“Grandad…is it okay if I -”
I never finished that sentence. To this day that sentence remains unfinished, hanging mournfully in the air, waiting for its purpose to be fulfilled rather than being a silent witness to abuse. That sentence will never be finished. There are so many unfinished sentences, unfinished moments, unfinished feelings and events. They all just hang there, in the air, stuck in limbo.
“Grandad…is it okay if I – ” BAM. Everything was white, and excruciating. Most of the pain being in my neck. He was strangling me, but attacked with such force that I half wondered if my neck had actually broken. It had taken my sight away for a few seconds – leaving me in a frightening white-ness. The back of my head had smashed against the tiled wall in the kitchen. I felt dizzy. I felt pain. I could feel blackness coming. My eyes were watering. My chest felt like it was on the verge of explosion; this terrible pain as my lungs screamed for oxygen, my heart also begging and getting confused – should it beat faster or slower?!
He let go a fraction of a second before I passed out. He’d been staring into my eyes so knew when that would be. I hadn’t yet made a sound. My legs crumpled weakly beneath me, and I fell to the floor. My head was pounding.
I vaguely remember hearing “NO IT’S NOT FUCKING OKAY. YOU FILTHY SELFISH GIRL. WHY THE FUCK DID I GET LUMPED WITH YOU. WHAT DID I DO SO FUCKING AWFUL TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH YOU.” I said nothing, just stared along the floor. It needed hoovering.
He kicked me, punched me, grabbed my hair and lifted me nearer so he could beat me. He kicked me, hard, between my legs…several times. He kicked my ribs. I felt one crack, just slightly. He grabbed my arms and dragged me by them, along my back. My shoulder couldn’t cope; one dislocated. (It often does so now of it’s own accord, too weak after such attacks). Still I made no sound. I was silent; resigned to this attack, hopelessly silent without the energy or willpower to try and fight back. My grandmother sat next door, working. She glanced up slightly, gave me a glare for having apparently annoyed my grandfather so much, before going back to her work.
I felt a warm sticky sensation running from my nose. A nosebleed. I don’t suffer too bad with them but when I do, they scare me. They remind me of the men putting chemicals up our nose. But still, I don’t make a sound. I daren’t put my hand over my nose to stem the bleeding, so I just let it bleed whilst he continues to beat me black and blue.
After twenty very long minutes, he grew bored. He half-heartedly kicked me again in the head, before kicking me into a corner. “What day is it?” he asked my Grandmother. She didn’t look up but said “Friday…” He smiled, “ah good. Get some bruising cream on her face. The rest can be covered as usual.” They could have been discussing the weather.
I don’t know how long I was lying there, silent and trembling with pain and fear. The blood from my nose dried all over my face, and with horror I realised it was on the floor too. I’ll clean it up later, before they notice… I thought. I had moved into the most comfortable position, and was biting my lip hard to distract me from the searing pain ripping across my body, and throbbing. My rib had a terrible stabbing pain, and I knew I’d need to wrap bandages around my chest for a few weeks now. I would tell my singing teacher I had a chest infection which had left me unable to take deep breaths. It always worked.
Silently, I put my shoulder back into place, and lay there. I could feel my eyes swelling, and the pain was unimaginable. But still, I didn’t make a sound. I couldn’t remember what I’d wanted to ask him now. My sister was out but due home soon. I had to be looking in better form by then. I stared at the oven clock, setting myself a deadline for when I’d force myself up. Ten minutes. I had ten minutes to make myself stronger.
I lay there, shaking, bleeding, swelling up and in pain. When the ten minutes passed, I silently got up (very stiffly and gingerly) and got a mop to clean the floor. My grandmother didn’t look up, my grandfather was nowhere to be seen. But I still held my breath, terrified that even if I breathed too heavily I’d be in for another punishment. However, it goes without saying that holding one’s breath with a very damaged and potentially cracked rib is no easy feat, and I had to try my damned hardest to stop the tears from streaming down my face in pain. Not now. Don’t let her see you cry; you’ll be really punished then. Keep it together, you can cry later…
I silently made my way to the bathroom, wincing against every painful protest my body made. I stared at the mirror, not shocked but very sad. I could hardly recognise myself. Half of my face was covered in dried blood, and the bruising was already appearing around my eyes and jawline. My lip had split. I hadn’t even noticed. Very very gently I wiped the blood away, and cleaned my face, exposing more of the damage. I touched my nose warily, but was relieved to discover it wasn’t broken. Just sore. I applied hot flannels to where the bruising was worst, and pressed hard despite the pain. It would make the swelling better. I rubbed ointment onto my face to try and encourage the bruising away. I would put some more on later, and then tomorrow. Generally speaking I don’t bruise easily, or for a long time. This has it’s pros and cons.
My sister returned, with a smile on her face, until she saw me. She could obviously see I’d been beaten up. “What happened?” she breathed, staring at me, aghast. I shook my head silently, still not making a sound, and pulled her gently into a hug, kissing the top of her head. “It’s okay…” I whispered. It was the first sound I’d made in the whole of this mad ordeal.
When she pulled away, she looked tearful but relieved that I was at least alive. “Go to bed, I’ll bring you a cup of tea. Where is he?” she whispered. I nodded towards the dining room, and almost on cue we heard the whisky top being taken off. She shuddered. “Be careful…” I murmured, “he’s in a bad mood…” My sister looked at me with mock sarcasm, and an expression that said “Oh really? No shit!” I smiled wryly at her, and went upstairs.
True to her word, she re-appeared a few minutes later with a cup of hot tea, and a teddy bear from her room. She sat on my bed and didn’t say a word, just held my hand and a bit later, helped me wrap the bandages around my blue and swollen ribcage. She said nothing when seeing the injuries, just sighed heavily and shook her head. A bit later she said “he’s such a twat.” I smiled sadly at her; my little sister who looks the most child-like and lost, and yet out of all of us is probably the most resilient.
Our brother was having a sleepover with a friend. We both silently expressed our appreciation of this.
“Go to bed…” she said. I stared at her, “no, he’ll kill me.” My sister gave me a stern expression “Jadey. You need a bit of energy. Even ten minutes. If I hear him coming I’ll come wake you.” I raised an eyebrow, unconvinced. My grandfather had a habit of creeping up the stairs very silently and staring at us through the banister. Often we wouldn’t see him, and when we did…we’d scream. He loved this game.
But my sister simply sat at the top of the stairs, and my grandfather thankfully didn’t attempt to come check on us. I had half an hour of heavy sleep, probably shock-induced, and my sister was right. I felt much better afterwards; in a lot of pain but with more energy to think straight. I got through the rest of the day, my sister and I silent at the dinner table, watching our grandparents warily.
That night, I broke down in my bed, sobbing silently and in a way that wouldn’t hurt my chest even more. All still silent. Silence to protect me, but also keeping me locked in the secret and making it harder for me to make a sound. If I can’t call for help in my own home, then where could I?How glad I am that I no longer need to be silent; that I’m no longer trapped in a silent secret, and no longer have to stay silent whilst someone beats me senseless simply because I half-asked a question…