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.
I remember one morning waking to the sound of church bells tolling in the distance, reminding me that it was Sunday.
Stretching lazily, on my sofa-bed, I yawned a loud, melodious yawn. I liked Sundays. Uncle Peter would become the paragon of spirituality, clothing himself in garments of " holier than thou"
I found it amusing, this hypocritical display of their new-found religion. As far as I was concerned they were both fakes; however it did provide a small reprieve - there might be the odd smile, a kind word, and maybe, just maybe, even a laugh.
Aunty Ann walked into the lounge dressed in her Sunday clothes and carrying a cup of tea. "Morning, love" she called out rather enthusiastically.
She never called me "love"; it was going to be a good day after all.
"Uncle Peter isn't feeling very well this morning," she announced.
"Oh," I replied, surprised. He'd seemed fine last night.
" He won't be going to mass this morning. He wants you to stay home with him while the rest of us to to church"
"Oh", I said again, aware of a surge of abhorrent dread.
While the rest of the family got ready for church and left, I hurriedly made my sofa-couch and dressed. It was a hot day, yet I wore more than necessary as though protecting myself from what I knew his ugly egg of a plan would soon hatch.
The bath routines had continued, progressing to me becoming his bath attendant. The obtrusive introduction of his body was shocking, as was the obscenity and vulgarity of his behavior, and being forced to orally stimulate and to masturbate him left me continuously filled with disgust and shame at my inability to disobey his commands.
"You wouldn't like to be sent back to the child welfare now, would you, Janie? You know what would happen then, don't you? They would send you to an orphanage"
He was a malicious, clever manipulator who preyed on my innocence, exploiting and exhausting me, and slowly extinguishing my identity and eroding my soul. The continual defenselessness I felt caused me to feel tired in a way that defies sleep.
Sitting on the edge of the sofa-couch that Sunday morning, I found myself in that moment depleted and ill prepared for what lay ahead. All I knew was that when you are in debt to someone as I was to him, you had to show it. You had to let them do whatever they wanted to do, allow them to beat you, possess you, abuse you, and you couldn't fight back. I didn't want to go to an orphanage.
He walked in to the lounge, smelling sweaty. His masculine odor reeked through his pores and no amount of bathing could eradicate the sexual smell that clung to him more closely than his skin. All he wore was a toweling wrap that crossed over at the waist and was held together by a strip of velcro.
He approached the sofa-couch where I sat trembling, filled with a horrid fear. In one hand he held a bottle of olive oil, in the other a mug of tea, and he was dragging on a cigarette that was glued to his lips with excess saliva. I braced myself for the inevitable onslaught - his thick fingered hands mauling at my body, his mouth tugging at my breasts, his tongue darting across my body like a snake's.
Death would have been a welcome escape, anything other than what was waiting hidden in the shadows of his intent. I was insensate in both body and mind, disengaging my soul from my body. My only defense was to escape into the realms of unreality, denying that this was happening to me.
But it was!
He placed his chipped mug on the lounge table and stubbed out his cigarette in the already overflowing ashtray beside him. Sitting down next to me and placing the bottle of olive oil between his legs, he took my hands into his and smiled, whispering; " You are a very special gift from God, Janie, and I have a very special gift I want to give to you, a gift that you will always remember me by".
I looked up at him suspiciously; I hadn't seen him carrying a gift when he walked into the room. The curiosity of a child temporarily dissipated my fear in the excitement of being given a gift I hadn't anticipated.
"Thank you," I said, " But what is it?" I waited for the announcement of some trinket I had previously desired.
None was forthcoming. Instead he looked at me with those glazed, lascivious eyes that always caused my heart to beat like a crazy drum in fear.
He laid me along the length of the sofa-couch. I clamped my legs together and crossed my hands over my chest. He sprawled his body on top of mine, the weight of his body and the breath on my face suffocating me. He buried his head in my neck and while licking at my earlobes said, " Relax Janie, it will be a lot more painful if you tense. Trust me, I won't hurt you, but you must relax".
What will be painful? my mind screamed, I started to whimper and closed my eyes, I didn't want to see him do whatever it was he planned to do to me.
My layers of clothing seemed to object as he peeled away every bit of covering I had leaving me lying naked and vulnerable, my hands crossed over my breasts as though I had already died and had been laid in my coffin.
His penetration was a sharp searing pain, not just in my body but in my soul, splintering, shattering, tearing and bleeding. I screamed and my world grew dark and still as if a great wave had washed over me and drowned me. For what seemed like ages but was only a few minutes, I lay there, my eyes squeezed tightly shut, the part of me that still wanted to fight knowing he was toying with my terror, inhaling every drop as if it were a delicious nectar and I felt myself flood with hatred and rage.
My body gradually became less sore, adjusting in its own way, capitulating because it had no choice. The will to survive fueled my body but, my mind had stopped working, I could no longer think clearly - this couldn't be happening.
It was dark in the room, his hot dry fingers devouring every inch of my body, his hateful voice muttering ceaselessly in my ear, "You will never forget that I was your first"
There was to be no gift, only the inception and initiation of womanhood, and the death of a little girl.
A few minutes is all it took, yet this would alter me, the little girl permanently, this one senseless act of abuse stole my youth and innocence forever.
Afterwards I stood in the shower, the hot water mingling with the salt of my tears for what seemed an eternity, attempting to wash the evidence of his rape from my body. It would not go away - instead it seemed to have entrenched itself deep inside me. Like a leech it now sucked at my lifeblood leaving me feeling waif-like and tired, so very tired, all used up, like an empty perfume bottle that still looked attractive on the dressing table, retained a little of its fragrance, but was of no use to anyone.
I had just turned twelve.