It must have been an ordinary day in my life. Is wish I could remember. I was talking to a friend who had called in, when my daughter came running in from outside. I could see a small trace of tears, but not many. I looked at her. “Are you all right?” I asked.
“Yes, Mum.’’ And Elizabeth went to her room. My friend left. I cannot even remember who it was. It was just an ordinary day.
Elizabeth and Alice, her sister, were playing on the veranda. I called them, just the same as usual. “Time for a bath, and to have tea.’’ I got tea ready as I listened o them in the bath.
You just run the bath for an eight and a six-year-old, you don’t have to undress them, or wash them-I wish you did. Maybe then I’d have had a dreadful day. Maybe then my world would have been turned upside down. But I would have known.
My husband came home from work and played with the dog for a few minutes before having his shower.
“What’s for tea tonight?” he asked.
“Yum,’’ came from the bathroom.
“Come on you two. Time to stop playing and get out of that bath before you get waterlogged.’’
They came into the kitchen all pink and clean, dressed in their cute pyjamas. Elizabeth set the table with Alice’s help- just the same as an ordinary day – and we enjoyed our meal. I didn’t notice the Elizabeth was upset or less talkative than usual., r if I did, I just thought that she’d had a tiff with the friend she’d been playing with. Alice was just the same.
My husband and I talked about what we’d done that day. He at work, me at home, the girls off at someone’s place to play. That was the advantage of living in such a small town-you knew all your neighbours, and all the neighbours knew you and your children. In such a small town it was quite safe for your eight-year-old could go to her friend’s place, too.
Grandma and Grandad lived next door. Uncle Fred and Aunty Shelley were next to them. the girls could run up the hill to play with their older cousins or sneak over to Grandma and Grandad on a Sunday morning to snuggle into bed with them while Mum and Dad slept in. it was a safe town, a happy place to bring up your children. Nothing to worry about.
Years later we moved towns. We don’t live too far away now, but it is near the beach. The girls are in high school and growing up beautifully.
They both do well at school. I have a full-time job and my husband works in shifts. There’s not much to worry about, except how to pay all the bills. Life has had its ups and downs, but it is still ordinary.
Elizabeth rings me at work, greatly excited. She’s won a writing competition at school. I am so proud of her. She’s won a writing competition at school. I am so proud of her. She has won $ 200 for her school and $1000 for herself! She is so excited.
“What story did you write?’’ “It’s about a little girl, Mum. I’ll let you read it later.’’
I ring up my husband to tell him the good news. We can’t read it that night-she doesn’t have a copy at home. “there is a presentation dinner when we get the prizes,’’ she said.
“you can read the story then. It’s just about a little girl.’’
We boast to all our relatives and friends that Elizabeth has won a writing competition. They are all as proud of her as we are. We wait patiently for the presentation dinner and get all dressed up to go. All the other proud parents are there. We look forward to a wonderful evening.
We get a drink at the bar and pick up the booklet that contains all the winning entries. We eagerly turn to the page with our daughter’s story and quickly read it. It is about a little girl. She is eight years old. It’s story about how she was molested in a little country town. How she didn’t tell her mother. She just went and had a bath.
I know as soon as I read it that the story is true. My heart sinks. I look at my husband, I look at the people around me. Do they know? Parents and teachers are congratulating my daughter and me-isn’t it a great story? So well written. They don’t know. We smile and thank them. my husband looks at me and we hold hands and we look at our daughter.
She looks so happy. All the competition winners get up in turn and read their entries. Elizabeth reads hers with confidence and is presented with her cheque. We listen to the others and applaud. My heart has sunk to the bottom of my feet. My dinner tastes like sawdust.
How could I have not known? Did she change? Did she show any of the signs that I have read about? We talked about this. I told her she could tell me anything. She grew up in a safe town, surrounded by family. Who is this person? Do we know him? I’ll kill hm.
It’s time to go home. The night was a great success. All I want to do is get home and talk to my daughter alone. Nothing is said in the car, except the usual chatter.
The opportunity for talking alone doesn’t come for a few days, but one night, when her father is away at work, we talk. I thought we had a great relationship, that we could talk about anything, but this is very, very hard. I have talked to her and her sister about drugs and boys and music and sex and cigarettes. Their father and I have told them they can talk to us about anything. They told me things I would never have talked to my mother about.
I ask her about the story. I ask her if it’s true. She looks at me sideways. “Yes, Mum. How did you know?”
“I just knew. Elizabeth, you need help. You need to talk to someone about this. You can’t bottle this up inside.’’
“I’m OK, Mum. I can get on with my life. I don’t know who it was. I hadn’t seen him before and I haven’t seen him since. I have dealt with it. I don’t need to talk to anyone and I don’t want to talk to anyone.’’
You can’t make a 16-year-old do something they don’t want to do. I have to accept her decision. I known the statistics say that is is rare for a stranger to molest your child. I know it is usually a friend or a relative. I know it usually happens over a long period of time. Is she protecting me from a more awful truth? I feel guilty.
I think of that ordinary day, long ago. A whole section of my life was a lie. Why hadn’t I sensed that something was wrong? I wish I could remember that day.