The afternoon of the day I ran away, my sister watched me pack… in the room we’d shared since she was born, throwing notes on scrunched up paper across the room, playing with dolls and toys, fighting, creating an absolute mess, giggling way past our bedtime.
She kept saying she didn’t think I’d really do it. And she never said a word to my parents.
The bag was stashed in our wardrobe, a place we’d spent time hiding to eat illicit chocolate. Where not too long ago, I’d leave out cheese and milk, hopeful faeries would visit.
I wrote a note – don’t bother trying to find me – about all I can recall from the rambling one pager (as if they wouldn’t think of where to look).
How terrifying for my sister to wake and see I was gone. How panicked my parents must have been (no one has talked about that time to me, ever).
Apparently this was the only time my brother showed anything resembling caring for me – taking to the streets on his bike, looking for me. Apparently.
Tick, tick, tick. I was hiding. Not in control. No idea what my life was going to be like. Police looking for me. All I wanted was to be with my boyfriend (though he was going back to England), just what my parents didn’t want.
I knew I was missing out on school. Would I ever go back? Would I ever see my school friends again? What about my little sis? Swimming training?
The cops took my bag of clothes, also containing my diary… documenting my childish fancies.
Documenting also, the night N indelicately erased my virginity… copying in my childish hand, in the style of some adolescent book I was reading then, the words were stark – As of tonight, I’m no longer a virgin. I don’t feel different, but I know I am… – can’t have been pleasant reading for my parents.
It was later I discovered they’d read it. If I was them, I’d have done the same. But that act still violated my trust and I was furious. Especially when my dad would say – you live in a world of fantasy most of the time, don’t you - based on what he read and held it against me as though I was retarded, for a long time.
But I hated him for a long time for reading my diary.
Before all that… I was hiding out in the next door neighbour’s house. In a bedroom. Under the bed. I didn’t get to see N very much at all. No one would let us be alone together.
I’m sure there were phone calls and discussions I wasn’t privy to. About me, not including me.
Night rolled in…
N’s aunt and uncle eventually convinced me the best thing to do was to go with the police. They knew I was there; they wanted to help make things right with my parents. I didn’t know how to, and I was scared. And angry. And worried I wouldn’t get to see N again.
They took me away in a police car to the local station where my parents waited. I knew by then about my diary. I spewed fury – I hate you – at my parents. Dad cried, one of the only times I’ve seen that, to this day.
At the station I was given two choices – go home with my parents or stay at a girls’ home. A place for juveniles. I don’t know if it was just a threat… but for a while I was seriously gunning for the girls’ home.
Much of the station time is a blur. I remember a police woman being very abrupt, and in return I was rude. Mum slapped my face, afraid I think, the police would make decisions for me.
I scowled. None of this would’ve happened if they hadn’t said I couldn’t go to the airport so as far as I was concerned, it was their fault.
Somehow, during some very tense moments, tears and anger, they all talked me down. Talked me in to returning home on the promise of being able to go to the airport for N’s flight back to the UK.
I shake my head in wonder now, thinking of the wilful young child that I was, the anger and destruction I created…
A night of reckoning
The car ride is blank. Back home, I think my brother and sister were in bed – perhaps awake?
My parents and I sat in the kitchen, looking at a calendar. Trying to work out if there was any chance I could be pregnant.
No mum, I haven’t started my period yet.
Doing the laundry she’d noticed some blood in my knickers, so she wasn’t sure.
I don’t remember much of what was said, the three of us sitting there. Tension, sadness, anger and frustration. At some point I shouted – What would you know? How could you understand what its like?
Things grew silent.
Teary and terrified, mum revealed her darkest secret – her first son, out there somewhere – taken from her for the crime of being pregnant and unmarried (a brother I’ve never met??). My first glimpse of the shame and grief she’d worn like an invisible coat, never removed.
I expect you think I’m a terrible person, she stated.
Oh my god mum, no I don’t! That’s… so sad! So horrible.
Sworn to secrecy, I couldn’t tell my brother or sister or even mention it again.
Went to bed at some point, back in the room I shared with my sister. Gone for one whole life changing day, I think.
Back to school the next, and no one knew. Now I had two secrets I didn’t tell anyone except M. And I only told her little bits. Done and dusted, I was left to live with the aftermath.
So long, goodbye…
Hazy tear stained scene of N and me at the airport. My parents, his aunt and uncle, hovering on opposite perimeters as we hugged and I cried inconsolably. We promised to write, to call, to stay together.
He went through the gates and he was gone.
I wrote the first of many letters that night. Pages of ‘I love you‘ written over and over. A long wait for something in return. A phone call or two. The promise of ‘a promise ring’.
Sputtered into nothing.
Realisation came slowly, then as with sunrise… dusk vanishes swiftly in the first rays of sunshine. Full daylight. Oh.
It was over. He didn’t really love me. Oh… He didn’t want me. Had he only wanted sex?? Oh!!
There was a silver pendant and chain my parents gave me once. I’d loaned it to N because he asked (though I hadn’t wanted to) and never saw them again. I wrote and asked for them back. Nothing.
Far away in another country… he didn’t want me any more.
In recent times I’ve talked of feeling like my heart had been ripped from my chest. My therapist asked me if there was another time I’d felt like that before.
Sure was. When I realised I’d been used and discarded.
Felt like I’d been raped (though I hadn’t – just manipulated). Cheated and misused, certainly. Empty, sad, heartbroken and alone. Lost. Confused. Betrayed. Shredded.
Coulda driven a truck through my chest, the hole there felt that large.
Every notch my self-esteem rose on the back of being loved was gone. Worse, it was all a lie. Extreme pressure filled my head… would it explode?
But none of this was a topic of conversation at home. Just like my mum, I wasn’t allowed to express my pain. No privacy either, in my shared bedroom with a sister too young to understand.
I found solace in swimming training… diving deep and crying underwater where no one could see or tell the difference. For seconds at a time.
Struggling on at school and home, I was low. But you wouldn’t have known, ‘cept for the odd flare up with my mum. Arguments like a flash and gone again, core issues never addressed.
Two generations both limping in pain, but not solidarity… what could’ve brought us together just pushed us further apart as secrets often do…