I said it was a roller coaster ride with Nicky. What follows is something I wrote at the time for a little ‘light relief’ about events that took place on the evening of Nicky’s 46th birthday on 22 February 1996. I ought to point out that at this time were ‘just good friends’ and did not have an intimate relationship.
A VERY SPECIAL BIRTHDAY
I’m just an old tart – Amy’s right. All that hate and I gave them nothing but love. There’s no point in going on. I’ve done all I could.’ It was three o’clock in the morning, the day after the birthday that her friends had tried to make so special. The trouble was her estranged fifteen year old daughter wanted to make it special too, only in quite a different way. The six page letter she sent, carefully timed to arrive on the birthday morning, was full of hate.
She opened it, together with the cards thinking it was from a friend. The writing on the envelope had been disguised. It had quite efficiently sent her back over the edge into the black abyss out of which she had been painfully crawling for the past few months. I’m tired, I want some peace.’
She continued; ‘They’ve won. Amy has destroyed me. I want to go into the light. I just want to be with Nanny.’ But you won’t be with Nanny if you kill yourself, you’ll just be a lost soul.
Nanny isn’t a lost soul, she’s in another place,’ I said. Nicky fell into silence. Perhaps, just maybe that had got through to her. I said nothing, allowing her the silence. Could that be the key? Unfortunately not, it seemed nothing could be said that would deter her.
She had seemingly made her mind up.
I’ll go tonight with Cagney (her dog) and drive the car off the edge of a cliff.’
I can’t let you do that,’ I replied, I couldn’t live with my conscience.’ You can’t stop me. You have no right.’ I hesitated, she was right. I didn’t have any right to stop her. I believe in free will, how can I stop her? If she wanted to finish her life; if she had only held herself together for twenty years because of the children.
She lived in her head most of this time, holding on to who she really was. That was her lifeline and because she had an upbringing that was full of love – she called it her ‘core’ – she had survived those terrible twenty years.
It wasn’t that her husband didn’t love her. He did, obsessively – a cruel obsession that kept her locked up in his world. She was allowed no friends – couldn’t even talk to the neighbours over the fence without him finding some excuse to pull her away. And heaven forbid if she was to talk to any man. He beat her black and blue on many occasions for doing just that.
Diminutive, with long blonde hair Nicky was the archetypal sixties girl with the looks to match. And so the men were attracted to her, and they continued to be – into the seventies, eighties and yes, into the nineties too. Not that she had ever been unfaithful but when obsession’s the name of the game just a cheery word, a look or even a business telephone call with the opposite sex can be interpreted by the insanely jealous as something else.
And so the violence from the ever so nice, smooth talking charmer’ continued through the years. He tried to strangle her once. The children had to stop him going all the way. Trying to run her down with his car was another speciality. Not that he would ever admit to anything. From the high moral ground he was occupying, from his self deluded upper class background he was just ‘so’ – it was everyone else that had to be judged as ‘not the right sort for us darling’.
The kindest thing you could say about him was that he was mad. Bald and fat and silver tongued he became known to her as the ‘fat controller,’ and later as ‘the beast.’ Controlling every aspect of her life like a prison warder he moved the family to a rented farmhouse on the edge of the moor, miles from the nearest town.
Dilapidated was not the word. Broken windows outnumbered those that were intact. The heating system was dangerous and inadequate, the drinking water contaminated. They could keep one room only barely warm so they all slept in the sitting room. Nicky and her adolescent daughter Amy eventually moved upstairs to get away from his dark satanic moods and the snoring.
That snoring was something else. Just as well the house was isolated with no near neighbours because they too would have had sleepless nights. It was that bad. To save themselves from joining him in madness, mother and daughter driven to despair, took their little dog Cagney for a ten minute walk.
They were not to return and he, not knowing they were going, didn’t find out where they had gone for many months. Having been arranged with subterfuge and precision equal to a covert military operation the car was waiting at the end of the isolated moorland lane. It was driven by a friend of a friend who became known as the ‘rescuer’ who was to whisk them away to freedom and a new life.
‘I hate him, we’ll only be free of him when he’s dead,’ Amy used to say of her father practically every day. She had never liked him but her mother and her were bonded by a special closeness from the time of Amy’s birth that endured to help them through the worst of times.
Four months after their escape their location was revealed to the fat controller by Nicky’s seventeen year old daughter Verity. Amy had so far led an insular life and didn’t mix with young people of her own age. Unhappy that she couldn’t have her all to herself, she was unable to cope with her mother having new friends and a social life of her own.
Her adolescent fantasies were centred on young males but quite often she got the hots’ for the older men that her mother occasionally socialised with. Double edged jealousy raged with a vengeance. If she couldn’t have her mother all to herself she wanted none of her. Love instantly turned to hate and Amy went back to the father she had always said she loathed.
The letter so cruelly timed, brought latent suicidal tendencies in Nicky bubbling to the surface together with a pain that had never truly gone away. The pain of missing the woman who had brought her up. Now the children had deserted her, throwing cruel darts of hate all the while. On her forty sixth birthday thirty years after the death of the one person who had loved her for who she was, she wanted to be with her beloved Nanny.
Free will or not I couldn’t do nothing. And I had to say so. ‘But you have no right. No right to do this to me. I can’t let you kill yourself, It’ll be with me for the rest of my life if I did nothing.’ I said.
Undeterred, she continued firmly with a touch of frustration in her voice, Can’t you see? There’s no point. He’s won.’ She broke down, sobbing, He’s even taken my children away from me. He’s taken my children from me.’
Just for the moment,’ I countered. In a year or two everything will be different. You gave them the grounding, you gave them love. They are all touched by madness right now. They’ll realise, they can’t forget. The light of reason will break through. They’ll grow up and have children. You will want to see your grandchildren won’t you?’
Nothing matters. I’m tired. No, it’s the only way.’ She brightened, resolved that driving over the edge of a cliff was her only salvation. It’s not the best way to kill yourself,’ I said jokingly. What if you just break your neck and end up in a respirator the rest of your life?’
No, I’ll end up with the fishes. I want to be buried at sea anyway.’ They’ll only drag you out again and then you’ll be incinerated.’ Oh no, I don’t want that,’ she said, horrified. Then you’ll have to start saving. It’ll cost at least a grand. If you save three pounds a week … in about three years… You’ll have changed your mind by then ….’ She broke into peals of laughter, the wacky humour that was such a part of her – she said it was the Irish in her – seeming to work.
Perhaps we were getting somewhere. ‘Unless I do it on the cheap. I could hire
boat….’ I continued. ‘Concrete boots. I’ll need concrete boots. Yes I will. Yes I will.’ she said.
‘And I could zip you up in an old sleeping bag and slide you gently under the waves.’ you could be with the fishes then – if your not dragged up by a trawler’ Yes you will. Yes you will,’ I said, parodying Nicky’s endearing habit of repeating the end of her sentences.
Nicky was a piscean and to be back in the sea with the fishes was where she wanted to end up, but not tonight, not if I had anything to do with it. ‘The funeral? Do you want them to come?’ I asked, referring to her family.
‘No! No! I don’t want them. Don’t let them come. Promise me. Promise me you won’t let then come. Promise,’ she pleaded.
‘I wouldn’t be able to stop them – unless you wrote a letter.’ I said.
‘Yes. Have you got some paper? I must do that,’ she said. I found a piece of paper and handed it to her. She started writing with a sense of purpose that made me realise that she really was serious. It was no joke. The writing was large and determined. It was addressed to her three children and her husband. It was quite clear. She did not want them to attend her funeral. That was her wish and would they please abide by it. She signed it Mum’ and handed it to me.
‘There’s an a’ in funeral, isn’t there?’ she said. Yes,’ I replied, You’ve got an e’ instead.’ She took the letter from me and painstakingly corrected it. When she had finished she handed it back and made for the door. I’ll have to change, I can’t go like this. Not dressed like an old tart I can’t.’
Despite the jokes and the laughter she had made her mind up. She was still intent on killing herself. She hurried down the stairs and into her next door flat. There was only one thing to do. After about half a minute I followed her down the stairs into the car park and got into my car. As I manoeuvered it across underneath her window she peeped out between the parted curtains. I gave a cheery wave and pulled up behind her car. It was tightly blocked in, incapable of moving backwards or forwards. I got out to find her standing outside her door jumping up and down with frustration.
‘You can’t do that. It’s not fair you’ve taken away my right. You can’t do that.’ I have no choice. I love you too much to let you kill yourself. How could I let you go off and do that?’ I moved over to her and held her close. She was still bobbing up and down so I held her even closer. You just did it didn’t you? You zoomed across and blocked me in. You just did it,’ she said incredulously. If I can’t take my car I’ll jump off the bridge.’
‘No you won’t. Let’s go up to your’s and make a cup of tea,’ I replied. Half an hour later after a cup of tea and several cigarettes and a great deal of talking I was sure that she wouldn’t jump off the high viaduct in the town centre. After all, there was no water underneath. It was a long way down and would be a very hard landing. There were no fishes down there.
The next day dawned bright and sunny, proving as they say it’s always darkest before the dawn’. And so it was with Nicky. The doctor said just the right things – wacky sense of humour too! When Nicky told a young friend what she had nearly done the reply was instant, ‘No! We’d all die without you.’ Nobody could believe such a cruel letter could have been sent by her own daughter. But she didn’t get satisfaction in knowing what effect it had. It was returned with a note saying mother hadn’t seen it because she had asked me to open all her mail for her as a precaution against such things. It also said that it had been a very special birthday ‘ – the first time for years.