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It’s getting worse. The tension is rising. Something is going on? Something’s happened? Though I’m not sure what? You’ve changed. You sit in your armchair like a modern ‘king’ that once sat in your throne, peers to be seen and not heard and in some cases not even seen. You goad your weight around like life won’t toss you a bone. I remember your absence, not physically but mentally and emotionally. You were there somewhat unwholesome to your surroundings. What was on your mind?
The negativity was bearable. I couldn’t have made it easy, I was in my teens going through the motions of what I thought was “my life sucks” phase. School was OK. I wasn’t popular but I wasn’t an outcast either. Y’know those kinds of people that just knows everybody? Well, I was that kid. I associated with everybody. I knew the popular kids and I knew the not so popular kids. Somewhere in the middle? I didn’t get bullied nor was I a bully to others. I had it good, though not what I thought at the time. Wanting to be the popular kid with the brains and brawn. Be the best at everything, top achiever and in line for prom Queen. The person everybody loved. That wasn’t the path I was made for. Little did I know...
Friends provided the laughs during school hours and Art & Design broke up the theoretical subjects of those I didn’t quite enjoy. Being a left hander, we’re known to have a more creative side, which comes in handy with being practical too. To this day I’m known as one of the “Jack of all trades” types. They always say that school is some of the best years you’ll go through in life? Of course if you’re of school age now, you’ll deny it and think it’s the worst time ever. Trust me it’s not. Probably the most sociable time of your life, the least amount of responsibility, not really a care in the world and the worst possible thing in life is being grounded or given detention (if that still exists)?
Talking of being ‘grounded’, there you were parading about the place, ready to punish me once I’d gotten home from school. I wasn’t sure what I’d done this time. I’d lost count of how many times you lost your temper with me. “Right, that’s it, you’re grounded! Two weeks, no less!”. That was it, I was shunned off to my bedroom. The only room in the house that had its own electric supply, gone. He’d turned it off. He lay down the law;- I wasn’t to be home later than fifteen minutes from when school finished. I had to do my chores that had been set, eat nothing but bread or toast alongside my tea if I were still hungry. I couldn’t watch TV of my own choosing whilst downstairs and had to be in bed by 9pm, even if I hadn’t been tired. I remember asking “what can I do if it’s already gone dark, I can’t read?”, his reply- “just go to sleep”. I often begged my Mum to have a word with him. To lift my punishment or have it shortened. This became more frequent and eventually my brother and I learnt to scarper when we knew he was about to walk in through the door. Don’t get me wrong, I had quite the attitude in my adolescence and one day my smart mouth saw the raise of his fist ready to meet my face, eyes shot wide but mouth still running; “go on, do it, hit me”. To which he put his fist back down and threw me over the settee to get me out of his way. I’d had enough and just stayed out of his way completely. Though it never used to be this way.
You were my role model. My first love. We had a typical ‘Daddy’s girl’ relationship. Or as far as I was concerned it was. Being a builder, I’d watch you from the sidelines;- fixing stuff, painting, building things etc... I copied, I learnt as I watched. I joined in. This is what I enjoyed. It really got me going. You’d involve me, you’d show me and teach me. During this time, it’s what I lived for. I wanted to be just like you. We would go to the caravan in the summer months, take walks down the canal and see what fish we could find to catch in my net and put in a bucket until it was time to go home. You’d tell passers by that I’d “caught a big one”, imitating the size of a two foot fish even though my bucket could fit no more than something of four inches long inside- at best. The big family barbecues where you’d be in charge of the barbecue you’d built in our back garden. You’d feed, entertain and get drunk off the ice cold beers everybody shared together. Stumbling over and loving everybody. You were the quiet type until you’d had a skinful! Christmases would be the same. Sixteen or seventeen people around the dinner table, again cooking up the Christmas dinner for everybody to enjoy as one. Playing music, playing games and opening presents. The holidays! You’d teach me how to swim even though I had swimming lessons from a young age, we’d build sandcastles down at the beach, eat ice creams and I’d pick the dead skin from your peeling tan. You’d often wander off snorkelling until one year you’d ask and take me with you. I loved it. Seeing the different species of fish, the boat ride out to snorkel above the sharks in the Bahamas. It was a different world, so different to walking and breathing on land. It was peaceful, a world of perfection and serenity. These are all the times I lived for, the few memories I have and that remain memories.
My world, our world was coming to an end. You stayed out late. You didn’t come home. Where were you? “I’m out tonight with friends from work” you’d say. At first I was oblivious. I didn’t notice, how was I to know that things were going to change so drastically? She knew. There wasn’t a lot Mum and I didn’t know about one another but she instinctively knew something wasn’t right and it was only when I questioned something I’d overheard that she opened up to me about her suspicions. I paused outside of the utility room door whilst you stood talking on the phone on the inside; I heard a woman’s voice coming from the phone, you must have heard me. Were you making plans? You quickly stuttered “see you later Jonathan”, assuming I’d think you were talking to my Uncle? I opened the door and you walked out. I didn’t say a word. I only questioned in my head who you’d been talking to and why you’d called this woman Jonathan? Undoubtedly making me anxious, I took the opportunity to express my findings and thoughts upon my Mum who then revealed her suspicions to me. Now that her daughter knew, maybe it was time to relay everything back to him and find out just exactly what was going on...?