Ingrid's father whom she and her mother feared, who beat them frequently while drunk and occasionally when sober, fell foul of someone far more vicious and merciless, who smashed a bottle over his head, and cut his throat with a jagged end, and who then died in the ambulance on the way to hospital the evening before. Benedict thought it was his mother who told him the basic facts, not the gory details(that was later some kids told him who seemed to know), after breakfast. Benedict was shocked. He left the flat, and walked up the next flight of stairs to the upper balcony, and knocked at Ingrid's reddish front door. Her mother opened the door, and poked her head out. Her eyes were wide and staring like a rabbit caught in a car's headlights. What do you want? She said. She seemed to be looking past him as if fearing her husband would return like an evil Lazarus from the dead. Sorry about your husband, Benedict said, although he wasn't really, he was glad the bullying git was dead, but put on a sad expression, and gazed at her. She said nothing, but gazed at him as if maybe it was her husband in disguise trying to catch her out. Can I see Ingrid? He asked. I suppose so, she said, and stepped back to let him enter, then closed the door after him with soft click, and followed him into the sitting room. Ingrid was the table eating Cornflakes from a white bowl. Her mother said, Benedict's here to see you. Ingrid looked and them both, and got down from the table and ran to Benedict, and put her arms about him, and hugged him, her eyes red as if she'd been crying, and sobbed on his shoulder, he hugged her gently, unsure if she had bruises or welts he couldn't see where her old man had beaten her. My dad's dead, she sobbed. I know, Benedict said, sorry about it(although he wasn't he pretended he was). Do you want a cup of tea or biscuit? Her mother asked. They both looked at her unsure whom she was talking to. Me? Benedict said. The mother nodded. Her eyes were red, wide and shocked. No thank you, Benedict said. She left the room and walked back to the kitchen. Ingrid stood beside him. Can't believe Dad won't be back anymore, she said. No, hard to believe, Benedict said, thinking it was good, but giving no hint of his thoughts, keeping a sad expression. She walked back to the table, and continued eating her Cornflakes. Benedict sat at the table facing her. Her hair was unbrushed, and she was still in her nightgown, and had sleep in the corner of her eyes, despite the tears shed. What now? He said. She shrugged her shoulders, and swallowed her mouthful. Don't know, she said. He gazed out of the windows, through the net-curtains at Rockingham Street below, at the coal wharf across the way. He never said goodbye, she said, when he left yesterday to out. Did he ever? Benedict said, the words escaping before he could stop them. Sometimes if he was in a good mood, she said, eyeing Benedict through red eyes. And was he? Benedict asked. Ingrid looked at her spoon with Cornflakes piled there. No, he was in bad mood, she confessed, he slapped me before left. Benedict said nothing, but gazed at her. How many bruises did she have he couldn't see or welts where her old man had beaten her? He mused, taking in her sorrowful expression. But he loved me, she said, didn't he? Benedict shrugged his shoulders, and said, in his way I guess. She ate her breakfast in silence after wards and Benedict gazed out the window at the bright morning, at the coal trucks lined up, and coal-men loaded them up with black sacks, and some horse-drawn wagons were there too waiting to be loaded, the horses standing there like statues. After a few minutes her mother came in and said best get washed and dressed, can't sit there all day in your nightgown. Ingrid got down from the table and smiled at Benedict and left the room. Her mother stood looking at him. He wasn't always bad, she said, he had his good points. I guess he did, Benedict said, but he remembered he came to the flat once, and she had black eyes, and a split lip, and Ingrid was unable to got to school because of bruising. She looked at her hands. Who'll help pay the rent, and the bills now? She said. Benedict didn't know, and didn't care, but didn't say. Don't know. He said, looking at her thin hands, red and sore. A cigarette hung from her lips, smoke rising upwards. Did he love you? Benedict asked after a few minutes of silence and awkwardness. She gazed at him, and said, of course he did, he loved us both. Benedict stared at her, took in her narrowness, and the smoke passing her eyes, her hair drawn in a tight bun. Guess he did, Benedict said, looking away, studying quickly the room, the furniture, the photo on the side showing a family group in black and white, Ingrid staring at out, miserable and frightened. Is Ingrid allowed out? He asked. She stared at him, uncertain, as if suddenly she realized that the decision was her now, and hers alone. Yes, I suppose she can, she said; where are you going? To the park, he said, buy her a 1d drink, and ice lolly, he added. What park? She said. Jail Park, he said, not far. She nodded and looked at him deeply. You're a good boy, Benedict, she said, maybe her best friend, maybe her only friend, she added. Will you wait or shall she meet you after? She said. I'll meet her later, he said. She showed him out of the flat, and closed the door, and he walked downstairs to his parents' flat and sat looking out the window as the coal wagons and lorries began to drive away into a new day.
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