Dusk settles over the house and the air is heavy with tension. In the kitchen, two pans bubble. It’s almost innocuous, that bubbling. In any other house, it would be an almost merry sound – a cheerful counterpoint in life’s great orchestra.

But not now. Not here. Here, that bubbling is about as cheerful and as welcome as a crow’s caw. Because it heralds misery.

There’s a noise behind you. You don’t turn. You don’t need to. You know what’s there. You try to stay calm. You try to pretend that today it will be different. Today there will be no misery. But you know the lie too well.

You strain the pans. Put the contents on the plate, next to the breaded chicken. You’ve added tomato sauce. His favourite. And chips. You’re thinking about whipping up some gravy. Would that be too much? You don’t know anymore. You’ve lost all sense of reason. You do know the whole damn plate is a bribe, really. He knows it, too. It might work. Might not. Probably not.

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