I Was Nine

Today, I am 36 and I planted daisies at my front door. They’re sitting proudly in a bright, teal green pot with gold trimming. I was going to pick white daisies but spotted a mixture of yellow, pink and white. I couldn’t resist the fun splash of colour. They made me smile. To me, a daisy reminds me of innocence and purity. The simple bright petals stand boldly and don’t seem to mind that someone may think they’re rather plain. Other flowers seem more grown up and glamorous. The daisy is simple, sweet and pure. It inspires hope in my heart. I also love the way the petals close at night and then open up to the sun.

I was nine. I remember floating about the home without too many cares or worries. Spinning, singing and twirling about. Mum and Dad weren’t together anymore but they never really were together, in my memories anyway. Dad wasn’t at home with us but that wasn’t that strange. He was barely at home before. He liked to work. Mum seemed happier and a new baby brother was on his way. I was excited.

I didn’t overly like having another man in our home but I had much bigger fish to fry. To be honest, I didn’t take much notice of him. I had more wonderful and important things on my mind. I was busy dreaming, doing and playing. One day I might sing. One day I might teach. Hmmmm… maybe I will be an actor. Maybe I’ll write a story. Maybe I’ll write lots of stories. Maybe I’ll write songs. That would be amazing! Imagine if I sang my own songs? What would my album be called? I wonder.

I also loved playing Barbies. I would play with my sisters and dream about adult things. One day I would be all grown up, do the things I like, go where I please, have lots of friends, meet my husband and build a home of my own. One day I would even have my own babies. I was nine.

I spent the early parts of my day at school. I loved school. I was good at it. I enjoyed learning and memorising. I had just moved to a new school, in a new town and I was doing okay. I made a friend on my very first day and she lived just around the corner. How lucky was I! She invited me to stay for a night during the school holidays and I ended up staying lots of nights. Her Mum and Dad liked me. They made me pancakes with lemon and sugar. They were delicious. My friend’s name was Zoe and she liked me too, so I got to stay lots and I loved being in her home. Zoe was my best friend and we were busy little dreamers.

Back at my house, my afternoons were for rollerblading, shooting hoops, jumping into our pool, dancing, playing games with our neighbours, patting their pet mice, making cubby houses, finding hiding spots and organising concerts and shows. That’s what I loved most. Putting on a good show. I enjoyed the costumes. I loved to sing and dance. I liked stepping into character. I was nine.

Little did I know that this little girl would become a stranger to herself. A stranger to me. With a handful of crushed daisies, she was about to race into a chamber of her own heart, close and lock the door. She would swallow the key. She would become silent and her silence was where shame took root. That’s when an older and wiser version of herself had to step up and take over. She would stay on guard. She would never fail. She would keep everyone safe. She would never be that stupid again.

“Sara, Johnny is calling you”. My Mum was in the kitchen. It was a weekend. My weekend mornings were normally spent watching Rage and playing tennis. I was busy being; being present, being engaged and exploring my environment. I was busy having fun. “What does he want?” I thought. Better listen to Mum. Off I go.

He wanted me to jump into bed with him. Well, that’s strange. I don’t even hug or kiss this man. He’s not my Dad. I don’t really like being close to him. I prefer not to even think about him to be honest. In my mind, he’s like a weird intruder that Mum must love, I think. I guess I don’t mind him living with us. He’s not really a bother but he’s not my Dad. I would prefer my Dad to live here. Why does he want me to get into bed with him?

I used to jump into bed with Dad. Now that was fun. He’d tell me stories. I’d tell him stories. My sisters would be there too. We would all laugh and cuddle. I remember the belly and back tickles. They were the best. “Dad, I want you to tickle my belly until I fall asleep and when I wake up, you better still be tickling” is what I’d say. The only downside, my Dad would fart and then trap us under the doona. That was gross but it was funny too. My Dad always laughed the loudest when farts were involved. Dad’s are fun. I miss my Dad.

I climbed under the doona not knowing what to expect. I was lying there very still. I wonder why Mum sent me in here? This feels weird and strange. I can smell alcohol and smoke. This is where it gets blurry. I don’t remember talking but he started to tickle me. Hmmm…okay, maybe he’s trying to be my Dad. I don’t like this. It doesn’t feel good. I miss my Dad. Why is he tickling my chest? That feels strange. No one tickles me there. I don’t think he should touch me there. Why is he touching my underwear? I’m stuck. I can’t breathe. I’m scared. What is he doing? This isn’t right. Why did Mum send me in here? Why is he touching me there? No one touches me there.

I remember the sensation of my Dad tickling my belly. It was soft and gentle. It made me sleepy. I loved snuggling into Dad and I loved the fun stories. I was never scared. I was never stuck. I don’t even remember thinking that much. I just enjoyed being next to my Dad. I loved him. Now here I was and I could barely feel a thing. Every part of me had raced into my head and was screaming at me. His gross fingers creeped under my underwear and began to touch. “Run. Get out. Don’t stay. Move Sara. Now!”. Finally the screaming in my head called me to action and I leapt out of bed. I don’t remember any talking. There weren’t any stories. It was like being in a prison. Little did I know that those few moments would create a prison in my own mind and declare me a foreigner in my own body.

I got out of the bedroom. I didn’t speak a word. I didn’t look back. I walked to my sister’s room next door. My sisters were playing Barbies. I sat down to play too but it wasn’t fun this time. Cross legged in my big, baggy t-shirt and knickers. I was very angry and sad. I felt myself slipping to somewhere else. My mind was racing off and then it just disappeared. I was numb, like a zombie. Sitting, going through the motions, I don’t remember talking. Barbie in hand but no story, no words and no smiles. I wasn’t dreaming anymore. I was nine. My sister’s felt safe. I love my sisters. I’ll just stay here with them and that’s all I can remember of that day.

🌸 Little girl, little girl, it’s okay to weep

I know the secrets that you keep

Give me the petals that you hold

And in my hands, they will become as precious as gold

Blessed are those who mourn

For they shall be comforted

Not a single tear unseen or ever wasted

What was taken will never be lost, when you lay it down, before my cross 🌸

(Names have been changed. Charges were never made but events were reported to Police when I was 17. My account of the story was denied entirely by ‘Johnny’ who contacted my Dad and advised him of his perceptions of my character. ‘Johnny’ advised my Dad that I was a liar and manipulative, and encouraged my Dad to be cautious around me. My Dad believes my account of events. Months later ‘Johnny’ wrote a letter addressed to me, filled with lovely words and a request for ongoing contact. I never responded.)

Published by Sara Cotton

Like a bowerbird, I like to collect words and then weave them together to create something that reaches from the depths of my heart to yours. Words are my paints. Life is my muse. Love is my reason.

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