My relationship with my mother and sister only worsened as I grew older. I became as they described a “spoilt, selfish brat”. I was not a rebel; I never acted “wild” although they often accused me of it. I just wasn’t my sister. She was my mother’s confidante, she listened to her. She was quiet, academic, intelligent and dependable. I, on the other hand, was a loose cannon. My mood swings fluctuated daily, I was irritable and wound up by their presence. I seemed to love drama and allowed it to follow me around. At least in some way I was still a part of their life, I wasn’t shut out completely. I just wanted her to notice me.
During these years my father did the unthinkable. He spent all his energy convincing me I was unloved by my mother and sister. He would tell me openly if he heard them criticise or insult me, every day there was something new to tell me. As I walked in from school, he would beckon me to his room to discuss the events of his day and what he had heard. The door would be locked of course.
I didn’t realise the signs but my mother always had deep concerns. In her eyes he showed evidence of abuse very early on.
He always crossed boundaries and saw nothing wrong in doing so. Not just with me but also with my sister. His touch, his kiss, nothing felt right, it was always too affectionate. I always felt uncomfortable and that he was crossing a forbidden line. But I could never voice this, not back then anyway.
My mother moved out when I was fourteen as she could no longer cope. She tried to take me with her but his grip was too tight and by then I was too brainwashed. My sister left as well and the two teams grew stronger with hate. On a rare holiday to visit her family, I was constantly bombarded with commands to stay loyal to her and see my father for the evil creature he was. Of course at that moment my loyalties were firmly with my Dad and I was left distraught by their abhorrence towards him. They were just worried for my safety as they had been with my mother for years but I was blind to it. I made false promises to them out of fear saying that I would stand by her, I still loved her and I longed for the past when we were once happy.
The moments we laughed together, where I watched her cooking up my favourite meals in the kitchen following her every move. The times when I cuddled up to her as she had her afternoon nap and painted her face with make up as she slept.
Nothing stands out to me more than those memories. The fighting and arguing are almost a blur, those moments just blend into one another. But the flashes of our happiness remain completely clear.
I can’t wait to taste it. My mother has been promising to do this for months. My sister doesn’t seem as excited as me probably because she has tasted it before. It’s a long wait. I go into the garden, the sun is beating down on me. The smell is different out here too. I retreat back inside as the oven timer rings; it’s ready!
My mother tells us to wait as it’s very hot. “Wait”? I can’t wait. I’m not patient. I want it now. She is hovering over the cooker but I can’t see what she is looking at. Her face seems confused.
“What is it Ma?” asks my sister.
“I think we may have gone wrong,” Ma replies.
I stand on a stool and see a glass dish filled with rock hard toffee.
“Where are the flapjacks?” I am puzzled.
“It doesn’t matter, we can eat this instead,” Ma swiftly states.
She takes the dish to the sink and chips away at the toffee. Chunks are flying everywhere. My sister is clearly put off as she walks away. I plan to stay; I like toffee. My mum hands me (what I think is) a very small piece. I put the hot toffee in my mouth.
The top layer begins to melt and I’m left with all the crunchy bits. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to eat. I can’t chew, I’m trying with all my strength but I can’t. Little nuggets are stuck in my teeth. My fingers are pulling at them, I am not enjoying this.
My mum is proudly watching me devour her bizarre creation that I so excitedly popped into my mouth a few minutes ago. My tongue is rooting around trying to pull every last bit from my teeth. It’s not working. I eventually manage to dislodge a chunk and consider whether to swallow it whole or to do the unthinkable and spit it out.
This happiness saved me. The dark moments in my life made me return to these memories and through my adult years I have visited them plenty of times.
After the holiday we returned to England. I flitted between both of my parents but predominantly stayed with my father in the family home. It wasn’t ideal, my mother knows now that she should have used all of her force to take me out of that house as ultimately this was the time where he “worked” on me the most.
I dreaded the time I had to spend with Mum. Not because I didn’t want to see her but I knew of the interrogation I was about to face from her and my sister. Each would take it in turns to find out his plans. I clammed up, refusing to answer their questions, feeling more and more left out of their partnership. Their desperation, their anger was immense, it suffocated me. The only person left to turn to was my father, his plan was having the desired effect. I started to resent them.
My parents underwent a prolonged and painful divorce. My father contested it at first. He was incredible stubborn and my mother had insulted his masculinity. Divorce was frowned upon in his homeland; it was not a choice that entered his mind no matter how unhealthy and destructive the environment was.
I made the decision at this moment that would change my future forever and chose to live with my father. For months I did not speak to my mother and sister, they both cut my Dad out of their life, effectively cutting me out too. I know my mother sent my sister’s boyfriend to find me at home. That day my father and I had been out somewhere. On our way home we noticed someone at the front door peeking through the letterbox. My father parked away from the house. We watched as the young man eventually gave up and left. My father said nothing. I was frightened and he did nothing to reassure me. I kept my distance from them partly out of fear but mostly out of shame.
The pampering and lavish gifts continued for three months until it all suddenly stopped. My father had what he wanted; me. The conditioning had also ended. He had reached the point he wanted, he had the five bedroom house all to himself. He was the king of his palace.
Summer was near and I was living in a dream world. But what was coming around the corner was about to shatter everything I thought to be true and real.
© Roshni Bhattacharya 2013