Now that I have opened the flood gates about my early years of childhood sexual abuse and growing up in a foster family, my mind is constantly flooded with memories that want to be acknowledged and if I am not careful will begin to drown me unless I write them down.
If for any reason I write something here that doesn’t make any sense or just seems disjointed, it’s because it’s better out than in. Please bear with me.
One of the overwhelming memories that keeps knocking on the inside of my brain, asking to be set free is one of the numerous times where I wake up in a different place each weekend and for a few long moments have absolutely no idea where I am.
I think most people will have experienced this one or twice in a lifetime but as a child, this was something I experienced on a regular basis.
My Mother would come to collect me from my foster home on a Saturday but that was no guarantee that I would actually spend all of the weekend with her. Oftentimes I would be left with her best friend as Mum would be working during the Saturday evening.
We would all spend the Saturday daytime together – they would gossip (in Greek) whilst making their way through a couple of packets of cigarettes each and drinking strong coffee – and I would be bored.
Mum would then leave to go to work, painting on her liquid eyeliner (that I would peel off when she came home later) and I would sit up late with my babysitter watching films on TV. Films that a child should never see, especially a child of only six years of age.
One of those films was Hammer’s ‘Taste The Blood of Dracula.” Scenes from that film stick with me even to this day, although I have to say that meeting the incredible Christopher Lee a number of times did help lessen the fear a little but not enough for me to watch horror films as an adult.
After a disturbed and horror dream filled night, I would then awaken early, as young children do and panic about where on earth I was. The darkened room (wherever I happened to be) would be unfamiliar to me for a minute or two until I could work out where I was.
I was always under strict instructions not to wake my Mother’s friend, so would be as patient as possible (or as patient as a bored to tears little girl could be) and tip-toe about for hours until it was about eleven o’clock and then launch myself onto the bed to wake her up, with an ‘Are you awake?” She never was.
For the most part, I understand that many children have the joy of growing up without ever encountering too many bad guys, or situations. Unfortunately for me they seemed to be everywhere, all the time.
During those weekend visits with my Mother there were a handful of occasions (not including the years of dread at the hands of my ‘stepmonster’), where I was terrified for my life.
The first time I can recall was when I was about three or four. Mum and I were asleep in her bedsit just off Tottenham Court Road. Someone must have been babysitting me until Mum came home from work in the early hours (I think it was the best friend I mentioned before, who at that time lived in the building next door). Mum was soon fast asleep but I was disturbed by a noise that wasn’t going away.
I could hear what sounded like someone trying to open the door, so sat up in bed to listen more easily. Bearing in mind it was a bedsit, the door was only feet away and someone was very definitely fiddling with the lock.
All of a sudden as I sat there, the door opened and a Chinese man came creeping in. I must have gasped because Mum suddenly sat up, saw the man and started screaming and swearing (like a trooper) at him to get out.
She was furious and loud and must have frightened the man who tried to pretend that he had made a mistake, apologising and backing out of the door. Considering that he had been fiddling with the lock for quite some time he clearly knew exactly what he was doing but wasn’t prepared for Mum’s reaction perhaps or had hoped he could steal things without being noticed. I have no idea but have always been grateful that the episode ended like that, although would rather it hadn’t happened at all.
To this day I can still see that man coming through the doorway.
There was another scary episode possibly that same year. I was no older than four and on this particular occasion Mum was staying in a room above the place she worked. She was a barmaid of sorts (as far as I can work out) in a private member’s club (before Soho House and all the rest) called ‘Maxim’s just on Charlotte Street. From the outside it looked like any other Victorian townhouse but inside there was a bar and rooms that were rented out.
Mum had taken me out for the day and we had had a wonderful time. First we had walked the short distance to Oxford Street and the Dolphinarium. Yes, where there is now a clothes shop and previously a gaming arcade, there was once a dolphinarium. A theatre of sorts with tiered seating and a tank where dolphins did what they do when they are in captivity and want to survive and be fed. Obviously, at that time I was overawed to see the beauty and magnificence of the dolphins and had no idea just how awful their circumstances were. Thankfully, as far as I am aware, it wasn’t too long before the place was closed down.
Mum had then taken me to see cartoons (specifically the Aristocats) at a small cinema in Piccadilly. I think there is now a GAP store in the same spot.
We had had a great day and I was full of excitement at all of the magical experiences we were having and mostly because I was with my wonderful, beautiful mother (it was pre-stepmonster, so she was full of joy and laughter), only to return to the work place bedsit to discover that in our absence it had been broken in to.
I was terrified. I had no idea what to think but when I heard that the police thought the person responsible lived in the next room, my imagination went into overdrive and I thought he was going to reappear at any moment and cause us harm.
The police left and soon after so did we, in order to get me back to my foster home at a reasonable hour. What a downer! I remember panicking that entire week, until the following Saturday, that perhaps the burglar had broken in and killed my Mother and I would never see her again.
Following on from that unpleasant incident is one that filled me with fear but nothing actually happened, I am delighted to say.
About a year after the burglar had trashed Mum’s work place bedsit, for some unknown reason we were again staying overnight there once again. Not sure why because Mum’s real home was only a few hundred feet along the road. Perhaps she had guests staying there? Who knows. I was too young to question the whys and wherefores and as my visits with Mum often ended up with me sleeping somewhere new, I just went with the flow.
On this occasion, however, as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t.
As soon as Mum had told me where we would be staying that night, I was filled with apprehension. The last time I had been there, her room had been broken in to and I had been extremely frightened. I didn’t want to stay there in case the bad man decided to break into her room again. He wouldn’t she assured me because this time, the room we would be staying in was the one he had lived in. Oh. My. God. The terror that that information filled my young and impressionable mind with.
In my little girl’s head, I didn’t believe that the bad man had really gone. I thought that he was hiding in the room and at any minute, he would jump out and get me.
We went into the room and it didn’t look at all how I expected. Not sure what I was expecting exactly but it didn’t look like a bad man’s lair of any description…other than there was a wall-hanging opposite the bed. In the light, it looked acceptable (if you like that sort of thing) and like, well…a wall-hanging. However, the minute the light went out, it looked like the gateway to hell.
My little girl imagination decided that behind that ‘convenient’ wall-hanging was a doorway and at any moment now, the burglar was going to open that door and appear…
My heart was beating out of my chest as my mother put me into my pyjamas and tucked me into bed. She was leaving me. Alone. In. That. Room. Where the burglar lived. Behind. The. Curtain.
Even though I have been in real life situations where I was under attack or there was a real possibility of being attacked, I have never felt so scared for my life.
I lay awake for hours in that room afraid to open my eyes in case I saw something I didn’t want to see. Every noise was magnified and I imagined all sorts of horrors about to befall me. I held my breath so that whatever was in that room with me, mainly the bad man, would think that I was dead and leave me alone and eventually, many hours later, my Mother came to join me in that hell hole, oblivious to my panic.
Sleep perchance to dream? You’ve got to be kidding. Sleep would be a fine thing.
*For all the posts in this series, please click here: