Terri was alone as she entered the church. This was where she spent most Sunday mornings. Her family attended regularly – they had all been baptised, made their first Holy Communion and been confirmed here. Terri had always thought that she would love to get married in this church, to marry a man who loved and respected her, but now she was no longer sure that such a thing was possible, that such a person actually existed.
She had seen Lizzie crawl on her hands and knees like a dog, begging Bobby to stop shouting, screaming, abusing, intimidating, tormenting, insulting and punching her while her frightened children huddled in the corner, watching. Terri swallowed deeply, feeling sick inside. She didn’t love or pity her father, her love had congealed and turned to hatred. Repulsed by his behaviour, she lied to her friends and teachers about him, never wanted to invite anyone to her house. The shame of them finding out what he was really like would have been embarrassing, shameful. Because if they found out about Bobby, they would find out what she really was. She hated herself for being what he wanted her to be, what he had turned her into.
She had never fitted in anywhere; she had always been different, unwanted. Even the girls in class thought she was strange and different. No one could believe that she cared about her schoolwork; that she didn’t go out with boys or talk about sex. What difference did it make, who cared? She did. She was used to being different and having the piss taken out of her – her dad had done it all the time – but Terri still had her dreams and was determined that no one could take them away from her, not even Bobby.
She wanted a career, a nice place to live, a proper and exciting job, to travel the world and eventually find a husband whom she loved and respected. There must be more to life than Dagenham. Terri never told anyone about her fantasies, they would just think she was going off her head and ship her off to the funny farm. She certainly couldn’t imagine a life like her mum’s – trapped in a marriage to a man who paid no attention to her at all except for the unwanted kind, never listened to her and never cared what she was thinking. Lizzie wasn’t allowed to think for herself, not allowed to make any decisions, have any choices, even have an opinion. She was treated like an animal. Bobby didn’t give two fucks for anyone but himself. Terri wanted so much more.
She looked up, peering ahead towards the statue of the Virgin Mary, another suffering mother who stood with her arms outspread. Terri’s light footsteps echoed on the cold marble as she walked slowly around the church reading the Stations of the Cross, whispering softly to herself.
‘Jesus is condemned to die.’ She looked at Jesus and his crown of thorns. Each movement driving the thorns deeper into his head, fresh blood dripping down his face. Broken.
‘Jesus carries his cross.’ Her voice was heavy as she gazed into his eyes, seeing the anguish, the freedom and surrender. A huge crushing weight lay upon his shoulders as he walked the path of misery and suffering.
‘Jesus falls for the first time.’ She stared at the exhaustion in his frail body, the fatigue, the burden. Terri shivered; it was so cold inside the church, so cold inside her heart.
‘Jesus meets his sorrowful mother.’ She studied them carefully. She could see the sorrow in his mother’s eyes, her unutterable suffering – it was a look she recognized from her own mother. How pained Mary must have been to see his tears.
‘Simon helps Jesus carry his cross.’ Terri peered into his face seeing the weakness and struggle. Conquered by the pain of the cross, such a heavy burden.
‘Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.’ She looked deeply into his eyes seeing pain as he suffered his vile and abusive treatment. She wished someone would wipe her own pain away, but nobody knew or cared.
‘Jesus falls for the second time.’ She gazed at him. He was hot, tired and sweating, on his knees bearing the weight of the cross. The agony was taking its toll on his torn and bleeding body.
‘Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.’ Terri wanted to comfort them. Their eyes were full of love and gratitude, loss and fear. She could feel their grief.
‘Jesus falls for the third time.’ She watched him, collapsed under the weight of the cross, paying the price. There had been times in her life that she had fallen and she would fall and fall again. Confronted by the same things again and again. But she vowed that she would always get back up.
‘Jesus is stripped.’ No shield, no security. Such nakedness. Fresh humiliation drenched with gall. She recognized that.
‘Jesus is nailed to the cross.’ She made herself look at the cruel nails driven through his flesh. Hammered into his hands and his feet, hanging in agony. She wished she could make the hurting stop.
‘Jesus dies on the cross.’ She watched him. His head bowed forward as he surrendered his last breath.
‘Jesus is taken down from the cross.’ She stood still, shivering from the cold and shame, trembling with fear. She beheld the scene at the foot of the cross. A lifeless body in his mother’s arms. Would someone come for her? Be there for her when she needed it?
‘Jesus is laid in the tomb.’ A deep sigh echoed through the empty church. Her heart throbbed painfully in her chest, the familiar panic rising.
Terri walked further along the aisle, her head bowed, keeping her fragile eyes fixed firmly to the ground, tortured by the memory of all her yesterdays. She felt just as she did then, on the day of her first Holy Communion, all those years ago. She should have felt like the rest of the girls and boys, happy and joyous about receiving the body and blood of Christ for the first time. It was the holiest moment of her life and she should have been filled with joy. Instead she was filthy, dirty and ugly. She didn’t feel special or grateful because there was nothing in her life to feel special or grateful for. There were no reasons to laugh or smile. Terri only hoped that it would make her a good, clean girl again. God knew she was a bad girl because God knew everything, knew the disgusting and humiliating things she had done.
The above excerpt is taken from my book Dangerous. Available to buy from Amazon, click here.