I Can Change

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

22nd July 2016
Shhhhhhhhhh! Haha - I'm not sure if I'm talking to you, Aunt, sometime reader of the future (if you, or anyone ever does read this) or to myself because the keyboard is so fucking loud! Must type more quietly. Mustn't swear. He hates it. But for once, he's not here, breathing over me, watching my every move, waiting for me to mess up so he can punish me. He's in the hall and I don't think he can hear me so really I should be able to swear all I want. Fuck! It feels weird, writing that. I just whispered it, as I was writing. It felt great. I'm free to swear! For now, at least. But I musn't get carried away thinking what I'm free to do, I have to write this down, just in case he wakes up and catches me.

'I can change,' he said, over and over and over. 'I'll change. I promise. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.' He told me he was sorry until I was sick to death of hearing it, until I felt like my ears were going to bleed with hearing it over and over and over. 'I can change. I can change! Please believe me!' And I did believe him. I did.

I believed it for seventeen years.

I lied for him, I covered for him. I made up all kinds of stories - you know them all. You've read them in magazines, interviews, novels; heard them in TV dramas. 'I walked into a door.' or, 'I fell down the stairs.' or, 'My son accidentally elbowed me in the face during a tickling fight.' That one was the lowest of the low and I'll forever be ashamed of it. Blame not the sins of the fathers on the son, or something. How does it go? My memory's gone tonight. Every little sip I take makes it worse. Yes, I'm drunk as well as able to swear. I've not been drunk in months because he doesn't like it. I'm drinking whisky, right now, right this minute.


I must stop; he may hear me giggling, because I am now, and it's making it hard to type. I just want to get this down, my reasons. For my son? I don't know. I'm e mailing it to my aunt with the instructions that if, when he wakes up, and anything happens to me, someone will know what really happened. Why not my parents, I hear you ask. Well, ever heard the one about the woman who marries someone just like her father, and then behaves just like her mother did? Haha. That's me.

Until Jake came along, I could cope with it. I even felt he was right. I did deserve it! He caught me taking the pill. I'd taken it for twelve years without him knowing, telling him it was just bad luck, us not being able to have children. Twelve years. I stopped taking it, right away. I stayed in for a week as well, afterwards, until I healed. He was kind, as he always was. Attentive, sorry, begging me for love, for forgiveness. Buying me things. Promising. Blaming his own upbringing. I'll change, he'd whisper, in tears at my feet and every time, my hand would creep to his head and stroke his hair as he told me I was the only one who could save him, who could make it all better.

And for a while, things would be all right. Then I'd mess up. I'd burn dinner, or embarrass him by laughing too loudly at a dinner party. Or forget to wash a shirt he said he'd told me he needed.... I'm not going to tell you more because of the shame and the anger it makes me feel.

Jake's away tonight. He's at a friend's house. Gary - he's called Gary, I know you know this but I'm writing it in case anyone else reads this - lost his job and he's been ... difficult. Awful, actually. I asked Jake's best friend's mum from nursery if he could stay just a little while. Two days, perhaps.

It's thanks to Jake I'm writing this at all. Being a mum to him has given me confidence and strength like I never imagined. For the first time, I felt powerful: bringing him into the world, feeding him, buying him clothes, teaching him to read at the age of three, keeping the harsh realities of life away from him. Gary loves him, I know this, and I know he loves me, in his own way. But Gary...

This isn't about Gary. I must stop thinking this. This is about me. About why I never left him. About why I never stood up to him - well, I did, just the once. I ended up in hospital. I ended up being visited by well-meaning social workers, by the police. I lied to them all, and I went home.

You don't need to tell me how stupid and weak I've been. You don't need to tell me that.


In the end, it was Jake. I've kept it hidden from him, all this time. He's too young to understand anything he did see, but last week, that all changed.

I thought he was in bed.

Gary was punishing me for being late home from a friend's house. He does let me go out, just so people think we're a nice, normal couple. And of course, I've always stood up for him. As it happened this particular friend had had an abusive husband. She told me all about it; I think she suspected long ago. I didn't say anything but when I got back late, Gary punished me.

And Jake woke up. Neither Gary or I realised Jake was standing by the kitchen door, as Gary pounded into me with punches and kicks. And worse, this time. After he'd finished I uncurled myself, knowing it was over and that the 'I'm sorry' stage was about to start, and I looked up and there Jake was, watching me.

The look on his face...

That was all it took. Here, it stops. I decided, just like that.

I did what I usually did, I listened, stroked his loathsome head, said I understood, fed Jake his breakfast, saw Gary off to work. Then I phoned my friend. I don't need to tell you her name, just in case. We talked and she gave me some suggestions, and I made a plan.

Some of her suggestions wouldn't have worked, you see, because she doesn't know Gary. She doesn't know how he can be. he never gives up. If I left, I'd be forever looking over my shoulder. And Jake's happy here.

I sent Jake to his friend's house. I deliberately messed up, 'asked for it,' as Gary would have said, or, perhaps, 'given him no choice' to 'help me, for my own good' or even just plain old 'learn from your stupid fucking mistakes' (he always swore, even though I wasn't allowed to).

I messed up, and then I ran down the stairs.

I knew there were marbles in the middle of every step, because I put them there. I ran down the side of the steps, holding onto the bannister, just in case.

In his blind red fury, Gary didn't look.

The crash was loud; his shouts seemed to be cut off instantly.

I ran into the kitchen, and I waited.

I went back to look, just once.

There was a lot of blood. His limbs looked wrong. His neck was... twisted. I felt bad for him then, just for a minute. But he still scared me, even like that, so I ran back in here. And I had a few drinks.


In a minute, I'll go back and check on him. He's not made any sound, so I think he's badly hurt.

You see, Aunty, or whoever's reading this, I finally realised I couldn't help him. He was never going to change. No matter how often he told me, he'd never have changed. And the look in Jake's eyes... I just hope he's young enough to forget it all. He's never going to be any different to how he is, so it had to be me that changed. And in the end, it wasn't hard.

I'm sending this e mail now, whilst I'm safe, just in case he wakes up, angry. And if he doesn't wake up, well, I hope after reading everything you don't hold this against me. Just delete it.

In a minute I'll go and check on him, and then I'll carefully pick up all the marbles, because I don't want Jake ever feeling responsible, even if it was his leaving a few on the bottom stair that gave me an idea. Once I've put the marbles away, I'll call an ambulance. If I'm not too drunk to dial. It's getting harder to type, the more I drink, and I keep having to go back and alter my typos. It's making it take even longer. I never was very good at typing. Gary once told me I'd make a terrible secretary, when I applied for a job as one once. He said I was shit at planning. That I couldn't even organise my own house.

Ironic, really. Turns out I was pretty good at planning after all.