I have definitely been putting this entry off. It’s even harder now.
I’m trying to be good. (I really don’t want to be good.)
So. When I left things, we were at the point when I’d just moved in with my grandparents. I don’t remember much at all about this, except for vague recollections of my mum going back to their house (it was never my house) ‘for clothes’, and me begging my grandad not to let her take me with her when she inevitably got back with him. I can’t remember exactly what I said. I just remember lots of crying. I can’t remember how he told her. She would have called, and he probably told her on the phone. I remember her calling for me, and me refusing to speak. Lots of crying.
I may have made it sound as though my grandparents stood idly by while my mum was in an abusive relationship, but that isn’t the case. I might attempt to analyse my mother’s behaviour at some point, but all you need to know right now is that help was offered fairly frequently and was rebuffed or sabotaged by my mum every single time. This is just what she did. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents – or dumped with my cousins – while she tried to fix one relationship or another, only for the same thing to happen over and over again. My grandparents had me quite a lot of the time while I was growing up – and my mum and I lived with them for a few years – which was why it felt natural to move back in with them.
It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, though. You see, I didn’t want my mum to keep getting hurt and I honestly, truly, thought that I would be more important to her than he was so I assumed she’d come with me. It wasn’t a deliberate ultimatum – as I say, I just assumed that she would instinctively follow her flesh and blood – but it almost never ends well when you push someone into choosing you over someone else.
This is where I broke, two months before my eleventh birthday. I would drag my duvet into the hallway and try to sleep on the floor so that when my mum came back I’d see her the exact.fucking.second she got through the front door. I sat hugging my knees, wailing inconsolably, while my grandad sat with his arm around my shoulders. He’d attempt to comfort me, I’d settle down, and then a few minutes later: Why isn’t she here? Why? This time, I was allowed to cry. They let me mourn. I would stand at the window for fucking hours just in case she turned the corner, my elbows would go numb and my legs would get cramp but why isn’t she here? She will come back. Won’t she?
No. She won’t. I don’t know how long I carried on doing this for.
Phone calls. I would listen, my stomach in knots. He’s changed, Kim. Look, just talk to him. Kim, your mum has been crying so much because of this. You’ve made her feel so bad. You just don’t understand.
My mum had the baby, and they moved to a smaller house at the end of the road they had been living on.
I can’t remember when I started going back, but of course I did – this was all my fault, somehow. I truly don’t understand, but I don’t want her to feel bad. He scares me but I want to be there for her. I don’t want to go back but I’m too scared to tell anyone this. I try to be positive, and make it sound like I have no doubts about the things they tell me. I feel like I have absolutely no choice but to go along with what they say.
The first time I ever met my best friend, we were in the shop around the corner from my mum’s new house. It was October 1996, and my mum was an absolute cow because she dragged me away from this awesome new girl – which meant I then had to spend weeks tracking her down through friends of friends of friends. So I know I was definitely going back to her house then. But I don’t remember going to see her at all in 1997. That was the year I turned 13, decided I knew better than absolutely everyone, and quit going to school so that I could hang out in London (or stay up until 5am every night playing Final Fantasy 7). I think I just ignored her, didn’t return her calls.
Sometime in 1998, I started going back again. Things were different because I’d hardened slightly. I would go there and she would give me rum and cigarettes and suddenly the relationship dynamic changed – I was a drinking buddy, a kindred spirit. I still didn’t like being there, but it was free drink and I was still feeling so fucking guilty. I would sleep over, and it says a lot about how drunk I got while I was there because I can’t even remember the layout of their house. Did I sleep in a bedroom, or on the sofa? Where did my kid sister sleep? No idea.
There are hazy memories of staggering upstairs, collapsing into bed, trying to get the dizziness to stop, listening carefully to his footsteps as he came upstairs and hoping they didn’t come anywhere close. A pause – what? – and then gone. Sleep.
Christmas is hectic when you have a totally broken home. I stopped caring about Christmas when I moved back in with my grandparents, but I couldn’t get out of what other people would arrange around me. It was decided that I would spend Christmas Day at my dad’s, Boxing Day at my mum’s, and New Year at home because I genuinely enjoy New Year’s Eve and they would have ruined it. They’ve already ruined loads of Christmases between them – that means nothing to me anymore.
So, it was Boxing Day at my mum’s. I can’t recall if we’d even eaten or anything by this point, but I was sitting next to him on the sofa while my three-year-old sister was sitting on his lap. His hand kept brushing my leg. I had nowhere to move my leg to, and I was hoping it was an accident. It happened again. The pressure increased. From my knee, all the way up. Then back down. This had to be deliberate. Right?
I froze. There would have been a time when I would have been too scared to say anything, but I had managed to toughen up a little. Not much, but enough to simply ask: ‘Can you stop touching my leg, please?’ I was too scared to look at him, but I could feel him looking at me. And then my mum says she’s going to the shop, and I offer to go with her but they both disagree and she takes my sister so I’m left in the house with him, by myself, and he’s pissed off. I’m already beginning to doubt myself. I can’t remember who spoke first once we were alone, but it quickly escalated into an argument that I promptly ran away from. Literally. Out the door.
I get so scared when people get angry.
I bumped into my mum on her way back from the shop. I explained. She told me to go home, and never come back.
Things were more difficult after this. See, I’d already suffered serious blows to my reputation by questioning why I woke up to find him in my bed that night when I was ten. I didn’t understand basic PR, or what damage limitation was, or the importance of image. They made sure they got there first and gave their version of events to anyone who would listen, so at the age of ten I was branded a liar, a vicious little thing who tried to break up happy homes because I was jealous – and with a lie like that, too! I know this, because people – adults – would tell me how spiteful I was. And because I went back to them and stayed over at their house, those adults assumed that I had said sorry and gone crawling back.
Of course, it all happened again. My mum turned up and screamed at my nan, saying she didn’t understand why they would even want to look after a heartless little bitch like me. She didn’t know I was there. I sat in my room and listened.
I didn’t cry. I didn’t say a word. I listened. And, for the first time, I realised that I wasn’t the problem. She wasn’t my problem. I didn’t have to deal with her anymore.
I turned my music up as she left so that she would know I heard everything, and then went to make sure my nan was okay. My grandad came home, called my mum, and told her to fuck off for good.
I should have made her look me in the eye as she left. She would have done it, too.
Heartless and vicious. Nature and nurture.