"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist - children already know that dragons exist- Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed" C K Chesterton
He turned out to be short and stocky, an ex-champion wrestler, a victim of childhood polio.
Thick-rimmed dark-farmed glasses sat ill-fittingly on the edge of his nose, and his mustache flecked with grey, had been neatly trimmed above a mouth pouted with purpose.
An imperious face and balding grey hair combed back with sleek precision. He had dark thick busy eyebrows; wayward and inimical above insidious, shifting dark eyes that looked over at me lasciviously.
His tongue licked his lips with the speed of a lizard.
He walked towards me his sweaty; thick-fingered, hand outstretched in greeting, his smile as affable as a snake. " Hello, Janie, I'm Uncle George" your new foster father.
I thought I knew fear by its various pseudonyms and disguises, had mastered its games, pre empted its attacks. The face of fear that now greeted me supersedes anything I had previously encountered.
My eyes cast downward, the smile on my face fixed permanently, too afraid to show my real emotions, I mumbled in horror, " Nice to meet you, Uncle George"
The rest of the family were respectively introduced; Aunty Ann, Suzette the oldest daughter, and David - who by the look of glee in his eyes reveled in the prospect of a younger sibling to terrorize.
My new family smiled politely and with a practiced unison said, " Welcome to our family, Janie"
I moved towards my granny, taking her in my arms as I fought not to sob, mentally begging her to keep me. " Goodbye, Granny " I said.
" Goodbye, Janie, and be a good girl, remember that these kind people have agreed to take you in".
I walked robotically towards the lift, never looking behind me - if I did, I would surely crumble in a heap and beg for the ground to open up and swallow me.
The pain in my body was so intense I thought I might explode.
The Hillman Hunter looked sad; drooping dejectedly towards the road; her tyres limp and lifeless, she waited in the parking lot ready to carry her burdens home.
Climbing into the back of the car, I found I was nominated the centre seat, being the new cadet. I didn't argue, I sat with my small suitcase on my knees, clinging to it protectively.
The awkwardness of the moment was tangible. What did one say? Nice weather, what do I call you again?
Each time I looked into the rear-view mirror his eyes seemed to scan me, an impious smirk glared back at me. I slid lower in my seat, hiding my face from his view.
I had no idea where my new home would be; for all I knew it was a mansion, though that was unlikely judging by the car. Perhaps a house, or a flat, though a shack didn't seem unlikely either.
Filled with trepidation, all I could do was sit back and wait, unknowing.
The area we drove through looked the scummiest I had ever seen. The houses were unkempt, rabid-looking dogs scavenged the dustbins, and scantily-clad small children hung from the jungle gyms of state apartments. Washing draped from windows blew in the wind.
The air had a distinctive stench of poverty.
And when we at last pulled up in front of a block of flats the scenery hadn't changed. My heart cried.
This can't be my new home.
Nowhere could I see a bright house, flowers, or a swing on the porch as I had dreamed.
The flats were dirty yellow, four story high and in need of major renovations.
" Welcome to your new home, Janie." His voice startled my thoughts.
The words sticking in my throat, I nodded in acknowledgment with little display of enthusiasm.
Perhaps looks were deceiving, I thought. I'm sure inside will be warm and homely. I was being far too judgmental and ungrateful. My grandmother's words rang in my ears; " Be grateful Janie, that this kind family want you. Beggars can't be choosers"
Following the rest of the family and clutching my suitcase, I made my way up three flights of stairs. Paint peeled off the ceilings, graffiti adorned the walls, and a cockroach scrambled past, mindful of my feet. I shivered, I hated cockroaches.
Standing at the front door, he placed his key into the lock and opened the door for the rest of us to follow.
Cautiously I walked into the entrance hall, my senses acutely tuned, scanning every detail.
Frozen to the spot, I stared, appalled at what greeted me.
To the immediate left was the bathroom, with no separate toilet. The ring around the bath showed evidence of not being cleaned for a while. The kitchen to the right was dark; the sink still filled with the morning's breakfast dishes. The floors screamed to be washed and the dustbin overflowed with cigarette butts.
Everyone huddled together in the lounge, which boasted an old round dining room table, a sofa-bed, a coffee table, and one recliner chair that had seen better days and a few odd mismatched chairs.
No pictures hung from the walls' the room was barren, void of love and reeking of fear.
At the end of the lounge was an enclosed porch, so tiny one could hardly turn around in it. This was Suzette's room, and contained a small bed and bedside table, with her shoes neatly tucked under the bed, their tips peeping beneath a faded shabby bedcover. The sun shone through the soot-torn net curtains. The only bright thing evident in the home.
Peter and Ann's room was a little smaller than the lounge. Bed unmade, clothes thrown over a clothes rack; the smell of cigarette smoke assailed my nostrils. Involuntarily I gagged as nausea rose in my throat, swallowing back its sickly taste I turned around into what would have to be David's room. His was a typical boy's room - posters hung on the walls, and school gear lay on the floor unwashed. A moldy school lunch was the only evidence of school activity on his desk.
No curtains hung between his hole and theirs and neither was there a door.
I wondered where I would sleep. As yet no one had shown me my room. I could see no welcoming card or bunch of flowers, no pretty duvet cover or teddy perched on a bed for me.
" So, how do yo like your new home?" Aunty Anne asked, It was the first time she had spoken since I arrived. Staring at her with my mouth hanging open, almost waiting for the "close your mouth, Janie, you'll catch flies" that would have been an apt response from my grandmother, I croaked, still clutching at my suitcase, " Lovely, thank you"
"Suzette, be a love and put the jug on so we can have a cuppa, will you?"
Still clinging to my suitcase, I moved into the direction of living room. With a voice barely above a whisper I asked Uncle George where to put my suitcase.
" I can't hear you. Speak up, will you?" his voice roared back at me.
Too afraid to repeat myself, with uncontrollable shivering and a strong urge to wet my pants from fear I pointed to my suitcase.
A cigarette hanging from the end of his mouth, he pointed towards the sofa-bed in the corner of the lounge and spat, " That 's your bed, put your suitcase under it."
In that instant all dreams of having my own bedroom died. My suitcase would be my wardrobe, my bedroom the lounge and my bed the sofa-couch. The gnawing sadness of my losses and what lay before me engulfed me.
Suzette came into the living room slash dinning room slash my bedroom cheerfully carrying a tray of tea. "Tea, everyone?' she asked. A slight smile curled the corners of my mouth as I looked at her. She looked at me tenderly, almost knowingly, empathy filling her eyes as she handed me a hot mug of tea.
The mug was chipped, no china cupboard in this lounge with pretty cups and saucers gracing its shelves.
Silently we all sat drinking tea. A pall of cigarette smoke hung over us in a grubby halo despite the windows being open and ceiling fan that whirred incessantly on the ceiling. I sat with my hands folded together on my lap, my back straight, bereft of all emotions and contemplating my earliest possible escape.
Later my chores were designated; though setting the table for the evening meal seemed an easy enough task. The meal was eaten in silence, each swallow, gulp, clang of cutlery echoing in the room.
David slouched over his plate of food with his elbows on the table, his knife and fork standing straight as soldiers in his hands. The strained silence was broken by a loud fist banging on the table and Uncle Peter yelling, " Get your fucking elbow off the table"
David instantly seemed to arouse himself from his distant vacant world and bring himself promptly back to the table. Placing his knife and fork neatly on his plate, he placed his hands under the table, obviously mortified.
I stared, shocked, my knees banging together uncontrollably under the table. I immediately checked that my cutlery was placed correctly and ensured my hands could not be seen above the table.
His meal unfinished, Uncle Peter pushed his chair behind him where it screeched defiantly along the wooden floor. Without saying a word he moved to the lounge; lighting a cigarette, he was mad as a jar of wasps. He stared at each one of us, oblivious of his son's embarrassment, then with clenched fists and his face contorted in rage he sank heavily into the recliner chair.
Grabbing at a big burgundy cushion, he threw it at his feet, then pointed his finger towards me, snapping it, and motioned for me to sit on it.
Like a dog I sat cringing, too afraid to disobey the hand that would provide food, clothing and shelter. I rigidly endured his hands stroking the back of my neck and hair. I could not help the unwanted goosebumps that rose on my flesh in fear.
When he finally let me go, I gathered my nightgown and toothbrush and headed for the bathroom, almost running towards the privacy of a bath and the opportunity to gather myself and my displaced emotions.
I had not been given the chance to acclimatize.
Discovering that the bathroom door had no latch, I almost bathed with my clothes on. However, once in the bath I relished the soothing effect of the warm water and solitude. Until the door opened, no knocking pre empted his approach.
After closing the door behind him he approached me, not uttering a word, gathered the facecloth in his hand and lathered it with soap. The incongruity of his behavior instinctively caused me to pull my knees up to my chest wrapping my arms around my legs, clinging protectively to my dignity and attempting to hide my nakedness from his roving eyes.
He began to wash me, his touch not exclusive to my arms and legs alone as he pried my grasp free and commanded me to stand. Kneeling by the bath, he lathered me with soap, cupping my small breast in his hands, squeezing them, causing me to flinch with unfamiliarity. He moved across my belly, and with inappropriate intimacy he slowly washed between my legs, discarding the facecloth in preference for his fingers.
The mammoth violation and invasion I felt at the malignancy of his behavior was incomprehensible. Too afraid to incite him further after the witnessing of his earlier display of anger, I stood like a statue as he rinsed the soap off my body, my mind escaping from my body and wandering randomly.
Unconsciously I had just learnt the first law of survival - disassociation.
After lifting me from the bath, he roughly dried me. Like a limp lifeless rag doll I silently endured his mauling, his mouth tugging on my nipple, he then told me not to tell anyone what we had done.
I had done nothing.
This would be our evening bath time ritual, our little secret. A special time to "get to know each other and bond" he said. No one had bathed me since I was a toddler.
Each night as he continued with his sexual violation of me my mind searched like a skilled spinner over a tangled skein of wool to find a way to escape.
That first night I said goodnight to the rest of the family, who seemed unaware of what had just taken place - or knew but chose to ignore it. They wished me a good night's sleep in my new home and hoped I would be very happy with them!
I climbed into the sofa-bed, its hard lumpiness digging into my back, where I tossed and turned, trying to find comfort after the violation I had just experienced. There was none, just a hollowness that seemed endless, I felt as though I were standing at the edge of a precipice with no way to escape.
I awoke in the early hours of the morning to a scuffling noise, and clutched my hand over my mouth, stifling a scream. Cockroaches were moving busily along the lounge table.
I watched petrified as they rummaged for the crumbs that had been left from the evening snack of peanut butter sandwiches dunked in tea.
Retreating to the far side of the sofa-couch, I pulled my legs up and drew the covers right beneath my chin, my eyes locked on their every move, waiting for the moment that one would fly into me. The roaches were more at home than I was. It seemed I would be on a permanent night guard for the rest of my life in more ways than I knew, though the danger I faced was more harmful than anything a mere cockroach could do.
I must have finally drifted off to sleep for I awoke startled to find that I was not alone on my makeshift sofa- couch.
I moved closer to the wall, seeking its cold protection from this " uncle" and his insufferable, unwanted displays of affection. His hands were under my nightgown, fondling at my breast, his hot putrid breath clung to my ears like early morning fog, and his mouth licked my ear lobes, whispering, " Good morning, Janie, did you sleep well?' His tongue invaded my mouth like a slug.
It was one of those nightmares where you run faster and faster but can get no purchase on the earth.
Everyone else was sill asleep, and though my body screamed out in defiance and I tried frantically to wiggle out of his embrace, all my efforts only resulted in him pinning me down completely.
Who was this man other than a cold shiver that ran down my spine?
TO BE CONTINUED.......... He was my stealthy, stalking night-waking burglar who preyed on my body and robbed me of control.
He wasn't a black cloaked ghoul with hideous blood-curdling screams that tortured and terrorized, no he was much more terrifying than that............................