She pulled the door gently behind her, keys clenched in her right hand, the refuse bag clutched in the other. Her stockinged feet made no sound upon the stairs as she ran down the first flight, and spun on her heel towards the next. Suddenly the door above opened, and she felt her heart sink.
“You left this behind!”
A clattering thud, and her handbag landed on the steps beside her, its contents spilling out and skittering down to the next landing. She bent, and started to collect the scattered items.
“But I don’t need this,” she answered, “I am only throwing out the rubbish!”
She could hear the sneer in his voice as he mimicked hers.
“I’m only throwing out the rubbish…….and meeting someone by the bins!! Do you think I am f**king stupid?!”
Handbag restocked, she climbed slowly back into view.
“Look at me,” she said. “I’m not even wearing shoes. I’ll only be a minute. You were asleep, and I saw no point in waking you up. Please don’t shout, you’ll wake the kids.”
He turned, and slammed the door behind him. Her breath escaped in a soft sigh, and she began the descent once more. The second her foot touched the first landing, she heard the door open again. She stopped, her whole body tensing.
“You may as well take this piece of rubbish too!!” he shouted, and the door slammed once more, this time followed by the clunk of the deadbolt. Wearily, she climbed the stairs once more, to be met with the bewildered face of her oldest son, eyes still puffy with sleep, barefoot and pyjama clad. The handbag and the refuse sack fell together as she sprinted up the last few stairs to gather him in her arms, and felt her heart break at his muffled sob.