Out of hiding

“Em-i-lee. Em-i-LEE!”

The bellowing voice, roughened by years of alcohol abuse and slurred by the day’s drinking, brought Emily’s hands over her ears.

She crouched in the shadows under a shrub in the back garden, light from the house windows spilling around her. As soon as she had heard the truck in the driveway a few minutes ago, she’d scuttled out to the back garden. Mince apparently decided to go into hiding as well, as he’d cuddled up to her with his little terrier tail wagging. Mince was as familiar with the drill as Emily was; he’d been pounded on and kicked across the floor about as often as Emily had. And he was as perplexed by Bill’s dual personalities as Emily was.

Emily regarded herself wryly. Here she was, top of her self-defence class, cowering under the acacia while Bill went on yet another rampage inside the house. It would be funny if it weren’t so scary.

She could hear crashing inside – probably books being pulled off the shelves. After four years, they had a well-established pattern. Bill would get drunk and give himself permission to do whatever he felt like. Emily would try to talk him down, copping whatever came her way in the process. And Mince would mediate in a frenzy between them, taking the knocks every good umpire can expect from time to time.

She scratched behind Mince’s ear and took a deep breath. For six months now she had been taking self-defence classes twice a week. Actually, as Sam had told them on the first night, they were really street fighting classes. If you no-kidding wanted to protect yourself, you fought in whatever way you needed to, and you took the offence when you needed to. So every week for six months she had learned fight techniques in a Tuesday class and gone to practice them one-on-one with Sam on Thursdays. She had practiced at home in front of the mirror. She had practiced on Mince (in the friendliest of ways) to his great enjoyment.

Emily’s heart hammered with the usual fear – and with something else, a steely something that she’d experienced many times in class when she’d bested an opponent. Something that whispered that her days of hiding in the garden were over.

“Mince, stay here. Stay, boy,” she murmured, and stood up. She breathed deeply and flexed as she had been taught to do. She was ready.

She walked in.

Bill stopped mid-swipe and looked at her in some surprise.

“Where were you?” he growled. He did a double-take. “Whatdya do with your hair? You cut your hair?” he repeated, accusingly, threateningly.

Emily was thrown for a second – in the rush of adrenalin she’d forgotten the severe bob she’d got at the hairdresser’s this afternoon. She’d figured that Bill was off drinking, and she knew his favourite handle on her was her long ponytail. The fear upped a notch, and so did the steely something.

“You stupid bitch,” he snarled.

He swung toward her.

 

Moments later it was over. Bill lay sprawled on the floor next to the kitchen.

Emily leaned against the door frame, panting lightly. The moves she’d executed still tingled in her muscles. Slash to windpipe. Stomp on toes. Kick to groin. Smash to temple. A satisfied sound escaped her.

Okay. Time to get out. Worry later, grieve later, plan later.

She snatched up her handbag and swept a pile of CDs off the shelf into it. She grabbed the album of family photos, her kindle and her Best Player 2007 soccer trophy.

Bill groaned and stirred slightly.

She found her keys in the pocket of her handbag, pausing in the doorway to say goodbye to a handful of treasured possessions and a partnership that had been non-existent for a long time.

“Mince!” she called. “C’mon boy, get in the car.”

The little terrier pounded toward her out of the nearby bush and ecstatically jumped in. Another adventure! Yes!!!

Emily laughed shakily. Worry, grieve, plan later. If at all.

She punched the air.

She slid behind the wheel and slammed the car door shut. Gravel skittered as she reversed out the driveway and hit the road.

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