Mask – by KATIE LEWINGTON

Mask

 

‘Do you think I’m dirty?’ he spat out the words into her face. Her hair was held in his fist like a bunch of balloons at the end of a string. ‘You know, I am dirty but I don’t think taking a shower is going to get me clean.’ He took a breath, while his eyes tried to meet hers. ‘You know, I was going to infect you ‘cos you’re just a filthy whore anyway, aren’t you?’ He released her, slamming her head against the plasterboard wall. ‘I know you. I know you exactly now so you better be watching for me.’

—–

The day for her had begun in the usual way. She woke, she had had two minutes to herself and then walked over to the window to open the curtains. She had stood for a moment almost like she was waiting for something. She strolled out into the hallway, knocking on her daughter’s bedroom door and then stepping into the bathroom, peeing and ducking underneath the shower. The tap still leaked, the plant still dead on the mouldy windowsill and with the water still in the bath from her daughter’s bath last night. The decay in here seemed obvious. It wasn’t so evident in the rest of the house. It was Friday so she cooked bacon, made bacon butties. She loaded the dishwasher and tumble dryer, compiling a list of shopping she needed to get and clearing her daughter’s homework off the table and into her school bag. She poured herself a glass of orange juice, noticing in the mirror she still hadn’t wiped the sleeping dust from her eyes.

—–

He was a big man. Fleetingly when she was naked she felt vulnerable but then when he was unclothed she felt on top again. The male form was silly and as he dug into her with his penis she seized the bed sheets, releasing wild cries, helpless under him.

When he had had his hour she locked up and for lunch went to McDonald’s. Her body still rattled from the sex.

—–

She stood at the stairs the following morning. ‘Come on, you have to leave. You’re going to be late for school.’

‘Are you sure my hair looks alright?’ came the reply.

‘Yes, when I saw it it looked fine.’

Her daughter skipped down, her skirt high: above the thighs.

‘You’ve shortened that, take it down an inch,’ she said. Her daughter scowled but did so.

‘Love you,’ she called to her mum as her boyfriend collected her, on his way to school too.

‘And you’ She answered.

—–

On the bed messaging, their contact was through holding hands, thumb wrestling and giggling. Then there was the sound of the front door opening.

‘That your mum?’ He asks

‘Yeah’ she nods.

‘What’s she do during the day?’

‘Don’t know, work.’

‘Let’s meet her then.’

They clip clop down the stairs.

‘Hi mum.’

‘Hello. Hi Dominic. I’ve got to change my clothes, I’m going back out. Will you be alright for a couple of hours?’

‘Sure.’

When they were in the hall the two of them, mum gone, Dominic tugged her hand. ‘Show me now. We have ages,’ he said.

‘No let’s go to Nandos.’

‘Alright then,’ He tuts.

—–

‘Take a pic then. Show me-‘ He messages her as she reaches her form room on the second bell and so then did a u turn to the toilets. Locked in a cubicle, she nuzzled her boobs together to form a cleavage. She took a pic of her V too. She had shaved it like on the pornos. The sound effect of the snap of the shot shook her. She had to sign in late before rushing to her lesson.

‘Where you been?’ Jo asked, as she sat next to her.

‘Later,’ She answered, shaking her hair from the collar of her blazer.

She didn’t want to bump into Dominic as she hadn’t sent the pictures yet. She sat on a toilet during break, messaging mates. She really fancied a Mars Bar but that would have to wait now.

She sent the pictures as she walked home, deciding to go there straight from school. Get into bed and wait to see what Dominic said, if anything.

Falling asleep she woke in the night. Her phone was lit up and it wouldn’t drop, kept on flashing like an SOS signal. She picked it up like you would a hot coal, scrolling through social network sites.

She couldn’t sign into one and when she searched herself she discovered why. There were pictures, the pictures she had taken for Dominic. Somebody had hacked into her accounts, that happened to everybody, but nobody else had these pictures. She had only shot them yesterday. She trusted Dominic, had. He must have done this but why.

‘Mum?’ She called. ‘Mum?’

‘What’s wrong?’ her mum asked, her nightdress tucked into her knickers and hair swept in a curtain over her face. She instantly forgot that and touched her daughter’s creased forehead, wanting to hug her but that wouldn’t be tolerated.

‘Wanted to know you were in,’ her daughter said. She left her daughter and went back to her bed, thoroughly puzzled and then sighed, noticing. She straightened the sheet on her lonely double bed that she no longer shared, although sometimes she would be joined by the cat.

—–

She knew it would be hell in school that morning. That it couldn’t have possibly been dreamt, it had hurt for one thing. She concealed breakfast in the bin from mum, though she seemed to be busier this morning, chiding her for this and that. She didn’t want to go to school but felt she had to get from under her mum’s feet.

However she tried not she still got to school, her stomach churned.  Was it just paranoia or were people’s faces turned away from her? Harry always said hello but he almost sent her off her feet this morning, his face blank and Marnie’s was scornful, walking away as she approached her. She chose to go to form. She didn’t see Dominic until the next day and the pictures were blowing about, metaphorically speaking, like chip papers on a sea front. Her friends were tagging the photos ‘Like mother, like daughter’

She confronted Dominic. ‘Your mum’s a hooker’ He sneered as she tried to explain to him what she had rehearsed in the mirror at home. That was what made her cry finally, she felt like a Muppet and she howled in the toilets. Everybody knew how she was naked. She was vulnerable.

Her face blotchy, she couldn’t bear to go to double science, and stumbled, keeping close to the wall, to the school nurse, begged to be let home and though the nurse agreed, she vanished from the sickroom and she was alone there, head bowed all afternoon. Dreading if anybody harsher, a deputy head, came by her and demanded answers to why she was there. She would think her pathetic and even worse if the staff knew about the pictures, doubly pathetic.

She sobbed home going to her bed. Her stomach was iron and she wasn’t hungry.

——

After a few days of what she considered to be moping, she asked her daughter if Dominic had finished with her.

‘No,’ she wailed, tears rolled down her cheeks.

‘Then what-‘

‘You’re a hooker. That’s what he said!’ she screeched. That bought her time. Her mother left her alone. She did not want to be alone and she didn’t want to be ignored. She wanted to explain even though nobody seemed to want to know. She had tried to close her accounts, to delete those stupid pictures but there were new pages on the sites titled ‘Cathy’s pussy.’ When would people forget about it, next week? After the weekend she hoped and then people would draw nearer to her again.

Her mum tried once more.

‘Is there-‘ She brought jam and toast to her bed on Saturday morning. ‘Anything you would like me to know?’

She showed mum the pictures and hugged her so as not to see the disappointment on her face.

‘Silly girl,’ her mum patted her back then her palm lay still, flat on it, she thought. ‘I’ll go to the school Monday and get this sorted.’

‘Well how will that help?’

‘It will, have faith. Haven’t I got you out of a lot of things?’

——

Monday a call came while she watched the kettle boil. Her mind elsewhere she did not check the callers ID, a client most likely, and answered a bright ‘Hello?’

‘You husband stealing bitch, is he with you now?’

A wife, her mood sunk, and she observed a bird flutter past the window. ‘Is he with you now? Has he gone to work, really, is he there?’

‘Oh listen to yourself!’ she snapped, disconnecting the call. She twisted on a tap and put the phone under the gush of water, instead of the mug she wanted to rinse. She shook off the phone and stared off into space again. How was she going to talk to her daughters tutor about these photos? He was a male, it would compromise him.

She leapt when the phone rang. This time she approached it carefully. It was, thankfully, a client. He wanted to cancel and there was her perfect opportunity to go to the school. Today it was Monday, would nip it in the bud, and she got inside her car. Drove to the petrol station to fill her up. She bought the newspaper and a bag of revels. It didn’t seem enough to eat them reading the paper in the car so she took them to the bench on a hill. The wind blew the paper, smudged her fingers with ink and she scattered the revels trying to control it. She stamped on the crumpled paper in her heels, splattering the revels too. Heels, why hadn’t she changed into her trainers?

Chest heaving she sat to get her puff back, gathering her hair in a tail to stop that going and shut her eyes. She was afraid to open them in case that man, that threatening man, was beside her. She seemed to see him everywhere she went. Sometimes she swore they were daft hallucinations.

She must go to the school, cocking up her own life, no point doing that to her daughters too. The man wouldn’t care for long. He wouldn’t put her in any real danger and that wife, she had had wives calling before. Some of the wives wanted to know if her services were available to them too and she said they were.

****

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Katie Lewington loves her boyfriend, bacon sandwiches, poetry and reality TV. She is a published poet. She reads fiction for The Pithead Chapel Journal and poetry for the Transcending Shadows review and Punks Write Poems Press. You can read her book reviews at https://katiecreativewriterblog.wordpress.com and find out about her upcoming YA novel here https://www.facebook.com/Its-love-until-somebody-says-otherwise-1736681486563835/

*Photography by Brian Michael Barbeito*

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