I awoke Christmas morning to the sound of 'The Man' crying softly. I lay there with my face to the wall and thought of his pain - our pain - and how underneath it all I was blessed with a man who was the polar opposite of what my entire life has been.
I continue on with the story of my(Ani's) journey to this point in time - although I am sorry to say I do not have anything further to post from The Wailings - as I actually need to write more. I will at this time say - that not only has blogging reawakened my need to continue with this story - but more importantly it is the comments I have received that have been so encouraging and a virtual kick-in-the-ass for me to take up my pen again and get this book finished. I write not only for myself, but also in the hope that someday - somehow - my words might help others - female or male - who have been abused.
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After watching Kim's life vanish into a glass of alcohol during the months that followed, I invited her to come live with me in the hopes that it might distract her from her sorrow. Being roommates lasted for about four months and at the end of it she left with most of my cutlery and my fur coat. As it was during the summer months I did not realize this until the snow fell - and by then it was too late to prove anything except the fact that you should hold your friends close, your enemies closer.
Naturally we drifted apart and I continued on at the fur store where I worked harder than ever to pay the rents and feed myself. I started dating a fellow and we became engaged briefly, both caught up in our loneliness and a need to cling to something. That relationship lasted about a year and ended in the traditional toss of the ring towards his face - which in itself is a very satisfying thing to do. However, he claimed for years afterwards that he could never find it once I had left the building and that I had just faked the throw....which still cracks me up.
Eventually my parents decided to close all their stores in Ontario and pack everything up and move to Alberta. I heard about it during a telephone call. In fact - what I heard was that they had sold their house and were just in the process of closing down all locations and would then be taking the stock to Alberta where they had found a city where only one furrier ruled - and ruled an area that hosted most of the millionaires in Alberta. They were excited about the rest of their lives. And myself? I could join the furs in Alberta - or stay.
I opted to stay. They hadn't once asked my opinion or even mentioned their plans in our daily telephone conversations until everything was settled. I remember those last days at the store very well. Most fur stores will take older fur coats on trade for a newer garment. Sometimes they can resell the older garments for a little money to cover the cost of the original trade-in...sometimes they use the garments for repairing others. It works well. Now, my father was a very forward looking man - always thinking way ahead of his time. He decided that we would use the second room to sell the used furs - and - to take in consignment goods and sell them too. Consignment stores just did not exist at that time! So - you could walk in and buy a mink coat out of the front room for thousands of dollars - or - move on into the second showroom and buy used socks. Lovely. So - when the store was closing - anyone who didn't pick up their items would forfeit ownership of them. That meant - when the store did actually close - we were left with clothing that wasn't ours. I remember very well my mother sitting crying helplessly - her head in her hands - as my father was packing everything up so he could take all this clothing with him. Granted they had come through the depression and he hoarded everything he could get his hands on...but why these things? It was the first time I got the nerve up to speak my mind to him. Remembering what he had done to my mother I was yelling instead of speaking. The goods ended up going to the dump and my mother quit crying.
The day they drove off with the remaining furs I went and applied for a job at a bar. I needed money fast - not in a month or so, and the quickest way I could think of was waitressing. The owner interviewed me and I started the next day. The only little glitch in my whole plan was that the owner decided I would waitress in the strip-joint instead of the night club.
Now I was raised Baptist - and naked bodies were not something I was use to. Especially naked bodies being shown in a very provocative manner. The patrons had more fun watching me blush that first week than they did watching the women undress. There just wasn't any where to look that didn't embarrass me. But I learned fast. I learned that serving drinks in a strip-joint was a very good way to make a lot of money - fast. I stayed there for 10 years working straight days as the head-waitress and went through two owners who respected me for my business sense and my ability to sling a lot of alcohol - to their benefit as well as mine.
During that time my parents refused to speak about me because they were so ashamed of what I did for a living. But I bought my own house at the age of 22 and I had a new car every couple of years. They came back to Ontario on a buying trip once - and my father sat out in the car while my mother came into the bar looking for me as he absolutely refused to set foot in that den of inequity. I looked up and saw her standing just inside the door and I thought - 'Hmmm...I should know that person'. I was so grateful that it was in between strippers - so that she didn't have to go through that embarrassment....
As a rule I didn't date the patrons. My belief was and still is - if you meet them in a bar then you know where you're going to find him when he isn't home...For some silly reason - I started dating a customer. Six months later I was still dating him and he spent a lot of nights at my house. He was always a very happy person - always smiling - always laughing. Every time my mother called she would say "We know something is going on there - we know it!" or "Are you living in sin?" and she would always try to get me to read certain chapters of the Bible.....Her guilt trip finally wore me down and we got married in my living room with my brother as my bridesmaid and his partner standing up for my husband. I called my mother after the ceremony and I have a picture of the shock on her face when I told her.
The marriage lasted almost three years and some days I've forgotten his name. I think it's a mental block I've thrown up to forget how everything turned out. We were doing alright as a couple until I discovered that his happiness came from drugs. Now as a rule I could pick out the druggies at the bar quite easily. But for some reason I just didn't see it. Desperation or the crown of guilt I wore for my mother's sake? I don't know. But - he worked in a tobacco factory and made an incredible amount of money for that day and age. What I didn't know until sometime in the middle of the third year was that a lot of the money he made went into drugs at work - or to start his day - whenever. To me he was just happy. The beginning of the end came on the day he decided to take his own holiday without me. When he called me from South Carolina ten days later - I didn't know who was on the phone. It quickly became evident that something was drastically wrong and I hopped on a plane to go down south and drive him home. What I found when I got there was not the person I had married. He had been spending his time with two girls while he was there - and had mixed a number of drugs together. The result was that his twosome abandoned him because he had fried his brains....and I was called.
To make a long story somewhat shorter - he tried to kill me three times on that trip home. Twice by strangulation and once by drowning. When we got to the border they hauled us in because he was acting so erratic...but they soon asked me to take him off their hands - they didn't want the responsibility for a lunatic. I drove him straight to his parent's and they took him to a psychiatric hospital in Guelph where he was committed over and over again. He was finally transferred to a major psyche hospital in London where he had to earn his clothing and cigarettes with good behaviour. The doctors never spoke to me - nor did his family. On the day our divorce went to court he punched my lawyer (a personal friend of ours) in the face - even though he had started the proceedings. When the final papers were put into my hands - I opened them and read that I was granted a divorce on the grounds of my mental cruelty and abuse towards my husband. I remember thinking that if that was what he needed to believe - then that was alright with me. As long as he was at peace.
Here's the absolute truth about this whole situation. I blame myself.
I could never have children. I was born with a mushy, useless uterus. When I was 26 they removed it. I felt then that God was punishing me for not being a good Christian.
So I turned to pets. Dogs for a bit - but when my last dog was poisoned with anti-freeze by the foster kid who lived across the street - I couldn't imagine going through that anymore. The vets put that dog on IV too - just like Deeb - and it never made any difference then either.
We've always had cats in our family. Something that you could actually hold and cuddle - like a baby - a forever baby.
When I got these two cats - they were from the same litter. Deeb got so upset when I took his sister Dolly out of the cage to look at her. I couldn't separate the two because of it. Now Dolly is looking for her brother - and it's heartbreaking.
Deeb had kidney problems very early on. I use to get so mad at him for peeing on everything. Finally I realized he was in pain and had to pee - somewhere - anywhere. I tried a naturopathic medicine to dissolve the kidney stones. It eventually got rid of the blood - but not the disease.
When he started to lose weight - I tried to ignore it. I didn't want the vet telling me that the end was near. I didn't want to take him there and frighten him - or worse - leave him. Which is what eventually happened. When 'The Man' first moved in - he was terribly allergic to cats. But he hugged them anyway. Deeb took to him - attached himself to him. Which was fine with me. Dolly has always been my favorite. More cuddly - wants more attention - sleeps with her head on my pillow - her little body tucked up against my chest.
And I was always the one who found the pee - and cleaned it up. Men just don't look for those kind of things - or wake up in the night when the cat howled with the pain of bloody urine.
When the vet said that Deeb was in extreme kidney failure - I started to pray. Having been brought up Baptist - I prayed to God. I prayed he would heal him - give him more time - more years to be specific - as I actually thought God would play a cruel trick and make it days if I wasn't specific. I prayed for a miracle - a miracle that I wouldn't tell anyone about - but just a miracle - to heal his kidneys and give him more years that we could share with him. I begged. I pleaded. Baptists can't offer to say Hail Marys or become priests. They can only feel guilty. So I admitted my guilt in my lapse of religion. I admitted I wasn't a good church-going person - but I did point out that I wasn't a bad person. And that I loved this special little creature through all of his problems and all of the damage he has done over almost 15 years. And I pointed out how much 'The Man' loved him. Do it at least for 'The Man' - who has to be the 'goodest' person that I know of.
But - it didn't work. God must be busy with Christmas and all that.
Not only am I feeling 'beyond sad' - I'm feeling guilty. Guilty for not having spent $2000.00 three years ago for the vet to send him to the big city where they would operate and remove the stones (but they wouldn't be able to get rid of the disease).
I'm feeling guilty that I couldn't have children.
I'm feeling guilty about yelling at Deeb when he peed on the curtains and all the other places. (it became harder to find as his urine eventually lost all its smell-and finally he didn't do it anymore - and stupid me thought he was all better).
I feel guilty for not being able to take him to the vets and making 'The Man' do it - and then watching his heart shatter.
I feel guilty that I couldn't make myself go visit him when he was at the vet's for 3 days on IV - and all alone. I didn't want him to think we had abandoned him - but I couldn't go in there.
I feel guilty that 'The Man' had to have him put out of his agony - which has added to ours. And I feel guilty that I can't take 'The Man's' pain away - because I'm being too selfish about my own.
Some will say - it was only a cat. And in reply I say - no - he was our child - one of our babies.
I feel like my ambivalence towards a religion that shoves God down your throat has proved that God will turn around and bite you in the ass for having looked away. This will raise a furor in the realms of the religious - but I feel like I've paid my dues so many times over - that I could've been given one tiny break. And right now I'm thinking that maybe I can only get one and I better not waste it....so be careful.
In a few days I will feel better. Still sad - but better. I don't think the guilt will go away - as I'm pretty good at flogging myself. Probably from the years of the mental and physical floggings I've endured...but I'm still good at it.
I would rather go to sleep and dream of how happy 'The Man' looked holding Deeb up against his chest as Deeb tucked his head under the big guy's chin and purred loud enough to fill the room. He never purred for me - just for 'The Man'....and that was okay - it made 'The Man' extremely happy.
Perhaps I should be thankful for the years we had with Deeb. But all I keep saying is that it's cruel that they live for so short a time.
Why put angels among us if they are only going to be yanked back home again?
I look at Dolly and remember I use to think - Well there is Dolly - where is Deeb? Now I look at Dolly and see a huge empty space where her brother lived and loved. And I see a huge empty space in my heart where sorrow and guilt compete with each other.
This is the truth - the whole truth - and nothing but the truth. So help me God.
I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. We are at present in the process of losing a very beloved pet of 15 years - and it's hard to write when your heart is broken.
(an excerpt from The Wailings - my book in progress)
Kim had changed dramatically since the last time Ani saw her in the girl’s dormitory at Laurentian University. Her long dark hair had been bobbed and it curled softly around her ears, giving her a pixie-ish look that was very appealing. Although Kim was only 7 months older, Ani felt like a young country bumpkin next to her. Even sitting in a dark smelly barroom, Kim looked almost elegant in a filmy white muslin dress that reached her ankles. Her painted toenails peeked out of Indian leather sandals and matched her fingernails. Her wide mouth was coated with matching lipstick and her little white teeth glowed in the dark and, Ani noted, even the spaces in between those teeth managed to look cute on her friend. Kim’s heavily freckled face had the right amount of makeup on it and her brown eyes were enhanced with a soft peach color; the latest in fashion. Both girls had come directly from work, yet Ani felt underdressed and out of touch in her fashion sense. She tried to rationalize the differences between the two of them as they sipped their beer and chatted, but it only made her feel worse.
Kim had a job as a secretary at Biltmore Hats where she did some typing and fetched coffee for her boss. She lived with her parents who were slightly more upper middle class than lower middle class, and while they didn’t need the money, they charged her a token amount of rent to try and get her adjusted to real life.
Ani, on the other hand, had complete and total control over the branch of Black Furs that her parents had left her in charge of. It was her responsibility to sell enough fur coats to pay the rent on the store and her apartment, plus all the bills that went along with these locations. Food, clothing and makeup were extras that assumed their own level of priorities for Ani, and she hadn’t given much thought lately to the latter two. Sitting across from her friend, she briefly wished for a normal job with a paycheck, but it wasn’t what she had agreed to. As she raised her glass to her lips, she suddenly realized how Jerome had manipulated her into something that greatly benefited him. He had waited until she was vulnerable before giving her the ‘escape’ she craved without any regard to how she would have to struggle. Her desire to get away from her unhappiness had overshadowed Jerome’s offer and she hadn’t given it a lot of thought when she agreed to it. I’ll show him, she thought as she downed her beer and lit another cigarette.
As summer came to an end, Kim announced her decision to remain in the workforce and not return to university. The girls celebrated after work at their favorite drinking spot in their usual manner. Over a couple of cold ones, Kim informed Ani that she was also moving into a bed-sitter just a block away from the railway overpass. Not only would they now live closer to each other, but Ani would have to walk past her place on her way home. This changed everything for both of the girls. After work, Kim got off of the bus downtown and went to Black’s Furs. Here she waited until Ani closed the store at 6pm and together they would walk the two blocks to the King Edward Hotel where they stopped for a couple of drafts. From there, Ani walked Kim to her bed-sitter where she would stay and chat for a while before heading off home.
One night, near the end of October, two young men approached their table and asked them if they could buy them a drink. The girls were deep in a conversation about Kim’s work, and the appearance of the two guys momentarily left them speechless (and probably not too intelligent looking as well, Ani thought). After the awkward giggles were over and done with, the girls asked the guys to join them at their table and introductions were made all around. It was apparent from the beginning that Bob favored Kim and Terry seemed to like Ani. The laughter and flirting that ensued reminded Ani of the pub at the university and she found herself withdrawing slightly as the evening progressed. After too many drafts, Terry offered the girls a ride home and the four of them piled into an old beater that was parked near the side exit of the hotel. Something from the Beatles blared from the radio as Terry noted Ani’s address and headed off down Waterloo Avenue. Kim and Bob had their tongues down each other’s throat and were thrashing around in the backseat when Ani got out of the car in front of her apartment building. Mumbling a thankyou, she staggered to the front entrance and watched as the car swerved out of the parking lot and vanished.
The sun was coming in above the top of Ani’s bedroom curtains when she woke the next morning. Her tongue felt fuzzy where it was glued to the top of her mouth and her head pounded to the beat of her own heart. She felt hot and heavy against the sheets and she narrowed her eyes against the light as she watched the dustmotes floating in the sunbeams. By the time she got up the energy to get out of bed, she noted that it was almost noon, and she was grateful it was Sunday. She let the cold water stream over her flushed body and pound against her aching head in the hopes that it would wash away the morning’s hangover. The thought of eating made her stomach roil, and she decided a walk through the beauty of the fall trees was probably more up her alley.
The colder night air of early fall had touched the leaves along the avenue and tinted them with breathtaking colors. Seams of red and ochre etched their way along the veins of the maples, sometimes leaving smears on the flesh of the leaves. The willows were turning into strands of silver while the oak leaves flushed a burnt sienna against the sky of dodgerblue. Ani wandered down the avenue entranced by the colors and letting the smell of the slowly decaying flowers ease away her self-inflicted pain. She recognized Terry’s car as she approached Kim’s bed-sitter, and she stopped for a moment as she tried to figure out what it was doing there. Muffled laughter seeped around the edges of the door as she approached and she flinched inwardly at the noise her knuckles made as they rapped against the wood. A momentary silence followed her knocking, and then Kim’s voice could be heard above the frantic rustling that followed.
“It’s just me Kim,” Ani said as she looked over her shoulder at the clear light of the early afternoon. When the door opened, Ani caught a glimpse of Terry’s bare back before he pulled on the sweater that he had been wearing the night before while Bob lay stretched out on Kim’s pull-out couch, a lazy and satisfied grin on his stubbled face. Kim was tying a sash around her housecoat and wouldn’t look her in the eye as she headed for her small kitchen, leaving Ani standing awkwardly in the open doorway. “I was just going for a walk and wondered what you were up to,” Ani said as she watched Kim making coffee. The small snicker that came from one of the guys added to the awkwardness of the moment and spurred Ani on. “I’m heading down to the store to do some work that I’ve been putting off. Give me a call later when you’re not busy.” Turning on her heel, she closed the door softly and headed down the walkway, the sound of muffled laughter hurrying her along.
Walking under the railway overpass, she trudged up Norfolk Street till she reached the top of the hill. On her left, an enormous stairway stretched upwards until it culminated at the Church of our Lady. It sat on the highest point in Guelph and Ani had read somewhere that no building was allowed to be taller than the twin spires of the church. From the bottom of the stairway she could see that the doors to the church were propped open and a few worshippers were illuminated in the sunlight before they disappeared inside. On an impulse, Ani turned left and ascended the stairs, studying the Gothic architecture as she drew closer to it. None of the churches she had been to were this magnificent or had as much history as this one did. When she reached the top she stared at the gargoyles that perched on the spires and thought of the men who had died stretching this edifice into the sky. With slow steps she passed through the open doors and stood blinking against the dim light that filled the interior. Feeling like a tourist, she gawked at the stain glass windows that surrounded the vaulted ceiling, then lowered her gaze and took in the high altar. Her Baptist upbringing recoiled slightly at the sight of the innumerable saints and figures of a slain Christ that stood in the shadowed alcoves or hung on the walls. The ornately carved confessional booths fascinated her and she cautiously opened a door and peered inside one of them before turning her attention to the gigantic pipe organ. She tried to imagine how Margaret would feel if she was allowed to play this magnificent instrument, and couldn’t. Mindful of the worshippers, she walked slowly and silently around the interior of the church before finding herself in a walkway that curved around behind the high altar. Here she watched a woman light a candle in front of a carved saint before writing on a scrap of paper and inserting it into a wooden box, and then kneeling in prayer. She flushed a bright red when a priest passed her in his flowing black gown and she stammered a quiet ‘hello’ before hastening towards the front doors and freedom. As she emerged into the sunlight she felt like a huge weight had lifted off of her shoulders and she turned and studied the buildings that housed the priests and nuns. Everything was massive and ornate, and the little plain building that housed the Baptist Church she had attended would have fit in a corner of this structure.
As the days grew cooler, the riotous colors of the flowers took wing and nestled in the trees and the whole countryside was ablaze. Kim and Bob were in the throes of lust which left Ani with more time on her hands. When the two came up for air, Kim would invite Ani and Bob would invite Terry, and the four would have a drink at the King Edward Hotel. Nothing was ever said about the morning Ani had come upon the three, but Ani thought you could cut the tension in the air with a dull knife whenever she was around. As time went on, everyone relaxed and Ani discovered why Kim was so infatuated with her new beau. Bob’s fun-loving personality was the exact opposite of Terry’s sober demeanor but the two had been friends all of their lives and were inseparable. Ani felt a little sorry for Terry as he watched Bob follow Kim around like a butterfly in heat knowing he felt like a dog without its master.
It all came to an end one cold rainy night in November. Ani got the story inbetween Kim’s sobs when her friend woke her at 3:30 in the morning. “Bob’s dead!” Kim screamed into her ear. “What are you talking about?” Ani mumbled as she struggled with the blankets while searching for the lamp on the nightstand. “Terry just called me from the hospital. He was driving down King Street and took the corner too fast and hit a patch of wet leaves – he lost control and hit that guardrail there and Bob went through the windshield and into a tree. He’s dead Ani.” Kim’s sobbing wrenched at Ani’s shocked brain. “I’m on my way over Kim.”
The girls sat at the back of the same church Ani had visited just six weeks earlier and listened to the funeral service. An expanse of heads filled the church pews in front of them, and Ani could barely see Terry’s battered face as he sat in the front row next to Bob’s family. Kim’s black hat shrouded most of her pale face, and Ani held her hand tightly as the priest went through the Catholic rituals. Kim’s father waited outside to drive them to the cemetery, and at the end of the service they joined the long line of cars that wound out of the city and to the cemetery on Highway 7. The girls found a spot among the gravestones as the huge crowd gathered beside the family and surrounded the open grave. A sudden gust of cold wind blew Kim’s hat back and she grabbed at it as a light rain began to fall. In the gray afternoon light, Terry’s eyes were huge and blank. He flinched visibly when the first piece of dirt hit the casket and stared wildly into the gaping hole at his feet. Ani steadied Kim as she hung like a limp ragdoll on her arm while she kept her eyes on Terry and Bob’s family. The pain that reflected on all their faces burnt a hole in her heart and she had to turn away when the ceremony was over. Kim sagged against her, and as she helped her into her father’s car, she noticed that Terry still stood frozen beside his friend’s grave, unable to tear himself away.
As time passed, Kim slowly came back to life. She came to the store again after she got off the bus in the square and waited for Ani. With Christmas fast approaching, the fur store was busy and she often helped her friend when there were more customers than Ani could handle. Ani watched her friend’s face slowly lose its pale haunted look and begin to show a spark of interest in life outside of her broken heart. She also noticed the interest Kim showed in consuming as much alcohol as possible on their nightly journey home. Immediately following Bob’s death Ani matched Kim’s consumption glass for glass. But as time passed, she realized she was not doing herself any favors and waved away the extra glasses that were deposited on their table. Nightly she watched Kim inhale the amber fluid until she got to the point where she was ready to pass out on the table. She would then have to wrestle her friend to her feet and physically support her out of the hotel and under the overpass to her bed-sitter. Empathy for Kim’s loss and unhappiness slowly waned into impatience and boredom; she had her own devils to deal with.
After seeing Kim home at night, Ani would head down the avenue a short distance before turning onto Glasgow Street. Crossing the railway tracks she would walk to the corner of Durham and Glasgow, always remaining on the east side of the street. Here she found that a stately old oak provided protection from the weather and something to lean against as she watched a war-time house on the west side of the quiet street. The drawn curtains hid whatever activity went on inside of the small house where Bob had lived with his parents and sister, but that didn’t deter Ani from her nightly vigil. If someone had come along and asked her what she was doing there, she would have been unable to come up with an answer. That never happened and Ani’s fascination with how Bob’s family was dealing with his death continued unabated for three months. Her hours of trying to envisage them continuing on with their daily lives while the spectre of Bob haunted their every move culminated in nothing. The curtains remained drawn and Ani was left with her own imagination and the question as to why she was so fascinated in the first place. She felt a slight twinge the first time she by-passed Glasglow Street and continued on down the avenue, but it faded, much like the flowers that had been left at Bob’s grave.
I am posting a bit more about (Ani) moving back to southern Ontario and starting up a new store - and the internal conflict it caused. This is followed by a trip home for Christmas during that same year which comes much later in the chapter.
(an excerpt from The Wailings - my book in progress)
By the end of the week they had sold two coats a day; a record for the business. After a number of phone calls, Jerome claimed he had to get back to the store in Timmins, and he hurried Margaret off early on Sunday morning. Ani stood at the edge of the driveway that exited onto Waterloo Avenue and waved at the van until it turned the corner and was gone. She stood staring at the corner for a few minutes before heading back inside to clean up after the hectic week they had all put in.
Standing in front of her kitchen sink, she turned the hot water tap on full and poured a drop of dishwashing liquid into the gushing water. Automatically she piled the breakfast dishes they had all used that morning on the counter as she waited for the sink to fill, and then put the utensils and glasses into the bubbles as her mother had taught her. The blank wall behind the sink wavered as she stared at it before it dissolved into a blur, and she rested her head on her arms and burst into sobs. The crying came from the bottom of her stomach, shaking her body with each shattered breath she took. A long line of drool stretched from her open wailing mouth towards the floor and she swiped at it with a sudsy hand, astonished at her own grief. When the tears slowed to an occasional hiccup, Ani finished the dishes and turned her attention to rearranging the apartment. She didn’t want to think about her loneliness or how much she missed her parents. She couldn’t balance those feelings with the permanent mental scars she carried from the beating they had given her almost four years earlier and she shoved it all away, wrestling with the furniture instead.
And another little excerpt from the same chapter -
Later that evening, while John held court in the livingroom, Pet suggested to Ani that they go for a walk. Bundled against the cold they had ventured out on Ani’s familiar running route, their breath pluming around their heads like little thought clouds in the cartoons. Having walked three blocks in complete silence, Ani finally turned to her sister and asked her to spill whatever it was that was on her mind. “It’s not easy telling anyone this Ani,” Pet replied. “But you’ve got to promise you won’t tell Mom – Ever.” “Geez Pet. How bad can it be,” she asked as she studied her younger sister’s face. “I’ll let you be the judge once you hear.”
A hundred ideas flashed through Ani’s mind in the ensuing silence but she kept her silence and let Pet find her own way to tell her news. “This news comes from Neil’s mother who heard it from her friend.” “We’re off to a good start I see,” Ani said. “Do you want to hear it or not? You know I can’t vouch for the friend but we both know Mrs. Belshaw and she’s not one to gossip.” “Sorry, Pet. It just seems all so mysterious.” “You know Mrs. Belshaw works at the taxation centre over on Notre Dame Avenue?” Ani nodded and kept silent. “She heard this from a friend who works at the same place. This woman’s best friend lives in Timmins.” Pet noticed the questioning frown that crossed Ani’s face and hurried on. “This ‘best friend’ is supposed to be having an affair with Dad.” Ani’s mouth fell open and worked like a fish out of water but no sound came out.
Mental images of her father, from as early as she could remember until the present, flashed through her mind and were replaced with snatches of conversation. She thought about his attitude when they had set up the store in Guelph and how he had suddenly needed to go to Timmins. She thought of her mother and how many years she had put up with him and his anger. She knew that he sometimes never talked to Margaret for months on end if he was mad about something. And she also knew that Margaret always carried on in her happy manner no matter how he treated her. She knew this would kill her. “Mom can’t know – ever.” “That’s what I said before I told you.” “Are you sure Pet? I mean – who would want him really?” “Of course I’m not positive. I haven’t actually seen him in the act. But Mrs. Belshaw says this woman is always bragging to her friend about Mr. Black this, and Mr. Black that, and how he’s such a big man with all these fur stores. And then she tells her about what they do and where he takes her when he comes up to Timmins – and well – you know.”
Ani didn’t want to think about the ‘you know’ part. She didn’t want to think about any of it. ”Well now. This is an ugly little secret we have to keep. Isn’t it?” “I had to tell someone. It was killing me having to look at his face and knowing no-one in the family knew. You’re not mad at me for telling you are you?” Ani’s laugh was bitter as she shook her head and reassured her little sister. The walk home was almost as silent as the first few blocks had been, but both girls were lost in thought and didn’t even notice.
I (Ani) went back to school and because I had missed so much, approached the same vice principle who had helped me earlier. She agreed to allowing me (Ani) to take grades 12 and 13 together as I had been an honour student. I worked very hard that year and graduated on the honour roll again - just to show everyone I could do it. During that year I met a guy and fell madly in love. I thought he was the one. About half way through our first year in university he approached me one day and told me there were just too many fish in the sea for him and that he was breaking off the relationship. I was heartbroken - and remained so for the rest of the term - and longer.
During this time I was rushed to the hospital (from the university). I underwent an emergency appendectomy - and remained hospitalised for a week. My parents never visited me once and a friend had to bring me home. I was a little surprised by their actions - but only a little.
I was still heartbroken when my first year of university ended and was very disillusioned about school as well. I was majoring in English with a minor in Psychology - and none of it was living up to my expectations of post-secondary schooling. My father approached me and offered me the opportunity to run a branch of their business in another city - the one where I was born - and loved. I thought about it for a short time and accepted - and I now post a bit about that.
(an excerpt from Chapter 12 of The Wailings - my book in progress)
As fate would have it, the building that housed the fur store where Margaret had apprenticed, stood empty. A warped sign sat propped up against the dusty front window of the showroom; the information on it fading in the sun’s rays. Ani stood staring into the shadows that swallowed the backrooms and tried to imagine her mother at work here as a young girl. Buses pulled into the curb behind her and she watched the reflection of the passengers in the huge plate glass windows as they disembarked and hurried off. Jerome was in a phone booth at the corner talking to the real estate agent whose number appeared on the sign in the window. The diesel exhaust wrapped itself around her lungs and she coughed asthmatically, wishing their schedule would kick in and move the buses on. A bored driver eyed her curiously as she stood in the doorway of the building and she glanced away, aware of her disheveled state after the five hour drive.
“He’s coming to let us in,” Jerome said as he abruptly appeared beside her. Sniffing the air, he turned and looked at the buses idling against the curb before grunting and turning back to face her. “The fumes get trapped here against the building. You’ll have to keep the door closed.” “So we’re going to rent it then?” “If the price is right we will. What could be better than a fur store in the exact place where Lafreniere’s Furs was for all those years? I hope the storage vault is still in there.” Lapsing into silence, he put his huge hands up beside his face as he pressed against the glass and stared into the depths.
Just before the buses pulled away, a small man with a yellow bow tie and round glasses approached the duo. In his left hand he held a clipboard and a set of keys, his right hand he extended without hesitation in Jerome’s direction. “You must be Mr. Black. I’m David Abson. We talked on the phone earlier.” Jerome shook his hand and introduced Ani. The realtor smiled as he nodded in her direction while he fiddled with the keys, trying to find the one that unlocked the front door. A wave of stale air washed over them as he pushed open the glass door, and the line of dead flies that were pressed up against the draft stop lifted as one and scattered into the room on the incoming breeze. The constant noise from the traffic stopped abruptly as the door swung closed and Ani shivered as the dead air pressed against her with little vampiric mouths. She stayed close to Jerome as the realtor found the fuse box and flipped some switches, activating the fluorescent lighting. It sputtered and hissed spasmodically as it flickered into life, complaining of being brought back from the dead. Dust coated the floors and covered the shelving left by the last retailer, and it puffed up around their shoes as they made their way through the two front retail rooms. Wood paneling covered the walls and the tiles on the floor were broken and stained. As one, they peered into the tiny bathroom that had obviously been added sometime in the 50’s. Both men grunted their approval while Ani shivered with disgust before they turned their attention to the back rooms.
The vault door stood open and Jerome hastened towards it with an eager look on his face. He flapped his hand around the opening looking for a light switch and was rewarded when a single bulb came to life overhead. Rows of metal rods stretched to the walls in two layers with an aisle down the middle. On the back wall, an old air-conditioning unit dripped cobwebs, the louvered vents on the front caked solid with years of accumulated dust. Jerome plugged it in and flipped switches, but it remained impassive to his touch. “I don’t believe that thing has worked in years,” the realtor said as he flipped through some papers on his clipboard. “Too bad,” Jerome said with a great deal of disappointment.
They wandered through the remaining rooms while Jerome checked the barricades on the back door. Wire grid covered the windows and Ani found it hard to believe that Margaret had happily learned her trade in this building. She hesitated when they opened a small door and looked at stairs descending to the next level. Silence saturated the inky blackness and the damp smell of raw earth tickled her nose. Again Jerome led the way, and Ani was startled when she remembered that her father had probably been here many times while Margaret was an apprentice.
A few bulbs hung from the rafters, their glow barely piercing the dark expanse. Old wooden tables stood about and Jerome leaned on one briefly before moving away as the legs wobbled beneath his weight. “They use to do the blocking down here when your Mother worked here.” “It’s hard to believe that this is where Mom worked,” she said as she rubbed the goose bumps on her arms and peered around. In a corner she could see a door propped open, and she squealed as her hand passed through cobwebs while she searched for a switch. A bulb hanging on a long cord eased into life above her head and she stared into a rust-filled toilet bowl, its yellowed toilet seat cracked and stained. A small sink with separate taps hung on the wall. The drainpipe had been disconnected and Ani could see a clump of hair with dried soapsuds clinging to it hanging from its rusty mouth. Someone had tried to brighten the little room in the bowels of the building by papering the walls. The dampness of the basement had stained it in patches, and it hung in tatters beside the toilet where someone had picked at it with their fingernails. The smell of decay and urine made Ani gag and she hurried back to the men as they headed for the stairs and the fresher air on the main floor.
While the men negotiated the rent, Ani wandered from room to room, listening to the old wooden floors creak beneath her feet. The place was way too big for what they needed, and she felt overwhelmed by the job that lay ahead of her. “Mr. Abson told me of an apartment for rent on Waterloo Avenue. I suggest we get over there and have a look at it right away. That way you’ll have a place to live and we can get this project rolling.” Jerome jangled the keys in his huge hands as he looked around the space again. “Don’t worry Ani, I know it looks impossible, but I do have some ideas that might work out just fine for here.”
The one-bedroom basement apartment was available immediately, and Jerome wrote a check for the first and last month’s rent and handed it to the superintendent. By the time they had dragged their sleeping bags and overnight bags into the apartment they were starving and headed out for supper. Jerome slowly drove the van past the houses they had owned before they moved to Sudbury. They were both silent as they stared at the small modifications that had been made to each house, aware that these slight changes were painful for both of them. After they had eaten, Jerome drove around the city, noting changes and pointing out places where he and Margaret had shared experiences. Ani watched his face carefully in the dusky light. He hadn’t ever talked to her this much, and she wondered if it was the beauty and memories of Guelph that caused it, or something else. When they returned to the apartment, Ani set about cleaning the bathroom and kitchen while Jerome spread the newspaper in front of his face and disappeared behind it.
My (Ani's) father had called to ask me to come home just after I had called off the engagement to Rick. I had done so because I felt like he wanted a relationship that was much like both of our parent's - and I really didn't want that in my life. He wasn't abusive - but he was of the belief that the man should be waited on and the little woman just the person to do so. Not for me. So when the call came from my father - I capitulated. I continue on here with a little bit now from Chapter 11 of The Wailings - my book in progress - to keep the story going in its proper order.
Ani stood looking out the window as she waited for the buzzer to sound. Occasionally she turned to glance at the boxes piled in the center of the room before turning back to peer out at the busy street in front of the building. Her shoulders sagged under the jacket she wore and a small pile of soggy Kleenex sprang from the little table she had placed by the window when she first moved in. She jumped involuntarily when the buzzer blared by the door, and she took once last look out the window before turning away to answer it.
“Hi Daniel,” she said as she let her brother in. Daniel took in the boxes and Ani’s eyes in one glance and gave his sister a hug. “I’m glad you decided on coming back home Ani.” The huskiness in his voice reflected Ani’s own anguish and she marveled at her brother’s compassion. “Did you know Dad called me after Snoop died and asked me to come home?” “Dad called you?” Daniel said with such amazement that Ani laughed; momentarily forgetting the anguish that had wracked her about this decision.
Silently they loaded the truck and Daniel waited in the parking lot while Ani returned her keys to the superintendent. Knowing she would open up on her own, Daniel concentrated on the afternoon traffic, glancing at Ani as she lit a cigarette and opened her window to let out the first exhalation of smoke.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t know that I need to finish school to get anywhere in life,” she said as she flicked a small piece of ash through the crack between the window and door frame. “I felt like I would be a replacement for the dog.” “I doubt he meant it like that at all,” Daniel ventured as he merged into the left lane. “We thought you were going to get married and live happily ever after.” “Rick wanted a life just like our parents have Daniel, and that is not what I want. It took me a while to discover that, but it was a major reason for calling it off.” “Well, I think Mom will be happy to see you home again Ani. She’s been different since you left.” Ani glanced intently at Daniel before flicking the butt of her cigarette out the window. “That may be, but everything is different now. I’m not somebody they can beat up anymore.”
Daniel stared straight ahead, unwillingly to talk about the day that Ani left home. Later that evening, Ani discovered that not a lot had changed since the night she had packed her purse. While Jerome read the newspaper, the rest of the family waited while Ani prepared the supper and got it on the table. Afterwards, everyone disappeared and Ani cleaned up the kitchen. Sitting in her new bedroom off the laundry room, she stared at the fading ring mark on her right hand and wondered what she had done.
As she unpacked the boxes Daniel had piled in her bedroom, Ani half-listened to Columbo playing on the TV in Grandma Brydges living room. With a pile of sweaters on one arm, she opened a dresser drawer and found a single earring belonging to Sierra. A momentary pang of jealousy swept through her as she thought of her older sister in British Columbia, chasing her dream of being a newspaper editor, even if it was for a small-town newspaper. At least she was far from this house and its inhabitants. When Margaret poked her head through the curtain that substituted for a door, Ani was already breaking down the boxes for disposal.
“Is everything all right Ani?” “Sure Mom. There wasn’t that much to put away,” she said as she flattened the last box. An uncomfortable silence stretched between them and Ani fidgeted with the edge of the cardboard while Margaret studied the top of the dresser. “I just wanted to tell you I’m glad you’re home Ani,” Margaret said as she looked into the dresser mirror at Ani’s image. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to finish school from here. It would have been hard to do it out on my own,” Ani said. Margaret could tell it was hard on Ani’s pride to admit any of this, and she ached with the strangeness between them. “Well. Let’s do the best we can,” Margaret said as she headed off to visit with her mother during the commercials that punctuated Columbo.
I (Ani) contacted the Welfare people and they arranged for me to live with a family and paid me a small amount of money for necessities. I ate with the family and had a small bedroom and my own bathroom in the basement. I also got my first paying job and managed school and the job until the summer break.
At this point - the management whisked me off to Toronto for 'management training' - even though I was only 15. I worked in different locations around Ontario for the rest of the summer and then moved back to the same city where my family was located. I had my own little bachelor apartment and was still working for the same company and engaged to the same boyfriend. I was fairly content and had built something of a little life for myself when the following happened.
(another excerpt from The Wailings - my book in progress.)
It was 5:28 pm when the phone rang abruptly in the little bachelor unit. Ani stretched across the couch and answered it with a grin, expecting Rick on the other end of the line. “Ani? It’s your father.”
Ani froze in her attempt to light a cigarette, absently setting both the cigarette and her lighter down on the coffee table. Her heart pounded in her throat and she could feel the fear of anticipation welling in her stomach. Something must be wrong for Jerome to actually be calling her. “What is it Dad?” she asked unsteadily. “Well Ani. It’s your Mom.”
Ani took a deep breath to try and steady herself and blew it out raggedly. She watched her hand shake as she reached for the cigarette and lighter again. “You see,” he continued, “we had to put Snoop down earlier this week and your Mom is having a terrible time trying to deal with it. She cries all the time and I can’t seem to help her in any way.” He took a deep breath himself then continued. “I’ve been thinking it over and I think that if you come home she might be able to forget about the dog.”
Ani stayed quiet a few seconds as tears welled in her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. She had loved their dog Snoop. He had been part of the family for fourteen years and it was hard to imagine him gone. “Look Ani. You think about it. I have to go. I don’t want her finding out that I asked you to come back.” Ani slowly hung up the phone.
I carry on here from the same chapter to show a different form of abuse and to let some of my readers know what happened to me once I closed the front door of my family home.(From Chapter 10 of The Wailings - a book in progress)
Ani hurried down the dark street as fast as her aching back would let her. She was deathly afraid that someone had heard her leaving the house and she kept her eyes straight ahead as she headed for the shortcut through the park. All was quiet as she covered the distance between her home and Rick’s. The sound of the bell ringing in the Carlton’s house seemed overloud as she stood at the door waiting for someone to wake. She heard rustling movements on the other side of the door, and the outdoor light blinded her momentarily as someone flicked it on and peered out the window to see who was outside. The fumbling at the lock and Madge’s gasp as she threw open the door showed her dismay as she dragged Ani inside and locked the door after her.
“My God girl! What on earth has happened to you? Who beat you up?” Madge’s voice was shrill as she helped Ani out of her coat and supported her as she removed her boots. Ani stood with her head down, afraid that she had done the wrong thing by coming here now. She vaguely registered Madge’s call to Perry and then the questioning that started again. “Ani, what has happened to you?” Ani took one look at Madge and burst into tears, her sobs wracking her body as she finally let go.
Perry’s big body came quickly down the hallway, wrapped in a huge housecoat. Taking one look at the crying young woman, he took her arm gently and led her to the couch. “Make some tea lass,” he directed Madge, “and make it sweet and milky.” Turning back to Ani he took her hands in his huge ones and looked into her badly beaten face. “Ok Ani, you’re safe here. Now you’ve got to tell me what happened to you so we can do something about it.” His low rumble quieted Ani’s crying and helped her to focus. She was about to relay her story when Rick suddenly appeared beside her, his hair tousled and his eyes sleepy but concerned. “Ani! What are you doing here? It’s three in the morning!” His voice sounded as if he was still half asleep and she reached out and squeezed his hand instead of replying. Turning back to Perry she licked her lips fearfully. “My parents beat me up,” she managed in a hoarse whisper. Madge appeared beside her and pressed a cup of hot tea into her hands and she gratefully took a small sip, afraid it would hurt her sore throat. Perry had already noted the coil and burn marks around her neck and told her to drink carefully. As a police officer with many years of experience, he knew that shock set in after something like this and he had to be careful about getting the information from her. “Just tell it slowly, and try not to leave out anything,” he said as he gently patted her hand.
With a note of despair in her straining voice, Ani repeated the events to Perry, unable to forget the horrid events of the past hours. Rick’s gasps punctuated the story while Madge stood with one hand over her mouth, the other tenderly holding Ani’s shoulder. When Ani finally fell silent, Perry stood and walked to the phone where he placed a call and talked quietly into the receiver. When he hung up he turned to Ani again and took her hands in his.
“Ani, I’m sorry to put you through any more, but we have to follow this through. I’ve talked to the person in charge down at the police station, and they want to hear your story too. But first we have to go to the hospital and make sure you don’t have any broken bones or loose teeth. Is that all right with you?” Ani’s “Okay,” was barely audible in the quiet living room. She waited patiently as the Carltons dressed and then they all climbed into Perry’s car and headed to the Sudbury General Hospital. Once there, technicians took over and x-rayed and examined Ani from head to toe. To Ani’s mortification, two nurses told her they had to check for rape or forcible entry. With some bewilderment and much embarrassment, Ani watched silently as they placed each foot into a stirrup then gently spread her knees apart. She vibrated violently as they inserted a cold speculum into her vagina and took a swab. Tears rolled down her cheeks as the nurses finished and removed the stirrups, leaving her lying on the table as they gathered all their information and left. A quick file was put together and given to Perry before they drove to the police station.
Ani’s fear was obvious as they walked through the doors into the hallways flooded with fluorescent light. Police officers nodded to Perry as they passed; barely glancing at Ani’s damaged face. Somewhere down a long hallway Perry motioned them into a small room then turned and left as they settled into their seats. The room was obviously a waiting room for relatives and friends of victims. The chairs were comfortable and the pictures on the walls were soft and almost unfocused. Ani sat between Rick and Madge, each holding tightly to one of her cold hands. Her stomach clenched painfully as she worried about what lay ahead. She honestly didn’t know what she was doing here; she had never been in a police station before and had no idea about the routines that went on.
“Oh Ani! I’m so sorry. This is all my fault,” Rick said as he squeezed her hand and gently touched her face. When Ani winced, he drew back sharply; afraid he would hurt her more with his caring. His assumed guilt for loving her wracked his brain and his face was creased with his own pain and Ani’s. How could the Blacks be so against their simple love for each other, he wondered. While trying to come up with an answer, the door suddenly opened and Perry stood framed in the doorway. “Come with me Ani,” he said. “It’s going to be okay. Some detectives want to ask you some questions, nothing more.”
He walked her down the hall with his arm around her shoulder, feeling the shaking of her small body beneath his hand. Stopping before a plain door, he turned and grasped her by both her shoulders. “Listen Ani. There’s nothing to be afraid of in here. Nobody is going to hurt you, all they want to do is ask you some questions and listen to the story you told me at home. Okay?” Ani nodded her head as she looked up at Perry, trying to draw strength and courage from this gentle giant. Perry reached out and opened the door, leading Ani in and sitting her down in a chair beside a desk. The room was stark and bare with a lone calendar hanging on one wall. Ani looked at the two detectives who stood at the desk peering into a folder. Ani recognized it as the one that Perry had carried out of the hospital. She sat silently as the three men spoke quietly together, then watched as Perry took a seat with his back up against the wall. A man who appeared to be the senior detective finally turned away from the open folder and stretched his hand out to Ani in greeting. “Hello Ani. I’m Detective Quilley and this is Detective Dussome. Staff Sergeant Carlton has briefed us on what you told him earlier this morning, and we have the records here from the hospital. What we want you to do is to tell us what happened to you. Plus, I want you to remember through all of this that we are not here to hurt you in any way. Staff Sergeant Carlton has offered to remain in the office with you in case you get distressed or too nervous to go on. Is that all right with you?” Ani nodded her head, looking at Perry for support and reassurance. Detective Quilley opened the file and placed it on his desk, thumbing through the information again. Finally he turned and looked Ani straight in the face. “Okay Ani. I want you to tell me what happened to you, starting from the beginning,” he said.
Ani’s voice was quiet as she spoke through cracked swollen lips, repeating the scene that had played out in the Black’s kitchen. When she was finished each detective questioned her repeatedly about details, confirming and comparing her statement with the marks that were obvious on her face and written in detail in the open folder. The three men again spoke quietly in a corner of the room, occasionally glancing at Ani as she sat slumped in her chair by the desk. Finally, almost as one, the three men each took a chair and formed a semi-circle around her. Perry briefly reached out and touched her elbow, trying to reassure her with his strength. Everyone waited as Detective Quilley sat studying the file folder once more, stroking his mustache absently as he flipped the pages. “Well Ani,” he said. “We have enough information here from your statement and from the hospital reports to charge your parents with assault.” Ani gasped and straightened in her chair, looking wildly from one man to the next. “Assault! I wasn’t thinking of charging them,” she said as the tears streamed down her broken face. “They’re my parents. If I charged them, then everyone would know about it and their business would suffer horribly! That’s just something I can’t do.” She paused, and then repeated, “No. I’m sorry, but I just can’t do that.” Detective Dussome looked at her sympathetically and said softly, “But Ani. Look at what they’ve done to you. Look at what is going to happen to your life if you don’t go back there. Where will you go and how will you support yourself? Can you let them get away with doing what they did and with the rest of it?”
Ani sat there with her hands over her face, the tears dripping onto her jeans, leaving them wet. She tried to imagine her parent’s reaction to detectives showing up at the store and arresting them, then bringing them here to this building where they would sit in chairs like these and listen to the charges against them. She tried to imagine the headlines in the Sudbury Star newspaper and the stories that would be written about them and about her. She knew they would be ruined financially; the truth would keep the customers away, shunning them all like lepers. She just couldn’t do it; she couldn’t hurt them like that. Mournfully she looked at the men in front of her, her gaze holding Perry’s longer than the others. She knew these men were repulsed by her parent’s behavior, but she had to make them believe that she could shoulder her pain and bear the brunt of this event. “I’m sorry, but I can’t charge them with assault. In fact I don’t want them charged with anything. I’m truly sorry if I wasted your time, but I can’t go through with what you have suggested. I can’t destroy their lives like that.” Ani’s voice was low but clear, her decision final. The silence in the room swept over them all, making their ears ring faintly. Suddenly Detective Quilley squatted down in front of Ani’s slumped form so he could speak directly at her.
“Okay Ani. We respect your decision. Of course it’s yours to make. But if you ever change your mind and decide to go through with charging them, you can. Detective Dussome and I wish you all the luck in the world with your journey forward from here. If you need us, we are here to help you and just ask for us by name. You are free to leave whenever you want to.”
With that he returned to his chair and began writing in the open folder. Perry helped Ani up and took her back to where Rick and Madge were waiting. Gathering their coats they left the station and climbed back into Perry’s car, returning to the Carlton’s house in silence. As Ani stood in the front hallway she suddenly felt self-conscious. She didn’t know what to do with herself and didn’t want to impose on Rick’s family. Seeing her standing like a dejected waif, Madge took her arm gently and led her down the hallway to Jennifer’s room.
“You’re going to stay with us Ani till we can figure out a solution to this problem. You’ll share Jenn’s room with her until then, so don’t be afraid to ask for anything. You’re almost like a daughter to us now,” Madge said as she pointed out the spare bed. Jennifer was barely awake as Madge whispered in her daughter’s ear, letting her know that she had a new roommate. With a warm smile, Madge left the room, only to reappear with a clean nightgown held out in front of her. Giving the young girl a long hug, she then left Ani to change and get into bed.
Ani lay in the dark trying not to cry. She replayed the scene over and over in her head, wondering why it had happened and why to her? She had sacrificed more of her life for her parents than the other three had done, taking in stride the lack of free time and the unending demands and work. She could still see the three sitting at the table, listening to the pounding on the hallway door and turning the pages of the newspaper. If she started to cry now she knew she would not stop, just going on and on with those gut-wrenching sobs that left her exhausted.
Turning to face the wall she snuggled deep into the warm blankets trying desperately to feel nothing, but her face ached so much she couldn’t help but feel the slaps and punches again and again. The word ‘assault’ played over in her mind and she questioned whether she had made the right choice. She knew she couldn’t have charged them, and she guessed the other three were safe. The early morning light was showing under the blinds as Ani finally collapsed into sleep. She was a little discombobulated when she awoke in the strange room, and she could feel that she was alone in the house. Jennifer’s clock read 3:15 and Ani let out a little gasp as she realized she had slept for most of the day. As she hurried into the bathroom for a shower she was met by a total stranger staring at her from the mirror over the sink. A deep blue circled her eyes, looking frightening and painful while her throat looked like it had received an Indian Rug Burn. The distinctive coil marks of the telephone cord lay over the burns and handprints circled her throat. One cheek flared a bright red and was swollen. The glaring light of the bathroom made her look more like a corpse than a vivid girl of 16. Turning resolutely away from the mirror she ran a hot shower, hoping the heat would ease the aches from the kicks she had received. Finally she dressed and headed to the kitchen for a cup of tea.
When Madge returned home from her shift at Woolco, she found Ani curled in a corner of the living room couch, sipping slowly from a steaming mug. Madge poured herself a cup of tea and sat down beside Ani. Sipping the hot liquid slowly she mulled over in her mind the words she wanted to say, wanting to make them right so she didn’t hurt this fragile girl.
“Ani, I just want to say how sorry I am about what you have gone through. It’s something I just can’t imagine, so I don’t know the right words or the right thing to do. If I say something that hurts or that you take wrong, please let me know. I do not want in any way to add to your pain or burden.” Ani set her cup down on the end table and turned and hugged the little woman who sat beside her. She knew that Madge was trying her best to deal with her situation, and she loved her all the more for it. “Thank you Madge. I know you mean it and I appreciate it,” Ani replied with heartfelt emotion.
The next morning Ani was up and preparing for school, unable to remain hiding in the Carlton’s home. She stood looking in the mirror, staring at the bruised eyes and swollen cheekbone. She found it hard to bring her gaze to her mangled neck, the sight making her feel nauseous. With relief she finished applying her deodorant and pulled on her turtleneck sweater. It was unfortunate the color made her facial bruises more vivid, but at least her neck was well-covered. Madge was waiting for her at the back door, and together they walked towards the mall like a pair of old friends. Ani left Madge having a final cigarette outside the Woolco store as she carried on towards the school. She walked with her head down, trying to avoid the looks of passersby.
When she reached the school a quiet murmur followed her down the hall to her locker. With a steely resolve she opened the locker door and gathered her books for her morning classes. Ani couldn’t help but notice the reaction of the other students when they caught a glimpse of her face. Their startled expressions and embarrassing cover-ups emphasized her dejection and pain. No one spoke to her during the entire morning and she spent her lunch hour in the most remote washroom she could find. She ate her lunch slowly and spent the rest of the period staring at the little ring on her left hand. As she emerged from the washroom Ani noticed a distinct change in the atmosphere around her. People stared openly at her as she walked the halls heading for her first afternoon class. Heads turned as she entered the science room and most of the students did not look away as she made her way to her seat. Not wanting to be the center of attention she kept her head lowered, concentrating on the textbook in front of her.
With leaded feet Ani left her science class and headed down the hallway to her math class. Keeping her head down, she found her seat and opened her books to the necessary chapter. Unable to focus on her textbook she finally raised her head and looked towards the blackboards behind the teacher’s desk. Across the entire front of the classroom was written in chalk ‘Ani Black is a slut!’ Ani’s mouth fell open as she read the words and her face flamed each time another student entered the room and read the board. An uneasy silence settled over the classroom as they waited for the teacher to appear. With each second that ticked by on the clock above the blackboard, the words burned deeper into Ani’s mind. She couldn’t even begin to think who would have written such a thing about her.
Desperately she tried to recall the students coming out of the room before she had entered, but she had been too busy trying to hide her face. Finally, Mr. Rose entered the room and put his books down on the desk. Turning to the blackboard he took an involuntary step backwards as he read the words scrawled before him. Seizing the brush, he furiously swiped at the letters, trying to scrub them vigorously away. With a reddened face he settled at his desk and glanced briefly at Ani as she tried desperately to melt into her desk.
He began the class as if nothing had happened, only to be interrupted by the buzzing of the classroom telephone. Reaching behind him he plucked the receiver from its holder and listened intently. With a strange intuitiveness Ani stared at Mr. Rose, knowing the one-sided conversation was about her. She had already closed her textbook when Mr. Rose hung up the phone and called her name. “Ani. Gather your books and report to the vice-principal please.” Afraid she might break down in front of everyone, Ani held her head high as she left the room, the fluorescent lights reflecting off her bruised eyes.
She stood in front of Miss Fillmore’s door feeling her stomach clench. The vice-principal was a heavyset but robust woman. She would not stand for any foolishness in her school and eked out punishment to those who crossed the line with a heavy hand. Ani didn’t know where she stood at the moment. Although she had been the victim it might not look like that to others. Timidly she knocked on the pebbled glass that made up half the door. Miss Fillmore’s immediate response caused Ani to tremble slightly as she reached for the doorknob.
“Come in and sit down Ani Black,” Miss Fillmore said as Ani entered the room. The vice-principal sat behind a huge desk covered in stacks of paper that did nothing to take away from her imposing figure. Her hair was short and gray, clinging to her head like a helmet. In her right hand she twirled a black pen while she eyed Ani up and down. “Turn down the collar of your sweater please Ani,” she said. Ani’s eyes widened at the abrupt command, but she took a deep breath and rolled the sweater down and tucked the turtleneck under. Miss Fillmore’s face crumpled slightly as she looked at the marks on Ani’s face and neck. In a quiet low voice she asked, “What happened to you Ani?” Ani sat staring at the woman, biting her lips with her inner turmoil. “It’s all right to tell me Ani. I only have to report to the principal.” “My parents beat me up,” Ani finally replied. Being able to tell someone what had happened to her, instead of just suffering the stares, caused an enormous relief to spread over her for the first time that day. With a slight movement of her hand, Miss Fillmore got the whole story out of the young girl sitting in front of her. She kindly offered a box of Kleenex as Ani broke down and cried out her anguish. She sat patiently through the tears, not wanting to envisage what Ani had described to her, yet the scene played out violently in her head anyway. She had seen previous beatings on other children in the school, but the marks around Ani’s neck were obviously the results of a vicious attack. When Ani fell silent, she sat and studied her desk, praying that she would say the right thing to this vulnerable girl. “You say you’ve left your home, and now are staying with your boyfriend’s family.” She had not failed to notice the engagement ring on Ani’s left hand. “You’ve been to the hospital and to the police and you are not going to press charges against your parents. You are sure about this Ani?” Ani’s emphatic nod was all she needed in response. “All right. I may be able to help you in some way. First of all, you won’t be able to stay at your boyfriend’s indefinitely. That will put too much of a strain on all relations in that house. However, what I suggest is that you get in touch with Child Welfare. They can help in situations like yours. I will give you their phone number before you leave here.” Her voice was low but kindly and Ani felt a connection to this woman she had never dreamed imaginable. “The other major problem is what to tell the rest of the school should they ask. The faculty that you are in contact with will be informed by the principal. As for the students who ask you, I suggest you just tell them you were in an accident. That way you won’t have to have your story known by everyone. That goes with your not wanting to have your parents charged so people won’t know about the problem. What do you think about that Ani?” Ani nodded her head, afraid to talk in case she broke into tears again with her gratitude. She took the piece of paper from Miss Fillmore that had the number for Child Welfare written on it and carefully put it inside her penholder. She looked the vice-principal in the eye for a long moment and then said, “Thank you very much for everything.” She gathered her books before remembering to roll up her turtleneck before heading back to class. “I suggest you wait in the lunchroom for a bit and then go to your next class Ani.” Miss Fillmore said as she adjusted the files on her desk. As Ani stretched her hand out for the doorknob she turned back towards Miss Fillmore and thanked her again. A bond had been forged out of this brutal situation, and both of them smiled at each other in their acknowledgment of it. Ani’s heart was a little lighter as she sat in the lunchroom and stared out the windows.
I am posting this excerpt from chapter 10 of The Wailings to try and show what I knew as 'love' - before I met The Man.
Ani let herself into the house in time to start the supper before Margaret and Jerome arrived from the store. She stood at the stove busily flipping hamburger patties and getting the vegetables ready. Sierra, Daniel and Pet sat at the kitchen table lazily reading the day’s newspaper while Grandma Brydges was downstairs preparing her own little supper. The savory aroma of beef stew floated up the stairwell with the sounds of the religious radio station Grandma liked to listen to.
Through the closed bifold door, everyone heard the garage door open and the car drive in, and the clacking noise the door made as it lowered back to the ground. There was a sudden pounding on the hall door as Jerome yelled for someone to come and open up. At first Ani ignored the pounding, expecting one of the three at the table to go. She was trying desperately to get the supper finished before her parent’s arrival, and she stood with both hands busy while trying to check on the baking bread at the same time. As the pounding continued, Ani finally grunted with exasperation and turned and looked at the three around the table pointedly. When no one moved, she threw her hands in the air and slid open the bifold door in time to see her grandmother trying to hurry along the hallway as Jerome finally opened the door with his own key. Glancing at her father and the brown paper bags in his arms, Ani turned and headed back to the stove to save the supper from burning.
With a roar, Jerome pushed past his mother-in-law who fell gasping against her bathroom door. He took the stairs two at a time as he raced for the kitchen with a red-faced Margaret not far behind. Bursting into the kitchen, he threw his groceries at the counter and headed straight for Ani, his hands outstretched. Canned peas and cat food spilled from the ripped brown bags and crashed to the floor, dinting edges and tearing the labels. A carton of homogenized milk burst open and vomited its white liquid down the front of the counter. He caught her arm viciously as she turned towards him, causing a hamburger patty to go sailing onto the potato peels in the sink. The glistening hamburger grease reflecting off the potato skins caught her eye and vaguely registered as small rainbow pools as his huge blunt fingers dug into her. She looked at him questioningly as he started to wrestle with her, the greasy lifter still held in her right hand. “Just who do you think you are not coming to the store after school!” he screamed into her face, his hot spittle spraying across her nose and flushed cheekbones. “I’ve been getting the supper ready!” she stammered as his huge hands wrapped themselves around her throat and started to squeeze. Ani beat at him futilely with the egg lifter, but Jerome batted it away as he would an annoying fly. It flew across the kitchen in a graceful arc, spraying its own viscous spittle as it rotated through the air before hitting the fridge and clattering to the floor.
Ani’s three siblings sat frozen at the table as if a giant nut and bolt held them to their yellow chairs as the scene started to unfold directly in front of them. “You think you’re something these days don’t you! You think you’re ‘In Love’! Well – I’ll show you what love really is!” Jerome growled. With one swift motion, he grabbed her hair and hurled her to the floor, punching her face as she went down, then straddling her. She could see her own blonde hairs clinging to his right fist before it connected with her left eye and pain ricocheted around her head. Then Margaret burst into the room and immediately started kicking Ani’s prone form as Jerome held her down, her blue coat flapping about her thick legs with each swing. Through the pain that shot to the back of her skull when Jerome’s hairy knuckles compressed her eyeball, Ani noted that seconds had only passed instead of the eternity she felt. “You’re getting what you have coming to you young lady!” Margaret screeched as she landed a solid kick to Ani’s ribs, causing both of them to grunt with the loss of breath. A shocked silence emanated from the three at the kitchen table, and as Margaret drew her foot back and Jerome reached for her burning throat, Ani heard the distinct sound of milk dripping onto the linoleum. The clock on the spattered stove made a small clicking noise as it flipped over another number on the minute side.
With her head pressed up against the yellow flowers on the wallpaper, Ani stared up at the black vinyl curls in the extended cord of the telephone that hung over her head. They swayed and bounced slightly from the impact her head made as it connected repeatedly to the wall. She struggled futilely against Jerome’s weight as she tried to hold him off her, wrenching at his hands as he squeezed what little air she had left out of her throat. With what felt like superhuman strength, she slowly pried the fingers that heralded disaster away from her throbbing neck. A layer of grease still coated her fingers, and she was no match for his strength or his anger. With a little cry, she watched as her fingers slid off his and the hand clench into a huge fist. It loomed like an incoming comet, its black hair almost streaming in the wind as it made a direct contact with her right eye. Pain exploded in shooting stars and she reacted automatically. Pulling her knee up hard she made a direct contact with Jerome’s groin, sending him backwards with a furious scream. “I’ll kill you!” he roared as he jerked away from her knee and grabbed his genitals. Seeing her chance, Ani scrabbled up the wall and made a grab for the phone. “Just who do you think you’re calling?” Jerome hissed as he held his crotch with both hands. The veins on his neck bulged and pulsed with his fury and pain. “I’m going to call the police,” Ani gasped, “this is child abuse and you can’t get away with it.”
Ignoring the throbbing in his swelling balls, Jerome reached forward and grabbed the phone, wrapping the cord around Ani’s aching neck. “We’ll see who’s calling who here,” he growled as Margaret landed a few more kicks on Ani as she slid down the wall. Her head felt like a balloon and her swollen eyes were on fire. A hand connected with her cheek and snapped her head sideways, causing her teeth to crunch with the impact. She spit out blood and some tooth enamel when she tried to scream, but the constant kicks and blows took her breath away making any speech impossible. Each connection sent stabs of pain through her body, and as she fought to hold her own, she fought to appear unaffected by their efforts to hurt her.
Blood trickled from her left nostril as Jerome picked her up bodily, as if lifting weights, and dropped her onto her back. The immediate searing pain that shot from her lower back to the top of her head suddenly transported her back to the seconds that followed her fall in the skiing accident. With the same determination that had seen her through that accident, she turned her groans inward and clamped her jaw shut, refusing to let them win. “I’ll have you charged,” she gasped as Jerome’s black work shoes kicked her in the small of her back. Unable to stand the pain, Ani rolled over and tried to retreat into a ball, but Jerome picked her up again and dropped her. As she lay there staring up at the ceiling, she noticed the dead flies that had collected in the bottom of the kitchen light. The question of how flies managed to get into lights briefly crossed her mind, then winked away. “I’m the boss in this house, not you!” he seethed. “Now get up and get the dinner on the table like you’re suppose to. And if you ever try this trick again the results will be worse than this.” With that, he gave Ani another vicious kick around her tailbone as Margaret’s winter boot connected with her shoulder. For a brief moment, Margaret stood looking down at the crumpled form of her daughter lying on the floor before she drew her head back and spat on her. The fury swept out of the room with them as they stormed out of the kitchen and the sound of the newspaper settling onto the kitchen table almost hurt the ears in the silence that followed.
Moving slowly, Ani pulled her knees up under her chin and stared at the drops of blood that spattered the kitchen floor. The pain emanating from her lower back helped minimize the agony she felt everywhere else, and she almost gave into it. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the puddle of milk where it was collecting in front of the counter and noted where the cans had rolled under the table. She knew it was going to be up to her to clean up the kitchen. No one would be offering to help. She had gotten herself into this mess and it was up to her to resolve it. A brief wave of self-pity washed over her and she clamped down hard on it, refusing to allow it to take over. Deep inside her she knew that if she didn’t take some sort of action now, then she might never again.
The stove kept retreating to the end of a dark tunnel as Ani edged her way over and managed to lever herself up with the help of the door handle. Taking slow breaths, she let the air seep into her throat like flames before she turned slowly and looked each of her siblings up and down. Daniel’s hand remained in the air where it had been holding the newspaper before Ani’s world collapsed. Were they made of clay, she wondered? With a fractured rasp, she asked them to move so she could set the table, and as Ani turned her back on them, they hurriedly folded the newspaper and deserted the kitchen.
With slow, agonized movements, Ani rescued the hamburger out of the sink, set the table, and cleaned up the spilled milk and groceries. The entire house felt like it was holding its breath when she called the others for supper and silence prevailed as they avoided looking at Ani and seated themselves at the table. With downcast eyes, Ani placed the meat and vegetables on the table, and the smell of freshly baked bread almost made the atmosphere seem warm and cozy. She arranged everything carefully then turned and headed for the kitchen door. Her father’s voice grated across her raw nerves like a rusty rake. “You are going to sit here and eat supper with the rest of us before doing the dishes.”
Without a word Ani returned to the table and sat, pushing the food around her plate. She was not sure if she had a loose tooth or not, but there was no way she could get anything down her sore throat. When they finished the meal, she rose silently and started rinsing the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. She washed the pots and baking dishes in the sink, then cleaned the counters and table before hanging up the dishcloth and tea towel. The rest of the family had disappeared as quickly as they could, most of them unable to watch Ani’s painful progress around the kitchen, their guilt eating away at them.
Slowly she climbed the short flight of stairs to the upper level where she made her way into the bathroom, and closed the door. Turning on the light she took a deep searing breath and peered at the image in the mirror. Red circles surrounded her eyes and she could see the bruises starting to appear where the knuckles had made a direct contact. Her eyelids were puffy and scabrous looking, as if they were going to split under the pressure of the swelling. A bluish red handprint stood out on her cheekbone and the distinct mark of the telephone cord circled her throat like little red waves. A faint smudge of dried blood remained under her nose and she ran some warm water over a facecloth and wiped her face gently. Her blonde hair stood out from her head as if she had been rubbing it with a balloon to create static energy and she combed her fingers through it to try to remove some of the tangles that had formed.
While using the toilet she felt like she was going to pee blood, but the water remained clear as she wiped herself. Returning to the sink, she washed her hands and stared at herself in the mirror. Her green eyes were cold and brilliant looking, the redness that surrounded them making them even more startling. She could feel the dam of tears wanting to burst free but she braced herself, refusing to let them hear her cry. Instead, she fished her toothbrush out of the drawer and headed down the hall to the bedroom she shared with Pet at the front of the house.
Quietly she moved around the room, taking some underwear out of her drawer and her few valuables off her dresser. She tightly folded a couple of small blouses and crammed them into her purse with her underwear, deodorant and toothbrush. Putting on an extra pair of jeans and two sweaters, she crawled under the blankets and turned towards the wall, feigning sleep. Staring at the wall she waited for the hours to pass. When the house finally slept, Ani slipped out of bed and put on her winter coat and boots. Tucking her purse firmly under her arm, she silently opened the front door and slid out into the night.
I introduce the story with an excerpt from The Wailings - my book in progress. It is a story based on my life which was one of physical and mental abuse. This is the beginning of Chapter 2.
Ani Black crouched under the kitchen table. The tiny hands that covered her ears tried ineffectively to keep out the screams that originated from an upstairs bedroom. She was a small child, yet her sturdy frame belied an inner fragility already obvious in her green eyes. She had fine white-blonde hair that hung poker straight to the middle of her back. Today her mother had tied the sides of her hair up with small barrettes in the shape of silver bows. They refused to stay anchored in the fine hair, which only added to her mother’s exasperation of looking after her four small children.
At age five, Ani was the middle girl of three. Pet was fifteen months her junior and was a contradiction in terms when it came to her name. Tiny boned and dark haired with a smattering of freckles that dusted her cheekbones and crossed the bridge of her nose, her smallness was almost an inadequate covering for the fiery nature that lived within. Although she was the baby of the family, she was already a force to be reckoned with.
Sierra on the other hand was the firstborn and five years Ani’s senior. She was dark like Pet but heavier set, taking more after her mother. She wore her hair in a long single plait down her back. Her mother had taught her the tricky machinations of braiding and Sierra had caught on quickly, revealing a dexterity that showed in almost everything she did. She knew the ins and outs of things that a 10-year old had no right knowing. She had been forging ahead and breaking the “first to do it” ground for as long as Ani could remember. And much like her name, Sierra was like a desert. There were huge expanses in her where nothing grew or stayed for long, with only a small oasis here and there where thorny things hung on for dear life. Sierra was hard to get near and touchy.
Daniel was the brother. Being the only boy made him special from the start. He was 17 months older than Ani. A round face and fair hair made him look almost cherubic. His blue-gray eyes reflected the wonder of what every day offered anew to his eager mind, and he was quick to accept and learn. His quest for knowledge was something he liked to share, and Ani was often his companion along the way. They liked to point out to each other things the other might have missed. Daniel was the thinker, the mediator, and the diplomat. He was the apple of his mother’s eye, his father’s pride, and Ani’s best friend and confidante. Of the four children, Ani was the fairest.
Her physical appearance was a contradiction of her name. Her parents had thought it amusing to name her Ani after a bird they had seen while honeymooning in the southern States. She had stood silently many times as she listened to her parents describe the American bird. “Generally black in color, belonging to the cuckoo family.” Her father always followed this description with the words, “You’re just the little cuckoo bird of the Black family, aren’t you Ani?” Even at the age of five, the litany did not amuse her and she would stare straight ahead while her father tousled her hair and smacked her bottom to send her on her way.
She crouched now like a little bird, hiding under the table in her mother’s bright yellow kitchen while Sierra’s screams echoed throughout the house. The sunlight that warmed the kittens playing on the stoop outside the screen door was a sharp contrast to the chill silence that followed. Ani’s eyes darted to the dark maw of the stairwell that led down to the basement, a place where rats nested in-between the stones that formed the foundation of the old red brick house. From the blackness of the stairwell, her eyes traveled up the wall and rested on the hook set high above their heads. It was empty. Prickles of fear swarmed across her arms and down her back. They all knew what that meant. The Strap! The long thick black piece of leather whose original purpose had been a razor strop used to put a fine edge on a straight razor. Now her father liked to use it to put a fine edge to his punishments.
She had no idea what had brought about Sierra’s punishment. She hadn’t even noticed the wary look on her mother’s face as she had bounded into the kitchen, letting the screen door slam. Her mind had been on the kittens when the first screams erupted and pinned her to the tiled floor. Foolishly, she had fled for cover under the table. Daniel’s face had appeared briefly around the corner of the screen door, and then vanished--he wasn’t taking any chances. Pet was out of sight and Ani realized that she was the only one trapped. The sounds of muffled sobs were faint underneath the roar of her father’s voice. “I’ve told you before that it’s for your own good, so don’t you dare question me Sierra! Next time I’ll make sure you won’t sit for a month!”
The heavy thud of his footsteps coming down the stairs and entering the hall that led directly to where she hid made Ani almost wet her pants. She knew that for no reason at all he could easily transfer his anger from one child to the next. She held her breath as he suddenly came into view, positive he would discover her and then she’d be in for a strapping too.
He was a big man at just over six feet tall and 220 pounds. His face was a flaming red from his exertions and his blue eyes glared angrily from beneath his dark eyebrows. He had deliberately rolled the sleeves of his work shirt back to his elbows to help facilitate a good swing, and his left hand opened and clenched, opened and clenched. In his right hand swung the black leather strop. He was sweating.
He strode over to the top of the basement stairs and placed ‘The Strap’ on the hook almost tenderly. Then he turned and moved off to his favorite chair where he picked up his newspaper and disappeared behind it. The only sounds heard in the roaring silence that had descended were the rustling of the pages as they turned, and Sierra’s distant muffled sobs.
Her mother sat staring at her clenched hands as they rested on the kitchen table, oblivious of the daughter hiding beneath the yellow arborite. When Ani finally judged it safe to escape, she crept out from under the table and stood looking at her mother with the question she wanted to ask stuck on her tongue. Her mother’s blue eyes stared into another world while she rubbed her reddened hands together as if they were cold. She didn’t even smell the potatoes boiling over on the stove until the shout from the big chair made them both jump. “Do I have to do everything around here?” seethed the voice from the living room. Her mother’s eyes were still distant as she turned to the dinner, never seeing the little girl who needed her.
That night Ani lay in her small bed thinking of the day’s events. Nobody spoke of the beating, and Sierra’s pride kept Ani from questioning her. The whole episode had left her nervous. By not knowing what provoked the punishment, she couldn’t make plans to avoid that particular behavior and its results. As the streetlight threw monstrous leaf shadows on the wall beside her bed, she could hear the wind whipping through the trees and smell the coming storm. Sometimes the shadows looked like her father’s huge hands, rising and falling. She shuddered as the first crack of thunder resounded around the room. There were always so many storms in this house, she thought as lightning flashed and she shrank from the images that flared on the wall. The thunder that followed sounded like the crack of ‘The Strap’ from earlier that day. Ani whimpered softly as she slipped lower in her bed, pulling the covers up above her nose. Gradually her eyes closed, her fear finally wearing her out.
I've been browsing blogs and reading everyone's daily diaries or daily complaints - however you want to view them - and have been wracking my brain as to where to go from the knitting posts once the xmas season is over and done with. Over at I Beatrice - she's wondering if she will blog again once her story is finished - and Tina is wondering the same. So I'm not the only one.
So this morning I thought of the thing that interests me the most in my life - and that is my husband.
Now - if you're not into romance or love or all the things that make (everyone) go awwww....then read no further. However - if you want to hear a love story - then draw up your chair and I'll tell you a story filled with romance and love and of a prince charming who came true - for me.