“Say that again.”
My eyes held his, heart pounding, deathly calm.
“If Jamie was alive, he’d beat the shit out of you, and love it, too,” he snarled.
I felt each word land and let the volcano erupt inside of me, pounding Dad, right and left, again and again across the face.
Expecting a murderous counterassault at any moment, I knew I had to make this pay. Oblivious to his blows, I forced him back, back again, through the doorway, into the dining room, a cacophony of shrieks heard dimly behind me, years of violence and suffering exploding out, until suddenly, he lay face down on the lino, strangely still, as blood wept like lava from his nose.
“My God, you’ve killed him,” came Mum’s voice. “You’ve killed him, Paulie, and now you’re going to prison.”
I stood there, heart and head pounding, taking in this unexpected conclusion. He wasn’t dead, I was sure of that. More surprisingly, neither was I.
I stood on the cusp of freedom, while my sisters wailed around me, but felt no liberation from this troll beneath the bridge. Where could I go? I was sixteen, in the middle of my GCSEs.
I walked numbly back upstairs to my room, where I took out the old Slazenger cricket bat, barely a red mark on it, and placed it within arm’s reach under the bed. Then I sat, playing MJ’s Beat It on repeat, waiting for annihilation.