22. The Dark Cloud Overhead Part 2…
It was five months After and one of my dear friends, Kirsten, insisted on taking me out for a night on the town. This consisted of us getting dressed nicely and going to a place that served beautiful food and yummy cocktails.
We sat and tried to talk about normal stuff, both knowing that my life at the time felt anything but normal. We were having a really nice time, and then Lucy walked in.
Lucy was a good friend of mine who had been through so much in her life. She had recently lost her mum to cancer, had a marriage breakdown and lost a child. She, like me, relied heavily on Jen for support, both with her kids and emotionally, as she dealt with the grief in her life.
Like us, Lucy would leave her children in Jen’s care when required and Jen loved it. She was very happy to help, particularly when Lucy’s mum was in the final stages of her battle with cancer. Lucy’s kids would sleepover regularly. Lucy had a son, Billy and a daughter who was nine years old, Teigan.
Lucy came straight over to me and hugged me hard. She said she’d been missing me and was sorry that I was unable to catch up with her, the many times that she’d asked me over, the five months previously. I was at a loss what to say. This was the person that I was most worried for, and it was increasingly obvious that Lucy had no idea about what was going on in our life. Either no risk assessment had been done, or she was in absolute denial.
Lucy was there with friends and said she’d love to catch up the following week. I knew that she didn’t have her kids on the Monday night, so we made a date to meet at her house.
When she walked away, Kirsten, who had been sitting quietly watching the encounter told me that she had wanted to tell me something about Lucy. She then proceeded to tell me that her own parents had seen Lucy and her children out for dinner with Jen and Leon, only the week before. I couldn’t believe it. It became clear to me that I was, again, going to be the one to deliver, potentially life changing news, to someone that I cared about.
Needless to say, Kirsten and my night ended fairly abruptly after this encounter.
Monday rolled around and with a heavy heart, I made my way to Lucy’s house. We made small talk for a few minutes, catching up on what the kids were up to. She shared with me how difficult things had been for her recently and said that she wasn’t sure how much more she could take. I felt physically ill.
Lucy told me that she had been at Jen’s that day and told Jen I was coming around. I asked her how Jen had responded to that. She said that Jen said she hadn’t seen me for some time. I said to Lucy, “She hasn’t seen me for five months”.
Lucy looked me in the eye and said, “Amelia what’s going on? She talks about you all the time. What do you mean she hasn’t seen you?”
I then told Lucy the same thing that I’d told Mel and Grant two months earlier. I told her that Leon had been charged with the Indecent and Sexual Assault of my girls. That there was a restraining order, and the conditions of his bail meant that he wasn’t to be in the company of children, without a responsible adult present. I told her what the girls had told me and the things that had happened since that horrible day, five months earlier.
Lucy was stunned. She said, “I don’t know what to do with this”. I asked her if she wanted me to leave. My biggest fear was that she wouldn’t believe me. She asked if one of our mutual friends could come over as she didn’t want to deal with this on her own. This, for me, was to be the biggest test.
Susie was another of our friends from Jen’s daycare. Her two boys attended care with the girls. The difference was that Susie had known Jen her whole life. Her mum, Mary, was Jen’s best friend.
Lucy called Susie and asked her to come over. As we waited, Lucy told me that, had I not told her anything, she could never have guessed that anything was wrong in Jen and Leon’s world. She told me that she and the kids saw them at least three times a week and they didn’t show any signs that anything, outside of normal, was happening in their life.
I couldn’t believe it. The last five months of our life, we had been hiding out from our friends, grieving a life that we’d lost, trying not to fall apart and it seemed that Jen and Leon were living the same lifestyle they always had. It felt like a gut punch!
Susie arrived quickly, responding to the panic she heard in Lucy’s voice. She welcomed me in the same way she always had, with a big smile, a hug and questioning where I had been for the last few months. Then she picked up the mood of the room and promptly sat down.
I felt so sick. I thought that if anyone was going to doubt me, it would be Susie. She had grown up with this man. So, with my head down, I told her the same thing that I had told Mel and Lucy.
When I finished, I looked up to see her wiping away a tear and she said quietly, “I fucking believe that.” She then called her parents and asked them to come straight over.
My biggest fear from the beginning was that these people, who were the “family we made for ourselves”, would take the side of this monster of a man and the wife who would go on to protect him. I wasn’t sure that they would believe anything that we had to say.
I knew I had to present them with the facts. He had been charged, was on bail and was served with an Apprehended Violence Order. If I stuck with the facts, I had to be prepared for them to react however they deemed appropriate. If that was not in our favour, I knew the truth, so I had to be content with looking after my family and not worrying about the reactions of others. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared about meeting up with Mary.
I needn’t have worried. Susie had given her parents enough of the details on the phone for them to walk into the house and embrace me with open arms. I’ll never forget it. I literally felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. Mary lifted my head up and said, “Amelia, kids don’t lie”. It was that simple for her.
As it turns out, Mary had supported a family member through a similar experience to ours. She knew, very well, how prevalent child abuse is, particularly by a known offender. Though she was shocked, Mary didn’t doubt for one second, that my children were telling the truth. For that, I’ll be forever grateful.
These people became the lemonade in a life full of lemons. Even though we had to maintain some distance down the track, knowing that we had each other’s backs, helped us all through some very dark days.