AS MAUDE GREW OLDER she began to test her father’s rules – using two squares of lavatory paper instead of one; escaping from her bedroom at night for little walks around the house and garden. When these weren’t discovered her confidence began to grow.
But it was her musical talent that offered her an escape. When she was 16, a new music teacher, Monsieur Molin, arrived. He was kind, understood what was happening, and persuaded Maude’s father to let her visit his house for lessons and then to work in his music shop, where she met Richard. Her father allowed her to marry Richard when she was 18, provided she divorce him in six months and return to look after him, which she didn’t do.
Maude had one child with Richard, and another child from a subsequent relationship. She is now a psychotherapist specialising in child trauma. ‘It has been more than 40 years since I left my childhood home to get married,’ she says. ‘For a long time, I couldn’t talk about my past, to my husband or my friends. Not even to my therapists. Mostly, I was so happy to escape imprisonment that I had no desire to go back, not even in my thoughts. I went to see my parents every week with increasing discomfort, tormented by the guilt of having abandoned them.
‘As a young woman I had to learn the most basic codes for life: talking to strangers, finding my way in unenclosed places, eating in a restaurant with friends. It may seem obvious, but how do you eat, talk, drink, chew, reply and swallow at the same time without dribbling or choking? I didn’t see a dentist until I was 18, so my teeth were crumbling, my gums full of abscesses, and my massive alcohol intake has irreparably damaged my liver.
‘After my father died in 1979 my body started to express the suffering with debilitating panic attacks and I realised I had to have some sort of therapy. My mother remains my father’s victim and still believes his theories, which is why we could never build a relationship. Today, we are barely in touch, but I hope one day that will change.
‘My music teacher Monsieur Molin was a man of infinite goodness who saw beauty in everything. He was the exact opposite of my father and proof that my father was wrong.’