A driver takes me into a fair ground. There is one ride, it’s not really a ride, it’s a world of fantasy…and you stay there until the owners think your fear levels are down and your scars are healed. The main presenter is Dawn, her tricks are reliable and cold. She gives me a badge, a quilt and tells me the code to the secrets she created…
The place I stay is surprisingly pristine, compared to the basic and broken down hostels I had stayed in the past two years. The kitchen is old fashioned, but clean, and there are big patio doors that lead out onto a well kept garden. Besides the dull ruby cupboards and nondescript bedrooms, the lino and creme paint is fresh and inspiring.
I have never lived in an area this stylish. The fact that I am here under domestic violence is a blessing in disguise and the driveways outside hold cars like Aston Martin and Aldi…as well as this, there are actually picket fences and neighbors cutting their hedges into smooth shapes. I watch each of these things in admiration, and I suddenly know that I have to work hard and follow my dreams. I cannot be the girl who stays in the same place as ex prostitutes or those who judge by face value.
The place reminds me of the cul de sac in ‘Edward Scissor Hands’ – the type of place where neighbors know each others business and anything bizarre or unorthodox is disposed of.
Adding to my sense of awe, the roads and pathways in this little mile of heaven don’t hold a spec of litter or a dot of gum, like the place I grew up, but I would later find that this lifestyle is stressful, and slightly predictable.
I survive for two weeks at the first house, then a few days in the second. An argument breaks out at one point, but I walk out and breathe in the fresh air for a while.
It’s difficult to keep yourself to yourself when you are 300 miles from home. Other residents offer your food, and cigarettes, and compliments – and you should not accept, ever. You should give them no leverage to blackmail you in the future, but I do. I don’t refuse when they take me out, and ask about my personal life.
Ashamed by how materialistic I am, I force myself to feel happy in the second, not so classy house. It holds thirty families and I am caught in the middle – quiet, with my note book, and no one to turn to.
The rough place reminds me of family…of home. When I call to speak to my siblings, my mother shouts down the phone and then hangs up. I stand in the phone box with my last pound gone, and nothing but a house full of strangers to turn to.
I get glimpses of my siblings innocent, delicate voices and it does not help with the loneliness.
Each day I wake up with negative memories from the past, and each day I force myself to go out and see the sun, I stand below it, wrinkled, dry and silent like a girl stranded at desert.
I am not going to get the degree I have applied for….or the dream home…or the trips I have planned…the panic races up my spine sometimes, into my teary eyes and mouth… but I buy a notebook and write. Then I force myself to be strong.
Life is unpredictable, after all.
The women agree to give me their views on the refugee, and the way they have been helped or hindered. I will talk about this in part two of ‘Life at a Refuge’
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