This post deals with abuse and might be triggering for some readers.
"You should get a divorce too, mummy."
My friend didn’t even react to her daughter’s statement; it clearly wasn’t the first time she’d heard it.
She ran her hands through her hair and nodded, looking years older than she was - fragile, brittle.
Things must be getting bad, I thought. I sat across the table from her in silence. She knew I understood. We’d been friends for a long time: her daughter’s comment didn’t need an explanation.
Watch: Women And Violence: The Hidden Numbers. Post continues after.
I took her hand in mine, and waited.
I recognised the numbness, the racing mind, the exhaustion. It had been mine six months earlier: my numbness, my confusion, my hopelessness.
I looked at her and thought of driftwood, as I often did with her. We live in a coastal town but my friend, more than anyone else I know, loves to decorate her house with the dry pale wood that washes up on the beach: turning the twisted branches into abstract art and pieces of furniture.
My friend and driftwood are fused together in my mind.
“Why don’t you girls go play,” I suggested, looking at our little girls: too young to be protecting their mothers, too young for adult games of “How to keep us safe”.
I swallowed down a flashback of my own child. Just don’t talk and he won’t get mad, mummy.
Perhaps for a moment, here in my new lounge, they could relax and be kids for a few hours. My daughter took her little friend’s hand, understanding and empathy on her face, and steered her towards the bedroom.
My friend glanced at the door where the girls had disappeared. “I was cleaning the shower last week and he stood over me and yelled. I was down on my hands and knees. It was humiliating.”
Her bone-dry eyes made contact with mine, no salty tears left after years in an ocean of them. “She asks me constantly to leave him.”