Kelly was raped on her sixteenth birthday in the back of an old Ford Cortina by Jem Battersby. He was quite a bit older than her, being twenty four, and already married with twin eighteen month old daughters. He came from a large well respected family. Kelly, on the other hand, was an insignificant nobody.
On this particular night, she had been celebrating in the local night spot with her friend Annie. All the girls fancied Jem, but tonight she seemed to have caught his eye, and he had been flirting with her on and off all evening. Perhaps it was the sparkly top and long slim legs which attracted him. Or perhaps it was the glint in her eye, and her broad smile.
Either way, she didn’t care. She revelled in his attention, accepted the drinks he bought her, got up close and personal with him on the dance floor a couple of times, and basked in the jealous glances she received from the other girls. When he leaned over and whispered in her ear that he would give her a lift home, she jumped at the chance, even though it was not yet midnight. Well, why did she need to hang around when she had already pulled?
God, he’s handsome, she thought, admiring the way his long hair curled loosely at his neck, the jut of his chin, and the dimple when he smiled at her. Actually, if Jem had lived in the city, his looks wouldn’t have cut it amongst the competition, but here, in this little backwards country town, his looks served well enough to bag him just about anything he wanted. Jem was a chancer; had he lived in the city, he would have fallen back on his other assets to prey upon female tourists, namely his soft northern accent and obvious charm.
“Good night, losers!” she threw at her friends, as drop-jawed, they watched her leave the dance floor, Jem draped all over her and steering her down the stairs. I’m sixteen, it’s my birthday, and I’ve pulled Jem Battersby! She couldn’t stop giggling as Jem pulled her down the street towards his car parked on the roadside, and shoved her into the passenger seat. They snogged, then Jem wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and started the engine. But instead of taking her home, he turned off the main road, sped out into the country and parked up in a dark secluded area.
Kelly was alarmed, but also excited. Jem climbed over onto the back seat, and invited her to join him. At first she refused but he caught her hand and looked into her eyes, and she found herself melting. This time though, there was no kissing. His hands were everywhere. Afraid, she tried to push him off, but Jem seemed unwilling, or unable to stop. He rolled on top of her, pinning her down with his weight, and forced his hand between her legs. She began silently to cry; she may have just turned sixteen, but she was far from being an adult. She may have considered herself street wise, but she was actually quite naive. Against someone like Jem, she stood no chance.
She pleaded for him to stop. Then she was quiet, her body paralysed with fear, mind numb, while he thrust and grunted at his work.
“You were fantastic, babe,” he told her when it was over. He climbed out the car, zipping up his fly, lit a fag and had a smoke. He didn’t offer her one. Then he dropped her home.
Annie came round the next day to hear all the juicy details, but was seriously disappointed. Kelly did not feel like talking. “God, you’re no fun,” Annie complained. “What’s got into you? You score someone like Jem Battersby, and all you can do is mope …”
To be honest, Kelly was not proud of herself. This was another woman’s man, and a daddy to boot. Gorging on forbidden fruit did not give her a good feeling. And hangover aside, she was feeling exceptionally lousy. Had she asked for it? She supposed she must. She couldn’t talk about it, even admit it to herself. She told no-one, not even Annie, her best friend. Hadn’t said best friend warned her what you could expect to get from unprotected sex? Had she listened? No. She knew very well what she could expect, but did not expect what she actually got.
A month later, while puking her guts into the bog yet again, she finally accepted that copious vomiting plus no period equalled pregnancy. And not just any pregnancy. No, this was seriously unwanted pregnancy. But she said nothing, and resorted to baggy jumpers. No one noticed, but that was nothing new for Kelly; she was used to not being noticed. She didn’t know what to do, so childishly, she ignored it.
But it didn’t go away. And whilst her parents were too busy acting out their own dramas, best friend Annie’s eagle eyes did not miss a trick.
“Whose is it?” she demanded unceremoniously.
Annie was aghast. “You stupid cow!” she exclaimed. “Not that Jem bloody Battersby!”
Kelly shrugged again.
“Well, you have to tell him,” decided Annie. “It’s his baby. He has a right to know.”
As if Kelly cared about Jem’s paternal rights. But, badgered into it by her trusted best friend’s wisdom, she agreed; she would tell him. But how? Obviously, she couldn’t just turn up on his doorstep. She couldn’t go to his workplace; everyone would know something was up. And their social circles just didn’t mix in the normal day to day. There was nothing for it; she would have to go back to the club. She hadn’t been there since that night. But would he be there?
Where else would he have been on a Saturday night?
“Go on,” hissed Annie, giving her a shove in his direction.
Numb, Kelly stumbled towards him. He left off his current conquest to flash a smile at her. Kelly felt her knees buckle.
“I’m pregnant,” she blurted, not knowing where to look.
His smile faltered for a second, became fixed. “Piss off!” he growled at the woman entwined around him. She slunk off, like a frightened dog.
“Could be anyone’s,” he sniffed, gulping at his pint.
“Well, it’s yours,” declared Kelly. “There was no one before you, and there’s been no- one since. I’m not a scrubber.”
“Well, everyone saw you that night. You certainly looked like a scrubber.”
Tears burned in Kelly’s eyes, but did not fall.
He slammed down his pint, wiping the foam from his to lip. “So, what d’you want from me? I already have a wife and kids. Don’t need any more. I suggest you get yourself an abortion.”
Despite her best efforts, a sob escaped from Kelly’s throat. “I don’t have the money,” she admitted miserably, knowing cash would solve her problem, but seeing no way of getting her hands on any.
Light dawned on Jem. “Ah, so its money you’re after. Well sorry to disappoint you, love, but me dad holds the key to the vault, not me, and he’s hardly going to fork out for this one! No, sorry love, but you’re on your own…” Jem had already turned back to his pint, as if it contained the ointment to salve his cares. Perhaps it did, because twelve pints later, he seemed to have forgotten all about Kelly and his ill-gotten offspring by throwing his weight around in a vicious brawl. No such escapism for Kelly, whether she had the dosh or not.
Eventually, even her preoccupied parents couldn’t miss the swelling mound that was her belly. Her violent father, ever the one for doling out punishment, kicked her out, while her mother, weak and indifferent from years of abuse, stood by and watched. Kelly went to Annie’s house, but after a couple of nights, even her parents lost their sympathy when the neighbours began to gossip behind their curtains.
Kelly had nowhere to go, no one to turn to, and three weeks before her due date, on a grey rainy morning gave birth to her baby on the cold wet floor of a public toilet. She wrapped the silent, floppy little thing up in her jumper, then staggered to Annie’s house. Luckily, her friend, not the parents, answered the door.
“I had the baby,” announced Kelly, leaning against the doorway.
“You never!” exclaimed her friend, not quite believing her.
“I did. I had it.” Kelly stumbled past her friend, and fell to her knees. Annie noticed a red bloom spreading through Kelly’s jeans. “Jesus! Mam, quick,” she yelled, grabbing her friend as she keeled over. “Where’s the baby?”
“I left it in Abbey Street bogs.” Kelly’s teeth were chattering, her face white and sweaty. Annie brushed the damp hair gently out of her friend’s face. “Mam!” she yelled again over her shoulder.
“Girl or Boy? Was it ok? Was it crying? How did you cut the cord?” The questions tumbled out of her mouth.
” idn’t need to. It wouldn’t come out, so I pulled and it snapped. “
“You silly cow! You shoulda gone to the hospital “
“I didn’t know what to do “
“Kelly, you never do “
At this point Kelly fainted.
She skipped in and out of consciousness for a couple of days in hospital. Annie’s mother had called an ambulance and the police. The baby had been found still alive, but suffering from hypothermia. It was a skinny child, a girl, weighing only five pounds, and would not feed. This fragile little life hovered and fluttered, frail as butterfly wings. It was touch and go.
Kelly refused to go and see her baby, and it was too sickly to be moved from special care. Kelly refused to breast feed or express. The midwives regarded her disapprovingly. She rolled her eyes skywards, and said rudely, “What are you staring at?”
” f you had come to your ante natal appointments, we would have recommended termination,” they said, from their lofty seat of judgement. “What chance does the poor child have with a mother who can’t even look after herself?”
Kelly’s response was to arm herself with attitude and foul language. She knew they were right, that she was worthless. Her father had told her as much, on many occasions between beatings. The nurses left her alone. Her parents didn’t visit. She discharged herself. She was appointed a social worker, who placed her in a women’s shelter. A few weeks later, the baby was allowed out of hospital. Kelly didn’t know what to do with it. It wailed all night.
The social worker helped her to fill in a load of forms, and she got a tiny bed sit in a block of flats, and they gave her some money to get stuff for the baby. Annie helped her with the shopping. She had to get a cot and buggy second hand, but she had enough left to treat herself to a new pair of denim hot pants. They went back to the pokey little flat and cooed over the pretty little babygrows and tiny hats and mittens they had bought. Kelly felt very grown up with her own baby, her own place, and a bit of money. Annie brought some of their school friends over; they took turns holding the baby, their faces burning with jealousy. Kelly gloated, and told them gory tales of the trials of childbirth. As soon as the creature started squawking however, they made a hasty retreat.
“We’re going down the club Saturday night if you fancy it,” Annie said as they were leaving.
Kelly shrugged. “Have a good time,” she said, sour faced.
“You should get your mam to baby sit. She’s a nana now, surely she won’t mind.”
Kelly thought about that. It wasn’t even an option. She tried to settle down to her new life. The flat was damp, and the tiny bathroom smelled of drains. The neighbour to her right had an extraordinary amount of men visitors at all times of the day and night. Sometimes, they tried to get into her flat too, terrifying her half to death with their drunken threats as they hammered on the door to get in. The young guy on her left lived alone, but most nights his pals would come by, drinking and scoring, and playing loud music till the early hours. It seemed to Kelly that between the baby and her two neighbours, they conspired to rob her eternally of sleep.
If that wasn’t bad enough, he kept a great black brute of a doberman in the flat with him. The first time she came across it in the confines of the stairwell, she almost wet herself with fear. It approached her like a black whirlwind, all teeth and slaver and menacing red eyes. The noise of its barking was terrifying. There was no doubt it meant to rip her to pieces. She backed away and pressed herself up against the wall, quivering with fright. Its owner laughed unpleasantly, called the dog off, and barged past her.
Back in her flat, shaking with fear, nerves and exhaustion, she found and lit a cigarette, and decided she needed a break. She resolved to join the girls on their Saturday night out.
They called for her at 730pm. They had been drinking since lunch time. The baby was asleep in her cot. Kelly didn’t let them in. “You lot are so pissed, you’ll just wake her up,” she said, closing the door.
“Knew your mam would come round,” beamed Annie, linking arms. “This is great!”
Kelly said nothing. She got thoroughly drunk, and had a right old laugh with her mates. It was almost like the good old days. At the end of the night, she left her pals at the bottom of the stairs, removed her stilettos and tip toed up to her flat, pausing to listen at the door.
She let herself quietly in, went over to the cot and peered in. The baby was fast asleep. Kelly let out a sigh of relief. It had been quite easy really. All had worked out well. But she couldn’t quite shift the feeling of guilt. And looking after a baby the next day with a hangover was no fun.
Kelly went out with her mates the next week, too. She let them believe her mother was babysitting.
She got home to find the neighbour who owned the vicious dog sitting on her sofa. He was smoking dope. Kelly glanced nervously around. He was alone, no dog. The baby was asleep in the cot.
“What are you doing in here?” she demanded, rather more bravely than she felt. He took a deep drag on his spliff, then lazily blew out a smoke ring. Fear had instantly sobered her up. What is he going to do?
“Babysitting,” he replied, eyeing the tiny bundle in the cot. The way he said it implied threat not protection.
“Get out! I’ll tell the landlord you’re keeping a dog in here,” she screamed at him.
He arched one brow. “I’ll tell ‘im you go out at night leaving your baby alone in the flat,” he countered. “Social’ll round here quicker’n you can say hell-hound. You’ll never see that one again.” He jerked his head at the cot.
Kelly shut up, anxiously chewing her lip till she drew blood. Why’s he threatening me? What’s he after?
Suddenly, he threw his head back and laughed. He thrust himself out of her sofa and sprang towards her, grasped her by the throat, slamming her up against the wall. He stared into her face for couple of minutes, then released her and left abruptly.
She didn’t go out for a couple of weeks after that, but eventually, temptation got the better of her, and she gave in to her friends’ persuasions. It was her seventeenth, after all. Could it really be a year already? The girls were up for celebrating; she couldn’t very well not go.
They went down the club. Kelly had a few tequilas. She noticed Jem in a dark corner with some poor cow. She headed for the dance floor, threw herself about a bit, then had to rush to the toilets to vomit. “You’re out of practice,” Annie yelled at her, passing her another drink. The music was already hammering in her temples.
They poured out of the club some time after two, and joined the queue at the chippy. Then someone was at her side, tugging at her, trying to pull her away, shouting in her ear something she couldn’t quite take in. She tried to shrug them off, dropping her chips all over the pavement.
“You better get home right now! The pigs are crawling all over your place! Go on!”
Sudden dread clutched at her insides. She kicked off her shoes, and ran.
When she got to her block, there were several police cars parked in front, and two ambulances. There were people milling about trying to get close enough to get a good eyeful of whatever was going on, and police officers pushing them back. She was deafened by sirens, blinded by flashing lights, confused by drink.
She rushed over to a policeman. “What’s happening? I live in there,” she screamed at him, found herself repeatedly beating him on the chest with both hands. He grabbed her arms.
“Calm yourself, and stop that or I will have you up on assault!” he shouted.
“My baby’s in there,” she whimpered.
Something in the his face changed. He couldn’t meet her eyes. “Come with me,” he said, and dragged her into the building. He was exchanging words with a superior, then she was vaguely aware of a female officer taking her arm. They led her into her flat.
There was a tangled knot of people seething around her living room. There was a lot of shouting. Four medics were folded around a small body on the grey carpet, a carpet soaked and splashed with a mess of blood, too much blood for something so tiny. Next to them on the floor was a lifeless, crumpled black mass, a shape which even in death drew a shudder of fear and revulsion from Kelly. Her neighbour was sprawled beside his pet’s body, sobbing and rocking and wringing his hands. He couldn’t look at her. She couldn’t tell if he was crying for the dog, or the baby, or himself.
Kelly let out an unearthly howl. “My baby!” Only the firm grip of the police on either side of her kept her upright.
The medics whisked the child away. Kelly was allowed to go with her in the ambulance. The baby went straight into several hours of surgery. She lost a hand and an eye in the attack. She would have years of plastic surgery ahead of her. The dog had been shot by the police. His owner was later prosecuted and banned from owning dogs for five years. Social services placed the baby with foster parents, and some months later, Kelly gave her up for adoption.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she told Annie.
Annie said, “That’s your problem, Kelly, you never do. Some women will always be victims.”
Kelly started drinking. Her dependency on alcohol led her into a series of abusive relationships. The alcohol helped her to forget. The beatings helped her to remember. Then the alcohol helped her to forget again.