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The Other Woman

On the Friday morning Jon told me that he hadnít had much sleep the night before and was very tired. He did, however, ask me if I would like to go out with him for a drink. Of course I agreed because that is what I had been vying for all week. I gave Jon directions to my house and he arrived there on time without getting lost, which I found to very impressive. Most men I dated agreed to meet me at a central location so they would not have to worry about not finding my home, but Jon had a confidence that I hadnít seen before. In retrospect, it never occurred to me that I should be suspicious of the fact that he knew where I lived without my having to give him instructions, as I had literally all the other men I dated.

When Jon walked into my house, I briefly showed him my humble abode. Granted, it wasnít much, but it as mine and I was quite content with what I had.

I showed Jon the I-Ching and opened a random page. The first page that it opened to was 31 Ė Attraction. The traditional phrase for this hexagram read:-

ĎPleasure (lake) is upon the tranquil (mountain) forming the condition for Attraction. An enlightened person, therefore, is accepting and open toward others.í R L Wing, who wrote that particular book on the I-Ching, gave his own translation, which read:-

ĎAttraction brings progress. There is an advantage in correct persistence. Choosing to marry brings good fortune.í

I pulled a Tarot card in his presence and the card that I randomly selected was Ten of Cups, one of the most benefic cards in the deck.

Well, that was all I needed to know. All I ever wanted in this world was to find a partner that I would be happy with, and I was reading into the two consecutive oracles that this was the person who would make me happy. Even if I had received a bad reading, I would have pursued him nonetheless. The oracles, however, gave me the confidence that I needed to pursue this man with an ardour.

That evening, one of the first things that Jon said to me was that he loved sex. I didnít know why he would say such a thing on a first date and therefore let the comment go unnoticed. Perhaps Jon thought that I was promiscuous and loved sex just as much as he did.

What I failed to note, however, was that Jon was giving me a very crucial piece of information about himself that I should have taken note of. So far, Jon had told me two things about himself that were a very apt reflection of his true character. Several months earlier one of his first comments to me was that he had a house, and on our first date he told me that he loved sex. What I was too blind too see was that Jon was a very sensual materialist. Unfortunately, my primary certitude was completely different but I was carrying around too much emotional baggage to look at the potential partnership rationally.

Jon decided to take me to Maasthrict, which was the nearest metropolitan city to Brunsum City, the Netherlands, where we were stationed at HQ AFCENT. On the drive to Maasthrict, Jon informed me that he was actually seeing another woman and that this woman had decided to go to Prague for the weekend. I didnít know who this other woman was, and quite frankly, I didnít care. All I knew was that Jon was out on a date with me and I wasnít letting him go. I therefore flippantly told Jon that he couldnít go out with me and this other woman at the same time, so he had better break up with her. As far as I was concerned, that was the end of the matter.

That evening when we were having our drink, I suppose the excitement from the chase really got the better of me. There was an electric current in the air that was utterly indescribable, and the energy that came from both of us was so intense that we were unable to finish our drinks.

Jon gave me a choice. We could either go out for a meal or go to bed. I decided that food could wait; I wanted to go to bed with person who I had relentlessly pursued for over a week.

That evening, when I walked into the living room of Jonís apartment, he undressed me. As he casually undressed me, I told him that I would really like to get down to 55 kilograms, which is about 120 pounds.

Jon responded by telling me that he would be supportive of me losing weight, which would ensure that I would only need to wear one teddy instead of the panties and camisole that I usually donned. I would have loved nothing better than to be so thin that I didnít need sturdier undergarments, but at my slimmest I still wear a 34D bra, which is not conducive to wearing next to no foundations. I didnít want to shatter Jonís illusions, so I let him believe that I could be thin enough not to need to wear a bra or any other undergarments.

When Jon took me into his bedroom, I must say that I experienced what had to be one of the most surreal events of my life. He took me into his bedroom and positioned on the wall, next to his bed, hung a calendar of semi-nude women in semi-pornographic poses. Although I would have preferred not to have a boyfriend who felt the need to purchase such calendars, I didnít express any objections. The sex itself was what could have been considered a non-event. There is no doubt whatsoever that it certainly was not lovemaking. Fireworks didnít fly and Jon wasnít interested in the least in pleasing me. To be honest, I didnít even need to be there, which was an apt reflection of his auto-erotic habits that I would learn of several years later.

Jon was only interested in satisfying his own physical needs, much to my amazement. After the sexual act itself, the strangest thing occurred. Jon then curled up in the foetal position, on the edge of the bed and started vigorously shaking his legs back and forth until he went to sleep. To be honest, I was speechless. I had never had such a sexual experience didnít know how to react. Based on Jon rather bizarre actions relating to sexual intercourse, I can only assume that when he was a very young child, someone must have sexually abused him because his behaviour closely resembled the actions of a baby or a young child.

I was very concerned about Jonís behaviour and knew instantly that something must be very wrong for him to act out a sex scene in such a manner. I was so upset about what I was witnessing that if I could have gone home, I would have. Unfortunately, I didnít have my car and wasnít familiar enough with the area to walk home in the middle of the night.

The following morning when Jon awoke, he behaved so normally that I thought maybe I had misinterpreted the events from the previous evening. Maybe Jon wasnít as disturbed as I had believed him to be. I decided to give this unusual man a second chance.

The following morning, which was a Saturday, we had made plans to meet up that evening. I had been invited to a barbecue with my friend, Paz and I didnít want to let her down. When Paz came to my house to pick me up, she seemed quite upset when I told her that I had spent the night with Jon. I couldnít understand her suddenly cold attitude to me because she had never, as far as I am aware, expressed a romantic interest in Jon. From that moment on, Pazís attitude towards me chilled. She was so upset with me that she even went so far as to organise a social event and not invite me. Although Pazís rejection of me hurt deeply, I continued to be friendly to her, hoping that she would see the immaturity of her attitude and warm up to me once again.

The following Monday was the day of reckoning. Jon assured me that he would break up with the other woman. The situation wasnít as clear-cut as it should have been, however, because Kim had bought Jon a computer on the proviso that he re-pay the money in monthly instalments.

We had agreed that Jon would come to my house after he had done the dirty deed. I personally didnít understand what the problem was because I have been dumped, cheated on and betrayed more times than I would care to admit. I knew that it was not an unpleasant experience, but since they hadnít been going out that long anyway, I felt that the other woman would be able to cope with the situation, as I had many times before.

That night when I was waiting for Jon to come back from the other womanís house, it took absolutely ages for him to return. Jon didnít arrive at my home until well after 10:30pm and he was all keyed up, clearly on edge about something. He was full of energy and spoke to me in detail about his mother and her religion. Because I was so glad that Jon had chosen me over the other woman, I didnít bat an eyelash over the fact that he did not have an explanation for what had taken him so long and why he was exhibiting such high anxiety.

The following morning, the other woman, whose name I discovered was Kim, phoned Jon and begged him to reconsider. Jon seemed to be very upset about what she had said to him and I couldnít understand why. People break up all the time and donít suffer the guilt and anguish that Jon appeared to be experiencing.

For a variety of reasons I didnít see a great deal of Jon that week, which only served to intensify the high level of anxiety and uncertainty that I was feeling.

Because Jon hadnít bothered to pay his phone bill, it was impossible for me to phone him, so I could only guess what he was up to. I did not think it was particularly odd that Jon had not paid phone bill and it had consequently been disconnected. I assumed that since he would be leaving to go back to the UK in a couple of months, that he had merely decided to have it disconnected early. Jon made a point of joking about the fact that he had failed to pay his phone bill to his friends in a manner that made it seem as if it was a normal, every day experience.

While I was stationed at AFCENT, I had begun to attend a ladyís circle that had been led by Judy, the wife of a United States Air Force Colonel stationed on Geilenkirchen Air Base. Judy usually had these meetings at her house, but we had decided to take turns and have them at other peopleís houses. Shortly after I had started going out with Jon, the monthly meeting was scheduled to be at my house. I had meticulously prepared for the evening and was so excited that I had bought way too much food to serve to the guests.

During the evening, all of the ladies decided to pull a Karma Card, which were a variation of Tarot cards. I wasnít prepared, however, for the card that I pulled, which was the planet Pluto. Naturally, I had been thinking of my relationship with Jon as I pulled the card, and I felt that the wording contained therein was somewhat too stern for a dating situation. On the card were the words printed, ĎNo, no, noí, along with, ĎControl yourself or you will be controlledí, I couldnít understand why my higher self was warning me to stay away from Jon. Did I listen to my higher self? Of course not!

Because Jon owed Kim money, he was obliged to stay on friendly terms with her. Therefore, every Friday night until Jon left to go back to England, he went over to Kimís house. Jon told me that while he was at Kimís, she would fix dinner and talk about their friendship. I found this to be quite upsetting because I didnít understand why Jon couldnít just give Kim the money he owed her and be done with the affair once and for all. Therefore, instead of going out and enjoying myself with my new boyfriend, I had to share him with another woman, which served only to intensify the hatred that I felt for her.

The following weekend Paz had organised a boat trip. Although I hadnít been invited, I came along as Jonís date, much to Pazís chagrin. Ever since I had started dating Jon, she had really gone off me and her attitude hurt, as well as confused me. We got out of the boat to partake of some sightseeing and found ourselves in the midst of a farmerís Marcet. Because we had all known that we would be spending the day in Belgium, we all got Belgium Francs: all of us, that is, except for Jon. The first hour that we were in Belgium Jon commented several times that he needed to exchange some money. Although I was mildly embarrassed that Jon hadnít bothered to prepare for the social event, I volunteered to sell him some of my Francs so that he would not be out of pocket.

I didnít have the foresight to see that at that exact moment Jon had set a precedence in our relationship. He would find himself in a mess and I would bail him out time and time again. While we were on our trip, however, the subject of long distance phone calls came up. Long distance relationships are quite common to military personnel, so they can run up some really huge phone bills trying to stay close to their nearest and dearest.

Jon made a comment that seemed innocent at the time. His viewpoint, which he stated to the entire entourage was Ďlittle and oftení. Jon meant that in order to keep touch with his loved one, it was necessary to make short phone calls often.

It would take me literally years to figure out what the statement Ďlittle and oftení meant in reference to phone calls. The fact is that I rarely, if ever, knowingly received a phone call from Jon. I was usually the one who did all the phoning, and footing the bill at that. Therefore, how could Jon say that he phoned me and other people Ďlittle and oftení when I did not appear to be getting any phone calls from him at all. In retrospect, I believe that Jon did call me and other people Ďlittle and oftení. We just didnít know that is was he who was making the calls.

The evening we arrived back in Brunnsum, Jon found a message to phone Kim. I couldnít understand whatever was so urgent that he would need to return her call. I knew that if I had broken up with a man, I certainly would not be returning any calls that he had made to me. Jon, however, felt obliged to return his ex-girlfriendís call.

Since Jon didnít have a phone at his home, I allowed him to use mine.

It was during the conversation that Kim kept telling Jon that she was haemorrhaging, and that he had to go over to her house to see her. I couldnít understand what all the fuss was about. Why was Kim haemorrhaging? Why was it necessary for Jon to go over to her house and see her right away? It was at this time that Jon informed me that during the course of his very brief affair with Kim, she had managed to get pregnant, have an abortion, and buy a computer for Jon. This abortion wasnít helped by the fact that within a matter of weeks of meeting Jon, she had been involved in a relationship with another man, ended it, discovered that she was pregnant, and claimed to have miscarried. When Kim met Jon, she had some problems with her reproductive organs that were at least partially caused by the initial miscarriage. After Kim began dating Jon, she went into the hospital and had a D & C performed, which essentially scraped any debris from her uterine wall. It wasnít until much later that I was to learn that women are particularly fertile after a D & C, and it is therefore essential that adequate birth control is used to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

The situation with Kim was further muddled by the fact that just before arriving at Geilenkirchen Air Base, she allegedly had to leave the masterís degree programme that she was working on because she had become involved with one of her professors. When that relationship ended, Kim wasnít able to continue the course and was therefore given an assignment to NATO, supporting the AWACS aircraft.

If Kimís life circumstances were not complicated enough, before becoming involved with her professor, Kim had been in a relationship with a young man who had sadly died. She was so close to this person that she even spoke at his funeral.

The rather stern stiff upper lip mentality that I had been indoctrinated with in the military didnít equip me with the necessary skills and compassion to adequately understand what Kim was going through. The information that Jon had revealed to me was simply too much for me to bear, so I coped by drowning my sorrows in a bottle of Amaretto, getting drunk, and crying myself to sleep.

Amazingly, I hadnít yet picked up on who the real culprit in this whole scenario was. I hadnít yet twigged on to the fact that although Kim was at the very least a very depressed individual, it was nevertheless Jon who had become drunk, had unprotected sex with Kim, got her pregnant, taken her to an abortion clinic in the Netherlands, allowed her to purchase a computer, and then dumped her for another woman. I didnít want to see that it was Jon who was primarily responsible for creating this entire mess, so I didnít.

If I hadnít been so damaged and in need of healing myself, I would have been able to see for myself that if Jon would treat Kim in such a shabby manner, he would treat me equally as bad. I thought I was special. I thought I was Jonís one and only. I donít know why I thought such a thing because he had never said or done anything that would make me feel in the slightest bit special.

The morning after I found out just how involved Jon had become with Kim, he left my house to go to work. Before leaving, however, he calmly told me that I had upset him the night before. At that one little declaration, I was terrified that Jon would not want to go out with me any more and endeavoured to change into exactly what he wanted me to be. It never once entered into my mind that the things that he and Kim had done together upset me. How I felt wasnít important. All that mattered was how Jon felt.

With all the stress of Jon going out with me and continuing to be friends with Kim, and then finding out that Kim had been impregnated by Jon and then had an abortion, my body was total wreck. Not surprisingly, although my mind refused to see all that was going on, my body was trying to tell me otherwise. So alarmed was my body at what I had walked into, I started menstruating continuously. Instead of sitting back and taking stock of a situation that was so untenable that it was affecting my menstrual cycle, I went tot he doctor and told her that I had been bleeding non-stop for weeks. Taking the easy way out, the military doctor who saw me put me on the birth control pill, hoping that it would stop the bleeding. After several weeks, when the bleeding still hadnít ceased, the same doctor merely increased the dosage of the pill. Eventually, with enough oestrogen flowing through in my system, the bleeding did eventually stop, along with any rational feelings about the relationship. I didnít once stop to ponder that maybe if the relationship I was in was having such a detrimental effect on my body then maybe it might not be a healthy relationship to be in.

In this day and age of quick fixes and easy birth control, no one bothered to find out if I was even suitable for the pill. I had taken the pill once before when I was in my early 20ís, and then again when I was in my late 20ís. At the age of 32, the doctors put me on the pill again just to get me out of their hair. The doctors never bothered to discuss the contraindications with me and never once told me of the side effects, which incidentally, include depression and skin irritations. It would be several years before I would actually read the little piece of paper that comes with each monthís supply, but by that time so many things would have happened that the side effects that I suffered would be irrelevant. In the years that would follow, I could only ask myself if I would have been able to think and act more appropriately if I had never been on the birth control pill at all. One will never know.

I knew fully well that all of those extra hormones were doing me no good, but I suppose that I didnít want to get pregnant, so took my pills each and every day. Even at that time, I suppose that subconsciously didnít want to have a child from a man who would make a woman have an abortion.

One of the things that Jon didnít like about Kim was the fact that she was overweight. On the few occasions that I caught a glimpse of her, however, she didnít appear to be overweight to me. I therefore decided that I would lose weight and get as skinny as possible. My goal was 55 kilograms, which is about 120 pounds. At that weight, Jon would not have any reason to complain, or so I thought.

That week I didnít see a great deal of Jon and I was reluctant to go into his office to chat for fear the he would think I was a bit too forward. I wanted so badly to be close to close to him, but at the same time I wanted to play hard to get. I wanted Jon to come to me, not the other way around.

Jon did pop into my office and told me that he wanted me to organise a coach trip for a group of his friends. I took this as a test of my ability to organise social events, a quality that he apparently wanted in a woman. I didnít know where to begin in this endeavour and grasped onto the few leads that I had been given in the form of phone numbers that Jon had given me.

Jon allowed me to clumsily muddle my way through the mire of organising the coach trip for a few days, and then came and informed me that the parties involved had decided that they didnít want to go, which pleased me to no end. I didnít want t spend my weekend with a group of Jonís friends who I barely knew. I wanted to spend it with him.

The weekend after Kim rang up in tears, saying that she was haemorrhaging, Jon was scheduled to go back to the abortion clinic to get another abortion because apparently, the one she had previously been given hadnít been successful. I found it to be quite strange that Kim should still be pregnant after such a massive haemorrhage, but was obliged to go along with the ruse. I didnít want to risk losing Jon if I questioned his and Kimís activities too stringently. Therefore, instead of spending Saturday morning with me, which is what I felt that Jon should have been doing, he drove over to Kimís house to take her to get yet another abortion.

To my surprise, however, Jon rang my doorbell on Saturday morning and told me that he had changed his mind and would be spending the day with me. Jon told me that when he had arrived at Kimís house, she had informed him that she had yet another miscarriage the night before. When Jon asked Kim to produce evidence of the miscarriage, Kim had been unable to do so. Kim was very upset that Jon would not be spending the day with her as she had hoped, which is why she made up the story about the abortion not working out in the first place.

It just so happens that the weekend that Kim was scheduled for her second abortion was also the 4th of July weekend and celebrations had been organised at Headquarters AFCENT. Because I had expected Jon to be out all day, I had invited Erika, a German friend, to attend the celebrations with me.

I suppose that Jon felt obliged to make sure that Kim was alright, since he had not yet paid her for the computer that she had purchased for him. He therefore made arrangements to go over to Kimís house that afternoon, so we had made arrangements for him to come to my house at 3:00pm so that Jon, Erika and I could all go to the festivities together . 3:00 came and went, and there was no sign whatsoever of Jon. Erika and I didnít know what to do about Jon, who hadnít shown, so after about an hour we decided that we couldnít wait for him any longer. Although I was reluctant to do so, I felt that since Erika had come to see me and the festivities, and I didnít want to let her down.

While Erika was with me, I told her all about my troubles with Jon and Kim. After Erika had listened to the story, she made a comment that would come back to haunt me over and over.

Erika said, ĎJonís mother must have said or done something to him when he was a child for him to behave this way.í

Because Erika was much more streetwise than me, she was able to pick up on something that it would take me years to subtly uncover, that Jonís relationship with his mother was at the crux of his difficulties in his relationships with women. Because, I couldnít understand how Jonís relationship with his mother could have such a powerful effect on what was going on with Kim and me, I dismissed Erikaís comment as merely her opinion.

Months later, Erika would reveal another prophetic sentiment with regard to my living arrangements. Sadly, I wasnít ready to listen to any common sense and probably would have dismissed those concerns as well if she had told me at the time.

When Erika and I arrived at the slag-heap, where the festivities were being held, I saw Jonís car drive down the road and assumed that he was on his way to meet me. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined that he would have been up to something much more sinister. Even though Jon was severely late, I was so pleased to see him that I never once questioned what he might be doing to delay him so. I didnít even think about what he could have been doing, and just assumed that he was with Kim. I really didnít care where Jon had been, just so long as he was there with me at that point in time.

When we arrived at the festivities, Jon told me that Kim and her friends would be there on the following day, so he therefore would not be going. I couldnít understand why Jon would not go to the celebrations just because Kim was going to be there. I thought Jon was being somewhat melodramatic, but didnít want to rock the boat and backed down in the face of a confrontation. If Jon didnít want to celebrate Independence Day with me, then I supposed that we would have to find something else to do together.

While Jon, Erika and I sat at a wooden table drinking a beer, Erika commented on the burn on my hand. I had scalded myself on the kettle at Jonís apartment and it had left a nasty wound. I told Erika that it was quite a coincidental accident and sarcastically commented that I needed to be careful not to get burned. If I only knew just how psychic those words were because in a metaphorical sense, I would get burned by him very badly.

Jon felt quite uncomfortable with the comment that I had made in jest. Perhaps his discomfort had something to do with the fact that on a subconscious level he intended all along to Ďburní me. I will never know, however, because once again, I never asked him. There were lots of things that I never asked Jon. There were lots of things that Jon didnít volunteer. I just assumed that if I didnít see or hear something then it must not be happening. What a totally incorrect assumption to make.

Because Jon felt so awkward over something I said in jest, he left the table to get a beer, which gave me cause for concern. I couldnít understand why he would feel so uncomfortable about a simple little comment. In retrospect, my intuitive facilities were working much more accurately than my reasoning ability. My intuition told me that this man was a rat. My logic told me that there was no reason for me not to trust a senior NCO in the British Army. The fact in itself that Jon was a member of the military should have made me wary. I hadnít yet realised that dysfunctional people are naturally attracted to the armed forces and that the armed forces actively recruits in areas of social deprivation. A dysfunctional relationship with a dysfunctional person in a dysfunctional profession was the last thing in the world I needed. I allowed my logic to overrule my intuition, which would ultimately cause me many years of pain and anguish.

The following day, Jonís replacement flew into the country to find a place to live before he was officially posted to AFCENT. Although Jon told me that his replacement would be coming, I had assumed that we would be able to spend time together in the evenings. To my dismay, Jon didnít pay me any attention at all during the week, bar one evening. With the exception of that one evening, Jon devoted just about every breathing moment to this man, who was merely a work colleague and certainly, in my opinion, not warranting of such attention.

That week had to be one of the worst of my life, as I ached for any sort of contact with Jon, which wasnít forthcoming. I had hoped that Jon would have at least given me a call during the evening just to say Ďhelloí, which he didnít. Jon didnít bother to phone me because he had totally enmeshed himself in entertaining his guest. My heart literally sank whenever I saw Jon and his replacement leave the building each evening. Even though I was very perplexed at Jonís hot and cold reactions to me, I wasnít, however, prepared to ask him how it was possible that he could turn his emotions on and off at the drop of a had.

When I was finally alone with Jon, I jokingly told him that I thought that he hadnít contacted me because Kim had come back into the picture.

Jonís reply was, ĎIf she came over to the flat, I would throw her off the balcony.í

Shocked at such a frank and abrupt revelation, I though that Jon must be joking. Surely he would not do something like that. I dismissed Jonís frank admission from my mind the moment it was uttered. I didnít want to hear it. I didnít want to know it. So I didnít.

On the Thursday evening, I was invited out for drinks in Maasthricht with Jon, his replacement, and some of his friends. Although I was just thrilled that I had been invited, the invitation was probably more to do with the fact that they wanted me to drive them home afterward than a genuine desire for me to participate in the social outing. During the course of the evening, Jonís replacement quietly slipped away to phone his wife, which was a thoughtful gesture, considering the fact that almost every waking moment of his life was taken up by Jon during that week. At the end of the evening, it was expected that I would drive the party home, which I dutifully did even though I had never driven a right-hand drive car before in my life.

The following morning both Jon and I slept in. This was the first time in my military career of almost 15 years that I had ever been late for work. Before I was able to leave for work, however, I was expected to iron Jonís uniform for him. For some reason, he seemed to be particularly excited about the fact that even though he had made me late for work and I could very well be disciplined for it, he was having me iron his uniform, which, I might add, was no easy task. Jonís tactics were so subtle that I hadnít yet realised that he enjoyed manipulating people and making them do what he wanted them to do. Jon enjoyed dominating people, which is one of the reasons why he was so successful in the military.

The next couple of weeks settled down somewhat so that I could enjoy the remaining time that I had with Jon before he had to go back to England. He didnít, however, really have to go as early as he professed because in reality he had nothing to go back to. If Jon had wanted, he could have gone back to England to out-process and then come back to stay with me for awhile. He didnít want to, however, so I convinced myself that he couldnít.

Jon was getting out of the army on a redundancy package and would be paid £60,000 for his 18 years of service. He gave all sorts of excuses for leaving the army, but none of them were really concrete, especially for someone who loved the military lifestyle as much as he did. One of the reasons that Jon gave was that he didnít want to have to order people around as he progressed through the ranks, but from what I could see, Jon loved telling other people what to do. It just didnít make sense.

One morning when Jon and I were getting ready to go to work, he happily told me that when he was a child his mother used to lock him up in closets. I was horrified that a woman would lock her child in a closet, but I let the comment go unnoticed. I suppose on some level I didnít want to appear critical of the woman who I hoped was my future mother-in-law, so I decided to keep an open mind on what I intuitively felt was a alarming situation.

Jon also told me about Jim, a colleague in the Army, who had lived with him for four months. Apparently Jim was having marital problems and had begun a relationship with another woman who was also in the Army. Jim had moved in with Jon for a short time, but after about four months, Jon told Jim that he would have to leave. I personally felt that Jon was a bit callous to tell Jim that he would have to leave, especially since they were supposed to have been friends. If anything, it was Jon who was so self-righteous when he told the story, as he stressed repeatedly that he had to ask Jim to leave his house. Little did I know that years later, Jon would do exactly the same thing to me.

In the next breath, however, Jon would lament the fact that Jim, the girlfriend and one other person would go out for dinner together and not invite him. It is possible that Jim went to these evenings in an attempt to give Jon the space that he said he wanted. If the parties occurred after Jon had asked Jim to leave, he certainly shouldnít have been expected to be invited to social outings with in individual who he had pretty much made homeless. Again, it just didnít make sense.

One evening when Jon was at my house, he told me a story, which in retrospect, summed up his character. Jon had gone out one night, got drunk, and somehow got beaten up so badly that he should have been in the hospital. To this day it hurts my soul that someone would be so purposely cruel as to harm him for no reason, but what Jon did next was an even more alarming expression of what motivates him. He decided that he would personally find the individuals who had beaten him up and get revenge. As part of his plan, he spent every moment possible in the gym bodybuilding, to the extent that his then girlfriend was even worried about his mental health. When Jon felt sufficiently confident to hold his own in a fight, he went out looking for the people who had beaten him up. When Jon caught up with one of the men, he drug him outside into an alley and told him that if he ever laid eyes on him again, he would kill him.

The story that Jon told me was a chilling tale of his lust for retribution. Instead of following a more orthodox route, and allowing the appropriate military authorities look into the issue, Jon decided to take the law into his own hands.

Jon relayed to me that he joined the Army when he was 16 as a boy soldier, and received weekly money that had been doled out to him by his superiors until he was 18. He said that he spent all of his money during this time on sweets, which I found to be a bit immature. Most boys I know at 16 wanted to spend their money on far more interesting things than sweets, such a girls, cars, or socialising, but I allowed that comment to go unnoticed. I dismissed everything that seemed a bit out of the ordinary from my mind.

Far more disturbing to me was his revelation that he hadnít lost his virginity until he was 24. I had to wonder whatever did he do from the age of 16 to 24, in the Army, with no family or girlfriend around for support. Even though Jon appeared to have had a very immature outlook on life, I let any reservations that I may have had about his sexuality or potential fade out of my consciousness just as soon as they came in. I was determined that Jon was going to be my man at any cost. Something I didnít realise was exactly how great that cost would be.

* * *

My perception of men had been completely different from what I had come to learn about Jon. When I was a young girl, I wasnít allowed to have any contact with the opposite sex whatsoever because my mother was terrified that I would get pregnant, as she had when she was 16. From a very early age, my mother had drilled into my head that men were animals and not to be trusted. So adamant was my mother in her wish for me not to see men that she would fly into a rage at the mere mention of going out on an innocent date. My mother made repeated promises to me that when I reached a certain age that I would be allowed to go out what boys, but whatever age came, my mother would retract the promise that she had originally made to me. Needless to say, after my mother had broken enough promises, I learned not to count on her word at all.

Because my mother had had such disastrous relationships with men, she decided that she didnít want them in her life anymore. She saw men merely as a means to get the bills paid, and nothing more. She developed very intense relationships with women, which may or may note have been of a sexual nature. From an early age, I had come to know and love some of her lady friends even though they betrayed me time and time again.

Even as early as the age of five, my mother would take my sister and me out with her girlfriends. I recall so vividly during an early encounter when my mother tried to break it off with Lela, one of her first girlfriends. Lela was in tears, begging my mother not to break up. Lela issued such heartfelt pleas that my sister and I begged my mother not to break up with her. In the end, my mother relented, much to the relief of Lela, my sister and myself. Of all of my motherís girlfriends, I must say that I liked Lela the most because she. The reason for this was because I believed that she interfered the least in the relationship with my mother.

Because Lela was so madly in love with my mother, she would put up with almost any abuse that Mama dished out. On one occasion I witnessed my mother screaming at Lela and chasing her around the house with a hot iron. Because I was so young, I tried to stay invisible because even then I knew that Irons were hot and could burn people. Several days later I noticed a nasty burn on Lelaís arm. When I asked Lela what the burn was from, she made up an excuse and told me that she had fallen. Because I was so young I believed the story that Lela had given me. As and adult, however, I know that one cannot get a burn from falling. Although Lela was married to a very successful pilot, she was so besotted with my mother that she would allow her to inflict wounds on her body. Now that is sad.

I was accustomed to maternal violence, however, as my mother never hesitated to use violence against me whenever the mood hit her. I am not aware if she had ever been violent with Bill, my step-father, but she certainly screamed the house down over any real or imagined wrong that anyone else had committed. My motherís relationship with Bill was quite odd as well. Although he was college educated, had been a teacher, and worked as s civil servant, he was quite happy to put up with my motherís many tirades, which occurred on almost a daily basis. One would have thought that he could pretty much have any woman he wanted in Arkansas, the second poorest state in the nation, so what was he doing with some very violent, hysterical woman who preferred the company of women over men. Although Bill liked to take the moral high ground and pretend to take the moral high ground, there must have been something pretty austere in his character is he would put up with a situation like that.

The next woman to befriend my mother was a very damaged woman, Bobbie. My mother didnít have room in her life for two girlfriends, so Lela had to go. My motherís relationship with Bobbie was very intense, if not violent as well, which took on rather sinister overtones, as sex seemed to be the main bond that they had together.

Of all of my motherís friends, I think that Bobbie did the most to destroy the relationship that I had with my mother. Without a doubt, she must be one of the most evil, wicked persons who I have ever come across. Bobbie deliberately set about to destroy any possibility of unity between my mother and me.

Of course, as an adult my mother had free will to decide what was more important to her, her children or her friends, and as an adult I have the choice to forgive my mother for all of the things that she did. But, as fate would have it, as we are all endowed with feelings and emotions that are not so easy to rationalise, and although I can forgive my mother for all the things she did to harm me, I can never forget.

Bobbie came from a completely different background than Lela. Lela treated people with decency and respect, and as a result of her good qualities, had an active family and social life, Bobbie tended to be much more flamboyant. Lela was close to her family, who were active in the Pentecostal church in Little Rock, while Bobbie hailed from Texas and did not maintain close ties with her relatives. Lela lived in the more affluent suburbs of Little Rock, while Bobbie was forced to share an apartment with another woman in order to make ends meet. Lela had something that Bobbie didnít have Ė stability.

Bobbie did not have lots of money and was not able to provide Mama with the lifestyle that she had become accustomed to while being friends with Lela. Nevertheless my mother had an affinity with this woman who had come into our lives. At first it was a great novelty to have this new person to talk to and confide in, but as I got to know Bobbie I saw a dark side to her character. If my life was fraught with difficulties before, it was when Mama met Bobbie that things went from bad to worse, and then from worse to horrific.

I guess that because I came from such a dysfunctional background that it never occurred to me that something may actually be amiss when Mama dumped Lela for apparently no reason and took up with Bobbie. Because I had never really been taught about the complexities of human relationships, I did not know that as social creatures, we often become acquainted with people who we see on a casual basis and there is no reason to discard one friendship just because another person comes into our lives.

A cunning beast, Bobbie knew that in order to win my motherís affections she must become liked by her children and husband, and it is for that reason that we all became fast friends. Bobbie would let my sister and me spend the night with her on Saturday evenings, a pass time that we considered it to be great fun because we were able to get out of the house for a brief respite. The fact that Bobbie would usually disappear and leave us there all alone was of no consequence because it was such a pleasant journey away from our motherís bickering. After a while Candice did not want to spend the night at Lelaís, but I did Ė I would do almost anything to get away from home.

Early on in my acquaintanceship with Bobbie, I was to learn that as a child she had gone to a psychiatrist several times a week for several years. I simply could not imagine why a child would need to see a psychiatrist, but did not ask Bobbie to go into detail about why she felt she needed it. Bobbieís mother obviously felt that she needed help if she would send her to a psychiatrist and I am positive that she had Bobbieís best interests at heart.

Bobbie pretty much became a permanent feature in our household, as she saw Mama almost every day and joined us for a huge family meal on Sundays. I suppose that in some ways I should be grateful to Bobbie because if it had not been for those weekly lunches, I doubt very seriously that I would have seen my mother at all. The entire family carried on as if everything was normal, and I honestly donít know if anyone ever approached my mother regarding the normality of her allowing a single woman to infiltrate her family.

Bobbie was so enamoured with my mother that when her own mother came up to Arkansas from Texas, there seemed to be a disagreement between mother and daughter about the bond that two grown women had developed with each other. From what I can gather, Bobbieís mother felt that my mother was using Bobbie, and that she was doing entirely too much for my mother.

Because I know my mother so well, I am sure that she was using Bobbie to some degree. What no one knew at the time was the fact that both Bobbie and Mama were as thick as thieves. They were both using each other to get what they both wanted out of life.

This diatribe escalated to the point where Bobbieís mother refused to go to Sunday lunch at our house. Instead of Bobbie spending that Sunday with her mother, she instead decided to spend Sunday with my mother in our house. I found Bobbieís behaviour to be quite odd, considering the fact that her mother had flown to Arkansas especially to see her daughter. As usual, I did not want to pry into exactly what was going on because I felt that it was none of my business.

Bobbie tried to give the impression that she was an upbeat, happy person, but I feel that it was a faÁade that she had built up over the years. There were some cracks in this veneer that covered Bobbieís persona, but as she was my motherís friend there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it.

On one occasion I caught Bobbie reading my motherís mail. When I reproached her for it, she became defensive and made up an excuse for looking at it. One another occasion, when Bobbie had found out that someone she knew had died, she howled, moaned and cried for what seemed like hours. I could not understand how Bobbie could react like this any more than she could understand how I could show such lack of emotion over such an extreme life event.

Bobbie could be very volatile, but rarely showed it to people who did not know her. One day I came home to find that we had a new telephone. I later to learn that Bobbie had ripped the old one off the wall in a jealous rage. I know that if I had a friend who displayed such violent tendencies that I would vow to distance myself away from that person. I can only believe that since my mother can be rather explosive herself, that she must have yearned for such friendships.

Mama and Bobbie would often take Candice and me to the movies. These excursions were saddened by the fact that they rarely went to the movies with us. They would merely drop us off and promise to collect us at a later time. Quite often, however, Mama and Bobbie would be terribly late picking us up, so two 13 year old girls would be all alone, waiting outside the theatre for someone to pick us up. Although Candice and I were quite annoyed to have been kept waiting out on the streets, late at night, we were too naÔve to ask our mother exactly where she was up to all that time.

On one occasion Mama and Bobbie dropped my brother, sister and myself off at the movies and kept left us there for such a long time that we saw at least two movies before they came to collect us. I am sure that my brother did not appreciate their antics because it was the last time that I am aware of that he would be lured into going to the movies.

When Bobbie initially came into our lives, she shared an apartment with another woman. On one occasion when Candice, another young girl and I went to spend Saturday night with Bobbie, the woman who she shared an apartment with had brought a man home to spend the night with her. When we woke up the next morning, to our surprise there were menís clothes littered across the living room floor and staircase leading up to the womanís room. Personally, I was quite amused at what I saw because I have never been a prude. Unfortunately for the poor woman and her man-friend, Bobbie felt it necessary to telephone my mother and tell her what happened.

Never mind what I had been subjected to in my own home, my mother was sufficiently shaken by at the thought that her innocent little children may be corrupted in some way that she felt it necessary to have one of her few mother-daughter talks. Therefore, when I came home from an enjoyable reprieve, I was greeted with a very sombre expression on my motherís face, as she ushered us into her bedroom to inform us that what the woman had done was not a very nice thing to do. To be honest, I was not bothered in the least that the woman had decided to spend her Saturday evening enjoying herself, and found myself a bit uncomfortable at having to listen to my mother try to explain to me the right way to live. I found my mother admonishments to be a bit hypocritical considering the fact that my own brother was born out of wedlock and my mother had been thrice married. It never ceases to amaze me how the most vehement preachers are also the biggest sinners. If we could all just live and let live, there would be much less strife in the world today.

It was not long after that incident that Bobbie moved into her own apartment.

A couple of times when Candice and I were supposed to be staying at Bobbieís, she would drop us off at a coffee shop. Once at the coffee shop, she would order us a dessert and we were instructed to wait for her to return. Bobbie merely said that she had gone to see a friend, and never elaborated on where she had been and why she had been so long. Candice and I never questioned Bobbie about this, but Candice soon tired of Bobbieís lack of concern about where she dumped us off and decided that she did not want to stay at Bobbieís anymore.

One evening when Bobbie had gone out and I was there all on my own, I had nothing better to do and happened to go through her drawers. I was quite intrigued when I found a book of old pornographic cartoons. As topics of a sexual nature were concerned, I was still very naÔve, so therefore found the book to be something of an eye-opener. On another occasion I found in Bobbieís bookshelf the book entitled, ĎAll You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Askí. Naturally, I was at that age when one wants to know about such things, and therefore read the book from cover to cover. I found Xevier Hollanderís book, ĎThe Happy Hookerí, and read it from cover to cover as well. For someone who had never even been kissed in a romantic nature, I sure learned a lot about sex in a very short period of time.

When I was about 14 I went over to stay the night with Bobbie. Bobbie had a sofa that converted to a bed, so I already knew that I would be sleeping there while Bobbie slept in her own bedroom. As I settled into my abode for the evening, it was not long before I dozed off in front of the television set. While I was slumbering, I awoke to the rustling of the covers, only to find Bobbie in bed with me.

Irritated to have found Bobbie sharing my bed, I asked, ĎWhat are you doing?!?í.

ĎI just thought that you would like some company, ĎBobbie replied.. I assured Bobbie that no, I did not want any company, and made it perfectly clear to her that that she needed to go back to her own bed.

The next morning I thought the incident was over and done with and thought nothing more of it. When Bobbie received a call from someone, she told me that she had to go out for a little while and would be back soon. Not thinking about whom she was with or what she was doing, I kept myself occupied by watching television and getting ready to go home.

It was not soon after Bobbie left that my mother rang, asking where Bobbie was. As Bobbie had not given me any instructions about what to say should anyone call, I told my mother that Bobbie had gone out, not knowing that my response would be cause for concern. When Bobbie returned I told Bobbie that Mama had rang, totally unprepared for the response that I had incited. Bobbie started yelling at me, asking me why I did such a thing,

ĎIíll get you back! Iíll get you back!í, Bobbie screeched at me over and over, running around the house in a fervour.

Well, considering the fact that I was only 14 years old and unaware of any wrong doing that I had done, I could not understand why Bobbie was reacting in such a way. I never stayed at Bobbieís after that, and we soon developed an animosity towards each other as we competed for my motherís affections.

One warm, summer evening Bobbie and Mama decided that they would like to go see a pornographic movie at the local drive through. This was a bit difficult because Mama was obliged to take Candice and me with her, so we were instructed to hide in the back seat of the car when the two adults drove into the cinema. Mama told us that we were not to watch the parts where people were actually having intercourse, so when those scenes appeared we had to close our eyes and not watch. Considering the fact that even as an adult I can think of 1,001 things that I would rather be doing than watching two individuals copulate on the big screen, as an adolescent I was quite embarrassed to be watching such things say the least. Oddly enough, I never considered my motherís actions peculiar. I now know that when parents allow there children to watch pornographic movies, it is actually considered to be a form of child sexual abuse.

When I was in the eighth grade I was quite surprised to come home from school to find my mother in bed with Bobbie. Although I was very naÔve for my age, I nevertheless knew that there had better be a really good reason for two grown women to be in bed together. When I expressed my annoyance at the two of them for showing such flagrant disregard for other people by sleeping together in the same bed.

ĎWe were just tired and wanted to take a napí, was Mamaís only reply. Considering the fact that I was still a child and they were adults, I was not in a position to voice my concerns vociferously. I therefore had to let what I considered to be a very feeble excuse rest.

One day when my mother had left me alone in her beauty shop I had nothing to do except read magazines. I had grown quite tired of the True Love and Modern Romance that were normally left for the customers to read, and decided to look around to see if there was anything else of interest. As I opened the closet in the room that contained hair dryers, I was surprised to find several magazines in a top shelf. To my surprise, I found several editions of Penthouse and other assorted pornographic titles to peruse. Amazed, I read them from cover to cover, being somewhat intrigued. What I did find to be perplexing, however, was the fact that the pictures in the spreads were of women, not men. If my mother was going to be purchasing pornographic material, then wouldnít it seem plausible that Playgirl would have been a more appropriate choice?

At this point in my life I still had somewhat of a rebellious spirit, so I therefore confronted my mother with what I had found and asked her what she was doing with it. Without even batting an eyelash, my mother matter of factly informed me that the magazines belonged to my step-father. I have never been a suspicious person and therefore accepted her reasons as to why she would have pornographic magazines stashed away in her beauty shop. At a much later date, however, I happened to mention the magazines to Bill. He seemed very surprised to learn that Mama had them kept in her shop. He assured me that no, they were not his magazines, but he would be very interested in have a look at them to view their contents.

It slowly became apparent to me that my mother was somewhat of a hypocrite. She expected my sister and me to be perfect little angels while she carried on in any fashion that pleased her. What is even more ironic is the fact that years later, when my mother had pilfered through my sisterís personal belongings and found that birth control pills, she suggested that my sister and her boyfriend should be thinking about getting married if they were going to carry on like that. When I was 18 and had joined the military, my mother suggested to me that she did not approve of my lifestyle because I had a few boyfriends. I honestly donít know what my mother was trying to achieve when she put across this pretence of unabashed purity to her children.. I can only surmise that my mother was living in a massive state of denial and honestly believed that her relationships with women were quite innocent.

When my mother snooped through my personal belongings, she found a tongue and cheek book that I had bought on how to tell effective lies. Of course, the majority of the stories were quite funny and nothing that would be any use to a 14 year old, but my mother did not hesitate to make sarcastic comments about it and try to imply that I was in some way dishonest for having purchased a book. Well, considering the fact that my mother is one of the biggest liars I have ever met, I considered her accusations to be like to pot calling the kettle black.

It was not until years later that my mother confided to me that her so-called good friend Bobbie had been stealing from her. Of course, Bobbie would never admit to theft and therefore fabricated a story that I was stealing money to buy drugs. This, of course, was not true. I can only suppose that my mother would rather believe that her own daughter stealing from her instead of taking a close look at the associations that she was forming.

Because Mama had to work, Candice and I never spent a great deal of time with her, so I was mildly surprised and pleased to come home to find my mother had set the dinner table and had made a pot roast for dinner. I asked my mother what the special occasion was.

ĎI just thought it would be nice to fix you kids dinner,í my mother replied. While normal people would consider my motherís actions to be quite commonplace, if not ordinary, they were in fact out of character. That was one of the few occasions in my life when Mama did what other mothers do.

At 14, I was very self-conscious about my weight and decided to do something about it. I therefore ordered one of those Weider exercise kits from a magazine because it promised to transform my figure in as little as two weeks. Because I was desperate to lose weight, I waited for the mailman to deliver what I considered to be a miracle cure. When it finally arrived, I found that it was composed of plastic drawstrings that attached to the doorknobs, and the literature promised me a new, svelte figure if I used it every day. Sadly, instead of my mother being pleased for me because I was actually trying to do something about my weight, she took every opportunity to make snide, vindictive remarks.

Although my mother was loathe to even lift a finger to clean the house, nothing that my sister and I did was ever good enough. My mother expected my sister and me to spend every waking moment at her beckon call, cleaning her house for her. Any time she found a speck of dust she would go hysterical. Among the irrational accusations that she would yell in my direction were the fact that I wanted to exercise instead of clean the house. It seemed that I just could not win, whatever I did.

Although I am sure that Bobbie had an ulterior motive, one of the only decent things that she ever did for me was to persuade my mother to let me have a part-time job when I was 14 years old. Although my mother will never admit it, Iím sure the realisation that she would no longer have to spend any money on me at all was the deciding factor in allowing me to have a job. True to her word, Bobbie scheduled an appointment for me to see Mr van Russum, the owner of the local MacDonalds franchise. During our meeting I sat back and said nothing, but Bobbie, possessed with the gift of being able to think quickly on her feet, did all the talking and secured me a position with the company.

Even though Bobbie did that one good deed for me, the damage that she caused cannot even compare to the small little favours that she did. The following summer my twin sister decided that she wanted a job, so Bobbie resorted to the same tactics and landed one for my sister.

What soured what should have been good fortune for my sister was the fact that Candice was to be working at the same place that I was. I personally did not have a problem with this, but where Candice worked was shrouded in complete mystery because Bobbie did not want me to find out. Well, if Candice and I were going to be working together I would have found out sooner or later. I was particularly hurt by Bobbieís actions because she purposely did not tell me because she naturally assumed that I was like her Ė that I would try to cause problems and hinder Candice in some way.

Had it not been for the fact that I was allowed to go out to work on the weekends and during the school vacation, I donít know what state I would have grown into. When I was at home I was isolated and alone, but when I went to MacDonalds, I was surrounded by young people and soon developed a rapport. Because I did not drive, my step-father usually took me to work and picked me up. Although I am sure that Bill had ulterior motives for taking me to work everyday because he was free to do whatever he liked without fear me cramping his style, it was nevertheless one of the few decent things that he ever did for me.

With Bobbie, my mother was able to have a lifestyle that she had never before had. Every day my mother would leave for work early in the morning and not return until well after I had gone to bed. It seemed that with the exception of Sunday lunch, I would literally go for weeks without seeing my mother. My motherís rationale for her behaviour was that she was reliving her childhood because lost her childhood through having children at such an early age. My motherís reasoning seems quite contradictory because for the most part my brother, sister and I had to fend for ourselves. When my mother did make a rare nocturnal appearance, she usually only made insulting comments, which had ceased to hurt me many years earlier.

One evening when Candice and I were home alone, Mama returned in a hurry to sort out some flower arrangements for the house. Because it was so unusual for Mama to actually be home at that time of the day, I went into the dining room to say Ďhelloí. My appearance was met with a frosty reception, as my mother was obviously in a foul mood for some reason. She looked at me, asked me a question about the dried flowers that I knew absolutely nothing about, and proceeded to hurl a litany of profanities in my direction. Because it happened so fast I was unaware of her precise wording, but I was able to recall that my own mother called me a Ďgoddamn, fucking bitchí. As suddenly as my mother entered the house she departed off to destinations unknown. In a daze, I went back into the living room and watched television because I wasnít sure of the correct protocol when one has just been verbally abused for no apparent reason.

By the time I was 15 I was totally fed up with my mother and all of the neglect that I had been subjected to just by virtue of the fact that I had to live with her. I came home one day to find a group of my motherís dykie friends sitting in the living room, enjoying themselves. Mama and her friends may have been having the time of their lives, but all of this fun they were having was having a detrimental affect on me. I wanted a mother, not some swinger who only saw me on rare occasions so she could hurl verbal abuse in my direction as a type of panacea for the pathetic life she was living. As I looked at all of her friends, attired in short, cropped haircuts in Levi 501 jeans and loafers, I was overcome with a sense of hatred. These woman saw my mother as a charming bit of fun and couldnít care less that she had a husband and three children who needed her to be home. As if to retain some of my own personal power, I went into the living room where my mother was entertaining her guests and told my mother in front of her friends that I thought she was a terrible mother.

Since my motherís sorted acquaintances were merely looking for a good time, they wasted no time in making their excuses and leaving. Although Bobbie did not possess enough decorum to realise that her intrusion into our family was destroying it, at least these people who my mother had literally drug in off the streets had the common decency to realise that they were not welcome in a family home.

Of course, my mother just wanted to die of embarrassment that I would be so bold as to make such declarations to her Ďfriendsí. Instead of taking a good, hard look at how her lifestyle was affecting me, she barked, ĎAfter what you just did, you are going to have to go live with your father because I donít want you anymore!í

Well, I knew that. My mother had been telling me since I was nine or ten that she didnít want me and the only reason why I was there was because my father did not want me either. Perhaps if I had been made to feel welcome at home I would not have had so many behaviour problems. Perhaps if my mother had wanted me, I would not have become such a mess.

I have no doubt that Mama telephoned my father and begged him to take me off of her hands, but considering the fact that he barely able to provide for himself, much less another person, that was not an option. After Mamaís initial statement I heard nothing more about being forced to move out of the house. Iím sure, however, that my mother was seething with anger because I was cramping her alternative lifestyle.

My mother was so wrapped up in herself that she couldnít even be bothered to attend important school functions for her children. Forget about PTA and school open evenings. Mama never attended one and we did not expect her to. Although she feigned work as an excuse for not attending these meetings, the fact of the matter is that since she was self-employed, if she wanted to, she very well could have rearranged her schedule. The fact of the matter is that my mother simply didnít give a damn about how well her children did in school because she viewed us as parasites who had robbed her of her childhood.

One event that my mother failed to show up at sticks in my mind particularly because it had nothing to do with me, but my sister. Candice was in the band and the choir at school. Part of participating in these activities means that a recital is often required to show the parents the achievements that their children have made.

On one particular evening Candice was scheduled to attend a recital, and I think that on this particular event she was singing in the choir. Bobbie, ever the helper, dropped both Candice and me outside the gymnasium of the school where it was to be held. Bobbie assured me that she and Mama would return to see Candice perform. As I was all on my own, I sat down in the bleachers and waited for Mama and Bobbie to return so they could see Candice sing.

The gym soon filled up as the proud families came to see their offspring sing and play musical instruments. I tried not to look too conspicuous, sitting on my in the bleachers. Towards the end of the performance Mama and Bobbie finally arrived just in time to pick my sister and I up and take us home. Mama never told us why she couldnít even be bothered to attend her daughterís recital. Candice never uttered a word to me about her disappointment in her mother not seeing her perform: I suppose that by this time she was accustomed as I was at having a mother who didnít give a damn.

It should come as no surprise to learn that with all that was going on at home, I was beginning to have difficulties at school and socially. Although I managed to maintain reasonable grades, Iím social skills were beginning to deteriorate at a rapid pace. I am sad to say that I was becoming just a belligerent as my mother, and treated people accordingly.

It was not long before it became obvious to me that my mother would always put her desire to go out and have a good time with her friends above the needs of her children Ė specifically her daughters, who she considered to be competition instead of offspring. On one warm spring day I was sitting with my mother and Bobbie in Burger King. Because my mother has always had a huge appetite, one Double Whopper with Cheese was not enough and she had to have another one.

After my mother was in the process of polishing off her second Double Whopper with Cheese, she was discussing the fact that she was going to go to New Orleans while my step-father was away on a business trip. She was very concerned about what alibi she would come up with so that Bill would not find out what she was up to. Still innocent and naÔve, I did not understand what all the fuss was about and why Bill would be so upset with her for going away on a trip.

Without thinking about anything in particular, I asked my mother, ĎWhat if Bill finds out?í

Although to my way of thinking, Bill finding out was a legitimate concern, my mother took what I said as a threat. She lowered the Double Whopper with Cheese that she had been delighting in, looked me straight, bore her teeth, and spat, ĎI pay my debts!í

That was all my mother needed to say for me to get the message that if I even dared breathe a word about her dubious activities that my life would not be worth living. Of course, after that display of potential vindictiveness the nice, mother-daughter outing was completely ruined. I didnít have much interaction with my mother and Bobbie after that because they made it very clear to me that I was not a part of their happy little circle. To this day I feel that if their trip was just an innocent break, I cannot see how Bill would have minded. But of course I am confident that Bill did not consider their motives innocent, hence the reason they did not want him to find out.

I donít think that my mother considered me to be her offspring and needing of protection and nurturing, but viewed me as her competition: an attitude that she no doubt picked up from her own mother. Unfortunately, my motherís views on motherhood seemed to worsen as I matured, and my mother was not above yelling and screaming, threatening and throwing things at me. My mother was so accustomed to surrounding herself with people who would tell her whatever she wanted to hear, it was simply impossible to have an intelligent conversation with her about anything of any significance. Whenever we had a disagreement, it usually ended in my storming out in a rage and her throwing something, such as a shoe, at me. Most of the arguments centred around the fact that I wanted my own car and to date young men.

While my mother was not averse to me having my own car, she made it quite clear that she would not co-sign a loan for me. My motherís attitude upset me a great deal because most parents in Arkansas helped their children to get cars, and I found her refusal to help extremely cruel. If my mother was struggling to make ends meet then I could have understood, but that simply was not the case, considering the fact that she wore expensive clothes and jewellery, and went to night clubs almost every night of the week. My mother owned her own business and had income from her rental properties, and was not hard up for cash. The fact that my mother would not help me had nothing to do with her financial standing, but was a reflection of the deep seated hatred that she felt towards me for having had the nerve to have robbed her of her childhood.

My mother also adamantly refused me to go out with boys. She would become hysterical and throw whatever was handy at me whenever we go into a dispute about why I could not go out with young men. My motherís pat answer was that Ďmen are animalsí, and I honestly could not understand why she thought such a thing. My step-father never voiced his concerns about my motherís rather extreme views, but I am sure that he nevertheless felt very hurt by the values that she was trying to instil in her daughters. I can only imagine what type of message that she sent to my brother, as she spouted her controversial opinions to the world at large.

My mother was so opposed to me seeing men socially that I suffered from severe anxiety attacks any time I was with my mother and a young man took notice of me. Although I never gave my mother any cause for concern, on the few occasions that a man paid any attention I thought that I would die of panic.

On one occasion a young man who I had met only once came to my house to see me, I was so terror stricken that I would get in trouble for speaking to this male creature that I begged him to leave. Although he seemed like a nice enough guy, the thought of my mother and Bill thinking that I had invited a Ďmaní to the house instilled the fear of God in me. After I pleaded with him long enough he finally agreed to leave me in peace, probably thinking that I must be totally nuts. When I managed to get rid of this testosterone filled Ďanimalí who innocently entered into our mire, I surreptitiously entered the house, hoping that my step-father would not notice. If he did, he certainly said nothing to me about it, but I am sure he relayed the incident to my mother at the earliest opportunity.

When no one in my family was around, I was a completely different person. I was an incredible flirt, and delighted in the attentions of men. I certainly did not consider men to be Ďanimalsí, but regarded them as sublime creatures that I certainly wanted to get to know better. Because my mother was absolutely horrified at the notion that I should even talk to a man, much less date him, my social skills with the opposite sex were severely underdeveloped. I had a tendency to develop crushes on men who were not available to me, which saved me the humiliation of not being allowed to date them if they ever noticed that I even existed.

When I did reach 16, the age that my mother had told me I would be allowed to date, I wasted no time in looking for prospective dates. This social activity had been denied me, and I was eager to find out what was so special about it.

When I secured my first date, my mother was mortified. Although she had initially agreed that I could go out with boys at that age, she had no intention of ever keeping her end of the bargain. After I reminded of her promise she relented, but made it quite clear that she was not happy about it.

To my motherís delight, my first date was a total disaster. The boy who I was supposed to go out with phoned at the last minute and said that he could not make it. Word got around to some of the people who I did not particularly care for, and they took great delight in rubbing my nose in what I considered to be a humiliating experience. I was devastated, and my sisterís friend phoned him up to give him a piece of her mind. He did, in the end, agree to pick me up and take me to see some friends for the evening, but if I had an ounce of self-respect I would have told him to go jump off a cliff. Self-respect, however, was something that would take me literally decades to acquire even minute amounts of.

It is important to note that at no time in my life was my mother ever concerned in the least in anything that was not remotely associated with her own personal satisfaction, and her shock that I should be so brazen to actually date a young man was not based on concern for my happiness but instead panic that I may get pregnant. During all of our arguments which centred around me asking my mother why my brother was allowed to do whatever he wanted while I was sentenced to stay in the house all of the time, her only response was that men could not get pregnant. My motherís irrational remarks did not reflect that while men could not get pregnant, they could get young women pregnant so their activities needed to be monitored as closely as those of the fairer sex. My mother was so opinionated, however, that no amount of logic could sway her thinking.

By the time I was 16, I was not stupid enough to bring any of my friends home, but Marc, it seems, would never learn. One time a friend of his came over to the house to pick something up and my mother could not even maintain her composure long enough for this young man to get what he came for and leave. My brotherís friend, Greg, mildly sat in the kitchen while my mother raced around the house clothed only in a nylon, baby blue gown. While racing around the house in a frenzy, my mother was screaming and yelling at the top of her lungs about the house being dirty or something insignificant. I am sure that since my mother made it a policy to surround herself only with those people who would never dispute the maturity of her many tantrums, she behaved like that in front of my brotherís friend just for effect. I am sure that my brother just wanted to die of embarrassment as he watched his mother carry on like a raving lunatic. I felt the shame that he no doubt must have felt.

I think that death and tragic accidents tend to change a family forever. There is an old saying, ĎThat which doesnít kill, makes us strongerí, and I can think of nothing more eloquently reflected with meaning than that one phrase. When we encounter difficulties what do we do? Do we face them and let the chips fly where they may, or do we hide our head in the sand and hope it will go away if we ignore it long enough?

For such a long time we were five planets existing in that galaxy that we tried to call a home, and it was only a matter of time before cataclysm would change things forever. Because there were no controls in our family, a quickening occurred and none of us were the same afterwards.

One morning in May, 1977, I left for school as usual. It was a warm, sunny day and I could foresee nothing out of the ordinary transpiring. When I came home from school, however, I was ushered to the hospital and informed that my brother had been involved in a motorcycle accident and was lying in intensive care.

To make matters worse, I was not asked, but told, that I would be giving blood to save his life. Of course I did not want my brother to die. I would have given anything in the world for him to live through what had happened. But my mother, in her massive neglect of her children, did not even bother to notice that I had this humongous phobia against needles and other sharp objects. I almost needed to be in intensive care myself when I was told that some strange person was going to stick a needle in me and take my blood.

Of course I would do it. I couldnít let my brother down just because I was afraid of needles. Fortunately for me, while my mother was busy calculating how many pints of blood she could get out of my body so that she would not have to pay for any, someone in authority came and informed her that since I was not yet 17 years of age, they were not legally allowed to subject me to something so traumatic.

One of my aunts later told me that on that evening in the waiting room, Bobbie was all over Mama, holding her hand and telling her how much she loved her. It was sickening, really. Even when we had a serious family incident and my brother could very well have died, Bobbie was in the thick of it, vying for my motherís attention.

That day was a whirlwind for me because I did not really comprehend what was happening. My brother and I have never had a good rapport at the best of times. Just a few months prior to his accident we had a massive argument over something trivial. He blocked my way and would not let me pass. Along with hitting him and screaming at him, I told him that I wished that he would die. Of course, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that such a thing could happen, but as I stood in the waiting room of the hospital that day, I had to take careful stock of the things that I had said to him in anger.

Little by little, I was able to listen to people and piece together the events of the day.

It appears that Marc woke up late, so in a hurry, he sped down the road so he would not miss school. The road we lived on was hilly and windy, and if one wasnít careful he could have an accident. On this particular, day an employee of the state was operating a tractor, performing road works. He had not placed any signs on the road stating that road works were in progress, so my brother had no way of knowing that there was an obstruction at the bottom of the hill as he sped down Colonel Glenn Road.

When Marc reached the top of the hill and saw this massive tractor blocking the road, it was too late for him to take any action. His motorcycle hit the tractor; he flew up in the air and landed on the ground some feet away from the incident. When he regained consciousness, he saw that his leg was very badly broken.

Unfortunately, the man who was operating the tractor must have had some problems himself because instead of going to the nearest telephone and calling for an ambulance, he merely sat by the tractor berating my brother for one reason or another. One of the neighbours saw the accident and went to tell my mother what had happened. When my mother arrived at the scene, an ambulance was called but it took almost ĺ of an hour to arrive. My mother, not knowing just how serious the situation was, took her time trying to find a good surgeon, thus bringing my brother even closer to deathís door. The surgeons operated, but Marc would have to endure many more procedures over an extensive healing process before he would leave that hospital Ė a man changed forever.

My mother was absolutely devastated by what had happened to Marc and became the devoted mother that she should have been the initial 17 years of his life. Mama was at the hospital day and night. It seemed that she could not do enough for her son, and even he had to ask her not to pet him so much, as he simply wasnít used to being pampered and coddled.

Mama took me to the hospital to see my brother once, which I found to be an uncomfortable experience. Although he was my brother, in reality he was this strange person who I lived with but did not really know at all. I sat there next to the hospital bed, trying to act normal as I watched my brother all drugged up on painkillers, trying to make conversation with me. I am so ashamed to say that I was relieved when I was allowed to go home.

Although I didnít know it at the time, my mother was so chintzy that she had let the insurance for my brother lapse. Although my mother openly felt that her children should take responsibility for looking after ourselves, the law thought otherwise. Since my brother was not yet 18 at the time of the accident, she was faced with a massive hospital bill. I have no doubt that my mother would have told my brother to pay the hospital bill himself if he was not so close to death. I honestly think that my mother is such a selfish person that she could cope much more easily with the loss of a child than financial ruin because she lost me when I was 16 and didnít bat an eyelash.

During the summer, when my brother was still in the hospital, I had become increasingly disgusted with my mother. The respect was all gone and I didnít even try to hide my contempt for her anymore.

Little did I know, however, was the fact that Mamaís so-called good friend Bobbie had been stealing from her right from under her nose. With all of my motherís financial concerns, she must have discovered that some of her money was missing. When she discussed this with Bobbie, what better excuse than to tell her that I must have stolen it from her to purchase drugs.

For several months my mother had been making snide comments to me, telling me that she was going to find out what I was spending all of my money on because she knew that I was buying drugs with it. I never even responded to her accusations because I thought that what she was saying was totally absurd and could not imagine where she came up with such ideas. She only had to look in my closet to discover where I had spent all of my money on Ė clothes.

Because I have always been incredibly forgetful with regard to my finances, I had been borrowing money from my sister to tide me over until the following pay day. Although I always paid Candice the money back, she has never been one to keep a secret and must have said something to Mama about the fact that I borrowed money. With all these factors combined, Mama must have come to the conclusion that I was on drugs or something, stealing money to support my addiction.

One day when I was taking driving lessons at summer school, Bobbie, ever the instigator, waited for me outside of school and lurched on me as I walked along the pavement with my friends. Bobbie grabbed me and forced me into the car.

I knew that my mother was upset about something, but I didnít know what. I decided to go outside and get some fresh air because it was quite obvious to me that I was not welcome in the beauty shop.

The moment I was outside, my mother swung open the door of the little trailer where she worked, and snarled, ĎWhere are you going!?!í

ĎIím just going to get some fresh air,í I replied, quite confused as to why my mother was snapping at me so.

ĎI donít want you outside. I want you inside where I can keep an eye on you,í my mother snarled back.

As my mother stood in the centre of the small room, ratting a customerís hair, she made one sarcastic comment after anther, directing them at me.

I had had enough of this because the plans that I had made for the day had been ruined. Since Bobbie had literally drug me out of school, there was no way for me to get ahold of my friends and tell them what was going on.

I was very upset, and asked my mother, ĎWhat the hell is going on here?!?í

In front of my motherís customers, she repeatedly pushed me against the wall, and I pushed her back.

At that, my mother had all the ammunition that she needed to inflict bodily harm on me. My mother wasted no time in instructing Bobbie to go out and get a switch to beat me. Bobbie was all to happy to participate in child abuse, so returned with a limb from a tree. As my mother proceeded to hit me with it, the broke into pieces under the weight of her blows.

In my motherís beauty shop, in front of all her customers, she took the tree branch and hurled it at me, hitting me with it over and over. Something in my snapped, as my self-preservation mechanisms kicked in. For the only time in my life, I hit back. I took the tree branch out of my motherís hand and pushed her back, which left a small, red Marc on her collarbone.

Instantly, my mother and Bobbie were both on me. One of the two slammed me against the wall of the shop at full force.

I really didnít want to fight with my mother, or Bobbie, or anybody. I just wanted them to stop hitting me.

When Bobbie saw that she had gotten the better of me, she started laughing in a gawky sort of way. My mother, however, became hysterical. How dare I push her! My mother quickly forgot that it was she who struck the first blow. My mother had forgotten that she had sent Bobbie to my school to kidnap me, she had taunted me in front of all of her customers, and she had started beating me with a branch from a tree. Yet I, the errant child, was supposed to have had enough self-discipline not to defend myself when some crazy woman was attacking me.

Bobbie loved every minute of what was going on. She hee hawed in a silly hillbilly sort of way, pointed to a dog that one of the customers had brought into the shop, and laughed, ĎEven that dog could whip Krystalís ass.í

To this day, what truly amazes me is that my mother had such a demented attitude towards child-rearing that she felt that she had the right to attack me in front of a whole shop full of her customers. There is no way on this earth that I can understand why not one of her customers who were looking on did not intervene. Not one woman told my mother that she did not think it was appropriate for my mother to be behaving such a way in a business establishment. No one woman got up on told my mother that maybe it would be better if she could re-schedule her appointment for a time when it was more convenient for her to have clients. Not one person phoned the police and told them that there was a situation of domestic violence in the shop. Nothing. Not one step by any of those women to intervene. As far as I am aware, she did not lose any business whatsoever by her violent outburst.

After my mother and Bobbie had attacked me in full view of her clientele, I went into what can only be described as shock. My body had a mind of its own and I did not know what to do about it. Although I was conscious, I was shaking all over and felt tingles all up and down my body. My mind could not believe it.

Having hurt me, my mother delighted in the anguish that she was causing me. She picked up her telephone, made me dial the number of my boss at work, and made me quit my job. My mother stood over me, grinning like a Cheshire cat, as I sobbed down the telephone line, trying to tell my boss that I was not allowed to go to work anymore.

If all that was not bad enough, my mother, being egged on by Bobbie, started threatening me. My mother said, ĎIím going to phone your father and have him come down here and beat you up. He broke my nose and he is going to break your nose too!í My mother just assumed that my father would go over there and beat me up just because she wanted him to.

In another instant, my mother yelled at me, ĎIím going to have you put in Juvenile Hall! Iím going to have you put in a childrenís home!í

My mother then forced me to telephone my employer and quit my job over the phone. I was crying so loudly that I was unable to get the words out, but I nonetheless managed to say that I could not come in to work. To this day I honestly cannot understand what pleasure my mother could have derived from such cruelty.

To this day, what I really cannot understand is that although my mother had a shop full of customers, not one of them intervened. Not one customer told my mother that what she was doing was not right. Not one of them asked if it would be possible to re-schedule her appointment for a more propitious time. Not one customer phoned the police.

With all of the hysteria that was going on I must have gone into shock because I started shaking all over and I had no feeling all over my body.

My mother just went on and on, and would not shut up for one minute. She threatened to phone the police and have me put in a home for delinquent teenagers. I was terror stricken that I should be put in prison. Isnít it funny that I was made to feel that I was the one doing all of the horrible things, when in fact I was the victim. I just wonder what the police and social workers would have thought if they had actually come to the house to be told by my mother that I had the nerve to fight back after she had pushed me against a wall.

Even though I was not allowed to go outside, it was obvious that I wasnít welcome in the shop, so I went into the bathroom and curled up in the foetal position on the floor. I just wanted everything to stop. I just wanted everything to go back to the way they were.

It didnít stop there. My mother had to telephone her mother and tell her all about it. Of course I had no say in what had actually transpired so my grandmother thought I was some sort of violent animal. In such a dramatic fashion, my grandmother rushed into the bathroom where by this time I had been hiding, and proceeded to scream and yell at me as well.

In retrospect, I think my grandmotherís reaction was rich considering the fact that she had been having an affair with another man for 40 years and told my grandfather that if he lifted a finger to help my mother that she would leave him.

ĎHow could you do something like that!í, she screeched. ĎYou mine as well have done it to me! You mine as well have done it to me!í, she wailed.

Finally, at about 6:00 or 7:00 that evening, I was told that we were going home. I dutifully piled into the car where Mama and Bobbie sat up front.

I just wanted to make things better and for the hell to end, and if it meant that I should apologise then that was what I would do. I told my mother that I was sorry, but for what I will never know. As far as I am aware I had done nothing to be sorry for except defend myself against some psychotic woman.

All I wanted was for everything to stop. Just stop. If everything would stop and go back to the way it had been before, I would admit defeat. I would take all of the blame. I did it all. It was all my fault.

ĎIím sorry,í I said to my mother in a conciliatory attempt to restore harmony into an untenable situation.

ĎI know you are,í my mother replied, in what I sensed was a bit of weariness on her part.

I donít think that my mother had honestly thought it was going to go that far. My mother had made her own life for herself with all of those strange women, and I donít think that she anticipated losing much of her valuable socialising time by tormenting me.

When we got home, Mama and Bobbie went into the house while Bill stayed outside. I looked at Bill, and said, ĎDo you know what they did to me?í

Obviously, Mama had rung home to tell Bill all about it, so when I got home I started to tell Bill what she had done to me, but he would hear nothing of it. My mother had obviously had not told him her version of what had happened, and he was shaking with anger over what he thought I must have done.

I donít care what she did to you. I am concerned about what you did to your mother. I love her!í

It was so obvious that my step-father had to control himself, he was so enraged. He then told me that he Ďlovedí my mother. Oh, how sickening! Mama couldnít stand the sight of him and was out on the town living it up absolutely every night of the week, but he Ďlovedí her. ĎIt was at that point that I knew that I did not have a friend in the world. I thought that when we got home, Bill would get my mother to see reason, but it was not to be. When Bill made it perfectly clear to me that he thought that I was the culprit and did not think that my mother had done anything wrong, I knew that I was in really big trouble. When Bill, the only person in the world who could help me refused, I began to think that maybe I had done something wrong. Maybe I shouldnít have defended myself when some psychotic woman attacked me.

When I was not able to garner any support from Bill, I realised that my life was going to be a living hell from that day forward.

Because my mother had Bobbie egging her on, inciting her to commit even more and more atrocities, there was absolutely no way that my mother was going to see reason.

Knowing full well that there was no one on top of that hill who was going to support me I went to my room and stayed there.

Evidently I had said something to someone about my mother, I donít remember what, and this gave her the incentive to continue in her depravity.

My mother went into my bedroom and told me to take every last stitch of clothing off. After I was completely naked she told me to lie down on the bed and then she beat me with a leather belt that she had found from somewhere. Aside from the fact that what she did was so humiliating and traumatising, I honestly cannot see any disciplinary value in her actions.

Perhaps my mother learned to whip other naked women as one of the sex games that she played with her various girlfriends. Perhaps her parents did that sort of thing to her, which had the effect of warping her mind. Perhaps she just made it up as she went along, deriving more and more pleasure from every despicable act, becoming a dominatrix to an unwilling accomplice. Who knows where my mother learned to engage in such vulgarity, but the thought of what she did to me totally disgusts me. If my mother had not ever have done such a depraved thing to me, I would never have imagined that a person could do such a thing to her child.

My mother needed an audience to get the full feeling of satisfaction from her sadistic activities. She hadnít gleaned enough pleasure from making me undress and whipping me in the privacy of my own room. That would not do.

I believe it was at that time that I must have lost consciousness and another personality came in to take the abuse, because my sister has had to fill me in on the next incident. My sister has told me that for as long as she lives, she will never, ever be able to get that horrible scene out of her head. My sister also informed me that whenever she protested, my mother told her that she was threatened with the same treatment if she dared to utter one word of reproach. Such was the inhumanity of the place that I once called a home.

My mother then left the room and yelled for Candice to come downstairs. Candice was instructed to sit on the couch and watch. Mama then called for the personality who had taken over my body, she went into the living room wrapped in nothing but a blanket. Mama told the person who she thought was me to put some clothes on and get back into the den. The personality who had taken my body did as she was told. When the alternate personality went back into the den, Mama instructed her to lay on the loveseat. The alternate personality put my head into the pillow as she beat my body on the legs and back until her arm hurt and she was tired.

Evidently, the cries of the personality were muffled in the pillow, but my sister was able to hear every whimper.

My mother beat my body and beat my body and beat my body. Finally, when she had worn herself out, she stopped.

ĎMama, I love you, please stop,í the personality to had taken the beating whimpered to her tormentor.

When my mother finally stopped beating the alternate personality who had taken over my body, she got up, went to my mother, and hugged her, and uttered the words, ĎI love you.í

Well, I am here to tell you that from an early age I have not loved my mother!

Even as young as the age of six or seven, when I was sitting at the dining hall at school, I knew I did not love my mother! Someone had given me a picture of my mother, who was considered to be very beautiful, to put in my little wallet. Even as young as six or seven, I looked at the picture of a supposedly attractive young woman, and all I could see was some ugly old hag who I hated! Even at that age, I knew not to tell people how I really felt about my mother. I took the picture and put it back in my wallet without comment.

I have no idea who in the world it was who told my mother that she loved her, but it was not me!

The next thing that I remember after the beating that another personality took for me was to find my mother sitting upstairs cutting up some green beans that had been given to her. I thought that it was strange that my mother would be preparing green beans because she has never, ever displayed even the remotest interest or aptitude in cooking, cleaning or anything that may be considered domestic.

Because my mother had telephoned absolutely everyone in the world to tell them all kinds of stories about me, my grandmother and grandfather felt that they needed to come to the house. Because my mother was able to fabricate stories to make people feel sorry for her, they gave their condolences, believing every one of the lies that had crossed her lips.

The next morning, which was a Saturday, at 5.00am my mother kicked my bedroom door in. She told me to get out of bed and start cleaning the house. I was also told that she was monitoring all of my phone calls, so I had better not try to phone anyone for help.

Not knowing what my mother would do to me if I refused to comply with her demands I got up and started cleaning the house. Bill did not speak to me because he was conspiring with my mother and Bobbie to harm me. He wanted to believe all of the things that Mama had told him. Candice did not dare speak to me because she had already been told that if she supported me, they would do the same thing to her that they were doing to me. My brother was coming out of the hospital, but was in no position to do anything about it even if he wanted to.

So there I sat, all day long, cleaning that stupid house like an idiot because I knew that there was no one to help me.

The thought of leaving that house seemed totally alien to me because I did not have a place to stay, I did not have any money, and I could not even drive. I felt that I was bound to that place no matter what.

Even though I had been told not to use the telephone to make any outside phone calls, I picked it up and dialled the number to my paternal grandmotherís house. When I told my grandmother what was going on she was completely horrified. My grandmother later told me that when I told her what they were doing, she spoke to Bill and informed me that if he laid one finger on me, she would phone the police and have him arrested. As far as I am concerned, the whole lot of them should have been put in jail for what they did. It is such as shame that the state of Arkansas didnít feel the same way.

That evening when my mother came home the entire entourage was there to garner support for her in what they assumed to be her hour of need. And of course, Bobbie was bustling around, spreading lies about me, putting her nose in where it didnít belong. To this day I cannot understand how my mother allowed Bobbie to have such a huge influence over her, but she did.

The next day, which was a Sunday, was even more tense than before. As usual, all of my motherís family were gathered around. They didnít say a word to me because as far as they were concerned, I was this evil person who had done all of these awful things and they were not willing to hear anything that I had to say.

I donít know why, but I guess because no one else was speaking to me and the fact that I was so desperate, I spoke to Bobbie to feel her out. I have to hand it to Bobbie because she was able to play both sides of the fence with such ease. She could pretend to be my friend and stab me in the back at the same time. I had completely forgotten about that incident years before, when Bobbie screeched at me that she was going to get me back for innocently telling my mother that she had gone to see one of her Johns.

That day I walked out in the woods, and for the first time I thought about ending my life to make all the pain go away. I had a kitchen knife with me and it would have been so easy to slit my wrists and end it all. In the end, however, I couldnít do it because as much as I wanted to die, I was equally terrified of blood and gore.

I know that many people think that those who choose to end their lives are taking the cowardís way out of their problems, but I honestly feel that sometimes it takes more strength to end oneís life than to carry on living. To make the conscious decision to terminate oneís existence is taking being proactive to change a bad situation Ė even if the outcome is on a more permanent basis. I do not regard myself as a strong person because I chose not to end my life on the many occasions since I was 16 because that the pain inside of me was so great that I just could not bear to live any longer. What kept me intact was not because I wanted to stay and work my problems out, but rather I had an intense fear of the unknown. I honestly do not consider myself worthy of veneration because I chose not to act on my first instinct, which was to end my life. What is a more appropriate sentiment is that I was even too much of a coward to take my own life when that is what I really wanted to do.

Therefore, instead of a reprieve from the Hell that I was living in, I was forced to go back into that house because I did not know where else to go. That day I realised that my mother was never going to change and I would be living in eternal Hell for the rest of my days if I was going to stay there. As a last ditch effort, I told my mother that I wanted to go over to my grandmotherís house for the summer.

In typical fashion, my mother replied, ĎThatís fine. You can go stay with your grandmother if you want. But, if you leave this house you can never come back.í

Was she crazy? Did my mother think that I would ever want to go back to that madhouse? I politely accepted my motherís ultimatum and started packing my bags.

Although I had enough decorum not to say how I really felt, the fact of the matter was that once I got out of that house I had no intention of ever going back. To this day what I find to be particularly odd is the fact that my mother thought I would actually want to hang around and get abused all day long.

Everybody was happy that I was leaving. Mama was happy because she did not have to look after some child that she never wanted anyway. She even came up with the perfect excuse to justify her actions by making me out to be some monster because I had the gall to push her in self-defence after she repeatedly shoved me against a wall. Bill was happy because he never wanted any of my motherís children around anyway.. Bobbie was happy because she wanted to do whatever it was she was doing with my mother unencumbered by her children, who looked on with disapproval.

As I was packing my things to leave that house that had caused me so much anguish, my brother went and spoke to me.

The only thing that Marc could say was, ĎI think youíre doing the right thing.í

Candice didnít say anything to me when I left because she had already been sufficiently threatened by the Ďadultsí and was informed that if she voiced any concerns for my welfare that they would do the same thing to her. Candice, if anything, is a survivalist and although she cared for me, was not prepared to be treated the way that they treated me, and therefore chose to keep her mouth over all that was going on under the roof that we lived in.

The only person to express any concern at all over the fact that I was leaving was my grandfather, who told me, ĎI think youíre making a big mistake.í I donít know why he said that. I donít know why he thought I was leaving a house of torment.

But of course, my grandfather did not know all of the things that his daughter had done to me. He did not have to live with her and be subjected, day in and day, out to her violent mood swings. But then again, from what I understand from my mother and her siblings, my grandfather was not averse to hitting his children if they got out of line, so I can only imagine that he didnít think my mother did anything wrong when she abused me privately and publicly.

As I put all of my things in the car, Bill drove me to my grandmotherís house. I was happy to leave just so I could get some peace, and hoped that the Hell they had put me through would cease. Everyone else was happy for me to leave because they wanted to go back to their insane, dysfunctional lives and not have to worry that anyone might actually be concerned about the way that they were behaving.

When I left, I apparently wrote on a sheet of paper, ĎThe opposite of evil is liveí, and left the note for Candice. I very vaguely remember do this, and can only assume that I had been molested to such an extent that weekend, that I really was a bad or evil person.

According to my sister, that weekend my mother took the note and read it out loud to her. The way that my mother was behaving frightened Candice so much that she has concluded that my mother must undoubtedly be possessed by demons. I have taken the less religious view, however. I think that my mother has a severe personality disorder and should never, ever, under any circumstances be allowed near children or young people.

My twin and I will be scarred from our motherís abuse for the rest of our lives. Even though the abuse that I endured was targeted to harm me more, in many ways I feel that my sister has been more damaged. The reason being that the things my mother did to me were so awful that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my mother was engaging in pure wickedness. My sisterís abuse, however, was much more subtle, which left her wondering if it was in her imagination. As a result, I have become a depressive, always wanting to take my life any time I become distraught. My twin, on the other hand, is somewhat more manic, always trying to find a suitable outlet for the anger and rage that resides within her.

Because I had been abused so badly on an emotional, physical and sexual level during my childhood, I lost my own virginity when I was 16 to my first proper boyfriend. If I had come from a less dysfunctional family, my first conscious choice to have sex with another individual may have been delayed, but I suppose that wasnít to be. The decision to lose my virginity was based on calculated logic. I had decided that I had been going out with Mike, my boyfriend at the time, long enough and would therefore treat him for being so nice to me. On the afternoon of 16th September 1977, I lost my virginity in the back seat of a car on a gravel road in Hensley, Arkansas. This event wasnít one of the most pleasant of experiences, uncomfortable at the most, but certainly not painful. I really couldnít see what all of the fuss was about. If it made Mike happy, I would satisfy his needs. I, on the other hand, had no real desire for sex.

Being brought a Baptist, I had just committed what was considered a mortal sin. I had premarital sex. Instead of feeling good about myself, my self-esteem plummeted even further. Now I was considered a whore as well as all of those other names that my mother called me.

If all that I had been through was not bad enough, one morning, after I had been gone for well over a week, my grandfather came into the house in disgust and said to me, ĎYou are going to be just like your mother, sneaking out in the middle of the night!í I donít think my grandfather knew just how much her hurt me when he compared me to my mother. I was not like my mother. Not any way, shape or form.

When I was 18, my mother had the nerve to tell me that she didnít approve of my lifestyle in one of those rare occasions when she had expressed any interest at all in what was going on in my life. By this time I had been put down by so many people for so long that I didnít even bother to point out to her that it was her lifestyle that had made me what I was.

When I was 19, I married for the first time to a very violent man who put me down and abused me just like my parents had, thereby enabling me to re-live my old childhood dramas on a daily basis. Because I had such a low self esteem, it was only natural that I would gravitate towards someone who had as low an opinion of me as I had of myself. Violence and abuse was practically the only type of love that I had ever known. I had therefore developed a penchant for heartbreak because it was linked to the warped, corrupted kind of love that only a very disturbed person can give.

By the time I was 23, I had given birth to a baby boy. I had him only because I felt so unloved that I wanted someone to love me unconditionally. I thought a child of my own would do just that. Although my husband didnít even want any children, he took Aaron, my son, away from me when he was only one. I had never, ever recovered from having my child taken away from me and am quite confident that the incident has adversely affected my mental health from that day forward.

I have never recovered from the tragic loss of losing my son to a violent, aggressive man, and have never been able to come to terms with what happened. I may have been able to forget all the things that my mother did to me, but there was no way in this world that I could forgive or forget that my very violent husband broke my nose, dislocated my jaw, took my son, and then left me terror stricken to the point that I could not face the prospect of fighting that brute to regain custody.

By the time I was 24 years old, I had encountered almost every tragedy that is humanly possible, which has greatly coloured my sardonic outlook on life. I was amazed, therefore, to come across Jon, a man who hadnít even begun to live when he had reached what I considered to be the ripe old of age of 24.

* * *

What I didnít learn until much later, however, was that Jonís first girlfriend was an exotic dancer at a strip club. By the time I was to discover this vital piece of information, so much emotional water had passed under the bridge that I had become anaesthetised to what type of man I had become involved with. Sex had become such a major part of the make-up of our relationship that I didnít even bother to question what type of a man would knowingly date an exotic dancer, who had no doubt been the object of sexual adoration by many before him. By this time I had been exposed to so many of the sorted details of Jonís past sex life that it was of no significance to me whatsoever if he had dated women who worked solely for the purpose of gratifying menís sexual desires. I had heard it all, or so I thought.

Jon also spoke to me about his first marriage, which according to him, was pretty blasť. He said that they both only got married because they had been pressurised into it. His first wifeís first husband had left her deeply in debt and she was forced to pay off all of bills that he had run up. Jon said that they had decided to divorce because his wife had been posted to another assignment and had to commute to work. The couple had different friends and didnít socialise together. He said that they both drifted apart and didnít have anything in common anymore.

Jon did, however, state that shortly after he got married, his first wife decided that she wanted to go on the birth control pill, which indicates that instead of wanting to start a family, she was averse to it. Since she was a smoker, her doctor would not allow her to start taking the pill until she had stopped smoking for six months. Jon said that he didnít have any problems at all giving up his 40 plus cigarette a day habit, but it took its toll on his wife, and serious arguments mounted during the time that she was abstaining from smoking. Amazingly, when the six months had elapsed and Jonís wife was given the pill, she immediately took up smoking again, saying that she only quit in order to get the contraceptive pill. In retrospect, Jonís first wife must have been very unhappy in the marriage if she was willing to stop smoking just to get the pill.

Jon told me that the divorce was quite amicable. They both separated and after the two-year waiting period, had elapsed, his estranged wife contacted him and they both proceeded with the divorce, splitting the bill in half.

One point that Jon did briefly touch upon was the fact that one of the reasons for the divorce was the fact that his first wife was angry that they didnít have a joint banking account. Jon said that he had assumed that since she had such a bad experience in her first marriage, she would have wanted to keep their finances separate.

Jon also told me of one young woman, who was evidently the love of his life. She, apparently, was the only woman who he really wanted to marry, but it was she who left him. He told me that when he first met the girl, she was a little overweight, but he had got her to lose weight and look just the way he wanted. Jon had such a high opinion of this girl that he even took her on holiday. This one act alone must have been an act of love because, as I would soon learn, Jon likes for women to pay for him, not the other way around.

According to Jon, the relationship with this woman failed because Joní s father was terminally ill with lung cancer. Jon was so embarrassed by his parentís dishevelled living conditions that he would not allow his girlfriend to visit him at his family home, which no doubt caused her a great deal of concern. Although Jon made it seem as if he had been on leave for literally months, sorting out the details of his fatherís death, funeral and the purchase of his motherís house, I later learned from an affidavit that he submitted to the court that he had been on leave for only three weeks. As usual, Jon even found it necessary to exaggerate something as serious as his fatherís death, and attributed the loss of his one true love to it. If it had been true love, the pair should have been able to sort out their differences, but I suppose that is not something Jon thought about. Perhaps this woman got tired of Jon always telling her how much she could weigh and what she could wear, and decided to find someone who loved her for who she was and not what she looked like. Perhaps.

No doubt, it must have been an incredible burden for Jon to bear, having to cope with the illness, death and funeral arrangements of his father, along with the financial mess that his mother had been left to deal with, and his favourite girlfriend leaving him all at the same time. Jon didnít get any counselling or help for any of this because it simply is not the military way to help people who have emotional difficulties. These individuals are seen as being weak or unbalanced, or both. If Jon had expressed to anyone that he was having difficulties coping with any of the tragic life events that he had been forced to face, he would have been labelled mentally unbalanced and a psychiatric profile would have been attached to his medical records. Any psychiatric profiles would have affected any future assignments that he may have been considered for. Military people learn very early in their careers not to ask for help for emotional difficulties. That is, unless, they would like to lose their careers.

* * *

I know first hand of the consequences of going to the base Mental Health facility because I made the mistake myself when I was depressed. Although I was never informed of this, my medical records were tagged and whenever I was given an assignment, I had to defend my decision to visit the Mental Health facility. Whenever one of the medical technicians handling my out-processing saw that I had been to the Mental Health clinic, his attitude automatically changed towards me from an air of friendliness to one of disdain. After treatment like that, I vowed to never visit the mental health clinic ever again. It was too late, however, the damage had already been done. My medical records had already been marked to show that I had a mental health problem.

Lest one think that I am totally bonkers, my visits to the mental health clinic were quite tame. My first awareness of mental health occurred when I attended my technical training in Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. The Mental Health clinic was located in a wing of my squadron. Another airman told me that he went to the Mental Health clinic a lot and found the people there to be quite useful. As much as I would have liked to have gone in there to speak to the people, I was terrified that I would be labelled a nut.

A couple of years later, however, when I hadnít been married for very long but already deeply unhappy, I went to the Mental Health clinic. I was given a test to take and allowed to speak to a counsellor for a short period of time. After they realised that I wasnít bonkers, they sent me on my way.

In 1984, when my fist husband had left the Air Forced and put the burden of providing for the family on me, I was deeply unhappy and again went to the Mental Health clinic. No one even considered that I might be suffering from post-natal depression, as I had recently given birth several months earlier. Instead, the professionals decided that, ironically, I would be most suited to a singles group, which was held every week.

The next contact that I had with the Mental Health clinic was after my first marriage had broken up and I was stationed there as a single person. The military would not let me take my son to Germany with me, so I was therefore forced to allow my estranged husband to keep him. No one ever bothered to take into consideration the fact that my son had been taken away from me, which no doubt affected my emotional and mental well being. Even though I had a failed marriage and wasnít allowed contact with my son, I was still expected to buckle up and get on with it. I was therefore sent on my way, again, with no counselling or support to help me after all I that had been through.

Although the military never provided me any real support for my emotional difficulties, the very fact that I ever dared admit that I was having difficulties coping with all of the traumatic life events I had been forced to endure branded me for life. I was given a psychiatric profile that followed me on all of my assignments. I wasnít, however, aware of this until I was given an assignment to HQ AFCENT and was looked on with contempt by the individual handling my medical records.

I had been told by Captain Varga, a United States Air Force Captain who was studying for his masterís degree in counselling, that every officer in the military knew that if he went to the Mental Health clinic, he could just kiss his career goodbye. I suppose that the same thing could be said for enlisted personnel.

* * *

During one of our intimate conversations about past relationships, Jon commented to me that he was sure that I had had more lovers than he had. That may have been so, I may very well have had more loves, but it was through no fault of my own. It was very difficult for me to try to maintain any type of relationship when practically five minutes after I got together with someone, he was posted to some strange place, out of my life forever. It wasnít fair for Jon to judge me in such a way because I had put my all into every single one of my relationships. It just so happened that I had entered a profession where relationships were not destined to be long lasting.

Perhaps that was part of the appeal. Perhaps Jon was attracted to me because he thought he could explore all of his sexual fantasies with someone who he thought had lots of sexual experience.

Jonís laisse faire attitude was further expressed to me when he casually commented to me that shortly before meeting Kim, he had a one night stand with another woman who he had met at Club 13. This woman had evidently prided herself on having very strong vaginal walls because she did lots of Kegel exercises to keep them strengthened. Although Jon was very impressed by this womanís sexual prowess, the relationship never came into existence because, after that initial encounter, they both chose to go their own way. In retrospect, Jonís preference for casual sex should have been a warning to me about what to expect in our relationship. For reasons I will never understand, I thought I was special.

Jon and I also went running in the Heide in Heerlen. Because we both were in the military, we were obliged to stay in top physical condition. Running in the Heide was therefore one of our favourite pass-times. Since I had just recently given up smoking, my breathing capacity was much better and I therefore started running with fervour. Within a very short time I was in reasonably good shape and needed to lose only a few more pounds to reach my desired weight.

Jon loved running with me because he was able to bask in the limelight of his drill sergeant routine. In addition to the fact that I was supposed to run to keep up with him, he also made me do a rigorous exercise routine that was designed to perfect a manís physique, not a womanís. Jon would stand over me as I attempted to perform all of the set-ups and push-ups that were expected of me. Because I took Jonís desire to design an exercise routine as an attempt on his part to help me get physically fit, I failed to notice that I was the only one doing any of the exercises. Jon would stand over me and bark out commands while I eagerly did whatever he wanted me to do. I was so desperate to please.

It was during our runs at the Heide that the excursions began to take on more sinister overtones. Whenever we finished our runs, we would invariably walk hand in hand and talk to each other while we were cooling down. I spent most of the time talking about myself and consequently missed a valuable opportunity to get to know this new man a little bit better.

One day when Jon and I were walking in the Heide, we spoke about T, his colleague. Evidently, Tís new wife didnít get on with one of his sons, who had been living with him. The situation between T, his son and his new wife was so tense that the son was sent back to live with his mother.

While we were speaking about this, Jon said that if he had been Tís son, when he grew up, he would hunt T down and get revenge. I thought that Jonís view on this matter was a bit extreme because he really didnít know anything about the situation. T may very well have been doing what he thought was best to diffuse an already explosive situation. T was also supposed to have been Jonís friend, so I didnít understand how Jon could say such things about him.

Other incidents that disturbed me were the fact that during these walks Jon would take a stick and use it to destroy anthills and kill the ants. On these occasions I was appalled that Jon would smash some innocent ants, who were just minding their own business and had never done anything in the world to harm him. When I witnessed for myself Jon killing innocent animals for no other reason except for the sheer joy of it, I sternly chastised him and told him that I didnít want him killing those ants. I asked Jon how he would feel if some huge, gJont ant decided to take a stick and smash him to bits, and insisted that he desist immediately. Years later that I was to learn that the major serial killers who had made headlines in the 20th century all all got their start abusing animals. In addition, many psychiatrists have noted that children who are disturbed often abuse animals.

Along a similar vein, Jon had developed some rather sadistic sexual practices. He acquired a pair of tweezers and had begun to take delight in plucking my pubic hair. Although I found the practice painful, I was willing to oblige his fantasies if it would bring us closer together as a couple.

Jon also had a fascination with needles, much to my chagrin. One evening while we were at his apartment, I fell asleep in his living room unclothed. I woke up to prickling on my bottom and as I became more aware of my surroundings, I realised that Jon had taken a pin and was poking my bottom with it.

During one of our early conversations Jon told me that quite often he could stay home all weekend alone, and assured me that he was okay by himself. I personally hated being all alone, all by myself, and would go to almost any lengths not to have myself for my own company. I asked Jon in amazement what he did all by himself on those weekends alone. Jonís reply to me was even more incredulous. He told me that he spent the entire weekend playing with himself.

I honestly couldnít believe that any one human being could spend the entire weekend playing with himself, and therefore took it as a joke. Because I didnít seriously believe Jonís confession to me was genuine, I failed to put two and two together and attach any significance to the fact that although he was only of medium build, he had massively muscular hands and forearms. Whenever Jon commented on his out of proportionally large hands and forearms, he said that he had inherited them from his father, who had been a manual labourer and also had large hands and forearms.

* * *

It was during those runs on the Heide that I would start to have body memories. It has been commented by more than one person that I would walk like a geisha girl because I take such small steps. When I was running with Jon, the only way that I could keep us with him was to lengthen my stride, which meant that I had to spread my legs. When I spread them to take longer steps, I had memories of an uncle abusing me sexually, which resulted in me learning to keep my legs closed.

Specifically, I recall one of my uncles tickling me and telling me that I had to go to sleep. A cushion was put between two chairs, and that is what I was supposed to sleep on. After that incident, I remember absolutely nothing else. I also sensed that there had been some violence involved, and received a mental picture of someone using his hands to force my legs open, although there was no face in my mental imagery.

I have the feeling that my grandmother knew what was going on and made an effort to make sure that my uncles were never again allowed alone with me, but it was too late. The damage had already been done.

When I was 16 and again living with my grandmother, we went to see my uncle and his family. Although I said nothing out of the ordinary to him, I suppose a part of me mourned the fact that he wasnít the playful uncle who I had once known. When I was so young, no more than four, he played with me and made me feel special. When I was 16, he really didnít want to know me at all. I felt somewhat betrayed by him in many ways.

Because I couldnít recollect any specific incidents and didnít have any proof that those events of three decades earlier had ever happened. I kept my memories to myself. I didnít want to make a fuss just because I thought that something inappropriate may have happened every time I spread my legs. It is not as if I could go to a family that didnít want me around anyway and tell that I thought that one of my uncles may have abused me all those years ago. At that point in time I wasnít aware of the damage that this type of abuse had caused because I had more horrific recollections that were still a part of my conscious awareness. Although I did feel that abuse was significant, I didnít want to disrupt an already tenacious situation and decided therefore to keep any memories to myself.

* * *

It was also during the early stages of our courtship, when we were revealing bits of information about ourselves, that I told Jon a few things about my awful childhood. Of note, I confided to him that when I was 16 years old I was forced to spend the night in a car. The reason for this was because I had been abused so badly by my mother that wild horses couldnít drag me back home. I lived in terror that my mother would find out where I was and make me go back to her and thereby suffer more abuse. Little did I know that my mother didnít give a damn where I was, just so long as I wasnít breathing the same air that she was breathing and cramping her style.

I didnít tell Jon a great deal about my family and tried to only highlight the positive things. I was still in denial about my own upbringing and couldnít admit to myself, much less anybody else, what an awful family I came from. I did, however, come to regret some of the things that I confided to Jon. Rather than having a bit of compassion for the fact that I had such a rejecting family, he turned it into one big joke. Jon took every opportunity to deride me about the fact that when I was only 16 years old, I had nowhere to go, and had to sleep in a car.

* * *

It was about a week before Jon was due to go back to England that Kim decided to make her presence known. While I was helping Jon to clean and pack for his journey, Kim took it upon herself to knock on the door. I had to hand it to Kim, she just would not give up. Personally, I would have become bored with the whole situation much earlier than that because there were just oodles and oodles of single men to keep me company, should I become lonely.

I peered through the window to see a rather mousy looking woman in her blue uniform. Jon reappeared and told me that he had to go for a drive and talk to her about some issues regarding their relationship. I wasnít happy about it, but what could I do.

After Jon left with Kim, I was so upset about the whole thing that I walked all the way home. When I got there, however, I was such a sap that I didnít know what to do with myself. I therefore drove back to Jonís apartment in the hope that he had come back from speaking to Kim. I hadnít properly closed the door in the first place and it had been left ajar. I therefore let myself back in and waited. After a short time, Jon ran into the apartment, clearly very upset.

ĎDid you see that?í, Jon asked me, in a state of excitement.

ĎNo, what was I supposed to have seen?í, was my reply, confused about what Jon wanted me to look at.

Apparently, Kim had attacked Jon in the parking lot of the apartment complex, but since I was waiting for him inside, I had no idea whether or not he was telling the truth. Many years and lies later, I suspect it was just another story that Jon had fabricated to try to garner sympathy.

After Kim had left and Jon had calmed down, we carried on with cleaning his apartment so he could out process and leave. What I couldnít understand, however, was the fact that Jon had been so fanatical about cleaning his apartment when he was leaving, when the rest of the time it seemed to be in a state of disarray.

I didnít express my concerns to Jon, but was becoming upset at what I was beginning to see as his pleasure that two women were fighting over him. On at least two occasions Jon called me ĎKimí, which I found to be very unnerving. If Jon cared so little for Kim, why was he was calling me her name? Could it be that he was setting up a situation where he would have two women at each otherís throats and fighting over him?

It was the week that Kim decided to go to the States that finally Jon and I had some peace and were able to enjoy ourselves. I didnít think it was fair that we had just started going out together and we couldnít really be together because of all of the obstacles that presented themselves from the onset.