SUNDAYS - IAN AYRIS
I can hear him outside my door. Grumbling. Moving around. Waiting. Even though it is so early it is still dark outside. I always get up early on Sundays. I don’t want to waste a second.
I pull my bed out enough to squeeze round the end, and I wee in the corner. Then I open the window to let out some of the smell, and push the bed back.
He kicks the door to let me know he knows. But he won’t do anything today. Not on a Sunday. Sunday is Mum’s day. He knows if he tries anything he won’t get no dinner.
Roast chicken. Yorkshire Pudding. Peas and carrots. Stuffing and gravy. And trifle. Mum’s special trifle, with loads of fruit and jelly and custard and Dream Topping and Hundreds and Thousands on top. And cherries.
I change into the new jeans and t-shirt Mum got from the charity shop yesterday. She said I had to look smart because Auntie Cheryl and Uncle Pete are coming over for dinner. The jeans are a bit tight and the t-shirt’s a bit big, but it's nice wearing something different.
I open the door.
‘Hello, son. Lovely day, ain’t it?’
I look up at him, and nod. I try to walk on, but he grabs me by the shoulder. Grips it so hard it hurts. He leans down to me and I hear his knees crack.
‘Uncle Pete and Auntie Cheryl’s over today. You’ll be a good boy, won’t you?’
His breath stinks of booze. I try not to cough or wriggle my nose.
I nod again. This time, when I try to walk on, he lets me go.
‘There’s a good lad,’ he says after me.
I go downstairs. He does not follow.
There’s a smell coming out the kitchen. A brilliant smell. Cakes. Mum does brilliant cakes. Rock cakes. Sponge cakes. Fairy cakes. All sorts of cakes.
Mum is at the sink. Washing up.
‘Hello, dear,’ she says.
I come up behind her and give her a cuddle.
The chicken’s on the side, all cooked and brown and lovely.
‘Smells nice, Mum. The cakes.’
She stops what she’s doing. She doesn’t turn round. Just stops. Like she’s stuck. It’s still dark outside and in her face in the window I can see she is crying.
Dad comes in.
‘That’s what I like to see,’ he says, all cheerful, taking a big deep breath. ‘A busy kitchen.’
Mum carries on washing up.
He comes over, and puts his arm round my shoulder.
‘You're mum’s doin a proper good job here, son. No-one can cook like your mother. Remember that.’
He ruffles my hair like he loves me. And puts his arms round Mum. She goes all stiff and stops what she’s doing.
‘Not now, Jim,’ she says. Quiet.
I see her close here eyes in the window.
And he leaves.
Mum’s dinner is lovely, as usual, and everyone is enjoying themselves. Mum, me, Auntie Cheryl, Uncle Pete. Even Dad. When he’s like this, he’s funny and he makes me laugh and I forget all the other things that make me hate him.
Mum’s dishing up the trifle. I go to take my bowl from her, and knock over my juice. I look at Mum. Tears coming to my eyes, and hers.
‘Look at him,’ says my dad, all kind and joking, ‘getting all upset over a bit of juice.’
He goes out to the kitchen and comes back with a cloth. Mops up the juice.
‘There we go,’ Dad says, louder than he needs to. ‘All sorted.’
He ruffles my hair like he loves me, and when no-one’s looking squeezes his hand into a fist so it pulls my hair tight in the middle. Then he lets go of me and sits back in his seat.
‘Right,’ he says, rubbing his hands together. ‘Let’s have some of that trifle.’
BIO: Ian has a dozen published short stories to his name, both online and in print. He lives in London, England with his wife and three children and has just completed his first novel.