Each Time History Repeats Itself, They Say The Price Goes Up by Shannon Savvas

Photo by P. L. on Unsplash

Lies slipped off my tongue from the time I could say yes or no. Why wouldn’t they when the wrong answer would bring punishment? Why wouldn’t they when all I’d ever heard was rubbish about tooth fairies, Santa Claus (be good, be nice, be boring), mummy having eyes in the back of her head, eating crusts (I wanted straight hair like my dolls), strangers who would spirit me away and unrealised threats about what my daddy would do when he got home?

By the time I was six, my fingers, born for thieving, were honing their skills. For a couple of weeks, preparatory lessons for Confession had scared the heck out of me until it clicked: I could do whatever I liked and whisper sorry in the darkness. No one would ever know I wasn’t. No one would know what I’d done. Not even God, because I’d heard Mum and Dad late at night, most especially whenever I heard him say For God’s sake, Lauren, she’d shout back, there is no bloody God, Dave.

‘What are you saving for, Mum?’ I asked her one afternoon.

‘Oh, I don’t know, this and that, Sweetie.’

I figured she didn’t have anything in mind, so by the time she graduated to the pickled onion jar, the temptation, idea and plan such as they were, arrived in a dead heat in my head, fully formed, beautiful, foolproof. No longer would I have to slip lollies from the pick ‘n’ mix at the corner store into my pocket. If I did it right, I could waltz in, buy what I wanted and run home to sit on the toilet, door locked, unseen by siblings or dog to scoff to the point of yuckiness the ill-gotten sweeties – pink smokers, rainbow staples with their heart of liquorice, and my absolute favs, Jaffa balls.

Fist in, fist out when she wasn’t around. I stole the sixpences from Mum’s rinsed out jam jar on the windowsill. I was canny. Saturdays only, while Mum gardened and Dad mowed the lawns. I knew the story of the monkey getting its hand stuck in the jar because it was greedy.

I wasn’t greedy.

I was careful.

I was consistent.

At twenty-six, I was a stay-at-home mum, raising kids and cleaning house while my husband Ritchie worked all hours tending the domestic needs and plumbing tragedies of people so bloody racist they were prepared to pay over the odds for a true-blue Englishman to unblock their toilets, sluice their drains and plug their leaks.

I didn’t have a sixpence jar. I had my husband’s trouser pockets. Never one for a wallet, banks or plastic, his untaxed, paid-in-cash earnings from which he peeled my lousy housekeeping were rich pickings. Kept me in lipsticks, hair cuts and Chanel No 5; not that he ever noticed.

I wasn’t greedy.

I was careful.

I was consistent.

I waited for the kids to fly before using my stash to buy my escape. Twice in twenty years, I bought a ticket while he was on his yearly plumbing mates’ getaway, aka naughty boys’ jaunt, to some clichéd what-happens-there-stays-there resort. The night before my departure for Perth, Australia known for the black swans I’d wanted to see since I was a kid, my sister called to say Dad was dying. Two years later, when he actually died, I booked again. Ritchie found my ticket and packed case in the spare room the night before I left.

‘Where the fuck did you get the money, eh? And what do you expect to live off without me killing myself working to put a roof over your empty head and food in your useless mouth?’

My courage crumbled. Just like confession, I could say what I didn’t mean and he wouldn’t know. What the hell are you thinking at your age? I spewed a heap of sorries and pretend promises, blamed the menopause, cancelled the ticket, and unpacked my suitcase.

I had been greedy.

I hadn’t been careful.

I’d been caught.

Ritchie’s anger abated with the years; his words lost their sting but his bloated ego held tighter to the money. So, once again, like confession – all show on my knees and false promises – I became the devoted wife. I resorted once more to shoplifting just for the thrill, the smug win. It took a while until he either forgot what I had nearly done or stopped caring. The kids nagged his tight-fistedness into something slacker, but not free. I saved and carried my cash around, rolled up in a couple of panty liners in a small, zipped pouch which I kept in the deepest pockets of my handbags, under sunglasses and tissues. I didn’t know what I was saving for. This and that, I supposed.

I wasn’t greedy.

I was careful.

I was consistent.

Turned out I was saving to make good my youngest daughter’s escape with her two toddlers from a bastard who thought it was sport to get tanked and beat the shit out of her.

Now, while my husband shits like clockwork every morning, I pad on silent sixty-year-old feet into the bedroom, slither my fingers, struggling now with the arthritis, into the pocket of his trousers hanging on the peg behind the bedroom door.

These days I don’t buy tickets or sweeties. There is nowhere to go, and our family doctor prescribes all the sweeties I need. I buy vodka. While he watches the football late at night, I sit on the toilet, door locked. I swallow my pills and drink. It is again my safest place.

I’m not greedy.

I am careful.

I am consistent.

About The Author

Shannon Savvas divides her time between New Zealand, England and Cyprus. A nomad since childhood, she still struggles to find where she belongs and to understand who she is.

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