It was during the early days of the dog grooming business that I was to endure what I remember as one of the earliest venomous attacks that would occur over the next several years.
Whenever Sylvie or Larry were having their frequent cranky moods, there had always been shouting, swearing and a wallop around the head or a slap on the face for all the kids, apart from the youngest two, who were Larry’s daughters.
I already knew I was adopted but do not recall the circumstances of being told, but it was something spoken about freely and easily with the stories of my beginnings regaled in great detail many times, unkindly and with no regard for my feelings.
I am guessing I was about six or seven, it was a hot summer’s day and Sylvie and Lily were in the upstairs bathroom bathing a dog. Sally, who would have been about four years old and me were in the garden in a little inflatable paddling pool. We had decided that we wanted more water in the pool and so I had gone into the old stone kitchen and filled a large jug with water from the tap.
Walking back, I could see Sally sat in the pool with her back to me, engrossed in a toy she was playing with. Innocently wanting to have some fun, play a trick and make her jump, I quietly crept up and quickly poured the water onto her back. Shocked, she screamed out at the top of her lungs, causing Sylvie and Lily to come racing down the stairs into the garden.
Sally continued to scream between sobs and gulps of breath, pointing at me. Sylvie took one look at me with the jug in my hand and with the realisation that I had done something, she slapped the side of my head and took me clean off my feet. Shocked and stunned I stood up to see Sylvie and Lily wrapping Sally in a towel and checking her back. “She f*****g well poured hot water all over her,” Sylvie was screeching, “She could have killed her!”
What the temperature of the water was I could not tell you, I had just filled the jug wanting more water in the pool. I suspect that Sally’s fright and scream were, more likely, due to the water being freezing cold, I certainly never saw any marks on her back.
Whatever the truth, I had certainly not acted with any malicious intent, just a spur of the moment action, meant for fun. I wasn’t given the chance to explain anything but grabbed by Sylvie by my arm and propelled up the stairs with a whack on the back of my head at each chance she got.
She pulled me into the bathroom and ordered me to take my clothes off. The dog they had been bathing was laid on a pile of towels in the corner and Lily came in and removed it saying “Sally’s OK Mum,” trying to calm her and possibly ease things for me.
Sylvie proceeded to put the plug into the bath and turned on the tap, the COLD tap only, snarling, ”So you want to see how it feels do you?” I was ordered to get onto the bath and gingerly stepped in with the cold water swirling around my feet and terrified of what would happen next.
I dare not look up or make any objections but heard Sylvie scream at me to sit down in the bath. I lowered myself down into the rising, freezing cold water. However, my overriding memory is not the icy cold numbness but it is Sylvie’s words that will ring in my ears forever. She pulled up a blanket box, used to store bath towels and sat on it next to the bath.
“You adopted little bastard! That’s all the thanks that I get for everything I’ve done for you. It’s no wonder your f*****g mother didn’t want you, that’s why she couldn’t be bothered to feed you, too busy f*****g around with other blokes. Do you think she’d ever have bothered about you? F**k all on your back when you came to us and this is all the thanks we get. Then you go and behave like that, trying to kill your sister. You evil little b*****d!”
I tried to object and explain but the instant my mouth opened it was swiftly closed with a slap. At this point I started to cry, still dazed and mystified as to what had happened. I was ordered out of the bath and sent to bed, even though it was only early afternoon, where I remained without food or drink until the next morning.
The whole episode didn’t last long and Sylvie didn’t leave me in the bath for more than a few minutes, but the whole incident was to set a pattern and was to become the start of my realisation that I really wasn’t thought of in the same way the other children were, something separated me and set me apart.
I feel that it was at this point, my childhood was lost.