Judy heard the keys rattle in the lock as Punch let himself into the flat they had shared together for the past two and a half years. She had never liked the flat much, situated as it was directly above the record shop where Punch worked during the day, it was also located near the two main nightclubs in the town centre. Judy had lost count of the number of times she had been woken up during the night by people who apparently couldn’t handle their drink as they staggered, shouted and swore loudly on the way home.
It was small wonder that when Judy climbed out of bed at eight every morning she had bags under her eyes from lack of sleep. Even so she was never so tired as not to know that Punch would return to the flat almost precisely at noon every day for his hour long lunch break, in keeping with their established routine Judy always made sure there was a salad on the dining table waiting for him. Punch had made his feelings clear on this as he took his diet and fitness very seriously, just one of the examples being the five mile run he took every day after work meant he didn’t have an inch of fat on him. This being, if Judy was to be honest with herself, one of the reasons why she had felt an attraction to him so soon after a mutual friend had introduced them.
As the shop closed at 6pm it meant that Punch would, almost as regular as clockwork, return home perhaps an hour afterward. While he was out Judy generally kept herself busy as there was usually something to occupy her attention. Indeed over the course of just over two years of living in the flat Judy had become quite an expert in DIY mainly due to necessity rather than choice. In fact, while Punch was away at work, there had been times when she had ventured over to certain neighbours and helped them out if something needed doing. Her eye was always on the clock though, and it had not escaped her notice that eyebrows were raised when she abruptly left to cook Punch his dinner.
For his own part Punch had a routine of his own, it was a matter of trust which he managed to build with the owner of the record shop over the course of three years of working there which enabled him to be permitted to lock the place up at six in the evening precisely. As he was the first person to arrive in the morning and the last to leave the owner had also allowed him to possess a copy of the record shop keys to take home with him.
When Punch finally returned home after his run he invariably did so in the same fashion before heading to the shower to wash of the sweat generated from his run. Cupping Judy’s face in the palm of his hand and looking upon her with an expression of childlike wonder he exclaimed such things as ‘You must have been created by the gods, for nothing human could prove so divine”.
Prior to this Judy had been stood in the bathroom for about twenty minutes while she applied some make up. The reason for this was a couple of days ago she had been cleaning the flat when, sometime around 3pm, she had decided to take the weight off her feet for a few minutes. Switching on the stereo she picked up a book she’d been reading and sat down in a nearby armchair, fully intending to pick up where she’d left off as soon as she’d finished the chapter.
In hindsight Judy would come to theorise that the temperature from what had been a warm day had contrived to cause her to fall asleep and consequently fail to hear Punch come home from work. Being a sound sleeper it only partially woke Judy up when she was dragged to her feet, she had just begun to wipe the sleep from her eyes when the first blow had crashed into the side of her cheek at a point less than a centimetre beyond her left cheekbone. Half falling as a result she had instinctively reached for something to stabilise herself, grabbing hold of what felt like a coat upon doing so.
“This flat is filthy” Punch had screeched, his tone of voice reminiscent of someone using a swazzle to speak with.
A section of hair close to the back of Judy’s head had suddenly became wrapped up in the ball of a fist which was then used to effectively steer Judy round in a half circle, in almost the exact second when her vision finally cleared the second blow lanced in. Hitting her almost directly in the centre of the abdomen Judy had felt the breath driven from her and clutched the point of impact with both hands in a vain attempt to recover.
Only dimly aware of being manhandled backward with the same clump of hair Judy had been in no position to resist as she was steered backward into the kitchen before Punch let go, sending Judy tumbling to the floor, her side of her head bouncing off the edge of a worktop as she went.
“You know where the oven is, get busy” Punch had instructed.
It hadn’t been for several minutes, at least not until a pan of pasta had just begun to come to the boil that Judy had realised that her head was bleeding.
Today would be different Judy had decided as she quickly made her way across the flat to the front door, as Punch came in she was right there to greet him with a smile and kiss on the cheek before taking his coat in order to hang it up for him.
“Is dinner ready?” asked Punch as he returned her smile.
“It will be in about five minutes” answered Judy.
Punch took his usual seat and switched on the television.
“That’s the way to do it” he said.