“My heart was pounding as I stood in the middle of London Heathrow Airport. Terminal 5. International Flights only. My two boys aged 3 and 4, gazed up at me with sleepy eyes. It was 6:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning. It was actually Thanksgiving morning in 2016 and we were flying home to the USA.
It was beyond chaotic there. The lines were full to the max with passengers trying to get checked in to their flight and then they would journey to Security.
I was trying to act calm. Like nothing at all was wrong. Like this trip was planned and I wasn’t doing anything wrong at all. But my heart wouldn’t slow down and there was a growing ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach that wouldn’t let up no matter how many deep breaths I took.
The woman at check-in gave me a bewildered look when I told her that we had no luggage to check. We only had a single carry on item. My four-year-old’s book bag that contained one pair of clothing for each of my kids and our passports. I only had the clothes I was wearing and my phone that only worked with Wi-Fi. The woman shrugged after a brief pause, like she didn’t get paid enough to question why we didn’t have luggage with us and proceeded to let us through security.
It was easy to avoid the eye contact of the security officers. I feigned an overwhelmed mother, braving a long flight alone with my two children which was partially true, but more than anything I was terrified that I was going to be asked if I had their father’s permission to take them out the country.
I made it through without a hitch. In part, I thought it was because of the extremely long line of people behind me or possibly because they wanted the rowdy kids away from them as quickly as possible. I was grateful either way.
There wasn’t a direct flight from Heathrow Airport to Atlanta. My parents had booked the quickest flight out of London mere hours before. London to Amsterdam and then Amsterdam to Atlanta. It was going to be a very rough 18 hours but if I could just get out of London my children and I would finally be safe.
You see, the night before I had done something I had never done before. I took a video of my husband hooking my three-year-old into his face and screaming in his ear to ‘F*****G STOP!’. The video went on for several minutes while I sat there and recorded. Doing nothing to stop the abuse. The video included sounds of both children screaming and crying because they dared to play with each other and interrupt their father’s focus from his video games.
In all honesty it was just an average day. An act that had played out probably once or twice a week. The only difference was that this instance I got a recording of it. To me, I didn’t see it as abuse. It was just another over-reaction from a man I had grown to despise over the years. A man who was completely addicted to video games and spent every waking minute of every day on his PlayStation.
I took the video in order to share with a Facebook group I was in. Not to get him in trouble, but to relent to others my woes of an unhappy marriage. I did not expect the attention it got.
Overwhelmingly, I got comments telling me how that is abuse and to ‘Leave him now!’ ‘Take your kids and get out of there!’ ‘How can you just sit there and let that happen to your babies?!’
And then finally: ‘I’m reporting this to the authorities!’
As soon as I saw that comment I took the video down and hoped to GOD the cops didn’t show up. I hurried the kids to bed and paced my tiny flat in South West London, scared to death of the cops coming and bringing to light what I had done.
He was going to kill me.
About two hours later there was a knock on our door.
Words cannot describe the amount of fear I felt in that moment. The cops were here. They had seen the video. There was nothing left to do.
He was still on his video games when they came in. They needed to check on my three-year-old who was now asleep. My four-year-old was awake and watching everything unfold. They walked me outside and requested to see the video I took.
I showed them and they took my phone as evidence. I never got that phone back. Shortly thereafter, they arrested my husband. I was shaking as they took him away in handcuffs. A policewoman stayed with me afterwards to take my statement. I cried a lot. I told her that he was going to make me pay for what I had done and that I had nowhere to go. There was no escape. I was in England on an expired visitor visa and they don’t offer domestic abuse shelters to illegal immigrants. I was stuck.
After the policewoman left, I messaged my mother on Facebook and asked her to call me immediately. She did, and I told her everything that had happened. I told her I didn’t know what to do. She offered to buy me a plane ticket for the following day and I jumped at the opportunity. He was going to make my life hell for exposing him to the outside world and I had to escape.
I boarded the plane to Amsterdam with my boys. I was certain that any minute they were going to call me to get off and arrest me for child abduction. In the UK you can’t leave the country without the other guardian’s permission. In their eyes, I was kidnapping my own children. I was risking losing my children, but they deserved a better life and so did I. I had to try.
I didn’t tell anyone that I left. Not his family who didn’t get to say goodbye to the boys, not my friend who would’ve encouraged me to find happiness. I couldn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to risk being stopped at the airport.
The flight was uneventful aside from having to take the kids to the bathroom every five minutes and I can still remember seeing the wind turbines from the airplane window, but we arrived in Amsterdam without a hitch.
Once we left the plane I connected to the Wi-Fi in the airport and called my mother via Facetime. It was roughly 4:00 a.m. EST and I later learned that she didn’t sleep at all that night.
She was overjoyed to learn that I had made it out of London. I was unable to feel any amount of relief. I was in a foreign land and still a twelve-hour flight from home. The ball of anxiety was still tightly wound in my gut. That feeling of dread that something terrible was going to happen and I was going to lose my kids.
We boarded the plane and to be honest it was the longest flight of our lives. Keeping two little boys still for a twelve-hour flight is impossible, even with two parents. About four hours into the flight the ball of anxiety in my stomach loosened and then disappeared. We were far gone enough that I knew that they wouldn’t turn the plane around. I had made it! After that initial moment of relief hit, I hit a wall of complete exhaustion. The years of abuse I had endured under a parasitic narcissist were done. Having been in the U.K. under an expired visa made me ineligible to return for a minimum of five years and I knew that in truth, I would never go back. EVER.
I would never go back to someone who would call me terrible names, laugh at my tears, isolate me from my family, hide our passports, spit in my face, shove me, punch walls, break dishes, tell me how disgusting I was, ruin every single birthday and holiday, rape me, degrade me in front of our children, and somehow convince everyone on the outside that he’s a decent guy trying his best.
It was about 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day when we landed in Atlanta. As soon as I could connect to Wi-Fi, I called my mother and told her we had made it. Later, I would learn that my parents went to my uncle’s home for our family Thanksgiving get together and announced immediately after the blessing that they needed to leave because my children and I would be flying into Atlanta soon. I learned that several family members cried when they learned that I was finally free.
I was walking towards arrivals when I finally spotted my mother. She was already smiling at me. The boys were laughing and playing with each other and were none the wiser about the gravity that that day had on me. They were singing the happily in the back seat all the way home while I cried to my father all of the things that had happened the night before.
It’s been almost three years since that day. My four-year-old is now seven. He lost his British accent but he’s a very happy child. My three-year-old is now six. He was always a quiet boy but has opened up and is a wacky kid who can draw and color like no other, he is a natural artist.
I am now 33. I married a wonderful man this year who, for a long time, I kept at arm’s length. I thought for a long time that he was hiding an abusive persona from me. It took me a very long time to learn that some men are decent.
We now have a baby together. And a home. And happiness.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jennifer Meglich. Have you overcome the odds and would like to share your story? We’d love to hear your journey. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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