My Baby Girl
She’s agitated, constantly running her hand through her long, lank, brown hair, pulling at the ends; “Is he out there? He’s out there, isn’t he? I saw him. He’s waiting, he tells me he’s waiting, ALL THE TIME.”
Jumping up, Ellie’s hands grab the bottom of the stained blue t-shirt, tugging at the hem. She snatches up her tobacco tin with the smiling emoji, which appears to be sarcastically grinning at her distress. Pacing barefoot over her dirty, sticky tobacco strewn floor, she rolls, or attempts to roll, a cigarette. Her hands shake too much, she slams the tin and her papers down on the table top, scattering more tobacco leaves on the floor.
I sit perched on the edge of the ripped faux leather sagging sofa, watching Ellie, observing her distressed state. Her red-rimmed grey eyes, pale skin, beads of sweat forming on her forehead, are physical symptoms of her distress at the visual and auditory hallucinations that I know she’s experiencing.
There is nothing I can do to help ease her fears. I used to naively believe that telling Ellie they aren’t real would help her. It didn’t, nothing helps. Meds, if she takes them, can calm her for a bit, make them easier for her to deal with but nothing takes away the voices in her head, the paranoia.
Ellie kicks an empty lager can across the room causing lager to flick up onto my boots. I watch the drops remotely. I don’t need to tell her that drinking makes things worse, she knows this. Ellie has tried so many things to find her ‘oblivion’ as she calls it. Some doctors say her drug taking caused her psychosis to kick in. I think she started the drugs to try and manage the scattered thoughts that were already in her head.
“You could play that new Ed Sheeran CD you like Ellie? Just focus on the words in the songs.” That’s my lame suggestion, or so it seems in my head, even as the words come out.
Ellie stops pacing, still moving her hands, wringing them together, and stares at me. She starts banging the side of her head with her hand, shouting “get out, get out, get out.”
My stomach twists, and I hold myself back from pulling her hand away, from stopping her hurting herself. I know it won’t help, just make her more agitated, so I just sit there, watching, feeling useless.
Then Ellie stops the banging and picks up the tobacco tin again in another attempt to roll another cigarette.
“Ellie, come and sit down, it’ll be easier to roll the cigarette.”
Surprisingly she does sit down, on the sofa next to me.
Her smell wafts over to me. The mix of stale tobacco smoke, unwashed skin and the alcohol on her breath, but it’s so rare for Ellie to sit close to me now, that I push down on my queasiness. My hand is itching to reach around her back and pull her to me. I miss her, the Ellie I used to love, so much. This Ellie, she breaks my heart every day but it’s not her fault. I don’t touch her though. She doesn’t like to be touched, anymore.
The little girl I knew loved hugs. My throat thickens and my eyes fill with tears as I remember her running towards me, yelling ‘Aunty Eve, Aunty Eve, Aunty Eve’ over and over as I would grab her up in a big hug. “I love you baby girl”, I whispered in her ear as I tickled her. Ellie would giggle, then squirm to get down so she could take my hand and get me involved in her latest game.
Then she stopped hugging me.
She would still spend time with me but her attention became scattered and she withdrew into herself. Everyone said, “oh she’s just being a teenager”. I knew something was wrong. No-one would listen and Ellie wouldn’t talk to anyone else. Then eventually she stopped talking to me, and started taking drugs and drinking. I lost my baby girl then, but I never left her, unlike the rest of the family.
Now, Ellie is lighting her cigarette. “Someone comes in my flat you know, in the night. I know they do. They move things. I don’t feel safe, it’s not safe in here.” Her voices breaks, and she looks at me, “I’m scared.”
My tears fall out and roll down my cheeks, “baby girl” I whisper and I instinctively reach out to pull her towards me. “I’ll keep you safe, I promise”, as Ellie grabs me round my waist and cries on my shoulder as I hold her so tight, selfishly savouring every second of her fear, knowing she’ll pull away soon.
And then it’s over.
Ellie jumps up, her cigarette end long with ash that scatters over me as she rushes to the window and peers out.
She turns and says, “Aunty Eve?”
“He wants to kill me. He wants to come and stab me and I told him no! I told him get out my head.”
“Well done girl, you tell him, you fight him.”
Ellie giggles, and draws from her cigarette. Then jumps as there’s a knock at the door.
My stomach knots as I look from Ellie, to the door, and back to Ellie. And I know she knows.
My heart shatters as I see the look of hatred in her eyes, and the fear.
I stand and rush towards the door before Ellie can stop me, all the time hating myself. And waiting for the begging to start.
I open the door and let the psychologist and the police into Ellie’s flat, into her space.
No! I’m not going, I’m not crazy.
You can’t make me go. They’ll hurt me. Aunty Eve, please, you can’t let them. You said you would keep me safe.”
“I am baby, I am keeping you safe. From yourself. I love you baby girl.”
And I leave.