“Wait – so he didn’t give your mum access to her own money at all?”
We refused to look at each other, our eyes fixed on the ceiling, arms so close the hairs were touching.
It was so late it was early again.
“Yeah. He said Mum didn’t know anything about money.”
Silence clung to the air while my mind whirred from one flashing sign to the next. Like the ‘joint bank account’ mum was never given the password to. Or how Dad sold the house against Mum’s wishes. Or the investments he made without so much as a consultation text. Or the rationing of money to get her through the school lunches and weekly petrol run. Just.
For 15 years my mother – intelligent and wonderful in equal parts – worked full-time in a well paying corporate job.
For 15 years she earned more than my father.
And for 15 years she never saw where her money was going.
Despite her healthy pay cheques, she exclusively clothed herself in op-shop jeans and my aunty’s hand-me-down jumpers.
For the entirety of their marriage, Mum didn't have a single thing that was her own.
With her friends I'd see the happy and vibrant woman who raised me - but at home she retreated into her tiny shell, weak and quiet, timid and scared.
Somehow, none of this struck me as unusual until I was lying next to my butt-naked boyfriend at 3am, who summed it up perfectly: "Well, that's fucked."
How did I not realise what was happening? I was right there.
I heard the venom-laden insults - that deafening, booming voice.
I answered the daily phone calls: "What mood is your dad in today, Tessa? Should I be prepared for angry?"