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Diseased Soul

By Andy Hayward All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Other

Chapter 5

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 24/03/2008 07:45:12

Subject: Lover man Damn it! I cannot believe I slipped up and pressed send. A mistake. Oh God, what have I done? I was just fantasising! I had just returned home after walking the Funk Bunch and thought since it was such a beautiful morning I’d sit at my bureau, in the front room, glance at the headlines and catch up on Facebook whilst taking a leisurely breakfast. Well, soon after tucking into a brekky of Weetabix –made with warm milk because it’s SOFREAKINGCOLDOUTSIDE– I must have drifted off and began day dreaming about our weekend, about you and about the way you make me feel. By the time I pulled myself towards myself – a phrase I stole from Nanny – my cereal had gone stone cold. Gutted. I must have written the previous email in a half dream-like state. I’ve just re-read it. It’s explicit. I’ve never been so open with anyone before. So embarrassing! It appears I can’t control myself around you Dr Jon. Even now as I’m thinking about you my pussy is wet. There I go again! Shut up Beth. Shut up. Get a grip! Someone pleeeaaase tell me to put a sock in it or at least have the decency to throw of bucket of cold water over me. Shoot me. Be kind! I hope to God no one gets hold of this! Please promise you won’t show or tell anyone about the email I sent this morning. Please Jon, keep it under your hat. Pleeeaaase…I’m begging you. I shall die a horrible tortured death if anyone found out about it. You must delete it immediately. Holy shit. It’s lucky I wrote it at home. It’s doubly difficult to write anything personal in this cramped office that I’m forced to share with the two ugly sisters. Ugly sister one is Angharad, an embittered divorcee who pokes her nose in where doesn’t belong. She’d take great delight, I’m sure, in spreading gossip about my red-hot email, not before dying of a heart attack, mind you, the wrinkly old bint! And there’s ugly sister two, Adara, a thirty year virgin who still lives at home with her parents. How pathetic! I suspect, that if she read it, she’d be so appalled as to never speak to me again. Now, there’s an idea… She’s so bloody naïve about the world. We don’t have anything but work in common which makes her a very boring officemate. She doesn’t even drink! What kind of woman in her thirties doesn’t drink? Anyone would think she’s Muslim or something.

Back to me, my favourite topic, obviously. You’ve changed my life in an instant and for the better. I am so so happy. Finally, I am in a BIG relationship that feels right. Being with you reminds of the feeling I used to get as a co-driver at the start-line of a rally-stage. There was the anxiety over the accuracy of the pace-notes, the thrill of the engine being revved, the prospect of being thrown sideways into the twists and turns, the kinks in the course, the expectation of winning; the elation, adulation. The risk of mechanicals, crashing; despair, disappointment. Yeah, that sums it up nicely. Except with you, there is stillness, a calm that comes from being confident that I’m in the hands of a capable, safe driver. I KNOW we will be together for a very long time, Jon. AVERYLONGTIME. -x-

From:

To: Elizabeth.

Date: 24/03/2008 08:05:21

Subject: RE: Lover man

I take a cursory glance at my inbox before tackling a day’s work. It’s a simple task which, since meeting you, has become a pleasure rather than a chore. Two emails waiting for me this morning were particularly pleasurable to read. I can confirm that the first was entirely responsible for spilling yet another and much needed coffee! This time a shirt and pair of brown corduroys were the victims of a cappuccino. A good job then that I keep a spare set of clothes hanging in my office. I agree with you Angharad may very well have died of a coronary had she read your first email. It was emphatically successful in raising my blood pressure and, ahem, a certain member of my anatomy. I’m sure money could be earned from writing such material! I could be your first satisfied customer.

To answer your first question, my experience with women has, in fact, been rather limited. I’ve had sex with just three, which by normal standards and for a man my age is rather few. I never saw the point in playing the field or spreading my wild oats. I’m not a bit embarrassed by it either. Vacuous, casual, no-strings-attached-sex has never held my interest. I had long relationships with all three women and I loved each one of them. Granted, it was a mistake to begin at fourteen but that wasn’t my idea it was my girlfriend’s. I suppose I learned all I know about sex from her. She became infatuated with me during a school musical called “The Cotton Mill” which retold the plight of child workers who slaved away in unbearable and hazardous conditions to make enormous profits for a wealthy North-West mill owner. She played the lead female and I the lead male, reluctantly. At that time I thought singing was too sissy for boys but my drama teacher pressured me into it after her first choice for lead male dropped-out. The final scene closed with us kissing once the final notes of overly sentimental duet had been delivered. I managed to swerve each time Charlotte lunged in during rehearsals but she clocked a soggy one square on my lips for the finale of the opening performance. The audience must have noticed my fiery complexion and as If to hide my embarrassment I wiped the kiss away with a sleeve of my costume. For the remaining four performances it was the same. I never lived that down. My football buddies thought it was hilarious and made a joke out of blowing kisses each time I stepped out onto the field.

My reticence did not dissuade her, rather it encouraged her all the more and she pestered me in the weeks that followed until I eventually gave in to her requests to “go out with her”, whatever that meant. She had had a few boyfriends already so it wasn’t long before she sought more than handholding and heavy petting. I’d ride over to her house after eating tea. I chatted awkwardly with her parents for a while to be polite, then followed Charlotte upstairs to play music as loudly as we dared. It was a feeble attempt to muffle the sound of becoming acquainted on her bed. We pulled the headboard away from the wall to avoid any knocking sounds being heard downstairs and to be doubly sure of going undisturbed the door was barricaded with Chester Draws. After having my fill –whilst being emptied of all I had – I dashed as quickly as I was able past two parental sentinels to avoid being caught then interrogated. In hindsight, the sage of all regret, I’ve learned that fourteen-year-old boys should live their lives far beyond the world of their girlfriend’s bedroom.

Rest assured, I shall not be sharing the contents of your email with anyone. Why would I? I value privacy just as much you do and your words were intended for my eyes, no one else’s. The feelings you’re experiencing are perfectly normal. WOW. I had no idea you were a co-driver. Thrilling.

I had a long chat with Adara once in the lab whilst slicing then mounting brain tissue. It turns out that she’s from the Republic of Yemen and is Muslim which explains why she respectfully abstains from alcohol. More than likely she’ll remain as pure as her name implies until a marriage is arranged by her parents. I respect her for that. Her husband will be her first and only lover which is both beautiful and rare.

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 24/03/2008 10:36:23

Subject: RE: Lover man

Your young girlfriend was such hondt! And you, YES YOU, sneaking around her parents’ house like a sex-crazed Buck. How typical! Men will do almost anything to get a bit action between the sheets. Does your former boss from that dreadful bar you used to work count as one of your three? I suspect not, which will make me your fifth FUCKBUDDY should I allow things to go that far. You told me it was just three. Three. I am being lied to? I knew all along Adara was Muslim you Muppet! You have much to learn about my sense of humour young man!

Yeah, I was a co-driver for a boyfriend back in Zambia. It was exhilarating. I must have mentioned it. I’m sure I did. I loved him with all my heart. He was a good driver. With me at his side he became a great driver and together we won one championship after another. We made a brilliant team. We had an unspoken language, a synergy, that sometimes made my pace notes redundant. I think that’s what gave us the edge over our competition and once we achieved our first win we just kept winning. Then one night, completely unexpectedly, he reached down beneath his side of the bed and pulled out a loaded twelve-gauge pump-action shot-gun he kept there, pointed it at my head and threatened to kill me. He kept it in case of a break-in and it had already been used in self-defence when he shot a local in the back following an attempted burglary two summers before. So I laid there in bed and peered down the barrel, knowing it was loaded and knowing he wasn’t afraid of pulling the trigger. I was so scared, so fearful of my life I cried silently and pissed the sheets. I then unashamedly began to beg for my life, pleading with him to put down the gun. He responded by hoisting it away from my face, aimed at a spot just above the head-board and pulled the trigger. Plaster showered the bed covers, fragments flew at my eyes and made them sting. The air thickened with dust. The crack of the shell firing was deafening and left a painful ringing in my ears. It was then I noticed his lips moving. He must have been saying something. I couldn’t hear a word. He pumped another shell into the chamber and re-aimed to a point directly between my eyes. Shaking violently, the next shot, I thought, was surely for me. They say that your life flashes before your eyes when you are about to die. Mine didn’t. My only thought was that I’d enter heaven or hell without my beautiful face: how crazy! Surely I deserved a better final thought? I felt cheated. It was like a prisoner on death row asking for steak as a final meal and being served cold cabbage. I laid there petrified. He kept moving his lips. Then suddenly without warning the bedroom door flew open. A cop rushed in and charged at my tormentor. His body to fell hard to the ground. He was out cold. His head, which split open when it thudded on the hard-tiled floor, was surrounded by a small pool of blood. He was immediately hand-cuffed and after coming round man-handled to the van parked outside then taken to the police station where he was held overnight. After being questioned I crammed a random selection of belongings into a gargantuan hold-all, left my dogs in the care of a friend and took the first flight back home. As far as I know my Ex, who went uncharged, now has a ‘son’ and is married to a real a REALFUCKINGBITCH that sleeps around behind his back. It’d serve him right if the boy isn’t his. I hope he’s miserable. He deserves nothing more. The arresting police officer, a black man, was charged with misconduct. Some justice! The story was in the local paper. You can read it one day, if interested, I keep a copy.

From:

To: Elizabeth.

Date: 24/03/2008 10:42:02

Subject: RE: Lover man

I’m shocked by your visceral account of your Ex. Having a gun pointed to your head must have been a terrible experience, one more suited to the silver screen than real life. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have endured such an ordeal. Relationships always have their difficulties but having your life put in jeopardy by someone you loved and trusted seems like the ultimate betrayal. Thankfully he didn’t pull the trigger and apart from the inevitable emotional scars you survived.

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 24/03/2008 10:45:51

Subject: RE: Lover man

What are you on? Emotional scars, the ultimate betrayal? Where do you get your ideas? Look, Jon, I loved him in a deep and special way. I was very good to him and we had brilliant fun together for years. All Zambian men keep guns under their beds. It’s normal. Zambian men are real men: strong, reliable, good providers. We had drinks with friends that night and after they left a small disagreement followed. I don’t know what tipped him over the edge that night and I don’t care. A girl has her limits and he reached mine when he pulled the gun out on me. I removed myself from the situation so it wouldn’t happen again, that’s all. He didn’t hurt me. He didn’t scar me. And I DID NOT and STILL DO NOT feel betrayed by him anyway whatever! You’re highly skilled in winding me up, that’s for sure. Grrrrr! He lost the best thing that ever happened to him and he’s entirely responsible for that. And just look at the life I have now. I have great job, a homely flat, a great family and lots of fabulous friends who adore me, my dogs and now, well, now I have you. Life couldn’t be better, thank you very much. And I’d rather not talk about him. What’s the point? I’ve been back in Wales for five years now and I haven’t once given him a second thought. Don’t refer to him ever again. Go it? Good. There are much better things to think about, like your hot body for one and for another all the things I’m going to do with it the next time I have you all to myself.

From:

To: Elizabeth.

Date: 24/03/2008 10:50:16

Subject: RE: Lover man

I apologize for hitting a nerve and for jumping to the wrong conclusions about your feelings toward your Ex and what he did. Although I’ve had my fair share of mistreatment no-one has ever pointed a gun at me, least of all a loved one. I suppose I was trying to empathize by drawing upon my own experiences. You’re right perhaps it’s better to leave the past just where it is. I should like to learn more about your plans for my body.

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 24/03/2008 11:11:11

Subject: RE: Lover man

Let’s leave my plans for your body aside for the moment and back-up a step or two. I’m confused. If what you say is right and no one has ever threatened you with a gun what experiences can you possibly draw upon to emphasize with what happened to me? Come Jon, I can’t imagine – not even for a nano-second – that your life has ever been threatened. From the stories you’ve told me its sounds like your life has been idyllic. You have a PhD for goodness sake and hold a position in one country’s top universities. I know your parents were pitifully poor and could only just afford a council house but they must have cared for you in all the right ways for you to have succeeded. What hardship have you ever suffered? None, I suspect. Your attempt to empathise is probably a trick to build my confidence so that I’d feel comfortable enough to have full-on sex with you. Do you think I’m gullible or something?

From:

To: Elizabeth.

Date: 24/03/2008 13:30:21

Subject: RE: Lover man

I really did hit a nerve didn’t I? I’m sorry to touch upon a sensitive topic again. Are you certain you’ve reconciled yourself to what your Ex did? The content of your emails seems to suggest otherwise. I’m here for you should you ever want to talk and the university has a terrific counselling service. My attempt to empathize was genuine. I don’t know the full extent of your experiences with men but there are a few, of which I am one, whose behaviour toward women is not driven solely by their need to have sex. I am not master carpenter who keeps a box of well sharpened tools ready at hand to chip away at his next big project. I’m not a womaniser. I’ve never chased or chatted up a woman and I have most certainly never been so calculating as to use cunning, tricks or ploys to get one into bed. Your suspicions are therefore emphatically unwarranted. And whilst I might look back at my life favourably through rose-tinted spectacles, it has been far from idyllic. For a long time and before I had a long time to think about it, I questioned whether it really happened at all or if it was a figment of my imagination. Had I retrospectively re-organised my memories to justify my present actions and attitudes? Had I constructed false memories to make sense of my world? I questioned the reliability of my young eyes too. To what extent might a child’s testimony be trusted? How fallible was my young memory? And could long forgotten memories retain any semblance of truth particularly when there are very good reasons to forget vital details? These questions and a plethora of others turned over in my mind like rusty old cogs, sluggishly, until a picture more fully formed than ever organized itself, the light, shade and composition, during the four years I was ill. More than once I’ve considered the possibility of writing it all down in a letter but my initial interest for that project lost impetus some time ago when I realised it wouldn’t make a difference. Not to me, not to my siblings, not to Dad and not to her. Whilst it was happening and for some years later I hated her but I don’t hold any particular feelings about her now, except pity. There’s some consolation in knowing, perhaps, that she’s now a decrepit old woman, too weak to harm me or anyone else, at least physically. But that won’t change what happened. As far as I’m concerned she had just two jobs to do in her life. The first to be a good wife. The second to be a good mother. She failed miserably at both. She’s the sort of woman who steals joy from any unfortunate soul that crosses her path. She can’t help herself. It’s central to her being. She’s a joy-thief and relishes it. The term Joy-thief should not to be confused with kill-joy. Someone described as the latter prevents others from having fun, whilst the former is reserved for those of a much more pernicious temperament who, for their own pleasure, would happily rip out your soul, chew on it for a while until tiring of its flavour, spit it out as though it was the vilest morsel they ever tasted, stamp all over it, being sure to work-in a good measure of grit, dirt, and detritus, wash it off (or not), chew it again, spit it out again, stamp on it again and repeat. The joy-thief cycles through this process until the soul is destroyed rendering it unrecognisable to its owner, to his friends and family. In the end the owner becomes an empty vessel, soulless, and just like the Joy-thief is left in a state where he steals from rather than gives joy to others. And that ensures a vicious cycle of torment perpetuates. It’s a beautiful evil. Victims become abusers, or that’s how it’s meant to go. I was fortunate to escape that cycle, eventually. There was what I heard and what I saw and I what I experienced for myself first hand. Not a day passed by without her screams filling the house, without her howling obscenities at Dad, at me, at my brothers and sisters. Very often her agitation and rage erupted as potassium thrown into water. She exploded with violent reaction, without cause. Mugs, dinner plates and pans, any object, in fact, sufficiently large to inflict harm was lobbed across the kitchen with such force that upon missing its intended target bent, buckled or broke into pieces upon impacting a wall behind. Dad was blessed with agility, and, as luck would have it, mother was a very poor aim. When his luck ran out, or his agility failed him he took glancing blows or worse still direct hits. A list of resultant injuries included but were not limited to a bloody nose, bruising to the torso, egged-shaped contusions to the head and other scrapes and cuts. When hurling objects failed to satisfy her need for whatever it was she had a need to satisfy, she kicked, bit, punched or pulled Dad’s hair until blood was drawn. When the mood took her internal doors no longer merely marked the end of one room and the beginning of another, they became weapons. Mother often hurled her hefty bulk against a door through which Dad was leaving. The outcome? Body parts became mangled between a door and its frame. One door-strike almost severed the forefinger of his right hand. On that occasion Dad’s contorted grimace was met with a smirk as mother admired her handy work with pride. His wound squirted blood onto the wall from where it dripped onto the skirting, then onto the thread bare carpet where it collected in a small puddle. Another door-strike caused him to drop to a heap on the floor, knocked out cold by the blow. My dad, my hero, the man I looked up to and admired was battered by Mother on an almost daily basis. There were many other such incidents, all them terrifying. The most harrowing occurred sometime after my parents had separated. That day, as promised, Dad took me Zach and Ruth – his three youngest children – to the park. It was a beautiful summer’s day. There go my rose tinted spectacles again! Our journey there was delightful. We walked, we talked. I hung on his every word. Just spending time in Dad’s company was enough to put a smile on my face. Dad held my hand securely in his right and Ruth’s hand in his left. He had large safe hands. Zach kept to the company of Hobbes up front. At the park we played footy then later on mucked about in the playground. Dad carefully hung a daisy-chain-necklace Ruth had made around his neck and he wore it all day with pride. My brother played fetch with Hobbes. Towards the end of the day we passed through the secret gate and dared each other to jump across the stream beyond it. I missed the opposite bank a few times and enjoyed getting my feet wet. Apart from usual sibling spats it was an idyllic day that ended with a Mr Whippy, topped with Hundreds and Thousands, strawberry syrup and a chocolate flake. It would have been remembered that way too had it not been for the events that followed and overshadowed it when we arrived back at Mother’s house. Mother, chief joy-thief, had a habit of spoiling our fun. Old habits die hard. For one reason or another Mother assumed that we’d all be eating together after our day out, Dad included, but forgot to ask him about it beforehand. Mother had, after all, been “Slaving over a hot stove all day” to prepare a “Lovely family dinner” to thank Dad for “Taking the kids off her hands” all afternoon, I suppose… I’ve tried to suppress the memory of what happened next with little success. Dad couldn’t stay. It was already late and he needed the rest of the day to visit Granny and prepare for work, he explained. Mother immediately became upset and began the equivalent of a verbal one-sided-bare-knuckle-fight by goading him with: “So my food isn’t good enough for you now?”, “I don’t know why I make the effort!”; “Go on then go! You’ve always been a mummy’s boy!”, “Some father you are! You can’t even be bothered to eat with your kids!” and took other verbal jabs, punches and swings, all designed to engage him in a brawl where one boxer would come out victorious, arms aloft, overlooking the other knocked-out on a blood stained canvass below. She went on and on and on and with each on-and-on her rage grew exponentially. Dad didn’t a say a word in reply. Instead he stood there silent. In an attempt to subdue her wrath he diverted his gaze to the ground, a gesture that had the opposite effect to the one intended. I’d be mixing metaphors if wrote that it had the effect of igniting that blue-touch-paper, yet her reaction was something similar. It was like seeing Dr David Bannister turn from a lucid scientist into a green raging monster, Hulk. She even had a look in her eyes that implied “Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”. Dad was in a fight he didn’t want and against an opponent who resembled a female version of Hulk, but without the green skin. She was weightier, than Dad and downright out of control. Dad began making tentative steps toward the back door, the nearest exit. At this her rage hit a new intensity. “How dare you walk away when I’m talking to you!” she blurted. A verbal one-sided-bare-knuckle-fight quickly evolved into a physical one. Dad caught what she was up to in the corner of his eye and hastened his steps to escape. This time luck and skill evaded him. He moved too slowly to avoid being hit by a potato pan she threw at him. At first, I thought just the pan had hit him. Then I saw a red flash of scalding down one side of his face, his arm and leg. He bit his lip and tried desperately hard not to swear in our presence. Shocked, I remained motionless just as did he. Mother didn’t flinch. She may have even delighted in his pain. She took his inert state as opportunity to dash back inside. She returned wearing oven gloves, carrying a piping hot tray. Her rage had now gone. No hint of emotion was evident. Her eyes, glazed over, appeared empty. After a short pause she took two or three final steps towards the spot on which Dad had become rooted. It was there she delivered her knockout blow. With the words “Here ya go ya bastard here’s the rest of your dinner!” she launched the tray along with the roasting joint and bubbling fat, in his direction. He lifted his arms to protect his face, but not even the quickest boxer can defend against searing fat. He screamed in agony. His bare arms quickly blistered. His skin dripped. Fat penetrated his shirt and shorts. Dad’s chest and legs blistered and lost skin too, I found out later. I cried copiously and between my panicky inhalations I begged Dad to let me call 999. He wouldn’t allow it. He insisted that all he needed was water. Just cold water. He kept repeating to me “I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine…I have to get ready for work…I have to work or I’ll never be able to see you again, I’m sorry. I love you” and with those words he hobbled away. No one had dinner that day.

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 24/03/2008 15:12:02

Subject: RE: Lover man

The only nerve you’ve hit was getting on my nerves by harping-on about the same subject. Boooring! None of the events you wrote about happened to you. They happened to your dad, so they don’t count and they bear no semblance to having a gun shoved in your face. How could they? Your life was hardly threatened was it? You’ll have to try better than that Jon, but I doubt very much there’s anything in your life to compare with the trauma I experienced that night and the hardships that followed. And I don’t need counselling, do you?
From:

To: Elizabeth.

Date: 24/03/2008 18:29:45

Subject: RE: Lover man

You’re right. Seeing Mother batter Dad and being threatened by a loaded gun aren’t quite the same. Surely you’d concede that both experiences were nevertheless traumatic. Yours was like a driver who awakens after catnapping at a wheel and sees headlights of a colossal lorry speeding toward her. In that split second she’s terrified and acknowledges that little can be done to avoid a heavy and imminent collision. Mine was, more like that of a patient who after visiting his doctor for a persistent headache is told of an inoperable brain tumour, his prolonged journey to death, agonising. One is a sudden thump of a trauma, sharp, intense. The other is a chronic trauma, drawn-out, sustained and whilst, arguably, less palpable than the first its effects are no less potent or damaging. I suppose the analogy would be more fitting if I was the son of the patient diagnosed with that malignancy but let’s not split hairs. I’m sure you get the point.

Let’s avoid playing a game of “Trauma Top Trumps”. Still, there are a few cards I’d like to throw on the deck. Not to “out trump” you, as such, but to make you aware that all is not what it appears to be on the surface. It never is. Even the flattest ocean may have a tumultuous undercurrent. I told you earlier about how mother beat Dad. Well, her rage wasn’t limited to him. It often spilled over onto me and my siblings too. The sheer number of abusive episodes prohibit a full account here, so I’ll try my best to give you a flavour of what she was really like.

Mother was unpredictable. It was impossible to know from one day to the next, from one moment to the next, even, how she’d behave. Her mood vacillated violently from one pole of being overly-jolly and loving to its diametric equivalent of being miserable and full of hatred. As a child, this ambivalence was very difficult to live with. Her mood swings were oil floating on the surface of a dark lake of something else much more malevolent. Mother gave nothing for free. Unconditional motherly love was a concept of which I was unfamiliar growing up. Love had to be bought. Occasionally it could be bought with a smile, a cuddle, or a kiss. At other times, it was bought by being humiliated, receiving a beating or worse.

Like many parents – and don’t get me wrong, it’s good to teach children to be polite –Mother asked to be thanked for the gifts I received. However, her great sense of propriety, twisted, and the way she enforced it was cruel. If I slipped up and forgot to offer my words of appreciation followed up swiftly with a kiss to the lips – inflexibly in that order – a gift was snatched from my hands and that marked the beginning of a sadistic soap opera, the script adhering to the form and approximating in content the one given below:
“Now, what do good little boys say when they’re given a present?”

“Thank you”

“Why didn’t you thank me?”

“I… I…I dunno….”

“You didn’t thank me because you’re a….”

“Because I’m a naughty little boy?”

“And what happens to naughty little boys?”

I dreaded answering the final question and frequently I didn’t bother trying. I diverted my gaze, looked at my feet, frightened. I was never quite certain what would follow, except that I knew it would hurt, emotionally or physically. More than once she threw a gift, still in its wrapping to the floor, stamped on it, smashed it, crumpled it; and wearing that wry smile she snarled through gritted teeth the words, “That’ll teach ya, ya ungrateful little shit!” or something similarly hurtful. At other times, she whacked me around the head, which left my ears ringing; stars before my eyes. I preferred physical punishment because the rings and stars eventually faded and sometimes I got to keep a gift or two. At other times still, she persuaded Dad to do her dirty work, purposefully exaggerating her case against me by spouting inflammatory phrases like “He’s an ungrateful little bastard”, “He doesn’t deserve my love” and other choice phrases designed to provoke Dad into giving me a good and proper beating, fitting of my crime. Dad carried out her orders to thrash me with his belt or slipper in my bedroom out of her view. Mother always came to check on me later to ensure I’d been punished correctly to her own impeccable standards. Thankfully, Dad hardly ever believed her side of the story and delivered just one smack with barely adequate force to moisten my eyes. Anything less would have failed to provide satisfactory evidence that her orders had been properly carried out and upon finding an absence of tears she’d launch into one of her uncontrollable rages and beat me until I stopped crying or went limp. Sometimes I went limp on purpose to make her stop before my body gave out. Dad’s smack served two functions. It appeased her and protected me.

Her attacks were not just physical they were emotional too.

It was a habit of mother’s, a family tradition, to prepare a special tea for each child’s birthday. Up until she abandoned her children, this custom was maintained every year without fail. I looked forward to each birthday tea because they included all the wonderful tasty treats my parents couldn’t usually afford. This tea was the first one Mother had prepared since taking off so she made an especial effort to get in my favourite treats. There was jelly and ice-cream to be had, daintily cut sandwiches, cured meats, luscious green salad that looked like it was good for me so I shunned it, fairy cakes, scrumptious Cadbury’s Chocolate Rolls and Chocolate Finger’s, Jammy Dodgers, Anchor Squirty Cream, Bird’s Angel Delight, but best of all home-made birthday cake.

I remember well and for the wrong reasons the tea I was given in honour of my tenth birthday. For the first time since I was five, when I had a small party at the old house, mother allowed me to invite friends. I was limited to just two and I knew straight away who to invite. It was the two Pauls. One I knew one through Zach and our friendship centred on our common interests of Lego and playing out on bikes. The other was a friend who I’d known since infant school. They were my very best friends. I was excited about my birthday tea, about having friends over and about playing games afterwards.

The scene was set for a successful little party. Everything had been laid out on the dining room table by the time I had raced home from school and Mother did a wonderful job of making everything look scrumptious. My eyes lit up with excitement when I saw the feast. I could not, and, in fact, did not wait to get stuck-in. Post-school hunger pangs, coupled with my eagerness to sample the sweet delicious biscuits and cake got very much the better of me. And with Mother’s back turned I sneaked a fairy cake here, a Jaffa Cake there, and I drew the tip of my forefinger through the butter of icing of my birthday cake in a place where I thought it would go undetected, at the bottom where it spilled onto the plate. I knew I shouldn’t have. But what mischievous and hungry little boy could resist? Mother cried out from the kitchen “I have eyes in the back of my head ya know!” and “Keep ya little thieving hands off” warnings in response to which I pilfered yet another birthday-tea delicacy. “Just you wait” she said, a threat I caught her mumbling to herself again in the kitchen afterwards “Just you wait…”

I removed myself from further temptation by watching Blue Peter and Jon Cravens Newsround. After the goggle-box programmes had finished my friends arrived and the party began. Upholding tradition, Dad lit my birthday candles, asked me to close my eyes, to blow them out and make a wish. They say wishes should be kept secret otherwise they don’t come true. For my tenth birthday I wished for my parents to be reunited, for good. I screwed-up my eyes tightly, drew in a deep breath and expelled it forcefully extinguishing all the candles in one go. My wish would surely be granted. It was then that mother scooped a hand underneath the cake, to cut it up and portion it out, I thought. I was mistaken. In one rapid sweeping movement, she hoisted it up and shoved the whole lot in my face where it cemented itself for a short time until tumbling to the floor. She laughed sardonically and with her usual smile squared up to my nose, and whispered “There, I told you to wait, ya thieving little git. I got you back!” Feelings of hatred, fear, anxiety and panic filled my body as I held back the tears to avoid further humiliation in the presence of my friends who let out their own half-laughs, presuming the episode to be some sort of practical joke. Mother paused to drink in her achievement for a brief moment, and in the next came a look of realisation. She eyed me, the cake, my friends, brothers, sisters and finally Dad and understood she had destroyed all her hard work and the especial effort she had gone in a split second of madness. Any anger she had preceding this realisation, doubled it, tripled it, quadrupled it afterwards. A fury possessed her body. She pulled her hair, let out a vile scream and swiped a hand across the table. Almost everything was thrown to the back of the room. Plates and glasses smashed to the floor. Cake splattered the walls. Irn Bru and Dandelion and Burdock stained the carpet. It was then mother adopted what appeared to be something like the Child’s Pose – shoulders crouched over the knees, head to the floor – and rocked backward and forwards, sobbing, in the middle of the room. The two Pauls exchanged quizzical glances and left without saying a word. I took back my birthday-wish and hastily made another. This time I wished I was dead. It was another occasion we all went hungry.

If that story did nothing to sate your appetite for the perverse this next one will. Dressing me down, putting me in my place, humiliating me in front of my friends was just one weapon in the arsenal mother deployed in her psychological warfare against me and my siblings.

After Dad died Zach and I had to share a tiny room at Mother’s house, an arrangement that caused tension. And no wonder. We were boys, had the usual sibling rivalries and lived in a cramped household governed by a despotic mother who delighted in making our lives a misery.

Once, on our walk home from school, the fun Zach and I were having – lobbing sticks up at conker trees – turned sour when I received a painful blow to the head. Zach asserted it was my own stick that did the damage. I knew different. He sprinted away. I gave chase. When I was in range I stretched out a foot and successfully tripped him to the ground, where we wrestled until I realised he was getting the better of me. I writhed free, sped away, making it his turn to give chase. Once in range he tripped me, we wrestled, he emancipated himself from my grip, making it my turn to chase and so this tit-for-tat game of chasing, tripping and wrestling continued until we reached the front door.

Any fights we had outside had to cease the moment we stepped inside the house, knowing that if they didn’t we’d get into “very deep trouble”. Our truce was preserved by the more ominous threat of one of mother’s punishments. That day we each took off our school shoes, hung up our coats and discarded our bags to the floor and stood in the hallway as if nothing had happened. Zach made his way into the living room. I followed. There before our eyes was Mother lying stretched out across the full length of the sofa in the supine position. I thought little of it at first. She was taking one of her afternoon naps, or so I thought. It was Zach who noticed something odd. She looked pale. Her chest neither raised nor fell, it was motionless and her customary snore was absent. He rushed over, knelt beside her, gently held her shoulders and said “Mum, mum, are okay?” No movement, no sound, nothing. He raised his voice and repeated “Mum, mum, are you…are you okay”, a tremor entered his voice. Again his question was met with an eerie absence of sound and mother’s body remained motionless. He increased the volume, changing his plea to “Wake-up mum… please wake up”. Still there was nothing. This time he gave her body a firm but unaggressive shake, the peaks and troughs of his tremor pronounced “Please mum…please, wake up….please mum wake up, wake up!” I looked on from the doorway, my feet super-glued to the beige pile carpet. And still there was nothing. Zach removed his hands from her shoulders and rested them on her stomach. His head oscillating gently from left to right fell to his chest. A tear liberated itself. It rolled down his cheek, made its way to his chin where it hung for a while until gravity pulled it toward the Mother’s closed lips, where it finally came to rest and dispersed. Then letting out the big gulp of air she had swallowed, she smiled not-so-sweetly and said “Ha! Ya thought I was dead just like your dad didn’t ya?”

The way her statement made me feel was largely irrelevant compared to how it must have made Zach feel. He found Dad dead. I suspect her stunt was pre-meditated. It’s the only way I have been able to explain why her face was pale and not the ruddy hue expected of someone who had been holding their breath. My suspicion is that she had powdered her face, which, if true, exposes her circus trick to be the vilest act of psychological abuse I have personally witnessed.

Playing dead was a trick she used once on me too. Mother attacked me in the kitchen for being late home from school. She had already ripped my white school shirt into two and it dangled around my waste like torn newspaper. In her final bid to teach me a lesson, she grabbed my wrists tightly, showing the whites of her knuckles. I tried to break free but it was impossible, the hold was vice-like and it needed to be to administer my punishment. She pushed and shoved me across the kitchen. Then pinned me to the back wall, where she delivered a head-butt. The back of my head – the parietal bone, just above the lambdoid suture – took a secondary blow as it ricocheted off the wall behind. My teeth clattered. Her knees, like pistons walloped me repeatedly in the gonads, in the stomach, in my left thigh. Her teeth sank into my shoulders. I had no choice. I had to defend myself. And fuelled by the adrenaline pumping around my body I pushed her off with all I had. She jolted back, tripped and smacked her head on the cooker at opposite end of room. She thudded to the ground as a pan stored on the stove-top dislodged itself and clouted her head. It knocked her out cold. That adrenaline came in handy, but I didn’t anticipate knocking her out, it was just an accident. I stood over her, shook her, splashed water over her face. And to my utter relief she came round. Mother stared directly into my eyes and let out a familiar peal of laughter, delivering almost verbatim the words she had used on Zach: “Ya thought I was dead didn’t ya?” After trying and failing to pick herself up she added “I’m not dead yet ya little shit. Just you wait, just you wait, you’ll get what you deserve…” Despite her threat it was the first time in a very long time I was glad she was alive. I’m still wholly ashamed of what I did.

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 24/03/2008 19:36:25

Subject: RE: Lover man

I’ve just spent a lot of my precious time reading and trying to assimilate those stories about your mother. You should be ashamed of yourself! How could any man hit a woman let alone his own mother? She was your mother for goodness sake! Don’t bother trying to offer an explanation. I guess if there’s any truth to what you say she had it coming, the Bitch! She’ll get more of what she deserves one day just like my ex will. Just you wait, you’ll see... What goes around comes around right? You need to cut her out of your life like I did with my ex and like I did with my best friend Lorna...

When I moved from Zambia I soon settled back into a great life here in Wales and met Lorna in the office where we both worked as administrators. The work was BORINGASHELL so we both joked around to prevent ourselves becoming corpses. Our friendship developed naturally from there. We often met up after work for drinks and danced our Friday nights away in the one important exclusive guest-list-only-nightclub in town. It was hilarious to see guys buying cocktails and champagne for us all night. Who could blame them? Lor was hot! It was her figure was what drew them in. She was tall, had the kind of well-defined calves you like, a pert arse, slim waste, petite frame, her breasts perfectly shaped. They were large and firm too. I felt them, more than once, to check their authenticity. I can confirm they were 100% real. Lucky bitch. She had impeccable fashion sense and wore tiny boutique dresses that barely covered her beautiful body. What those guys couldn’t know, something I did, was that beneath her scant clothing rested a smooth Brazilianed pussy, clean, attractive. Lor took me to her salon so I could copy her and I’ve been doing it ever since, as you’ve seen.

Some girls seem to have everything. Lorna’s beauty didn’t begin and end with her body. She had elfin features, high and pronounced cheek bones, a straight nose ever so slightly turned up at the end, full lips, a well-defined philtrum, a small dimple sat on her chin. Flawless threaded eyebrows accentuated and opened further the brightest eyes I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure it was her eyes that kept the drinks coming. I was spellbound by them so they must have had the same effect on men.

Once we tired of toying with boys, had our fill of drinks and became tired of dancing we’d take a taxi back to my place, fall into bed together and enter the most blissful sleep. We fooled around a bit when we finally woke late Saturday afternoon which was a lot of fun, ate breakfast at lunchtime and lunch at dinner time, got dressed up again, returned to the same guest-list-club, sipped yet more champagne and cocktails, received yet more propositions from guys we had little interest in, cabbed it home, fell into bed, awoke late Sunday morning, fooled around and enjoyed each other a bit more, then ate lunch at dinner time around Mums. Lor became part of the family and we happily continued this routine for three years. We had brilliant fun and lived the kind of life I lived Zambia: drinking, partying. The high life. Then, one night just as I began to open the door of a cab Lor slapped me across the face, right out of the blue and for no reason! It stung like hell! LITTLEBITCH how she dare hit me! I threw a twenty to the driver, gave him Lorna’s address and sent her home. The following day I removed Lor as a friend from my Facebook, deleted her number from my phone, removed her from my email address book, ripped up all the photos I kept of her and discarded all the clothes she had given me to the bin. I did everything I could to remove every trace of her from my life. I knew I wouldn’t be brave enough to face her after abusing me like that, so on the Monday I handed in my notice and immediately began searching for another job, which took a month to find. She called me. She emailed me. She knocked on the front door. She took her breaks to co-inside with mine and waited for me outside work. She sent friend requests via Facebook. I ignored all of her pitiful attempts to contact me. Well, someone had to teach her a lesson didn’t they? People like your mother, like my ex, like Lorna, get what they deserve in the end. They deserve to be cut-off, isolated from normal loving people like you and me. I missed it before but now I understand. What you experienced at the hands of your mother does have some similarity to what I suffered at the hands my ex. Funny it took recalling that incident with Lor to realise it.

From:

To: Elizabeth.

Date: 25/03/2008 10:10:25

Subject: RE: Lover man

We have much in common, evidently. On the upside, we both have a love and passion for science. We’re both a little eccentric. We share a love of music, film and literature and the real clincher we both enjoy bike- riding. Unlike many “nerds” in the lab, as you refer to them, it appears we subscribe to the idea that there’s much more to life than work. It’s becoming apparent that we’ve both been put through the mill, which is a real pity, but those experiences might serve to draw us together.

I don’t want to pry but I’m intrigued about your relationship with Lorna. What do you mean by “we fooled around a bit” and “enjoyed each other”? Cutting her out of your life for slapping you across the face once seems a little harsh. Is there something you’re not telling me? There’s no urgency to reveal anything you’re uncomfortable and following the content of our recent emails I’d prefer to move onto to a more positive subjects. We’re still in the early throws of our relationship and should concentrate on enjoying ourselves rather than becoming bogged down by the past.

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 25/03/2008 10:29:23

Subject: RE: Lover man

Yeah, we have common ground, except you’re the mad scientist which makes you eccentric not me. It also makes you a nerd, just like the other lab rats. Ha! There’s not much more to say about Lor than I’ve already told you. We were friends. Good friends. We had lots of fun together until she showed her true colours and I taught her a lesson she wouldn’t forget. She won’t abuse anyone else like that again, that’s for sure! I’m puzzled. If your mother was as bad as you’ve made out, how did she get away with it for so long? I guess she must have been good at hiding it. -xxx-

From:

To: Elizabeth.

Date: 25/03/2008 13:17:13

Subject: RE: Lover man

You guessed correctly. Mother was very good at hiding what she did, her expertise unsurpassed. She was skilful in the art of keeping up appearances and projected the images of model wife and model-mother. At all times her children, me included, were well-groomed, well-dressed and well behaved, at least in public. She too behaved well in public, most of the time. We appeared to be healthy, polite children. Relatives, teachers, doctors and other significant adults could therefore be in no doubt she was a good mother. In the early days, Dad’s shirts were well pressed and mother sent him off to earn his crust with a kiss, packed his work-bag with a large flask of tea and a sandwich box his work-mates envied; all gestures to show she was a good wife. The situation at home was different. To maintain the façade, mother tried her best to limit striking her husband and us kids in areas normally hidden by clothes. Head-shots were not ruled out as bruising could be disguised hair. If the injury was serious and I had a lump on my head then a hat was used to cover up the evidence. I was often seen wearing the white floppy-brimmed-hat Dad gave me for fishing. I hardly ever received face-shot, but on the rare occasions I did, mother concocted a suitable cover story. The black-eye, the bruised cheek, the split lip, the gash to my forehead, were all injuries sustained through play-fighting with my brother “You know how rough boys can be!” she used to say. Dad used similar cover stories off his own bat as a way of hiding his embarrassment.

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 25/03/2008 13:17:13

Subject: RE: Lover man

It sounds easier than I imagined. Now what were we discussing before you brought up your mother and made me talk about my Ex and Lorna? Mmmmm, yeah that’s right I was thinking about your lush body and all I’m going to do with it on the weekend….you’re in for a real treat. -xxx-

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