Charley picked up her makeup brush and tried to hide the evidence of the night before; the bruise left by her husband’s fist.
Owen would be getting ready for school and she wanted to cover it before he noticed. Owen mustn’t know. Not this time.
She touched the bruise on her cheekbone, the imprint of Kyle’s signet ring still evident in the center. The bruise stained her skin. The deep purple-blue of a cheap tattoo, like the one Kyle got on his stag night. She’d been thrilled when he told her, but not when he showed her.
Her name in a heart.
Etched in ink.
Her name spelled wrong.
Fate had been trying to warn her, even before the wedding.
A flicker of movement in the bathroom mirror caught her eye. Owen stood in the doorway. His red puffy eyes in a too-pale face told her it was too late. He already knew.
“Daddy hurt you again.”
Owen’s tone was flat and blunt, as if he had been talking about the weather. But his face bore the same expression as when he’d seen the bruises on her arm last week. A mix of sadness and resignation. His words settled in her stomach; a cold, hard lump of self-reproach.
She tried to smile and found it didn’t fit her face, so she let it go.
“It’s OK,” she said as though she was to blame, rather than her husband. “I’m fine, really.”
“I hear him. I hear you crying. He scares me when he’s angry.”
Charley crouched and held Owen’s hands. “You don’t need to be scared of Daddy. He loves you, I know he does. I love you too and I’d never let anyone hurt you.”
Owen remained silent. Charley caught a flash of something in his eyes before he looked away.
The clock in the hallway chimed the hour. “It’s getting late, Owen. Come on, time for breakfast and then off to school.” She led him to the kitchen.
“Can I have strawberry jam on toast please?” Owen asked.
“Of course.” Charley cut a slice of bread and dropped it into the toaster.
“Can I turn on the TV, Mum?”
“Best not. Daddy is still in bed and we shouldn’t wake him.” Charley shot a quick glance toward the bedroom door. Please let him sleep a little longer.
Charley packed Owen’s lunch and waited for the toast, listening for any sign of Kyle being up. Should she make lunch for Kyle too? If she made it wrong… No. She’d wait for him to say what he wanted. If she had her way, it would be a cheese sandwich with a liberal sprinkling of cyanide.
The toast popped up making her jump. She buttered it, spread it with jam and handed it to Owen.
She watched him nibble his toast. He was the only bright spot in her life; the one thing that gave her life purpose. He was so much like her. Her hazel eyes, her curly brown hair, her sadness.
She heard the bathroom door close with a decisive thunk.
Kyle was up.
Owen froze, his toast inches from his half-open mouth. He slowly turned to face her and she saw her own fear reflected in his eyes.
“OK, time you were off or you’ll miss the bus,” Charley said, knowing he still had plenty of time, but he obviously didn’t want to see his father this morning. She couldn’t blame him. She didn’t want to see Kyle either, but she had no choice.
Owen shot up from the table, grabbed his lunch and stuffed it in his school bag. His unfinished toast in one hand, he scurried out the door.
Charley waited, twisting her rings around on her finger. She glanced down at them. Plain gold wedding ring, solitaire diamond engagement ring, emerald and diamond studded eternity ring. She always twirled them when she was anxious and she was big-time anxious now.
What kind of mood will he be in? Was she safe?
Kyle strode into the kitchen, his tall, broad frame almost blocking the doorway. Arms held stiffly at his sides, he approached her, his eyes blazing with cold, dead light.
Charley had her answers. Her husband was angry and she was definitely not safe.