"Your family doesn't love you, Annabelle. We do."
In a week where misogyny has violently stolen the life of Sarah Everard, I have been researching economic abuse. And yet more layers of Jay's control are coming clearer.
This week. Women, what a week. I hope you can take some solace with people you love, in real life, or whatsapps, or talking.
I lit a candle for Sarah last night, and cried heavy bitter tears for her. For her deep, intense fear that must have shot through her. That every fear she - and we - have ever had about a slowing car, a loud footstep, a brush on the street - that it was happening.
I felt hot bitter rage at that man who made the conscious decision to do what he did.
And I thought about every woman I know who is scared, or has been scared, of their partner. Of friends who, if things could have gone another way, I might have had to light a candle for.
I wish I didn’t have a list, in my head, of people I think about every time I write here.
This week I’ve been working on a commission to write about the warning signs of financial abuse. About how women (and it is mostly women) can find themselves with a partner who starts off lovely and charming, so generous. He takes an interest. In everything.
It gave another name, another layer to the abuse I experienced with Jay - economic abuse.
I’d always toyed with the idea of going into the law. My dad was a part-time industrial tribunal judge, and I loved to talk about it over dinner. And it used things I was good at and enjoyed - researching, building a story, people. I wanted to be as glamorous and confident as Anna from This Life, sashaying around Chambers, feminine, fucked up and powerful.
Dad got me an interview for a summer job doing grunt work for a barrister he knew. I forget the details now, but it was the summer between 2nd and 3rd year. Friends were getting interesting jobs, going home to family abroad or even - even! - travelling around the Far East.
He was livid: the summer was my time to prove my commitment to him, to make up for being away in Manchester. How HOW could I even fucking think about doing something else that was taking me away from him again?! HOW - did I even love him? Did I even care? Because if I loved him like I said I loved him, then how HOW the FUCK could I even contemplate doing something that would take me away from him? HOW?
“Ann what the fuck are you doing to me? Are you trying to hurt me?! What the fuck is wrong with you?!” I see him pace, cigarette at a 45 degree angle from his fingers. Pacing pacing always pacing those long legs, dark hairs white white legs and the pilling grey of stretch of athletics socks around his thin shins.
I remember sitting in my dad’s car, driving up the slope under an arched bridge that as kids we called the giant’s mouth. It’s 15 minutes from home, and meant it was not far now, not long until we could escape the car and stretch and go home to hide in our bedrooms.
I remember fudging it and telling Dad all the reasons why I couldn’t take the job. I can’t remember the words I said but I remember the wooly words falling out of my mouth, the fudge of reasons and excuses.
All I can remember is my dad’s silent acceptance.
So I declined the job.
So then I couldn’t find a job in my home town, they were all gone.
So I didn’t have a job.
I pavement pounded and found a job pulling pints in a local boozer, a mile from Jay’s.
Minimum wage, 4 or 5 hours a day on the lunchtime shift only, pulling pints of Stella for the alcoholics of the Rising Sun, who drank 3, 4 pints every day, smoked through rotten teeth. I learned how to pour half & half (half bitter half pale ale), and which regulars sat where. I had to lie every day that I was at a local college and would stay working long-term.
I earned about £100 a week. And I fully lived in Jay’s house, doing his washing, helping his mom with supper, doing the family’s washing, helping with the cleaning, doing his ironing, helping with the shopping. I’m a fucking great house guest - I put your glasses the way round you like, stack the dishwasher the way you like.
I stank, every day, of smoke and beer.
I lied, every day, that I just went to Lambeth College. Where I lived and what I did and what I wanted to do.
And every day I came home from the pub, brought the washing in, loaded towels in the tumble drier, folded the ever-present 5 baskets of ironing. Unloaded the dishwasher of the breakfast frying pans, dishes and teapots. Went with them to the supermarket and helped make dinner, washed up, wiped the counters, before watching Jay watch tv and going to sleep before waking up with him to help him get ready for work.
The next summer his mom helped me get a job where she worked, a large corporate recruiter.
See - Jay told me. ‘My family loves you. What the fuck does your family do for you? Nothing. You know who loves you Annabelle - we love you. Not them. They’re cunts.”
Good stuff to read and listen to:
Depressing but amazing work being rolled out by Surviving Economic Abuse
I’m waiting for this heap of books to arrive:
This interview on women, personal essays and ‘why’
Loving Jamz Supernova on 6 Music and every day thanking the 6 Music gods for how diverse the playlists have become
Top 4 bitches! Still time to catch up for Thursday’s Drag Race UK finale #TeamBimini #BingBangBong