It’s been a while since my last post. There was no real reason why at first, life just got in the way, but then I started writing again, and it has taken me the best part of three weeks to finish this post. I hadn’t realised as I wrote a couple of lines and left it another day or so, and then repeated the pattern over and over, that there may be a reason for it. It dawned on me when a family member asked why it was taking me so long. I think I’ve buried this night so deep inside myself that I can barely get it back out. But why? This post, as you will read in a moment, is certainly no more violent or horrific than any of the other memories I have shared with you. In fact, it is almost triumphant. It is my escape! But when I think back to it, it makes me feel numb, a little bit nauseous, a bit like that knot I used to carry is back in my stomach again. Maybe this is the one moment that has left a scar. I made the decision to break the family unit on this day. And perhaps you’ll be thinking ‘he broke it years before by doing what he did!’ But ask yourself this, regardless of the situation, is it ever a good thing to take children away from everything they know and ultimately break up a family?
I left my last post halfway through the story, and although I want to tell you what happened next, I think before I do I need to take you back to how I ended up in that hotel that night, back to the beginning of the end…
I’m all set. My bags are packed and hidden. The plan is still being finalised. So far it looks like dad is going to fly over, rent a car from the airport then drive to me. He’ll wait nearby, out of sight, until he is out and then drive here and pick us up. We’ll drive over the border into the Turkish side where dad’s friend will be waiting with his small plane. We’ll fly across to Turkey and from there we will get a flight home. Home. Not here. This is not my home. This is my prison.
I look out across the mountain. The beautiful sea view stretches out in front of me, a dark blue line separating sky and sea. The lush green hills that stand between me and the coast speak to my memories. Memories of being a child here and going for walks with my dad, binoculars pointed to the sky searching for birds of prey, of walking back to my parents villa at night as a teenager with my sisters, the air warm and sweet smelling of Jasmine and the banana plantations, the high pitched chirping of hidden crickets drowning out our giggles as we crept home too late. I loved this place. I always will. But I have to leave it behind.
Today has been a strange day. He has been in a good mood. Affectionate, playful. I see glimpses of the person he could be. Usually I would respond to this, enjoying the moment, revelling in what our life together should be like. But today, I can’t. I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall. Everything about him makes me feel sick. Him smiling at me, making jokes and expecting me to laugh. I do, a hollow soulless laugh, to keep him happy.
At some point that day I realised I couldn’t pretend anymore, I didn’t care if I didn’t laugh at his jokes, or smile when he looked at me, I wanted him to know how much I hated him, regardless of the consequences. He was like a knot in my stomach, a thorn in my side, an annoying itch I couldn’t scratch, and I wanted rid.
We’re sat on the balcony, the children have been put to bed. It’s dark and silent apart from the crickets singing their evening song. It’s airless and humid as it always is in July. He’s sat beside me, smoking and talking. I can hear him, but i’m not listening. I want to be anywhere but here.
Then something happened. I said something I knew would piss him off. I goaded him. I made him angry on purpose.
‘I don’t think I can stand being here any longer.’
My chair is upended in one swift movement and I land on my left hip. Pain sears though my pelvis. A hand grabs my hair and pulls me backward across the floor towards the patio doors. I fight this time. Usually I don’t fight. I submit myself to the punishment. Fighting back will only make him more angry. But this time I am angry. I scramble forwards, feeling my hair ripping. I scream out across the mountain. ‘Help! Help me! Somebody help me, please!’ He’s thumping me across the face, around the head. He puts his hand across my mouth to silence me and I sink my teeth into his skin. He pulls it away, ‘Fuck! You bitch!’ He grabs my hair again and he picks up the discarded cigarette he had been smoking before. He lurches towards me with it and I try to scramble away. He catches my leg with it. I’m lashing out with my hands and legs and yelling again, he’s flustered. He catches hold of my leg. He’s pulling me back towards the patio doors. I try to kick him but he’s stronger than me, and in one swift movement he has thrown me into the air conditioned living room and locked the patio doors behind him.
Now I’m starting to panic, the kids are downstairs sleeping, the littlest up here in his cot in our room, I don’t want them to hear. But I can’t give up, I have to fight back. I spot the phone in the corner of the room and dash towards it, but he has read my mind and is there first. He takes it and smashes it on the ground, stamping on it for good measure. ‘No one can come to your rescue now,’ he snarls. He reaches out and grabs me by the arm and flings me across the room like a rag doll. I fall onto the sofa. He’s above me, shouting. Having an argument with himself. I just hear noise. Then he’s on his knees in front of me. He has a different look in his eye. Like he wants to play a sadistic game of cat and mouse. His eyes twinkle, his lips turned up at the edges into a snarl. ‘Are you going to try to leave?’ he questions me. ‘Yes’ I reply. I’m sat up on the sofa, my bare legs together, and he punches the left side of my leg, by my knee. I cry out in pain and try to move but he pushes me back. He asks me the same question again and I respond the same way. He punches the right side this time. The pain sears through my knee. Tears prick my eyes. Don’t let him win.
This game continues for fifteen minutes or so, my legs becoming more bruised and sore with each punch. He’s starting to look more frenzied and with one of my ‘yeses’ his eyes widen and foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog he throws himself on top of me and clasps his hands around my neck. My arms flail about trying to push him off, clawing at his thumbs that are slowly pressing down on my windpipe. I’m struggling to breathe. I try to tell him to let go but all I manage is a gurgle. Just as my vision starts to blur and I feel like I’m falling, he lets go and stands up. He’s panting with exertion, his fists clenched. ‘Yes or no?’he demands.
I hear a weak voice from somewhere inside me whisper ‘No’.
‘Good girl’, he smiles, and strokes the hair back off my face. ‘Come.’ He holds his hand out to me, and I take it. He leads me across the front room and down the hallway to the bedroom. I’m broken. He won.
I cry the whole way through. He shows no signs of remorse as he pushes himself between my legs and marks his territory. I close my eyes, the tears finding their way through and falling into my ears. His horrible body sweating against mine, my flesh crawling. Thankfully it doesn’t last long and after he gets straight up and redressed. ‘I’m going out for a drink’. And he’s gone.
I jump up out of the bed and clean myself up. I run to my wardrobe and rummage in a old bag for the secret phone my mum had given me. With my hands shaking I run to the window phone in hand. I have to make sure he doesn’t come back and catch me and so as I dial my parents number in the UK I watch the mountain for signs of his moped.
Mum answers. I’ll never forget her little worried voice as I told her what he had just done. ‘Dad will come,’ she says. Suddenly the familiar tinny sound of the moped echoes across the mountain. ‘He’s coming back, I have to go,’ I whisper down the phone. I don’t give her a chance to answer and I turn the phone off and run back to bed shoving it under my pillow. I shut my eyes and pretend to be asleep waiting for the front door to open. He doesn’t come straight to bed, and exhausted I fall asleep.
‘Princess! Princess! Wake up! Put some clothes on and come here please, the police are here!’
I wake with a start. My hand is still clasped around my phone. Trembling, I pull on some leggings and a vest and make my way up the hallway to the front room. As I near the end of the corridor I see four policemen peering at me. They are standing near the front door, in the gap between kitchen and lounge and all have their backs to him. He is standing beyond them in the entrance to the kitchen and is staring at me, his face unreadable. I stop in front of the men. ‘Whats been going on tonight?’ says one of the men, an older gentleman with a thick accent. I open my mouth to speak, but no sound comes out. I look over their heads at him and he remains there, still, expressionless. The four men continue to stare at me and I feel myself squirm uncomfortably. ‘Did he strangle you?’ One of the policemen, much younger than the rest in his mid twenties reaches out and touches the side of my neck where I am certain I have marks. Again, I resemble a fish and my mouth open and shuts pointlessly. ‘Look,’ pipes up one of the older men, clearly getting irritated by my lack of cooperation, ‘We had a call from someone in England to say we needed to come immediately. If you tell us what happened here we can sort it out. Okay? Did he hurt you tonight?’
I know what you are thinking as you read this. Just tell them! What’s wrong with you? Just say ‘yeah’, and that’ll be it! All over. You can leave and hey presto, you don’t need to be a ‘victim’ any more. Happy days! I’m looking into his face, into his evil, ‘don’t you fucking dare’ eyes and he ever-so-slowly shakes his head from side to side. Don’t. You. Dare. And in the split second that follows, before I open my goldfish-like mouth to blub one single word that will change my life forever, this is what goes through my mind.
Shit. This is scary.
Tell them, then we can leave…
What about the kids? He might get custody.
Don’t tell them.
Can’t stay here forever, this is our chance!
What if he goes mental and hurts them, and me and the kids? What if they make me leave the kids behind? No way, i’m staying.
But he’ll hurt the kids and you again though, imagine what he’ll do to you once the police have gone?
Been there, done that, I can cope.
Not fair on the kids though! Have to leave!
I won’t be able to protect them from him forever though. What if they have to go to stay with him when i’m not there to protect them?
I’ll kill him. Hmmm, not a bad idea… Okay, this is it. This is my chance. What will be will be. I will be strong for the kids and for myself and…
I could try to make up exactly what happened in the moments that followed my declaration, but it wouldn’t be the truth, I simply can’t remember, its all a blur, like everything was happening in slow motion around me. What I can tell you is that he went mad. I remember three of the policemen holding him back as one of them ushered me round the corner out of the way. They tried to contain him as he shouted and swore at me, calling me every hateful name he could think up. Then he managed to get past them and he was in front of me, ripping my rings from my fingers, a necklace from about my neck. I screamed as he yanked my finger from its socket. There was a pot of loose change that ended up over my head, in my lap and all over the floor. A mobile phone got crunched under foot, some chairs got up-ended and some stuff from the kitchen got hurled across the room, smashing into a million little pieces. Then he was in the en-suite bathroom, it sounded and smelt like he was smashing all my perfume bottles into the sink or bath, I heard him mutter that I wouldn’t be wanted by anyone else. He was being petty and pathetic, like a child having a tantrum because if he couldn’t have what he wanted, then he would see that no one else would have it either. It was when I heard the sound of the safe being opened in our bedroom that I knew he meant business and I was shaken into the present.
‘Our passports,’ I say faintly to the officer beside me. ‘He’s taking our passports!’ The realisation of what this could mean for the kids and I hits me like a train. Without them I can’t leave. I kick myself that I hadn’t taken them before when I had had the chance. I had left them in the safe in case he found they were missing. Sure enough seconds later he bounces round the corner smirking and waves the passports at me. ‘Got your makeup bag too,’ he jeers. (Not sure what he thinks that little discovery is going to do to me, i’m not very well going to start wailing that he is stealing my mascara) but I do jump up and start shouting and pleading with the officers to get my passports from him. He is out the door like a shot, fires up his moped and screeches off.
‘That’s illegal! He can’t take those, they’re my property! Stop him!’ The men just shrug.
‘He’s your husband,’ says one of them matter of factly. It dawns on me then that I am in a country where wives are the property of their husbands and no matter what I say to them, it isn’t going to change their belief that it is his right to have my belongings. What’s mine is his, naturally. I slump down onto the sofa.
Whilst he is gone I realise I have the opportunity to get my hidden bags and check on the children. I ask the younger officer to come with me. I figure he may be slightly more helpful than the other blundering idiots, who are all stood around flicking their worry beads, probably chatting about what they had for dinner tonight.
As I walk down the hallway towards the bedroom, a little wet face peers through the mesh of the travel cot. He’s sat upright, his little face damp from tears, sucking his dummy so hard it is making a clicking noise. I pick him up and cuddle him into me. His chubby little arms cling to me like he’s terrified I am going to let go. ‘Shhh baby, shhh. It’s ok. Mumma’s here.’ The young officer is stood in the doorway and as I turn towards him and see the look on his face it dawns on me that he hadn’t realised there are children in the house. ‘I have two more downstairs’.
He follows me downstairs and we open the first door to the right. It’s my daughters room. Sure enough, two pairs of eyes stare back at us from the darkness. ‘It’s okay. The nice policeman has come to take us somewhere safe. Come on’. My two terrified children slide out of bed and run towards me. Clutching me around the waist, hugging me tightly, we go into the next bedroom.
I show the officer where our hidden bags are and ask him to pull them down from the high cupboard. He looks shocked as he pulls the heavy holdalls out of the wardrobe and onto the bed. ‘You had these packed already?’ He looks even more shocked when I turn to my seven year old son and say, ‘Remember the bags mummy asked you to pack with toys and hide for the three of you? Can you get them now baby?’ We watch as my little boy, tiny, pale, skinny legged and wide eyed scurries about reaching into drawers and disappearing under beds. He returns holding three small bags, looking proud. ‘Well done darling’.
The door slams upstairs and we hear his loud booming voice. He’s arguing with the officers. They’re telling him to calm down. The children freeze.Then there is noise on the stairs and I see him coming down towards us. When he is near the bottom the older officers, who are following him, all command him to stay right where he is. He stops and looks at me. His face changes, it softens. He slowly takes a seat on the step he was standing on, and holds his hands up as if in defeat. I know where this is going.
‘Come now, don’t be silly,’ he says softly, eyeing the bags by my feet. ‘Let’s forget about this. You don’t want to go anywhere. You can’t take the children away from their dad.’ At that comment he stretches his arms out in front of him and beckons his daughter towards him. ‘Come here, come to daddy Princess. Don’t be scared, you know I won’t hurt you.’ She steps forward, and I put my arm out to stop her but he makes an angry growling noise warning me to get back. She looks terrified, and so to diffuse the situation I say boldly.’Go on sweetheart, give daddy a quick cuddle before we go, he won’t do anything, look at all the kind policemen.’ He gives me a look which I know ordinarily would mean I was going to get a severe beating, but smiles down at her and as she steps slowly towards him he takes her gently into his arms and hugs her. A pang of guilt surges through me, but I brush it away. This is not the time for feeling weak. One fatherly tender hug isn’t going to change the years of terror and hurt he has caused.
It’s then that one of the older police men pipes up. ‘Ah come on, you can’t leave, he is your husband! They are his children, you can’t take them from him.’ The man looks at me, and I see disgust in his eyes. He thinks what I am doing is wrong. He thinks it’s ok to be treated the way he has treated me all this time. The other older officers are nodding in agreement. I can’t believe what I am hearing, and then at the same time, I can. These men are the types that probably go home and expect their good little wives to have their dinner on the table, to clear up after them while they sit with a glass of brandy which she has so lovingly handed to them before she goes to clear up the kitchen. They don’t even acknowledge she is there, they don’t thank her, they see through her.
I will not be that woman. I am not that woman.
‘We are leaving.’ I say firmly.
‘I want to leave and you will take us’. I eye the young officer stood beside me and beckon for him to help me with the bags. He asks the other officers to take him upstairs out the way and with the children in tow we make our way up the staircase, slip our shoes on, out the front door and up the front steps to the road. We pile into the back seat of the police car parked outside while the officer piles our three bags into the boot. There are three police cars I notice, and two of the officers get into the front of our car. The young officer is driving. He turns round in his seat, ‘Are you ok?’ I realise my teeth are chattering. I nod, and cuddle the three children into me.
I barely remember the drive down the mountain and into the old town to the police station. I remember the feeling of relief though. Total, complete and utter relief. I had done it. We were out.
I do remember one thing though. Before I ducked my head into the car and drove away that night, he shouted to me in a half hysterical, half terrified voice. ‘You think you can leave me?!’
And I can tell him now, yes. Yes I can. And I have.