A policeman is waiting outside the flat on the balcony.
‘Thanks for coming,’ he says. ‘We’ve got two patients – husband and the wife. Steve is currently under arrest, but he’s got a cut to his head we’d like you to look at before we take him off. Anna’s in the living room. She doesn’t seem that bad – a bit of swelling round the mouth, but see what you think. They’ve got a seven-year-old in the bedroom. My colleague is looking after him. Mind how you go when you come in. There’s broken glass everywhere.’
There is a two-panelled door between the kitchen and the hallway, each panel with a pane of safety glass. But someone has crashed against or maybe through it; the central strut bows out, and only a few shards of glass remain in the frame, the rest liberally scattered across the lino. There is a splatter of blood up the side of one kitchen cabinet, and handprints here and there on other surfaces.
Steve seems calm. He is leaning against the fridge with a bloody tea towel pressed to the top of his head. Whilst my colleague Paul goes to examine him, I go on through to the living room to see Anna.
She is kneeling on an exercise mat in the middle of the room, her hands palm down on her thighs, her eyes closed. Her long blond hair trails over her shoulders in sweated strands. Her mouth looks plump and bloodied on the left.
I introduce myself, and kneel down, too.
‘I’m okay,’ she says. ‘I’m fine. But I can’t do this anymore. I can’t...’
The tears she’s been trying so hard to control come rushing up. She’s overwhelmed by them, and drops her head.
I pass her some tissues.
‘Anna? It’s really important that I find out if you have any injuries. Can you tell me what happened?’
She half-opens her eyes and wipes her nose.
‘He’s just a college friend. But Steve gets so jealous and I can’t go on. He doesn’t let me do a thing. And I’ve been trying so hard. I’ve been taking classes, trying to improve myself. But he won’t.. he can’t...’
She squeezes her eyes shut again, and a fresh wave of tears spill down her cheeks.
‘So you had a fight, is that what happened?’
I hand her some fresh tissues. She throws the old ones to the side.
‘Did he hurt you?’
She shrugs, then laughs.
‘I hurt him. And I’m glad.’
‘Tell me about the fight.’
She takes a deep breath, one that seems to catch inside.
‘I don’t know. He slapped me and I went crazy. I’ve had enough. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t live like this. I think I put him through the door.’
The police woman who has come into the room sits down with me.
‘From what I can gather he assaulted Anna and she fought back big time. I definitely think he’s come off worse.’
Paul comes in from the kitchen.
‘Steve needs a couple of stitches but it’s nothing serious. Another police car has just taken him to the hospital.’
After an examination, it seems that Anna just has a swollen lip where she was struck in the mouth. There are no other signs of injury.
‘I’m staying home,’ says Anna. ‘My boy’s next door. I’m staying with him.’
‘He’s just gone off to sleep,’ says the police woman. ‘But he was showing me his hamsters a minute ago. Lovely little things. Itchy and Scratchy. You should see them, tumbling round in that wheel.’
Anna laughs.Then she cries, and cries, and cries, fully and deeply, without end.