For two years. I was abused.
I had my life. Stolen from me. By a woman who thought that it was hers for the taking.
She told me she loved me. And I believed her. She…Told me she’d “give me the world”, but instead she made me not want to be a part of it.
She was a narcissist. That’s what they do. That’s what I lived with. And, I don’t talk much about it, because…there’s the cliche. The eye roll when you start talking about abuse, or some idiot that thinks I’m just the bitter ex.
And I know I’m just another one, in a long line of…other ones…but when I do, when I do talk about it, I find people don’t. Really know… What a narcissist is? What it means?
People seem to think it’s this, “self obsessed delusions of grandeur”…way of being. But it’s not. It’s…worse than that. It’s more.
It’s like being suffocated, only you’re letting it happen. Because you just don’t have the energy left to fight to live.
I used to watch Last Tango in Halifax. It sounds silly, but there was this character on it. In it. Gillian – I was like Gillian. I was…self-destructive. I felt like I knew her – I identified with her. I connected with her when I didn’t have anyone else, because she’d stopped me from seeing my friends. She stopped me from seeing my family.
I talked to her in my head. Gillian. I’d imagine her walking next to me. So I could get from A to B without falling apart.
That made me feel even more crazy.
It’s hard to talk about what happened in that time. It’s hard to say it out loud.
I didn’t notice it in the beginning. Everything we did was her idea. Everything was…done on her terms.
I suppose that should have been a sign.
I was gaslit. That’s another one of those terms that a lot of people don’t really get. And I didn’t really know it. Didn’t know it at all, actually, until a friend pointed it out, and even then I didn’t believe her, and I hated myself for believing the cliche that she might get better.
She would change situations, events, things I, or we, had done or said, and she would retell them in such a convincing way, that I would second guess myself. And gradually, gradually, I would tell myself I was wrong. And I would believe what she said was true. What actually happened.
Because she was in a position of power. She had a good job. People respected her and people believed her, so why wouldn’t I trust her?
That’s how she ended up making me clean and tidy her house everyday. She told her mum that I was so good at tidying. So good at looking after the house whilst she was at work.
She wrote me jobs lists every single day, here, I’ll show you one:
1- Can you give both fridges (Little one in garage and kitchen one) an anti-bac out. Not a long job, but just get them cleaner.
2- Can you throw out the out of date food?
3- Can you locate grey covered ipad?
4- Can you change all bed sheets?
5- Open windows to let the fresh air in.
6- Wash and hang out the rugs
7- Clear the entrance to the garage/fridge side a little
8- Check the dogs for fleas.
9- Hoover, clean, dust and general tidy whole house
10- Do laundry.
But that’s not half of it. That’s not even the tip of the iceberg.
In that time that I spent with her I stopped writing. I stopped drawing. I couldn’t write because I didn’t have time, and I couldn’t draw because my hands shook.
I wasn’t earning any money.
I ran out of money.
I ran out of time.
She bullied me. Humiliated me. Belittled me in private and in front of…anyone. Everyone.
She raped me.
But how do you…how do you prove that? People are often surprised, even doctors. Medical professionals. When they hear of a woman raping another woman.
They doubt it.
How could sex between two women be violent enough to cause physical or mental pain or injury? How was it rape if I never said no?
She cheated on me…too. Several times. More than once. More than I know. With…three women. There was one. Sarah. Right from the very beginning. We were kept apart, never allowed to meet, or talk, or…
There were other women. She’d hide her phone from me, tilt the screen away so I couldn’t catch a glimpse of a name or a message.
Once I managed to look through her phone. We were at the beach, and I went back to get something. To the car. I saw her phone on the seat, and I looked at it.
She called me paranoid.
I called it intuition. It was worth the silent treatment.
I read a few messages, but I didn’t have time to read them all. There were so many lies, about me, about her, about her life.
And what shocked me the most was that she lied about things just to make me out to be a bad partner. A bad person. She made me out to be this…monster. This person she could barely stand to be around, who didn’t buy her enough gifts, didn’t put her first, or make her, top of their list.
And I know. She will tell so many people the same stories she told me about her ex. She will cry and tell them all how she is the victim.
She will tell them how I reacted, but she won’t tell them what she did to cause it.
I was scared, I was lonely. I lived in the fight or flight response. Always ready to apologise, make better or diffuse a situation by immediate defeat. I had become a non-person. I was afraid to reach out for help for the same reason I was afraid to leave. Because I was terrified of the consequences and of her reaction if she found out.
I was dead before I realised I was dying.
These words I have spoken over the last ten minutes?
They’re not mine.
I stole them. All of them. From the woman I told I loved.
It was easy.
And that’s how I did it.
That’s how I killed her.
Raised simultaneously by David Bowie and Virginia Woolf, Natascha Graham is a fiction writer, artist, and screenwriter who lives with her wife in a house full of sunshine on the east coast of England. Her work has been previously published in Acumen, Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Gay and Lesbian Review and The Mighty.