Monday, 27 October 2008

Hanging in the balance

I knew that I had made a promise but I couldn't’help it. I had been pacing my small kitchen to my own rhythmic drum, the tempo increasing as I heard laughter from above. My legs shook, my ice cold hands trembled.

I had been told to stay downstairs, that I was to show respect in order for the ‘right’ to happen and that I should trust what had been promised; that the call would be the last, and then it would be over and our lives would return. The problem was, I didn't believe it.

After ten minutes of pacing, I opened the kitchen door and as I stood in the doorway I planned my route across the wooden floor to avoid dangerous spots that would signal my move. I was reminded of the childhood games with my brother where we would find ourselves trapped on a sinking ship or island surrounded by quicksand. We had used our survival skills to escape and get to the safety of the sofa. I needed those skills, for it was fight of flight; I was choosing fight.

I made sure there was some noise to distract my crossing by turning up David Attenborough’s soothing tones on the television; would the lioness survive? Then, with a lightness in my step I stayed close to the wall and successfully reached the my first safety point. I could hear his voice, he hadn’t closed the bedroom door and niceties of their conversation caused my breath to stutter as I swallowed a scream.

Poised for the next step, I took a large stride through the doorway, the floor creaked echoing up through the pipes, I balanced on one foot as I heard his steps across the floor and the bedroom door close. Taking advantage of his movement I made two more steps and landed on the bottom stair. My heart raced with adrenaline. I looked up to the zenith, fourteen steps was all I had to take. I shifted my body around and climbed two steps on all fours, my legs and arms reaching to the corner of each step. I stopped, deep breath, two more, then again. As I stretched out my arm to the next step, it creaked, my body froze as did their conversation. It soon started again as I pivoted onto my behind. I had made it halfway and their conversation was clearer. There was laughter. How dare he laugh? I tried to make a mental note of the random words; they may come in useful as evidence: Oxford, Canterbury, conference, weekend. I needed to get closer. I re positioned myself and begun the climb to the top, three steps to go and another creak - my knee was positioned on the lose board, if I lifted, the alarm would be signalled and my position compromised.

Slowly I reached out and laid my torso on the landing, my legs unable to move. With stealth, I pulled myself along the wool carpet burning my chest, I tried again to move my knee but all I could do was stretch my legs out behind me. I was in a Mission Impossible position, balanced on my stomach, thankful for my paunch , arms and legs in a starfish position. I steadied my breath and pricked up my ears.

I was not hearing what I wanted. Pivoted on my stomach I stayed for fifteen long minutes, unable to go forward or to go backwards. When the bedroom door finally opened, he stepped out and over my body which was still hanging in the air of betrayal.

“I knew you were there” he said as he descended the stairs, “Do you want a cup of tea?”

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