I can see the little tike from my window again. Jasmine. Normally, she’s such a bubbly little girl with a cheery laugh and a smile for everyone. Today she looks lost and alone. Four years old with the worries of the world on her back. And there is nothing I can do to help.
Just yesterday, she waved up at me as I leant from my window and watched her and her friends at play. They were trying with all their might to turn the hideous toy that her father had brought home from some scrapyard or junk shop.
It had creaked in its rustiness and refused to budge more than a few inches. I had urged them to greater efforts but what force could three infants exert against the rigid metal?
Optimistic children that they were they had plonked themselves on the backs of the creatures and pretended to ride for all they were worth, whooping and giggling as if at Disneyland. Their smiles had been genuine, unlike the gargoyle faces of the freak show on the ride.
Undaunted they had been in the face of failure and it made me realise again how hardy and resilient children can be.
Not like today. Resilience is not what I see etched on her face. Sadness is there. And a hopeless realisation that life is not going to be the same after today.
I can hear their voices from here, yelling at each other while that little angel listens to the people she loves the dearest tear strips from one another.
I can hear the mother screaming at him to just get out, to let her get on with her life and leave her with the little one. But, he’s having none of it. He’s not so loud but I can make out his bass voice ranting in return.
Jasmine glances up at me and I smile kindly at her. What else is there for me to do? I can see her eyes glistening with tears from here even while she tries to adopt a stoic pose for my benefit.
Four years old. That’s all she is. For the four short years of her life she has listened to them haranguing each other on an almost weekly basis. The routine is always pretty much the same.
He comes home the worse for wear. Drink and drugs, I’m pretty sure. He’s not a particularly aggressive type, I don’t think. At least, not around the child. But, I have seen him lift his hand to the mother. He’s never yet hit her that I’m aware of but then I don’t see inside their house. I just hear from across the way.
He accuses her of all sorts of things. Just last week she fled into the yard from her house and he came after her, shouting that she was a slag and a whore. Well, God bless me, I don’t know where he gets these ideas from. That mother is always with Jasmine; playing with her, tickling her, reading her stories while they sit at the back door. She barely has time to wipe her nose let alone entertain anyone. And, if she had been, I would have noticed.
Not much gets by me. I’m always in the same position every day, watching the world go by. And it makes for a great alternative to television. Why, a few weeks ago, I was able to help the police with their enquiries, as they say. I had spotted the culprit as soon as he clambered over the wire fence at Jasmine’s back garden. Up to no good, I knew, straight away.
Every house had been in darkness except theirs and her father had sneaked out the back door to meet with the intruder. I had seen them exchanging packages. I’ve seen enough of the world and how it’s reported to know bad news when I see it. Idle men with nothing to do but push their nasty wares on an unsuspecting public.
One quick phone call was all it had taken. I was quite surprised at how quickly the squad car had arrived. They had been in through the garden gate and caught that man before you could say, bless me.
The no-good father, of course, had slipped back inside before they knew he was involved.
I’ve watched closely ever since, keeping a careful eye out, knowing that I’d catch him at it again.
And I did.
I don’t know why he’s roaming free after the information I gave the police. You’d think they’d have him locked up by now. I mean, what does a person have to say to get someone arrested?
Wasn’t it enough that he had been dealing drugs?
Jasmine peeps up at me again and now there is no pretence from her to hide her tears. They’re rolling down her cheeks and her tiny shoulders are shaking.
Without even realising what I’m doing my hand snakes out to lift the phone receiver and I dial.
Even if I have to lie I will rid him from their lives. And I can lie.
Too many years I spent covering for the sins of my husband while he beat me. And my son watched. He watched the repeated show until he could watch no more. He’s inside now, serving a life sentence for patricide. That’s what someone called it. Murdered his father, he did. Everyone talked and looked at me, like I was to blame. And I was.
I hid away. But I watch every day, as the worst shows enacted are played out in real life. I do what I can to help now. And good riddance, is what I say.