That Time Again

‘Well, Meg. It’s that time again.’

Fred stands on the door step, puffing on the last of cigarette. Meg holds the door open, waiting for him to finish. The sky is bloctchy, black and brown. The streetlights make Fred’s shadow look like a heaving black blob.

‘You’re letting all the warmth out.’ She shivers. Fred tosses his stub into the bush and crosses the threshold. He wipes his feet slowly and deliberately on the doormat. Meg cannot watch him any longer and heads into the kitchen, exasperated.

The remnants of the pasta bake, which she had just warmed up before he arrived, are now cold. She picks at the pasta shapes with her fork. When he comes in, he pulls out the chair, scraping it along the tiled floor, and starts to take his coat off.

‘No.’ Meg says, ‘You’re not going to be here for that long.’

‘Well, I gotta count the money, don’t I?’ He asks, leaning heavily on the chair.

He’d put on weight. No, muscle. He had always flourished as a bachelor. Underneath his coat he wore a nice suit. Zara Men maybe. TM Lewin?

Fred produces a money clip from the breast pocket of his suit. It  barely contains the thick wad of cash between its teeth. Fred waves it with a smile. Meg barely blink.

‘900 for rent.’ She rattles off,  ‘160 for school dinners. Lex needs a new PE Kit. That’ll be 50. Rowan’s going on holiday with Godmother and he’s going to need spending money.’

‘How much?’

‘Another 50.’

‘Let’s call it 100.’

He counts out the notes, licking his fingers, desperately trying to not to cackle with glee. Meg doesn’t watch the money the way he watches the money. She watches him. How different his very features seems. His soft smiling eyes are mean. Greedy. Lost.

‘What about you?’ He says, sliding the pile of money towards her. ‘You wanna do something? Your hair looks like it needs some love.’

‘I can look after myself, thanks.’

‘Doesn’t look like it.’

‘Well, whatever it looks like, I don’t need anything from you.’

She stands up and chucks the pasta bake in the bin.

‘Maybe not money…’ He says, quietly. When Meg doesn’t turn around, he gets up, joins her at the sink.

‘When was the last time you-‘

He places a hand gently on her shoulder, moves it slowly down her back. Meg suddenly turns around, the fork from the pasta bake hovers dangerously close to Fred’s Adam’s Apple.

‘Take your hands off me.’

He backs away.

‘Relax-‘

‘You think you can come in here, waving your blood money at me and what? Get back in this house?’

‘Megan-‘

‘Do you even care about your kids? Because you never ask about them. You’ve been here for half an hour and you haven’t mentioned them once.’

‘Of course-‘

‘Go home, Freddy. You’ve done your song and dance and now I’d like you to leave.’

‘Megan-‘

‘Now.’

Fred picks up his coat, defeated.

‘I really-‘

‘Out.’

He throws his coat on and leaves. The money on the table flies about in the gust.

 

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Big Mouth

‘Make way! Make way!’

Teddy wrestles through the crowd, brandishing his police badge. No one turns round to see it. They are all fixed on the woman in the centre, pinned down by some ‘good Samaritans’.

‘That’s enough!’ He yells, but it disappears beneath the din of the spectacle. He reaches the heart of it, where three men and one woman use all their weight to keep the woman from escaping.

‘I’ll take it from here!’

The woman is still writhing on the ground as they slowly release her. The pocket of her jacket is torn. Her two thick braids have come undone where the concerned citizens have trampled on it. She can’t be more than 100 pounds, and the pressure of four bodies on top of her has winded her.

Teddy kneels down, pulls her gently upright.

‘Wren, it’s me.’ He says quietly.

She either doesn’t see him or doesn’t care. She shoots up and attempts to run, only to be shoved back to the ground by the wall of people. Teddy pulls her up again, this time restraining her.

‘If you don’t stop fighting, they’ll call back up!’ He spits into her ear.

‘I haven’t done anything!’ She shoots back

‘I saw you!’ Yells someone from the crowd, ‘You were there, at the crossing. I saw you move the bus!’

‘I didn’t touch it!’

‘You moved it! You moved it with your mind! I saw you make the gesture.’

‘I was flagging down a taxi!’

‘I saw your eyes.’ He states, striking the condemning blow.

‘He’s lying,’ Wren appeals, turning to Teddy. Her eyes are filling with tears.

‘I didn’t do anything. Please!’

‘I’m taking you in,’ He says, firmly.

‘Teddy-‘

‘You know the rules.’

He slips a pair of cuffs out of his pockets and forces them on her. She whimpers as the metal closes around her wrist.

‘You.’ He says, turning to the bystander who spoke out,  ‘You say you saw her?’

The bystander nods.

‘Can you swear to that?’

The bystander takes a moment and nods again.

‘Come with me.’


The bystander walks behind the Police Officer, as he marches the Woman towards his car. The doors hang open from where he must have shot out in a haste.

It is not a typical police car, something nondescript. The bystander concedes the officer must be CID or undercover.

Some tools have spilled into the road from a black wallet lying across the driver’s seat. The bystander can’t work out what they are. They look complicated. Sharp.

The Police Officer puts the Woman in the front passenger seat, then opens the back door for the bystander.

‘Am I supposed to sit in the back?’ The bystander asks, unsure of the procedure.

The Police Officer looks at him sternly.

‘Are you the police officer or am I?’

The bystander hesitates, and the Police Officer’s face grows darker.

‘Get in.’

The bystander gets into the car. The Police Officer gathers up the tools and then gets into the car.

‘Teddy-‘ The Woman starts. The Police Officer shakes his head. He puts the key in the ignition.

‘Teddy, please, you have to believe-‘

The Police Officer reaches for her face. Both the bystander and the woman hold their breath. The Police Officer gently brushes gravel off the woman’s cheeks. There is something in his eyes. Familiarity? Care?

‘Teddy?’ The bystander repeats, incredulously. The Police Officer finally looks at him through the rear view mirror.

‘You got a problem?’ He asks.

‘No.’ Stammers the bystander.

‘Would you like one?’

The bystander’s heart stops.

‘No.’ He whispers.

‘Well, then.’ The Police Officers says, turning the car around, ‘You shouldn’t have such a big mouth.’

The click of the doors locking rings in the bystander’s ears. The Police Officer reaches over and, with one of his steel tools, unlocks the Woman’s handcuffs.

‘You’re going to have to help me get rid of him.’ He says, handing her the tool.

The Woman looks at the bystander through the mirror, her face changing from nervous to resolved.

‘Of course.’

The car creeps out of the city, as the the bystander’s muffled screams reach no one.