I stand behind the huge wooden doors, smiling to myself yet feeling the butterflies flitting through my tummy. 

I reach out and take the cold steel of the handle in my hands and turn it very slowly.  A slight click as the latch is freed.  I freeze, worried that the people inside may have heard me to soon but to be honest the sounds, muffled by the heavy doors, are brought closer once I inch it open and peering through all I see is nothing but the backs of peoples heads, some balding; some with the most splendid hats and some with intricate hair styles, all in honour of this day.

Oh and what a grand affair it is, there must be two hundred people all huddled into every available space in the grand church.  All eager to hear every word of the ceremony once it begins.

I slipped in unnoticed and stood against the cold stone walls.  The magnificent architecture wasn’t lost on me.  Centuries old, this church was the hub of the community.  A place I could go to and feel at peace.  The doors were always left open and more often that not there was always a friendly vicar available to talk to, about nothing in particular or sometimes about things that I personally don’t think a vicar should have to hear. 

Everyone I know used this church be it for weddings, christenings or funerals and being a tight knit catholic community we always attended Sunday Mass.  I even got married here many years ago.

I looked around at the people, same faces, just with a few more lines and creases.  And I wondered how many would really be here if they knew the truth.

 

 

 

I moved to Southend in my final year of school from the East of London and Brandon O’Connor, from the moment I set eyes on him in Geography class, I knew was my true love.  Jet black hair and piercing green eyes and the look of a man at just fifteen.  I was in awe of him and the aura of mystery that surrounded him. 

I waited and I watched as he gallivanted around town like the big shot he was becoming.  I listened, keeping my ear to the ground, always knowing who his latest conquest had been.

I wasn’t like the other girls, I knew it was pointless dropping my draws and spreading my legs for every boy who gave me the time of day.  I saw the girls I knew steadily falling pregnant and I knew that wasn’t the life for me.  I also knew on the grapevine that Brandon was looking for that special someone, someone who hadn’t been round the block more times than the number 66 bus.

At fifteen I was fairly pretty with poker straight blonde hair and freckles that speckled my nose and cheek bones.  I had dusky grey eyes and full lips.  Funnily enough it was my lips that first caught his eye.  More likely the racket coming from them, than the soft pinkness but whatever it was, once he rescued me, he became my protector.

A group of girls, the local ‘skanks’ had cornered me by the King Alfred on the High Street.  I was on my way home from the library, deep in thought over the essay I had to write for homework that night.  The next thing I knew, I was face to face with Clara Brady.

Clara was the one all girls dreaded, if she liked you, you still didn’t relax because with Clara that could change at any moment for any given reason. 

I looked Clara in the eye, trying to hold my ground but nervous because her reputation preceded her.

“Oh look who it is girls, its frigid Fern” she said laughing.  The other girls gathered around.  Katy King who was the local bike and Tamsin Smith who I was surprised to see.  Tamsin was meant to be my friend but looking at her now, I saw that there was no point looking to her for help.  Whatever Clara had promised her, it had worked because the once timid, quiet girl, who never did any wrong, was puffing on a cigarette and sneering at me.

“How lovely to see you Clara the Clown” I said, sounding braver than I felt.  “It must take you hours to cover your face in all that shit or do you use a trowel to make it quicker?”

Clara turned a deep shade of red and instinctively her hand came up to touch her face.  I relished the moment even though I knew I had no chance of getting out of this one alive.  I may have been a good, studious girl who didn’t get into any trouble but I was from the East End and we didn’t let the Clara’s of this world mug us off regardless.

“Now, now Fern if you know what’s good for you, you will take that remark back and then start running or else I’ll rip your fucking arms out of the sockets.  Try carrying books then you freak” Clara was literally screaming at me but I found the nerves had settled and I was ready for a fight.

“You know what Clara, go do one will you, because I am not in the slightest bit interested in you and your threats.  And you two hangers look at you, trying to emanate Clara here.  Why the fuck you want to, I don’t know cos hippo look is definitely not the seasons must have” I said looking them up and down.  Clara had a weight problem and everyone knew that it was the one thing that riled her more than anything.

“Why you little fucking bitch” she said and drew back her arm to clump me one.  Suddenly she froze, her hand caught in mid air.  From the side Brandon O’Connor appeared and said one word that had Clara turn a deathly white.

“Enough”.

Clara dropped her hand and her eyes met the pavement.  Brandon was not someone you wanted to piss off under any circumstance.  Everyone knew his family were notorious in the area and whatever they wanted they got, be it by legitimate means or other.

“Fuck off home now Clara before I make something of this” Brandon said.

Clara took one last look at me “I’m not finished with you bitch” she said.

Brandon grabbed her by the throat and pushed her against the wall of the Alfred. 

“Oh trust me Clara you are well and truly finished with her, you understand me” he said his nose tip to tip with hers.  “I see you within two feet of Fern again and the consequences will be dire, you got me” he said.

“I’ve got you, Brandon, no problem” Clara said, tears stinging her eyes.  With that Brandon released her and she and her two cronies were off down the road as fast as their hefty legs would allow.

Brandon turned to me and his whole demeanour changed from the taut angry man he had just been to a soft, smiling lad. 

“You okay?” he asked

“I’m fine, really, there was no need, but thank you” I said shyly.

Brandon just stood there looking at me, his green eyes penetrating my skin.  I watched the way his mouth curved in a little smile and noticed the scar above his lip.

“Come on” he said “I’ll buy you a coffee; you look like you need it”.

It wasn’t an offer or request, I was being told we were having coffee and although most would probably panic, I was smiling inside.  Coffee with Brandon O’Connor, wow.

We walked into the Alfred and even though I protested I was too young and we wouldn’t be allowed in, Brandon shooed my protests away.  We went in the Alfred and Brandon sat me at a booth near the back.  It was dark and dingy but I didn’t notice, I could hardly take my eyes off of Brandon, watching his muscular back as he went to the bar to order.  People nodded in acknowledgement as he walked past and I was in awe.  Here was a fifteen year old boy being acknowledged by the older generations in the most respectful way.  The stories weren’t just stories after all.  Brandon O’Connor really was on the up and up and here I was sharing a coffee with him.  Guess this was the moment I had been waiting for and by hell was I going to not only embrace it but damn well envelope it.

 

 

“Brandon come on, get up, we will be late” I said, stroking the soft downy hair on his tummy.

Brandon moaned and opened his eyes.  The eyes that never failed to pin me down with the sheer intensity of them.

“Morning gorgeous, ready for today?” he asked sitting up and kissing me softly on the lips.

I was more than ready, we were moving into our own house.  And boy what a house.  A converted barn in Billericay, all decked out with the mod cons any woman wants.  What a way I had come since that first coffee with Brandon near on two years ago.  We had sat in the smoky pub, me sipping a white coffee and him nursing a pint and we had talked for hours.  All thoughts of the homework had dissipated.  And from then on we had been near on inseparable.  Every chance we had, we spent it together. 

We both left school, me later than him as he gave up on his education to help his family with the businesses they ran.  My parents were not initially keen on me hooking up with an O’Connor but they saw me happy and they saw me leave school with grades better than I could have hoped for.  I’d stopped studying as hard as all my thoughts were on Brandon and keeping him happy so how I passed with straight A’s in all subjects was miraculous.  But I did and it kept my parents appeased and they slowly saw that Brandon O’Connor was actually good for me.

And he was good for me, everyone knew it but most importantly, I knew it.  I craved the sound of his voice, the touch of his hand and the feel of his lips on mine.  I longed to give myself to him and eventually I did and call it corny but it was on my sixteenth birthday. 

Brandon took me away to Brighton, hired a sports car, drove like lightening and as we closed the door on our room, I just had time to take in the sea view as his body crushed against mine.  His tongue probing into my willing mouth.  He was gentle and he was careful not to hurt me.  And after as we lay entwined in each others arms, I knew I would never let this man go.

And now we were embarking on our first house and the excitement inside me was intense.  At just seventeen I would be the proud owner of an exquisite property, designed by me from scratch.  I had everything I wanted and even things I didn’t and I had the man of my dreams who seemed to adore me.  I wasn’t stupid.  I knew where the money came from and it wasn’t by any legitimate means but I didn’t care.  I was young and I was in love, nothing else mattered.

 

Later that day with everything already in place thanks to Martha O’Connor the most wonderful person in my eyes, the three of us sat on the back decking.

“You know when you marry my son, Fern that you will have to call me Mum don’t you” she said with a sparkle in her eyes.  “I mean I assume you will be getting married sometime soon” she questioned with a smile playing about the corners of her lips.

“Mum give us a break, we have a few months before Fern is eighteen” Brandon laughed playfully clipping his mum round the ear.

“Ah what’s a few months son?  You don’t have to wait til she’s eighteen, feck, her parents love you, we love her, so what do you say, can we start planning” she was serious.

“Mum leave it out.  Fern and I will decide when the best time to get married is, not anyone else”.

The forcefulness of his words was enough to silence even Martha who was not one to usually take a hint.  I smiled at the two of them, so alike in mannerisms and appearance.  So we were getting married according to Brandon.  I just had to wait for the proposal and decide what my answer would be.  I laughed to myself, who was I kidding, there was only one answer and everyone knew it would be a big fat resounding yes.

 

 

A few weeks after my eighteenth birthday I stood in my bedroom at the barn staring at my reflection in the heavy mirror.  The beads on my dress glistened in the reflection and I heard my dad sigh.

“Oh Fern honey you look splendid, truly beautiful.  Brandon is a lucky man” he said as tears threatened to spill on his cheeks.

“Dad stop it, you will set me off.  I’m a lucky girl and I love Brandon with all my heart but you will always be my number one and don’t ever think any different” I said pulling him into an embrace.

“Your mother is having kittens next door, worrying whether her hair is okay, if her dress is too short blah blah blah, the sooner we get in the cars the better I say” he laughed.

As we sat in the carriage, I gazed out of the window at the rolling fields, the sun was shining brighter than it had in ages but the slight breeze kept the perspiration at bay.  The gentle clip clop of the horse’s hoofs was almost melodic and I thought I would die with happiness.  I was marrying Brandon O’Connor; I was no longer a nobody, although ever since the early days of our courtship, I had become a somebody almost overnight.  People who wouldn’t give me the time of day before had started stopping me in the street.  Even Clara who had done nothing but sneer at me now smiled and deep down I thanked her for being the biggest bully this side of the Dartford tunnel because without her that day, I may never have caught the biggest catch of my life.

I was brought back to the present, the carriage had stopped and my Dad was looking at me inquisitively. 

“You okay sweetheart?  No second thoughts?” he asked.

“I’m fine Dad, and no second thoughts, I’ve never been surer of anything in my whole life, now take me to meet my husband” I said laughing.

The ceremony was beautiful; no one had a dry eye.  Brandon never took his eyes off of me from the moment I walked in the heavy doors and started my walk down the aisle.  Flower girl in front, I hardly noticed the petals she was strewing because I could only focus on Brandon looking more handsome than ever.

 

As the vicar said the words ‘you are now man and wife’ I looked into Brandon’s eyes.  He leant in to kiss me and whispered onto my lips.

“You are mine now Fern, mine forever” and then he placed his mouth over mine.  I felt a pang of fear.  I couldn’t explain it and I pushed it away.  Of course I was his, that’s what I wanted and that’s what I now had.  I smiled into his kiss and heard the whoops and cheers of the congregation.

The reception was in Southend Yacht Club overlooking the murky ocean towards Kent.  It may not have been the Bahamas but it was home to me now and there is nowhere I would rather have been celebrating my marriage than here.  Brandon never left my side and we giggled at our friends all drinking themselves silly and flirting with one another.  There would be a few stories doing the rounds tomorrow for sure.

We left at 11 o’clock and made our way to Billericay to The Gatehouse Hotel.  One night away from home, that was what we agreed.  Brandon was busy working and I was thankful we had this one night together before he was off on his latest project.

The huge four poster bed was draped in exquisite silk, rose petals strewn onto the mattress.  Brandon undid the lacing on my dress and let it slide to the floor.  He stood looking at me in my cream underwear and stockings.  His eyes took on the look of lust and before I knew it I was landing on my back on the soft bouncy mattress.  Laughing and happy we spent the night making love and dozing. 

“Mrs O’Connor.  Hello, sleepyhead” I heard as I strained to open my eyes.  What was Martha doing here at this time in the morning was all I could think.

Opening my eyes I saw Brandon looking down at me and then I remembered.  I was Mrs O’Connor, Brandon was talking to me.

We ordered room service and enjoyed a full English breakfast, sat at the huge bay window in the hotels fluffy bath robes. 

I really have to say I never thought any day could ever bring me such happiness as the last twenty four hours had.  Nothing could ever go wrong; I had the perfect husband, the perfect house and the perfect life. 

Of course, you never know someone quite as well as you think you do and things change. 

 

 

Juggling little Tommy on my hip, I watched as Maisie finished her cereal.  I was tired and stressed, three kids took its toll on a woman, especially with the endless visitors and dinner parties I had to arrange.

Brandon Junior was now seventeen and the image of his father in all ways, Maisie who was twelve was a quiet girl who kept her head down and mouth closed most of the time, she was the image of me with her freckled face and long blonde hair and Tommy who was fifteen was always into some mischief.

I loved my kids with a vengeance and passion I never knew I could possess.  I loved their father even after all these years but when Junior came along, I felt my heart was overwhelmed with love.  And as the years went by and two more came out, I thought I could never be happier.

Brandon worked a lot and was now not just up and coming but he had arrived spectacularly.  He was the face in Southend, with his hands in more pies than a baker.  He oozed confidence, wealth and joviality around his friends and family.  But I knew the other side of him, not that he ever showed it at home but I’d heard the whispers and as much as I didn’t want to believe them, I knew they were true.  What he wanted, he got and if he had to fight for it then he would, sometimes with dire consequences for the other party.  The amount of funerals I had to attend, standing by a grave looking solemn and morose when inside I knew it was my husband or one of his that had put the person in the ground.

Did I like it?  No I didn’t.  But what could I do, I didn’t walk into his life with my eyes shut tight.  I knew from the beginning what the O’Connor’s were all about and I turned a blind eye to it all.  I lived in luxury, I wanted for nothing and more importantly nor did my children.

Brandon came into the kitchen at that moment and I saw Maisie drop her head even lower than it already was, her face was almost in her cereal.

“Morning honey” I said to Brandon as he paced across the kitchen.

“Hey beautiful” he said but on turning he was talking to his daughter rather than me.  I never seemed to get the nice words and endearing touches anymore.  It was all heaped on Maisie and it seemed she wasn’t one to take compliments very well.

I smiled, I wasn’t a jealous woman and I wasn’t jealous of my daughter.  She was beautiful and I knew we would have a hard job keeping her in the family nest for long once she hit the age.  Although Maisie hardly went out, she confined herself to her room most of the time, other than when she was at school.  She followed my lineage in as much as she was studious and extremely bright but just recently she seemed to have lost interest in everything other than studying. 

Brandon placed his hand on Maisies shoulder and leaned in to kiss her.  She jumped up thanking me for breakfast and was away up the stairs like lightening.

“I don’t know what is wrong with her of late Brandon; she hardly talks and is forever studying.  Do you know what she wants to be when she is older?  A police officer.  I mean Jesus, can you imagine that?  Or failing that she wants to be a lawyer.  Bless her, she has the ability that’s for sure” I said all proud and happy.

“No kid of mine will ever be a filth Fern.  You know that so there is no point encouraging her in that sense.  Sure a lawyer, we sure do need one on side at times” he laughed.  “Besides, she is probably just tired from all the studying, don’t you be worrying about her.  It’s her age, I’ll have a chat to her later when I get back” he said patting the small of my back and kissing the top of my head.

Brandon was right I surmised as he left the house for the day, Junior hot on his heels left just me and Tommy who I was ushering out of the front door to get to school.  Maisie appeared at the same time.

“You want a lift honey” I asked.

“No” she said.

“Okay well you have a good day and I’ll see you later on” I said giving her, her lunch box.

She looked at me and I noticed the black circles under her eyes and how pale her face was in the dull morning light.

“Are you okay Maisie?” I asked worry written all over my face.

She just stood there, books and lunch pulled tight to her chest and she sighed then.  A sigh far too weary for a girl so young.  Her school jumper was hanging off of her, when had she lost so much weight?

“Maisie, I asked if you were okay” I said again fear creeping into my veins.

She dropped her books and sank to the floor.  And then she started screaming.  Tommy and I watched in amazement as the usually quiet girl sat there and screamed like there was no tomorrow.

I opened the front door and saw my neighbour Beth taking her little ones to school.  I pushed Tommy towards her and asked her to take him to which she readily agreed all the while trying to see behind me to find out what the noise was.  I told her everything was fine, Maisie had a tummy ache today.  Kissing Tommy quickly, I closed the door behind me and turned to Maisie who had quietened to a whimper.

Curled up on the floor, hands pulling at her hair, I went to her level and pulled her into my arms. 

“What is it baby?” I asked “You can tell me anything, you know that honey, there is nothing Mummy and Daddy can’t fix for you.  Are you being bullied?  Has someone hurt you, talk to me please” I said my voice laced with pleading.

For a while I just rocked her, sat in the huge entrance hall.  The only sounds were her whimpering and the birds tweeting in the tree outside. 

In a barely audible whisper she finally spoke.

“He hurts me Mum” she said and I felt my heart clench with fear.

“Who hurts you baby?  Tell me and we will get it sorted” I said rolling her over to look at her face.

“He hurts me, he tells me he loves me but he hurts me.  Why does he hurt me so much?” she was crying silent tears.

My mind was awash with anger at whatever boy had the nerve to hurt my Maisie, an O’Connor at that.  This boy would be running scared for the rest of his life that was for sure.

“Tell me who has hurt you Maisie and it will stop, tell me and Daddy will make it go away” I said confident with my words.

She looked at me then with a wise face, a face that appeared to know far too much.

“Daddy can’t help me Mum” she said simply.

“Of course, Daddy can help you.  Daddy would never let anyone hurt you, you know that” I said desperate to let her know that her Daddy would indeed do anything for her.

“He can’t Mum.  Daddy is the one hurting me” she said quickly.

I let her go then.  I looked at her.  Her sleeves now rolled up her arms and I saw the lines of scars that adorned her forearm.

“Who did this Maisie?  Did Daddy do this to you”?  I said anger taking a hold but sense prevailing I knew this was self inflicted harm, not the kind anyone else could have done.

“Why have you hurt yourself Maisie?  You said it was Daddy hurting you but I can see the scars, you did this to yourself, WHY?” I shouted, dread engulfing me.

“He comes to my room Mum, not all the time but often enough.  At first it was just to kiss me goodnight and give me a hug.  And then he started touching me” she shuddered as she said this.  And I felt bile rising in my throat.  I had to stay calm; I had to let her say what she had to say.

“He told me I was beautiful.  He kissed me, not on the cheek Mum, on my mouth.  He touched my boobs” she said indicating the small bumps that were forming.  “He told me I was special and that he loved me so much.  And then he made me touch his thing.  It started off like that Mum.  And it went on and on….” She said.  Once she had started she couldn’t stop.

“And do you know what Mum?  I’m not stupid, I know what he does is wrong but he scares me.  He creeps into my room when you are all asleep and he scares me with his deep voice and rough hands”.  She spat out.

I looked at my daughter, so fragile and sad and I knew she was telling the truth.  The man I had loved all my life was nothing more than a filthy nonce.  I could rip his fucking heart out with my bare hands.

“Maisie, I have to ask you this and I’m sorry I have to” I said looking at her “has Daddy ever had sex with you?”  It sounded such an incredulous thing to say, that hearing the words uttered from my own mouth, had me almost retching.

She looked at the floor and started to cry.  And I realised then that I already knew the answer.  The bloody knickers in the wash bin.  I had made such a fuss that my little girl was turning into a woman, convinced that it was her first period.  How could I be so dumb?

“I’m sorry Mum, so sorry but yes, only once.  And it hurt mum so bad.  He kept telling me how beautiful I was and how I was just like you when you were young.  He kept saying, it’s okay because I love you and you are so like your Mum and Mummy likes this.” she finished.

I scooped Maisie up into my arms and we both sobbed. I told Maisie none of this was her fault and that she had nothing to be ashamed of or sorry for.  I told her I would sort this out and no one was going to hurt her anymore.  I explained it would take time but that whilst it was being sorted, she had to be normal but I gave her my oath that she would never ever have to worry about him coming to her in the night.  She was so brave and she nodded along.

“What are you going to do Mum”?  She asked.

“Never you mind Maisie, but promise me, you will act like normal until this is over” I said as she nodded.

It looked like a whole weight had been lifted from her shoulders.  And she hugged me tight.  I sent her to have a bath and then I sat in the kitchen, a steely determination knocking at my skin.  I sat there for hours thinking.  I couldn’t go to the police because Brandon owned half the fucking force, I couldn’t confront him.  So I worked around it and then I knew what I had to do.

I battled with the fact I had loved this man with my heart and soul.  Given him everything he wanted.  Nurtured him, trusted him.  I had never known another man.  He had been my life and I truly believed that although he danced in dark circles, he would never hurt a child let alone his own flesh and blood.

How wrong could I be?  I cried for myself and I cried for Maisie.  I threw a few things and I slammed my fist into the table.  I should have known, Brandon had a voracious sexual appetite but of late, he had stopped wanting me.  And I was well aware that he liked a bit of strange from time to time, I smelled the perfume and stale odour of sex on him when he crawled into my bed.  But how the hell could I have known?  Who the hell would ever think it? 

I let it all out my system and then I straightened myself out and mentally prepared for what I knew was going to be the biggest showdown of my life.

 

 

Standing in the darkness of the room, I felt my hands shaking.  I had waited for this day for a long time, months that seemed like years and I was going to succeed.  Junior stood to my left and Tommy to my right, concealed from sight but there as my anchors.

I was early but I was prepared. 

“Mum are you okay” Tommy whispered from the darkness.

“I’m fine Tommy” I lied.

I wasn’t fine, I was still seething.  I was gunning for blood and both my boys knew it.  Maisie had asked to come but under our strict instructions she was told to stay with her Nan and Granddad until we came to collect her.  She mustn’t leave their sides.  She wasn’t happy but she agreed.

 

Finally I heard the bleep of the door as the electronic lock lit up green, indicating someone was entering.

“Fern why is it so dark in here? Where are you” Brandon asked.

“I’m over here darling, I’ve been waiting” I said with a false sound of longing.

Brandon walked through the hallway of the suite he had hired for our anniversary.  I was sat on the sofa, dressed in a figure hugging dress, showing just enough leg to get him interested.  I may have been older than I was but I still had it.

“Wow you look fantastic Fern” he said holding me at arms length and appraising me.  As his lips found mine I resisted the urge to gag.

“Nothing is too much for you honey, you know that” I said sexily, running my polished nail the length of his back.

Brandon sighed and with the longing I saw in his eyes, I led him into the adjoining bedroom.  The bed was warm and inviting and it took me back to our wedding night all those years ago.  The love and intensity between us was overpowering, something I never thought would change. 

Snapping back to reality as Brandon lay on the bed looking at me, I took the lead.  I unbuckled his belt and freed his already hard shaft.  Brandon groaned with expectation.  I hesitated and in a quiet voice I said “Relax honey, I’m going to show you what pain is all about”.

This was the queue line.  Tommy and Junior burst through the bathroom door.  It took a moment for the surprise to register in Brandon’s eyes once the light filled the room. 

“What the fuck….” He said.

Junior pinned Brandon’s arms behind his head whilst Tommy gagged him.  All the while I was holding him in my hands, squeezing him tighter and tighter. 

“You like it rough eh Brandon?  You like it anyway you can get it these days don’t you?  Old women, saggy women but your speciality, now what would that be I wonder”.  Realisation flooded his eyes and he struggled.  He wasn’t strong enough against his two sons, the two he had raised and taught his way of life.

But even though they worshipped their father, the look of outrage and disgust that had come over them when I had sat them down and told them the details and my plan, meant I knew I had them on side.  They may have been following in his footsteps but they wouldn’t tolerate a nonce, let alone their own father being one.  They had both gone to Maisie and reassured her it would all be okay.  They cried together the three of them whilst I watched from the doorway.  I knew Maisie would get through this and I knew I could count on my boys to help.

Tommy passed me the long sharp knife.  I held it in my hands gently fingering the tip and I realised I was about to explode.

“You fucked your own daughter, you sick mother fucker.  You systematically abused her for months before you fucked her in her own bed whilst I slept a few doors away” I said anger exuding from every pore.

“Well I’ve turned a blind eye to all your women over the years.  Oh yes, Brandon, I always knew about them.  But if you think for one minute you are getting out of this, you sick bastard, think again”.  I gripped the knife and I felt the hot stream of urine as Brandon O’Connor, bravest, hardest bastard in Essex, pissed himself.

“You won’t survive Brandon, you don’t deserve to.  This is it for you and I hope to god it hurts as much as you hurt my Maisie”.  With that I got up, left the room handing the knife to Junior.

 

As I left, I took one last look over my shoulder into the eyes of the man I had loved for so long.  I felt nothing, not pity, anger, love or pain.  In my mind Brandon was already dead and soon it would become a reality.

I sat in the car, waiting for my boys to join me.  I’d wanted to do it myself but Junior and Tommy had insisted it was no job for a woman regardless.  I fought them on it but in the end they won.  I had Maisie to look after and thoughts of torture and murder were not going to be productive in her therapy.

A while later the boys joined me in the car.

“Is it done” I asked.

“Yes mum, it is done” they both said.  And without another word we collected Maisie in silence and drove home.

 

Standing at the back of the church, I felt at peace.  I watched the mourners all whispering.  They must have wondered where the grieving widow was. Tommy and Junior came in behind me sheltering Maisie between them.

The heavy clunk of the door closing had all the heads turning in our direction.  Pity was etched on the faces of those we knew so well.  Men bowed their head at me, the widow of the great Brandon O’Connor.  Women dabbed at their eyes.  No doubt a few had shared his bed over the years.  Oh God if only you knew I thought.

The four of us walked down the same aisle I had walked with a beaming face so many years ago.  But today I was solemn, I was playing the biggest part of my life and I had to pull it off.

We took our place on the front pew and my boys put their strong arms around both me and their sister.  We listened to the ceremony, heard the vicars words of praise for Brandon O’Connor.  A few well known faces read eulogies that made the congregation laugh out loud.

The four of us sat there with no expression.  After the service we watched as the coffin was lowered into the freshly dug grave in the family plot.  Martha, who was now very frail, cried silent tears as she watched her son’s coffin enter the ground. 

I wanted him to burn in hell for eternity.  I had wanted him fed to the fish in the Thames, or buried in some new flyover that was being erected.  But the boys convinced me that we had to play this act.  Let the world see us grieving for a man they all thought was great. 

So here we were, people hugging us and telling us how sorry they were.  How they couldn’t believe that Brandon O’Connor had met such an untimely and gruesome demise.

Oh yes, he had been found in the suite of the Four Seasons Hotel, hog tied in a pool of his own blood and shit.  His cock stuffed in his mouth.  Eyes wide open apparently with a look of shock, anger and pain.  It had rocked the criminal underworld, it had rocked his family and for Martha I was truly sorry but she had to be sheltered from the truth.  Promises that his death would be avenged and that I would be looked after for life, were told to me and although I appeared cold and distant to them no one questioned it, they all thought I was in shock at losing the love of my life.

As the last stragglers left the graveside ready to get pissed at Brandon’s wake, Junior, Tommy, Maisie and I stood looking down at the wooden box that held Brandon.

“It’s really over isn’t it Mum” Maisie asked.

“Oh yes, honey, it’s over, he can’t hurt anyone ever again” I said.

With that Tommy and Junior turned us towards the cars that patiently waited.  To anyone passing by, we looked like any normal family, grieving at a graveside but we knew, we were forever indebted to one another, united, not just as a mother and her children but as four people who shared the knowledge that justice had been served.