“Where’s mum?” I mumbled, as Don placed a plate of bacon and eggs in front of me. I pushed it away. Food was the last thing on my mind. “Where’s my mother?” I asked again, looking up and meeting his gaze for the first time. His eyes bored straight into me, chilling me to the bone. His voice when he spoke was even colder.
My tummy lurched, “is she alright?”
He nodded, “no thanks to you, but yes. She went into labour at half past six last night. You have a baby brother and I have a son.”
A strange look passed his face as he said the word, son, a mixture of pride, excitement and pleasure that took the chill right out of his eyes. It made my guts contract. The chill soon returned.
“What you did yesterday” he pointed a finger at me, “was beyond the pale, disappearing like that without a word. Your mother was distraught, as the day wore on and we could find no trace of you. We tried Rod’s house but, as you know, there was no one home.”
He suddenly reached for me, grasping my shoulders and giving me a shake. “You spoilt what should have been a very special moment for both your mother and I, and for you too. She could do nothing but cry and worry about whether you were safe. And of course you were. You’d had a perfectly wonderful day while we worried ourselves sick, as I discovered when I called at Rod’s again on my home from the hospital at half past twelve.”
He pointed at the plate of food, asking if I intended to eat it. I shook my head and taking my hand he marched me out of the kitchen, “in that case you can do the corner time it was too late for you to do last night.” I found myself on the landing, nose pressed to the wall while he told me to think about what a selfish, spiteful brat I was for deliberately putting my mother through hell. “Don’t move until I tell you to move,” he growled, “or so help me, Michael, I’ll make that spanking I gave you last night seem like a playful tickle. I’m not putting up with any nonsense from you while your mother is in hospital. You, young man, will be on your absolute best behaviour and you will do exactly as you’re told.”
By the time Don returned to tell me I could come out of the corner, my legs were aching. However, the only thinking I’d done concerned my dismay at the thought of spending time alone with him while mum recuperated. It was about as appealing as a piranha footbath.
“Wash your face,” he said quietly, “then go to your room and have a nap, you still look tired. I’ll call you when lunch is ready.”
I lay on my bed, trying to take in the fact that I was no longer my mother’s only son. She had another son now. I wanted to die I was so unhappy. I had no desire to go and pay homage to the usurper of my crown, shaking my head when Don told me to get ready for a visit to the hospital later that afternoon. Apparently I was not being given a choice, just as I had little choice about going down to lunch, and telephoning Rod’s parents to apologise for lying to them. I listened as Don told Rod’s mum all about the new baby, how he had only taken three and a half hours to come into the world, what he weighed etc, etc, his face beaming with pleasure. To my embarrassment, not to mention resentment, he also told her about disciplining me for my behaviour. Apparently she approved.
I should have said sorry to mum and hugged her and admired the baby and felt excited about being a big brother, but I didn’t. I’m still not one hundred per cent sure why I acted as I did, part of me wanted to do all those things. She was sitting up in bed looking all washed out and tired, yet happy, holding this red faced, wrinkled little creature in her arms, as if it were the Holy Grail. I just wanted to run away from the crushing hurt I felt.
She smiled when she saw me. “Michael, you naughty boy. I was so relieved when Don phoned last night to say you were safe.”
Safe, I thought, my hand creeping back to rub my bottom. That was a matter of opinion; he’d nearly killed me. I didn’t speak, staying well back, staring at them resentfully. Don had moved over to the bed and kissed her, and she handed the baby to him. I felt sick as I watched him cradle it lovingly, the look on his face rapt. “Hello darling,” he cooed, “here’s daddy come to see you.”
The expression on my mother’s face was much the same as she observed them. A mixture of love, pride and wonder. She suddenly remembered I existed and held out her arms, “come and give me a hug.”
I shook my head. She gave me a sad look, and then asked if I wanted to hold the baby. Some spiteful imp took possession of my tongue. Curling my lip in contempt, I snarled, “what makes you think I even want to look at, never mind touch, anything as disgustingly ugly as that fucking thing!” I’ll take the look on her face, as I said those cruel words, to the grave with me. She flinched as if I’d slapped her. Don’s eyes flashed fire. He handed the baby back to her and moved. Not as fast as I did though. My legs went into champion sprinter mode and I took off down that hospital corridor, as if the hounds of hell were after me. I didn’t bother with the lifts, charging for the stairs and all but throwing myself down them.
The maternity wards were on the fifth floor, by the time I hit ground my heart felt as if it was going to explode. I kept on running though, heading for the exit and out of the hospital…straight into the path of a car that was pulling into the car park.
Luckily, it was moving slowly as the driver looked for a parking space. I bounced off the bonnet, throwing out my arms instinctively as I hit the ground. My left wrist folded under me as I landed awkwardly with all of my weight on my left side. Stars of pain danced before my eyes. I struggled to my knees, still intent on getting out of my stepfather’s way, expecting to feel his hand on my collar at any moment. The driver of the car, her face white with shock, restrained me, snapping at me to stay still while she checked me over for damage. There was no hand on my collar, no deep voice. I realised that Don hadn’t followed me and the wave of relief was quickly followed by a wave of shrieks, as the woman whose car I had ran into, touched my wrist. She turned out to be a nurse coming on duty and insisted on taking me to the accident unit.
I refused to tell her or anyone in the unit my name and address. An x-ray showed that my wrist was broken, but apparently not broken to the satisfaction of the doctor who examined the x-ray. My screams must have reverberated throughout the entire hospital as he seized my wrist and with a vicious motion snapped the bone cleanly. I fainted and came round some time later, lying on a narrow couch in a curtained cubicle, with a heavy plaster cast weighting my left arm from elbow to knuckles. A nurse smiled at me, and helped me sit up.
I stiffened, as a familiar, deep voice asked, “how is he, nurse?”
It obviously hadn’t taken long for news that a boy had been knocked over outside the hospital to reach my stepfather’s ears.
“Fine, Mr Hurst, he’s had a bad shock as much as anything. He’ll ache for a few days, but young bones mend well,” she ruffled my hair. “He just needs to rest that wrist for a few days. I’ll fetch his medication, and then you can take him home.”
“What on earth is the matter with you, Michael?” Don didn’t sound angry, just weary, “you could have been killed.”
I lifted my head and glared at him, “and wouldn’t you have been glad.”
He said nothing, which confirmed my suspicions.
The nurse came back and gently fitted a sling to support my injured arm. “Make sure he wears this for at least a week, Mr Hurst. I phoned the maternity ward, Sister Draper said you can take Michael up to see his mother for a few moments, just to say goodnight. She’s anxious to see him and make sure he’s alright.”
She handed Don an appointment card for me to return in four weeks, and a small bottle of painkillers. He thanked the nurse, told me to thank her, and then ushered me out of the cubicle. We walked silently along the maze of corridors towards the lifts. I was determined to be difficult, walking straight past them and heading once more for the exit.
“I’m going home. I don’t need or want a lift from you. I’ll walk.”
“What about your mother?”
“What about her?”
“She wants to see you, she’s terribly upset.”
I glanced back at him, “I expect she’s only upset that I wasn’t killed, just like you. Better luck next time, eh.”
For a minute I thought he was going to lose it. His face flushed and he took a step towards me, and then halted. “Damn you, Michael, you ruined the wedding with your antics and now you’re trying to ruin this event for us. Go on then, get going, you miserable little wretch.” He turned back to the lifts, almost punching the up button through the wall. The lift doors opened, he stepped inside and I was alone. I hadn’t really expected that. I stomped through the exit and started walking.
My wrist ached fiercely and I felt very woozy and close to tears as I plodded along. Two things suddenly struck me: one, I wasn’t that sure I did know the way home, especially now in the gathering gloom. Two, there would be no one home anyway and besides, it was their home, not mine. They were the family. I was an interloper, a misfit. I was in serious danger of drowning in self-pity, but when you’re twelve there is no other kind of pity. Self is all that matters. I didn’t give a monkey about anyone else’s feelings. I hadn’t gone far when a car pulled up beside me.
“Get in, you brat of a boy.”
I stubbornly shook my head and kept on walking. All at once my eardrums exploded.
“Get in!” He roared, “get in the damn car, do you hear me?”
Who was he kidding; everyone in the western hemisphere must have heard him he yelled so loudly. I got in. “I hate you,” I whimpered.
“Tell it to the Marines,” he snarled, slamming the car into gear.
We pulled onto the drive and he turned those laser eyes on me. “You and I are going to have a little talk, no, let me rephrase that. I am going to talk, you are going to listen.”
It was as good a time as any to throw up. Considering how little I had eaten that day, there was an astonishing amount of vomit. It flowed from me like lava from a volcano. I flinched as his door opened and slammed shut again. He was angry, probably because I’d vomited in his precious car. I sat there stupidly, watching through the window as he unlocked the front door, before returning and opening the passenger door.
“Out, come on, let’s get you in the house.”
I climbed, or rather stumbled out of the car, dripping sick everywhere. I wouldn’t let him help me, shrugging off his hand when he tried to steady me. I staggered into the house and up to the bathroom, managing to get the encrusted calico sling off, dropping it into the bath. I easily got my sneakers and socks off using one hand, and even managed to unbutton and remove my soiled jeans, but I couldn’t get my t-shirt off. My left hand was useless. The fingers poking out of the cast were swollen and bruised and the wrist itself was unbearably sore. I just could not get my t-shirt off using only my right hand. I tried, ending up hot and frustrated with streaks of sick on my face from my struggles. Suddenly I was sitting on the bathroom floor in my underpants and a sick covered t-shirt, sobbing my heart out.
“You brought all this on yourself.” He helped me to my feet and began easing my right arm out of my t-shirt, pulling it carefully over my head. The sleeve was too narrow to go over the cast so with a quick wrench, he ripped it. I stood there, shaking and weeping as he sponged me clean. He helped me put my pyjamas on, made me swallow one of the pills the hospital had prescribed and told me to get into bed.
“Lie on your back, that’s it,” he covered me up, leaving my cast above the blankets.
“The talk is postponed, not cancelled,” he said, looking down at me sternly. “You need to rest for now. I’m keeping you off school for a couple of days, to give that wrist time to settle down.” He shook his head, “have you any idea how upsetting this has been for your mother. She sends you her love.”
I closed my eyes. I didn’t believe in her love anymore. She wouldn’t have needed to marry and have another son if she really loved me.
The talk happened first thing next morning.
“You’re a child, I’m an adult and I’m in charge. I say, you do. I say do your homework, Michael, you don’t argue or grumble. You just do your homework. I say time for bed, Michael, you don’t ignore me, you don’t complain, you go to bed. I expect good manners and a respectful attitude and if I don’t get them you’ll be punished, and you’ve had a taste of how I punish bad behaviour. There’s a new member of this family now, one whose needs come before yours. Cathy will require all her energies to look after the baby when she comes home. I won’t tolerate you making things difficult for her with your whines and tantrums. You’re going to be so good we won’t even know you’re here. Is that perfectly clear?”
Mumbling the expected response I stood up. Oh yes it was clear all right, clear as crystal. I wasn’t wanted. I slunk out of the kitchen before he could see the tears that were gathering in my eyes.
“I swear to God, Michael,” Don poked a furious finger at me, “if you disappear like that one more time, I’m going to put toddler reigns on you.”
I finally lost my temper. It had been a long morning and I was tired and uncomfortable. “Why can’t you just leave me alone?” I yelled at the top of my voice, uncaring to the fact that we were standing on a busy street, “you have no right to boss me about.”
He wagged a warning finger, “don’t you dare raise your voice to me in public.”
“I’m sick of you and your ugly kid!” I hollered, louder than ever, pleased that we were attracting the looks of passers-by.
“That’s enough, young man, control yourself,” he spoke quietly, but sharply. I should have heeded him, but I was on a roll, sick of listening to people congratulating him on the birth of his son. We had visited his workplace that morning to a chorus of greetings from staff and regulars. He was full of pride, beaming and smiling. I wondered if my father had ever felt like that about me, and if so why had he just walked out on me? What was so awful about me that no one wanted to stay around me? Don had never offered to spend time with me, to play football or take me swimming, hell, the man owned a pool. My father had dumped me and in my minds’ eye so had my mother. She had chosen Don and a new son. Looking back, I can see that some of my emotions at that time in my life were complicated and confused not only because teenage hormones were kicking in, but also because they were kicking in the ‘wrong’ way. I was beginning to have stirrings, but not for girls. I was scared on a lot of different emotional levels. The last straw had been when his new secretary had congratulated him on the baby and asked after mum, she had then asked who I was and Don dismissively introduced me as: ‘Michael Palmer, my wife’s son from her first marriage.’ I felt winded, almost as though he had hit me in the solar plexus. It brought home to me how much of an outsider I now was. They were Mr and Mrs Hurst and baby Hurst. I was Michael Palmer, a leftover from my mother’s past. Someone else distracted him and I turned on my heel and just about ran from the building, standing sulking by his car until he returned.
“What are you playing at?” He had stridden towards me, his face thunderous, “I look behind me and you’ve disappeared.”
“Surprised you noticed,” I muttered.
He had got me a new sling from the first aid supplies in his office; to replace the one I had ruined the night before. He fastened it on me pretending to care that my wrist was comfortable. We had then trawled the town. He arranged for the pram and cot to be delivered and bought presents for the baby and for mum. He asked me if I wanted to choose something, but I shook my head. Finally, he had dragged me to the Registry Office to register the baby’s birth, insisting I go into the office with him even though I said I didn’t want to. I felt as if he were gloating, rubbing my nose in the fact that he had his own son. As soon as he started giving details to the registrar, I slipped away, sitting on the steps outside. That’s why he was annoyed with me.
“I hope it fucking dies!” I could hear sharp intakes of breath and sounds of disapproval from members of the public, as I shrieked those ugly words. Don’s face darkened, but he didn’t shout. He swiftly took hold of me, removing my sling. I was slightly puzzled as to why, but soon found out. Sitting down on the registry office steps he put me over his knee, making sure my injured arm wasn’t squashed beneath the weight of my body. He then proceeded to spank me, right there in public. I was grateful that at least my jeans remained up; even so he made sure my bottom felt the sting of his hand. By the time he’d finished I was bawling like a five year old. He stood me up, calmly refitted my sling and grasping my right hand marched me down the street.
“I’ll stay here forever then,” I shouted, “cos there’s no way I’m saying sorry to you.”
My instructions were clear. I had to stand in that damn corner until I was ready to apologise for my behaviour outside the Registry Office. I had regretted the horrible words the moment they had left my mouth, not meaning them for a second, but I would rather die myself than admit it. My cheeks, both sets, were still burning with the humiliation of that public punishment. As far as I was concerned the skirmishes with Don had now evolved into a full-scale war. I had lost three major battles that weekend, ending up a casualty on every occasion, but not this time. I would stand in that bloody corner until I took root, but I would not apologise.
I stared at him triumphantly as he quietly told me I could come out of the corner.
He shook his head, “I don’t know why you’re smirking, young man, because you’ve won nothing.”
I glared at him defiantly, my legs were aching, my back hurt, my arm hurt, I was bored to the point of tears and I was hungry and thirsty. “I didn’t say sorry though.”
“And you think that’s something to be proud of?”
“You shouldn’t have done it,” I blurted out, “you shouldn’t have hit me outside like that.”
“I didn’t hit you, I spanked you, and why not?” He folded his arms and stared at me calmly, “you abused me outside. How do you think I felt, being yelled and sworn at in public by a child? I’ll tell you, Michael, I felt humiliated and ashamed. Why then should I care about your feelings, you didn’t respect mine. I didn’t deserve to be treated as badly as you treated me. You, however, have deserved every smack you’ve had this weekend. Face up to it, little boy, I’m master in this house, I’m in control, not you. You step out of line and I’m going to come down on you like a ton of bricks. I’ll teach you to behave properly, even if it means spanking you every day of the week from now until you’re twenty-one.”
“I’m not visiting the hospital tonight.” I stalked downstairs. “I’ll call for Roddy and stay with him until you get back.”
“No, Michael, you won’t. Apart from anything else, you are not allowed out on a social basis. You’re going to the hospital with me. Your mother wants to see you and see you she will, even if I have to carry you there kicking and screaming.”
Mum’s face creased with concern when she saw me, “why did you run off like that? You could have been killed. Come here, let me have a look at your poor arm,” she held out her hands, but I stayed near the door. She looked hurt. “Why are you behaving like this?”
“Because he’s a petulant, spoilt little brat.” Don shot me an icy look, “take no notice of him, Cathy. He’s been a naughty nuisance all day. He’s going to bed the moment we get home.”
I watched them playing happy families and felt meaner and moodier than ever.
Mum kept looking over at me and smiling, asking me questions about the accident and how I was feeling, which I totally ignored.
“Your mother is speaking to you, at least have the good manners to reply.”
I ignored him too.
“Please, love,” she tried again, “don’t be silly, come and have a cuddle. Come and say hello to your brother. Did Don tell you what name we’d decided on?” I stared at her silently. She stoically carried on, “his name is Jonathan Michael Hurst.”
I think she expected me to be pleased. I wasn’t. My insides turned to liquid. They had stolen the only thing that belonged to me, my name, and given it to their own baby. That’s honestly how I saw it at the time. I was so mixed up.
“What do you think?” She looked at me hopefully.
“I think I need the toilet,” I said and walked out of the room. The blood was pounding in my ears. I felt robbed of my identity. I now meant so little to my mother she was prepared to give my name away. I didn’t realise you were supposed to view it as an honour.
“Get back in there,” Don was immediately at my side, he took a firm hold of my hand, “do you hear me?”
“You keep saying that,” I gazed at him mockingly, “do you think I’m fucking deaf or something?”
Bending his face down to mine he whispered, “I’m going to wash that filthy little mouth out with soap when I get you home, then I’m going to blister your bare bottom.”
I gulped, but the devil had taken up lodgings in my mouth and was determined to make things worse for me. “You can go and shove yourself,” I spat the words at him. “I’m not going home with you. I’m going to my dad’s house.”
His eyes narrowed and a strange look came over his face. His grip on my hand tightened, “oh yes, and where would that be, Michael?”
“I’m not telling you, I know, but I’m not telling you.” I began lying through my teeth, “I’ve been visiting him, he was glad to see me. He said I could go and live with him anytime I wanted.”
“You’re going nowhere. We’ll discuss this further at home.” Don ushered me ahead of him. “In the meantime you’re going back in that room and you’re going to be nice to your mother.”
I had no choice about going back in the room, but he couldn’t force me to be nice.
Mum pointed to the arrangement of flowers on her bedside table and one of the many cards that stood there. “Thank you for the lovely flowers and the card, darling, they arrived this afternoon.”
“Don’t thank me, cos I never sent them,” I snapped rudely, “where the hell do you think I’d get the money from? And even if I did have the money I wouldn’t send anything to you.” I met Don’s gaze steadily with a stuff-you look.
He countered my gaze with a you- are- so- dead- when- I- get- you- home look.
After managing to negotiate twelve years of life with only the occasional reprimanding smack, I found myself on the receiving end of a fourth major spanking in as many days.
As soon as we got home he took me up to the bathroom, got my toothbrush and rubbed it over the soap and then made me scrub my tongue with it as a punishment for swearing, saying if I didn’t do it myself, he’d do it for me. It tasted vile and I was almost in tears before he even pulled my jeans and pants down to smack my backside. Sitting on the edge of the bath he tipped me over his lap and demanded to know when and where I’d met my father. I yelled that I wasn’t telling, because it was none of his damn business. I couldn’t believe how hard his hand contacted my bottom.
“When did you visit your father? When? Where does he live?”
Each slap, amplified by bathroom acoustics, sounded and felt like a small explosion. It hurt more than the other three spankings put together. I gave in, screeching, “I lied, okay, I lied about my father.” I burst into tears.
“Why would you want to lie about something like that?” He walloped my backside harder still.
The telephone rang loudly, saving my rear from spontaneous combustion. He lowered me onto the floor. I sat there for a few minutes until I got my sobs under control, welcoming the cool of the bathroom floor tiles against my hot, sore bottom. I somehow got my shoes off, wiggling myself free of my jeans and underpants like a one armed Houdini freeing himself of leg chains. I lurched to my bedroom feeling more miserable than I’d ever felt in my life. I didn’t understand why me saying I had seen my father had angered him so deeply. What was it to him? He had his own son. Did he hate so much that he wanted me to have no father, as well as no mother? I dragged my pyjamas on one-handed, stumbling against my desk as I lost my balance. The bottle of painkillers from the hospital toppled over, the lid was loose and the contents spilled over the desk. I grasped a handful and for a wild moment I actually considered taking them all.
“What are you doing with those pills?”
I jumped with fright; I hadn’t heard him come back up. I stared at him dumbly, still wrestling with residual sobs from the encounter in the bathroom. He strode across the bedroom floor, grabbing my hand and causing me to drop the pills I had clasped there.
His lips fashioned themselves into a hard thin line, “I asked what you were doing?”
I broke into a fresh paroxysm of tears, “did you think I was going to take them all,” I wept. “I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction. If you want me dead you’ll have to kill me yourself.”
“Don’t tempt me,” he said. “Now, I want the truth. Have you or have you not been in contact with your father?”
I shook my head.
“Then why say it? Why, Michael?” He looked genuinely perplexed.
“I wanted you to think that I had somewhere to go. That there was someone who wanted me, only there isn’t.” I started shouting, “he didn’t want me, you don’t want me and now mum doesn’t want me anymore. She’s got you and a new son. She even let you give it my name. You took my mother away from me and gave her a different surname, now you’ve taken my first name and given it to your own son. I’ve got nothing now, not even my own name.”
“Michael,” he took a step towards me, but I was completely overwrought, backing away from him I screamed at him to leave me alone or I really would kill myself. He grabbed my good wrist and pulled me towards him, leaning down slightly to speak to me. “First of all, you foolish child, I didn’t take your mother away from you. She’s still your mother, and...” he recoiled in shock, as I spat at him. Keeping a tight grip on my wrist with his left hand, he wiped the disgusting mess from his face with his right hand, stared at it and then at me. I was so horrified by what I’d done and by the look on his face that I abandoned control of my bladder, urine gushed down my legs, soaking my pyjamas and pooling on the carpet around both our feet.
End of part two
Copyright 2009 / 2015