It was going to be a magical, romantic day. I’d even bought slinky festive underwear to ensure it went with a big bang.
I’d been living with my boyfriend for almost a year and was wildly obsessed with him.
When he suggested we spend Christmas Day alone, just the two of us, and have lunch at a swanky restaurant, I almost popped with excitement.
Our tree was sparkling proudly, photos of us kissing were decorated with glitter and glued onto baubles. And of course, Christmas stockings of various varieties had been purchased ready to be enjoyed. It was to be the day of dazzling days, filled with love and lust in equal measure and, like a child before Christmas, I counted the sleeps and woke up with butterflies as it approached.
On Christmas Eve, we popped in to drop off gifts to friends and family with side-ways glances and cheeky glints in our eyes, and waved goodbye with giddy smiles. Little did I know that I’d never be able to look them in the eye and smile again.
I fell asleep in his arms and woke up still locked in a love bubble; clammy and slightly claustrophobic, but I peeled myself away gently so I didn’t break the spell. I was spoilt with gifts and a smoked salmon breakfast in bed before it rocked and made its own Christmas tunes. I remember laying, stretched out under the twinkling Christmas tree, a rare ray of British sunshine streaming through the window and in that moment I felt contentment.
I wore a slinky dress and killer heels, rare for me but for the day of dazzling days, they were as essential as mistletoe. I’d bought them especially and spent more than I should, but reasoned I’d be spending hours in them what with the horizontal dessert that they’d be required for too. And with that, we were off to one of the most expensive restaurants in London.
The starter was delicious but I watched him drink his whisky exceptionally fast. He’d driven to the restaurant and our plan was to leave the car and stroll back to collect it tomorrow. Best laid plans…
Suddenly, he was several drinks in and his mood turned dark.
I’d been living in denial. What I hadn’t told anyone was that things hadn’t always been giggly, loved-up perfect over the last year and at times, his temper scared me.
The devil came out to play that day.
I picked through my meal with tears in my eyes, desperately trying not to let them fall from my face onto my plate. I swallowed hard, blinked furiously, not wanting to admit that this was not going to be a magical Christmas.
“I didn’t bring you here for you to shove your food around your f**ing plate,” he snapped. I looked up and into his eyes, but they weren’t his eyes. They were harsh. Gone was my fairy tale prince and in its place an angry drunk.
The couple at the next table turned. “What the f**k are you looking at?” he snarled. “And you?” he said, directing his terrifying venom back to me.
Being in love with a man with a dark side is a confusing, heartbreaking mess of emotions. Love, fear, bliss, shock, terror, sadness, panic…a glimpse of hope then you’re hurtling back to stomach-wrenching dread.
Christine Anu talks about her experience of being in an abusive relationship.
“Please don’t”, I whispered, quietly. With that, he stormed out of the restaurant. My mind raced, hands shaking as I took the napkin from my lap and placed it onto the table. I sat for a second, unsure of whether he’d reappear, but I heard his forceful steps across the wooden floor, the door flung open and then, the engine of his car started.
I paid the bill, ran to the car in my killer barbed wire heels and opened the door. “You can’t drive…” I pleaded.
“Get…In,” two words, punctuated with a terrifying pause.
“I’m not getting in”.
“Get in the f**ing car, right now,” he threw me a look so forceful I daren’t not do as he said. Pedal to the floor, he sped out of the carpark and down the road in the opposite direction to our home. We hurtled past buildings, leaving peace, happiness and baubles with smiling faces far behind. He swerved hard right as a pedestrian stepped out onto the street, I clamped my eyes shut and screamed. I felt the car jerk forwards as the car stopped.
“Get out of my sight,” he snapped. As I opened my eyes, tears fell out as I turned to look at him. He was not the man I dreamed of, I was in love with a fantasy, and this was not going to be my fairy tale ending.
In that moment, I knew it was over. The pedestrian yelled and walked away to tell the tale. A smashed car you can fix at a garage. Fear so intense your blood runs cold…you can’t fix that.