A young woman brought up by strict parents tries to escape, but will she manage it?
Joanne appeared to be an average middle classed young woman, with a good job, and almost enough money to put down a deposit on her first home.
The money itself wouldn’t have been so important had Joanne, or Jo, as she preferred, not still been living with her parents. Any money saved was hidden in a safe place, nobody, not even Jo’s best friend knew about it, let alone where it was.
Tanya and Robert, Jo’s parents, came from money. It wasn’t a fortune, they were far from rich, but they had been careful with finances, frugal with any spending. Everything in their lives was planned, only one child, no matter if it was a boy or girl. Robert had two brothers with boys of their own to carry on the family name. One child, private school, but none of this boarding school nonsense.
Robert controlled and managed the finances; Tanya controlled and managed the house and anything or anyone who lived in, or entered it. Tanya loved Jo from the beginning, however, the need to micromanage everything overwhelmed that love, so Joanne never experienced it.
Jo had no idea her home was unusual, as she wasn't allowed to visit her friends, but they could visit and stay with her. At these times Tanya wasn’t the same, Jo saw a softer side to her mum, what any visiting child would see as normal. As soon as visitors left the cold, rigid, organised Tanya returned.
It was only in her teens Jo realised how strict her parents were. Discussions at fourteen with friends are more articulate than at nine. While talking to friends, reality sunk in, her family wasn’t right. Reflecting on the routines every day, what was expected, and had been asked of her all her life, was now bringing on a pulsating headache. Not knowing how to change anything, a plan began to form as to how this could be resolved. It would, however, take several years. Then, what had been done to her had taken a lifetime until now. Now was the time to take that lifetime back.
Normal routine continued in Jo’s household, as it always had. Jo had learned from an early age, what the rules were and the punishments for breaking them. No messing about was tolerated, this was treated by her favourite toy being taken away and burned, she soon understood, it was gone forever, a harsh lesson to learn. Every morning by breakfast Jo, once old enough, was expected to get herself washed and dressed, then present herself for inspection at 7am, if anything was out of place, wrong at all, there was no breakfast, just a return to the bedroom, hungry. If not at school, such as weekends and holidays, the routine would be the same for lunch. Jo would be expected to go over whatever she was wearing, looking for dirt or marks, if there were any, then change it for something clean and present herself for lunch. This would be repeated at dinner, weekdays school uniform would be put into the laundry basket, and Jo would have to dress up for dinner.
There were other expectations, grades had to be kept up, no lower than an A- was acceptable across the board. Any grades that slipped, a tutor was brought in and Jo would have to study weekends and holidays until the grade was back up. There were no family holidays with Jo if her grades weren’t up in time; Robert and Tanya would go alone.
At one point Jo challenged her mum about their routines, how other families didn’t have them, and demanding she be allowed to visit friends as they had visited her. Tanya pointed out how other children went down wrong paths with too much freedom, especially at this age when hormones would start to play tricks on the mind.
‘They deplete your vitamins’, her mother informed Jo.
From then on Jo was given a vitamin supplement every night, at exactly the same time.
‘This will rebalance your hormones’ Tanya said with that convincing smile.
From then on the only time there was no vitamin tablet was during her menstrual cycle, Jo always thought this odd, but never challenged it, she was much too busy with the plan that was building, to escape the house.
Robert was a strong-willed man and backed his wife whole-heartedly; there was no room to manoeuvre where rules were concerned. When Jo graduated from university, her father found her an accountancy job, there was no chance of refusing. It was a well-paid job and, to be fair Jo enjoyed it, but felt obliged to be there and longed to find her own job, one founded on her own merits. Money earned on the other hand, was not the money kept. Robert said in a harsh, stony voice.
‘We have expenses. You’re living here so you must pay towards them; also you owe me for getting you the job’.
They left her with what they thought, was enough money. It was more than enough; Jo learned to be careful, so was then able to put away the money needed for a deposit on a house. While working out whether to rent or buy, she figured the houses outside of town were cheaper and with her having all of her wages, with bills she would be better off getting a mortgage and commuting into town. This was the plan!
This particular Saturday morning, Jo had an appointment at the bank; one with no connection to her parents. The morning inspection went ahead as usual, and by now the scrutiny undergone was a formality, nothing untoward. Jo’s father looked into her eyes this morning and Jo saw something new; a flicker of pure anger. This was under the facade of the calm her father always projected. Jo’s heart flinched and began beating faster, pounding through every pore. Breaths came harder, faster, completely out of control. Then the look was gone, Robert walked away to start breakfast, gesturing for Jo to join them. The meal was silent, no voices rang in the air, only a sense of foreboding.
The sun was still shining when Jo returned home, elated at achieving the first step in the house buying process. The money was now safe, handed over at the appointment, placed into a new account, ready to be the deposit when needed.
That evening, after dinner, Tanya brought the so called, vitamin pill, as usual. Jo had decided to continue taking the tablet, long after figuring out it was not vitamins. It turned out to be convenient. This night shouldn’t have been any different; the pill was swallowed as usual.
A crash startled Jo awake, a swimming head sensation, never felt before, hit, all at once as she tried to stand. The room seemed wrong but Jo couldn’t pinpoint why; in the meantime, her focus was on the noise. Walking step by step, to the door, she reached for the handle, it was locked, and felt hot.
The only reason for that would be a fire. The feeling came back from the look her father gave that morning, pure panic. There was an urgent need to think logically. What could Jo hear? Sitting on the bed, the meditation learned from friends now seemed useful, just for a few seconds. It helped her focus. The fuzziness in her head remained but her thoughts were clearer. First, her phone, ring for help, but that was gone from the place it was always left overnight. What about the window!
There was relief knowing she might escape as the window opened, but horror as her eyes saw what was below. A lump now grew in her throat, below were red and orange flames, dancing out of what was left of the downstairs window. They crept up the bricks, melting the leaves, one by one, of the plant growing up the building; each leaf that disappeared brought the heat closer. Jo slammed the window shut, and ran back to the door. This was not hot all over, not just the handle and there were scorch marks where the fire was beginning to burn the door. The room was now filling with acrid smoke. A rocket of flame jumped up outside the window engulfing the house. Jo screamed and succumbed to the smoke.
A crash startled Jo awake, something was wrong, where was the fire? Where did the noise come from? Staggering to the door, her hand found the handle, it was hot!
Three weeks after her appointment at the bank, Robert and Tanya signed their daughter over to a private mental institution, along with a large donation.
Jo had failed to notice the path her parents were on, so focused had she been on her own journey. Taking on Power of Attorney for their daughter, Robert and Tanya soon accessed the money placed in the new account, plus successfully claimed on an insurance with a clause written into it which had cover for infirmity or inability to function as normal.
It kept them in the lifestyle to which they were accustomed