My legs began to hurt. The cold wind crashed through my hair making my eyes, ears and nose ache. I knew that I couldn’t run for much longer, this was the fifth field that we had been through, but where could I hide? The endless flat fields that stretched out in front of me were now becoming a threat. I knew what was to come next….’Tag!’ I doubled up as he punched me in the stomach and screamed as he pushed me onto the floor and started kicking me. It happened this way every time. It was as if he needed to take his anger out on someone and that person was always me.
My mother never understood why I always came home in tears every time I had to ‘play’ with my cousin Jack. In her eyes Jack was a complete angel and nothing I could say could change her perfect image of him. When my mother questioned Jack about the bruises left on my body, he would always reply: ‘I always try and stop her, but she runs so fast and then ends up falling over a log or bumping into a tree. She won’t listen to anything I say.’ My hatred of Jack built up over the years but as time wore on and his abusing became more violent, I found that there was less and less I could do about it. Every time his visit to me ended, he would whisper in my ear: ‘I’m gonna get you.’
One day Jack didn’t turn up for his monthly visit and the next day we received a call saying that Jack had died in a car crash on his way to our house. My mother was absolutely distraught .I felt relieved. I could breathe out again but I still remembered his last words echoing in my mind: ‘I’m gonna get you.’ I learnt to push this thought into the back of my mind and my bruises heeled quickly allowing me to live a normal life- almost carefree compared to the suffering I had had to endure throughout my childhood.
* * *
I had chosen London especially. There were no fields to run through, no empty spaces and the busy, bustling London streets were forever occupied. I was never alone in the sense that at least I could ways hear something or someone near me. There were no dark corners here and help was only a phone call away. Some people considered me to be very strange, for, unlike most people, I loved living with neighbours who’s dogs barked continuously throughout the day and night. I found the noise comforting and it was reassuring to know that the world was never quiet or still.
Sitting in my busy house I felt safe. As I watched my two children chasing each other around the garden I shivered, for an old memory started to flicker at the back of my mind. I began to feel uneasy but not being able to pinpoint why, I carried on as normal, taking my children to school and my husband to work.
As I started to work, tidying the house, I could here the neighbour’s dogs barking outside and an ambulance wurring away somewhere in the distance. The sun was out and shining through my bedroom window and even though I should have felt relaxed, the uneasy feeling was still with me, motionless at the base of my stomach.
‘You have received one new email.’ I jumped as I heard the unfamiliar sound of the computer. That was strange for me to be getting messages in the middle of the day; it was usually my husband who received the emails and always in the evening when he came home from work.
As I walked over to the computer, I felt claustrophobic, as if all the air was being sucked away from me. The dogs outside stopped barking and the house was unnervingly still. ‘You have received one new email.’ I jumped a second time as the computer persisted to make me read the email. I opened the file but the page was blank albeit one sentence: ‘I’m gonna get you’. As the old fears from the past were rekindled, I panicked and ran to the phone to call my husband. Feeling a tap on my back, I dropped the phone and fell to the ground just in time to hear a soft whisper in my ear: ‘tag!’