Sarah Ferbrache



View as PDF: Sarah Ferbrache - Shoot



Dale was agitated, summer heat meant the kitchen was suffocatingly hot after his wife Sam had cooked a meal, sweat ran from his red forehead. He needed to get out, he didn’t really want to go down the road to the pub, but there wasn’t anything else to do. He went to his bedroom and found some clean jeans and an ironed shirt and got changed, discarding his dirty clothes and leaving them wherever they fell. He sprayed on some aftershave. He needed his car keys. He picked up the work trousers he’d just dropped on the floor and felt inside the pockets. No keys. Where the fuck were they?

      “Sam…Where’s my keys?” 

       “Wherever you left them.” Sam shouted up the stairs and walked off.

      “They were in the jeans that you put in the wash, so where are they?” He stamped down the stairs to confront his wife in the kitchen. This scenario had enacted itself a number of times in their kitchen. Dale was sure he’d never lost the keys. 

      “Hannah, help him look for his keys” Sam addressed her younger sister as Dale looked over at Hannah, who didn’t seem to have heard, surrounded by notepads, books and highlighters, she seemed to be spreading her mess all over the kitchen. His barely dormant fury sparked and ignited. 

      “Don’t fucking bother! Don’t fucking bother! She’s got doll’s eyes, that one! Useless —about as much use as a fucking chocolate teapot!” He began ransacking the hallway, pulling jackets off hooks and checking the pockets hurriedly. He went back into the kitchen, opening drawers loudly and shutting them again after a cursory rattle of their contents. He lifted up the books and papers around Hannah, looking under them, disorganising the table until she put down her pen, raised her eyebrows at Sam and slid down from her stool at the breakfast bar and slowly made her way to the laundry basket.

      “Oh, don’t worry yourself!” He snapped at Hannah. “If you’re gonna make such a big production about it! Everything’s a big bloody drama for you pair!” He stormed out of the house, slamming the front door and hearing the tinkle of keys as he did so, he turned back and took his car and house keys out of the front door lock. “For fuck’s sake!” He opened the front door and bellowed round it, “Hannah! You coming down the pub or do you want to stay here all night with your sad sister?” 

      “Hang on, let me get my shoes.” She sounded wary and also pleased. He started the car as Hannah ran out of the door holding onto a handbag and a pair of sandals. She got in and managed to pull the door shut just as he sped the car backwards out of the driveway. 


Dale walked up to the bar entrance of their local village pub, broadening his shoulders, spreading a grin across his face as he went through the door. Hannah followed looking round from behind him. He walked into a crowd of work mates at the bar and shouted back to Hannah “What you drinking?”

      “JD and Coke?” She had spotted some friends across the pub, slouched around the pool table.

    “You’ve grown darling! I’ll buy you a drink!” One of Dale’s workmates leered at her to the laughter of the men at the bar. She raised her eyebrows and shook her head at this would be suitor while her face flushed red. Dale heard her mutter “dick-head” as she walked off with her drink to greet the teenagers around the pool table. He settled on a stool in the middle of his colleagues. They’d been drinking for hours. He’d had a few pints with them after they’d finished work early that afternoon and then left to go home for dinner with promises of rejoining them again later. They were all at various stages of wasted. They’d been let go that afternoon, made redundant from a local ceramics’ manufacturers, where most of them had held long term jobs with the now defunct company. There was a strange celebratory mood despite the bad news. Promises of redundancy payments had been whispered in their ears. Most of those old enough to have much at stake had been working there a long time and were looking at a big redundancy package. The younger ones, well, they were young, they’d recover. Dale was somewhere in-between, he had a mortgage and more, he had plenty to worry about. For now though they were all behaving as if they were at the beginning of a long weekend, a holiday mood was fuelling some heavy drinking.

       “I’d better buy you another drink young Dale, you need to catch up!” Ron, formally his health and safety manager slapped him on the shoulder. Ron’s face was red and blotchy as he leant over the bar, getting the bartender’s attention, his eyes unfocused as he pulled cash out of his pocket to pay for the drinks. Ron turned round handing him a sloppy pint. “There you go. Now, don’t you worry about finding another job young Dale”, Ron leaned in close to ear, hand on shoulder, “you’re a good lad, a hard worker, not like some of these—he waved his hand around—you’re a good bloke, taking on a bird like that and bringing up that little girl! S’not many men could bring up a kid that’s not their own!” Ron patted him with a damp beery hand and walked off to another cluster of colleagues to impart some more wisdom. 


Dale accepted more drinks and reassurances as the night wore on until someone rang last orders and he made a move to leave, declining offers of a final drink. He shouted across the pub “time to go Hannah” as he walked outside and unlocked the car. Hannah got in, shutting the door as he turned the keys to start the ignition. The engine whimpered and died. “Fuck!” He tried again and again, still nothing. Hannah braced herself, held her breath. “Fucking hell! Shit! Bloody knew it was on its last legs. Had to fucking die now!” He tried one more time, still nothing. “Piece of shit! Useless! Call your mum, …I mean your sister, she’ll have to pick us up in her car, I’m not getting a bloody taxi. She can bloody well use her car for once! May as well go back, get another drink while we wait.” He got out of the car and headed back into the pub as Hannah followed him, still on the phone to her sister.

     Ten minutes later Dale heard Sam sounding her horn outside, he saw Hannah look over at him, ignored her and carried on with his pint as another shot of whiskey was placed in front of him. After ten more minutes Sam pushed open the door and came inside. Dale looked over “Do you want a drink Sam? We’re having a lock-in.” 

      She folded her arms across her chest. “I don’t drink and drive.”

      “What’s that supposed to mean? You don’t bloody drive full stop. No point you having a car!” Some of the men around Dale smirked along with him, little nods of recognition were exchanged, nervous woman drivers were a hazard. The background noise in the pub became almost imperceptibly quieter, there was a strain in the air that signalled an argument was about to begin, the domestic escaping into the public realm. 

      “You were gonna get in your car? And drive my sister home in that state!” Sam, angry in front of an audience, pointed a shaky finger at her sister who shrank back, knowing they were already way too far down a familiar and well worn path that led nowhere good. 

      “I know what I’m doing. Anyway, she’s big enough and ugly enough to look after herself, she can walk home for all I care.” Dale sipped on, tittering slightly at his wife’s visible anger, enjoying being the centre of a show where he had the upper hand. 

      “Then you can walk home! You can look after yourself for once! Or one of your piss-head friends can sort you out!” Dale’s right fist shot out reflexively smashing Sam in the left side of her face, his large knuckles crunching her nose and jaw. The crack echoed through the now mirthless small crowd. Sam bent over, head down, one hand cupping her face, a drop of blood hit the floor as sound rushed back in, the odd shocked gasp, discarded pool cues. Ron took Dale by the shoulders, looking twice as sober as he had a few moments ago and steered him into a stock room behind the bar. He sat down on a crate and examined the blood on his knuckle.




Hannah stood outside the police station in the bright sunshine with one hand shading her eyes, scanning the car park. The reflected glare from the rows of window screens almost blinded her as she moved slowly towards where she thought her brother-in-law had parked the car. As she got closer she saw him sat in the driver seat shoving fries from a carton into his mouth with greasy fingers. She opened the passenger door releasing an intense crescendo from Wet Wet Wet’s version of ‘Love Is All Around’ loudly into the otherwise still car park. Hannah quickly got into the car and shut the door behind her. Dale wiped his fingers on his thighs and leaned over to turn the radio down. 

      She had been surprised by her own lies that morning, it was unexpected and not unpleasant to learn that she could pull the wool over official eyes, she hadn’t been at all confident in her own ability to give a false statement. She was known to be shy, sometimes even thought of as stupid because of a tendency to trip over her own words, to blush when spoken to and stammer and hesitate in the most ordinary of conversations. Defending Dale she had managed to appear unrehearsed and convincingly earnest, had spoken clearly, assured by her lie and the imperative of not being caught out. She had kept her voice and face clear of doubt and had been insistent and composed. She would have believed herself. The police officer finally asked her to look over the statement, to sign every page and then it was over.


On the way home Dale drove steadily, which was unusual. He took the scenic route that he knew Hannah preferred when they weren’t in a rush, back from the town through the forest. Usually Hannah would watch for deer in the trees but now her head hung down, her eyes were dry, the lids heavy and hot, she was barely awake. She had spent the morning in an interview room, with a female police officer and sympathetic cups of tea at her side. The morning had been one of intense conversation and her concentration had been spent. 

      “What did they ask you?” Dale inhaled on the cigarette he had lit while he steered with one hand. Hannah roused herself at his question, shifting to sit properly upright. She focused on her hands, one holding the other in her lap. She had been hoping the journey home would be a silent one. 

      “They asked me to tell them what I saw. I said you didn’t hit Sam.” She had seen it happen in slow motion, had known before he did, that his fist would shoot up and punch Sam in the face. It had happened before. In the moment all she had felt was a sense of disappointment and inevitability. Poor Dale, destined to be pitied by those with more self control. When things were broken, the only way he could think to fix it was with his fist. 

      “Good. What else did they say?” He looked over at her, there were no other cars around. Hannah drew in a breath and rubbed one side of her neck.

      “They asked me to go through the evening step by step. Which I did, then they went over what I’d told them, asking about time, about where I was standing, and what I’d had to drink.” She fiddled with her hair and inspected the ends. “I was worried I might have messed up, they kept going over the same questions.” 

      “That’s what they do.” He shook his head and looked back at the road, “It’s our word against that bitch in the pub, two against one. No one else will get involved, it’s none of their business.” 

      On the night of the pub incident, he had come home hours after Hannah had gone to bed. She awoke at the loud slam of the front door and lay in bed listening to the crying and crashing downstairs, the screams and thumps, and wondering what kind of person she was for staying in bed and not helping her sister. In the past, intervention had got her kicked out of the house, or her interference caused a bigger fight in which everything became her fault, and then by extension her older sister’s fault, causing more trouble for Sam. The best course of action was to put her earphones in and let her playlist drown it all out so she could get some sleep. Dale eventually left the house that night, sometime after Hannah had fallen to sleep and gone who knows where. Sam said she didn’t know, but she must have had contact with him as he turned up at the beginning of that bright day, in the driveway running the car, waiting to give Hannah a lift to the police station.


“Well done for doing what you did today. Not everyone can keep their head.” He threw his cigarette out of the open window and looked over at her proudly. Hannah was shocked. He had never praised her, or congratulated her on any previous occasion in her memory. This was uncanny, him talking to her like this, not ordering or shouting or criticising, but trying for her approval, wanting her on his side. He needed her complicity for now and he’d get it. She felt like a conspirator, another not entirely unpleasant feeling, it was safer that way, protecting him at her sister’s request. Dale had never hit Hannah, but that didn’t mean physical violence would be unexpected. He could still control her, without a punch in the face. He’d helped bring her up, he was her father figure, he could crumple her with a word she was so well conditioned.

      “Your statement will count for more than mine I suppose.” He admitted with a grimace. She looked at him incredulously, she had been expecting him to be angry, to dump the blame onto her somehow, but something seemed to have shifted off balance. In a few weeks she would be gone, no longer stranded with him, unlike her sister. Leaving for university, moving miles away, was the only way she could think of to escape everything inevitable about her family. Their faces both burned red under the high sun as they drove out of the forest and past the small bungalows on the edge of a housing estate. 




Sam didn’t want anyone to see her face. She had made a lasagne while she was alone in the house. It sat waiting for her husband and sister in a casserole dish on top of the cooker. After she had finished cooking she went upstairs to bed in the attic extension. She could probably hide for at least a few more days, until the swelling and the shame had died down. She didn’t want to confront Dale with reality of his anger and her injury, it would shock him and embarrass them both. That would only make things worse for everyone, it was better if she could keep out of his way. She stepped in front of the dressing table mirror and her organs cringed and jolted inside her from seeing her own reflection. She tried to look herself in the one eye that was clear and fully open but it shone back in angry judgement and self-contempt. She supposed she wouldn’t be able to meet the eyes of other people for several days. It was almost like having the flu, aching, she would keep to herself, shuffling between the bed and the en-suite to keep any incidence of infection contained while she convalesced. 

Sam had found herself retreating into the attic more and more as Dale was sleep less and growing increasingly restless in the night. It was easier for her to sleep up there, the attic room was quieter than anywhere else in the house. The blinds never had to be drawn as no one could see in through the skylight windows. Sam could see morning through to evening up here, the sky rotating above her through the windows on either side of the roof. She took a pill from her stash of diazepam hidden in a makeup bag under the bed and washed it down with a gulp of scotch, placing the bottle on the white bedside table, unfinished with. The diazepam settled her down in the clean quilted bed where she could think things through, healing herself without feeling the sting of antiseptic on open sores and old grievances. The tangled snarl of bad thoughts always hovering around her head retreated when she self medicated in this way. They stood in front of her, not impossible, translated from shadows and scars into warm azure colours, some soft blues, black bruises muting into pastel violets, mud shining, reflecting a shimmering peach light. Swallowing down snatches of scotch to follow her own thoughts as they buzzed softly slowly round, one leading to another, bobbing harmlessly against a concealed knot of grief, seamlessly forgetting, she sipped and drowsed, no books, no television, no family to intrude or impose reality until tomorrow. 

The next day Lisa stopped her car in front of the house as she often did when she noticed Dale’s car was gone. Sam saw her parking and flipped the switch on the kettle. They sat in the kitchen smoking and drinking tea, making small talk while Lisa pretended not to notice her friend’s bruises and the heavy make-up she’d applied to cover them. Sam pretended not to notice her friend’s critical eye. Sam got up slowly from her stool at the breakfast bar, wincing, bruises singing pain through her body as she cleared away their mugs into the dishwasher. 

      “I wish I could just go off by myself.” Sam muttered, unable to believe in any other realities than the one she was living through.

      “I’ve heard that before. Why don’t you? You can leave him.” Lisa answered sharply. Sam looked back at her, hopeless, practical suggestions dissolved when she tried to look into her own future.

      “You don’t want to leave him, or you would’ve been gone by now.”

      “I’ve got nowhere to go! And what about Hannah?”

      “Hannah’s a grown-up, she’s been a grown-up for most of her childhood! She’ll be gone soon. You should get out too! You can come and stay with us.”

      “I can’t fuck up your life with my mess. Anyway, I’ve left before and he came and found me. He’d find me in no time at your house.” 

      “Well, this is your house, change the bloody locks! Lock him out! Sell it and bugger off abroad somewhere!” Lisa slipped her phone and cigarette packet off the table and into her handbag. This conversation wasn’t destined to go anywhere new, she got ready to leave, anger rising.

      “He’s my husband, it’s his house too, and even if I could sell the house from under him, you’re telling me to run off, alone, leaving everything I know. I could never come back.” Sam leaned against the counter, pressing her arms hard against her bruised ribs, releasing and nursing new spasms of breathless pain. 

      “That’s the point isn’t it? You shouldn’t be here, you should go and never come back! It’ll only be a matter of time before he goes to far. He’ll be the death of you!” Lisa’s exclamations surprised her. Sam wasn’t worried about him going too far, there had only been one trip to the emergency room, and that was her own fault, she’d fallen and hit her head during a fight. The fighting had simply gone on for too long, there was no longer any hope of him changing, or of ever being happy together. Dale had been angry when they met, he was just angry at everyone else instead of her back then, back before everything was her fault. 

      “I can’t keep watching all this and having the same conversation over and over again.” Lisa got up, picked up her car keys and pulled the strap of her handbag over her shoulder. “Call me if you need me, but I can’t be around him anymore. He’s a smug shit and I’d gouge out his eyes with my finger nails if you’d let me.” Sam closed her eyes, letting the image sink in. A wave of nausea rolled up, sending her lurching to the sink where she vomited tea and the remains of her breakfast. 

      “Eurgh. Fuck.” She grabbed a glass and filled it with water, taking small sips, the liquid burning like acid down her throat. Lisa had been standing near the door watching her. She dropped her bag down on the counter.

       “You’re not fucking pregnant?”