I open my eyes, and instead of seeing trees outside my bedroom window, I’m faced with the grey steel of the upper bunk bed.
My 3-year-old has crept into bed with me after falling out of his own. I guess I’m not the only one having a hard time getting used to sleeping in a bunk bed. We lie there together with my 5-month-old baby bump. It’s a tight squeeze.
I glance around the huge room we’ve been given in the women’s refuge.
I take in the ugly curtains, the bright pink tasteless bedding and the inadequate wardrobe space. I don’t even want to unpack. I’m sharing a bathroom with strangers for the first time since my university days. I wash as my son sits on the floor waiting for me to finish, playing with his cars whilst I urge him to be quiet, so that we don’t wake the women sleeping in the other rooms.
I so desperately do not want to be here.
I tell myself it won’t be for long, but anything longer than two nights feels like an eternity. I want to crawl into bed and pretend none of this is happening. But the beds are uncomfortable and really not the ideal location for a good self-pity session. So instead, we head downstairs for breakfast.
The kitchen is shared with other women and whilst they’re welcoming, I just want to be in my own home with my own privacy.
It’s comforting to see that they’re moving forward in life, but I struggle with the different personalities, the smell of cigarette smoke and the arguments between them after they’ve had one too many beers. I wonder as I lie awake at night, how did my life end up like this?
I escape at the weekends to my parent’s, in order to have some kind of normal family life. But I’m never completely comfortable, and spend most of my time listening to my negative thoughts, telling me I’m a failure and that everyone’s talking about me. I feel guilty for being a burden on my parents.
I pray I’ll be housed soon, so that I can start afresh. It’s the only reason I’m here, the one chance I have of being given my own security, my own home, away from my abusive husband.
My baby bump gets bigger and I pray that I won’t go into labour in the refuge by myself. Who will drive me to the hospital? Who will look after my son? Why am I even having to contemplate these scenarios!
Thankfully, the promise of being housed comes through and I’m given the keys to my new property two days before the birth of my second son.
I’ll be honest, I hate the property and the area it’s in. But beggars can’t be choosers…so I try my best to make it a home. I put on a brave face, but at night I let the self-pity take over. I don’t miss my husband, but it’s hard to adjust to my new life.
In time, I see that what happened to me that day in my kitchen, was actually the best thing that could have happened. Life is so much better now. Allah knew I needed something big to occur in order to leave for good. And that final day made me scared of what my husband might do next…the marriage was officially dead.
It was the final push to leave that miserable life behind, and start to experience the beauty and freedom of life instead.
And for that I’ll be eternally grateful. Alhamdulillah