You took me to look at nose stud designs in a high-end shop. As I flicked through the catalogue and looked at the prices in awe, you glanced at me with an acknowledging look and a smile. “You can have any design you want my love,” you told me. I was seventeen and had only just met you. You left mum when she was pregnant with me because the relationship wasn’t working. She moved away and didn’t tell you where. You searched for me, but the family was not forthcoming. When I was fourteen my mum told me about you. I wasn’t interested, I was angry at you for abandoning us; and besides I had a lovely supportive dad who loved me as his own. My mum told me whenever I was ready she’d tell me where to go. Just before my seventeenth birthday I looked for you, and when we met we decided to forge a relationship. On our first date, you cried and said you had looked for me, but no one was willing to divulge any information. My gut instinct was that you were lying, but I wanted to believe you so much that I didn’t ask any questions. We met frequently after that and you wanted to buy me anything I wanted. You said, “nothing can compensate for the last seventeen years, but it’s a start” and I melted. I wanted to get my nose pierced on my 17th. That was why we were in the shop.
We decided to meet every three weeks for dinner and have a sleep over at least every two months. You lived far away, and I was still in school. My parents agreed, and you seemed genuine and you told us of how heartbroken you’ve been all these years – missing out for seventeen years. You said you didn’t want to miss anymore – the graduation, the wedding, the children etc – I could only imagine your pain and I didn’t want you to miss that either. I loved you even though I didn’t grow up knowing you. At some meetings you seemed cold, but I assumed it was nerves, and hoped in time you’d warm up to me.
One afternoon I came to your house unannounced. I wanted to surprise you. When you opened the door, you looked different.
“What the fuck!! What do you WANT!” you retorted, to my utter surprise.
Your wife who looked like a drunk Russian peasant appeared, and when she saw me her expression changed from ugly to uglier thunder face.
“You shouldn’t just turn up at people’s home!” she fumed.
“This is my dad’s home, I think I can come as I please and …”
“NO!” you bellowed before I could finish talking. I was confused and devastated at the realisation you might have been faking the whole time. I could not comprehend the man before me, your eyes looked glassy, bewildered and dead like there was no life behind them. Shutting the door on my face made matters worse. I stood rooted on your door step. I willed my legs to move but they couldn’t – I could hear you two screaming at each other. I couldn’t be sure, but I think I heard you say, “she’s not my daughter!” and you wife clicking her tongue so loudly the windows vibrated. After a few moments of self-soothing I ordered an uber to take me to the station, it took 5 minutes, but it felt like eternity.
I got home in floods of tears and narrated, between deep sobs, the incident to my mother. She hugged me tight, “people are messy baby” she whispered. The hurt in her eyes was as loud as the pain in my heart. My head said to never see you again, but my heart said otherwise. Mum told me you were an alcoholic who’d become an out of control monster after guzzling litres of vodka. Maybe I smelled alcohol in your breath but at that moment I couldn’t differentiate alcohol breath from bileword vomit breath.
Three weeks later, you contacted me and apologised profusely blaming it on some medication you were taking. When I asked what medication, you dodged that question and wanted to know when we could meet. I wasn’t desperate for a dad, I had one, but I wanted to give you another chance largely because we were family. In my naivety, I also wanted to understand why you behaved the way you did – maybe I could help you. You suggested we go away for a whole weekend. I readily agreed. My parents were sceptical, but I assured them that the incident was resolved and was stagnant stale water under the bridge. Mum had told dad about the incident and when he questioned it, I explained it away – I lied for you. Eventually they agreed, besides you are my dad and you’d never hurt me or endanger my life.
You picked me up as a surprise and you looked pleasant, sober and every inch a great dad. I waved my parents goodbye as you drove out of our drive and onto Drayton Manor Park. The long journey was great, and we made few stop overs for food and sightseeing. I was happy, and you looked happy too. You never stopped apologising though you never explained. I decided not to pressure you and spoil a nice weekend. It was the second time we’d spend a long weekend together, and if the first was anything to go by it would be fun. I didn’t want to ruin that especially if it meant opening old wounds.
On the last night after dinner, I was tired after a long day of roller-coastering and sightseeing. You said you wanted to watch the sunset in my room. I agreed because I had the perfect view. The sun was due to set at 10.10 according to BBC weather, I didn’t think I could wait that long – I was very tired. You said you’d lock the door behind you if I fell asleep before you left. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out – could not understand the tiredness I felt – then blackness. At some point in my unconscious blackness I felt a weight on me: I felt a weird sensation between my legs: I heard heavy breathing: I could smell a drunken fish on or near my mouth: then more blackness. When I woke up in the morning, I was stark naked and my whole body hurt. I couldn’t explain what had happened because I didn’t know I only felt. I took a shower and went downstairs for breakfast. You were already there sat at our table, munching away a full English breakfast. You couldn’t look me in the eye and when I tried to ask what happened, you ordered me to eat plenty of breakfast for the journey ahead as we wouldn’t be stopping for lunch. We ate in deafening silence. Afterwards you told me to meet you in the car in less than an hour. You were colder than winter as you spoke, and the politeness of the gentleman I had come with was replaced with the rudeness of the man married to a Russian peasant. I asked you to drop me off at the nearest station and I would find my way home; you did without a word. Guilt was written all over your being.
I told mum and with tears in her eyes she called the police. Dad was on a murderous rage for days. Anyone can father a child, but it takes real men of substance to be dads. I was a virgin and you raped me. I am your daughter, have you no shame? I’m glad the police and the courts believed me, the evidence was stacked against you – you had drugged me during dinner – that explained the immense tiredness. You are where you belong, and I hope they throw away the key.
As mum always says, “People are messy.” You see an expensively dressed lady – the phone she’s using was stolen and she moonlights as a call girl: you see a business-like man – the car he drives is financed by drug money: you hear he’s the most respected surgeon in a major hospital – at night he beats the crap out of his wife: that outspoken governor in your child’s school – he’s his neighbourhood’s peeping tom: that nice butcher’s wife who’s always friendly – she’s a people’s smuggler: that beautiful little girl who attends every Chelsea game with her dad – she’s a secret Arsenal supporter: that motherly woman who is always immaculate and poised – smokes weed in her garden when no one is home.