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A Toxic Affair By Casey Harvey Copyright 2011 Casey Harvey Smashwords Edition Smashwords Edition, License Notes This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

A Toxic Affair Love comes, and love goes. But what if love stays longer than it ought? What if at the point when you should leave, you find yourself trapped, controlled, afraid of the partner you’re supposed to adore? This is a tale less of love gone wrong, and more of love gone on too long; of a boy, barely a man, who cannot leave; of a girl, barely a woman, who cannot help but control. This is the story of Sam and Sandy: one, the controller; the other, the victim…

Day 100 He stood at the end of a corridor he had walked down a hundred times before. Her corridor. There she was, leaning against the door to her flat, waiting for him: the girl who had come to make his life hell, to make him a prisoner in his own mind. As much as he yearned to be free of her, he had never been able to bring himself to do it. He could never have imagined in that moment that five days later, he would have his wish fulfilled. “Come on!” she nagged from her doorway. She was giving him that look again: like he was a disobedient animal who needed discipline. Yet her eyes were more intense than he had ever seen them before. They tugged at his heart-strings and he could not help but move his feet. His mind protested, of course. But since when had his mind been able to influence his body? Guilt drove his feet now, and he was powerless to shift it. Her daily invasion into his private life could not stop it. Her manipulative threats of violence could not stop it. Even her suicide attempt had not stopped it. Each time she chipped a little bit more of his soul away, his mind grew more agitated and his body more servile; each time he tried to protest, he became ever more her slave. So he walked, and she smiled. She had snared her prey a long time ago and now he was irretrievably, completely hers. She had had him wrapped around her little finger since the day they first met.


He smiled back: a fake, outward smile, hiding the daily pain of his inner existence. He did not love her but he could not bring himself to say. And every time she told him and he lied back, a little more guilt was added to his already heavy load. Like now, for instance. “I love you,” she said, embracing him hard. “I love you too,” he lied. It was Wednesday: their pizza night. She led him into her room and pushed him onto his spot on the bed. “I’m so glad you came,” she remarked. “I’ve had a terrible day.” “What happened?” asked Sam. “That Lydia ruined it,” she shrilled. “Can you believe what a whore she is? She came in last night at three in the morning with another boy. Another one. That’s three different ones this week. Humph. I’m glad I’m not like that.” She was absent-mindedly rifling through the files on her desk as she spoke. Sam stood up to go to the bathroom, and in an instant she was in his face. “What are you doing? Where are you going?” she flustered. “You’re not leaving are you?” “What? No,” answered Sam. “I’m going to the toilet. I’ve been out with Sadiq all day. I haven’t had chance to go since morning. That is okay, isn’t it?” Sandy thought for a second. “Yes, of course, go. But I don’t like you hanging around with that guy.” Sam bristled. He had every intention of seeing Sadiq again, but something in the pit of his stomach was wary of disobeying her orders, as if to do so was wrong, immoral. “You know…” began Sam hesitantly, “You know just because he’s a Muslim doesn’t mean he’s like the others.” “I know,” called back Sandy. “But I still don’t like him. I don’t want you hanging around with him again. Understood?” He came out of the toilet to find her in his face once more. “Understood?” “Yes,” he said meekly. “I understand.” “Good,” she resolved. “Now go and get our pizza. We’re having meat feast tonight. The delivery van will be here in five minutes.” Sam approached the door and checked his wallet: he had just about enough money in there. Yet he had been planning on using it for something else, and he was always the one who had to pay. With his back turned, he plucked up the courage to speak: “I don’t suppose you could contribute a little this week? Please?” He turned slowly, hesitantly, to see the round face of Sandy staring at him as if he’d just called her a bitch. Her answer was short and simple, said in the elongated tones she saved for just such occasions: “No-oo!” Such a short word, yet it carried so much meaning: for the way she stretched the word out and lowered her pitch in the middle was like she was speaking to someone lower than herself, to someone who was too dim to see the wisdom of her decision. And of course it was wise, because it was hers. He cringed. “Okay. I’ll be back in five minutes.” As he entered the corridor once more, a weight lifted from his shoulders. He felt free from her clutches and was tempted to simply go away and never come back. Yet he had entertained such thoughts before, and he had always returned. His guilt had always driven him home, ever since the night it had all changed: that night by the canal. Guilt. Wasn’t this meant to be about love, about fun? What had happened to make it go so wrong?


Day 1 “Well, are you coming or not?” She worded it like a question but spoke it like a demand: he had no choice in the matter. The fire in her soul was obvious from day one. It attracted him to her, as did the fact that she wanted him. She wanted him. It was unimaginable. Just days before he had been the loser who had never scored a girl in his life; now there she was, a hot girl, standing in front of him. And she wanted him. More than wanted him: she demanded him. She had called up out of the blue that morning and practically dragged him out of his room to breakfast. They had met last week, had their first date last night and now he was going to make it official. The nerves were overwhelming. He had never done this before; not properly, anyway. Not in person. He gave himself a countdown in his head: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… “Do you want to be my girlfriend?” he blurted out. She seemed taken aback, then smiled a thin, curled smile: “Yes. Yes, I do.” And that was that. She grabbed his hand and pulled him away into the corridor and into her room. Her room. His girlfriend’s room. He grinned maniacally and stood gormlessly by the door, unsure what to do. The room was magnificent: certainly compared to the brick walls and bad lighting of his student accommodation, Sandy’s residence was luxury. “Sit down,” she ordered, indicating a space on her bed, and he obeyed. She leapt beside him and pulled him down with her until the pair of them were lying together, staring into one another’s eyes. Her eyes. They were the most piercing blue he had ever seen and they amazed him. He had never truly stared with such depth into another human being’s eyes before, never noticed the intricate detail and patterns therein; now, he could make out the differing shades of blue and black and grey all mingling together into a constellation around her pupils; her ever-growing, dilating pupils. “Kiss me,” she ordered, and he obeyed. The taste of her lips on his was exquisite; it was like they complimented each other’s faces perfectly. They remained locked in their rippling, rolling embrace for what seemed like hours, what may well have been hours, until finally they could take no more and paused for breath. Sandy smiled down at Sam lustfully. “You’re staying with me tonight,” she ordered. And he obeyed.

Day 12 A knock came on the door to his room. “Come in,” he beckoned. The knocker needed no invitation: she barged in, Sandy, and rushed over to his side. “Oh, my poor baby, my poor, poor baby!” she cooed at him. “Relax, it’s just a cold,” he brushed her off. “No, no, no, it’s more than that. You’re ill. You’re very, very ill, and you’re not to go out anywhere.” Sam smiled. “Okay,” he said. He could get used to such treatment. “Thank you.” “Now, I’ve brought you some chicken soup- you do like chicken soup, don’t you? Don’t you dear?” “Yes, I do, thanks!” “Good. Now eat it up while it’s nice and fresh. It’ll do you good while it’s hot. Just don’t let it get cold.”


He was lying in bed and accepted her offer gladly. The soup was warm and soothing on his sore, swollen oesophagus; it flowed down into his belly spreading heat and health throughout his body. “You know, you really don’t have to do this.” “Oh but I do, I do!” she cooed. “I have to look after you. You’re mine.” She leaned a little closer to nuzzle him. “You’re mine,” she repeated, her voice softer. Sam scoffed. “What, like you own me?” “Yes,” she smiled. “Yes, I do own you, Mister Samuel Thomas Johnson. You belong to me now.” Sam laughed and hugged her. The soup spilled all over his bed, but he didn’t mind. He was happy.

Day 20 The pair of them were walking by the canal. They were both students at the University of Birmingham, both studying Biology together. They had just finished a lecture on the anatomy of cells and were walking back to the halls of residence they shared. “I made a new friend today,” announced Sam proudly. “Met him in my seminar class. He’s called Sadiq.” Sandy froze. “What’s wrong? Did I say something wrong?” “Sadiq?” she challenged him. “Is he a Muslim?” “Yes. Quite interesting, too. We went for coffee afterwards and got into a religious debate about Islam and Christianity. There’s a lot I didn’t know.” Sandy remained silent. “Sandy, what’s wrong?” “I don’t like Muslims.” Sam was taken aback. “Why ever not?” “Back home in Scotland, there were two in my school. They used to bully me.” Sam paused for thought. “I’m sorry about that,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean Sadiq is anything like them.” “It’s what their religion teaches them about women,” she continued. “They just don’t treat us right. I don’t like them. I don’t like him.” “Who? Sadiq?” “Yes, Sadiq. I don’t want you to see him again.” Now it was Sam’s turn to freeze. “You… don’t want me to see him again?” “No, I don’t.” He began chewing his lip slowly in thought, and his brows began to furrow. “You can’t tell me what to do.” She planted herself squarely in front of him and stared at him like he was something she’d just found on the bottom of her shoe. “Yes. I. Can.” She said, in monosyllabic tones. “Now that’s the end of it. I don’t want to hear any more of it.” “Okay,” said Sam, a bitter edge to his voice. She grabbed his hand and they continued on their way; but something was different ever since that day- or rather, something changed in Sam’s perception of her. There was something he didn’t like about her now. Should he do something about it? Could he? Would he? In hindsight, he would wonder why he didn’t end it there. The fact was, though, that he didn’t. The thought was in his mind, hovering about the edge of his perception, but he paid


no heed to it; leaving her was unthinkable, even after these short three weeks. Even though he began to notice that when they held hands, it was like she was pulling him along against his will, like he did not even matter. Even though he began to notice that she would make all the decisions, and if he tried to make a contribution, she would look at him with derision and scorn. Even though somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that it could only get worse, not better.

Day 33 “Saaaaaaam!” The cry came from his left; the impact from the same. He had just stepped off the train and was met by the leaping form of his girlfriend crashing into his side, taking him completely by surprise. She hugged him hard. “I missed you,” she said. “Did you miss me too?” “Yes,” he smiled happily, and it was the truth. Despite their disagreement by the canal, despite the fact that since that day a seed had been irretrievably planted in the back of his mind, he had moved past it and was now happily in love with Sandy once more. He had missed her on his weekend at home: he had missed the way they snuggled at night; the feel of her fingertips of his skin; the heights of ecstasy she could take him to on a nightly basis. They walked hand-in-hand from the train station back to their halls of residence. “So,” she began, “what did you get up to on your weekend at home?” “Nothing much,” he replied. “I did some essays, went out for a meal with the ‘rents, went to the pub with some mates. What about you?” “I missed you!” she said again. “But, I made do. Molly and Susie and I went out to Subway City and got a liiittle bit too drunk.” Sam smiled. “What do you mean by too drunk?” “Ten shots of vodka. And five of whiskey. I couldn’t walk home alone that night, so a nice man called Martin walked me back.” “Martin?” “Yes, Martin. He was a dream. Tall, dark, handsome; muscular build, and dynamite on the dance floor.” She noted the look on Sam’s face. “What?” she asked. “I missed you. You were away, so I needed a replacement.” “A… replacement?” repeated Sam, heart near breaking point. “We didn’t do anything, if that’s what you’re wondering,” she explained. “Just, you know, flirted a little. It’s what I do. I go to clubs, chase guys and flirt with them. It doesn’t mean anything.” Sam was silent. “Oh come on, I’ve done it with you before! I always do it! Remember two weeks ago at Subside, I left you at the door and danced with Andy? It meant nothing, remember?” “I do remember,” Sam murmured. It had happened just like that, and it hadn’t even bothered him. But now it did. Just a little. And then he looked into her eyes, and resolved to put it behind them. What would he do, leave her? Or start a row with her? He was utterly incapable of rows, he knew that, and he couldn’t face leaving her. It was a matter of morality aside from anything else. A boy of limited experience, he had only ever had one girlfriend before and he remembered what it had been like to dump her. It had been heart-wrenching. It had gone against every moral fibre in his being: he had been faced with a choice between lying to her or hurting her, and either way


he would be doing something evil. To abandon someone you allegedly love- well, he could think of nothing worse. So he put it behind them, in the same place in his head where the incident by the canal was stored.

Day 45 It was a special day: to celebrate nothing in particular, Sam had decided to take Sandy on a day-trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare and home of his museum. For someone as dramatic as Sandy, such a trip was like a pilgrimage. They stepped off the train and her eyes grew wide. “I give you- Stratford!” yelled Sam emphatically. “Where do you want to go? The park? The museum? The house that Shakespeare grew up in?” “I want to drink,” she moaned. “I’m thirsty.” “That’s alright, too. I’ve printed off a list right here of all the awesome places we can visit to drink while here. Have a peek.” She looked at the piece of paper shoved under her nose and scanned it for a minute or so. “That one,” she said eventually. “That is… The Old Scribe Pub?” “Yes. I like the sound of that place. It sounds very… dramatic.” Sam smiled, and so did she. She grabbed the map from his hand and led him by the hand out of the train station and into the town. It was a glorious little town: thatched roofs of Tudor styling and a park right across from the train station, where an outdoor theatre group was busy performing Othello. Sandy was not interested in that, though, and dashed off to the left and the nearby pub. When they stepped inside, it fit their expectations exactly. There were Shakespearean references everywhere: a library stocked full of his collected writings; photographs and stencils of famous actors who had frequented this pub; and even a barman who was wearing Shakespearean dress, who seemed utterly un-enthralled with the whole affair and spoke with a bored voice. “What’ll you be having? Squires?” “I’d like a beer and you’ll have a- what would you like, dear?” “A vodka and coke, please,” she smiled up at him. “And a vodka and coke for the lady, please.” “Coming right up,” said the barman. “That’ll be six pounds please.” “Six pounds… Six pounds…” mumbled Sam as he rifled through his wallet. “Well I’ve got three, and you’ve got how much dear?” he asked Sandy. She seemed shocked even to have been posed that question. “You’re paying for me, Sam,” she said, in a shocked, offended tone of voice. “No, but we agreed on this before,” whispered Sam. “I told you that I only have enough money for the train and that I can’t afford to pay for your food and drink when we get here as well.” “No-oo!” she replied. “You’re paying for me. And you can buy me dinner afterwards, too.” Sam was astounded. “Sandy, I only have three pounds in my wallet. I can’t afford it.” “Tough.” Exasperated, Sam took out his card. He was usually careful with his money, fearful of falling into debt, but since meeting Sandy his spending had gone out of control. His bank


account was nearing zero and he was almost peeking into his overdraft facility. Nevertheless, he could not disappoint his girl. “Six pounds,” he announced, handing the card over to the costumed barman. When the drinks were served the pair of them found a table. The atmosphere was tense to say the least. “I’m going to the toilet,” she announced, and disappeared round the corner of the bar. Sam was glad. It gave him time to think, to allow the realisation he had made to sink in a little. Because now he knew that they both had completely different conceptions of what a ‘relationship’ was. He had always thought of it was two equal, individual people enjoying each other’s company, loving one another; she, however, seemed to think it was something to do with dominance and servility. While she was gone, he got out a pen and paper from his bag and wrote down his thoughts. She treats me like a cash machine, he complained. That’s all I am to her: someone to use for money when her whim demands; someone to be her ever-willing servant. She returned, and he hid the sheet in his pocket. He mustered up the courage to speak to her in person. “Sandy,” he began. “I can’t afford to keep doing this. I thought we were equal in this.” “No!” she snapped back. “The man has to pay for everything in the relationship.” He gawked back at her. “Everything?” “Yes. Everything. Now finish your pint and go and buy me dinner.” He downed it gladly, for he could not stand to be with her sober. They exited the pub and went on their way.

Day 54 It was three in the morning, and Sam was lying on the bed awake. He had not been able to sleep for some time now. Of course, it was not his own bed; it was Sandy’s, and she was lying next to him. He had long since lost the freedom to choose where he spent his nights. They had tried to make love that evening, but the passion was gone. Sam just couldn’t get into it anymore since the day in the pub. He had seen a side of her that he just could not unsee, and he was seeing it every day now: she was in control. She controlled how his money was spent, who he spent his time with, where he spent his nights, everything he did down to a T. It bothered him. It had produced a change in him, and Sandy noticed. “Who is she?” she blurted out. “What?” asked Sam. Yet he knew what she was talking about. She had noticed his new lack of enthusiasm and, perhaps logically, had put it down to the intrusion of another woman into her beloved’s life. “No-one, Sandy. There’s no-one else.” “In fact, why would you even think there was anyone else? Have I ever done anything to give you that idea?” “No,” she mumbled from beside him sadly. Her back was turned to him, but he could hear her sobbing. And he didn’t know what to do. They were both sad now, for different reasons, and he didn’t know what to do. So he settled down in the bed, just as he had done for the past fifty three nights, and tried to go to sleep next to a girl he was finding it harder and harder to love.


Day 60 “Ooh, get you,” she cooed at him as he stood in the entrance to her flat. “Don’t you look suave!” He was wearing a new suit she had forced him to buy with money from his overdraft. He had not wanted to buy it, of course, but lately his will was growing weaker by the day; if she said “jump”, his place was to ask “how high?”, and he was not supposed to challenge that. “Do you like it?” he asked. “Do I like it? I love it!” she screamed. “You’re my little prince charming, turned up in a fresh new suit at my door. Ooh, how I love it.” Sam smiled. “Thanks. You’d better love it for the price it cost me.” “Shush,” she ordered. And he obeyed. “Now take it off. We don’t want you ruining it or getting it creased.” He obeyed. “You know,” she mused thoughtfully, “you’re changing. As a person, you’re changing.” Sam was alarmed. “How so?” “In a good way, don’t worry. You’re becoming more… more sophisticated. I like it.” He smiled a weary smile. “Oh, can you imagine our future?” she shrilled suddenly. “We’ll graduate in two years and get jobs at a big pharmaceutical company and have lots and lots of puppies and live in a house in London! Oh, isn’t it so exciting?” He smiled. He nodded. But inside, his stomach was churning: because that vision of his future was precisely not what he wanted. Sandy was right. He was changing. He could feel it daily as he was becoming a different person, ever less himself and ever more… her. He had to get out.

Day 62 “It’s Tom’s birthday tonight,” said Sam happily, “and he’s invited me to his party.” “You’re not going.” “Why?” “I need you to help me with something tonight. Besides, I don’t like him.” “You don’t need to. He’s my friend.” “Not any more. I don’t want you seeing him again.” Sam glared down at her, thinking of something to say, but his thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Molly, Sandy’s friend. “Molly!” she shrieked in excitement. She rushed over to her and they embraced happily. “Sandy!” replied Molly. “How are you? What are you up to?” “Nothing really. We’re going back to my room and Sam’s going to help me with something important.” A thought suddenly struck her. “But when it’s done, we can meet up! Catch up! It’s been so long since I’ve seen you. How does a bottle of wine and cake sound?” “Brilliant,” said Molly. “What time?” “About eight. I’ll come round yours then.” “So you’ll be done with that thing by then?” “What? Oh, no. I’ll just leave Sam to continue with it while I come round yours.” “And Sam’s okay with that?” “Yeah, he’s fine.”


Molly smiled and looked from Sandy to Sam, then back to Sandy again. “Ah, bless. You two are such a perfect couple. I’ll see you at eight then.” Sam had been watching the whole exchange with incredulity. He looked at Sandy, mouth agape, ready to say something. “Not a word,” she threatened.

Day 63 “What are you doing?” “I’m… going to the library.” “No you’re not. Come with me.” And that was that. Sam’s convenient ruse to escape Sandy, hoping he would avoid her after lecture, had failed: she had caught him, and it was back to her room that he was going. Her room, his prison. She grasped his hand and pulled her away with her. He knew her game now. Holding hands was traditionally seen as something romantic, the way for couples to join together physically as well as emotionally and never be apart, even when they’re out. With Sandy, though, holding hands was another means of control: her physical way of saying you’re going where I want you to go, boy, and there’s nothing you can do about it. He knew her game in other ways too. Like the way she could be nice for a few days and then nasty again. It was a clever tactic, for it confused him. She was nasty long enough for him to begin to want to leave her, and then all of a sudden she would treat him kindly and he would feel guilty for ever considering it. A repeated process of nice, then nasty, then nice, then nasty, all calculated cleverly to confuse his emotions and leave him not knowing what to do; worse, to leave him feeling that he was the one in the wrong, the one who should be punished. “You deserve it.” That was her tagline, her catchphrase; the words she used to justify anything mean or selfish she did to him. “You deserve it.” You deserve to lose your freedom to hang out with your friends tonight, because you didn’t text me back within five minutes. You deserve to be made to watch TV shows I know you hate, because you didn’t get me those tickets to that ball I wanted to go to. You deserve it. The sad thing was that he was beginning to believe it. The repeated pounding of those words into his brain, and the fact that he was now isolated from anything and anyone other than her, meant that her input was the only thing going into his head- and it was beginning to affect his thinking. She had started to set herself up as the arbiter of moral authority, the decider of right and wrong- and most of the time he was the wrong. Guilt. Guilt was her weapon of choice, but not all of it was inflicted by her. “I love you,” she said presently, and he cringed. There are only two possible replies to that phrase: “I love you too” or “I’m sorry, I don’t love you.” Or silence, which is as good as the latter. The problem was that he didn’t love her anymore. He just feared her. And whether it was the influence of her or the influence of his morals, he felt terrible every time he was forced to reply with an “I love you too” because that was a lie. Yet he feared her retribution if he did not say it, and he feared hurting her too- so what was he to do? Their relationship, which had begun so long ago as something beautiful, mystical and happy, had descended into a mire of despair, a muddy pit with no way out. Even the Christmas holiday couldn’t save him from his pain.


Day 66 The long-awaited Christmas holiday had finally arrived, and Sam was back home in London. He still couldn’t escape from Sandy though. “Sam, your girlfriend’s on the phone,” called his sister Charlotte. “She wants to know why you’ve been ignoring her for the past two days.” He cringed. Charlotte and Sandy got on well: they would talk for hours on MSN messenger or facebook chat. He wished he could tell her his troubles, but he feared that Charlotte would hate him for it. “Okay,” he answered. “I’ll go and get it.” “Where have you been?” snapped Sandy’s voice when he picked up the phone. “I’ve been waiting online for two days. And you haven’t replied to your texts.” “Yeah, sorry about that,” replied Sam. And there it was again: he had managed to hide from it for two, glorious days, but now the guilt came flooding back as soon as he heard her voice. “I’ve been… busy.” “That’s what my boyfriend said to me just before he dumped me,” called Charlotte from the background. Sam beckoned her to be quiet. She was not helping. “Who’s that? Is that another woman?” “It’s my sister, Sandy. My sister Charlotte. I’m certain I’ve mentioned her.” A pause. “Yes, you have. I remember now. But don’t change the topic. You still haven’t been talking to me. Why are you ignoring me? Is there anything you’re hiding from me?” Sam paused. “You mean, am I cheating on you?” She didn’t reply, but he knew that was what she meant. “Sandy, why would you even think that? Don’t you trust me?” “Well what about that picture?” she demanded haughtily. “Picture? What picture?” “On facebook. Of you and that… slut.” “Slut?” he asked, but even as he spoke he worked out what she was talking about. Last night he had been to a party and, inevitably, photos had been taken, one of which depicted him and Betty, one of his friends from school. “That picture? You mean the one where I’m with a tall, red-haired girl who’s wearing a pink dress?” “Yes. That one. So you admit it?” “No I don’t admit it Sandy! That’s Betty. She’s my friend. And we’re not even doing anything in the picture- just standing next to each other. Really, Sandy? You really thought that that was evidence of cheating?” She evaded the question. “I don’t like her. I don’t want you seeing her again.” Sam was livid. And, hundreds of miles away from her in Scotland, he had no need to listen to her tripe. “Goodbye, Sandy,” he said, and slammed the phone down.

Day 70 Sam had managed to avoid Sandy for four days now. Four long, glorious days in which he had not mentioned her, spoken to her, looked at her or listened to her. Except those days weren’t glorious. Because he had not been able to stop thinking about her. With each day that passed, the mountain of guilt within him grew. It was, perhaps, worse that she was not around, for now her replacement was his imagination, taking on her role and giving her words that even she would not have used. He could hear her, day in, day


out, screaming accusations from within his skull. Why haven’t you spoken to me? Why are you ignoring me? You haven’t been seeing that Betty, have you, or that Sadiq? Because you know how I hate them. The constant, gnawing, biting voice had drained away his soul. He did not even fight it anymore. Rather, he just lay there on his bed, gaunt in body and soul. It had such an effect on him that even his parents had noticed. He did not tell them why he was so thin and drawn, so depressed and lifeless, for he could not defame Sandy in front of anyone- or else she, real or imagined, would make his life even more of a hell. He isolated himself from the world. Every time he saw Charlotte or his mum or his dad, he could imagine them shouting down at him, hating him for how he was feeling. How could you be so terrible to her, they were accusing him in his mind. How could you be lying to her, disobeying her, disrespecting her? We’ve met her, and she’s nice. We don’t like you. You deserve your pain.

Day 73 “Goodbye, Sam,” came the message on the computer screen in front of him. The message reached Sam’s screen in a millisecond through the miracle of MSN messenger. “Goodbye? Why goodbye?” he replied. “I’m sitting here with a knife and I’m about to cut myself.” Sam’s stomach lurched. “Why?” he typed back urgently. “Sandy, don’t do it.” No reply. He gulped. He hated lying, but there was nothing else for it in this situation. It was better to lie than to be responsible for someone’s death. “Sandy, I love you,” he typed. “I know we’ve hit a snag in our relationship but all couples do. We’ll work through it. I promise.” He felt sick as he wrote it but he had no choice. Part of him suspected that this was nothing more than manipulative attention seeking, a show of bravado to scare him into staying, but a larger part of him feared that her threat may be genuine. He could not live with her death on his conscience. For two agonising minutes, he sat at his laptop screen waiting with baited breath for the reply he hoped would come. “Okay,” she replied. “I won’t cut myself now.” Sam gasped in relief. “Good. Thank you,” he typed. “But were you seriously going to kill yourself?” No reply. He continued: “I know we haven’t been quite what we used to be lately, but that’s no reason to threaten suicide. That’s just selfish. Forget me for a moment and think of your friends- how would Molly and Susie feel if you were dead? Or Brandon? Or your little brother? Can you imagine the pain you’d cause them?” She didn’t reply for a moment and he began to wonder whether she had actually gone through with it. Then: “I wasn’t really going to do it.” I wasn’t really going to do it. He sat back from the computer for a moment, thinking. Relief was the first thing he felt. But as he contemplated it more, he realised what she had done. She had deliberately threatened suicide in a cynical attempt to provoke an emotional reaction in him. To manipulate him. “So you mean that was just an attempt at cruel manipulation?” he typed back. “You haven’t spoken to me for a week,” she replied. “I thought something was up.”


“So you threatened suicide? You tried to play with my emotions and terrify me that you might die?” “You deserve it.” Sam hesitated, unsure how to reply. Truth be told he was sick of her now and was glad that it was the Christmas holidays: he was at home in London, while she was miles away in the northern straits of Scotland. She could not control him from there. “Whatever,” was his reply, and he logged off to evade her. Yet still he could not escape. Her words were gone, his screen was off, but his mind was still buzzing. You lied, it screamed at him. You don’t love her, but you said you did. You lied. He tried to justify it by saying that he had beeen trying to save her life, but those words could not get through to his heart, the home of his emotions. They still weighed him down like a proverbial cannon ball. Every day was greyed by the weight of that guilt around his neck: guilt at lying, yes, but also guilt at disobeying her. She had told him that he deserved it, and at some deep level of his soul, he believed her. He believed that he was unworthy, insensitive, selfish, boring- all the things she had ever called him, swirling about inside his mind. It puzzles him to this day why he put up with it. He can see a reason, though: for she was his ultimate critic, the ultimate challenge; she who knew him best could just him best, and she judged him badly. He was a bad person. He knew that then. And so every day he would try to live up to her exacting standards of where to sit, what to do, when to do it; it was all he deserved. He did not deserve freedom or happiness or independence. He was a bad, bad boy. A bad, bad boy who was to return to his jailor soon. Christmas holidays were over soon; within the week he would be returning to University, and to her. He dreaded it in his soul. But what could he do? He had harboured a secret desire to end it for a long time, but he was simply unable. The thought of the accusing eyes of everyone around him glaring down at him, judging him- it terrified him. He was a bad person. He was wrong to want to leave her. And he had always striven to do what was right, to be a good boy- so logically, he had to stay with her. There was no other way. He did not deserve his freedom. But nor did she deserve to be deceived. The choice fell to him: does he hurt her, or lie to her? He wanted to do neither, but had to do one; and whichever one he chose, he would plunge himself into a new cesspit of guilt. Of self-made guilt. It was not her fault. No, he deserved it. The daily pain he lived through, the absolute dullness and greyness and suffering of life- that was his fault. She should not be made to pay for his sins. After all, he deserved it.

Day 86 Sam was back in Birmingham by now and he was hating every minute of it. The Christmas holiday had done him good, however. Before the holiday, the empty aching of his suffering soul had felt normal; he had been gripped by it for so long that he had simply forgotten how to feel happy. Going home, though, had reminded him that such misery was not normal and nor was it acceptable. Coming back from the relative comfort of a happy home with a loving mum and a supportive dad, he was determined not to allow himself to sink back into the mire he had pulled himself out from. But he still couldn’t leave her. Call it insanity, but he was determined to try to make it work, even if things needed to change. So he had called a meeting with her: today, in the Yardbird jazz club at one o’clock. He had a message for her.


She came in, shaking. He had told her to meet her there last night, and evidently it had not gone down well with her. She had spent the night fearing the worst. “Sit down, please,” he requested. She did. “What’s this all about?” she demanded. “Well,” he began falteringly, “I’ve been thinking.” His words stopped there. He honestly had no idea what to say next. “And?” she demanded. “What have you been thinking?” He smiled sheepishly up at her and fumbled in his pocket for a piece of paper on which he had made some notes. They were smudged and almost illegible; they would be no help at all. So he was forced to make it all up on the spot. “I’ve been thinking,” he repeated, “because, erm, there’s a problem, and, I’ve not been happy, so, I’ve been thinking that, maybe, if you like, we-” “We break up? Is that what you’re going to say? You want to dump me?” “What? No!” he said, shocked. “I told you last night I’m not going to do that. No.” “Then what? Spit it out, boy.” “I think… I think we should see less of each other.” She took it surprisingly well. “Okay. Is that all?” “Yes. Yes, I suppose it is.” “So you kept me up all night last night with worry just for this?” Sam was gobsmacked. He had not meant to cause this reaction. “You know, I’ve told all my friends what you did, and they all think you’re a twat.” “What did I do?” “This! You told me that you had a message for me and that you weren’t going to dump me. Well, what was I supposed to think? You had me sick all night with worry.” With that, she stormed off, leaving Sam sitting there in a state of shock. Shock, but also happiness.

Day 87 Things had somewhat cooled down since yesterday. Sandy had forgiven him (on the proviso that he face a punishment as “you deserve it”) and he had gotten a night off from her. Perhaps, just perhaps, this seeing-less-of-each-other thing might work. They had agreed to meet up after lecture for a coffee. Sam was paying, of course. “I hate what you did to me yesterday,” said Sandy angrily. “I’ve said sorry.” “Yes, I know. But do you know what I did last night? I had to call up Molly and Susie for a girls’ night out and get drunk to cheer myself up. You owe me.” “I’m sorry.” “Sorry’s not good enough. I’ve got to think of a suitable punishment for you now.” Sam cringed. But, after all, she was right. He deserved it. “You know,” she said, laughing, “I got so drunk last night I ended up making out with Susie. But it’s alright because I was drunk. I was actually so drunk I thought it was you.” “Oh.” “What do you mean, ‘oh’? It’s not like I was cheating. Besides, I was upset.” Sam smiled bleakly. “Anyway, where’s my coffee? Get it for me now.”


Day 95 “It’s not working, Sadiq. I just can’t do it anymore.” “So dump her.” “I can’t. I mean, I really can’t. Can I?” “You can. There’s nothing stopping you. From what you’ve told me, you deserve better.” Sam and Sadiq were sitting in New Horizons, a Shisha bar in a suburb of Birmingham called Newtown. It had been a long time since he had seen Sadiq, owing to the fact that Sandy had banned him from seeing him. But he had found a new, rebellious flare since finding out that she had cheated on him. Okay, she was drunk and “thought it was him” (a claim even he struggled to believe), but that still wasn’t acceptable. It had all begun on that day by the canal. And since then, everything had built up in that small corner in the back of his mind: the total control she demanded over every part of his life; the fact that she expected him to pay for everything and do everything; the fact that she thought it okay to kiss and flirt with other people, while demanded complete fidelity from him. That admission eight days ago had been the last straw until finally, fearfully, Sam had resolved to rebel against his master and go and see his friend. It had not been easy. It had felt wrong, to be honest. He had been shaking as he pressed “send” and was looking over his shoulder the whole way here in case she were following; in case she might see. Yet now he was here, and the flavoured smoke of the Arabic bongs was soothing his soul and relaxing him. He was in friendly company now. “Let’s review what you’ve told me,” began Sadiq. “She’s Islamophobic, she’s controlling, she’s distrustful at the same time as being unfaithful and she’s manipulative. She’s making your life hell, Sam. Just get out.” “I can’t,” mumbled Sam into his chest. “Yes, you can. Believe me, she’s taking you for a ride.” Sam looked into the eyes of his Arabic friend. It was good to see a friendly face who accepted him for who he was. It must have been months since he had seen anyone but Sandy; even at home, even with the concerned intrusions of his parents and sister, he had been blinded to their care by his inner turmoil. And as he gazed at his friend’s caring visage, it was as if a wave of revelation hit him. “I can?” “Yes, you can.” And suddenly all those images in his head collapsed: all the sneering faces and hateful looks he had so terribly feared would come his way if he ever disposed of Sandy were gone from his imagination, for here was a replacement image of a kindly friend concerned for his wellbeing. He could leave her, and he would not be a bad person for it. But his mind was not entirely clear. Because what about her friends? What would Susie and Molly think of him? Sandy often reminded him that they thought he was a twat, a dick, a bastard, a whatever, based on the stories she told of him. Surely, surely they would hate him even more if he was to leave her? “She’s lying, mate,” explained Sadiq. “She has to be. She’s just telling you ‘all my friends think this…’ so that you’ll get round to her way of thinking. I bet if you asked all your friends, you’d get a lot of positive support from them.” Sam smiled sadly. “I don’t really have many friends,” he admitted, and he was right. Sandy’s influence had turned him into a recluse, a loner; all the people who could have been his friends had drifted away from him. While they had been on nights out on the town, he had been confined to quarters; while they had been out doing sports on a Wednesday afternoon, he had been doing his master’s bidding.


“And whose fault is that?” challenged Sadiq. “Mate, you’re harming yourself by staying with her.” “Yeah,” said Sam dreamily. Yet his mind was elsewhere; he was thinking of the possible ways of leaving her, and finding none. In each scenario, he envisioned her face growing angry, her voice growing stern and ordering him to stay- and she had such a hold over him even now that he knew he would obey. It wasn’t even a matter of obedience. Really, it was about compassion. He hated seeing anyone hurt or upset, even people he didn’t like, and knew that dumping her would cause her pain. He would rather take that pain on himself than inflict it on another. “Snap out of it, man!” called Sadiq. “Now are you going to man up and get out of there or what?” “I’ll… I’ll try…” Sam offered. Sadiq sighed, but he knew that was as good as he was going to get. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s go. And I’m taking you home, you hear me, to your room. You’re not going to see her tonight. It’s for your own good.” It was nice for someone else other than Sandy to take charge, for a change. He wearily accepted Sadiq’s demands and allowed him to walk him home.

Day 96 Sam was ready to follow Sadiq’s advice. He had spent the night priming himself, getting himself ready to pull the plug and take his freedom. Until, that is, he read the news. “Car Bomb Explodes in Fort William” it read, and the article detailed how an Al Qaida car bomb had accidentally exploded in the northern Scottish town while en route to its actual destination of Edinburgh. Fort William. That was where Sandy’s family lived. “Sandy, have you heard the news?” he asked her when they met that evening. “What news? No, why?” “There’s been an explosion in Fort William. Are your family alright? Have you heard from them?” Wordlessly she picked up her phone and rang home, her cheeks pale. Within a minute she was smiling as she discovered that they were okay- although in such a close-knit community, they were bound to know one of the victims. Mrs. Crocket, the butcher’s wife, had been caught in the explosion. She was currently in hospital; the doctors were saying she should pull through, but they may have to amputate her leg. Sandy didn’t need comforting. They had been less than acquaintances. But the moment had gone; Sam couldn’t leave her now. So he spent another night in her company, another night in his prison.

Day 99 “Did you do it then, man? Are you single now?” “No.” Sadiq sighed. “What happened?” “You remember that explosion in Fort William? That’s her home town. I couldn’t exactly leave her on the day her family might have died.” “Right,” thought Sadiq. “And did they die?” “Well, no.” “Were they even injured?” “No.” “So what was stopping you, man?”


Sam couldn’t answer, but it didn’t matter. He knew something like this would come up again and again each time he tried to leave her. She had too strong a grip on him. The guilt and fear would have weighed him down even if the explosion had not happened, so he resigned himself to staying with her.

Day 100 So that’s how it had come to this: Sam Johnson, slave of Sandy, delivering her pizza. He had by now fetched the Meat Feast they had ordered from Dominos and was on his way back to her room. Her room, his prison. She knocked on the door reluctantly. “Come in,” she called sultrily. “We’re watching Gossip Girl tonight.” He looked at her with a look that would have questioned her choice of TV show, had he not known her so well. “What? It’s your punishment.” “What did I do this time?” “You saw Sadiq today. I told you not to. And don’t think you’re getting any tonight either, Mister. I don’t give out to people who disobey me.” He would have sighed, had he not known her so well. “And no,” she said suddenly. “No to what?” puzzled Sam. “No to whatever it is you were going to say. If, that is, you were going to say anything. You’re going to stay in with me tonight whether you like it or not.” His face was expressionless, as if there were nothing living in his skull. Perhaps he was well and truly gone by now. Perhaps whatever had once made him ‘him’ was completely eaten up into her personality and she had become a mere appendage of her, an extension of her own will. As he stepped into the room, she stepped over to close the door: and the prisoner was locked in his cage for the night.

Day 102 Sam was in the throes of a deep depression. After staying over on Wednesday night, he had returned to his room in his halls of residence and locked the door. That had been yesterday, and since then he had not opened the door for anything or anyone. He had not eaten and nor had he turned on his computer or mobile phone. He had purely, simply, isolated himself from everything and everyone around him. A knock came on the door, and he hid under his bedclothes. His life had become ridiculous now: every passing set of footsteps terrified him that it might be her, it might be Sandy. Three people had knocked on his door today and he had not answered any of them; he hadn’t even acknowledged that he was in, cowering under his covers and trying to make as little noise as possible. Those three had gone away when he had not answered. This visitor, however, was more persistent. “Hello? It’s me, Molly. Open up. I know you’re in there.” Sam’s heart skipped. He panicked. He hid further beneath his covers and tried desperately not to make a sound- without success. “I can here you rustling your bed covers,” she called in. “Don’t worry, Sandy’s not here. I just want to talk to you.”


He hesitated. There was little sense in continuing to hide when your visitor knows where you are, so he decided nervously to let her in. “There you are, big boy,” she greeted when he opened the door. “Where have you been hiding yourself?” “Sorry?” he asked, completely confused. She barged her way in and pushed him against the wall. “I hear you and Sandy have been having a little trouble,” she began. He nodded, scared. “Don’t worry, I’m not here to harm you. I just wanted to move in.” “What?” “You know, move in on her territory. Seeing as you and her are, you know, heading for splitsville, I thought I’d try my luck with you. Now come here, big boy. I want to see what those lips can do.” Sam pushed her away. “I’m sorry, I’m not interested,” he said hurriedly. “I still have a girlfriend you know. I won’t cheat on her.” He pushed her to the doorway and beckoned for her to leave. “Then why don’t you go and see her?” she said demandingly. “She’s dying to see you.” As she spoke, a shadow flitted past in the background; barely visible, but clearly he form of Sandy, running away to hide. “I’m busy,” lied Sam. “I’m sorry. Goodbye.” With that, he slammed the door and locked it once more, leaping back into bed and turning the lights off. He was furious. He knew exactly what that had been: an attempt to test his loyalty, to see if he would take advantage of her friend’s offer and cheat on her. Sandy had been there, and Molly had been sent by her. He tried to get some sleep and resolved to keep the door locked, now even more jittery whenever footsteps ran past.

Day 104 Break her heart and I’ll break your face. That was what the text message said. It had come from an unknown number, and when he tried to trace it by replying and asking who it was, no reply came. Still, it was a threat. From who he did not know, but the fact remained that his girlfriend had resorted to threats of physical violence to keep him in check. He was still locked in his room: that was four days now with no contact, no food, no lectures. His health and studies and social life were all suffering but he didn’t care. He was just glad to be away from his controller.

Day 105 “Sam, get out of there.” It was Sadiq. Five days in his room alone, depressed, and it had come to this. Sadiq had found out and taken it upon himself to rescue his friend from his condition. “This is pathetic mate. Be a man and do what you have to do.” Still Sam would not be stirred. He still lay motionless in his bed, staring at the ceiling. “Do it, and do it today- or else I’ll do it for you.” That roused him. He pulled himself out of bed (quite a feat when you’ve been fasting for five days) and dragged himself to the door. “No! Wait! I’m coming!” He unlocked it to see the annoyed face of Sadiq, his only real friend.


“Sam, I’m sorry, but this is pathetic. Pull yourself together. And… and get some clothes on. You stink. How long have you been wearing that T-shirt?” “Five days.” “Change it, man, and have a wash! Geez.” Sam nodded and did as he was told. Sadiq had turned up with a pasta pot from the Tesco he had passed on the way to Sam’s halls of residence and shoved it into his hands. “Eat this, now. We need to get you ready.” “For what?” “Because we’re going to see your girlfriend, and I don’t care how much you protest. Either you end it today, or else I tell her everything you told me last week.” Sam’s face went pale. He nodded and quickly got dressed and put some deodorant on. “Can I… can I at least do it in private?” “Of course. I’ll leave you two alone while you do the deed.” “Thanks,” smiled Sam. “Erm… can you leave me alone now? I need to work out what I’m going to say.” “Okay. But I’ll be back tomorrow if you still haven’t done it.” Sadiq left, and Sam locked the door once more. This time, however, he did not leap back into bed; rather, he took out a pen and paper and wrote the last letter he would ever write to his girlfriend: Dear Sandy, I’m sorry I have to tell you like this, but you know I’m no good with speaking. I’m also sorry for how I’ve been avoiding you lately. There is a reason. Firstly I’d like to say thank you for all the time we’ve had together. It was brilliant at the start, but I feel we have drifted apart lately. There’s a reason for that, too. I don’t feel like I have what it takes to be your boyfriend anymore. You have such high standards and I just can’t reach them all the time; I can’t be what you want me to be. I’m sorry. You will always have me as a friend, but I’m afraid our time as lovers must come to an end. Love, Sam. With his heart in his throat, he folded it up and put it in his pocket. He turned his phone on for the first time that day and sent a message to Sandy: please could you come round as soon as possible? Xxx A feeling of euphoria washed over him, as if he were reaching an impossible moment when the world might change and become something new, something unimaginable; a moment that his mind told him was impossible, that it was hopeless to dream about it- but he dared to dream. That was what he was: a dreamer. He had forgotten it for so long, but it came back to him now. The endless possibilities that the future held, if only he could be free- and they were there for the taking. All he had to do was give her this letter. His phone buzzed, and his heart leapt. He felt nervous in exactly the same way as he had done when he asked her out, except this time it was more intense. Worse. Still, he had started the chain of events; the least he could do was finish it. It was from Sandy: I’ll be there in five. X Just one kiss. She was mad. For five minutes he paced about his room, simultaneously scared and excited. The guilt which had lived in his gut for months now had seemingly evaporated; it had risen into the air and now flew about as birds of excitement, insects of restless anxiety- and if, only if, he could pull through with this, they would vanish completely and leave him free. Then she arrived: sad-looking, and fierce as ever. It was strange seeing her after so long. Four days should not seem that long, but when your possessor demands your presence every night it does. It had been an eternity for both of them. “Hello,” he greeted nervously.


“Hello,” she replied. Her voice was empty, scared: she could control him in any way she wished as long as they wee together, but if he was about to do what she thought he was about to do, there was no way of stopping him; no way of getting into his head this time. “I’ve got something for you,” he said. “Okay.” He leant over to hand her the letter, but as he did so it just felt- wrong. To say it with ink, even after all she had done, was just not how he wanted to end it. So he pulled it away. She looked at him, puzzled. “Sorry,” he explained. “Sorry, I just don’t want to give this to you. I… I should say it instead.” His mind was frozen; it would not produce the words he needed. So he consulted his gut, his feelings, the emotions which were so ready to run free once more, to be free from the reign of guilty emptiness which had pervaded for so long. “Listen, Sandy,” he began, “You’re brilliant. Don’t forget that. And I want to thank you for the good times we’ve had together. There have been many. But… but I think we should just be friends from now on.” And that was that: the words were out, the message said. He was free. “Why?” “Because, Sandy. Because I can’t come up to your standards. I’m… I’m not good enough for you. You want me to obey you, to do your every whim, to make you my god, my commander, my boss- and that’s what you want in a man. You want something you can control. And I can’t, I just can’t, be that anymore. It’s tearing me apart. It’s hurting me.” “You and me, we have completely different ideas of how a relationship should work,” he continued. “I always thought, and still think, that it should be about two equal people being together and respecting each other’s freedom; with you…” he hesitated, almost scared of saying it. But he pushed on nevertheless. “With you, it seems like you want to control your boyfriend. You have ideas of set rules: the man pays for everything, the woman is the boss, and I don’t believe in that. I don’t enjoy it. I… I just don’t like being controlled.” She considered his words for a moment. Then, with surprising calmness, she said, “Okay,” and walked away. And that was that: the story of Sam and Sandy, of control and manipulation and lust and guilt, finished after one hundred and five days.

Message from the Author This story has been based on my personal experience. Many of the events described are simply exaggerations or alterations of things I experienced, so this is in some ways a true story. It is, at the very least, based on a true story. I want to thank you for reading this far. It means a lot to me. I don’t know why you chose to read this book, but perhaps it was because you, too, find yourself trapped in an abusive relationship. In some ways I was lucky: I was never physically abused, and I was able to go home for the holidays to escape it. Perhaps you are not so lucky. But even so, I want to offer you hope that you can get out. I know it seems hopeless and terrifying at the moment, but believe me, the moment you decide to use your fear as fuel rather than a ballast is the moment you experience freedom you never thought possible. My one piece of advice is to get away. Even if you have been cut off from friends or family for years, you can still count on them. Especially parents: they will never let you


down, despite anything they or anyone else has said. Go and spend some time with them: a week, a month, a year. Because chances are how you feel now is how I felt: like what you feel, what you experience, is normal. Trust me, when you take yourself out of the situation, talk to someone you can trust and avoid that person who’s making you feel bad, you’ll discover that it really isn’t. What you called ‘happiness’ with your abuser is really only a lesser form of misery. It may seem odd that a story about emotional abuse portrays the man as the victim. It is commonly assumed that domestic abuse, both emotional and physical, is something only women suffer- but that isn’t true. I am testament to that. I am a man, and this story is based closely on my own; specifically, my own experience of being a fresher at University and of my first serious relationship which, with hindsight, I wish I’d had the courage to leave earlier. Men and women alike can be abused by a partner. Gender is not an issue. Once more, thank you for reading this book. I hate to sound like a soap opera but if you have been affected by anything you have read here, there are some places you can go online and in the real world for help. The BBC has a good website listing all the different places on the web where you can find help, and if you don’t happen to live in the UK, The Hotline and National Coalition Against Domestic Violence are available to help in America.


Toxic