This isn’t an easy topic for people to read about. It isn’t easy for me to write about either. This is the story of my four year relationship. A domestically violent relationship. This is the story of a man who broke me. A man who, to this day, is still searching for me. To finish what he started. For this reason, certain details will be left out of the story.
I’m no longer afraid. I used to be, but not anymore.
- What happened to me was monstrous, and it created a monster. - V for Vendetta.
At 16 I was living in an unstable environment, like I had all my life. An alcoholic father who would dive into the bottle daily. Violence was the solution to his realisation of the man he had become. I’d experienced this from the moment I was born, it wasn’t anything new to me. I suppose as I got older, I saw just how much alcohol has a hold over him. As a child I never understood why his hands used to shake like they did. All I ever dreamed of was getting away from the life I felt so trapped in.
I’d repeatedly tell myself ‘Anywhere is better than here’.
My life was flipped upside down when I started speaking to a man online who wanted to take me away from it all. Everyday we would talk, a little about my life, a little about his. The man I once messaged to escape from reality was becoming my addiction. He made me feel better about myself. He would compliment me, make me feel wanted and special. He gave me the attention I had missed out on as a child. My overwhelming joy was short lived, it quickly turned to heartache. He said I had to wait until I was 18 before we could be together. 18? That’s two whole years away. I can’t cope with two more years in this hell, knowing happiness is just within my grasp. Contact was lost with him, I carried on as I did before, as if he was never there. Desperately trying to stay out the way of my fathers drunken violence. Dreaming that one day he would get in touch, like he said he would. Part of me realised it was a false hope, but hope was all I had. So I held onto it.
But hope wasn’t lost.
On my 18th birthday I received a text. It was from a number I didn’t have saved in my phone. I replied back to ask who it was.
My heart began to beat out of my chest. The realisation that he did mean what he said all those years ago. The hope I held onto for two years wasn’t for nothing. Texting turned to calling, calling turned to video calls and my love for him grew. It was like nothing I had ever experience. I wanted to spend my life with this man. I didn’t know what the future held. I didn’t care. As long as I was with him, nothing else mattered.
My mother was the first to know about this mystery man. I remember being extremely nervous, which isn’t surprising, looking back. He was 26 years older than me. She asked the usual questions.
‘What does he do for work? Where does he live? How long have you known him?’
She was really relaxed about the whole situation considering it was my first adult relationship. Although when she asked about his age I turned a ghostly shade of pale.
‘He’s older than me...’
That‘s all I was willing to divulge. But she didn’t pry further. I was trusted to know what I was doing, she simply expressed her excitement for meeting him in person. To say that my father was less than impressed would be an understatement. He was an extremely controlling man, not just with me but with my mother too. The arguments which ensued after he found out were horrific. The violence that followed, even worse. Pinned against the wall by my neck, just like I was as a child. Holding onto his arm that’s pushing into my windpipe, and looking into his eyes while my mother begs for him to stop. He would scream in my face, telling me how disgusted he was at me, calling me a whore. Things got so bad I had to spend a few nights away from home. I didn’t feel safe, not that I ever did growing up.
As the days grew closer to M meeting my parents for the first time, my emotions were mixed. Of course, I was so excited to introduce to my parents the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with. But at the same time, I had no idea what my father would do, he was predictably, unpredictable. The only thing you could count on is that he would have alcohol in his system and a cigarette in his hand. M drove for hours to finally arrive around lunch time, he texted me to say he was outside. I let out a squeal of excitement and ran out to see him. I still remember the smell of his aftershave. He entwined his hand with mine and we walked in the house together. I was overwhelmed with fear and nerves.
M respectfully put out his hand to shake my fathers. My father stayed seated. He didn’t even look him in the eye. I looked straight at my mother for reassurance, not knowing what to do. She quickly jumped up off the sofa and went to hug us both. She welcomed him, literally, with open arms. It was obvious, the age gap, but she didn’t care. We spent hours chatting over coffee, getting to know one another. My father stayed silent most of the time. He would occasionally join in when forcefully prompted by my mother. I was terrified that it would put M off having a relationship with me. Thoughts were rushing through my head the whole time.
‘Has he ruined this for me? I want to spend my life with this man. What if he doesn’t like my father and he doesn’t want to be with me because of it?’
When the time came for him to leave, I cried. We sat in his car and I begged him to take me with him. He reassured me that soon we would be together. It took us both an hour to finally say goodbye, with tears rolling down my cheeks, I watched as he drove away. As soon as he was out of sight I sent him a text telling him how much I loved him. Then, I walked back inside. Love was my armour and defence against whatever my father was about to do. I walked into the living room where my parents were sat. My mother greeted me with a smile, but I could see the fear in her eyes. My father stayed silent, I could hear my own heartbeat as I waited for his reaction. He didn’t say anything. He just grabbed me by my throat. My mother tried to stop him but she wasn’t strong enough. I tried to comfort her as he had hold of me.
‘Mum, it’s fine. It’s okay.’
His grip was tightening, breathing was getting harder. I honestly thought he was going to kill me. I saw the anger, the hate in his eyes. I knew that he didn’t approve of the relationship. The age gap was too much for him to cope with. He told me how he wouldn’t allow the relationship to carry on, the age gap was disgusting and shameful. When he let go, I gasped for breath. I was looking down at the ground as I composed myself. I stood up, still looking down. For a moment I glanced up at him.
‘Perhaps if you had been a proper father, I wouldn’t be looking for a father figure now, would I?’
I turned my back on him and walked out the house. Grabbing my phone from my pocket to tell M what had happened. When he finally arrived home he called me to comfort me and repeatedly asked if I was okay. He was furious at what my father had done. He made it clear that this wouldn’t happen again. I was coming to live with him, we would get our own place together.
Finally, I was free.
A couple of weeks had passed, during this time we were making arrangements for me to move away. We found an apartment together, it wasn’t much, but it was ours. I used all the money I had saved up to pay the deposit and the extortionate fees. I had packed everything I owned ready to move away with him, I had secured a job over there too. We worked so hard to make sure everything was ready for our new life together. When the day came for me to leave. I was sat upstairs in the hallway doing my hair and make up, trying to look my best for the big day! M was already on his way, once again making the long journey. But this time, it was to save me.
Just as he did when he travelled to meet my parents, he texted me when he was outside. I shouted to my mother to tell her with so much enthusiasm. She could see how excited I was. My father was sat on the sofa, a drink in hand of course. He didn’t speak to me, he didn’t interact. My mother welcomed M with open arms once again and helped me pack my bags into the car. She got teary eyed when she realised it was time to say goodbye.
‘Call me won’t you? When you get there?’
I reassured her that I would and that I’d be fine. This is what I’d always wanted after all. My mother grabbed M to hug him one last time. Asking him to look after me and explaining how she appreciated him driving all that way to get me. Of course she was scared, her youngest child, and only daughter, was moving out of the family home to start her own life. But I could also see the contradiction of her emotions. She felt relieved. Relieved that I wouldn’t endure anymore drunken violence. I wouldn’t be in danger. I was finally safe.
The day was finally here, we picked up the keys for our apartment! We were both ecstatic, we couldn’t stop smiling. With all our belongings in the car. We drove to our new home, the place we were going to build our lives together, the start of our happily ever after. We both rushed through the main door of the apartment block, laughing as we pushed each other up the stairs to get to our front door.
A number which I looked at with such hope, briefly before opening the door. I wasn’t just opening the door to our apartment, but to a new life. A new beginning. After a lifetime of trauma, I finally had the happiness I deserved. We didn’t have much furniture. Just a spare television which my mother had given us and a mattress which we also used as a sofa. None of that mattered, we were so happy to be together. This was it, what I’d dreamed of since the age of 16. It was perfect, he was perfect.
As the weeks progressed, I started my new job, which I really enjoyed. I managed to make friends too which was a relief. I had moved to a place where I had no family or friends, just M. He was working hard too, we worked all the extra hours we could to save money to buy furniture for our apartment. Before long we had a double bed, wardrobes, a sofa, a coffee table. It was all coming together beautifully.
We would spend our evenings together after long days at work. I’d ask about his day as I was cooking dinner. He would ask about mine and always tell me how beautiful I looked. It was blissful. We would cuddle up on the sofa together, usually watching films.
I’ll always remember one night in particular. It was just like any other. He came in from work, we talked about our days and had dinner together. We decided to watch a film.
‘Babe, where’s the TV remote?’
I begin looking round the living room for it but it isn’t anywhere to be seen. I noticed he started to get a bit angry about it. I didn’t think anything of it. I imagined he was just tired from a long day at work.
‘You‘ve fucking moved it haven’t you?’
‘What do y....’
I didn’t get chance to finish the sentence. He leapt up from the sofa. He had both hands around my neck. Pushing me against the wall. He lifted my feet off the ground. I grabbed his arms with my hands while he stared into my eyes. My hands were tiny in comparison to his arms, but I had to try to stop him choking me. He pushed me against the wall a little harder, making me hit the back of my head. The whole time I didn’t speak, I couldn’t. I was trying to breathe.
He didn’t say a word to me. It was a show of dominance. Like a pack of wolves. He was showing me just how strong he was. And he was strong. After what seemed like minutes he threw me onto the sofa where he was previously sat. I gasped for breath. Grabbing onto my neck where he had been squeezing.
He walked over to me, I didn’t look him in the eyes.
‘When I ask you something, just do it. Okay?’
I continued to look down at the ground, I didn’t speak but I nodded. He stood over me for a few seconds. It felt like a lifetime.