It started out as a good day.
The ‘stepmonster’ was supposedly visiting his family in Cyprus. However, he was a liar and could have been anywhere in the world, including in the next street, but at least on this particular day he was nowhere near us.
Not knowing that by the end of this day it would be one that I would remember for the rest of my life, I am quite hazy about the actual details of that particular morning and can only imagine that like most ten year olds on a school day, I was rushing around getting ready for another day in a classroom where I wouldn’t be learning anything new, amongst a number of children who didn’t speak English, or of those that did, I would have absolutely nothing in common.
It’s hard to feel that you have anything in common with anyone anywhere, when you grow up in circumstances that you are not allowed to talk about either in public, amongst friends or even within the four walls of your own existence.
Anyway, on this particular morning I put on a shiny cream coloured polo necked sweater (well, it was the seventies), with a knitted tank top over the top and a pair of khaki corduroy trousers. I looked cool. Too cool for school.
They were clothes that I would never again wear considering them ‘bad luck,’ and relegating them to the bottom of the wardrobe for ever more.
My hair, then as it always has been apart from few momentary blips, was waist-length and clipped up at the front. I looked like any other ten year old schoolgirl although maybe I was taller than most my girls of my age.
My hair would never be clipped up in the same way again, either.
The first part of the day passed as usual. Nothing much to report.
We then broke for lunch and I assume, all these years later, that must also have gone in the same way that most other lunchtimes went.
It was only after lunch that things started to pick up speed. And not in a good way. No.
The bell sounded marking the end of the lunch-time break. We all started filtering back into the classroom, chattering and laughing as children do.
Our teacher was late coming back into class so there was a little bit of rowdiness beginning to build, until a gentleman walked in and stood behind the desk. He didn’t look much like a teacher to me. He was tall, dark haired, moustachioed – a foreign, maybe Middle-Eastern looking Tom Selleck who announced that he was going to be our supply teacher for the afternoon.
For some reason this man’s presence made the hackles on the back of my neck stand up. For some reason I didn’t believe him. Not for a second.
It was only a moment before his scanning eyes rested on me. They looked at me in a way I recognised. In a way that meant certain danger.
I wanted to get out of that classroom. Instinctively, I knew step by step every move that was about to be made but still, like a rabbit caught in bright headlights, my destiny was already set in motion.
On the way into the classroom, I had noticed that the small milk bottles that we used to be given at school had been delivered and were sitting on the stairs just outside the door. I asked if I could go and get one. The man said yes. I walked out of the room and he silently followed me out, shutting the classroom door behind him.
It was only when I got to the stairs that he grabbed me, saying, “You are so beautiful, kiss me. Kiss me!” that I knew he was there. He was trying to pull me close to him, close to his face, his hands all over me but he had picked the wrong child.
I hadn’t been sexually abused for five years thus far by my ‘stepmonster’ without having learned a trick or two. I shouted at him to let me go whilst aiming an almightly punch at his stomach. Thankfully it was a hard enough blow to wind him and he let go of his hold on me, as he doubled over.
I tried to work out the shortest route to help and realised that the old and scary dinner lady, Miss Maple, was in the classroom next door and ran as fast as I could towards her.
I anxiously blurted out, “Miss Maple, Miss Maple! The supply teacher just attacked me on the stairs!”
Miss Maple, who I knew disliked me, (she disliked everyone, it seemed), wasn’t interested. She ignored my pleas for help. I shouted it again a little louder and this time, she looked up and said, “I’m sure you must have asked for it,” and continued to ignore me.
In the meantime, the man was outside this classroom now walking back and forth outside the door beckoning for me to go to him.
I was terrified.
Miss Maple told me to go back to my classroom but I couldn’t. My legs had turned to jelly.
I kept looking out and eventually the man appeared to have disappeared, so I tentatively walked the few steps back to my own classroom and thankfully he was nowhere to be seen.
Tony Martin was the biggest boy in the class. At only ten years of age he was taller than most fully grown men. I went to Tony and told him what had happened. Not sure why him but I obviously thought that that he would or could somehow protect me if the man came back.
Instead, a woman who I had never seen before stepped into the room and behind the teacher’s desk and announced that she was our supply teacher for the day.
I told her what had happened and she immediately sought out Miss Maple and ordered her to take me to the headmaster’s office and to report what had happened.
Miss Marple was furious. We walked in complete silence.
The police and my Mother were called. I sat there and had to give details of what had happened.
My Mother went white and was in shock. I couldn’t help but think how shocked and white she would be if she knew what was going on under her own roof.
The police instructed my Mother to take me home for the rest of the day. Great! An afternoon with Mum and no ‘stepmonster,’ although clearly the Universe had decided to send someone else in his place.
Realising that I was never going to be safe from attack whether ‘he’ was around or not, was a turning point that has been with me ever since. It was clearly my fault that I was being attacked. I would, could never ever be safe.
Soon after we got home, the ‘phone rang and it was the ‘stepmonster’ checking in. I could hear from where I was sitting in the living room, feet away, that he was indignant and angry that someone else had tried to sexually assault me in his absence.
Oh, the irony.
*For all the posts in this series, please click here: https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story/