by Gary Duncan

He’ll be wanting you tonight. He’ll drag his friends back from the pub, Tim and Randall and one of the Hollister girls. Jen or Rebecca, you can’t remember which is which. The one who pities you, the pretty one with the big tits.

They’ll stop at the corner shop on the way back. Buy some beer, some cider, something stronger for later. They’ll walk arm in arm down the middle of the road, criss-crossing the white lines, howling at the moon. He’ll say it’s the moon that does it, the devil moon that makes him do the things he does, and you’ll forgive him, because that’s what you do.

You’ll hear them before you see them: the smashed beer bottles, the wolf-whistles. You’ll hear the rattle of the gate, the crunch of gravel. They’ll pile into the tiny hallway, laughing, falling over, shushing each other, the door slamming shut.

He’ll shout up from the bottom of the stairs.

Honey, I’m home.

There’ll be more laughing and someone mimicking him, Honey, I’m home, and more shushing. He’ll laugh along with them, until he doesn’t, then he’ll tell them to shut the fuck up or they can all fuck off back to where they came from. He’ll ask you to come down for a drink, just a quick drink with his friends. It’s not a question and it won’t matter that you’ve already been in bed for hours, dreaming of wide open spaces, of places new and unseen, of endless possibilities.

You’ll roll over and try to ignore him. But you’ll hear them downstairs, opening doors, switching on lights, lining the bottles up on the coffee table, and you’ll know he’s still there, at the bottom of the stairs, counting to ten.

There’ll be no sleep now. You’ll grab one of his hoodies from the pile of dirty washing on the floor, and you’ll make your way down the stairs, your hand on the bannister to steady yourself because your knees are shaking and it’s dark and you’re still half asleep.

The Hollister girl will look you up and down, at your hair, your puffy eyes, the crumpled hoody. You’ll try to pretend she’s not there, try not to feel small and pointless next to her.

He’ll grab you and kiss your ear and pull you down onto the sofa, into his lap. He’ll wrap his scrawny arms around you and tell you he’ll be having you tonight. He won’t even whisper it. He’ll look at Tim and Randall and wink at the Hollister girl, and he’ll tell you he’ll absolutely be having you tonight.

His hands all over you.

His black nails, chewed to the bone.

The stink of engine oil and disinfectant that he wears like a cloak.

You’ll try to wriggle free, but the Hollister girl will sit next to you, perched on the end of the sofa. You’ll not be going anywhere, not yet. She’ll offer you a drink, a bottle of warm beer, and you’ll take it, even though it’s the last thing you need or want. Her hair will brush against you when she leans in, and you’ll smell him on her: oil, disinfectant, cigarettes, beer, cheap aftershave. You’ll know what they’ve been up to. You’ll all know, and it won’t matter. He’ll raise his beer and throw his head back and howl at the ceiling, the way he sometimes does.

Tim and Randall and the Hollister girl with the pretty face and big tits will join in and, eventually, after a few more beers, you will too.

He’ll apologise later, and blame it on the drink, on lunar cycles and chemical imbalances. He’ll take your hand and he’ll say, That fucking moon, it’s got it in for me and I don’t know what to do.

You’ll squeeze his hand and tell him you understand. But this time, this time, you’ll not forgive him.

Gary Duncan’s flash fiction collection, You’re Not Supposed to Cry, is available from Vagabond Voices. His stories have appeared in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, 100 Word Story, New Flash Fiction Review, and Gravel, among others. He is the founding editor of Spelk Fiction.

Twitter: @garyjohnduncan