“Daddy, can I get a drink? Please, can I? I’ll be good. I’ll just go and get one. I won’t disturb you.”
Stella jumped down off the brown, leather sofa in her pretty white dress with splashes of red. She smiled through her freckles at her daddy who was in his usual position in front of the television.
His smart casually dressed middle-aged figure was unconscious, but the TV played out its early morning delivery of news and cartoons anyway. The long thick velvet curtains drooped onto the oak wood floor hiding the daylight. Outside, Melford Terrace W4 and its adjacent wynd down to the river were stirring as London came alive and prepared to bustle.
Stella skipped through the open door to the kitchen where in contrast to the front room, the sunlight was streaming in, warming the still air above the cold mosaic floor and lighting the white fitted units. She opened the fridge, which was low and accessible for her four-year-old frame. She surveyed the contents and immediately discounted the shining remains of daddy’s Belgian export lager.
Her beautiful mummy had said that daddy had really loved it and that he may be liked it too much. When he was drinking lager he would have been at home in front of the TV. Like now.
Mummy had said she preferred it when he was drinking Bombardier.
“He likes it best from the Bull on the Green, where I can be with my favourite, my margarita,” said Stella’s mother.
“She didn’t say that they would then have left me with the Taylors.”
“She didn’t say that she liked her margarita more than me. But I know!”
“Serves her right!”
The milkman clinked his wares in the awakening street below and inside Stella’s gaze rested on the Tizer. In her few years she had already watched, on her own, many hours of adverts and knew that this is what you take after drinking beer. She took out the bottle and poured the red liquid into the pint mug that she had used last night.
It was fizzy and made her hazel eyes blink in its close effervescence as she scoffed the lot. She was still thirsty, so she returned to the fridge and refilled the glass. Again, she blinked and smiled widely as the soda streamed down her throat and some went up her nose.
“I must go wee now,” she thought remembering the process her mummy had instilled.
Stella, on tiptoes, reached up and pulled herself on to the toilet seat and piddled for ages. She then went to wash her hands at the sink using her personal footstool to gain the height that she needed. The leaver taps were easy to use and she scrubbed away some of the marks from her dress.
Looking in the mirror the petite bright-eyed girl with thick curly hair smiled back at her. She had seen her before. She was her friend. Her only friend!
Mummy had been her friend, but mummy had said that she had another friend. Mummy had wanted to go and see her friend with daddy at the Bull. Stella did not like that.
“Mummy should only want me,” she whispered to herself.
“Mummy was my friend. So was daddy.”
“Why did they want to leave me with the nasty Taylor’s?”
“I hate the Taylors and I am not staying there!” Stella exclaimed, stamping her feet.
“Mummy and Daddy didn’t listen,” she muttered sternly, her bottom lip quivering.
“They didn’t know what they did to me.” Her mood blackened in the deep focus of torment as it did when she thought of her parents.
“Just get your supper!” Mummy had snapped busy with her hairspray.
It had been exactly this statement that had taken her to the fridge last night and exposed her to the neat rows of cans that daddy liked.
“If daddy likes it then so will I,” she had thought.
She had placed daddy’s glass on the round see through table and had poured the first can in. Just like daddy did but the result was frothier. It had tasted funny.
“Daddy liked it so it must be good,” she had thought.
She had persevered and after consuming the first can, had began to like the sweet, strong, clear liquid. After the second she had been reeling.
“I better tell daddy,” she had said.
Her eyes had closed in the kitchen and opened in front of the fireplace in the living room. Daddy had gulped a few times but did not respond when she had prodded him sharply. Mummy had been much the same, but had screamed at her. Mummy’s do.
She swung down off the washbasin and put the stool away.
“I had better change my dress. This one is no use for nursery,” she thought
“I’ll go upstairs. Mummy will help,” she said, vacantly.
Inside her, the alcohol gave way to shivers that covered her whole body for nearly half a minute and momentarily fixed her on the horrible reality. Deep down in her dark dilemma she knew what awaited her up in the back bedroom with its large, leather bed and solid, wooden furniture softened by a mother’s touch.
Stella climbed the curved open stairway. She navigated around the scattered soft toys on the landing and tip toed carefully into her mother’s room. The figure was still there with a stare fixed on the door opening through the musty haze. It was spread out on the bed still half dressed for a night out.
Tugging at her mother’s skirt and seeking attention, Stella said. “Mummy. Mummy. Can you help me change into a clean dress?” She smelled the Youth Dew that would be in her nose forever.
“Please, mummy. Help me. Please,” she pleaded, stamping the floorboards in a semi-tantrum.
“I’ll be a good girl mummy. I will. I really need my dress changed and daddy can’t help me.”
Stella’s mummy did not move. Her long black hair shone in the morning sunshine and touched the border of the same bloodstains that had blotted Stella’s dress when she had tried to cuddle her earlier. Her mummy would not see the light today or any other day. Stella looked on distantly, sobbing.
“Mummy, if you change me I will be good, and you see your friend, and I will not poke you with daddy’s stick any more,” she said in a slow, soft, rhyming voice.
Her daddy’s small, sharp, ornamental sword had been lying on the hearth when she had staggered through to try and awaken him from his evening doze. It now lay on the blood stained bedroom carpet.
“I don’t think daddy liked getting poked either but he hasn’t said anything. He just lies in front of the TV as usual”. She continued looking away and then returning to fix an angry stare on her mother’s pale cold face.
“Help me mummy and you can see your friend Margaret. But, please take me with you. Don’t leave me with the Taylors.”