This is the nineteenth part of a fiction serial, in 822 words.
Less than a week after Toni got back from Ireland, Maria was standing outside my house when I got home from school. I presumed she wanted more of what she had enjoyed in her bedroom, but I was wrong.
“I’m coming in to wait to see your uncle when he gets home from work”. I opened the door, and she sat on the sofa. “Got anything decent to drink, Danny?”
Uncle Brian’s drinks cupboard was reasonably well-stocked, and she pointed at a bottle of Haig Whiskey. “It’s no Busmills so it isn’t, but I’ll have a large one of those”. I poured it until it filled half a large tumbler, and she lit a cigarette after sipping it. I had to go and find her an ashtray, one of the ones my gran used to use.
“Will he be long, darlin’?” I told her he might not be home for well over an hour, but that didn’t put her off. “Ah, then put the telly on, so. I’ll watch any crap, so I will”.
Looking back now, I was actually disapointed that she didn’t suggest whiling away that hour by going upstairs. By the time my uncle’s key turned in the door, the bottle of Haig was half-empty, and Maria’s speech was starting to slur. He turned white when he saw her sitting there. She ignored him at first, lighting another cigarette, and turning to me.
“Why don’t you go up to your room and make yourself scarce, darlin’.”
Less than thirty minutes later, I heard the front door close with a bang, and went back down into the living room. Brian was drinking the whisky this time, gulping it down from a porcelain tea mug. He looked up at me, and carried on gulping. Then he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand.
“Christ on a bike, Daniel. That woman’s a bloody psycho! Do you know what she’s done? She got me changed onto late shift at work. Twenty years I have managed to stay on eight ’til fours, and now I have been moved onto the two to ten line. She knows people at my work, the bitch. And I don’t know what you have been saying to her, but she says that if I ever touch you again, I will end up in a cement overcoat at the bottom of the Irish Sea”.
Managing not to laugh, I promised him I had said nothing. In fact that was true. It was just that most people in the town had always had their suspicions about my uncle. And they had all been right of course.
He was too upset to do any cooking, so he phoned up for a Chinese later.
Maria had given me my freedom, although I would have to learn to cook my own meals during weekdays, or live on snacks. Brian was far too scared of her to go against anything she said, even behind the closed doors of our own house. Besides, I might tell on him now, and he could visualise the murky depths of that turbulent sea.
Of course, Maria’s good deed came with a high price, as I soon found out.
With my uncle out of the house until almost eleven every night, my evenings were free. Maria had told Toni she could see me at weekends, but the rest of the time she had to do her studies, and help around the house. She had also not mentioned to me what was about to happen.
The next afternoon as I walked up to the house, I was surprised to see a woman standing there. She wasn’t that old, and she had a toddler in a buggy in front of her. She was also very fat. There was a beer-belly hanging over the waistband of her leggings, and pulling the stained tee shirt above out to maximum stretch. The insides of the thighs of the leggings were threadbare, because her huge legs rubbed together as she walked. She turned and smiled at me, revealing a lurid tattoo on the side of her neck.
“You Danny, yeah? Maria said I could come today. Can we go inside and get on with it? I have to be home to cook my son’s tea when he gets in from college”. I was just about to ask her what she was talking about, when the penny dropped. Once inside, she wheeled the buggy in front of the television, and switched it on. Then she turned back to me, casually pulling off her leggings before removing the tee shirt to reveal more tattoos, and no bra.
“We will have to do it down here, I can’t leave my little girl on her own. Oh, and Maria said thirty quid, but you tell her I have to wait for my benefits, so I will drop it around hers next week”.
Maria was selling me far too cheaply.