The final scene

Two days later at this spot, party fun had turned to murder...

Published by: -
Published on: 14th July 2011

Bounding down the stairs, I pulled on my pac-a-mac and stumbled into the kitchen. There was Dad, wrapping up some cheese and pickle sarnies in foil while my older brother Liam made up
a flask of tea.
‘Ready, Dad!’ I grinned breathlessly, pulling on my welly boots and grabbing my fishing rod.
I was 12, and loved these weekend trips down to the river with Dad – not that Martin was my real dad. He and Mum had got together when I was seven months old though, but he’d always been Dad to me.
Later that day, as Dad dozed on the riverbank and Liam fished for tadpoles, I thought about what life would have been like without Martin. Unimaginable…
He and Mum were so happy. Even though they’d never got married, we were the perfect family.
Martin didn’t work, and Mum stayed at home with us boys. Whether it was help with homework, or advice on girls, she was always there – even my mates used her as an agony aunt!
At the weekend, when Martin was home, the fun would start.
‘Shall we go to the zoo?’ I remember him grinning one afternoon when I was about seven or eight. He’d bought us monkey masks and great big ice creams, and came in the adventure playground with us.
Another weekend, we’d gone to a local fair and Martin had been game for all the rides.
Even when money was tight, he was full of ideas… picnics, a walk in the woods and, of course, fishing with us lads to give Mum a break.
‘Come on, throw those tiddlers back,’ Martin’s voice came from under his hat now. ‘We’d best get home for tea.’
I jumped up and, back at the house, wolfed down my fish fingers and chips before heading upstairs for a shower. I wanted to be quick because my 13th birthday was coming up and I needed to talk to Mum and Dad about having a party with my mates.
As I turned off the hot water and grabbed my towel, I heard an unfamiliar sound. Shouting, coming from downstairs.
Creaking the bathroom door open, I saw Liam standing on the landing. I opened my mouth to ask what was going on, but he shushed me. ‘I want to listen,’ he mouthed.
Together, we sat in the dark while Mum and Dad threw insults at each other. We couldn’t work out exactly what they were saying, but Martin’s voice seemed strange and slurred.
Finally, the front door slammed and we both crept downstairs through the silence.
Mum sat with her head in her hands, sobbing gently.
‘Is-is everything okay?’ Liam asked, sitting next to her.
‘Where’s Dad gone?’ I asked Mum softly.
‘Sorry boys, you didn’t need to hear all that,’ Mum sniffed, wiping away her tears. ‘Dad’s just gone to get some fresh air. Who wants an ice cream?’
We both followed Mum into the kitchen, and I noticed the cans of lager in the bin – about six of them.
But we never had any booze in the house, except if it was a special occasion.
Confused, I nudged Liam. ‘I know,’ he hissed. ‘It’s Martin – and it’s not the first time, either.’
After that, things seemed to return to normal again. But then, the following Saturday, Mum and Dad had another huge row that finished with Martin storming from the house.
‘Is it because he’s drunk?’ I asked innocently, seeing empty beer cans on the side again.
‘Don’t be silly,’ Mum scolded.
But over the next few months, things began to change. Martin wasn’t the happy, friendly bloke I knew as ‘Dad’ any more. The family days out stopped, even the fishing trips disappeared.
I began to notice more and more lager cans, sometimes early in the morning. And we began keeping whisky and other spirits in the house for the first time. There was something else, too.
When Martin was around, Mum seemed really edgy. Too polite, too keen to please… Not that it stopped their fights, though.
‘Why don’t you get some help!’ I heard her scream at him one night from my bedroom.
I was nearly 15 and my relationship with Martin had fallen apart because of his drinking. I didn’t even call him Dad any more, and Liam had moved in with his girlfriend because he couldn’t put up with it.
Hearing the front door slam, I went downstairs to console Mum. It was becoming a regular routine.
But tonight I’d had enough. Instead of wiping her tears and giving her a hug, I confronted her.
‘He doesn’t love you,’ I snapped. ‘You’d be better off without him. Why don’t you just leave him?’
I was surprised at myself, expected a right telling off! But Mum just patted the sofa for me to sit down, put her arm around me.
‘Martin’s uncle died in a car crash when he was a teenager,’ she sniffed. ‘He was really close to him, and was in the car, too. He’s always felt guilty that he survived.
‘When we met, Martin was dealing with the way he felt. As you boys hit puberty, though, all the old feelings resurfaced. He started drinking to try to blot out the pain…’
‘But he doesn’t blot it out,’ I sulked. ‘He just takes it out on you. Things have got to change, Mum.’
For a few days, I didn’t see Martin. Maybe he’d left. Then one night when I got in from school, he was sitting there with Mum, and asked me to join them.
‘I, err, I know I’ve behaved badly,’ he sighed. ‘I’m sorry. I’m going to get help, going to change, I promise.’
Well, I didn’t believe him, but nodded anyway.
That weekend when I wandered downstairs, Martin was making sandwiches.
‘Fancy a spot of fishing?’ he grinned. ‘We haven’t done that for years.’
‘Sure,’ I shrugged. Everyone deserves a second chance.
Over the next year, Martin proved me wrong – he really turned things around. Yes, he was still drinking a little and, yes, there were rows. But it was just normal family life.
As Mum’s 40th birthday approached, I even started calling Martin ‘Dad’ again. We were the happy family we’d once been.
The night of Mum’s birthday, we held a big party with all our family and friends. ‘You don’t look a day over 30!’ Martin grinned as Mum walked into the kitchen in a figure-hugging dress.
Martin looked good, too. He had a couple of shandies, but was really well-behaved. As he and Mum danced like teenagers to the Oasis song Wonderwall, they seemed so in love again.
‘Just like the old days,’ said Liam. He was cuddling his own daughter, Aleishia, 18 months, and I smiled at the thought of how far we’d all come.
But, just two days later, I was woken up by the sound of shouting. Not again… so much
for a fresh start.
Sighing, I rolled over, put a pillow over my head. I’d never got involved in the rows – what could I do? I’d just wait until Martin stormed out, and go and comfort Mum like I used to.
Except the front door didn’t slam. The shouting got louder.
Suddenly, I heard Martin’s voice, clear as a bell. ‘I’m going to stab you!’ he yelled.
What?! Leaping out of bed, I ran down the stairs.
‘What the hell is going on?!’ I cried, storming into the kitchen.
Mum was backed up against the kitchen cupboards, eyes wide with fear. And there was Martin, the man I’d always known as Dad, reaching for the knife block…
‘Aaron, please, go back upstairs!’ Mum begged. But I’d already launched myself at Martin.
‘You’re out of order!’ I screamed, whacking him in the face with a right hook. He’s a big man, but he’d been drinking heavily and, as he stumbled backwards, I thought he’d fall.
I’ll grab Mum, we’ll make a run for it.
But he didn’t fall. ‘I’m going to stab you!’ Martin roared again.
Swatting me out of the way like a fly, he grabbed a kitchen knife and… ‘No!’ I cried.
Too late, he was lunging forward, the knife sinking into Mum’s stomach. She let out a horrible scream, her face twisted with shock and pain.
‘Get off her!’ I yelled, grabbing desperately at his arms. He plunged the knife in a second and third time. Mum sank heavily to the floor.
Martin turned to me, eyes burning with hatred.
‘You’re a monster!’ I screamed. Any minute now, he’ll stab me, too.
Instead, he just turned and walked away.
Mum! Sinking to my knees, slipping in the pool of blood beside her, I cradled her head in my arms. Tears streamed down my face.
‘Open your eyes, Mum,’ I begged. ‘I’ll call an ambulance. You’re going to be fine.’
Her breathing was so slow and raspy. I could feel her slipping away. Dialling 999, I prayed for a miracle. ‘I need an ambulance, police too,’ I sobbed.
She wasn’t going to make it. Mum’s blood had soaked through my t-shirt, it was everywhere. Her face was white, her skin clammy.
Suddenly, her breathing stopped. ‘I’ll talk you through mouth-to- mouth,’ the operator told me.
Pump her chest and breath…pump the chest… breath…
Even as I tried to revive her, I knew she’d gone. Clutching her head to my chest, I kissed her gently.
Suddenly, the kitchen was full of paramedics, police…
‘Come on, son,’ said a kind voice behind me. A female officer took my arm and led me into the lounge. Through the window, I could see Martin being loaded into a police car.
‘I’m sorry, your mum’s dead,’ she said sadly. ‘We’ve arrested your dad on suspicion of murder.
‘He’s not my dad,’ I whispered. Crumpling to the floor, I began to cry. In a few fatal blows, I’d lost my mum and dad, and felt I’d been made an orphan.
I went to the station to give my statement, then Liam picked me up, took me back to his place. The police had filled him in.
‘I should have been there,’ he started to say, but I cut him off.
‘There wasn’t anything either of us could have done,’ I said sadly. But inside, I felt a burning guilt.
Why hadn’t I gone downstairs earlier? Why hadn’t I insisted Mum leave him all those years ago?
It was two months before I had the courage to go back to the house to get my things. I’d dreaded it, unable to face the memories, face the blood…
But police had cleaned it up once they’d gathered their evidence. It just looked like a normal family home. Walking through the front door, I expected Mum to come up to me, smile and give me a hug.
She’d never do that again. Martin, the man I’d loved like a dad, had made sure of that.
In March this year, Martin Ashby, 46, appeared at Northampton Crown Court. As I stood to give evidence against him, all those happy memories of fishing trips and days at the zoo faded away. I’d loved him so much, but now he was nothing to me.
He was found guilty of murder, and sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in jail. During the case, it came out that he had 54 previous convictions, including affray and assault. None of us had ever really known him. Our happy family had been a sham.
All I have are the smiling photos of me and Mum when I was a kid – that’s how I want to remember her. Martin stole her future, but I won’t let him rewrite my past.
Aaron Williams, 18, Northampton