I had just left. Me and the two children were checking into a hotel near the airport. I had just left and held each of their hands, one child on each side, grasping onto them desperately, tightly. Whispering that we would be safe now, that it would all be ok now, that mommy would never ever be hurt again, that they would never have to hide under the bed again, or barricade themselves into their room or the bathroom when daddy was smashing windows or hurting mommy, whispering that we were going to be together, that we would be together forever. That this was forever. Silently in my head I repeated my manta. Fuck the Hague Convention, fuck the lawyers and the courts, fuck it all. Fuck them. We were going to live, and they could pursue their woman-destroying, child-destroying agenda well away from us. That I would simply refuse to cooperate. Find me then! Come get me motherfuckers. Come get us and drag us apart. Drag us back into a life of torture, of fear and pain. Come and damn well get me. But you were going to have to find us first. My better Angel sits on my shoulder whispering to me that perhaps this is not the safest, most prudent thing to share. I brush him off irritated at his cautionary proddings. I’m too tired and too angry for caution any longer. Give me the denouement. I fall on my sword. I fall on my words, I impale myself here at my own bidding. My life is mine own and so is my fate.
I’ve hurt precisely noone. I never ever hit back, I am the victim, and yet Im forced to flee like some bank robber or hollywood spy movie protagonist. Bleating “not fair” never got me anywhere, so I no longer bother.
I can see the check in desk in my minds eye. I can see my children’s faces hover between scared and overjoyed. We get the key, make our way to the sixth floor, open the door, and flop down on hotel beds. They are exhausted and hungry. I’m running on pure adrenaline. There is no going back, I’ve really done it now. I’ve burnt bridges and bet on a future that I cant possibly control. But I’m alive We are alive. I have made my babies safer.
Things had been escalating. He had been getting bolder, more violent, more dangerous. We lived in an apartment with floor to ceiling windows along the entire back wall. They had safety glass in them. I was standing in front of them when he threw a chair at me, it hit the window, shattering it around me. I cannot quite place exactly how what happened next happened. All I can remember was the explosion of glass all around me, the sharp pain of tiny fragments hitting me, the noise and the fury. I screamed to the children to run. We were up on the 4th floor, with a balcony. I resolved not to be pushed off it, and made a run past him, barefoot and bloody. Somehow me and the kids, shoes in hands, hurtled down the stairs, not wanting to be trapped by the elevator, I was carrying the youngest, my son, and pulling the oldest along, trying to shove her feet in her shoes. Run. Run! Run! We pulled open the back gate, and I picked them both up, not even struggling with their weight against my own small frame. I realised I wouldnt outrun him, so in a desperate panic hid in the gas station nearby. Fixing their shoes onto feet, and pulling mine on. Hugging them checking them over, realising all the blood was mine and not theirs, thankfully, I had no idea what to do. So we walked to a small diner, about half a mile away, taking the backroads, and pedestrianized paths. I reached into my pocket. I had the equivalent of only a couple of bucks. I shook the kids down for pennies. We scraped together enough for three drink bar tickets, unlimited kids drinks, and coffee for me. It was late and dark and empty. I cleaned myself up in the bathroom, and we sat at the chairs tucked into the back of the diner. The waitress seemed to realize my desperation and just let us be.
I was in shock. I knew I was going to die if I stayed. I knew it like I knew how to breathe. My instinct, my reptilian brain informed me calmly, reasonably, that I was not going to survive much longer. That my children were in danger, that no one in that country was going to help us, that the police were not going to do anything, that there was no recourse to the law, that there was no shelter, no way to do this within the legal boundaries of international law. We were going to have to flee and disappear.
We talked about Billy, mommy’s friend, and how we were going to go hide with him for a while. That it would be fun, that it would be safe, and the Pig would be no longer able to blight our lives to a dangerous extent.
I felt nauseous, not helped by the caffeine and no food, my hands were shaking. My injuries were suprisingly minor, scratches and nicks. But what they signified was something immense. He was escalating. It was becoming unsurvivable. Im perfectly aware, if he had killed me and then even killed the children that I would have been blamed for my own death and my children’s suffering. That the cheap seats would demand to know why I didn’t do more, why I would even marry such a creature, that my own demise would be put firmly at my door. Men never get blamed for their actions, its always somehow the woman’s fault, her responsibility. Our choices are removed, our options destroyed, our paths out blocked, and when we are caught and killed, we are blamed as though it was our own damn faults. They were not going to do that to me.
He had started to tell me that if he killed me he would not even go to jail for a long time. Family murders there are treated very leniently. He told me if he killed me, he would say he had gone insane with overwork, and snapped. He would say sorry. He would cry. And no one would care about me at all. No one would miss me. I would disappear, and he would simply go back to life.
I could not not try.
I made a quick plan, knowing that the police were not an option. We would walk back (it was now well past 1am), and take a look at the situation at the apartment. If it looked too dangerous, we would go sit in an all night McDonalds. I had no key to the apartment, and if he then went to work, we would not get back in. I started to panic. I had no money, no friends, no recouse, no key, nowhere to go, no one to help me. I had to get back in and hope he had calmed down.
As I walked back up the road to the apartment, I became aware of fire trucks, police and ambulance lights in a mess of activity outside the building, lights flashing. Grandpa, his father, was standing outside the apartment crying loudly. People looked grim.
Then it struck me. Maybe he had killed himself! I was guiltily happy at the thought.
We walked closer, and were first greeted by police who checked our identity and looked wierdly relieved. Grandpa ran at us crying and hugging the children.
“You are alive!”
“Yes, I said, “we are alive”
The activity began to disapate.
It slowly became clear that the activity had been for me. Somehow police had been called, and my husband had refused to talk. They saw blood and busted out windows and called grandpa. He told them about our “marital difficulties” and they had started to work on the presumption we had been murdered.
Not the best day ever.
I begged the police to take my husband away, seeing opportunity. They refused.
I begged them not to leave.
They all left.
Grandpa stayed that night, he offered to drive us to his sister’s house in a different prefecture. I refused. The scary house full of ghosts and grime and old women was not even an option. Instead Grandpa stayed a few days. For all his uselessness in fixing the situation with his son, he loved me and the children very much. He would stand there and say “Charming-chan crazy. I don’t know. Maybe he smoke marijuana in the USA?” (no), “maybe he just crazy?” (no, try evil). Grandpa got the glazier out, had the windows replaced. He fussed around taking us to Denny’s for food, and making the children laugh. It was not Grandpa’s fault. For all his uselessness, he was a kind old man, totally out of his comfort zone, and not knowing what to do. I miss him immensely.
In that time, I started to make serious plans to leave. I had to speed it up.
Sitting in LA, the door shut, alone with my beloved children, the phone rang. It was Billy. He was telling me he was at a gas station in his RV, about 4 miles out, and would be there very shortly. The kids bounced up excitedly, ran to the window, which overlooked the front of the hotel and its large car park. We stood there together, watching for the camper in the dark of the warm LA night. It felt like Christmas in May.
When the camper pulled in, its bright roof lights shining, only one bulb on on the upper left side, swinging into the hotel parking lot, the children yelled happily, tears came to my eyes. My best friend had come through for us. He was here, there was a way out in a 25 year old camper and my crazy old punk rocker. We ran again. This time not away from death, but towards life, towards love, towards a future together. We ran down to the evevator, through the lobby, with all its normal people milling around, not aware of what was happening around them, through the car park, and up to the RV.
Billy swung open the door of the camper, not even bothering to park, he lept out, and ran towards me and the children, hugging us all, picking up my littlest one. Tears were running down his cheeks. We walked together, a bundle of misfits, in the doors of the hotel, into the lobby, into the elevator, up to the room, shutting the door behind us. All of us crying, laughing, not quite believing we had pulled off a great escape, not quite believing that I was looking at my old friends face in person, not through a screen, after decades apart. Not quite believing anyone would help us. Not believing that this was even possible, even as we stood there together.
The next day we bundled into the camper and headed out towards Anaheim for a few days before we would point Beastie north and head up the coast.
That night I slept knowing we were safe. That we were going to wake up safe. I slept knowing that at least I tried, despite every block being put in my path. I slept better than I had ever slept before, the hum of the tv and it flickering blue light and the soft calm face of my old friend sitting in the armchair snoozing. He had driven 600 miles that day, in a camper he was not used to driving so far. Poor man. The things we do for love.