’s four… she’s just a baby.’

Rob was finding it hard to continue, catching his breath while trying to contain his anger. His mind was in free-fall, and it told him to take his daughter and get as far away from the piece of shit standing in front of him as he could. Sarah was waffling on about something in her high-pitched wailing tones, but he wasn’t listening anymore, he was thinking about the ramifications of what he would do next.

If I back down, then she’s going to hurt Kaitlin, and if I threaten to leave and don’t, then she’ll manipulate me until I’m so buried beneath her shi—

Realising there was only one option left, Rob began to evaluate what he’d need to take for Kaitlin.

Nothing, he thought, her seats already in the car and I can get her new stuff.

Rob looked his wife up and down as if he didn’t even know her. Looking her in the eyes he saw a flash of surprise, and she finally shut up. He knew she was expecting him to back down. He always does, why not now? Then everything would go back to being run her way, but there was something else in her eyes. It looked as if she knew something.

Oh God… does she know? He thought, but decided to dive right on in. He had nothing left to lose.

‘I’m taking Kaitlin,’ He said. ‘We’re leaving tonight, and you’ll be hearing from my lawyer, if not the cops. I’m taking custody of my child.’

The silence in the room was deafening. Rob wanted to take a seat, have coffee, cuddle his daughter, but he refused to show weakness.

‘You’re not leavin’ me ya poor excuse of a husband, an’ ya certainly not taking my fuckin’ daughter from me ya cunt.’

Rob was taken aback; he’d never heard that type of language from Sarah until that night and she wasn’t finished.

‘You’re gonna get in tha fuckin’ kitchen an’ cook me dinner. ‘bout time ya started ta pull ya fuckin’ weight ‘round ‘ere,’ she paused to take a breath, ‘An as for ya fuckin’ daughter? I’ve got news for you… ya not even protectin’ ya own flesh n blood.’

‘What?’

‘Stupid fuckin’ prick.’

‘What did you say?’

‘You’re a stupid fuckin’ prick—’

‘Not that,’ he said, her words knocking him off balance, ‘the other thing. What’s that about Kaitlin?’

‘Oh, that,’ she said, and a horrific smirk lit up her face. ‘You ain’t ‘er father so you ain’t takin’ her nowhere! An’ if ya thinkin’ of leavin’… Don’t! Ya won’t like what’ll happen if ya try.’

Rob fell to the sofa. Empty biscuit and potato chip wrappers crackled as he fell. When Sarah empties a cask of wine, she tears away the cardboard surrounds, tosses them scraps to the floor, and blows up the silver liners into small pillows, Rob almost bounced off the sofa head first into the coffee table, but like the coloured ball game at the kids playgrounds, he became partially buried beneath them. Adjusting his seat while he took in the new revelation, Sarah continued to throw instructions at him.

‘Stopped in at Centrelink today,’ she said waving around sheets of paper, ‘an’ signed up for the single parent pension—’

‘You what?’

‘You heard me, an’ you’ll sign this fuckin’ form sayin’ we ain’t livin’ together.’

Rob’s lips became taut and white. He bided his time until she was finished. That’s what she thought before he said, “I’ll get right on that, dear.”

‘Can I ask—’

‘Ya can’t ask nothin’ ya don’t earn enough to support me and that lil bitch too,’ she said pointing towards Kaitlin’s room. Sarah caught his attention with an evil nasally laugh, then continued, ‘an ya ain’t leaven me. Ya gunna come home every fuckin’ night, clean tha fuckin house and look after my bitch of a daughter…’

Rob was about to speak, but she was only taking breather.

‘An on payday your handin’ it all over,’ she said with that smirk that always makes him want to leave.

Biggest mistake of ya life, mate, he tells himself every day, then thinks of Kaitlin and knows she’s worth the pain.

‘I’ll give ya pocket money soez ya can drag ya arse to and from work… oh, and one last thing Rob, honey,’ she said trying to sound demure, but came across as overweening, ‘Ya movin’ into the spare room.’

Small blessings, he thought, then recalled it was a moot point, daughter or not, Sarah was abusing Kaitlin, and he was taking her with him.

Rob felt like a complete stranger in his own house and was still reeling from the outburst. When he gathered his thoughts, he climbed out of the wine cask sofa to stand tall and firm.

‘Whose daughter is she?’ he asked, believing he deserved to know that much.

She smiled the smile of a Cheshire cat, and a chill ran up his spine.

‘Mark’s,’ she said with glee. ‘She’s Mark’s daughter… you know, your best friend? Yeah, was even screwin’ him on our honeymoon… actually an hour or so after the wedding. Ya know when you went lookin’ for the dip? I found it.’

She broke out into another of her nasally laughs and Rob looked down and started to shake. Her smile grew larger until that is, he lifted his face to look her in the eye. He was laughing, and his laughter became so loud she thought she’d finally sent him over the edge.

Don’ need no useless cunt, she thought, watching him hold his stomach to ease the laughter pangs.

‘What tha fuck are you laughing at,’ she screamed over his voice. ‘I’ve got ya by the short n curlies, mate. Ya ain’t leave me, cause even though she ain’t ya daughter, you still love er, fuck knows why, and now ya have ta live with the fact youse been raisin’ ya best mates kid.’

With that Rob laughed louder and longer. He was trying to catch his breath to speak but was enjoying the moment.

‘I was screwin ya best mate. When we got married, I was 3-months prego with his kid. What tha fuck you laughin’ ‘bout?’

Rob was bent over from the continuous rapturous laughter, tears were falling from his eyes as he tried to speak, and then he saw the moment he’d been waiting for, a flicker of fear flash across Sarah’s eyes. That fear of laying out all her cards, and Rob being happy about it.

‘Clueless,’ he eventually said. ‘Absolutely clueless.’

‘How dare—’

‘Shut up,’ he snapped, and she fell to the sofa, popping two pillow caskets as she did.

With a deadening calm, Rob stood so close to the sofa that Sarah couldn’t get up.

‘I will be leaving here tonight, with Kaitlin,’ he said. ‘We’ll be going to Marks.’

Sarah tried to get out of the sofa, tried to butt in, but Rob continued.

‘And there’s nothing you can do about it. You truly are an evil conniving individual. I see that now—’

‘But—’

‘I believe I told you to shut up,’ Rob said leaning down to look her in the eyes, and she recoiled.

‘Tonight, has been a revelation, and you my dear wife have set me free.’

She was about to speak again but Rob sent her a withering glare and she thought better of it.

‘I was warned about you, of course I was warned, but… love and all that stuff, then you being pregnant, well a fella didn’t stand a chance, not a decent one anyway, although dad did try to tell me. I never knew the real you, not until the honeymoon, “Oh, I’m so sick with the baby, can we have our honeymoon when I feel better,” though you were good to spend all the money on daily shopping sprees, gone before I’d wake… now I know why, which brings me to this point. You may have screwed my best mate on the honeymoon, but not since, right? Don’t answer that! And I believe Kaitlin is his daughter, in fact I hope she is, and here’s the thing you might want to hear, for the last three and a half years, he has cheated on you, with me.’

Rob took a step back to get a better look at the shock on her face. Her eyes were almost popping out of her head.

‘Kaitlin, honey, come to daddy. We’re going to visit uncle Mark.’

Kaitlin’s door flew open, and she ran to Rob, and he gathered her up in his arms.

‘Not laughing now, are ya?’ Rob said picking his keys up off the front table. ‘You’ll be hearing from our lawyers.’

Sarah jumped as the door slammed shut. She tried to get to the door, to stop them, but she couldn’t climb out of the filth she’d created for herself. To be blunt, she was screwed.

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