The scalding water pours down on my and stings my already raw skin. I have been in the shower now for a whole hour, but still I persist in scrubbing and scratching at myself because I can still feel it. The dirt, the scent, the pain and the fingerprints will stain my skin for eternity, memories forever embedded in my mind. My hair is damp and plastered to my head, strands of it hanging over my eyes. Due to the stinging, hot liquid in them already, I cannot see clearly. Another reminder of what has happened, as well as the visible red grip marks on my arms and neck.
I hear the front door click open and recognise the familiar call of my mother’s high pitched, scatty voice asking how my day was. Resting my head in my hands, slowly I’ sinking to the floor until I am rocking back and forth like a child. Tears streaming down my face, like the raindrops sliding down the windowpane and shower water trickling off my bare skin, water everywhere but still the filthy layer remains.
Why didn’t I just be polite and helpful? Why was I so rude? How could I do this to my family? I should have realised what would happen, I deserved it.
I can still remember the day I first met him, A strong, broad, powerful figure who towered over me with disturbing eyes and a sickly grin.
“You’re a pretty little ting aren’t you? It should be made illegal all these gorgeous girls in one house”! I just stare at him blankly and he smiles, like one of those game show hosts – all teeth and no sincerity.
“I SAID what are you doing?!” My thoughts are abruptly interrupted by my mother’s shrieks.
“Having a shower” I shout back, attempting to appear calm and confident.
“Another one? You have about four or five a day now. What’s wrong with you? You’re wasting my water, it all costs money you know! Oh and hurry up, Russell will be here soon”.
I shudder as his name shoots shots of memories and images into my mind. Suddenly the doorbell rings, its sound echoes throughout my head. He’s here. I hear Mum stumbling to the door and giggling, my heart begins to pound even faster as I realise that yet again she has been out drinking.
“Russell…” she cries, her speech slurred.
I shakily put on some clothes and rush downstairs into the front room where they are sitting. He notices me and stares, his eyes burning holes into me. Suddenly my legs feel as if they are no longer capable of supporting me. I’m like a new born deer – innocent and weak. Hurriedly I sit down, the scent of strong alcohol infests the air, forcing out the room’s once pleasant aroma.
The walls are covered in comforting, familiar, family photographs which incur happy, well-loved memories. One look at Russell swiftly destroys them though. I look around the room but all that my eyes are greeted with are stained glasses of all shapes and sizes covered with ghastly coloured lipstick and containing stale, leftover drink. No doubt remaining from one of Mum’s many drinking binges. My eyes begin to fill with saddened tears, but I quickly wipe them from my cheek as Mum looks concerned.
Russell seems totally oblivious to any feelings or thoughts I have as he concentrates instead on telling jokes to Mum. She simply giggles like a silly schoolgirl at whatever Russell says, then she takes another large gulp of her drink.
Whenever I watch Mum drink she reminds me of a dehydrated, dying child from a drought-suffering country, desperate and prepared to do anything just for one tiny, thirst-quenching, almost teasing, drop of drink. It is as if Mum is a helpless, fragile, suffering creature lost in a desert of alcoholism – she can never get enough, if she can’t get alcohol she feels close to death and if she does give in and consumes that sickening poison, she brings herself even closer to death.
I quickly escape from the room, attempting to leave the memories, the fake laughs and words, and the broken trust behind me. I almost laugh at myself for creating such disillusions of hope. Instead I just cry.
“Melissa, your mothers on the phone, honey” Mark, my caring husband calls down whilst I prepare dinner for him and the children.
“Okay I’ll let you finish it off, because I’ve got to get to the centre soon” I reply, as I wipe my tomato stained hands on a dish cloth and pick up the phone in the hall.
“Hello sweetheart” my mother says in a friendly manner, so very different to all those many years ago when she hadn’t had the time of day for me.
We have a pleasant conversation and I come off the phone smiling, pleased that she has managed to help herself. I have forgiven her for not protecting me, her alcohol problem and her bad parenting now. I grab my coat and bag and say ‘good bye’ to Mark and the children, half wishing I could stay when I smell the mouth-watering meal cooking.
The drive to the centre doesn’t take me long and when I get there and see those innocent, hurt faces I do not feel so uncomfortable. Although the shame inside me still gnaws away at my conscience. Will it all go wrong? Will no one believe me? I take a seat.
“So, Melissa, are you sure you feel up to this today?”
For one slight second I begin to doubt my decision, but then I take a look at all these young girls outside and know what is right.
“Melissa, would you like to tell the group your story, remember you can say as little or as much as you like.”
Even after ten years the tears begin to pour down my face again. I take a deep breath and begin, hearing the soft click of the door as my mother walks into the room. I say the words croakily and slowly.
“Ten years ago, in my home, I was raped…by my Mum’s boyfriend.”
The wonderful memory of the day when everything bad seemed to end, replays for another time in my head. I wake with a beaming smile and for another time I experience the feeling of an immense weight of worry being lifted from my shoulders. I get up from the settee, where I had been resting and go out.
As I walk down the street I see a little girl holding hands with her father, she is holding a small teddy bear as they come out of the children’s shop. The little girl thanks him for the teddy.
“That’s alright, best not tell Mum though, she thinks you’ve got too many. I’ll be our little secret. Don’t tell anyone.”
The father’s teasing words make the child laugh, but to me they’re like an arrow of pain and hurt being stabbed into my heart. Immediately the horrifying, unbearable memories surface in the mixed up flow of thoughts and worries in my head.
“I’ve tried to be nice to you. So many times I’ve tried. But you just don’t care do you? Well this time perhaps you’ll realise how nice I really can be.”
The putrid smell of cheap aftershave and stagnant sweat overpower me, the tight, animal-like grip on my arms hold me down – I’m weak, powerless and imprisoned. The dark, empty space in the room mirrors the empty, evil, black nothingness that appears to be in this man’s feelings and thoughts. His grasp tightens and his weight and power increase by a vast amount.
“Don’t tell anyone, you’ll only hurt your Mum. She probably won’t care anyway, it’s your own fault.”
The power and pressure becomes unbearable as he begins to laugh at my sobs of fright.
“Excuse me, are you alright?” The girl’s father caringly enquires, he puts a concerned arm round me. I flinch in disgust and I feel ashamed I have brought such attention to myself.
“It helps to talk you know.”
I just smile politely and slowly, shakily walk away. He was right, it does help to talk, but not if the other person isn’t willing to listen. My memories gush back into my mind, whilst a tear comes to my eye.
“Mum! I have no reason to lie! Please, I’m begging you. I need you to believe me. He hurt me Mum…badly.”
“How can you make up such a disgusting thing, I know you feel you need attention, but this is stupid. Oh don’t tell me, I bet this is an insane idea to stop this imaginary drink problem you think I have. You never liked him from the start, but this is unbelievable!”
As my Mum says this she laughs in disbelief and the overwhelming stench of stale alcohol escapes from her mouth and hits me.
As I start to focus in the present world, I realise I have walked home now. Once inside my house I decide to ring my Mum, just to reassure myself of the fact we are now close and she is fully recovered from the drink. I nervously dial the number, petrified it’s all been another wishful thought.
“Oh Melissa, how are you? I was just thinking about you” she warmly replies, I smile, relieved.
After the phone call I feel terribly lethargic and after trying to fight the bad memories which are attempting to burst into my mind, I fall asleep…
“Melissa, Melissa! Catch the ball!” A happy, laughing, content little girl turns around from the crystal clear lake. She smiles and attempts to run to reach the ball. However, as she looks at the perfect, clear, beautiful blue sky with its white, soft, candyfloss clouds she cannot see the ball. Just light. The brightest, warmest, friendliest sphere of light offering protection, caring and earnest promises. She looks around her, at the wide open, clean, green, grass fields and the white picket fences along their edges. The sweet smell of chocolate and treats wisps through the air along with the aroma of freshly baked bread and the field’s deep red and bright white roses. She knows she cannot reach the light. However, as she slowly begins to believe in herself and realise although it is out reach the light will always be there. I know one day soon I will catch the ball.
* This is a short story I wrote when I was around 17 years old and at college as part of a creative writing course I took part in *