Veronica was tired of living out of a suitcase. Two months had passed since selling her house in Kent due to illness and travelling North, to find another house to buy and move into to be close to her daughter in Huddersfield. She planned to live off the difference between the two house prices whilst fulfilling her lifelong ambition to write. Feeling like a cross between a nomad and a bag lady, exhausted from illness, packing the contents of her old house, staying a week in a hotel, then ten days at her daughter’s house in Huddersfield, she found a suitable house in Oldham. Her offer had been accepted, so all she now had to do was wait for the purchase to complete. It was an ideal opportunity to visit her mother in Jersey and then her sister in Norfolk.
She flew from visiting her daughter’s house to Jersey, to stay at her mother’s house. She eventually needed to return to the British mainland to handle the final steps in her house purchase. From her birthplace in Jersey, where she had spent happy days sunbathing on familiar beaches with her elderly mother, she flew, homeless, to her younger sister, Jane’s, rented house in Norwich. It took a few days to adjust to the weird contents of the house, as Jane was an avid auction and boot fair enthusiast. There were spooky mannequins dressed in strange attire, sepia photographs of people long since dead and clutter everywhere. Musical instruments, including a complete drum kit, were in every room, as Jane taught music. She also sang and played sax and other wind instruments in a local band. She had lived a bohemian life, travelling the world in street performance ensembles, where she had met an acrobat who became the father of her two boys. Sadly, he lost his mind and they parted.
Veronica’s bedroom was a loft room up dangerously steep stairs, which she navigated on all fours. Being a tall woman, she hit her head on the sloping ceiling a few times. She feared knocking herself out and taking a dive down the stairs.
They drove to local auctions and boot fairs every weekend, but she soon yearned to sit down, due to her back pain. She attended several of her sister’s Americana-style music gigs. The seven other band members were an eccentric, flirtatious, group of men.
Veronica lived a nightmare whilst visiting her sister, in the shape of Arnie, Jane’s ex-partner. He was harassing her after she tried distancing herself from him after their eight-year, violent, destructive relationship had broken down yet again. He was a heroin addict, and a verbally, physically abusive, nasty piece of work. Her sister had once loved him, despite his constant, horrendous behaviour, but the long relationship had taken its toll on Jane and her two sons.
A few years previously, Arnie had been jailed for almost killing her. In one of his unfounded fits of jealous rage, he had forced his fist down her throat.
‘I saw bright lights and thought I was dying. The lunatic put me in hospital that time,’ Jane had told her horrified sister.
‘And yet you went back to him! Who’s the insane one, him or you?’ Veronica replied. She was always brutally disapproving of the poisonous, dangerous relationship. Her words were particularly harsh when it came to the terrible, distressing effect the volatile mess was having on her nephews, who both detested Arnie, with good cause. They were young men themselves now, their respect for their mother destroyed, having witnessed her unfathomable tolerance of such abuse.
Arnie had manipulated Jane throughout their on-off relationship. He was undeniably a good-looking man and was ten years younger than Jane. His friends were drug dealers, prostitutes and assorted misfits. For eight years, everyone, including Veronica and their mother, had tried reasoning with Jane, trying to stop her from debasing her worth by staying with such an abusive man. She persistently returned to him, despite previously having to obtain police restraining orders against him. At a former house, she had even had panic buttons fitted, linked to the police station, but she infuriatingly always returned to their toxic relationship. The police were used to seeing similar domestic violence cases, frustrated by how many women or men return to be further abused.
On one of their many breaks from each other, Jane had tried to find a replacement for him. Arnie threatened one suitor and she became bored with others. Veronica had also suffered from the same, age-old problem. Attractive, dangerous men cheated on her. More wholesome, safer men ended up boring her. She partly understood Jane’s reasons for staying with Arnie, despite the abuse. It was an addiction, each enabling the other. Veronica had also stayed three years in a tempestuous, emotionally abusive, mutual addiction with Michael, although he never had been violent. Arnie was the worst kind of paranoid psychotic. Veronica wanted better for her sister, never thinking that she too deserved better.
His constant texts, phone calls and physical presence persistently sucked Jane back into their toxic relationship. If she ignored him, he became abusive in the extreme. Her property would become mysteriously damaged. She knew he was the perpetrator. He swung between aggression and occasional pathos, tugging on her heartstrings.
He had always accused Jane of cheating on him with every unlikely male friend of his and even strangers. His accusations were unfounded, products of his twisted, drug addled, paranoid mind. Breaking Jane by trying to isolate her from friends and relatives were his ways of controlling her. He had done a good job. He was an intelligent, manipulating thug.
At the beginning of her visit, Jane talked about visiting Arnie, just as a friend, as he believed he was dying.
‘He just won’t leave me in peace. I’m sick to death with the endless pestering and foul-mouthed insults. He won’t cut the ties, even though we split up again two months ago. I never want to see him again,’ Jane ranted.
‘You’ve said that for eight years. A few months later, you’re back in the Minotaur’s cave. I’m bored with it Jane and so is mum and all your friends. You’re an intelligent woman with a degree, for God’s sake!’ Veronica spluttered.
The night of Veronica’s arrival, she angrily threatened to leave her sister’s house if Jane saw Arnie whilst she was visiting. Veronica spent that night torn between fleeing danger, or remaining. He could have called, uninvited, at the house at any point. She had always said she never wanted to meet him, knowing that, she would verbally destroy him, or worse, for what he had inflicted on her younger sister. After a troubled night’s sleep, she eventually decided that her sister badly needed moral back up and that it would be unfair to abandon her to deal with him alone.
A week into her visit, Veronica’s fears were realised. She was in the living room, shivering under a mangy throw, chatting to internet friends, when she heard an ominous knocking on the front door, which echoed through the deserted house. She threw off the rug and, trembling with cold and fear, she peered anxiously through the slats of the living room blinds. She could see the front door and her worst fears were confirmed. Although she had never met Arnie, she knew it was he. As he had not appeared to notice her at the window, she toyed with the idea of just ignoring him, hoping he would walk away. Everything about him was bulky, swarthy and threatening. He carried on relentlessly knocking. He must have spied her after all.
Anger bubbled up inside her and she eventually snapped, darted into the hall, bent down and lifted the letterbox flap.
She shouted ‘Stop all the knocking! Jane’s not here. She’s out rehearsing for a really important gig the band’s playing tonight.’
‘I’ll knock if I bloody want to!’ he bellowed. ‘I need her to give me a lift home. I’m going to wait here until she shows up,’ he bellowed.
Veronica immediately phoned Jane who was on her way home, to warn her that he was at the door, refusing to leave.
‘Hide anything valuable of yours. He’s stolen from me and others to fund his heroin habit,’ Jane advised.
She took her sister’s advice and ran around the room hiding her handbag and iPad in a cupboard. Jane arrived at the house shortly afterwards, walked grim faced past Arnie, intending him to stay outside but he strode into the house as if he owned it.
Grinning, Arnie turned to Veronica, brazenly asking, ‘What about a hug then?’
‘I hardly think so, do you?’ she disdainfully replied, whereupon he started verbally abusing her, saying that she could no longer get a man, making snide, suggestive remarks about her long passed internet-dating days.
She looked coldly scornful at him, saying, ‘I’m single out of choice. If you’re an example of men, you can understand why I’d want nothing to do with men. I despise you for the way you’ve persistently abused my sister. I know every atrocity you’ve done.’
It was obvious there would never be any love lost between Arnie and Veronica. Jane giggled nervously at her sister’s bold attack on the man who had been attacking her for eight years. His sinister aura repulsed Veronica so much that she felt the need to be in another room. Luckily, he disappeared into the bathroom for ages, no doubt to ingest whatever drugs he had scored earlier in Norwich.
‘Give me a lift to my house and I’ll leave,’ he ordered, everything about him an arrogant threat. Under duress, Jane pushed past him and jumped into her car. With a parting foul, insult to Veronica, he sauntered victoriously outside, squeezing his bulk into Jane’s small, battered car. They drove away, leaving Veronica shaken and livid. Jane returned shortly afterwards to prepare for her important gig, which was being televised. Frustrated with Jane for yielding to the bully’s unreasonable demands for a lift home, Veronica eventually conceded that there was little option as the gig was due to happen in an hour or so.
He had often destroyed Jane’s property in the past. Veronica remembered a very rude word he had carved out of spite into her sister’s wooden floor at a former house. Veronica felt under constant siege for the remainder of her stay. One night when the sisters were sleeping, there was more loud knocking on the front door.
‘Just ignore the bastard!’ Jane called out. They did, but, up in her loft bedroom, Veronica feared they might soon die in flames in their beds. Weeks passed, with Arnie sending barrages of abusive or pleading texts to Jane. The sisters spent hours discussing, sometimes arguing, about how to deal with his harassment.
Veronica spent five, difficult, exhausting weeks attempting to rebuild Jane’s shattered self-esteem, showing her the error of giving the maniac an inch. She had previously known her words went unheard, but on this visit, they gradually seemed to be having some effect.
One weekend, he sent a text, threatening both women with physical harm. With grim determination, Jane immediately phoned the police, who visited the house and took Jane’s statement. Under fear of prosecution, Arnie’s texts and calls died down but the women knew they would resume, so powerful was his obsessive psychosis.
Luckily, Jane’s eldest son was going to be living at the house shortly after Veronica was due to end her visit. As he had threatened to disown his mother if she ever saw Arnie again, Veronica was hopeful she would stay strong in her resolve. Time would tell if Jane could withstand Arnie’s wiles.
Veronica had often warned, ‘I fear one day he’ll kill you. If you go back with him, it’s just a matter of time before he does.’ She prayed her fears were unfounded.