I didn’t see the many fields covered in sunflowers or the dark woods as they flew passed the car window, my vision too blurred by tears. They pooled at the bottom of my eyes, until they were too heavy to stay there, then they dropped onto my arms. I felt, more than watched them trickle along to my hands all the way to the tips of my fingers and fall onto my jeans, slowly but progressively soaking them. I couldn’t understand why I was crying for I had been given what I had been asking for since my father passed away.
She had tried to keep us both with her but my brother had run away after my father had his accident and when my father finally died, after months in intensive care, I blamed my mother for everything. All my looks conveyed contempt and all my words venom, I was merciless in my actions towards her and the arguing was relentless and exhausting. Yet she struggled to keep me with her for months, happy to withstand my actions so long as I was with her. Until money became so tight she started to struggle to feed us. Only then, after months of fighting and with the real fear of not knowing where the next meal would come from, did she finally lose the strength to keep going. I don't know whether she called social services or whether they just finally felt the need to intervene but one day I found myself in that car, making the journey to the first foster home I would stay in. My actions had clearly conveyed that being away from her was all I wanted and yet there I sat, drenched in tears, my stomach in knots, trembling, every inch of me screaming to be let out of the car yet knowing it would make no difference for if I was taken back I knew in my heart that the anger would return and so my lips remained silent.
I have no idea how long the journey was, just that to me it seemed interminable. It was only the click of my car door opening that made me realise we had arrived. I’m sure that the house was perfect, for I recall that it sat atop of a little hill, surrounded by little country lanes and fields, ideal for a child to explore and enjoy but this isn’t how it seemed to me at the time. In fact, it’s the floor that I remember the most.
I didn’t want to look up, didn’t want to run the risk of anyone catching my eye and seeing the depth of the pain that resided there. I was guided around the house by people I didn’t see. If I was made to look up I just looked right through them like they were ghosts, fortunate enough to be able to pretend that I couldn’t understand what they were saying to me, that my French wasn’t that good. And so I was guided round the house.
First came the concrete steps leading to the front door, then the terracotta tiles of the living room floor, the pink slippers of the woman who was to look after me, the Wellington boots of her farmer husband, the tiled floor of the kitchen, the wood flooring of the bedroom and the wooden frame of the bed I would have to call my own for a while.
One by one I was introduced to the other children who were staying there. First came a small, tatty pair of trainers belonging to a boy about the same age as me. Next was a little pair of brown boots belonging to a girl younger than me but who was leaving that same day. Finally, a much larger, newer pair of trainers on the last boy. They belonged to a teenager a few years older than me, but it was his name that made me look up. My eyes followed up the jeans, the t-shirt, then found the face of the boy I knew as my brother.
I had no idea this was where he had been staying for the past few months and by the look on his face he didn't know I would be there either. My mind raced at a million miles an hour with only my heart keeping pace. All of my other family was in England, I hadn’t really made any friends to speak of in France, my father had died and my mother couldn’t be with me anymore and I thought I was alone. But here was my brother, my final link to my happier past, I wouldn’t have to be alone, I didn’t need to be afraid...I had my brother again.
But he took one look at me and with the hardest and coldest eyes I have ever encountered in my life he said in an even voice: “If she's staying here then I won't be.”
Shock ran through my body. Why? Why wasn’t he pleased to see me too? What had I done to make him despise me so much, to abandon me? He was older than me by almost five years, surely he was meant to be there for me, protect me. Even if he stayed but refused to acknowledge me because I was his annoying younger sister I could have understood that reaction, liked it even, as it would have been much like the siblings we were, always ready to disagree, known as chalk and cheese when we were growing up. But this I couldn’t understand.
“Please” I chocked on my own tears, “Please stay with me”
He looked at me and for a fleeting moment I thought he might reconsider...but the moment passed, his eyes hardened again and he walked away.
I have no idea what followed in the hours after that exchange just that he did indeed leave me there. I do remember laying that night in a strange bed, shaken to the core and in my mind as a child I put two and two together and realised that of all these people who were no longer there, that I was the common denominator. There was something wrong with me.
I stayed at that home for some time before being moved on elsewhere but it was months before I saw my brother again. His reaction was never mentioned and it became a moment that belonged just to us. I'll never forget the feeling I had that day, I don't hate him for it, he was suffering just as much as me and couldn't cope with my sadness as well as his own.
That fateful day did however define me as an individual for years to come. It was the beginning of some of the biggest battles off my life. I had to battle against depression which went on for years and almost cost me my life and I had to fight against my own mind set that I wasn’t worthy to be loved or stood by. To this day I try desperately to make people like me and I question over and over again the things I say and conversations I have trying to make sure that I haven’t slipped up and said something that could turn them against me. I know we all have these kind of scars, gained during our childhood. These are mine and I bare them every day, I have just learnt to hide them well.