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Ingrid One Bedtime

Ingrid One Bedtime

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Published by Terry Collett

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Published by: Terry Collett on Oct 09, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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INGRID ONE BEDTIME.Ingrid pulls the coarse heavy blanket to her chin. The room isdark although she can see light from the street outside throughthe slit in the curtains and she can hear the shunting of the coaltrucks from the coal wharf across the road. She snuggles down.Her father’s down at the pub, her mother is in the sitting roomknitting while watching the black and white TV. She can hearcanned laughter, clapping of hands. She tries to sleep, closesher eyes, sniffs the air. The air smells damp. There is a whiff of today’s dinner there too. Her mother laughs out. Ingrid touchesthe inside of her lower lip with her tongue, her lip bled and feelsswollen. Her father’s hand caught her over dinner, back flick,her head rocked, the room spun. Don’t eat with your mouthopen, he’d said, and wham, hand to face, lip stung, foodspewed across table cloth, a smack to the back of her head formaking a mess. Her mother said nothing, looked away,pretended nothing had happened. She never does, not at thetime, afterwards she whispers things, cuddles her. Ingrid staresat shadows on the walls where light plays tricks. Over acrossthe side is the built in cupboard where she hid once when herfather was looking for her. She could see him through a crack inthe door. Calling her, cursing her. He caught her later comingout and dragged her along the passage by her arm his tightgrip on her, hitting her with his free hand. He is probably sittingin the pub talking to his pals, laughing at their jokes, gettingdrunk. She must get to sleep. She turns over in bed. Her lipfeels twice the size. Her tongue keeps going there. Schooltomorrow. Hate school, she sighs. The girls avoid her; the boyscall her names or tug at her hair and call her fleabag or smellydrawers. She puts her hands between her knees. Coldnessbegins to bite at her. Only Benedict is kind to her. The boy inher class. She walked home with him from school. He boughther some sherbet flying saucers and some for himself. Theymade her mouth frizz. She laughed at that. Sour and sharp. Heeven carried her satchel home too. She likes him, likes his
bright eyes and happy smile and that walk he has as if hecouldn’t care a fig. She can tell him anything. She does. Herepeats nothing to anyone else. He taps his nose and says aneed to know basis. He knows about her dad. He's seen thebruises and red marks on her thigh a number of times andasked, but he already knew, he said. She looks forward toseeing him each day. In class he sits across the room at theback with Dennis. She imagines him. Pretends he is there inher room looking out her window pointing to the railway lineover the bridge and the coal trucks shunting. But he is notthere. He lives on the floor beneath them on the corner flat.His mother is nice. She always speaks to her. Her tongue findsthe swollen lip again. Pain. The girls sometimes let her play skiprope if they are short of numbers, but she knows they don’t likeher. They let her hold the rope one end nearly all the gamewithout a chance to skip. One boy pushed over into the toilets amonth or so ago when she had to go during lessons, he pushedher against the wall and said, let’s see your knickers smelly.She screamed at him and he ran off. She felt shocked andundone and frightened. She pushes the thought out of hermind. She told Benedict, he said he’d get the git. She doesn’tknow if he did or not. The boy did have bleeding nose onemorning, but never said why to anyone. More canned laughterfrom the sitting room. Her mother’s belated laugh follows.Benedict says he will take her to a cinema at Camberwell Greenon the bus on Saturday, to see some cowboy film he wants tosee, and how the gunslinger has a great way of drawing his gunfrom the holster which he wants to copy. Her mum will say shecan, but don’t tell your father, you know what he’s like, besideshe’s out, so won’t know if you don’t tell him. She won’t. Shetells him nothing anymore. Unless he asks her and she’s tooscared to lie. Benedict says white lies are small sins that Godforgives if you pay back with an act of kindness. He says thesethings. Ingrid runs her tongue across her lower teeth. Brushedthem with that pink tooth powder by the kitchen sink. Once herfather washed her mouth out with red soap on her toothbrushand scrubbed until she cried and her mother actually came and

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