Authors: Moll French
Whilst the information contained within this book is my own recollectio
n of events, I have changed names to protect the identities of those mentioned.
Copyright Moll French 2013.
My family huddled close by on edge with bated breath. It was a conversation they’d have to hear to believe because at that moment - I was an attention seeking liar as far as they were concerned. Sickness flooded the very pit of my stomach and a cold sweat which escaped every pore took its grip upon me.
I sat with my back to the family, though I envisioned their common faces and their expressions of disgus
t only too well. There would be: ‘I can’t believe she’s fabricated such a story’, and: ‘she’s so deluded, she must be mentally ill’.
Bernie was such a well-resp
ected, well liked family friend; my recent admission had shaken the family to its core.
On the last ring, Bernie answered in his nasally voice as he spoke over the crackling connection.
I hesitated for a moment, but my dad prompted a reply with a rough shove on the back of my head; I cleared my dry throat.
“Hello? It’s me,” My voice crackled with a dry hoarseness
are you okay petal?”
The line was
silent as I listened to the buzz.
“Why what’s up?”
My dad gave another rough shove and I flinched.
“They know everything,” I said, as I tried to compose my shaking voice, “every single little thing.”
as all he offered me as a reply. I immediately detected his self-preservative tone and felt isolated, as though it was my fault I’d landed him in it.
Anxiety darted to ever
y safe corner in my imagination and I worried that when the conversation was over - when I’d put the receiver down - I’d be left to face my family alone.
could deny everything of course and dismiss the facts, even put it down to me being a disturbed child and perhaps it would be plausible enough for my family to believe; they certainly didn’t believe my version of events at present.
I didn’t want to
hang up the phone and sever my contact, so long as I just stayed on the line - no harm would come to me. I’d really left myself open to punishment this time.
I wept quietly as the receiver slipped in my perspiring hands.
“Are you on your own? What have your parents said? Are they angry with us?”
It seemed he was testing the water
to see if he could deny it; unaware he was on the loudspeaker. His voice was dry, distinguished by his overly pronounced words that clicked as he spoke. Bernie was the only person I felt able to rely on now and my pillar of strength sounded more like a scared rodent at the end of the line.
I finally understood what it meant to open a can of worms.
My dad snatched the receiver away and turned off the hands free; much to the spectators disappointment.
“Angry? I’ve not even started to get angry yet!”
he spat, “you’re a dirty old man and if you even think of coming near my house again, I’ll go up into my loft and fetch my gun down. I don’t care how long you’ve been teaching martial arts and how tough you claim to be; nobody can stop a bullet.”
ced for what seemed an eternity and I tried to make out what was being said. It was distorted, wild and out of my control now. My racing heart threatened to jump up into my throat and choke me at any moment and I’d have welcomed it. My skin was clammy and both palms were sweating. I didn’t dry them on my sleeves, I didn’t dare move a muscle. I felt it was part of the impending punishment to sit in discomfort because I deserved it.
“Of course I’m threatening you, idiot. I thought you were supposed to be intelligent?”
Dad scoffed, “she’s only fifteen - you’re thirty nine. You’re twenty four years older than her. There’s a name for your sort.” He paused momentarily, “Hang on, hang on just a moment,” He looked towards my mum, “just how long has this been going on for?” he paused again and his eyes widened with rage. “Come on. How long?” he shouted like a deranged madman,
is answer from the line, if any, had proven to be unsatisfactory so he turned to me.
“You!” he thrust his finger i
n my face, “you disgusting tart! How long?”
I didn’t say a word - I couldn’t
. The words were shrivelled stuck in my throat; frozen in place by the cold sweat. The adrenaline rode my breath in waves, and I felt likely to vomit.
he shouted as he took a swipe at my face.
“Three years,” I told him as best I could with a dry croak, “it began around three years ago.”
The glares came from every corner of the room and pressed upon me like a dead weight.
My mum sat perched on the edge of her chair with an all too familiar expression of revolt for me. I could see her shutting down, which meant there’d be no support from her. Just as I thought things couldn’t get much worse, my dad changed his strategy; he wanted to play a game.
now in a position to intimidate and make someone he once respected and looked up to; feel very uncomfortable. This was more like the dad I knew. He held a silent contempt for people more intelligent than himself.
“I suggest you get round here and explain yourself,” he said, “i
f you don’t come over right now; I’m calling the police.”
He slammed the phone down and grinned wickedly at me.
My body felt as though it would stop breathing any moment, as I hyperventilated through the tears of humiliation that streamed down my burning cheeks.
“You can cut that out right
now, madam,” said Mum. She told my siblings to make themselves scarce in their rooms, and not to come down unless told otherwise.
Dad had always been fascinated by the military, though unfortunately, he lacked the backbone to join. He ran his family and home like a boot-camp. There were curfews for every event and consequences for everybody if something happened and the guilty party didn’t own up. He craved feeling in complete control, likely because his own life was so out of control, and having a large family gave him the resources.
There were army cargo nets hung about the house, and a huge mural
of a woodland pasted onto one of the walls in the living room. The attic was filled with all manner of weapons: shotguns, rifles, hunting knives and crossbows, all things he’d collected at the expense of the tax payer, as he decided he was no longer fit to work because of a bad back and nervous disposition. He’d spent some of his younger years locked up in a mental institute because he’d experimented with far too many drugs during the sixties and seventies.
Protested my sister Beth, as she walked towards the door.
“It’s not a bloody freak show, now get up to your rooms,” she said, in a tone dry of any emotion, “and you madam,” she pointed at me, “you sit there and don’t move even a bit, you’ll do exactly as your dad tells you. What he says goes.”
She always took his side when it came to
me; I don’t think she was afraid of him, rather her life had become a vicious circle of working to support the family, coming home every night to a messy house, and Dad not progressing any further with his own life. He simply existed in the house, smoking my mum’s wages away each day.
We all secretly wanted her to leave him, we fantasised about spending more time with her when it happened, but it was difficult in those days. It was hard enough to survive as it was, and things had become reasonably stable as far as money was concerned. Dad received his benefits every week and saved up for military related items, like binoculars and image intensifiers; so he could see in the dark during his woodland escapades.
Alex and Beth
slipped past me triumphantly; I was going to be in deep trouble. Alex made eye contact as he took his turn out the door.
“Slag,” he hissed and spat in my face. It would be the only occasion where could use such profanity within earshot of our parents without consequences; so he seized the opportunity with no repercussions. Our parents had far more important things on their mind.
Dad left, and I sat in silence; listening to him moving about in the next room. My mum barely looked at me, but spoke quietly in a threatening tone.
“You’re disgusting, and even your brothers and sisters think so. You’re a disgrace to this family anyway, but you’ve gone too far this time madam. You’re tearing up this family.”
My heart wanted to leap out of my chest, and slither over to my mum, to show her how broken and shrunken it was becoming, she wouldn’t budge though, and eventually it would slither away and die in a dark corner of the room; along with dignity and respect.
I jumped as Dad backed loudly into the living room door carrying a chair. It was one of his game props, his favourite game was interrogation. He moved the coffee table aside, and placed the chair in the middle of the room where Bernie would be sitting.
He angled it towards the window because it was a sunny day, and he lowered the seating position. Bernie would have to squint to make out Dad’s silhouette against the window. It was a technique he’d picked up from one of his ‘The Art of Intimidation’ type books that he frequently read during the daytime hours in bed; whilst the world was outside working hard to support people like him.
Dad took his position in the line of fire, and we waited in silence for Bernie’s blue Sierra estate to pull up onto the driveway.
“At least you weren’t lying, I’ll give you credit for that at least,” said my dad,
he seemed excited and restless, like a child with too much sugar. Mum said nothing; the silent treatment was bad enough, but it would get worse when she eventually broke; because Mum always spoke her truth whether it was right or wrong.
Bernie’s car pulled onto the driveway, and Dad met him at the door. They spoke not a single word as he led Bernie to his seat. The scene would have been laughable, had it not been for the seriousness of it all.
“I’ll start shall I?” said Dad, “we found this stuffed under Moll’s bed this morning, Beth found it.”
He pulled out a crumpled letter on blue paper, and I recognised it straight away. I felt both angry and ashamed that my snot faced little sister and my parents had been reading the things I’d written about them. He read not the entire letter; but selected parts he was particularly appalled by.
“Living here is like hell on Earth; my family hates me and take everything out on me. I can’t wait until I’m old enough to leave home,”
he mimicked my voice in a stupid fashion and continued;
“It can only be compared to being surrounded by patients in a mental hospital. There’s a severe lack of intelligence and complete ignorance to right and wrong.”
he looked over at me with his eyebrows raised and his lips tight,
“Thank you for the flowers, I hid them in my school bag, I had to pretend they were from somebody at school, and they teased me about it for ages. I know you said you’d send me something in the post, but I’d rather you didn’t because they go through my mail.”
My parents glared at me from their lowered brows as though it was untrue. Dad screwed up the piece of paper and threw it at Bernie, who let it sit on the floor as a constant reminder of my shame and invasion of privacy.
“If Beth hadn’t found that letter, you two would never have been caught out, so you have her to thank for that. What do you have to say for yourselves?”
Bernie shrugged, and Dad enjoyed watching him squirm in the chair.
Bernie was wearing a padded tartan jacket as he always did, (even my dad started to dress like him after a short while because he idolised him). His too short trousers were held up by a pair of braces, and you could clearly see his white sport socks. His beard was black and bushy, and his long straggly hair was scooped back into a messy greying ponytail that reached the middle of his back. His eyes were the colour of the sky before a storm.
He fiddled impatiently in his chair, looking about the unusual living room, and at the strange mural of the woodland on the wall; where a noticeable green felt tip pen had been used to touch up a scuff.