Rita’s eyes were still red raw from crying. She told her sister she hadn’t slept all night, but it wasn’t true. If she’d been awake she would have heard her father going downstairs, heard the creak of the rocking chair in the back kitchen, the sound of the conversation he’d had with her mother when she found him down there, and the whistle of the kettle as her mother made him a brew when he wouldn’t come back to bed.
No, Rita had been oblivious to what was going on in the house while she slept a deep and undisturbed sleep, despite the damp pillow and swollen eyelids.
When she made her way downstairs that morning, her father had already left. To get picked for a shift on the docks you had to be there before seven. Rita poured herself a cup of tea and sat down at the table. She wrinkled her nose at the smell of burnt toast.
‘You’ve a face on ya like a busted cabbage and your eyes are all puffed up,’ said her sister, Katie. ‘You should put some cucumber on them.’
Rita scowled. She’d been hoping it wasn’t noticeable and anyway she knew there was no cucumber in the house.
‘What’s the matter? You been crying?’
‘Leave her alone,’ said their mother, knowing that Rita was never at her best in the morning.
But Katie was not easily rebuffed. ‘What were you and Father arguing about last night? I heard you going at it like hammer and tongs after I’d gone to bed.’
‘Well if you heard, what are you asking for?’ Rita snapped. ‘Leave me alone.’ She flung down her half-eaten piece of toast and left the room. After a few moments they heard the front door slam.
‘She’s gone without me,’ said Katie, stating the obvious.
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