Friday, 21 June 2013

The Last Time.

It was New Year's Eve, and the snow was falling heavily. The hustle and bustle of city life was becoming more vibrant every second. Crowds of people, all making plans to bid a fond farewell to 2011 and welcoming the new year in with open arms, overly optimistic smiles and unquestionably bad renditions of Auld Lang Syne. Throughout the town, people were buying assorted crates of alcohol, fireworks and all of the essential things required to see the new year in in style. This was no different for Hetty Jefferson and her partner Michael. They had been invited to Hetty's sister Ruth's party, a routine they were particularly familiar with. Despite this, Hetty loved it. Being able to celebrate the festivities of the season, surrounded by nearest and dearest. However, this year would be the most memorable, and for the entirely wrong reasons.

Hetty was walking down the cobbled high street, somewhat impractically dressed, bound for home. It was late afternoon, and she had been collecting last minute things for the party. She was wearing a red dress that came just above her knee, black patent stilettos and a fur coat, the expensive kind, probably worth a few months' wages. She was heavily made-up; her lashes defined with several coats of mascara, rouged cheeks and a hint of scarlet hung closely to her lips. Her red hair, complimented by her pale skin tone, hung in loose curls, and struck her face ever so slightly when she walked. The snow continued to fall and occasionally a flake or two would settle comfortably in her hair or on her cheek, before gently melting away and leaving a tell-tale streak in her carefully-perfected make-up.

Hetty was very obviously attractive, with carefully sculptured eyebrows, a wide mouth, and strong, defined cheekbones. She held her head high, and smiled enthusiastically at anyone she passed in the street, the excitement of the new year build-up was becoming infectious. Soon she arrived at her front door. Her slightly elevated sense of happiness continued as she fumbled with her key in the lock while trying to juggle her shopping; party streamers, confetti, a few bottles of reasonably-priced champagne, and too many helium balloons for it to be considered practical, all donned with 'happy new year' in fancy lettering. Hetty stumbled clumsily through the door, kicked off her shoes and relinquished ownership of her bags on the kitchen table, where she met Michael. They had been together for five years now, and as far as Hetty was concerned, she had never been happier. Michael was tall, with dark hair and eyes to match. They had met through a mutual friend, and had been together ever since.

They exchanged greetings, minimal but amiable, before Hetty journeyed upstairs to decide on her outfit and begin getting ready. Michael, who had already assumed a position in front of the television, was watching the news, but then begun to frantically flick through the channels, dissatisfied. He took yet another drag of his cigarette before stubbing the remainder of it into the glass ashtray, balanced precariously on the coffee table. Upstairs, Hetty was raking through her wardrobe, an air of impatience about her. The clock had already struck six, and she had yet to find something appropriate to wear. After trying on an abundance of dresses, she finally settled on one that accentuated her curves; an emerald-green cocktail dress. She then began to curl her hair, wrapping each strand around her tongs with artistic precision, before solidifying her tresses with a gallon of hairspray.

A few hours passed, and the party was in full swing. Ruth was in the kitchen, plating up the food she had been fussing over for the last hour, while guests mingled, alcohol in tow. Michael had found refuge in the corner of the room, and was clutching a bottle, occasionally swigging its contents and then puffing on countless cigarettes. He looked fed-up, and had started to get rowdy. The more he drank, the more aggressive he became, to the point where Hetty could no longer disguise her embarrassment, and suggested they leave. Michael, slurring his words, began shouting and protesting. Hetty, apologising profusely to her friends, rang a taxi, and the couple ventured home. She hardly breathed a word to him on the ride home, emphasising her annoyance and humiliation. However, as soon as they were behind closed doors, Michael's disposition soon became aggressive again. The insults overflowed. Hetty, disgusted at her boyfriend's drunken state, started to walk away, but he sharply grabbed her arm so they were face to face.

Michael's drunken state caused him to lash out. Hetty thought the stream of verbal abuse she was receiving stung, until she felt the force of his knuckles hit her cheek. As his large fist came into contact with her face, she stumbled backwards and hit her head off the stone fireplace. The room began to spin, but she could still faintly hear Michael's drunken slurs. She blinked hard, shielded her face with her crumpled, now shaking hands, and succumbed to a paralysing state of shock. Michael then muttered something about “getting some air” and the front door slammed, causing the noise to reverberate around the house. As soon as she was sure he had left, Hetty ran into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her and slowly sinking to the floor. Holding her knees tightly towards her chest, she became hysterical.

Her once-pristine make-up was no more, her mascara-ed eyes became sodden, and her tears fell with such violence that they left behind spatters of dirty grey down her cheeks. The brave face she had been withstanding for the past few hours finally broke away, revealing a somewhat younger sense of self. She struggled to catch her breath, gasping for air between stolen sobs. Hetty was 27, but with tears cascading down her cheeks, she appeared to be a teenager again. Her head was throbbing, a result of Michael's violent outburst and the sheer amount of tears she had shed. Exhausted, terrified and dazed, Hetty felt herself drifting slowly into a deep sleep.

The next thing she knew, Hetty awoke, to find herself curled up, foetus-like, on the ceramic tiles of the bathroom floor. They were cold and really uncomfortable. After a few minutes confusion as to her whereabouts, she shakily pulled herself to her feet, and caught sight of her reflection in the bathroom mirror.  Her right eye was painful, the bruising already developed; a harsh mix of purples and greys. Her head was pounding, an incessant kind of headache that just wasn't letting up. She wandered over to the sink, splashed her face with tepid water, and headed to the kitchen in search of pain relief, hoping with every ounce of her being that she wouldn't find Michael there. Waiting.

Her hands, still shaking, managed to retrieve some painkillers from one of the kitchen cabinets. The remnants of a cup of coffee were on the bench, she took a gulp, dehydrated, then, realising the contents are stone-cold, winced and poured the remainder down the sink. Armed with Aspirin in one hand, she reached for the bottle of whiskey that has been sitting quietly  on the bench since the night before, a mild, impartial observer to the turbulence. She struggles to unscrew the top, as her right hand is still clutching the tablets, but when she does, she slips them slowly into her mouth, takes an appropriate swig of whiskey and swallows harshly. She winces again, and recoils as the alcohol stings the back of her throat. Her stomach rumbles, but she is unable to face any food, still too nervous and shaken-up.

Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted, as the front door slammed shut and she heard footsteps in the hallway. They came face-to-face for the first time since Michael's vicious outburst. For a few seconds, no one uttered a word, then, Michael persevered with his tirade of abuse. Hetty, filled with rage, and feeling somewhat empowered, told him exactly what she thought of him. The reaction she got wasn't one she was hoping for.

As Michael raised his hand to her, Hetty decided, this would be the last time. In a fury of panic, shock and anger, she grabbed the nearest thing at her disposal, the half-empty bottle of whiskey, and thrust it towards Michael's head, in a desperate bid for self-defence. As the bottle hit his skull, it smashed; fragments of glass and whiskey scattered around the kitchen. His eyes went glassy, the smug expression that had been sitting so effortlessly on his face vanished, and then his eyes glazed over completely. Immediately, he hit the floor with an almighty  thud, and drifted slowly into a state of unconsciousness.

Hetty toyed with the idea of dialling 999, she even had the phone in her hand, but something in her caused her to prevail.  She took one last look at the man who had once been, and if she was being honest with herself, still was, the love of her life, now lying battered on their kitchen floor, with blood trickling down the side of his temple. A single tear rolled down her cheek, but she held her head high. She walked into the hallway and picked up her handbag, before slamming the front door behind her. When she reached the end of the street, she just kept walking.

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