PART OF THE “BREAKING THE CODE OF SILENCE” SERIES
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y heart thuds and there’s a rushing noise in my ears, like a subway train. A single thought fills my head, ” I HAVE to get away.” My feet pound the asphalt and I risk a lightning glance over my shoulder at my pursuer. “Oh my God, he’s gaining on me!” Panic squeezes me in its icy, iron grip and my belief in my ability to outrun him vanishes. Instantly I change my plan. I thought I could run the three miles back into town – back to civilisation, but no, I can’t risk him catching me in the deserted countryside. There’s nothing left for me to do but throw myself on the mercy of strangers.
I turn off the footpath, run up to the nearest front door and knock frantically. I just need someone to let me in so I can escape. If they’re quick, he won’t know where I’ve gone and he’ll run right by. A first floor window opens and a woman leans out. I scream silently inside, “Hurry! Open the door! You’re wasting time!” She looks at me quizzically “What is it?” I am a mess of tears and streaked mascara. I beg her to let me in and something about the distressed, wild-haired girl-child at her door, miraculously prompts her to help. She closes the bedroom window and makes her way downstairs, but my heart has already crashed and my burning impatience chills to cold, dead despair as my pursuer stands, breathing heavily and eyeing me menacingly, from the path outside her house.
She lets us both in. My father apologises and asks to use her phone to call the police.
It was the 3rd of August 1992, four days after my seventeenth birthday. My parents had been separated for over a year. My father still lived in the guesthouse he owned and ran in Oxford, while I lived with my mother and sisters in a rented house in a village nine miles away. The separation followed months of escalating violence from my father, but we still saw him regularly. My mother drove us there to work on weekends and he made frequent visits to our new home. He still wielded an unpredicatable influence over our lives.
He had been over that day, and my mother was driving him back to Oxford when I made my fateful decision to find solace and distraction from my crushing black moods. Life in a small village could get very lonely when all your friends lived in the nearby town. It was the middle of the summer holidays but I wasn’t allowed out on weeknights all the same. My choice was a stark one: I could stay in my bedroom, unable to sleep, vainly trying to ignore the suicidal thoughts that swam in and out of my consciousness and taunted my cowardice, or, I could risk my mothers wrath and go somewhere with bright lights, warmth and company. I knew she would only be away half an hour. I wrote a note explaining; telling her where I had gone and that I would be back by 10pm. I left it on the kitchen table. I told my sister to keep an eye on things and I set off into the dusky evening, the whirring of the dynamo powering my bicycle lights the only noise on the empty country road. After a while the effort of physical exertion engulfed the anxiety at my disobedience and my mind began to clear.
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