Chapter 53: Dee
Why she did it, she wasn’t sure. It felt like a betrayal of the one friend she had in the world but she had felt a desperate need to know her enemy. A need to understand this man who had caused such grief to her friend and to the most perfect and beautiful child she had ever known in her life.
It had happened almost by chance.
One morning, whilst sitting at the foot of Isla and Milly’s beds, she was reading the local paper, and looking out at her was the mugshot of a man she felt she knew. Big, scared, angry eyes connected with hers across the page. The story was brief and had the feel of a half story – untold not because there was not more to tell but because the journalist was either unwilling or unable to share more. But this man, this ‘Simon Williamson’ was reported as being held at HMP Brixton awaiting charges of grievous bodily harm against his wife and daughter who the article stated as critical but stable in St Thomas’ Hospital.
Dee had glanced up from the paper at that point, equating the words on the page with the reality that lay before her in two bodies, one big, one small, both gripped by sleep or unconsciousness. Healing or hiding or both. She considered the word ‘stable’ and wondered if it could ever be applied to someone who had been beaten until they could no longer function by someone they should be able to love and trust. Could the word ever apply? Perhaps medically, but emotionally? It seemed unlikely to Dee.
As she pondered this, she came to an understanding that she must find this man. Must meet her enemy. Must know who it was that she was going to dedicate her life to keeping Isla and Milly safe from.
And so it was that she ended up in the visitors’ queue at Brixton Prison. She did not worry that he would not be expecting her, that he did not know who she was. She had a story prepared that she was a woman of faith who gave of her free time to relieve the suffering of those who found themselves faced with harder times, whether in prison, in hospital or on the streets. She knew such people existed, so kind and giving of themselves that it felt almost impossible that they could walk the same earth as someone like Simon. She also knew enough from watching films and reading books to realise that the monotony of prison life was such that even after a short time, Simon was likely to welcome a visitor, any visitor, to ease the tedium.
Dee was right, Simon welcomed her visit unchallenged and on the first occasion that she had left their bedside during the ten days they had spent in hospital so far, Dee found herself face-to-face with Isla and Milly’s attacker.
She had had so long to imagine him whilst she sat in the hospital and in the weeks prior. Since she had seen the injuries on Isla’s arm that day, she had begun imagining the beast who could have done this to the woman he purported to love. She had a very clear vision of him. He would be big and strong. Someone who clearly liked to work out and whose muscles would be apparent even when clothed. He would have a severe look about him and steel grey eyes that shone with coldness and were empty of emotion. His voice would be harsh; his actions powerful, smooth and strong and the moment she clapped eyes on him she would be filled with such revulsion, such hatred of this man that she would barely be able to contain her feelings and it would take every ounce of her self-control to continue the conversation.
It wasn’t so.
The man who was escorted into the visiting cubicle was a broken man, not a strong man. It was hard to imagine him ever having been strong. He did not look physically strong either and the tattooed guard, who looked a lot like Dee’s imaginings of Simon, towered over him. He was, perhaps five foot six or seven. His hair was receding and greying at his temples and his arms were not those of a fighter but those of a writer. Long, smooth arms that looked more likely to envelope someone in an embrace than to inflict any form of harm on them.
The thing she had been most wrong about though, were his eyes and his voice. Both were harsh and cold in her imagination, but as he took a seat opposite her, his deep blue, sad eyes locked with hers. Their colour intensified by the depth of emotions he seemed to be experiencing at their meeting and his voice was not that of a strong man, in command of his situation and unrepentant. It was that of a boy broken and lost; unsure of his place in the world and waiting to be kicked whilst he was down. He spoke in a barely audible whisper as if ashamed or afraid to make too much noise and when he did speak. His words were hesitant, stilted, and his voice threatened to break with emotion, just as his eyes threatened to spill over with tears.
Dee felt sorry for him.
Dee despised herself for feeling sorry for him. She dragged her thoughts back to Isla and Milly in the hospital and commanded some of the hatred and bile she had felt towards this man before he had entered the room. But it was almost impossible to equate the monster in her mind with the mild, meek and broken man she saw sat before her. She was sure that if they both stood, she would tower above him. That she was heavier and perhaps even stronger than he. So how had he been able to inflict such pain and suffering she wondered briefly, but the answer was of course that the strength, the power to manipulate and the power to control another person did not come purely through physical force.
Dee’s intention had been to spend as little time with Simon as possible, wanting to know her enemy, to recognise his face and to get the measure of the man from whom she imagined she may spend the next few weeks or months running and hiding.
But she could not leave. She could not, after a few minutes of pleasantries, turn and leave this broken man in this room here alone. And so, when the smallest of small-talk had dried up and there was a natural break when she might have taken her leave, she looked at her watch. She had used up eight minutes of the allotted thirty. She had twenty-two minutes left. Dismissing the guilt she felt, the feeling that she was somehow betraying Isla, she asked just one question and then sat back whist this monster who should not be allowed to call himself a man answered her.
“How did this happen?” she asked.
[View all chapters shared so far here]
Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.