She stood at the sink looking at her hands. Dishpan hands
he’d called them, more than once and in a mean way.
She wouldn’t argue that point. She knew and agreed
that that’s what she now had - dishpan hands. But
they were talented hands, experienced hands, hands that
held a secret. They were her hands, good, strong, almost
honest, and loyal. Loyal to him, they’d never wandered,
never strayed, never held or touched another, not since
they’d been together. That meant a lot to her and
it should have meant a lot to him.
She couldn’t decide what to do about the dishes that
lay in the sink, whether to wash them or not. She glanced
at the kettle – no, she would leave them for now and
make herself some tea. That was always the best thing to
do in a crisis, have a cup of tea. She filled the kettle
and lit the gas on the cooker, placed the kettle on the
ring, sat down at the kitchen table, lit a cigarette and
waited. As she watched the kettle her mind wandered, she
looked at her hands and she remembered that he hadn’t
always been like that. He’d met her in the park when
she was sketching. She was going to be an artist.
The kettle whistled. She stubbed out the cigarette and
walked across the kitchen, careful not to slip. She stared
at the dishes in the sink and the frying-pan as it sat on
the draining board – maybe she should just wash it,
she thought. No - tea first. She carefully returned to her
seat and lit another cigarette. She didn’t used to
smoke so much. She didn’t used to smoke at all. But
that’s what happens when your circumstances change
– you change with them. She held the cup between her
hands. Hands that were worked rough and calloused –
no longer artist’s hands. She sipped the unsweetened
tea and looked around the kitchen. So what if she never
cleaned another dish, or washed another floor, or cooked
another meal? He’d never complain again. He’d
never tell her that she was nothing without him. He was
gone and she was glad. He’d left her a couple of times
before, but this time he wouldn’t be back. She was
They’d known each other two weeks when they moved
in together. She told him it was the happiest day of her
life, actually the second happiest. The day they met was
the happiest and he was the best thing to have happened
to her. He was kind, generous and considerate. But men always
are, for a while. They buy flowers and chocolates. They
take you for romantic meals and tell you how gorgeous you
look. They notice everything about you, if you’ve
changed your hair, your lipstick, your eye shadow or your
perfume. They notice your smile and your eyes. Especially
your eyes – they tell you how beautiful they are and
how they ‘get lost’ in them.
Her eyes scanned the wreckage of the kitchen as she sipped
her tea. She didn’t drink herbal tea anymore –
another of the changes in her life. She didn’t paint
or draw or sketch. She had hundreds of pieces of artwork
in the attic, all from a very long time ago. Or was it?
She’d met him just three years ago and it was perfect.
But as time passed the little things she’d do, that
he once found endearing, irritated him. No matter how hard
she tried to meet his standards within the home they were
never good enough. He’d changed and it wasn’t
just because of her. She couldn’t remember when the
changes happened, but she did notice that gradually he became
different. He would become sullen and introverted, he wouldn’t
discuss his day and showed no interest in hers. As he became
more isolated he snapped and criticised anything and everything
about her. She’d try to explain. “Excuses”
he’d say, dismissing her with a roll of his eyes,
She remembered the first time he hit her. He’d been
drinking and came home very late. He came into the bedroom,
stumbled and staggered, fell onto the bed and tore at his
clothes. Her eyes were shut tight, senses on full alert,
as he crawled up the bed. He still had his shirt and jacket
on, his trousers around his ankles, his stale alcoholic
breath on her neck. He turned her towards him and pressed
his mouth to hers. She asked him to stop, tears trickling
down her cheeks.
Then came the slap. Hard and unrestrained, it split her
lip and she bled onto the pillowcase. She was stunned and
submitted. No amount of make-up could cover the bruises.
It was too late for her – he was possessive and violent.
She was trapped.
She looked at the sink and the dishes and the frying-pan.
No. She wasn’t going to wash a thing. No more dishpan
hands. She lit another cigarette and looked at herself in
her compact mirror. Her face was swollen, battered and bruised.
Her whole body ached. Her clothes were encrusted in blood.
She looked at him. She wasn’t going to clean this
up. He would just have to lie there on the floor, in his
own blood, until she called the police.