As a sound not unlike a thousand hammer drills, raged in his head and blood streamed from his nose and ears, Martin knew he had to get to a hospital because dying was not an option, his boy needed him and he had to get him out of there.
Blue flashing lights beckoned him out onto the gravel pathway, he reached for Mitchell and together they got into the ambulance and on their way to hospital. Knowing his son was safe at least for a while, he let the darkness beneath his closing eyes take over.
Within hours she was there, as usual he’d not said anything to anyone and Mitchell knew better than to say anything anyway, he was understandably a very quiet and scared little boy. She had that look in her eye as she told the police and later social services, how the house had been broken into and how Martin had been attacked by three youths when he tried to defend his family and house.
They actually believed her and he watched as she related this elaborate fabrication of a story to the police. He hated himself and in the pit of his stomach it felt like a lift shaft racing down through his body, leaving him empty and worthless, he hated the feelings it left him with, she knew how he worked, what made him tick and she always apologised so sweetly and convincingly, whispering that this would be the last time. She said she would get help and begged him to come home and start again, and how different things would be, how Mitchell needed them both.
Martin remembered one of the worse times. He had awoken from what he thought was yet another nightmare. All he could think about was Mitch his twelve-year-old son, where he was and if he was safe? He did remember it being a weekend and light had started to filter through the house. His head was throbbing and there was a lot of pain around his ribs and in his groin area, one eye was swollen and barely open. He seemed to drift in and out of consciousness, trying to remember what had happened, but it was just too much effort; he couldn’t think straight. He had vague glimpses of violent shouting and swearing and the sight of his wife’s angry face, snarling at him, her vicious words spewing out like a furious volcanic eruption.
Jenny, his wife of nineteen years had always had a fiery temper but he’d put that down to her beautiful red hair and female hormones, he’d grown up in a female dominated home with three sisters, so he knew all about hormones and how they affected women at certain times of the month.
When they first got together he loved being with her all the time but on reflection he realised that such a honeymoon period doesn’t really last. If he wanted to go out with his friends cycling or to play golf, she would start shouting and say he was abandoning her, heaven forbid he would want to see any female friends, two of whom were his best friends in the world.
Apparently, in Jenny’s world, this was abnormal and men could not be friends with women without there being an underlying motive for sex. Knowing how hostile she could be, needing to protect them as well as his reputation, Martin stopped seeing them altogether, making excuses about being too busy.
They were married without family or friends at her request, which was very lonely for him as he had a huge family and some lovely female friends from school, although to keep the peace he never said anything as it was meant to be HER day!
As their marital relationship developed she would have good days, bad days, even more bad weeks and would generally be a bit snappy, which she put down to stress. Martin had a busy career as a security trainer for doormen on the local nightclub circuit. She was in a high profile job as an up and coming bank manager and they, or rather, she, decided after having their son ‘Mitchell’ that he would stay at home and become a house husband. Little did he know at that time that he would soon become like a prisoner in his own home.
The love Martin felt for his son from the moment he was born overwhelmed him so much so that staying at home with him was a pleasure. It soon became clear over the coming months that even though he did everything in the house as well as taking care of Mitchell from his very first breaths, that this arrangement or anything he did was never going to be good enough for her or meet with her high expectations.
Jenny was extremely and severely jealous of everyone around her and if Martin ever mentioned another woman, even that the neighbour Janice, had got new fencing, or looked too long at a weather girl on the television, she would just do this thing where her eyes would open wide like a stallion, her head would shake as she transcended into a jealous rage standing above him, she’d grab his hair and just shake and shake until he said it was only her he loved. People may have said how stressed she was and hard she worked, but Martin fully believed she had some sort of mental health disorder the way she would just go off like a bomb.
Any chance she got she would slap his face or whack him across the head with an object and then say, ‘don’t be such a wimp’ she was very controlling and became violent, aggressive and cruel if things didn’t go her way or she was in one of her moods. Given his own size and build he could have killed her with one punch but Martin was just not made that way and to hit a woman would be considered cowardly to him.
She used to call him names all the time, she would just walk past him and for no reason she’d say something like;
‘You’re an absolute waste of space, a useless idiot’
It would always hurt deeply like a barbed arrow, undermining him and making him feel constantly inadequate so that he always tried to please her. She would dredge his self-esteem to deep, inconsolable levels of distress and hopelessness. Somehow though he got through it putting it down to her just being her and learned how to let it go, so that it sort of brushed off him.
The morning that he’d awoken in so much pain was because she had beaten him with a baseball bat, which for some reason she had covered in masking tape, a trick to lessen external bruises learned from a google search, no doubt? He’d found it placed on the kitchen worktop as he searched for his son, managing to firstly get to his knees and then standing up by gripping the dado rail on the wall and then on to a chair. He couldn’t believe that she’d just left him in the hallway bleeding and unconscious. As he found his way through the house he was drawn to the deep stomach sobbing sounds where he found Mitchell cowering in the corner of the conservatory behind one of her beloved giant cheese plants, he was rocking, hands over his ears, face wet with tears and his clothes soaked from his own vicarious terror.
She had always been surprisingly nice to Mitchell but he too was terrified of her, his own mother. Having to keep it to himself so that he didn’t set off one of her rages that would cause her to attack his dad, must have been really difficult for him and this made Martin sadder than ever when he thought about it.
He once found a poem on a scrap paper that Mitchell had written, it was called;
‘I’d be better off Dead’
Staring into the rain Hearing his pain When will it stop, When his head goes pop?
Sitting at this window is such an escape from the worn out screams Dads’ wounds bound with tape
Why doesn’t he run? Why doesn’t he go? If he doesn’t try how will he know?
I love my Dad with all my heart But if he doesn’t get out soon they will be forced apart Police arrive in great big cars He stands at the door, ashamed of his scars
I am just a boy
So I should be strong
But the look in Mums’ eyes makes me feel that it’s wrong
Stop hurting him Mum I can’t stand the noise I should be outside Playing with the boys Silent wishes fill my head I’m sorry God But I wish I were dead. Mitch
Martin had read Mitchells’ poem a few days before and he realised that he just couldn’t take any more, he’d kept things as normal as possible but planned to leave as soon as he could, he was calm on the outside but inside, he was screaming. She must have known because whilst carving the Sunday beef joint that weekend she threw a serving fork at him missing his eye by millimeters, he already had a brain fracture from her assault with the baseball bat. With blood pouring from his cheek, he grabbed Mitchell and they ran out of the house to a neighbour in the next road, she was screaming at him to bring her son back.
There was no way he was going to leave him with her, once in his neighbours house, knowing she was hot on their trail and breathless the two of them, they hid in the neighbour Johns house, along one wall in his living room. She, thank goodness, had no idea about the friendship that Martin had struck up his neighbour, he was a friend who Martin had often talked to and he was the only person he’d felt that he could ever confide in about her abusive behaviour. As far as she knew, he didn’t have any friends, she’d seen to that. Surprisingly enough, John told Martin that the reason he lived alone was because he had been in an abusive marriage for seventeen years himself and finally found the courage to leave when his children had left home, although he was courageous he was still hiding four cities away from her, he’d had to change his name and lose contact with most of those he knew just to feel safe.
He kept them safe, and between them in the next few weeks, they managed to break back in to the house (because in that short space of time she had got the locks changed) and collect just enough of Martin and Mitchells’ belongings ready to head off somewhere safe, John helped them to change their names illegally and they sat and waited until a perfect time for their escape.
Guard down, Martin made the mistake of popping to the corner shop because Mitchell wanted some chocolate and popcorn for the trip, as he was leaving the shop, Jenny just happened to be driving past. Catching sight of him she stopped the car, got out and ran at him like a raging bull, shouting and swearing all kinds of profanities, she pulled out a knife, launching the five inch blade towards his heart, Martin for the first time ever, countered the attack by grabbing the blade in one hand and punching her directly in her face, knocking her clean out, as she fell, her head hit the kerb and a pool of blood started to spill out onto the pavement.
Onlookers screamed and children were crying for their Mummy’s. A sense of calm came over Martin as he realised Jenny was dead, nothing else seemed to matter, a huge weight had lifted from him.
Looking up he saw two police officers arrive, and as if in slow motion they came towards him, helping him up as they dutifully read him his rights, handcuffs being slid on and with a gentle hand on his head he was ushered into the back seat of the waiting flashing police car.
John his neighbour, and Mitchell sat in the public gallery as evidence of the domestic abuse he had supposedly perpetrated over nineteen years came to light, from the pages of her personal diary, finally culminating in her death and now a charge of manslaughter against him. He had his own evidence of course, but because he’d never told a living soul and had nothing to collaborate otherwise, the jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to eight years in prison. Martin found himself in front of a therapist when he had been let out of prison after serving two years, he had told a counsellor whilst he was in prison, the truth and the counsellor had set up a discussion panel to explore what had really happened. An appeal was launched and the right authoritative figures became involved. Mitchell was questioned and his poem among many other testimonies was finally read out in one of the appeal hearings.
Martin was eventually cleared and free to go. He and Mitchell moved to another town and started a new life, free and safe.