I carry on here from the same chapter to show a different form of abuse and to let some of my readers know what happened to me once I closed the front door of my family home.(From Chapter 10 of The Wailings - a book in progress)
Ani hurried down the dark street as fast as her aching back would let her. She was deathly afraid that someone had heard her leaving the house and she kept her eyes straight ahead as she headed for the shortcut through the park. All was quiet as she covered the distance between her home and Rick’s. The sound of the bell ringing in the Carlton’s house seemed overloud as she stood at the door waiting for someone to wake. She heard rustling movements on the other side of the door, and the outdoor light blinded her momentarily as someone flicked it on and peered out the window to see who was outside. The fumbling at the lock and Madge’s gasp as she threw open the door showed her dismay as she dragged Ani inside and locked the door after her.
“My God girl! What on earth has happened to you? Who beat you up?” Madge’s voice was shrill as she helped Ani out of her coat and supported her as she removed her boots. Ani stood with her head down, afraid that she had done the wrong thing by coming here now. She vaguely registered Madge’s call to Perry and then the questioning that started again. “Ani, what has happened to you?” Ani took one look at Madge and burst into tears, her sobs wracking her body as she finally let go.
Perry’s big body came quickly down the hallway, wrapped in a huge housecoat. Taking one look at the crying young woman, he took her arm gently and led her to the couch.
“Make some tea lass,” he directed Madge, “and make it sweet and milky.” Turning back to Ani he took her hands in his huge ones and looked into her badly beaten face.
“Ok Ani, you’re safe here. Now you’ve got to tell me what happened to you so we can do something about it.” His low rumble quieted Ani’s crying and helped her to focus. She was about to relay her story when Rick suddenly appeared beside her, his hair tousled and his eyes sleepy but concerned.
“Ani! What are you doing here? It’s three in the morning!” His voice sounded as if he was still half asleep and she reached out and squeezed his hand instead of replying. Turning back to Perry she licked her lips fearfully.
“My parents beat me up,” she managed in a hoarse whisper. Madge appeared beside her and pressed a cup of hot tea into her hands and she gratefully took a small sip, afraid it would hurt her sore throat. Perry had already noted the coil and burn marks around her neck and told her to drink carefully. As a police officer with many years of experience, he knew that shock set in after something like this and he had to be careful about getting the information from her.
“Just tell it slowly, and try not to leave out anything,” he said as he gently patted her hand.
With a note of despair in her straining voice, Ani repeated the events to Perry, unable to forget the horrid events of the past hours. Rick’s gasps punctuated the story while Madge stood with one hand over her mouth, the other tenderly holding Ani’s shoulder. When Ani finally fell silent, Perry stood and walked to the phone where he placed a call and talked quietly into the receiver. When he hung up he turned to Ani again and took her hands in his.
“Ani, I’m sorry to put you through any more, but we have to follow this through. I’ve talked to the person in charge down at the police station, and they want to hear your story too. But first we have to go to the hospital and make sure you don’t have any broken bones or loose teeth. Is that all right with you?”
Ani’s “Okay,” was barely audible in the quiet living room. She waited patiently as the Carltons dressed and then they all climbed into Perry’s car and headed to the Sudbury General Hospital. Once there, technicians took over and x-rayed and examined Ani from head to toe. To Ani’s mortification, two nurses told her they had to check for rape or forcible entry. With some bewilderment and much embarrassment, Ani watched silently as they placed each foot into a stirrup then gently spread her knees apart. She vibrated violently as they inserted a cold speculum into her vagina and took a swab. Tears rolled down her cheeks as the nurses finished and removed the stirrups, leaving her lying on the table as they gathered all their information and left. A quick file was put together and given to Perry before they drove to the police station.
Ani’s fear was obvious as they walked through the doors into the hallways flooded with fluorescent light. Police officers nodded to Perry as they passed; barely glancing at Ani’s damaged face. Somewhere down a long hallway Perry motioned them into a small room then turned and left as they settled into their seats. The room was obviously a waiting room for relatives and friends of victims. The chairs were comfortable and the pictures on the walls were soft and almost unfocused. Ani sat between Rick and Madge, each holding tightly to one of her cold hands. Her stomach clenched painfully as she worried about what lay ahead. She honestly didn’t know what she was doing here; she had never been in a police station before and had no idea about the routines that went on.
“Oh Ani! I’m so sorry. This is all my fault,” Rick said as he squeezed her hand and gently touched her face. When Ani winced, he drew back sharply; afraid he would hurt her more with his caring. His assumed guilt for loving her wracked his brain and his face was creased with his own pain and Ani’s. How could the Blacks be so against their simple love for each other, he wondered. While trying to come up with an answer, the door suddenly opened and Perry stood framed in the doorway.
“Come with me Ani,” he said. “It’s going to be okay. Some detectives want to ask you some questions, nothing more.”
He walked her down the hall with his arm around her shoulder, feeling the shaking of her small body beneath his hand. Stopping before a plain door, he turned and grasped her by both her shoulders.
“Listen Ani. There’s nothing to be afraid of in here. Nobody is going to hurt you, all they want to do is ask you some questions and listen to the story you told me at home. Okay?”
Ani nodded her head as she looked up at Perry, trying to draw strength and courage from this gentle giant. Perry reached out and opened the door, leading Ani in and sitting her down in a chair beside a desk. The room was stark and bare with a lone calendar hanging on one wall. Ani looked at the two detectives who stood at the desk peering into a folder. Ani recognized it as the one that Perry had carried out of the hospital. She sat silently as the three men spoke quietly together, then watched as Perry took a seat with his back up against the wall. A man who appeared to be the senior detective finally turned away from the open folder and stretched his hand out to Ani in greeting.
“Hello Ani. I’m Detective Quilley and this is Detective Dussome. Staff Sergeant Carlton has briefed us on what you told him earlier this morning, and we have the records here from the hospital. What we want you to do is to tell us what happened to you. Plus, I want you to remember through all of this that we are not here to hurt you in any way. Staff Sergeant Carlton has offered to remain in the office with you in case you get distressed or too nervous to go on. Is that all right with you?”
Ani nodded her head, looking at Perry for support and reassurance. Detective Quilley opened the file and placed it on his desk, thumbing through the information again. Finally he turned and looked Ani straight in the face.
“Okay Ani. I want you to tell me what happened to you, starting from the beginning,” he said.
Ani’s voice was quiet as she spoke through cracked swollen lips, repeating the scene that had played out in the Black’s kitchen. When she was finished each detective questioned her repeatedly about details, confirming and comparing her statement with the marks that were obvious on her face and written in detail in the open folder. The three men again spoke quietly in a corner of the room, occasionally glancing at Ani as she sat slumped in her chair by the desk. Finally, almost as one, the three men each took a chair and formed a semi-circle around her. Perry briefly reached out and touched her elbow, trying to reassure her with his strength. Everyone waited as Detective Quilley sat studying the file folder once more, stroking his mustache absently as he flipped the pages.
“Well Ani,” he said. “We have enough information here from your statement and from the hospital reports to charge your parents with assault.”
Ani gasped and straightened in her chair, looking wildly from one man to the next.
“Assault! I wasn’t thinking of charging them,” she said as the tears streamed down her broken face. “They’re my parents. If I charged them, then everyone would know about it and their business would suffer horribly! That’s just something I can’t do.” She paused, and then repeated, “No. I’m sorry, but I just can’t do that.”
Detective Dussome looked at her sympathetically and said softly, “But Ani. Look at what they’ve done to you. Look at what is going to happen to your life if you don’t go back there. Where will you go and how will you support yourself? Can you let them get away with doing what they did and with the rest of it?”
Ani sat there with her hands over her face, the tears dripping onto her jeans, leaving them wet. She tried to imagine her parent’s reaction to detectives showing up at the store and arresting them, then bringing them here to this building where they would sit in chairs like these and listen to the charges against them. She tried to imagine the headlines in the Sudbury Star newspaper and the stories that would be written about them and about her. She knew they would be ruined financially; the truth would keep the customers away, shunning them all like lepers. She just couldn’t do it; she couldn’t hurt them like that. Mournfully she looked at the men in front of her, her gaze holding Perry’s longer than the others. She knew these men were repulsed by her parent’s behavior, but she had to make them believe that she could shoulder her pain and bear the brunt of this event.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t charge them with assault. In fact I don’t want them charged with anything. I’m truly sorry if I wasted your time, but I can’t go through with what you have suggested. I can’t destroy their lives like that.” Ani’s voice was low but clear, her decision final. The silence in the room swept over them all, making their ears ring faintly. Suddenly Detective Quilley squatted down in front of Ani’s slumped form so he could speak directly at her.
“Okay Ani. We respect your decision. Of course it’s yours to make. But if you ever change your mind and decide to go through with charging them, you can. Detective Dussome and I wish you all the luck in the world with your journey forward from here. If you need us, we are here to help you and just ask for us by name. You are free to leave whenever you want to.”
With that he returned to his chair and began writing in the open folder. Perry helped Ani up and took her back to where Rick and Madge were waiting. Gathering their coats they left the station and climbed back into Perry’s car, returning to the Carlton’s house in silence. As Ani stood in the front hallway she suddenly felt self-conscious. She didn’t know what to do with herself and didn’t want to impose on Rick’s family. Seeing her standing like a dejected waif, Madge took her arm gently and led her down the hallway to Jennifer’s room.
“You’re going to stay with us Ani till we can figure out a solution to this problem. You’ll share Jenn’s room with her until then, so don’t be afraid to ask for anything. You’re almost like a daughter to us now,” Madge said as she pointed out the spare bed. Jennifer was barely awake as Madge whispered in her daughter’s ear, letting her know that she had a new roommate. With a warm smile, Madge left the room, only to reappear with a clean nightgown held out in front of her. Giving the young girl a long hug, she then left Ani to change and get into bed.
Ani lay in the dark trying not to cry. She replayed the scene over and over in her head, wondering why it had happened and why to her? She had sacrificed more of her life for her parents than the other three had done, taking in stride the lack of free time and the unending demands and work. She could still see the three sitting at the table, listening to the pounding on the hallway door and turning the pages of the newspaper. If she started to cry now she knew she would not stop, just going on and on with those gut-wrenching sobs that left her exhausted.
Turning to face the wall she snuggled deep into the warm blankets trying desperately to feel nothing, but her face ached so much she couldn’t help but feel the slaps and punches again and again. The word ‘assault’ played over in her mind and she questioned whether she had made the right choice. She knew she couldn’t have charged them, and she guessed the other three were safe. The early morning light was showing under the blinds as Ani finally collapsed into sleep. She was a little discombobulated when she awoke in the strange room, and she could feel that she was alone in the house. Jennifer’s clock read 3:15 and Ani let out a little gasp as she realized she had slept for most of the day. As she hurried into the bathroom for a shower she was met by a total stranger staring at her from the mirror over the sink.
A deep blue circled her eyes, looking frightening and painful while her throat looked like it had received an Indian Rug Burn. The distinctive coil marks of the telephone cord lay over the burns and handprints circled her throat. One cheek flared a bright red and was swollen. The glaring light of the bathroom made her look more like a corpse than a vivid girl of 16. Turning resolutely away from the mirror she ran a hot shower, hoping the heat would ease the aches from the kicks she had received. Finally she dressed and headed to the kitchen for a cup of tea.
When Madge returned home from her shift at Woolco, she found Ani curled in a corner of the living room couch, sipping slowly from a steaming mug. Madge poured herself a cup of tea and sat down beside Ani. Sipping the hot liquid slowly she mulled over in her mind the words she wanted to say, wanting to make them right so she didn’t hurt this fragile girl.
“Ani, I just want to say how sorry I am about what you have gone through. It’s something I just can’t imagine, so I don’t know the right words or the right thing to do. If I say something that hurts or that you take wrong, please let me know. I do not want in any way to add to your pain or burden.”
Ani set her cup down on the end table and turned and hugged the little woman who sat beside her. She knew that Madge was trying her best to deal with her situation, and she loved her all the more for it.
“Thank you Madge. I know you mean it and I appreciate it,” Ani replied with heartfelt emotion.
The next morning Ani was up and preparing for school, unable to remain hiding in the Carlton’s home. She stood looking in the mirror, staring at the bruised eyes and swollen cheekbone. She found it hard to bring her gaze to her mangled neck, the sight making her feel nauseous. With relief she finished applying her deodorant and pulled on her turtleneck sweater. It was unfortunate the color made her facial bruises more vivid, but at least her neck was well-covered. Madge was waiting for her at the back door, and together they walked towards the mall like a pair of old friends. Ani left Madge having a final cigarette outside the Woolco store as she carried on towards the school. She walked with her head down, trying to avoid the looks of passersby.
When she reached the school a quiet murmur followed her down the hall to her locker. With a steely resolve she opened the locker door and gathered her books for her morning classes. Ani couldn’t help but notice the reaction of the other students when they caught a glimpse of her face. Their startled expressions and embarrassing cover-ups emphasized her dejection and pain. No one spoke to her during the entire morning and she spent her lunch hour in the most remote washroom she could find.
She ate her lunch slowly and spent the rest of the period staring at the little ring on her left hand. As she emerged from the washroom Ani noticed a distinct change in the atmosphere around her. People stared openly at her as she walked the halls heading for her first afternoon class. Heads turned as she entered the science room and most of the students did not look away as she made her way to her seat. Not wanting to be the center of attention she kept her head lowered, concentrating on the textbook in front of her.
With leaded feet Ani left her science class and headed down the hallway to her math class. Keeping her head down, she found her seat and opened her books to the necessary chapter. Unable to focus on her textbook she finally raised her head and looked towards the blackboards behind the teacher’s desk. Across the entire front of the classroom was written in chalk ‘Ani Black is a slut!’ Ani’s mouth fell open as she read the words and her face flamed each time another student entered the room and read the board. An uneasy silence settled over the classroom as they waited for the teacher to appear. With each second that ticked by on the clock above the blackboard, the words burned deeper into Ani’s mind. She couldn’t even begin to think who would have written such a thing about her.
Desperately she tried to recall the students coming out of the room before she had entered, but she had been too busy trying to hide her face. Finally, Mr. Rose entered the room and put his books down on the desk. Turning to the blackboard he took an involuntary step backwards as he read the words scrawled before him. Seizing the brush, he furiously swiped at the letters, trying to scrub them vigorously away. With a reddened face he settled at his desk and glanced briefly at Ani as she tried desperately to melt into her desk.
He began the class as if nothing had happened, only to be interrupted by the buzzing of the classroom telephone. Reaching behind him he plucked the receiver from its holder and listened intently. With a strange intuitiveness Ani stared at Mr. Rose, knowing the one-sided conversation was about her. She had already closed her textbook when Mr. Rose hung up the phone and called her name. “Ani. Gather your books and report to the vice-principal please.” Afraid she might break down in front of everyone, Ani held her head high as she left the room, the fluorescent lights reflecting off her bruised eyes.
She stood in front of Miss Fillmore’s door feeling her stomach clench. The vice-principal was a heavyset but robust woman. She would not stand for any foolishness in her school and eked out punishment to those who crossed the line with a heavy hand. Ani didn’t know where she stood at the moment. Although she had been the victim it might not look like that to others. Timidly she knocked on the pebbled glass that made up half the door. Miss Fillmore’s immediate response caused Ani to tremble slightly as she reached for the doorknob.
“Come in and sit down Ani Black,” Miss Fillmore said as Ani entered the room. The vice-principal sat behind a huge desk covered in stacks of paper that did nothing to take away from her imposing figure. Her hair was short and gray, clinging to her head like a helmet. In her right hand she twirled a black pen while she eyed Ani up and down.
“Turn down the collar of your sweater please Ani,” she said. Ani’s eyes widened at the abrupt command, but she took a deep breath and rolled the sweater down and tucked the turtleneck under. Miss Fillmore’s face crumpled slightly as she looked at the marks on Ani’s face and neck.
In a quiet low voice she asked, “What happened to you Ani?” Ani sat staring at the woman, biting her lips with her inner turmoil. “It’s all right to tell me Ani. I only have to report to the principal.”
“My parents beat me up,” Ani finally replied. Being able to tell someone what had happened to her, instead of just suffering the stares, caused an enormous relief to spread over her for the first time that day. With a slight movement of her hand, Miss Fillmore got the whole story out of the young girl sitting in front of her. She kindly offered a box of Kleenex as Ani broke down and cried out her anguish. She sat patiently through the tears, not wanting to envisage what Ani had described to her, yet the scene played out violently in her head anyway. She had seen previous beatings on other children in the school, but the marks around Ani’s neck were obviously the results of a vicious attack. When Ani fell silent, she sat and studied her desk, praying that she would say the right thing to this vulnerable girl.
“You say you’ve left your home, and now are staying with your boyfriend’s family.” She had not failed to notice the engagement ring on Ani’s left hand. “You’ve been to the hospital and to the police and you are not going to press charges against your parents. You are sure about this Ani?” Ani’s emphatic nod was all she needed in response. “All right. I may be able to help you in some way. First of all, you won’t be able to stay at your boyfriend’s indefinitely. That will put too much of a strain on all relations in that house. However, what I suggest is that you get in touch with Child Welfare. They can help in situations like yours. I will give you their phone number before you leave here.” Her voice was low but kindly and Ani felt a connection to this woman she had never dreamed imaginable. “The other major problem is what to tell the rest of the school should they ask. The faculty that you are in contact with will be informed by the principal. As for the students who ask you, I suggest you just tell them you were in an accident. That way you won’t have to have your story known by everyone. That goes with your not wanting to have your parents charged so people won’t know about the problem. What do you think about that Ani?”
Ani nodded her head, afraid to talk in case she broke into tears again with her gratitude. She took the piece of paper from Miss Fillmore that had the number for Child Welfare written on it and carefully put it inside her penholder. She looked the vice-principal in the eye for a long moment and then said, “Thank you very much for everything.” She gathered her books before remembering to roll up her turtleneck before heading back to class.
“I suggest you wait in the lunchroom for a bit and then go to your next class Ani.” Miss Fillmore said as she adjusted the files on her desk.
As Ani stretched her hand out for the doorknob she turned back towards Miss Fillmore and thanked her again. A bond had been forged out of this brutal situation, and both of them smiled at each other in their acknowledgment of it. Ani’s heart was a little lighter as she sat in the lunchroom and stared out the windows.