Tales of terror, growth and the discovery of strength.

Month: October, 2012

The Night My Childhood Ended.

I was nearly 8 years old when my childhood ended. I remember because my next youngest sister had just been born. She was born in May, and I was 8 in July.

I’d known before then that something wasn’t quite right in the house I grew up in, but I hadn’t realised just how wrong things were.

I was woken up late at night by the sound of my mother whimpering and my father shouting. I crept into my sister’s room and we held each other all that long night. She whispered to me, telling me it was all right, that they were just arguing. But I could hear the smacks when he slapped her, and the awful thuds when he punched her. I knew she was trying to be quiet, trying not to wake us. He wasn’t so considerate. He grunted like an animal, while she whimpered and cried out like a child. It felt like it went on for hours, though it may have only been a few minutes. It felt like it lasted all night.

When we got up the next morning, he had gone out. We went into the kitchen to see my mother, and my first, childish thought was that she looked like the moon, because her face was so round and swollen. She was eating weetabix on one side of her mouth, because it hurt too much to eat with the other side. Whenever I see someone eating weetabix, I flash straight back to that morning.

She was wearing her blue dressing gown, the one that was so soft and warm. I always felt so safe when she hugged me wearing that, but after that day, I knew none of us were safe and for a few years, when we got up and she was still wearing her blue dressing gown, I would wonder if he had hit her again during the night. It’s strange, the connections that a child’s brain will make.

One of her eyes was swollen completely shut, and had blood all crusted in the corner. He had fractured her left cheekbone, the same side as her shut eye, and it was twice the size of her right. Her mouth was so swollen she could barely eat and her lips were almost shredded. Her whole face was dark blue. A few of her ribs were cracked and the rest were badly bruised. There were crusted teeth marks in her arm, where he had bit her and she told us that he had hung off her arm, shaking his head and growling like a dog. He didn’t let her leave the house for 3 weeks.

She told us she fell down the stairs. My 9 year old sister and I looked her straight in the eye and told her that we knew and she didn’t have to lie to us. She broke down then, and for the first of many times to come, we comforted our mother.

She told us that she was sorry, and that she tried her best to stay quiet. She told us she had to keep moving around the bed, so that the newborn baby lying between them didn’t get hurt. The baby didn’t wake up. Thank god. In the state he was in he might have killed her.

She told us that there was madness in his eyes, that she looked at him and it wasn’t him looking back. But the whole thing started because she hadn’t been keeping his house clean enough. My mother, who was the sole breadwinner and and caregiver, wasn’t keeping the house clean enough while he lay on the sofa and drank and smoked and slept. She spent the whole day cleaning the cupboards out with a sponge, nursing her poor ribs.

That was the day I realised I wasn’t safe. That was the day I realised my father was quite insane. That was the day I realised that my mother could die at his hands. That was the day my childhood ended.


Chronicles of a Teenage Runaway: Part 2.

I’d recommend reading part 1 first.

So, Matt drops me off at Mickey’s flat. He’s a good friend of mine and he lives with a girl I knew vaguely from school. She was in the year above me. They both have big rooms, I’m squeezed into the box room with a load of broken furniture, but I don’t mind. I only have around 2 black bags of possessions and 2 guitars after all! But it’s clean and everything works and they both work early so I get to sleep undisturbed. I actually feel quite safe here, in a way I never quite did at Stan’s, even before the shit hit the fan. We cook together and spend time with each other.  Naturally, it can’t last. Mickey and the girl have a pregnant friend who wants my room so after a week of safety,  with 12 hours notice, I have to find somewhere else to stay.

I met a guy a few days ago, called Sim, who really sympathised with my situation. He assured me that I could stay with him if I needed to, he lives with his Dad and it’s a safe place to be. They’ve sheltered people in the past who have needed help. I call him up and he agrees to let me stay. I don’t feel 100% comfortable with the situation, but I’m desperate. Desperation is a common theme in this next year.  I’m 16, I’m alone and I’m so, so scared.

I turn up the next day with my two black bags and two guitar cases. Sim shows me to my room. “Two beds? Are we expecting someone else?” No. Turns out this is his room. But I’m not to worry, he’s done this before, it’s totally safe. I don’t really have a choice now. I have nowhere else to go. But why didn’t he tell me this in the first place, so I could decide if that was cool with me?

For the first four days it’s fine. I’m not really there much anyway, I’m travelling to the nearest city most days, trying to secure a job and sort out a more permanent place to stay. I wake up one night to find him standing over my bed. I hold my breath and eventually he goes away. He keeps trying to talk to me about sex, telling me his girlfriend is a frigid bitch and he deserves so much better.

We went for a drive the next night with a few of his friends. I didn’t really want to be in such close proximity to him, but he accused me of using his place as a doss house and made me feel really guilty, so I agreed. His friends park up after about half an hour and start smoking weed. They don’t pay any attention to me and Sim, sat in the backseat. Sim starts touching me up. His friends get out of the car, lock the front doors and walk away. It’s a hatchback, so I don’t have direct access to a door. I don’t know where I am either. I’m pushing his hands away but he’s getting more and more insistent. He shoves his hands up my top, under my bra. He pinches my nipples, really, really hard. I whimper – I can’t help it. He thinks that means I’m enjoying it, so he forces his hands up my skirt. He’s got me pinned against the inside of the car with one arm across my throat and now he’s forcing his fingers inside me. I can’t help it; I start crying. Sim gets really angry and for a minute I think he’s going to keep pressing on my throat until I’m a goner.  He pulls away abruptly. Calls me a whore and a cocktease. What did I expect, coming to live with him? Of course he was going to think I was willing to fuck him!

His friends drop us back. I still have nowhere to go so I have to follow him in. I bolt straight for the bathroom and take a really long shower. I’m desperately hoping he’ll be asleep by the time I get back in the room. No such luck. He’s laid on his bed, masturbating and staring straight at me as I walk through the door. I just flip the light off and get straight into bed, fully clothed. The next day, he throws me out.

Chronicles of a Teenage Runaway: Part 1.

Tensions are building steadily at home. The atmosphere is getting thicker and thicker. I’m unable to control my reactions like before. I’m not just scared anymore. I’m getting angrier. I’m really struggling to control myself on a daily basis. Fear is barely keeping my mouth shut now. My sister ran away 18 months ago because Dad tried to strangle her. Even though I know that if he loses it I might end up dead, it’s killing me every day keeping my eyes down, saying the right things, placating his fucking temper. He can see it though. He knows I’m close to snapping and he’s waiting. If I don’t get out of here soon, I’m going to break.

So, I go. Pack my things into bin bags and fill my backpack. 

Leanne’s agreed to meet me outside my gate at half seven to help me move my stuff quickly. I’m moving as quietly as I can. I can hear him snoring in bed still. The kids aren’t up yet, but Mum is awake. I dump all my bags by the front door. Mum turns to face me.

Mum: “Are you doing what I think you’re doing?”

Me: “I can’t be here anymore. I’m sorry”

Mum stares at me for a few seconds. She looks defeated. I think she’s going to beg me to stay. Not sure if I can take that.

Mum: “What am I supposed to without your child benefit money*”

I don’t think she’s ever said anything so hurtful to me. I look away; my eyes are filling. Is that all I’m good for?

I pick up my bags and start moving them outside. Thank god, Leanne is here, she hasn’t let me down. I get everything out, and go back inside. I lay two notes on the table, one for Mum, one for Dad. Mum’s back is turned. She doesn’t say a word.

She doesn’t even ask me if I have somewhere safe to sleep.

I leave.

Walking as fast as we can, Leanne and I head for the bus stop. A bus is due almost immediately. Hop on. Sit down. Exhale.

Drive past the house. I won’t see inside it again. The front door is shut.

Head to the nearest town, where I’ll be staying with a friend. I’ve known him for a while. He used to have a major drug and alcohol problem, but he’s been clean for about six months and he’s doing really well. It’s a good arrangement for both of us. He really needs the company and I really need somewhere to stay!

It’s going really well at first. His friend Charlie** is staying too. Charlie is a sweet kid, a runaway like me, only I’m pretty sure he’s underage. I’m teaching my friend, Stan**, to play guitar and some basic cookery skills. I don’t think he’s ever used the oven!

Money is tight for that first week and a half, but we don’t mind. We get so excited when we go to the shop and find cheddar cheese on offer! Cheese is too expensive when you’re trying to eat on five pounds a week! I’m sleeping on the couch in the spare room. Stan offered me the bed, but to be honest his hygiene isn’t amazing so I decided to stick with that couch! Charlie is bunking on the living room floor on a mattress. We’re like a little family. Charlie doesn’t really talk. I wonder what happened to him.

It’s all been going so well. Am I surprised that it didn’t last?

I have to up for work early tomorrow. Stan and Charlie came home with a litre of Vodka. Stan has definitely taken something. Phet I think…he’s twitchy as hell and he’s gurning like nothing I’ve ever seen. He’s saying that someone gave him the vodka as a gift…bullshit. They robbed it. This is going to get messy. I retreat to my room.

It’s 12 am now, and they’re blasting happy hardcore. I have to be up in six hours and my patience is wearing thin. I’ve asked them twice to keep it down. I can hear crashing now. I poke my head around the door. Their jumping on and off the sofa like maniacs. I eye the vodka. It’s nearly gone. I ask Stan again. He comes nose to nose with me and screams at me to shut the fuck up. His eyes are wild. I go from pissed off to fucking terrified on about half a second.

I take a step back, put my hands out, palm open. “Ok Stan, I’m sorry. My bad.” I know that look. My Dad gets that look right before the violence comes. He’s lost it. He dashes into the kitchen. I stand there frozen. He comes back and runs full pelt at me. There’s a fucking knife in his hand. There’s a fucking knife in his hand! I’ve never moved so fast in my life. I just manage to get my door closed before he reaches me. There’s no fucking lock! I’ve never needed a lock before! Stan is stabbing seven shades of shit out of the door. I drag the couch in front of the door and brace myself between the couch and the wall. He’s kicking the door now; if he gets in here I think he’ll actually kill me.

I don’t have much credit on my phone. It’s 1 am now. It doesn’t even occur to me to ring the police. They would just take me back to my parents. My friend Mickey offered me his spare room last week. I call him and hang up; pray, pray, pray he calls back. He does. I can come to his but he doesn’t know anyone who can come get me. Ok. I call my ‘surrogate brother’, Matt. He’s in bed with his wife. He’ll be with me in ten minutes. I thought his wife would be mad, but I can hear her in the background, telling him to get me out of there. Bless her, she’s never liked me much, but she did the right thing that night. He would have come anyway.

The door is starting to splinter. I’m a bit worried about Matt, Stan having a knife and all, but Matt is 6″2, weighs about 18 stone and is one of the toughest people I know. I warned him about the knife.

There’s banging at the door. Stan ignores it for a bit, but it doesn’t stop. He stops kicking the door. I hear him tell Charlie to act normal. He opens the door. Matt tells him to sit down and stay down. He must have looked like thunder, because Stan obeys him without a word. I push the couch away from the door. I’ve never been so glad to see anyone. We get my stuff out.

As I’m leaving, Stan calls out to me. I’ve avoided looking at him this whole time. Tears are pouring down his face. He’s wailing at me, begging me not to go. I just shake my head. He picks up the knife and starts slicing into his arms. He’s begging me to stop, pleading with me to come back. Cutting deeper and deeper the whole time. I can’t stop looking; there’s an emotional car wreck happening right in front of my eyes. There’s blood fucking everywhere. He’s almost screaming now. There are ropes of drool hanging out of his mouth. Blood is spreading over the carpet. Charlie is puking in the corner. Matt comes back up stairs; the car is packed. I’m in shock I think. How can I leave him like this? Matt takes in the scene, puts his arms around me and pulls me down the stairs, out the door. I’m not putting up a fight. I just can’t physically walk away from that.

We drive for a little while. He pulls the car over and holds me in silence. He never asks me if I want to go home. He knows how bad it was there. I chainsmoke for about an hour, let him hold me and give what comfort he can. He’s crying now. Crying over me, my life, my situation. I should probably cry. I think I’ve forgotten how. It’s been years since I’ve shed a tear. I wish I was exaggerating.

On to the next.