Ruby rolls the sole of each foot on the stair carpet, ears pinned for warning signs. Inside her sock, each millimetre of skin has to touch the fluffy surface so she can delay her progress. It’s always like this now. Scared to stay but dreading the walls of her bedroom.
Some days it’s a slammed door. Others, it’s the tone in his voice, the ‘aar’ of ‘darling’ oozing contempt. And the relentless taunts of her mother, about the life she could have had, the life she should have had.
The items at the side of the stairs collect dust: the torch to show visitors out, toilet roll for the bathroom, the mended radio. They aren’t taken to their destinations or even seen anymore. And no-one ever visits.
Ruby pulls herself up on the bannisters, another game she plays with herself, a fireman climbing a pole. Or an Olympic gymnast swinging on bars. The girlie name plaque emblazons her bedroom door. The ‘keep out’ sign, both erected by a different father, when he smiled and laughed and took them for walks with the dog.
She slides down onto the carpet, and the threadbare rug, joining her friends: her pens and pencils and her chunky pad. And the plastic pony from Auntie Mary.
Downstairs it’s gone quiet. She wasn’t listening but hears anyway.
And in the corner, the tap still drips.
Ruby closes her eyes. Connects with her heart’s wish. May Mummy and Daddy be happy again.
And may I feel safe.
Vicky Newham © 2015