“He kept shouting at me, yelling that we had no other choice. Maybe I thought that there was a way of stopping him, even though it had always been impossible to reason with Daniel. It was a horrible drive, in the pouring rain, through the vast darkness of the countryside. I thought he was going to kill all of us. He drove fast, most of the time way over the speed limits. Daniel was used to that. After all, he was a race car driver, but I wasn't. It made me sick to my stomach but he didn't want to stop, not even to let me out of the car to empty my stomach. You know what he did? He gave me a bag, one of those brown things to cover your bottle of liquor with. As we drove over the highway, my stomach emptied in the bag and all the way through he was talking, yelling, saying that there was no other choice, that this was the only option. We were drunk. Over the years it had become a habit to grab the bottle every time Angelique had one of her attacks, as we called them. Tequila, vodka, whiskey, ... It didn't matter. Alcohol seemed our only escape from this dreadful curse. The girl was sleeping, as happened after every attack. It completely wore her out. Sometimes she slept for twenty hours in a row, time for us to get wasted and forget our troubles for a short while. But troubles had always followed us and now they were here to claim their price.
I first started to panic after he drove past the hospital. That's where my eyes truly opened. He wasn't going to take us to the emergency room. He clearly had different plans. I asked him, “who are you texting?”. He just told me to be silent. Once we passed the hospital, he locked the doors and hit the gas. I was so scared. I watched the lights of the highway and the rapidly changing environment. There, in those houses near the hill, people had a normal life, with normal children. I couldn't see them but I could image their movements and habits. It all looked so surreal, as if my life was flashing in front of my eyes. Was this what dying feels like? I saw the lights of those houses, flickering like a stroboscope as we headed towards the woods. I wanted him to stop but I couldn't even talk properly. Each word I wanted to say ended up in the bag of vomit between my legs. I closed my eyes and tried to meditate myself to sobriety. It didn't work, the awful smell started filling the car. It made things even worse. The stench surely infuriated Daniel. It wasn't the first time he became violent but it was the first time his fist met my eye. It all happened so quickly. There was blood on my face, mixing with tears and sweat. It hurt my eye so much that I couldn't keep it open. I must have been in shock. Daniel ordered me to be quiet. He slightly opened the window to clear out the foul smell. “This was bound to happen, you know that,” he yelled, “Now stop whining. It's best for all of us”. I was scared.
Angelique was still in a deep sleep in the back seat, even though all the noise and the rain pouring on the roof. She was out completely. All I could and can hope is that she never noticed anything of the violence, the fear and the despair I felt. My whole body was engulfed in a frenzy of emotions. Of course I was frightened. I didn't want to lose my little girl. I'm a mother, you know, and a mother feels things differently, stronger than anyone else. But on the other hand, this child was impossible to raise properly. Deep inside of me, a voice said that Daniel was right. This probably could be for the better. Perhaps now a normal life was awaiting us. Somewhere, maybe, another family does know how to handle a child like this. Perhaps now we could all start over and live without the stress of raising this devil's child. I never liked that thought, and judging from the past several years, that so-called normal life was definitely not meant to be. Not for me. Someone once tried to comfort me with the words “God has a plan for you” but for me it felt like God was too busy with other people's plans. That night, God was nowhere to be found.
After Daniel finally stopped the car, I got out to bask in the rain. I thought this would be my last chance to change his mind and to shut up that little voice inside. I tripped on the brim of the car and fell into a puddle. It was muddy, cold and wet but I didn't mind. Somehow the water felt refreshing, almost like a cold shower after a hot day. Daniel was still in the car, reminiscing, I guessed. I closed my eyes and let the water cool me down before I tried to talk to him one final time. We were at the old fort. I could hear the sound of jackdaws, answering the cold wind. My mouth tasted like blood and vomit. Then I heard him again. He got out of the car. He didn't even look at me. He opened the back door and picked up our little girl. Two and a half years old, she was. Still asleep, so deeply that it looked more like a coma. From underneath the car, I could see his feet and legs. He put her down near the old oak tree. I was almost pleasantly surprised when he wrapped her in his jacket. It was as if he was not just trying to leave her behind to die. Not here, not in this fort where people walk their dogs. Someone would find her. Still, that thought was not comforting in any way. She was still holding her doll, Alice. He stood there for a few seconds before he turned around and walked back to the car. I prepared to get up from my freezing puddle and rush towards my baby girl. My head felt as if my brain was turning around inside.
The next thing I felt was the cold, hard metal of the car door slamming in my face. I fell down into the puddle again. I gasped for air as I heard the engine start. He simply drove off, or so I thought. I tried to get back on my feet. I was covered in mud. I was bleeding but I had to reach Angelique. I crawled over the old asphalt road when I suddenly heard the engine again, somewhere further up the road. One roar, two roars. Then, the lights, a bright flash into my eyes. The roaring of the engine went into overdrive. The lights became bigger and the noise became louder. I froze in the middle of the asphalt as the car raged towards me. I was dead, I just knew it. There, on the ground, in fetal position, I was about to be ran over by my own husband. I screamed. The engine bellowed. Then, the sound of breaking glass, followed by a thud. Then nothing. Silence again, interrupted by the sound of someone sitting down on the leaves. I looked up. The car was right in front of me, a meter, maybe two. The front window was smashed to pieces but there was no dent, nothing. I remember looking at my hands, they were shaking and cramped. Then, I heard a blackbird singing its song. It calmed me down, enough to finally get up, away from the car and towards Angelique.
There was only one possible explanation to the whole event and she was sitting near the old oak tree. She was crying, shivering. I walked towards the girl when I saw Daniel, laying down further down the road. He was not moving. I was not sure if he was dead or not but I had to get out of there. He had tried to kill me. Just like that. I figured, if he was still alive, another murder attempt would follow soon. I had to get out of there. It was cold. It was pouring and my daughter was falling asleep again. She saved my life and now it was my turn to save hers. I grabbed a blanket from the car and wrapped her up. With her in my arms I started walking towards the gate. Along the way, without me noticing, she must have dropped Alice. I was in some sort of trance. Like a mantra I kept repeating “I will love you. I will cherish you. I will protect you.”
(from I Do Not Want This. Release: now available)