(Coarse language warning!)
The door opened as he walked up the front path of the neat little house and his daughter and grand-daughter emerged from inside. The shy little girl hid behind her mother’s legs, peeking out at this stranger whom she was evidently related to.
Shaun studied Petula as he walked towards them, his little girl, a woman, a mother! He couldn’t believe it.
“Hi Dad,” Petula said in a defeated voice, and as he drew closer, he noticed a large yellowish bruise that was starting to fade on her cheekbone.
“Hello love,” Shaun replied, feeling extremely awkward, and advanced to embrace her, but she drew back from him, disguising the snub by picking up the little girl.
They studied each other furtively, neither wanting to acknowledge how weird this was for both of them.
Petula looked at the child and said, “This is Caitlin.”
“Hello Caitlin,” Shaun said, addressing the child. “I’m your Grandpa.”
“Hello,” she said in a tiny voice. “We’re going for a holiday.”
“Yeah. I know, I’ve come to give you a lift. All packed?” Shaun asked Petula.
“Yep. Come in Dad, the stuff’s in here.”
He followed them into the house and saw a few suitcases and some toys in a little group near the door. Putting Caitlin down, Petula said, “I think we should get moving as quickly as possible, I feel really scared about this.”
“Okay love, this is all there is?”
“This’ll have to do,” she replied.
“Mummy, I don’t want to go!” Caitlin said and started crying.
Forcing as much cheerfulness into her voice as she could manage, Petula said, “It’s okay baby. We’ll go with Grandpa for a nice holiday in his van! Grandpa has his own island with a beach!”
“All around!” Shaun interjected, a case under each arm and toys in each hand.
“Can you thwim there?” the child asked, sniffing back tears.
“Sure you can!” Shaun answered, “Sometimes dolphins even stop by for a visit.”
Caitlin gave a little show of considering deeply, then said, “Okay. We can go Mummy.”
Petula smiled and said, “Thanks darl. Go and grab your bag and your colouring book and we’ll go, okay?”
“Okay. Will Daddy come to thay goodbye?”
“Daddy’s at work darling, we’ll leave him a note. So, quick, get your stuff.”
The little girl ran to her room and came back with a pink backpack, a teddy and a clear plastic hand bag which contained assorted bits and pieces.
“Ready.” she announced.
“Okay. Let’s go!” her Mother enthused with forced brightness.
As they walked to the van, Caitlin turned to Shaun and told him confidingly, “I have a lithp.”
“No!” he replied in mock shock.
“Oh yeah, I do notice it now you mention it.”
Seeing the van, side door open, bags on the bed, Caitlin’s eyes opened wide. “Ith thith where you live Grandpa?
Shaun laughed, “No love, this is just my car. If I get tired I can crawl in the back and have a snooze.”
“Can I have a thnoothe in there?”
“Sure, if you want.”
“Whenever you want princess.”
She smiled, and Shaun saw Petula give him a strange look, then remembered that he used to call her ‘princess’.
Petula looked into the van and grimaced at the chaos.
“Had to do an emergency stop,” Shaun informed her, “It was a bit tidier than this.”
“It smells a bit musty,” she said.
“It’s been sitting for a year.”
She gaped at him. “A year?”
“It was at a friend’s. I don’t need a car on the island.”
“Don’t you ever go anywhere?”
“Not if I can help it.” And then wished that he could take that back when he saw her look. “Sorry love. This is different, I’d go anywhere if you needed me.”
“There were lots of times I needed you Dad, I didn’t see you then.”
Here we go, he thought, it’s on.
But before they could get into it, Petula looked up with an expression of dread on her face at the sound of an approaching car.
“Dean!” she gasped.
Shaun looked toward the sound to see a new, black Monaro approaching rapidly. It pulled up in the drive and an angry looking young man jumped out, slamming the door behind him.
“Daddy!” Caitlin exclaimed happily.
Petula stood in the doorway of the van, Shaun beside her, Caitlin by then strapped into the middle seat.
“What’s going on Pet?” the newcomer asked menacingly as he approached them.
Shit! Shaun thought, he is big — and biffed (or whatever the youngies call it).
Bolstered by her father’s presence, Petula answered defiantly, “I’m leaving Dean. You won’t hurt me again.”
She turned to climb into the van, but Dean’s hand shot out and grabbed her arm, dragging her back out.
“Hey! Steady mate!” Shaun yelled, grabbing at Dean’s arm.
He didn’t even see it coming. He heard a loud, PANK sound, saw a sheet of red before his eyes, and before he was aware of anything else, was on the ground.
“Stay out of this old man!” Dean yelled, his fist raised, bouncing on the balls of his feet, waiting for another opportunity to hit Shaun.
“Dad!” Petula screamed, seeing blood streaming from his nose and lip as he lay dazed on the ground.
Caitlin was crying, calling pitifully, “No Daddy, not my Grandpa!”
“You shut up Caitlin, Daddy’s very angry with Mummy at the moment, you just be quiet, okay?”
Caitlin looked terrified, and stopped yelling, but sobbed quietly, trying to hold back her tears and avoid antagonising her father any more than he was already.
Shaun’s vision slowly returned, along with his hearing, and he heard the anguish in his daughter’s voice. He rolled over on his knees, attempting to rise.
“Oh, so this is your Dad the loser ay?” Dean said in a mocking tone. “Not much of a ‘rescuer’ is he?”
“Leave him alone Dean, he’s an old man.”
Shit thought Shaun through his pain, old man! He didn’t feel old! Well, not usually at least, just at the moment though, he felt ancient, sore and helpless.
“Stupid old cunt should learn to mind his own business,” Dean growled through gritted teeth, and seeing Shaun trying to rise, kicked him in the guts.
With a loud “Ooof.” Shaun dropped to the ground again and Dean kicked him again as he lay on the ground.
“Grandpa!” Caitlin sobbed, not believing the awful scene she was witnessing.
“Shut up Cait!” Dean yelled at her. “He’s not your Grandpa, he’s just a stupid old loser who’s good for nothing!”
“He’th not!” the little girl howled gamely, “He’th my Grandpa!”
“Jesus!” Dean yelled in fury. Dragging Petula by the arm he whipped her towards the house. “Get inside, I’ll deal with you later!”
Petula stood looking dazed, first at her father on the ground, then at her daughter, still strapped into the middle seat of the van, wracked with tears. She was stupid to think she could get away, she thought, and now she had caused her father to be beaten up.
There was no way she could beat Dean, she was trapped for good, she knew it now.
Dean turned to look at her again
and pointed at the house, “I said. Get! In! Side!” Then turning to his daughter said in a menacingly sweet voice, “Come on honey, get out of this van, we’re going inside.”
The little girl looked at her father, crying, “I don’t want to Daddy, I’m frightened, you hurt Grandpa, and Mummy!”
Dean looked around at Petula who had paused halfway up the path, fearing what he would do.
“See what you’ve done? You’ve turned my own daughter against me!” he yelled. He hissed through gritted teeth, “Get out of this van Caitlin, I mean it!”
Gulping back her tears and turning pale, she abruptly stopped crying, scared of her father’s wrath, and fiddled with the unfamiliar seat belt buckle, trying to undo it.
“I can’t do it Daddy!” She howled, “ I don’t know how! I’m thorry!”
“That’s okay honey,” Dean said in a scarily pleasant voice, as though the last few minutes hadn’t happened, “Daddy’ll do it.”
He leaned across and gently undid the buckle and straightened up.
“Okay. Come over here now.”