The bedroom floor crunched with the sound of cheap broken plastic toys giving way to his heavy boots. "Oops... sorry" he said quietly, but their eyes were closed. They were probably already asleep.
The kids were in bed. Tonight they were quiet. He didn't have to read a story like last night. There are only so many unicorn princesses, witches' spells and dwarf heroes he could take.
Last night they had been running around and he'd been chasing round after them like mad chickens. Just when he had one settled the other had started crawling under the bed or running out the door. There was shouting, screaming, crying - all the usual stuff. They never wanted to go to bed, of course. When he'd finally persuaded them and got them nicely tucked in they'd pleaded with him so much that he had no choice but to read them a story. He was a big softie at heart.
The truth was he hated having to read bedtime stories, but of course he would never admit it. After a hard day's work and all the cleaning up the last thing he ever wanted was to sit down and go through all of that. The funny voices, happy faces, exaggerated gestures and happy endings with forever afters. Hah! It was just a silly show and he couldn't help think about how ridiculous it all was.
When he was young he'd never had a story. There weren't even any books at home. His mom and dad used to let him fall asleep on their tattered brown sofa amongst the cans and chips and magazines as different folk came and went morning, noon and night. He'd be so tired when it was late at who knows what hour that he normally didn't need any help getting to sleep. Even the loud TV that never seemed to turn off and the strange noises and music and slamming doors didn't keep him up. Of course he'd be really tired. Anyway, even if he couldn't sleep he was smart enough to know that you just shut your eyes, kept still and pretended. Then they'd leave you alone. Sometimes he'd wake up with a little blanket that someone had thrown over him, and sometimes he'd just wake up shivering alone in the cold at dawn. But it didn't matter now. He'd forgotten most of it. And man, you don't need to remember all that stuff anyway, right?
So now he took care of things and read bedtime stories if he had too. It was the least he could do for them. It was the right thing.
But it so happened that tonight he didn’t need to. They were in bed as quiet as mice, asleep already. He touched their small heads very lightly and they seemed to shiver a little. They must already be dreaming, he thought. He checked to see that they would be warm enough and pulled a blanket over the little one properly so that it wouldn’t fall off in the night. It was really late. A cat purred from somewhere in the dark shadowy silence of the room. As he moved towards the door he decided to leave the little bedside lamp on so they wouldn’t be afraid when they woke up. He took one last look before leaving the room and left the door slightly ajar. He felt his heart welling up with love and some strange sadness. "Night night…" he whispered softly.
He went downstairs carefully. He looked around and turned the TV off. The house was dark and silent but he could smell stale booze and overflowing ashtrays. He kicked a bottle on the floor as he searched for his bag. The place was quite a mess but he knew he was making things right. The kids would be alright. He searched for the light switch and then he turned the lights on. The bright blue white florescent tube flickered twice and then lit up the small room. There they were on the sunken old sofa, the mom and dad of those poor little kids upstairs, just as he'd left them, slumped over each other with their hands tied together and throats cut soaked in a pool of blood.
Upstairs he heard the cat again, or was it the little girl? She would be ok. He put his stuff back in his bag and looked up. There were more families that needed his help. Children that just needed some love and a bedtime story, like the one he'd told last night to the other kids in that other family and like the one he'll tell tomorrow or maybe the day after that. He shut the broken door on his way out. He felt good. They'll thank him. They'll remember.