The Last Time by Pat Mudge

Slivers of light flickered through the half-drawn curtains, illuminating the carpet in front of the window. Franny tiptoed across the room. Outside, a car, parked a few doors down, flashed its headlights. 

She sneaked downstairs, carefully placing both feet on each step. “Shh.” She slipped bare feet into fraying pink pumps and shoved her phone into the pocket of her denim jacket. Her fingers gripped the brass doorknob. She paused. “Easy does it.” Twisting the knob, she pulled the door towards her. It creaked. She froze and listened for her father’s feet stomping across the bedroom floor. The bed groaned but nothing more. She stepped outside, easing the squeaky door shut behind her. 

Bitter wind blew straight through her flimsy nightie. “Brrr.” She sucked in a deep breath, buttoned her coat up to the neck and started towards the car. 

“And where do you think you’re going?” He bellowed from an upstairs window. Franny spun round, her voice quaking as she said, “Anywhere as long as it’s away from you.” Her father’s gaze slithered from her long auburn locks to her tatty pumps. “No, I don’t think so.” He clocked the young man crouching behind the blue Ford Fiesta. 

“Oi,” he leaned out, resting massive forearms on the window ledge. “She ain’t going nowhere.” Franny gave her dad a defiant look. “You can’t stop me now.” 

Spittle landed on the front of his sweat stained vest as he shouted, “Get inside girl. You’ll be sorry if I have to come down and drag you back.” 

Franny sprinted for the car and clambered in. As they sped away, her brother asked, “Did he hurt you?” 

She unbuttoned her coat, lifted her nightie, rubbed her hand over a purple bruise on her hip. “For the last time. There's no going back.”

Published in Issue #7

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