Hands gripped around a steaming cup of coffee, I pondered over the text message I’d just received. It said: ‘PLEASE can we go for a drink this weekend?’
Lee, 24, had been pestering me for a date for months. We’d been introduced by mutual friends on Facebook but something stopped me from taking things further. I’d had a string of bad relationships, so I was cautious of men.
You can’t tar them all with the same brush,’ my friend said, when I called her for advice. ‘You’re right,’ I sighed. ‘I have made him wait quite a while.’ I caved in and we set a date.
On the way to meet Lee at a local pub, my stomach fluttered with nerves and excitement.
I hoped we’d still get on as well face-to-face, as we did behind a screen. I needn’t have worried though, Lee was the perfect gentleman. ‘Wow, you’re even more stunning in real life,’ he said, pulling back my seat. ‘Can I get you a drink?’
‘Yes please,’ I blushed. Lee refused to let me put my hand in my pocket the entire night. ‘I’m not used to being treated this way,’ I gushed. ‘You deserve it,’ he smiled.
At the end of the night he came back to mine, and only left the next day to fetch some clean clothes. After that, he pretty much moved in. I knew the relationship was moving quickly, but it felt right.
For the next couple of months, we lived in bliss. Lee left roses on the bed and love notes on the bathroom mirror. He’d help round the house and took me out for dinner.
Then, on a night out together I saw a different Lee. I was stood at the bar ordering some drinks when a stranger approached me. ‘Can I buy you a drink, love?’ he asked.
‘I’m okay, thanks,’ I replied curtly, turning away. ‘My boyfriend is just over there,’ I said, pointing to the table where Lee sat. ‘Your loss,’ the guy shrugged.
When I got back to the table, Lee’s face was stony. ‘Are you okay?’ I asked. ‘Fine,’ he snapped at me. Sensing his mood, I didn’t push it any further.
We spent the next couple of hours barely saying a word to one another. Back at the house, Lee’s temper flared. ‘I can’t believe you flirted with that guy in front of me,’ he roared.
I stared back at him in shock. ‘Is this really why you’ve been in a mood all night?’ I said, rolling my eyes. ‘I know you’re cheating on me,’ he stormed.
‘You’re ridiculous,’ I said. I turned to walk away, but Lee grabbed my wrist. ‘Give me your phone,’ he hissed, trying to prise it from my fingers. ‘Oow. Get off,’ I yelled.
Yanking the phone from my hand, Lee pushed me to the floor. ‘What’s your passcode?’ he demanded, but I kept silent. Frustrated, Lee smashed my phone against the wall, before storming out the
I couldn’t believe Lee had reacted so badly. The next day, he was full of apologies. ‘I don’t know what came over me,’ he said. ‘I’m so sorry.’ Foolishly, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
‘You’ve got one last chance,’ I warned.
Things between us went back to normal, until Lee had a drink. I was constantly on edge, worried he’d fly off the handle if I said the wrong thing. But when Lee was sober he was a true gent.
‘I don’t think I can do this any more,’ I said, slowly one day. ‘I need some space to think about things.’
‘Okay,’ Lee said. ‘I’ll leave you to it. He handled it well, too well, and I began to wonder if I’d made the right decision.
Then a few days later, I was woken up in the middle of the night by screams coming from outside. I recognised the voice. It was Lee. ‘Gemma! let me in,’ Lee’s voice echoed round the street.
I could tell from the slur in his voice he was drunk. After ten minutes of banging on the door and windows, he finally went away.
Then he bombarded me with text messages. He’d spring up out of nowhere whenever I was out. I became scared to leave the house. Out getting some milk one day, I caught Lee out the corner of my eye.
‘Come here you stupid slag,’ he shouted, striding towards me. I sped up to get away, but he was on my heels. My landlord Mohammed Elyas owned a shop just up the road, so I rushed inside.
Lee followed me in and pushed me against the shelves. ‘You answer me when I shout you,’ he growled. ‘Get off me,’ I cried.
Seeing the commotion, Mohammed marched from behind the counter towards us. ‘Let her go,’ he demanded. ‘Stay out of it,’ Lee snapped back at him.
Mohammed grabbed Lee’s arm to pull him off me. My eyes widened in terror, as Lee’s fist crashed into Mohammed’s face. He fell to the floor and tried to scramble away, but Lee wasn’t finished.
Grabbing hold of Mohammed, he reined down more punches, while spitting out vile racial abuse. ‘That will teach you to mind your own business,’ he sneered, before storming out the door.
The police were called and Lee was arrested but later released on bail. Two months on, Lee turned up out of the blue in the early hours of the morning. ‘I need to talk to you,’ I heard him shout through the letterbox.
My body froze in fear as a stone hit my bedroom window. After fifteen minutes, Lee still hadn’t given up so I hung my head out the window. ‘Will you shut up,’ I hissed. ‘You’re going to wake up the whole street.’
‘Let me in then,’ he shouted, before banging on the door again. Cautiously, I went downstairs and unlocked the front door. I wanted to try and calm him down.
‘Where is he,’ Lee roared, storming past me. ‘Who?’ I asked. ‘There’s nobody else here.’ I followed, as Lee ran upstairs towards my bedroom. ‘I’ll kill him when I find him,’ he screamed, punching my mattress.
I crept back down to the living room to find my phone. Searching around, I felt Lee behind me. I spun around and before I could speak, Lee punched me in the ribs. Winded, I fell to the floor, struggling for breath.
‘Tell me who you’ve been with,’ Lee yelled, hammering me with his fists. ‘Nobody,’ I cried, gasping. I grimaced as the taste of blood filled my mouth.
As I lay on the floor in agony, Lee began to smash up the room. He kicked my TV, and punched holes in the walls. As I tried to get onto my feet, Lee cornered me. ‘You’re going nowhere,’ he sneered, wickedly.
Grabbing the glass ashtray on the table beside him, he smashed it across my face. ‘Arrrgghhh,’ I shrieked, as pain ripped through my cheek.
My vision turned blurry, and as I fell back down, I felt like I was dying. Then, I heard a knock on the door. ‘Police, let us in,’ a voice called from outside.
I watched as Lee froze and his face flushed with fear. ‘Don’t tell them I’m here,’ he warned me, before sprinting up the stairs.
Pulling myself up, I hobbled towards the front door. ‘Where is he?’ the officer asked. ‘He’s up there,’ I spluttered, pointing to the stairs.
Lee’s hands were covered in blood as he was taken away. I was taken to hospital to be checked over but was released that night. Four months later, in June this year, Lee Rushworth, 24, appeared at Sheffield Crown Court.
He admitted charges of ABH, racially-aggravated assault and criminal damage, and was given an 18-month jail term suspended for two years, 250 hours of unpaid work and handed a rehabilitation course. He was also given a three-years restraining order.
Now, I’m taking medication for my anxiety and I’m receiving counselling. I’m desperate to move on with my life and put this nightmare behind me, but I know it’ll take time.
I doubt I’ll be able trust any man enough to start a relationship anytime soon. For now, I’m single and that’s how it’ll stay.
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