Freedom

For the Heartbroken Competition

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1. Freedom

 

 

    I know something is up with her. I can see it, feel it, sense it. It’s not been right for weeks now, but I just let it slip by unnoticed, unchecked and unsaid. I need to talk to her, but I don’t even know how to bring it up. How do you ask something like this; how do you ask your own child if they are depressed without telling or accusing them of ‘being crazy’? That’s what they think at this age isn’t it? I remember rightly; you never wanted a mental problem at school or you’d get labelled a crazy patient and get taunted the rest of your school life. I don’t want that for her. If she’s suffering, I need to help her without it coming out. She knows I suffered and I don’t want the same for her. But I need to tackle it somehow, some carefully safe approach where she can speak to me about it.  

 

    It’s worse than I thought. It was those three words that told me all I need to know.  

    “It was daddy.” 

    It was all I needed to know, the truth in three little words. The story without the entire thing. I know what happened, what is wrong with her, and I know when it happened as well all without her telling me anymore than those words. I have to stop to really take it in, though I don’t know how to. Although I know it all, I understand… I don’t think I can really process it. It’s … disgusting 

    “He… he… touched me,” she whispers the last words as if it’s a secret and we can’t let anyone else know. I nod once, staring at the patch on the wall where she used to hang pictures of the three of us. When did she stop putting them up, and when did she take them down? Was it after the first time? Or was it after the third, fourth, fifth time? Did she fight him? Did she stop it? Did she cry for help and realise no one was coming to help her? That’s why he did it whilst I was at work, when no one else was around to hear them, when no one could hear her cry for help or yell ‘no’.  

    To know that I’m married to this complete… criminal, disgusting monster… it breaks me that he could do that to his own child… to his own flesh and blood. 

    “Okay,” I manage to say, still staring at the empty photo wall. I remember the ones she had up there… photos of the three of us in Disney World, of her best friends when they were kids… she’s even taken pictures of her and her friends down. I wonder if it’s because she didn’t want him thinking she was just taking him out of her life, or whether he’d threatened them too. 

    I wonder if he’s done it to anyone else? Was it just our child? What about our unborn child? If I hadn’t found out… would he do it to them too?  

    I’m not going to let it happen anymore. I can’t. It can’t go on. I wish she’d come to me before. Was she afraid to? Did she think I wouldn’t believe her? Was she so brainwashed by him and what he was doing that she thought her own mother wouldn’t believe her?  

    Did he tell her I wouldn’t believe her? Did he threaten her into not telling me? Did she think it would stop if she kept quiet? Was she ashamed that it was happening, so much so that she couldn’t tell me?  

    It’s the single tear running down her cheek, the one tiny sign that something’s wrong. Everything else on the surface looks perfect; a mother sitting with her daughter in her room, a pink teenage room full of trinkets from days out, make up everywhere. The only thing that you could put out of place is that single truth running down her face like a tell-tale sign. Beneath it though, everything is in tatters; an absent mother taken by late night calls for work, a teenager ripped apart by her father’s perverted abuse, a scum for a father. All of it was perfect a mere half an hour ago; I could’ve gone into work none the wiser, and yet now, I can’t even leave her alone. I can’t even let him in this house again. 

    Whatever it is that drew him to our child… his child, well, I suppose it’s my fault isn’t it? We created her, me more than him. Because he’s attracted to me, could that mean he’s attracted to our child? Does it work like that? I’d have to ask the psychologist at work. Though, isn’t paedophilia a mental illness?  

    “Mummy,” she cries, finally sobbing it out into my shoulder. I grab her shoulders, cradling her to me as if she were a baby again. I remember when she was born, how proud both he and I were, how absolutely perfect she was. She grew up, a real daddy’s girl. When did that stop? When did that ever change? It must have been when she was coming up to her teen years. She started drifting away, from both of us. That must have been it, when it started. 

    She must have been so scared. She must have been so confused, so freaked out… 

    “My poor baby. This will never happen again.” 

    “But… he’s my Dad,” she whispers in between sobs. 

    I squeeze her shoulder. “It will never happen to you again, honey, okay? I’m telling you that it won’t. You are safe now, do you hear me?” She takes a minute to consider and nods against my leg.  

 

    I shove it all out in a pile. All of it, in the middle of the bedroom. Disgusting. Photos, taken secretly, through door cracks, when no one is looking. Pictures of our child, the one we brought into this world. Types of images I never thought possible.  

    A diary. Every time it happened. Since she was ten years old.  

    How could I have been kept in the dark for seven years? Seven years she's been... groomed, used... taken advantage of and I've been completely oblivious. Or ignorant? Did I have any idea... did I ever have a chance to see it and just ignore it? Did I have a chance to stop it, but was too busy being the bread winner of the family, going out, being called into work, helping others and saving lives when my own child's was in peril.  

    Well, not peril like at work when people can die at the drop of a hat, but still. She was vulnerable, and probably thinking she was in danger herself. And her own mother wasn’t there to help her. I wouldn’t blame her if she partly blamed me for all of this.  

    How could I miss all this? The pictures, the perverted looks he must have given her? Did he perv on her every time he went in to say goodnight to her? Did he give her longing looks over dinner every night? How could I have missed this? There must have been signs... 

    She never came to me with boy troubles. In fact, she's never really asked about sex, other than the 'talk' every kid gets. She's never asked me about … well anything really. That must have been it; why she never spoke to me about anything. I was never around, still not. She felt as if she couldn’t say anything... it all adds up really.  

    It’s all changing. From this second.  

 

    I watch her walk up the aisle, a massive smile on her face. She looks amazing, happy. Truly happy; as if nothing could ruin it, as if nothing in her past could come back to haunt her. I see the sparkle in her eyes as she looks at me from behind the veil as her best friend guides her up towards her new husband.  

    I let the single tear escape my eye; the only recognition of what happened allowed to show on this day. Her day. She's finally broken free of it and not let it define her. We're all finally free. 

 

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