Peter yawned. Then he sneezed.  Lorraine gritted her teeth and plugged her hands in her coat pockets. It wasn’t the bitter March wind that she was defending herself against.  She knew what was coming. Quickening her pace, she crossed the road, weaving her way through the terraced streets which bordered the shopping area. She knew she had to get out of the town centre. Still sneezing, eyes running, Peter caught her up, his six foot three frame effortlessly outstriding her.
‘Please, Lorraine.’
Lorraine caught her reflection in a house window.  Man, she looked haggard: her coat drawn up to her chin, scrawny, pale, like a spotty fourteen year old.  Where had her tits and ass gone?  How come she was the one looking rough while Peter looked fine?

But Peter was on automatic. There was no diversion for him. All his energies were focused on the tiny woman struggling to escape him. 
‘I’ll let you have my disability book.’
‘Don’t want your money. Just to keep mine.’  Instinctively, her fingers gripped the purse in her pocket. Across the road, a lady with two children looked up from her car boot. Lorraine cursed inwardly. That’s all she needed: one of the solicitors from her work seeing Peter harassing her like this. Lorraine put on a smile and brief wave for her. The solicitor noted Peter and smiled a bit too broadly, the kids blatantly staring.

‘You can have my whole book this month. That’s fifty six pounds just for fifteen today. I’m the one that’s being ripped off.’  He waved the pink and blue paper book in front of her. Lorraine impatiently pushed it aside, glancing back, hoping the solicitor hadn’t seen her.
‘No! Piss off.’
‘I’ve said no, Peter. Forget it. Ask Jimmy.  Or Alex.’
She was rummaging in her bag now, on the kerb outside the house, looking for the keys.
‘They won’t.  I’ve no one else to turn to.’
Lorraine rolled her eyes. Peter leant against the doorpost and sneezed four times.  He looked so wretched when he got like this.  It did her head in. She struggled with the door.  It had swollen in the rain and was a real bastard to both open and close. Peter gave it a push with his knee and it opened.
‘It’s only fifteen pounds. Sake.’
‘Yeah, fifteen pounds I can’t afford.’
She took off her coat, putting her purse in her bag and carrying it into the poky, cluttered kitchen. She switched on the kettle. Peter crouched down on his haunches by the door.  For effect, no doubt.
‘Can’t you get a lift off Lizzy to work? And we’ve got plenty of food in.’
‘Food in.’ Lorraine laughed bitterly and opened the empty cupboards, one after another, doors slamming.  Peter scowled, his face clouding over briefly.
‘Oh, stop being so melodramatic.’  He put his head on his knees and started to undo the gold chain round his neck. Lorraine sniffed the remains of the milk in the carton while eyeing him.
‘Oh no you don’t.  Cuz I know who will be paying to get it back out.’
‘Can’t believe you’re being like this, Lorraine. I’d do it if it was you.’
Here we go.
‘A tenner today, twenty tomorrow.  Just bloody sick of it.’
Peter slowly slid back up, his height always gave him advantage.
‘Oh so you want me to go out lifting or robbing? Go to jail?’
The kettle was bubbling. Lorraine focused on it, rather than Peter. She mustn’t look at him.
‘You do, don’t you?  You want me to go to jail.’
Lorraine clattered the spoon in the mug with the milk. Come on. Boil! Just the hiss and bubble of the damned kettle.
‘Shut up, ay. I’m just sick of you tapping off me.’
‘It’s the last time, Lorraine.’ That whiney voice.  Why did she always need to believe it?
Peter moved closer. Lorraine breathed the smell of stale cigarette smoke and JOOP! At least he still took care of his appearance, but it wasn’t for her sake.  He only made an effort when he went out on his own.
‘I really need your help here.’  He put his hand on her shoulder. She shook it off as the kettle boiled.
‘Oh, you need help alright.’
Puppy dog eye time. She tried to focus on the swirling teabag.
‘Please, Lorraine. Just this once. I’ll do anything.’
‘Ok. We go visit mum this afternoon.’ 
He moaned like a six year old.
‘If you love me, how can you let me rattle like this? I’d do anything for you.’
‘Take it or leave it, buddy.’
She went into the lounge with the tea, Peter following. He sat on the arm of the sofa. Putting her tea down, Lorraine sat down and reflexively stared at the space where the TV used to be.

Immediately, Peter blackened, standing up so abruptly, she spilt her tea. Three steps and he was at the door. A tug of rage,  a slam which shuddered the walls and he was out.  Lorraine gasped, her hollow life collapsing in on her. Anything but this roaring silence, the banging of her hurting heart. She raced to the door.
‘Oh, alright, alright. I’ll go to the bank.  But this is the last time!’
Peter turned, his face all sunshine and relief. He was so damn gorgeous, it was a crime. He hugged her.
‘Thank you!’

As Lorraine got her coat, she stopped. Peter was already at the street corner, blonde hair blowing in the wind, impatiently tilting his head at her. She sighed, adjusting their wedding photos which was wonky on the damp hall wall. Then she slammed the stiff door shut, hearing the photo fall on the mat behind her.