There was only straw on the floor. Jane looked at her hands and saw they were rough from the work, but as she looked up her wrist her skin was younger, paler, and softer. She put her hands to her face and felt a different person beneath her fingers. Pulling her hair before her eyes she was still red, but the rest of her was another girl, from another time.
Jane could act as she wanted, at least that was what she felt. She never knew when she dreamed this way if she was simply doing what the previous incumbent of the body had done, whether she was really there, deep in her own past, her deep history taking a moment from someone while they perhaps took one elsewhere. Maybe they were in another body aeons previously or perhaps in the distant future, maybe when she had blank moments, minutes of her day that swept by without her noticing, that was someone from her own future taking her mind and exploring the suburban world of stock broker belt surrey.
She picked up the pail and walked out of the barn. The stone house was one she hadn’t seen before. It was morning and there was smoke coming from the chimney and movement in the kitchen.
Jane watched for a moment through the foggy glass. The woman fussed in the kithchen, baking bread or mixing up breakfast for children perhaps. Maybe it was for her. At the other end of the house was a roar of anger. Jane could see the fury as it stomped through the stone walls; the very masonry seemed to shake as it crashed towards the kitchen where the woman had frozen. Ready to receive calmly whatever it was that came rushing towards her.
‘Wha tha fuck hav ye dun ta ma shet?’ A bull figure stood over the seemingly tiny woman clutching a cloth, pushing it into herface
‘I dun nuthin’ came the meek reply, ‘onest bill, I didnae touchit’
‘Bitch’ he yelled and struck her in the way men do. The back of the hand across the face. The way a senior strikes a subordinate, the way an officer strikes a prisoner. Jane hatedmen for doing that. For treating women like underlings.
She could feel fear for the woman build up inside her, fear for what might happen. She hated the man, she knew that, but God knew why she did. If there was one that let men beat woman. She wondered if God really was a man. It made more sense that God was a woman. They are the only ones who bring life into the word, what did a man know anything about other than hurt and rape and beer. She felt the anger tingle at the tips of her fingers, the sky felt calm suddenly, like the moment a clap of thunder comes, but there was no eruption. The Thunder stayed, it waited. It waited for her.
Jane dropped the pail and rushed to the door. It flew open before her, splintering against the whitewashed wall. Jane felt her eyes burn as she looked at him: tall, muscular but overweight and ugly through years of drink and self-pity.
He did not see her but instead saw the door. His hand was wrapped around the throat of the woman. She was older, perhaps a mother. Her red hair and her face reminded Jane of Courtney, perhaps what she would look like in so many years. She held out her hand to plead, to stop. But not to the man, to her, to Jane. She could see what was about to happen.
‘Tha door’ he yelled, ‘what tha fuck didye do?’
Jane didn’t think, she just watched as the man clutched at his chest. His hand slipped away from the woman who ran to Jane. Her hands shaking Jane’s shoulders, tears and fear in her eyes before she resorted to beating across her face. Jane could feel the blows, could taste the blood in her mouth, but she did not stop watching the hateful coward die, whoever he was. She stood firm as the woman tried so desperately to stop her; anger seeping through her skin, her veins, leeching into the world and stifling the breath in the beast until there was nothing but a cold husk, twitching on the floor.
The woman turned and rushed to him.
‘Ya father’ she cried, ‘Annabel what ave youse done?’
Jane was still and watched without feeling as the woman, her mother, tended to the quickly stiffening corpse. She felt herself speak, though the words were not hers, nor the voice.
‘He had a heart attack ma’ she said, ‘that’s what we’ll tell em’
‘I don care what we tell ‘em’ the woman snarled as she stroked the cooling face of her husband. ‘I didn’t want this, I didn’t want it, why? Why?’
‘He was going to kill you ma, I couldn’t let him, I couldn’t. I saw it, I saw it.’ She pleaded.
Her mother stood, sharp emerald eyes bore into her.
‘But he was mine’ she growled.
Jane turned away. Unable to look at her grieving hysterical mother. In the corner of the room she saw a mirror and walked close to it. Her face was a vision of innocence. No more than thirteen she had loose hair and a freckled complexion. The difference was in her eyes. Her deep, sea green eyes from which such horrors and monster had escaped to take the life of her father.