My two little girls dance around in front of me full of smiles and optimism. ‘I want to be a ballet dancer when I grow up!’ the littlest one tells me as she spins and trips and falls flat on her face. ‘I want to be a midwife,’ says the eldest, proudly. She is eight and one of the children I escaped him with. She was a little over three and a half when we left, wide eyed, terrified. Beautiful, sleepy, big brown eyes staring at me in the dark as I entered her bedroom with the police that night, finger prints still round my neck, tears silently streaming down my face as I told her and her brother to ‘get dressed quickly, the nice policemen are taking us away.’ Her brother, my eldest boy, seven then, was clinging to her, cradling his little sister in his arms. He used to climb into bed with her and they would listen to him, and my screams. My pleas for help. But nobody ever came.
As parents we want the best for our kids, nothing more. We say, ‘I just want you to be happy.’ This is what my mum and dad wanted for me. They wanted me to be happy, and for a long time I was. I had the most wonderful childhood, my dad worked hard and we didn’t want for anything really, not that it ever made us spoilt, mum and dad wouldn’t be having any of that malarkey! I did well at school and got a place at university to train to become a primary school teacher. But then suddenly there he was…
Trying to think of the correct words to describe how it was when we met is difficult, after all it is now almost fifteen years ago. The best I can come up with is ‘like a whirlwind’. I was seventeen, young, vibrant, dying to get out there and see the world, ambitious and naive. I met him while I was on holiday with my parents, they have a house abroad and he was out there for a family members funeral. From the minute I met him my feet didn’t touch the ground. He was larger than life, everywhere at once, he swept me along with him and I couldn’t get back.
The first time he ever hit me my world came crashing down. I didn’t realise men actually did things like that. It wasn’t something I had ever come across. ‘ I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. You made me so mad. It’s because I love you so much, you drive me crazy and I can’t help it. Promise me you forgive me, it’ll never ever happen again…oh god if I’ve lost you! I’m so stupid, I’m always losing good things that happen to me…’ I remember crying with him and telling him it was ok, he was ok, everything was going to be ok.
And so I went back for more.
I was once that little girl dancing around my mum and dad’s front room. My feet were, and still are huge, and my parents would watch, smiling as I stomped about in front of them showing them my fairly awful demi and grand pliés. They had hopes and dreams for me. They brought me up teaching me right from wrong and how to ‘treat those how you yourself would like to be treated.’ They did what every good parent in this world tries to do, protect their children, guide them, and one day, learn to let them go.
My mum and dad saved me. They got me out of there and brought me home. I remember my dad’s face and how it crumpled as that plane left the ground the day we got away. And my mums as she stood at the front door when we arrived home and took me in her arms. I was her baby, I am her baby, and they brought me home.