‘Ignore them,’ Martin advised, moving Laura away from the crowd. They could slip away. Nobody would know who they were, but Laura’s eyes hardened. If they wanted a story, she wanted it to be the truth – not something that was gleaned from Mrs Carmichael.
‘I’m on your side Laura, I know how you’re feeling and that’s okay, but don’t do anything that you’ll regret later.’
‘They’ll only find out a version of the truth and Mum will never speak out against him. It’s up to me Martin – it’s always been up to me. I want the world to know what Mum kept secret all these years. Our neighbours, who couldn’t see through his lies, will finally know what Mum went through. I want them to know it wasn’t her fault.’
With each step the truth became more important. She had a story to tell.
‘I need to speak out for Mum,’ Laura said.
‘Are you sure?’ Martin squeezed her hand.
‘It’s like Theresa said, we’ve spent so long not saying anything because we thought it was the right thing to do, but it helped Thomas not Mum. I’ve got to do this Martin please don’t stop me.’
‘I’m not stopping you,’ Martin said and walked with her to the group of reporters.
Laura searched out a woman reporter. ‘Martha Whitman is my Mum.’
As the cameras clicked and flashed, Laura finished her story, ‘My mum is the gentlest soul you could ever meet. Since the first day of their marriage she’s been punched, kicked, and tortured by the man I will never call Dad. My mum will never speak out against him, but I’m not going to stay silent any longer.’
Martha, who had plenty of time to reflect on her actions, was oblivious to the newspaper reports. Even before she arrived at the station for questioning, she tried and convicted herself. There was a monster lurking inside of her. Thomas had seen it, and now, so did she.
At least she could honour his memory by atoning for her sins. Her statement was repeated in her head. Not one word could be forgotten. A black pit of despair, sometimes the room dissolved into nothing. She wanted to join Thomas. But kept on a twenty-four-hour watch, that wasn’t possible – she couldn’t even go to the toilet without the policewoman following in her footsteps.
Amid all the wreckage at home, her diaries called out to each other like a pack of wolves. Each one joined to the other with barbed wire. They had been a part of her for so long. Their pages were friends like no other. Without them, there was nothing to stop the opinions in her head from going rogue.
When Thomas lost his fight to stay alive, Martha still wasn’t sure. Doctor Patel said memories were like that – especially after a shock. But Thomas was dead all the same. As each injury healed Martha fought to get better. The day she was deemed fit for questioning was the day she looked forward to since she had woken up in the hospital bed.
Silent walls kept her secrets, as she was led through the myriad of corridors towards the back entrance. Whisked away from the hospital, under the guise of darkness, Martha could only pick out the twisted airstream, which flooded the empty space.
Once outside, they were confronted with a man, with stubble on his chin like a cascade of pepper. A statement had been given by the police, but this reporter remained vigilant. There was no better story than from the woman herself. Shrank back like a taut elastic band, Martha allowed a woollen blanket to be placed over her head.
‘Mrs Whitman a few words please!’
One of her escorts came to her aid and stepped in between them. ‘We will inform the press of any developments.’
‘Just doing my job mate,’ the reporter said.
‘And I’m doing mine. Leave this woman be or I will arrest you.’
He moved aside to allow Martha to enter the black Mercedes. ‘Mrs Whitman, was your husband a monster as your daughter claimed?’
His cries were still audible, as the unmarked car drove down the back alley and on to the main road. The vehicle zig-zagged through the early morning traffic. Her protection was removed inside the car.
On either side of Martha, each policewoman was giving nothing away. Not able to look her fellow passengers in the eyes, she scrutinised the blacked-out windows instead. Had Laura spoken to the press? How could she? Didn’t his memory mean anything?