An extract from The Alice Factor by Fyn Day...

"Watch the glass," Alice's weary warning came too late.

"I hurt all over," Sean accepted his fate. "I need these cuts treated."

"You need your head treated!" Alice's tone gave away the same concern as her opening words of the morning. "Last night was the wrong time to drink Sean. You're a good person, you know the difference between right and wrong. I'm the one that never got a handle on that. You'd better get your act together. I don't think you're tough enough for this type of abuse."

"What do you mean?"

"Look, you're a big lad," Alice moved closer, she talked more gently than Sean had ever heard her talk before, "but you've had it easy all your life."

"Easy!" Sean spurted. "And what's been so tough for you?"

Alice's look hardened momentarily. She stood back from the window and moved into shadow. Her eyes darted away from Sean's, but narrowing slightly they returned to meet his bloodshot stare. She pursed her lips as if to speak. Her eyes watered. As the first tear ran down her cheek Sean reached out and grabbed her wrist. It looked as if he was protecting himself from intended blows, but instead he guided her hand gently to her face and moistened its back with the tears from her cheek. She smiled and the tears poured into a flood. As she sobbed Sean pulled her to him and stroked the back of her neck.

"What happened?" Sean's voice comforted like an old blanket. "What made you so tough?"

"You!" Alice struggled angrily, but Sean held her tightly, all the while stroking the back of her neck. She gave up struggling. "Not you... Men."

"Men?" asked Sean. "All men?"

"Yes. No..." Alice sobbed. "Oh I don't know!"

Alice held on and Sean did his best to wrap himself around her. For fifteen minutes they sat together saying nothing. As much as Sean hurt he knew Alice hurt more. It was important to him that they continued, but he feared Alice was at the point of giving up. He didn't want that, perhaps neither did she. He believed that if he could coax her into saying more it was only because deep down she wanted to say more.

"Does it seem to you that all men are the same?" he asked.

"Sometimes," Alice threw away the word, then added, "Maybe I just pick them badly."

"Your husband?" Sean prompted.

"A complete bastard," said Alice. "Heartless."

"Then why did you marry him?"

"I dunno." Her sobbing increased. She appeared hopeless.

"What did your parents think?" Sean's question was unanswered. "What are they like?"

As Alice sobbed, so she relaxed. Her weight slumped heavily against Sean who was still on his knees on the floor. When Sean asked about Alice's parents he sensed her tense up. He held her more tightly to him. "What's your father like?"

"My father was an evil shit. I hated him! I mean... I hate him."

"He is still alive isn't he?" Sean hadn't considered the possibility of Alice having lost a parent. She never talked about her father though.

"Damned right he is, another bastard! He lives in Havant." Alice trembled. "My mother remarried," she said, moving off the subject.

Sean remembered how, as a child, he used to pretend to his friends that his mother was dead, long before she was. "Why do you hate your father so much?" Sean's simple question brought the whole matter into focus. If Sean was stabbing at the right shadow, then this was when Alice would open up or give up. He saw her muster her strength to attack the subject, then slump. She appeared to be giving up.

"I told you." she said. "He was a shit."


"He abused me. Alright?" Alice raised her hands and signalled the end of the conversation. Sean ignored the desperate gesticulation.

"What do you mean, 'abused'?"

Alice became angry, "What do you want? Pictures?" Still Sean held onto her. "He sexually abused me!" Suddenly her tone became quieter. "When I was little, he sexually abused me." She eased herself back from Sean who acknowledged her gentle request for space by letting her go. She sat eighteen inches from him. Tears streaming from her bloated red eyes and dripping from her nose. She sighed and spoke quietly, picking at her fingernails as she spoke. "I didn't tell anyone at first. I was seven, maybe eight. I thought he loved me."

"Loved you?" Sean sounded incredulous.

"Yeah!" Alice attacked. "This is my father we're talking about. I enjoyed being with my father. I enjoyed being touched." Sean imagined the shadow over little Alice. "It's hard to talk about it," she continued. "I didn't tell anyone at the time and it's hard to tell anyone now. I let it happen."

"You were duped!" Sean snapped. "Eight year olds look for guidance. They don't go looking for second opinions." He rolled back off his shins and sat back against the wall. Alice crawled around Sean to lean against the wall next to him. Broken glass crunched with each move they made, but they were oblivious to it.

"You too?" asked Alice.

"What?" Then Sean realised what she had meant. Alice had seen a seed of understanding, the flag of experience. Sean put his arm around her. "No," he dismissed. "Not like that."

The Alice Factor
Fyn Day

ISBN 0 95 44983 0 5

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