Prologue - 13 years ago
Updated: Nov 12, 2018
The phone ringing.
What time is it?
Nova is asleep; the warmth of her little body curled up on my lap, her soft breath against my neck.
Wait - the phone is ringing.
Shifting as quickly as possible, without disturbing her, I reach for the receiver.
“Vanessa - these guys – following-” Jerry sounded breathless rushing to get his words out, “tried to grab me – got away – they’re following - nearly home – call police – take care of Nova - baby I love y-”
The line went dead.
I had to get to him.
Nearly home, he said he was nearly home, he had to have called from the phone box near the fields.
Please don’t let me be too late.
It was the only thought in my head as I tried to put Nova down, without waking her, before grabbing my trainers and running to the door.
“Momma! Wait – Momma!”
Oh god, what now. I ran back to her. “Baby, I’ll be back in a minute, just wait here ok?”
“No – Momma it’s dark I don’t want to stay here. Don’t go.” She was pulling on her furry slippers as she reached for me.
“Baby, listen,” squatting down, brushing the hair back from her face as I spoke, trying to hide my terror. “Momma’s going to find daddy, I think he’s hurt ok? He needs me quickly baby girl.”
‘MOMMA – NO!” Huge tears began rolling down her cheeks as I led her back inside. Releasing my hand, she ran to the sofa and grabbed her cardigan, stuffing her arms into the sleeves as she followed me, little legs trying desperately to keep up. I made a split-second decision, scooping her into my arms as if weightless, the adrenaline urging me on, I ran as fast as I could.
I know I shouldn’t have brought her, I had no idea what I was bringing her to. Something was very wrong, I couldn’t shake the dread that was building in the pit of my stomach. Nova clung to me, tucking her face into the crook of my neck, as I ran as fast as I could.
Rounding the corner, I saw the phone box, and then I saw him.
Jerry was on the ground. My strong Jeremiah Cardui was lying on the ground - not moving – oh god.
“JERRY!” I don’t know how I reached him, how my legs carried me. I was just there, falling on my knees beside the man who was my whole life.
“DADDY – wake up!” Nova’s terrified voice was screaming, I don’t know when I had put her down. She was pulling his hand. Cold, thick blackness coating my hands as I scrabbled to stop the bleeding. There was so much blood, but he was completely still, his heart not beating, his chest still, a dark pool around his head, a macabre halo.
This isn’t real.
This can’t be real.
Nova stopped screaming.
The silence consumed me.
Glancing over to check she was ok; her huge eyes were fixed on her daddy and then she turned towards the phone box. I sat on the ground feeling numb, Jerry’s cold blood congealing on my fingers, watching her walk on shaky legs towards the phone box. She stared at it and then walked inside, sitting on the floor, putting her hand on the glass, motionless, her head tilted, as if listening to something. I watched our child as silent tears streamed down my face.
After several hours at the station, a police officer offered to bring us home.
We returned to a cold empty house, matching my hollow heart perfectly.
Nova was fast asleep as I carried her in. My poor girl was far too young to have to deal with something like this, let alone see it. I felt terrible for exposing her to such horror.
She had withdrawn totally, spending ages in the phone box, silently staring at nothing with her hand on the glass pane, while flashing blue had lit up the night, sirens screamed at the injustice of a man stolen far too soon from his family. I suppose she was in shock at seeing her daddy like that. I wondered how much of this she understood, but then how much does any four-year-old understand about death.
Over the next few weeks I watched her, she was all I had left now of our little family.
She became quiet, serious, and seemed to spend hours sat in her room whispering to the mirror. What was really unnerving was how she’d fall silent the moment I walked in, she’d stop and stare at me with her huge blue brown flecked eyes.
She hardly spoke any more.
I mentioned it to our doctor, once I’d finally forced myself to go to the surgery. He prescribed anti-depressants for me and suggested it might be Nova’s way of coping with the loss of her father.
Nova’s obsession with mirrors continued. The only time I ever heard her laugh, or sing, or do anything normal, was when she thought she was alone with a mirror. Sometimes I would sneak in just to watch her, to hear her voice.
I missed her, the chatty little girl she had been, full of laughter and silliness. This obsession with mirrors seemed so harmless, children have imaginary friends; I read that certain types of trauma could trigger this in children; inventing a friend they could confide in as a way of coping.
I was wrong.
I heard her scream and ran. I’ve never heard such a terrified sound from my child.
“Momma! Don’t let him take me! NO! Please let go!”
Bursting through the door, she was in front of the mirror shaking violently and clutching her hand to her chest. Huge eyes staring at the glass, her cheeks smeared with tears.
“Baby what is it?” Scrabbling up she flung herself at my thighs. “What happened baby girl - tell me.”
Looking up, fear in her expression. “Shush Momma,” she whispered, and a shiver ran down my spine at hearing the strangely controlled tone of her voice. “He’ll hear you. He wants to take me away, he was pulling me into the darkness Momma – Momma, don’t let him take me. I don’t want to go into the darkness – it’s scary.”
I was terrified for her, my poor baby. Something had frightened her, and whatever it was, it wasn’t going away.
After that night Nova seemed to be haunted or possessed. She would just start crying randomly, or hiding from her reflection, or both. At other times she would jump up and throw her hands over her ears screaming for it to shut up. I didn’t know what to do and felt helpless to witness such terrifying behaviour. The only respite was at night, at night she slept soundly.
After a week of this, I realised I needed help.
A few days later, our perfect little girl was admitted to Priory Hospital, for intensive psychiatric therapy, under the care of Dr Gregory Jenkins.