A child cries in the night, but I'm not allowed to go to her; she is four years old and can fend for herself. In the morning, she has wet her bed and is in trouble. "You fucking little..." she will be hit for it, if she doesn't move fast enough. Her older sister is ordered to change the bed sheets. She doesn't want to though, and resents having to. When I look later, she has changed the duvet cover but nothing else. She's called her sister a fair few names also.
His beer belly hangs over his ten-year-old, moth-eaten pants. He hasn't washed for a week, but he tells me I smell bad. My skin is spotty because I don't wash properly; not to worry, he will do it for me next time. He is so good to me. I'm lucky to have him; he puts up with my horrible moods, the way I treat him. He jabs at me with knives, bites me and throws things at me but only in jest. I just can't take a joke; I'm too serious and bruise easily.
I do need to lose a little weight though; I'm looking a little porky. I should have pride in myself, like he does, and always suck my belly in. If I put on any more weight, he will have to get rid of me. Can't stand laziness, you see. It's my own fault he's slept with other women; I don't look after him properly, am not there when he needs me. I torture him by leaving his side and allowing dark thoughts to creep into his brain. He is convinced I have slept with others too. I must try harder to convince him of my love.
We sit in the kitchen while a ten year old makes us breakfast. She makes the best eggs in the world, but I can't help feeling this should be the other way around. The children are banished to the living room, where they fight over which dvd to watch; they are not allowed to watch actual TV. The oldest child wins, and something wholly inappropriate for the younger ones is put on. Not to worry though; if they don't like it they will just go and play in their bedroom. It's not a problem. One of them comes into the kitchen to ask me a question; she brushes past her father and is shouted at. "don't fucking touch me! Get off me! Get out of the kitchen!"
Other children come to visit; I lose count of how many are running around the house and garden screaming. The ones who live here are not allowed out until they have done their chores and so children whose names I do not know wrestle each other on the sofa and in the garden until they are tears... and then the victor moves on to the next opponent.
He slouches over the table, periodically demanding mugs of tea and chocolate hob nobs from children. If the tea is spilled, they are in trouble. If one of them is burned, it is their own fault; shouldn't have been messing around when they were meant to be doing their chores.
I am sent to have a bath. He sits in the bathroom, with his back against the door. The children run riot outside the door, but are sent away in a flurry of cursing. I am to stay in the bath for as long as possible. Over an hour. Relax, he tells me. When I can lay in the water no more, he sits and watches me wash. I am doing it wrong, though. I stand in the bath and he scrubs at my skin until it is sore, then instructs me how to rinse myself.
When we finally come out of the bathroom, some of the children have taken the chance to escape. They have gone to the park or friends' houses. There are no pens or paper in the house, so they could not have left a note even if they'd wanted. He exclaims, If Social Services knocked my door now, I'd be in the shit. I've no idea where any of them is." He doesn't seem concerned for their safety. When one of them is still out long after dark, there is no concern to be seen. Only anger when he does come through the door: what do you mean by going to other people's houses begging for food? Now they'll think I don't feed you, you little fucking shit, making me look bad! The boy is sent to the kitchen to clean up after everyone else's dinner.
There is no bed time in this house. On weekends, in the hope the children will wake later in the mornings, they are kept up as late as possible. There is little as pitiful as a 4 year old standing in a living room door way at 10 pm, begging to be allowed to go to bed. I sneak her upstairs and tuck her into her piss-stained bed, and come downstairs to be called a fucking stupid bitch. Again.