He was tall with sharp features and dark hair.
‘This is Mark,’ my mum said, as a stranger made his way into our home, behind her.
‘Alright,’ he grunted, barely glancing over in my direction.
I wasn’t interested in another of mum’s boyfriends and headed to my bedroom to keep out of their way.
She’d had a string of men visit the house and I couldn’t keep up with who was coming and going.
But unlike the others, Mark hung around and it wasn’t long before he’d moved in with us in Blackwood, South Wales.
While Mum was laid back, Mark was strict and snappy.
I felt like I was treading on eggshells around him and tried my best to keep out of his way as much as I could.
One day, a light bulb in our living room blew as I fl icked the switch.
Mark instantly blamed me.
‘I haven’t done anything wrong,’ I insisted, but he was having none of it.
He made me strip until I was completely naked and stood me in the corner of the room on one leg as punishment.
He pushed the broken bulb into the palm of my hand.
It burned as it was still hot, and I winced in pain.
After 20 minutes, Mum came into the room and I was allowed to go.
But things only went from bad to worse when mum got a job as a barmaid in a local pub.
It meant she was out in the evenings – at least four times a week – leaving me alone with Mark.
Just four years old, I tried my best to stay away from him and look after myself.
Running a bath, I climbed in and splashed my body with some soap and water.
When I got out, Mark caught sight of me and flipped.
‘You haven’t washed properly,’ he shouted, grabbing hold of my tiny frame and throwing me back in the water and into the tub.
Seeing red, he pushed me down underwater.
I couldn’t breathe and my legs and arms shook as I fought for air.
Eventually, he let go and I sat up gasping for breath.
Thankfully, Mark heard the front door open at that moment, as mum got home, and he scooped me out of the bath as though nothing had happened at all.
But before long, bath time became filled with terror.
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