If you tell... SANTA WON ’ T COME At that mo­ment, my whole world turned up­side down

A sick threat used to hide even sicker ac­tions. el­iz­a­beth, 35, learned the aw­ful truth about her part­ner too late...

Pick Me Up! - - TWISTED -

The wash­ing machine was spin­ning, dirty plates were piled high in the sink and there were toys all over the floor. Busi­ness as usual, once the kids had gone to bed.

I took a deep breath, pre­pared to tackle the chaos.

Then some hands ap­peared on my shoul­ders, giv­ing me a mas­sage.

‘Go and put your feet up,’ my part­ner Tony, 23, said.

‘But look at the state of the place!’ I replied.

‘I know,’ he told me. ‘I’ll sort it.’

I col­lapsed in front of the telly, think­ing how lucky I was.

I’d loved be­ing a sin­gle mum but it had taken it out of me. Then Tony came along and ev­ery­thing changed.

We’d met at my lo­cal and in­stantly there was a spark.

Tony had a gor­geous smile and a wicked sense of hu­mour.

I liked him a lot, but I needed to be wary be­cause of the kids.

It took a good few months of dat­ing be­fore I felt ready. We all went to a lo­cal restau­rant – and within min­utes, the chil­dren’s howls of laugh­ter filled the air. Tony was a nat­u­ral. Colour­ing with Ella, 6, play­ing games with Luke, 7.

Soon we were do­ing ev­ery­thing to­gether. Trips to the park and zoo, movie nights at home.

We’d wel­comed Ruby af­ter a year to­gether.

Tony doted on her. Me, too.

Her first sum­mer, when the older two were off school, we were al­ways out and about, hav­ing ad­ven­tures.

And Tony was al­ways on hand to help clear up the chaos af­ter­wards.

On the first day back at school in Septem­ber 2015, he helped, run­ning around to find Luke’s school bag and mak­ing sure his hair was combed.

‘Ella, hurry up, we’ll be late,’ I shouted up the stairs.

All the while, I was bundling Ruby into her buggy.

I kissed Tony good­bye at the door as he waved and blew kisses to the kids, then we were off.

Luke raced ahead, ea­ger to catch up with his friends.

But Ella hung back with me, strangely quiet. Until… ‘Tony’s weird,’ she blurted. ‘What do you mean?’ I laughed.

She went quiet again, shook her head, and I heard her whis­per to her­self.

‘If I tell, Santa won’t come,’ she said.

I felt a cold prickle. Her voice sounded robotic, like it was some­thing she was re­mind­ing her­self about.

‘Ella, you can tell me any­thing,’ I said stop­ping in my tracks.

‘But Santa won’t bring my roller boots,’ she al­most wailed.

Crouch­ing to her level, I asked her one more time to tell me what was wrong.

She took a deep breath and said, ‘Tony told me to… to touch his bits.’

My legs went to jelly. ‘Did he do any­thing else?’ I asked.

She nod­ded, ges­tured to her own pri­vate parts.

‘He put his hands there,’ she whis­pered.

In that mo­ment, my whole world turned up­side down.

That man I’d wo­ken up next to, the one who’d fed the kids ce­real be­fore kiss­ing me good­bye...

He was a mon­ster.

I felt phys­i­cally sick, wanted to con­front Tony right then.

But as if she read my mind, Ella begged me to keep quiet.

‘Please, Mummy,

I bought her the roller boots that evil man threat­ened to take

I don’t want to be on the naughty list. Tony said that if I told, Santa wouldn’t come,’ she cried.

Dis­gust­ing! Us­ing Fa­ther Christ­mas, a child’s fan­tasy, as a ploy in his sick acts.

‘Mummy will sort this. But no mat­ter what, Santa will bring you presents.’ I soothed.

I man­aged to get her into school, know­ing that she’d be safe there, at least.

Not sure what to do,

I headed to so­cial ser­vices, feel­ing like a gib­ber­ing wreck.

But at the en­trance, I no­ticed some­one watch­ing me.

Tony.

‘What are you do­ing here?’ he called from his car.

My mind raced. He should have been at work. He must’ve sus­pected some­thing was wrong and fol­lowed me.

Had he been watch­ing me and Ella? I couldn’t let him know I was on to him...

‘Just here to ask about Ruby’s nurs­ery,’ I smiled sweetly.

He seemed to ac­cept it and shouted one more thing be­fore he drove off.

‘I’ll see you at home later,’ he said. ‘Love you.’

‘Love you, too!’ I replied, the words burn­ing in my throat.

As soon as I saw his car turn the cor­ner, I ran in­side and filed a re­port.

The po­lice were in­volved right away.

Ella was brought to the po­lice sta­tion to make a video state­ment.

I kissed her fore­head as she held her teddy tight.

She was taken into a room alone, just her and the lady ask­ing ques­tions.

She was so scared, so small. Af­ter that, there was to be a test to find ev­i­dence.

But at the hos­pi­tal, when they gave us a male doctor, Ella screamed.

She must have been trau­ma­tised be­cause of what Tony had done.

Worse still, there wouldn’t be a fe­male doctor avail­able for weeks, by which time any ev­i­dence would have gone.

It was in­fu­ri­at­ing but I held Ella’s hand and stroked her hair as she was ex­am­ined.

‘I prom­ise Santa will bring lovely presents,’ I kept telling her. ‘You’re such a good girl.’

I prayed that po­lice would ar­rest Tony fast. But ar­riv­ing at our house, they found it de­serted.

I’d no idea how he knew that Ella had told me, but Tony had fled.

We lived in limbo at my mum’s house. Un­sure where Tony was, con­vinced he’d come for me, for Ella...

When poor Luke found out, he blamed him­self.

‘I was the man of the house,’ he sobbed. ‘I should have pro­tected her.’

And my dar­ling Ella still kept say­ing one thing, no mat­ter how of­ten I told her oth­er­wise.

‘Santa won’t come now.’ She’d never love Christ­mas in the same way.

Fi­nally, af­ter 10 days, Tony was ar­rested.

Wait­ing for his trial,

I bought ev­ery­thing on Ella’s Christ­mas list, in­clud­ing the roller boots that evil man had threat­ened to take away.

Me and Mum did our best to give the kids a happy time, but the spec­tre of what Tony had done hung over all of us.

The le­gal pro­ceed­ings rum­bled on and on.

Mean­while, Ella suf­fered from night ter­rors.

Hold­ing her close in the dark each night, I wished over and over that I could go back in time and stop my­self from invit­ing that pae­dophile into our happy home.

Even­tu­ally, Tony pleaded guilty to the child sex charges brought against him.

He was jailed and or­dered to sign the sex of­fend­ers reg­is­ter in­def­i­nitely.

Ella still had the men­tal scars from what Tony made her do. She’d al­ways been my happy girl, but now she was shaken, an­gry.

See­ing her trans­formed like that rid­dled me with guilt. I was the one who brought Tony into our lives.

But I’ve had to learn, as much as Ella, that none of this is our fault.

Tony was the mon­ster and he forced my daugh­ter to keep his sick se­cret.

Now he’s in a prison cell and we’re slowly get­ting back to nor­mal.

We’re re­build­ing the magic of Christ­mas.

I al­ways make sure Ella gets ev­ery­thing on her list and make sure that she feels safe and loved.

I couldn’t pro­tect her from that mon­ster. But this I can do, and I al­ways will.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.