"No-one appreciates me. No-ones cares,". The cracked voice repeated the same lines. over and over, like a prayer. "No-one appreciates me. No-one cares,". The woman stooped to pick up a few items from the floor and caught sight of herself in the mirror. Overweight, lost her looks a long time ago. Couldn't afford to keep her hair cut any more and the long greying strands hung loosely around her lined face. Only 45 and she looked like a grandmother. A short harsh laugh broke the silence, then the woman noted the time. He would be back soon, must get the house tidy.

She picked up the discarded razor, the musty towels left on the floor. The chipped window was stained with age, no matter how hard she scrubbed it never came clean. There was a puddle of vomit in the sink. Her husband had came back, drunk as usual last night. A small fleck of blood caught her eye, rusty brown against the dirty cream tiles. "I thought I got that up," she grumbled. Couldn't have people seeing things like that, her husband was a good man, a kind man. Wasn't his fault he lost his temper sometimes. But she knew what people thought of him. The priest, he was a good man but he shouldn't think the worst of people. It was her fault she was bruised, shouldn't have asked for more money. "We manage, don't we?" She asked the empty bathroom as she moved on to clean another room.

The night past in its usual way. Her son, Ryan came home from school angry and silent. The large purple mark across his face showed more than she thought it had. Silly boy, shouldn't annoy his father like that. Ryan didn't see how much he hurt his daddy when he complained about things. "Must make allowances," She reminded herself. Ryan was only 7, didn't know any better. All little boys were naughty. That's why his daddy... punished him, sometimes. And she stayed in their room, pretending not to hear a thing until he returned. Ryan would learn. Then he wouldn't need punishing any more.

It was quiet now. Ryan was asleep, as children of his age should be. No television for them to watch, her husband had destroyed that in a drunken rage. Didn't matter, she never liked it anyway. She sat in silence, awaiting his return. His dinner was ready, nothing to do now. She wished she had another cat. They had a ginger cat once, a friendly one that liked to sit in her knee and kept her company. What was his name? Sammy, that was it. It was a shame that Sammy was naughty too, getting in her husband's way like that. She'd buried him quietly round the back. No need to worry Ryan with something like that.

The door flew open. She rose, obediently. He was shouting terribly tonight. She hoped Ryan wouldn't hear. Shouting, raging at her for spending all the money. Her murmured apologies for the crime she didn't commit fell on ears that didn't want to hear. His punishing hand rose. And despite her efforts to steel herself for the blow, she flinched and his hand hit the wall. The woman's hand flew to her mouth. He'd be really angry now. "I'm sorry!" She cried as he picked up the lamp. She backed into the kitchen, hands raised pleadingly. Ryan sat quietly on the stairs, listening as he always did. His mother was trapped against the counter, nowhere to run. Before she thought about it, she seized the nearby kitchen knife and struck out blindly.

Silence. Her frightened eyes saw her husband. So still, just like poor Sammy. And that great knife stuck through his throat! She fell besides him, stammering more apologies. "I didn't mean it.." she whispered, standing and backing up. Oh dear, he'd be furious now! She half fell against the counter, catching the dirty cloth she used for drying dishes with her plump, bruised arm as she tried to save herself. The cloth fell from the nail, landing silently in the burning gas ring. With a little gasp she ran for the stairs, fearing her husband's revenge. Ryan was sat there, naughty Ryan, shouldn't listen. She swept him up with adrenaline-fuelled strength and raced into his room. There, she wedged the battered wardrobe against the door and sank to the floor, still hugging Ryan. They'd be safe now, her husband would calm down. He'd realise it was a mistake when the alcohol wore off. Ryan struggled against his mother, noticing the smoke seeping in the door. She held him tight, murmuring soothing words. Even as the door burst into flames, she reached out and held an old teddy bear of Ryan's. "There, Sammy. Bad kitty, I knew you'd come back. it's ok now. We're all safe now,"