"What has that bastard done this time?" I demand as I step aside, although the purple rings on her neck made it obvious. That bastard has no decency. First my daughter falls prey to him, now this. God, I'll never forgive him for what he's done to my baby girl. Glancing at the staircase, I should probably be up there now, but I don't want to wake her up. My little girl's been through enough after last night.

Silent as stone, Siobhan shuffles in, rubbing her arm and wincing when she thinks I'm not looking. I may not have some posh degree, but it doesn't take a genius to know that my now ex-boss(Thank God) has been smacking her around again. She glances around hall with an expression as though the devil himself is breathing down her neck, her eyes gulping down the white rug lying on the shiny wooden floor; the picture of Lauren at her first holy communion, her hair like a halo, her dress as bright as angels' wings; the picture of Pa as a young man. Fiddling with a bleached strand of hair, Siobhan looks at me with fearful, questioning eyes, but her mouth stays still, her jaw set as though she's too frightened to say what she came to.

"You want to ask something," I raise an eyebrow, forgetting my black eye for half a moment before the pain quickly reminds me. Nothing like getting battered in a back alley to let you know that you're no longer welcome.

Daring to make eye contact, she nods.
"I feel like a cow for asking... could... I've left Robert. Please... could I stay hear? Just for a few days while I find somewhere else. Please, I wouldn't ask but-" My expression cuts her off. She's got great timing. Haven't I got enough to worry about with Lauren?

I'm too bloody soft, that's my trouble. I see the tears well in her heavily made-up eyes. I watch as her fragile frame trembles. I don't need to see through her white sleeves to know about the bruises they conceal.

She looks so frightened, so frail. As though a soft kiss would shatter her.
"Fine. If it keeps you away from that twat," She winces at the venom in my tone. So she hasn't quite grown a full brain to fill her pretty head.
"Don't call him that, Billy, please,"
"He is one," I shrug. "No man worth his salt hits a woman," Even now, she's defending him. Funny, how love can be toxic if directed at the wrong sort. And she certainly loves him- though only God knows why.

"He's all right sometimes." The words are like a drop of water on a gaping, festering wound. Even before she says it, I hear that bloody clich that women are so fond of. You know, the one that basically means they're dating a dick head. "Y-you don't know him like I d-" "So why are you here then?" I demand, my eyes aimed at the necklace of bruising. Silly girl. What does he have to do to her before she learns sense? She'll end up in a body bag before she sees him for what he is. "If he's so bloody perfect, then why are you here?" Fists and jaw clenched, I step back to stop myself grabbing her wrists and shaking her.

Her lips barely move to shape the words. Thank God I stood in front of the sofa, or I'd have ended up on the floor.
"What?" For some reason, she lowers her eyes, as though she's too guilty to look at me.
"I'm pregnant," she whispers again, her shoulders hunched, a hand to her still-flat stomach. Bloody hell. She can't be more than a month gone. After what happened last time, there's no way she'd stay in that house for longer otherwise.

Before I can say a word, a deep, scratchy voice cracks through the letterbox.

"Siobhan! I know you're there! Open the door! Open the fucking door!What, too busy with that bastard, are you, you slag? Billy! Billy, are you there? Lay a hand on my bird, I'll kill you!"
"What the bloody hell's going on in here?" Pa's voice floats in. Crap, we must have woke him up. Footsteps pad to the door, following the noise of Thompson screaming like a loony. "Go away. I'll call the police," It's almost comical, the way that Pa doesn't even raise his voice to the bastard. of course, this just works Thompson up even more. The twat's like a chiuaua- always yapping, but there's no brain behind it. Calm as ever, Pa strides into the living room.
"He'll get bored eventually." Pa's answer for everything: Sit tight and pray to God that life sorts itself out. "Now, care to tell me what's happening?"

After I introduce Siobhan, Pa doesn't seem to mind the stranger in his home. Perhaps he sees the bruises through her shirt, too. Before Siobhan can have second thoughts about staying, I go upstairs get the spare room ready. While I'm there, I check on Lauren, tuck her in, give her a glass of water, empty the bucket by her bed, give her a kiss on the forehead and tell her how brave she is. Last night was the worst of it, I think. I hope. Like a baby grizzling, she still begs me to get her one last hit when she's awake, but I've thought ahead and flushed that shit away. It's hell, watching my little girl shaking, sobbing, taking that pain. Worse still, I know that there's only one thing I can give her to ease the pain. And if I do that, it'll probably kill her. And who's to blame? Gregory Thompson. Gregory fucking Thompson.

When I finally got downstairs, he'd got the message and buggered off. Just as well- if he'd still been there, I probably would've killed him right there. Once Pa stumbles off to bed and Von settles in the spare room, I stride into the kitchen and open a drawer. Thompson isn't one to give up, and it's never a bad idea to have an insurance policy.

Before I go to bed I place the knife on my dresser, just in case. It's a good five or six inches- long enough to do damage. He'll suffer if he tries anything- that's good. The police will go easy on me if he breaks in. Who wouldn't want to defend their house and family? After what he did to Lauren, to Siobhan, to me, it's not as though he'll be missed. In fact, I bet the police will be glad to be shot of a drug-pushing, woman-beating bastard like him. Pesticide, not murder.

I lay down to sleep. Set foot in my house, Gregory Thompson, and I swear I'll kill you.

You can hold me to that.