Episode 16: Something is raising its head
The Wednesday group
‘Beam me up Scottie!’
My Dad used to say that. I’ve had a rubbish week and now Suzy is snivelling on and on about Geoffrey. Surprise surprise, he is turning out not to be as Nice as she thought. And if she starts fumbling in her bag for a tissue one more time, I am going to pick up the box that is sitting in front of her and hit her with it.
Wham! The door flies open and in sails Julia… I can’t cope.
She looks wild. ‘I did not want to be here after last week but I have nowhere else to turn. You must help me!’
Now she is sobbing and Roz passes her the box of tissues.
Suzy’s tears have evaporated. ‘We will try our best,’ she says.’ What on earth has happened?’
More sobs, then Julia unfolds the disaster. To cut a hysterical story short, her daughter Bella’s best friend, Carmen, is sleeping with Bella ‘s father – Julia’s ex.
‘Bella says that I am cursed, whatever I touch I ruin, and if I tell anyone she will have nothing to do with me, ever.’
‘Bella is 15, isn’t she?’ checks Roz. ‘A 15-year-old can’t be the best person to decide what happens here – it’s way too serious.’
‘It’s illegal, isn’t it?’ asks Martin.
‘No, her friend is 16 now, no longer a child so nobody is breaking the law. But there is a moral law, no? How can he do this to his own daughter? I want to… I want …’
A torrent of Spanish fills the room but we all get the point. I am starting to feel better.
‘Julia, when you say “How can he do this to his daughter?” are you implying that Bella herself is at risk?’ asks Will.
‘I fear everything. In my head I know he would not harm her but in my heart I do not trust him. Bella adores him – always she wants to be with her father and not with me.’
‘I can’t imagine she adores him right now,’ says Roz, ‘but I am wondering whether or not she is telling you the truth. Is this really going on?’
‘Why should she lie to me? Why make up such a disgusting story?’
‘It’s not the same, I know, but Leo has told some terrible lies. He told me that his teacher was selling drugs, and the story sounded very plausible. I went to the head teacher and told her, and the outcome was a disaster. The teacher was suspended for over a year while it was all investigated, and so were various kids – who later on beat up Leo. In the end they found no evidence whatsoever and the teacher is taking legal action. Such a mess, and I was so convinced that Leo was being honest and that he needed my help.’
‘Do you think he just got it wrong or that he deliberately lied?’ I ask.
I am starting to see things in a different light, but Julia isn’t.
‘No, I am sure Bella is telling me the truth.’
‘She just needs someone to confide in, poor thing. She can’t talk to her best friend and she can’t talk to her Dad, so of course she turns to you. Poor thing… and terrible for you too,’ says Suzy.
Will says, ‘I find myself thinking about Jessica’s best friend. She is older than your daughter’s friend, of course, and I have to admit that she is extremely attractive. But to contemplate any sexual relationship is unthinkable, almost like incest. She is the child and I am, if not her parent, a parent substitute. It would be a complete betrayal of both her and of Jessica and of my own moral values.’
‘Yes. We have known Carmel since she was six years old. She was always with Bella, always at our home. How could she do this? But really it is his fault. He has to prove that he is, how do you say, potent, no? He takes what he wants, he abuses her trust. What should I do, tell me?’
I don’t know. It is too complicated, and I’ve got a nasty feeling now. Why doesn’t Kate say anything? Why is she looking like that at Jasmin?
‘You’ve not said anything, Jasmin.’ I want to know what is going on here.
She glances anxiously at Kate, who raises her eyebrows. That woman’s eyebrows do a lot of work.
‘Some things happened to me when I was 14 that are, um, not the same, but…’ She pauses and takes breath. ‘I spent a lot of time in my friend’s house because things were so hard at home, and I liked her parents a lot. They were kind to me and let me stay over at weekends. I had really strong feelings about her father – I suppose it was just a teenage crush but I thought I was in love with him.’
Roz is shaking her head.
‘My friend was in the school netball team and most Saturday mornings she would go out early to play a match and get back at lunchtime. I would do some homework, or play with her younger brother until she got back. Her father had turned the garage into a workshop and made wooden toys – he was very clever and they were lovely. One morning he asked if I would like to help with the painting, and I enjoyed it. He said I was really good at it, and I was so pleased to have this special time with him. It became a routine. Every Saturday when my friend went to play netball, I would paint these toys with her father. He made me feel that I was clever and beautiful, and I was crazy about him. Then he asked me to do things, touch him and... disgusting horrible things. He turned into someone frightening and repulsive. I never told anyone, but I think eventually my friend’s mum got suspicious because she told my friend that I had stolen some money and that she wasn’t to invite me over anymore. I was relieved, and pretended that I had taken the money because it saved me from her father. But if I hadn’t been so adoring and eager to spend time alone with him, it would never have happened.’
Oh God. I think I’m going to throw up.
© Chris Rose
Chris Rose is a group psychotherapist, supervisor and author.