Yawning I sip my steaming cup of coffee and try to rub some life in to my overly tired eyes. The hot liquid causes me to flinch slightly as it burns my tongue but I ignore the sharp sting in my mouth. Never the less caution kicks in and I blow hard in to the cup before I sip away again. I always sit out here on the step early in the morning. I love watching the light seep its way in to my little garden, growing bigger and brighter, and I watch the insects and flowers as they greet the day too. The fresh smell of the new day always manages to fill me with, oh I don’t know, hope perhaps? I find the chill of the early morning air invigorating and breathe it in deeply, having barely slept for the last few nights I need all the help I can get to wake me up and the lovely clean, cool air seems to be working a treat.
Sitting here is a tiny pleasure that I allow myself each day and it is the only time in any day which I properly have to myself. Being a wife and mother is a busy job, so while my husband and daughter wake up at 7am, I get up an hour earlier, sit on my step and drink my coffee until it is time to wake them and get them both fed and ready for the day ahead. I allow my eyes to wander over the garden and smile with satisfaction at what they take in. I love my garden, tiny as it might be; it’s my very own project, as no other member of my family ever bothers with it. Even though spring has not long arrived it is already green, flowers including my newly planted daffodils are in bud and the tulips are starting to sprout up too. It’s already so pretty, and every time I look at it I feel proud of my achievement. It is proof that I am capable of doing something well.
“God can’t you shut that door it’s bloody freezing in here”! My husband exclaims grumpily.
The surprise of his sudden appearance causes me to practically leap to my feet and sends a large slosh of coffee splattering down my thankfully black night shirt. Any hopes that he has missed my blunder are dashed when his eyes fix to my front and I am very aware that he isn’t staring at my boobies! I am, and always have been very clumsy when I am around Darren. You would think that after 21 years of marriage he wouldn’t have this effect on me, but whenever I am near him I turn back in to the clumsy dithering teenager of old! For his part, Darren used to find this character trait cute and endearing in the early days of our relationship, but he no longer does given that I am not the cute 15 year old girl that he fell in love with anymore. Now he simply finds it irritating when I trip, slip, drop and spill things continuously, and because I know this, and am embarrassed by the fact, it just makes me even worse!
I use the pause to take a quick look at him, isn’t it funny that even after being together for almost 22 years he can still cause those giddy butterflies to fill the pit of my stomach! Darren is insanely good looking even when he has just got up, his handsome face still crumpled from sleep and his white blond hair poking out all over the place do nothing to diminish his looks. I note that he is fully dressed despite having just got up but I try not to wonder why. The main reason why I am watching him so acutely is actually because I am just trying to suss out his mood, and from where I am standing, out here in the cold, I can see that it doesn’t look hopeful!
“Morning” I answer with a false brightness as I step inside and close the back door, “would you like a cup” I indicate my own now almost empty cup and already walk to the kettle before he even answers with a nod. I try really hard to keep my voice bright and cheerful in a determined effort to avoid any further quarrel this morning. “You’re up early” I continue as I notice that it isn’t even 6.30 yet. I can physically feel the tension rise in the room but try my best to ignore the fact and concentrate on making coffee instead. Milk sloshes all over the kitchen side as I miss the cup and I nearly drop the sugar pot altogether. I am actually cringing inside as I can ‘feel’ that he is watching me intensely. The silence between us feels endless; it is actually giving me a headache as impossible as it sounds. I want to do, or say something, anything to end it but feel impotent with fear because I know that if I say the wrong thing, I risk reigniting the hateful rows of the previous day. So I try to avoid any further conversation and instead concentrate on cleaning up the mess I have made and try very hard to get the ingredients in to the cup! I needn’t have tried to keep the peace at all because Darren just launches right back in to war!
“So is that it?” he demands “was last night the end of the conversation, you are going and there is nothing that I can say to stop you?” He isn’t asking me, this isn’t a plea for me to tell him what to say or do; this is the gauntlet being thrown because he and I both know that I have to go. Darren has never, ever lost an argument with me before, I have always done as he has said and he clearly feels unable to deal with this unexpected turn of events. Even I can barely believe what I am doing! Temporarily I am rooted to the spot, I am unsure of what to say or do, because I know that I cannot win in this situation. If I go, and I really must, he will never forgive me, and if I stay myself and my family will never forgive me. Almost every member of my family have already distanced themselves from me years ago, and because I know that I cannot blame them, I have learned to deal with this fact, but I don’t want to end up in the position of not being able to look at myself in the mirror. It is already hard enough to do that as it is.
“Please Darren”? I plead as I turn to face him, “Please? She is dying. I have to go to her” I cannot continue speaking because my voice finally breaks and huge juddering sobs break out from deep inside where I have held them for a very long time. Years of guilt and sorrow come pouring out in place of words and I find that I am completely unable to stop myself from wailing. The huge torrent of tears means that I don’t even see Darren dive across the kitchen and so I am unable to move out of the way to stop him from grabbing my face. He grabs my cheeks so hard in his right hand that my mouth scrunches up and my lips are forced out and up towards my nose, he grabs my hair with this left hand and holds my head so tightly that I am unable to move it at all. As I am no longer able to speak the air and mucus that have built up while I was crying are forced out of my nose. I feel so humiliated knowing how disgusting I must look with tears and snot streaming down my face, and I am shaking so violently that I don’t even feel as though my own legs are supporting me anymore.
“Stop it”! Darren hisses as he shakes my head violently, causing me to fear that my neck will actually snap, “Stop that fucking fake arsed crying bullshit”! His face is so close to mine that he is spitting right in to my face and I can smell the toothpaste on his breath. The whole experience coupled with my inability to properly breathe leaves me feeling light headed and sick but his grip on me is so tight, and my fear so great that I cannot even attempt to physically remove myself. Rare as it may be, I have caused Darren to ‘lose it’ with me before, so I do know that when he is this out of control the best thing to do is stay still and quiet and let his anger pass, it is just stupid to test him further. “Your Mother is not bloody dying” he fumes, “she is old and she is fucking crazy-she has always been a crazy bitch, but she is not fucking dying! So don’t you dare try to guilt me you spiteful cunt!”
With his final insult he literally spins me round and launches me in to the air without difficulty. I am a tiny 4ft 10 and UK size 8 so thanks to a big strong Darren I literally fly across the kitchen and crash in to the heavy wooden dining set. Shock and fear mean that I don’t even immediately register the pain caused by the impact, my head is spinning and I feel like I am trapped in a crazy dream. I can’t even think straight as Darren stands over me and screams that I am selfish, that I am choosing to leave him and Nicole through choice, not need and that I don’t even care that they need me, or that I will be away for Mother’s Day. I fear that my pleas and denials are falling on deaf ears but then he surprises me by offering an alternative, “Right” he levels nodding vigorously, clearly liking what he is about to suggest “if it is true and you really just want to see the old witch before she pops her clogs then fine. Fine!” his words tumble breathlessly from his snarling mouth, “tomorrow I will drive you there and you can see her. Spend the whole fucking day with her-take her shopping-whatever,” he adds warningly, “but then you come home! You come straight home, with me!”
Although I have never battled my husband before, and as tempted as I am to end his anger by agreeing to his compromise I know that I cannot. I have faithfully promised my long suffering sister that I would come and help her and I know that I cannot let her down again. Ronnie is at breaking point and I have not been there for her and Mum at all when they have needed me. I shake my head and try to articulate myself again, “Darren please, Veronica has been looking after Mum by herself for the last five years. Five years without a break! She needs help,” I whimper, still crouching beside the dining room table and chairs as my legs are shaking too much to allow me to stand “she needs a break! Just one week” I am pleading and begging again such is my desperation for him to understand the position I am in. “I haven’t seen either of them since Mum had her stroke three years ago” I add, “I feel so guilty”.
“I. I. I” he screams at me, “You fucking selfish bitch. All I can hear is I. I. I. Are you trying to guilt me” he fumes, “because I didn’t fucking let that old cunt move in here?” Temper is causing him to shake and spittle to spray out of his mouth; I don’t think that I have ever, ever seen him so mad. “Your fucking dried up hag of a sister doesn’t have a husband” he continues without allowing me a second to respond, “she doesn’t have a family, and don’t tell me that she isn’t fucking loving it, living in that huge house rent free. She is playing a smart game, look after your Mother for a couple of years and win a free house! And you!” he points right in my face “are too fucking stupid to see that she is playing you!”
As he stands back up to his full 6ft 3 and looms over me, the disgust on his face remains completely unveiled despite being contorted with rage. His breath visibly shudders out of his chest and I can see that in his heart he knows that I am actually going to keep my word for the first time ever. I stay very still despite my pain and discomfort and try to make myself as small as possible, I want to try to stand but I dare not move right now. I need to stay still and quiet in order to allow him a chance to calm down. “Veronica” he spits my sister’s name as though it is poison “doesn’t give a shit about anyone but her fucking self”. Pausing he takes a breath and looks at me thoughtfully, “So is that it? You are going no matter what I say?” as he asks the question he already knows the answer.
“Please Darren” I don’t even get to finish before he rages that I am a fucking stupid bitch and kicks me hard in the side of my ribs causing me to scream out in pain. “I swear Suzanna; if you leave I might just refuse to allow you back”.
I am devastated when as he continues to yell that he hates me, and that there are better women who he could be with, he storms out right past our 17 year old daughter and I realise that she has clearly seen everything. Poor Nicole looks so embarrassed and openly avoids looking at me as I try to regain my composure and make my way slowly to my feet. “He is just upset” she defends her Father by parroting the words that she has heard me say to her so very often since she was a tiny little girl. Her pretty oval face and the sharp blue eyes she inherited from her father are screwed up as though in deep thought and I can see her nervously twiddling her thumbs around one another, a clear indication that she doesn’t quite know what to do.
“Yes” I murmur wincing in pain as I slowly attempt to straighten up. I feel like my face is covered in blood but a quick panicky wipe with the back of my hand makes me realise that it is just tears and snot. I am thankful but none the less know that I must look truly awful. “I had better go after him, make sure that he is OK” Nicole is saying almost to herself. I don’t reply because I am afraid of what I might scream at her if I dare to open my mouth. I know that this is entirely my fault, her lack of concern I mean, if not necessarily her father’s actions. I have spent years blaming myself for Darren’s temper and now she actually believes that it is my fault! Nicole has always been ‘Daddy’s Girl’ and in her eyes, thanks to me, he can do no wrong and I can do no right, and I only have myself to blame for the whole thing, and I know it. But it does hurt to see her long blond pony tail bounce as she literally runs out of the door after her father, to make sure that he is OK.
I cannot help but sink on to a chair, bury my face in my hands and cry however weak that might make me. At moments like this I cannot believe that this is my life, that all of my childhood dreams, hopes and expectations amounted to this! Life can be very cruel. Part of me wonders how much more of this I will have the strength to take before I leave, but I have to ‘stamp’ those thoughts out of my head. They are pointless. I know that I cannot leave. I love Darren and he does love me. I cannot go anywhere. Anyway, I have nowhere to go.
It doesn’t take me too long before I am able to regain my ‘stiff upper lip’, swallow down the emotional and physical pain and get on with the things that I have to do before I leave for my train. I am very well rehearsed at smothering my own feelings and concentrating on the things that I know I need to do, dwelling doesn’t solve anything. I don’t even make my way to the bathroom until after I clean up the mess in the kitchen, make Nicole and Darren’s packed lunches and ensure that the meals that I have been cooking and freezing all week are clearly labelled with the correct heating instructions. I look around my immaculately cleaned kitchen but it looks tainted to me now and it is a relief to me when I can leave and make my way up the stairs.
When I do make it in to the bathroom I am saddened to see the miserable lifeless green eyes that greet me in the mirror. My face is very puffy and swollen, although what is from my rare crying session and what is from Darren I cannot yet tell , thankfully there’s no bruising showing yet and no blood at all. Hopefully the bruising stays away, I always feel so embarrassed when forced to wear sunglasses in the winter or on days that are obviously dull. The neighbours already think that I am a snob because I keep myself to myself and so they might really think that I am self obsessed when I step out in shades even when it is it pouring with rain or so dull that it is practically dark. However when I step in to the shower and get to look at the rest of my body I see that I am completely covered in marks and darkened bruising already. My torso in particular is going to be black and blue I realise sadly. I swallow down the tears that threaten to spill yet again and remind myself there is no time for emotion. I have a cab booked for 9.30am and I need to be ready for its arrival. I am thankful that at least the bruises will be easy to cover, that is a blessing, I could not handle Ronnie and Mum seeing me covered in bruises on my first visit in years. I would hate for them to know that he didn’t want me to see them; they really hate Darren as it is and I don’t want to give them any further ammunition to use against him.
I have already washed and dressed in a hurry but because I have heard Darren and Nicole come back in to the house I loiter in my room rather than go down to face them. Silly as it might seem I would rather leave without saying anything further. I know that if I go and speak to him it will just reignite his rage and I don’t want to have to go through anything more today, or for Nicole to be upset any more. I find that I am too jittery to sit down so I find myself remaking my already made bed, plumping up the pillows and smoothing down the duvet as though these actions can calm the troubled waters between Darren and me. For a moment I consider writing him a note and leaving it on the pillow like I used to years ago when we’d had an argument, but what could I say? I have apologised, explained to him why I am going and pleaded for his understanding all to no avail. So instead I neaten up everything on the dressing table, dig out the overnight bag that I have hidden under the bed and slip a few items of make-up in to it. Regretfully I have to dig my sunglasses out because my face is still horribly swollen and therefore needs something to distract from it. Although the day is reasonably bright it is still quite early in March and so I am going to feel a total fool having to step outside wearing them, but the alternative is clearly worse and so therefore I will just have to bite the bullet. I slip the glasses on and stand waiting until it is time to leave the room.
Agonisingly I wait until exactly 9.25 before I make my way down the stairs, praying all the while that my cab will turn up on time. I can’t really even remember the last time I used a cab as Darren has always taken me anywhere I have needed to go that wasn’t within walking distance, often he would even drive me when somewhere was within walking distance -he has always been very helpful like that. As I make it in to the hallway I drop my overnight bag by the front door and turn towards the kitchen on legs that feel as though they are made of jelly. Darren’s voice stops me in my tracks, he is sitting at the dining room table, Nicole is sat beside him but it is Darren who is facing me. “Oh my fucking God, she is dressed for her fucking holidays!”
His words or more his tone cause me to freeze and I am literally paralysed to the spot for a split second, thankfully before anything more can be said or done I hear a car sound it’s horn outside and I gratefully dive for my bag and fling the front door open. I do call to Darren and Nicole that I love them both but my words are drowned out by a livid Darren who is ranting at poor Nicole that it is his money paying for the cab, and he also screams at me that if I leave he won’t ever have me back. I simply do not allow myself to think about what he has said or anything else for that matter. I just know that I have to leave, this could be my last chance to ever see my Mother again and I cannot let her down again.
As I instruct the driver to ‘please take me to Waterloo Station’ I hope and pray that with a little time and distance Darren will calm down and realise why I have gone against him. He has to because I have no job, no money and nothing else to live for, not being able to come home would just be unthinkable and I could not tolerate actually losing him, as imperfect as he may be. My head is awash with conflicting emotions and thoughts. It takes a surprising amount of willpower not to tell the cab driver to turn round and take me home. Suddenly Darren’s offer to take me for a visit the following day seems so reasonable that I start to doubt myself for leaving. Am I being selfish after all? Is Ronnie playing me? No! No! Stop it! I instruct myself. You have got to go; you have got to see them both again. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my father before he died and I cannot allow myself to be in that position again. If only this knowledge could stop the terror from eating away the pit of my stomach then perhaps I could have made it all the way to Waterloo without having to ask the driver to pull over so that I could throw up!
To be continued:
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