The warm bath water felt so good to my tired body. Over the past three days, I had flown 10,000 miles, mostly in a middle seat, with a brief stop in London to say hello and goodbye to my long lost brother.
Our get-together had not gone very well as I became ill in the middle of it, a combination of jet-lag and fatigue, but mostly because I was suffering from the after effects of a brush with anorexia. Not that anyone realized it.
Thinking back, I realize I must have been a pretty tough teenager.
The unfortunate thing about being tough is that everyone assumes you will remain that way. When my mother paid a short visit on her way to England from their latest enterprise in Barbados, she wrote to my dad that “Carolyn gets teased a lot, but she gives as good as she gets”.
Didn’t that make me laugh, when I found out years later!
Of course, I couldn’t tell her that my uncle was a mentally disturbed alcoholic. After all, my parents knew him and had sent me to live with him.
Bearing in mind previous “complaints”, I realized nothing good would happen if I complained about my new “situation”. My aunt, who I quickly fell in love with, would have been heart broken. My parents perplexed. (God forbid). My uncle would have denied it or twisted the truth. It would have been a huge mess and it would have been all my fault.
Mostly, I didn’t want my aunt to be hurt, but really, I knew there was a very good chance no-one would believe me. Most likely I would have been painted as a little “Lolita” and once the accusation has been made… You can’t un-ring a bell. I had been falsely accused in Vietnam of something insignificant and I would never forget how that felt. There was no way I was going to risk such a serious counter-accusation. Besides, where else was I going to live?
But that was all to come.
I sat there in the bath feeling such relief that I was at the end of my journey. I had a permanent home. I knew there would be many adjustments ahead, but I was used to having my lift inverted, so I could deal with all that. Then I heard scratching at the door and my uncle’s voice: “can I wash your back?”
I froze. He was kidding, of course. “No thank you!” I replied cheerfully. For the next couple of days he sulked.
So then I had to work out what he was sulking about. As it turned out, he sulked a lot. If he took something you said the wrong way, if you looked at him the wrong way, if you got home late (more than 10 minutes), if I stayed too long in my room…the list was endless. Living in that house was like treading on egg-shells.
And he had not been kidding.