Slowly but surely, she found strength inside her heart. It didn’t come without it’s side effects but it was vital in this life. She found her strength not in reacting with the same aggression she was treated with, but in silence. By locking her fear, her tears and her overwhelming sadness inside a wall of cool, hard stone, she could not only protect herself but also not give anyone the satisfaction of owning her emotions. Safe in the knowledge by this time, that what didn’t kill her would make her stronger, she held her pose… held her pose…
Many of you have noted that some important elements were missing from Part 3.
She hadn’t seen him for years until she was around fourteen. No phone calls, nothing at all except the photos that she had of him and of course the tales from mother’s venomous tongue.
Still, he always remained her hero and she dreamed that perhaps things could have been different. The father’s mother, the girl’s warm and loving grandmother, lived in the same small town. The grandmother would make sure that, once or twice a year when he visited her, the girl would be there too.
He was always consistent, always funny, kind, extremely intelligent and slightly distant. There came a time when he collected the girl and the grandmother in his car, and took them to his home for a weekend. It was about a three hour drive and she was shell shocked just to be going there. As they arrived, a beautiful, smiling woman opened the door…
It felt like an ambush to the girl. The grandmother knew this woman, yet nobody told the girl to expect this. All she felt was the need to sit down, be alone, process. Process what? Would this affect her life in any way?
As it turned out, the woman was welcoming and attentive. On the odd occasion that they spent time together, there were road trips, peaceful meals, nice times. That relationship would come to an end eventually, but it was the start to a relationship between the girl and her father that would hobble along like a little toddler learning to walk, for years to come.
When she was seventeen years old her parents finally divorced. It was paperwork that could have been done years previously. It was momentous and not, but certainly the start of a realisation of what he had been doing, had been put through himself.
One thing that the girl and the mother had in common was the fact that they were, or felt, so different. The mother wore it like a badge of honour, going out of her way to prove just how different she was. It seemed to the girl that it wasn’t just about proving her uniqueness, but that by definition, in her mind it made her better than the commoners. She was cultured, wordly, knowledgeable… the girl wanted nothing more than to be normal (if that would mean peaceful, happy).
The mother painted the front door red. The walls in the house blue, green, yellow with spots… whatever felt right on a particular day.
The girl was given a choice, and painted her room pure white, a space of lightness that she could close herself away in.
She would come home from school, proud of an 89% and receive an emphatic “Why not 90%?”. After countless repeats of this, the girl gave up. Nothing would be good enough.
Being bipolar, there were times when the mother was in super high spirits and more often, times when she was in the darkest depths. The girl was 16 when the mother stopped working due to medical reasons or retrenchment, or both, she couldn’t remember. Either way, this development didn’t help matters. There never was any money, there never had been. Standout meals were spaghetti with a tin of peas, maybe a tin of mushrooms as well if they were lucky. They were vegetarian and the girl watered the vegetable garden every day after school, making sure that dinner was growing. The thought of eggplant would make her sick for the rest of her life.
Even on the occasion that the mother had a good day, wasn’t swallowing handfuls of pills, the woman, the raging bull, had a way of putting an end to it in an instant. All she had to do was enter the house.
Who was she?
The woman was not family, not an aunt. She wasn’t just a friend, as the woman and the mother shared a bed. They had many friends who were gay or lesbian, who were wonderful people but, socialising with these people didn’t mean that they were the same, she was told. The mother had lied to the girl for so long that it was second nature. “She was not gay, she loved the girl’s father and was horribly wronged by him and his sly ways…”
The girl could never understand why the mother continued that gruesome relationship, day after awful day. The woman contributed nothing but pain. She tortured not only her but her daughter both emotionally and physically… and yet, there was never any indication of an attempt to end it.
We have told you about her adoring cat, who cuddled with her under the blanket every night and walked her home from school; climbed into her arms as she cried and sat on the edge of the bath with her every day. He knew everything and still loved her. They were connected by heart and deeply so.
She was fourteen and they went to visit family over Christmas. There was nobody to look after the cat and he was sent to a kennel. Two days after Christmas the phone call came, the cat was extremely ill and had to be rushed to the vet.
Back in town she ran into the room where the cages were kept. His was just at her eye level. She opened the cage and lightly pressed her forehead against his. He started to cry… a low, painful cry that reverberated in her heart.
His organs were failing, they said he had feline diabetes and though he hadn’t shown any symptoms previously, his age and the days of separation had taken their toll. She carried his limp little body to the examination table and lay him down, cradling his head as the injection ended his suffering. Nothing could console her.
As you know from the previous parts, she immersed herself in dancing. By the time she was seventeen and in her final school year, it took up hours of each and every day. She had her heart set on going to study ballet and choreography at university. As much as her grandfather (who was her guiding light) protested that this would be an unfruitful career choice, he picked up the application forms for her anyway.
The angel who was her ballet teacher would go so far as to drive her to the city, spend an entire day finding the perfect pointe shoes and buying them for her. It was a gift that no words could ever sufficiently describe.
She didn’t get the chance to apply for the course. It was one of those many afternoons when she had spent a couple of hours at the ballet studio, warming up, stretching, rehearsing. There was a performance coming up and the girls wanted it to be perfect.
She sat in a split position, facing the wall, when suddenly she heard a snapping sound and felt something give way in her thigh. It didn’t hurt, so she continued with the class into the evening.
Later that night she was admitted to hospital in excruciating pain, having torn a ligament in her thigh. This would be an injury that would bother her physically for a very long time and put an immediate end to her ballet dreams. She remembered still being in hospital when the day of the performance came, begging the doctor in tears to let her go and dance. Of course there was no way. Her heart was shattered.
She was lost. It was over.
Ever changing, ever growing.
Although she would still visit the classes, still sit and watch the other girls dance, everything was different. What lay ahead was finishing a Matric year, finding a completely new direction for her future…
The next two years alone would bring events that would not only shake her world even more, but would rip apart the world she knew, completely.
Catch up on the previous parts: