He never really liked them, not really. Although he said he did and he certainly liked the attention. 3 big dogs, walking to heel, big furry minders.
“yeah” he’d say
“attack dogs, trained, kill you on my say so”
And the dogs would look at him and then turn away, eyes fixed on me, tails wagging in unison.
They were just part of the whole package, CCTV, baseball bat leaning on the wall by the front door. Ready for some invasion, desperate to be the man who saw off some scumbag robber.
As if anyone was ever going to rob us, I mean really, we had nothing, ancient TV, CD player he found for a tenner at a car boot sale.
He spent more on security than he ever spent on the house or me for that matter.
Everything in the house was as tired as battered as our marriage. I felt about as attractive as the dingy sofa, sagging cushions, unfashionable fabric, yeah that pretty much was me to a tee.
But the dogs, the dogs had the best of everything, fresh meat, big leather collars, food bowls scrubbed out every day, coats brushed till they shone while he watched whatever sport was on the telly and moaned about our lack of Sky Sports.
When we sat on the sofa, the dogs would watch him, vigilant, noticing his every move
“yeah”, he’d nod, satisfied
“they know whose boss”
And he’d pat the nearest, not noticing the tiny flinch, the move away.
His hand just that bit too heavy.
The same way he never noticed my flinch when he touched the back of my neck, his hand just that fraction too heavy on me as well.
He wasn’t a bad man, not really, just stuck in a life he hadn’t planned, didn’t want and it made him angry, made him lash out and there was no-one else to lash out at, so he lashed out at me and the dogs watched, carefully.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was a battered woman or anything. No late night visits to A&E, no arguments with cupboard doors, well, not many and no-one at work ever asked why I wore so many long sleeved tops, polo neck jumpers, why I jumped if someone slammed a door too hard.
And besides, i had the dogs, some nights when things went badly wrong, afterwards, I would lie on the sofa, the bloody sofa, dogs wrapped round me, their weight a comfort, my hands deep in their fur, finding warmth when I felt so cold.
He liked me to walk the dogs, would watch us leave the house
“no-ones going to mess with you, not with them around you”
And then he’d go back to the TV, his beer, the match.
When things have been a bit bad for a long time, it takes something really bad for you to notice, to realise that a line has been crossed.
So, the day i couldn’t make it to work, couldn’t cover up the damage, couldnt face the world, I knew something had to change.
I sat for a very long time, staring at the front door, the dogs staying close, unsettled by the change of routine.
And then I heard his key in the door and me and the dogs all sat up straighter, poised.
And as he entered the room, I used the word, the attack word.
I wasn’t really sure what would happen, if they would actually do it.
But they did it, all 3 of them, moving towards him, fast, focused and for a minute, he didn’t quite know what was happening, thought it was a joke, almost a smile on his face.
And then the dogs were on him and he wasn’t smiling anymore and he was shouting.
I stood up, walked towards him, counting in my head
1 2 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10
And then I called the dogs off.
I saw him yesterday, I was out, walking the dogs and he saw us, started walking towards us.
I stopped and the dogs stopped at my heels.
He looked at me and he looked at them and then he crossed the road.
I’m buying a new sofa when I get paid this month.