Leaving an abusive relationship is only the beginning. It’s what comes next that can be the hardest part. Staying away from your abuser if you are still in love with them, facing your abuser in court, swapping children over… The strength you found to leave suddenly becomes overshadowed by the strength you have to dig deep to find every day that passes after you’ve left. This is my story of how I dug deep and continued being as strong as I could possibly be, for me, of course, but mainly for my children. I was out, but my children were technically still in. I chose to leave and took them with me, they however remained his children and there was nothing I could do about it.
It was a rush through the airport, our flight due to leave in 45 minutes. My eldest, who had so gallantly held it together for us all and had been so brave up to this point had an ‘accident’ at check in. I’d never known him to, even as a baby, and it had shocked me when his eyes suddenly bulged out of his head and he began to apologise profusely. I could imagine what the other people in the queue would be thinking, this child should be old enough to get to the toilet on time. But they knew nothing. Knew nothing about what we, he, had gone through to get to this point…
I’d woken at the crack of dawn. Light just starting to creep through the small gap in the hotels beautiful drapes. It had been three days since I left him. Three entire days of feeling free, but also terrified that he could catch up with us and stop me from taking his children out of the country. The day after my dad had arrived at the safe house hotel I was staying in with the children, we had had a visit from a guy from the British embassy. Typically British, stiff, bumbling and pleasant he was unfortunately undoubtedly out of his depth. He waffled on a bit and gave us wishy washy information, but the long and short of it was that we needed to first and foremost get to a police station (he recommended not the one in Paphos, seeing as some of his family worked for Paphos police) to report the passports ‘lost’ and then get to the embassy in the capital to get one day passports issued. And so, we said our goodbyes the the lovely owner of the hotel George, and made our way to Nicosia. The plan was to stop in Limassol on the way to see if we could report them there. However after a long two hour drive we found that the station was closed. My dad, sensing my frustration and anxiety attempted to lift the mood and suggested to the children and I that we find a smart hotel in Nicosia for the night and wait till the next day to sort everything out.
We found and checked into a swanky hotel, nothing like the guest house style safe house we had just left. We had a large family room, dad in one kingsize bed with the eldest and me and the two little ones in the other. On entering the large, beautifully furnished room we all went a bit barmy, jumping on the beds, dad and I raiding the mini bar. At last, I felt like I could breathe properly. We were miles away from him and I felt safe and happy. That evening we walked through the cobbled streets of the town, dad with his arm around me, the baby on my hip and the others running and skipping along in front of us as though they had not one care in the world. We found a lovely little restaurant with a large outside play area for the children. We found a table right next to the playing children, and whilst we watched them I sat opposite my lovely dad and told him everything. About the years of abuse, the reasons I hadn’t left, hadn’t told them what he was doing, and about that last night with him. About my hopes for mine and the children’s future, and my fears. He listened to every word I said with tears in his eyes, but he was strong and he held my hand, just as a dad should.
And so, there I was lying awake the next morning listening to the birds warbling off their morning song. I was restless, there was much to do. A short while later the little one awoke, and to save him from waking the others I very quietly got us both dressed, wrote a note to my dad explaining where I had gone, grabbed my bag and headed out of the hotel. We had already located the police station the day before and I knew it was somewhere near the hotel, my intention was to be there as soon as it opened to report the passports lost.
I walked, and walked, and walked. I walked for a good 45 minutes with the baby on my hip. The sun growing hotter with each footstep. By the time I reached it, sweating and exhausted, the station was open. I reported to reception and was told to wait.
I waited, and waited, and waited. I could see the office where four men sat chatting, flicking their worry beads and drinking coffee. Clearly they were extremely busy. The baby was getting fidgety, he wanted his breakfast. It was his whinging that seemed to eventually draw one of the men’s attention to us and he beckoned me in. I explained everything to him, my voice breaking every now and then as I tried to tell him in detail how our passports came to be ‘lost’. I finished my story and after a long pause and more bead flicking he shook his head. ‘I’m sorry’, he said in broken English, ‘I can’t do anything without passport numbers’. I wanted to cry, in fact I think I may have done. I told him I didn’t know them, who on earth remembers their bloody passport numbers! But he refused to do anything and with my frustrations building as well as a decent sweat in the increasing temperatures, I left. I exited the compound and instead of turning right to go back the way I had came, I happened to look left. And there, about 200 yards down the road, was the hotel. I could’ve screamed.
Back in the hotel, I found everyone up and at breakfast. It turned out my mum, back in the UK, had been on the phone all morning to a lady from the embassy. She had explained that she would be ringing the very station I had just left to get them to fill out the lost passport forms, regardless of the lack of passport numbers. All we needed to do, was go and pick them up.
After breakfast that was exactly what we did. The officer I had spoken to earlier that morning apologised and handed me the forms. He wished me luck, and told me his thoughts were with me and my children. We drove straight to the embassy and were greeted by two lovely English ladies behind a long counter. Everything in the place felt British, and I couldn’t help feeling as though I was almost home. The woman we dealt with told us she could get us on the flight to Heathrow out of Larnaca that afternoon, it meant however we had about four hours to get some passport photos done somewhere, get back to the embassy with them to have the passports made whilst we popped back to the hotel to check out, then back to pick up the four very strange white passports from the lovely ladies at the embassy, and finally the drive to the airport in time to catch our flight…
As the engines began to roar I watched out the window from my middle aisle seat as the plane lifted off the ground. Sat in between the children I looked across at my lovely dad and I saw a different look on his face. He had his eyes raised to the heavens and I saw him take an almighty breath and then he began to sob. It was then that it hit me. We were away, properly away. My dad had come to save us and he had been scared too. He had had to be strong, just as I had been for my children. I pulled my little ones into me and reached out for my dads hand. We had done it, we were on our way home.
To be continued…