Everyone Has to Sleep, Said Mother
Sometimes Justice Comes in Unexpected Packages
Julie was my friend, but she was also a coward. We had both experienced similar threats, beatings and attacks. But her way was to cower and cry and keep tolerating. Mine was to get out when I could and never return.
But wait, I'm ahead of myself. Really, it began with my mother.
Mother had a number of cherished phrases. There's another of your mum's precious precepts, dad would say - though not usually within her hearing. One of her most favoured was "Everyone has to sleep."
With a sharp gleam of warning in her eyes.
She put up with a lot from my father, though not without robust protest. But she protected us as best she could. When she was physically present he'd never dare lay a hand on us, and was held back from worse excesses by the knowledge of her imminent wrath.
And sometimes, in conversation over endless cups of tea - conversation was the stock in trade back before the internet dissolved our human ties so effectively - there'd be discussion of a man in the news, or some local gossip about a man who had assaulted children.
The rage in the eyes of both my parents was real and immediate on these occasions.
My mother said if anyone hurt her child she'd skin him alive and enjoy his screams.
My father would have held them down for her.
"To put up with it for yourself is one thing, but to put up with it for your children makes you a coward. No woman who lets a man do this to their child deserves to be called a mother" said my mother.
I learned some lessons well.
When her eyes lit up with that azure nuclear furnace, few dared to disagree. But occasionally an aunt, friend or cousin would pathetically sputter "Well, maybe she was scared of him."
A feeble attempt to excuse the inexcusable horror of not dying to protect your child, if dying was required.
My mother would turn her sphinx like demeanour on whomever cowered in front of her and say "Everyone has to sleep" in a mild, contemplative voice.
And the corner of her mouth would lift in almost imperceptible hint of menace.
So Julie was my friend, Judy and Julie, two peas in a pod, people used to say.
But she was also a coward.
We had both known similar threats, beatings and attacks. But her way was to cower and cry and keep tolerating. Mine was to get out when I could and never return.
And then she had a child. A boy with a cupid's bow mouth like his mother, and soft blonde curls. A beautiful child with bright, questing eyes and a cheery disposition. Whose eyes and disposition one day began to inexplicably darken.
Julie must have seen what I saw.
Perhaps some hide their behavior better than others. But I saw her husband with her son and I knew what I knew.
And I could sense the knowledge lurking in the underneath, under her bright, frenetic cheer. In the murk where we hide our deepest, most desperate fears.
I tried to broach it with her, and she shut it down completely. It was hidden in her tone, her denial, the quaver as her eyes danced around the room skittishly. It was then I knew she knew, for sure.
I apologized for my stupidity. She was relieved. Grateful.
So what now? Police, denial, threats, courts, accusations, gossip, slander and attacks. And all the while the continuation of the torture of the innocent. Or?
Jules had a strict rule, one which always made me laugh internally. She would never get drunk around her son. Pretending his father was a good man she could live with, but slurring her words was a bridge too far. So if she was drinking, she always sent her boy to her sister's house.
It didn't take a lot to convince them to share my alcohol. I'd won a prize, I told them. And it was too much grog for one woman to manage.
It hadn't taken much for Jules to convince her doctor to give her Valium for her painful back either. She was careful to always keep a few up high, out of reach. Just in case.
So he was safe, away from his father's malevolent clutches and his mother's craven betrayal that Saturday.
When I left, I made sure the neighbors saw me laughing and waving goodbye, called my happy farewells back into the silent house and jumped into an Uber. Left some music playing, not loud enough to disturb anyone nearby, left a few lights on.
Though by this time, they were both sound asleep on the couch.
It was a terrible tragedy. Awful thing for her sister to discover. Looked like an intruder had taken him out first with one of the kitchen knives, before delivering the blow to her heart.
It wasn't a great neighborhood, it was probably just some junkie who was wandering past - an opportunistic criminal. Criminals often rob their own neighbors.
They wondered if Julie had started to wake up and startled the intruder. She had one defensive wound on her hand, but he had slept right through.
A mercy really.
The person or persons unknown who did it made off with some cash, a little jewelry, and a couple of bottles of grog.
He was a young, strong man in the prime of life. He might have fought off an intruder if he'd been awake and aware. She might have had time to cry out, to do something. If only they hadn't had a few drinks. If only they'd been awake.
What a shame.
But everyone has to sleep.
Read more about Judy's very specific form of justice in "A Mother's Just Deserts - the Good Teacher.
About the Creator
Alison Tennent - The Celtic Chameleon
Just open your veins and write.
Find me on Substack https://celticchameleon.substack.com/
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content