23 Meadow Way

I lived there for grade 3 and part of grade 4. We left suddenly in the middle of the night under a thick cloud of fear.

He found us.

That day had been like any other day, except I was home sick from school. This wasn’t unusual for me. Being too young to have developed any tools to cope with my anxiety, it manifested as physical illness. On this particular day, my panic attacks may have saved my life.

What I learned later was that my dad had showed up at the school that day. We had escaped him on a train that took us from New Brunswick to Saskatchewan a couple years prior. He hired private investigators to find us and on this day he was nearly successful. He went into the school demanding to know where me and my sister were. The principal, aware of our situation, didn’t give him any information. We lived less than a block from the school, and despite his threats to her, she kept us safe.

He didn’t stop there. He had photos of us, a few years old, but he took them around the playground and started asking children if they knew us or where we lived. Perhaps a little sad, perhaps a little lucky that I hadn’t formed any close friendships and nobody really knew me. We had already moved so much in the few years since arriving in Saskatchewan, and I was traumatized and withdrawn.

He waited outside the school and ran the principal off the road in his car when she left work that day. I wish I remembered her name, because I would send her a thousand thank you notes for keeping my family out of harm’s way by putting herself into it.

My mom got a phone call that night. It was only a matter of time before my dad found our address. My mom woke me and my sisters up from our beds and we had very little time to pack our most important belongings into a brown van that belonged to my mom’s friend. There were no seats in the back of the van, so my two sisters and I huddled among boxes, crouched like cargo while we drove through the city streets to what we hoped was safety.

I don’t remember where we ended up that night. More than likely we either went to stay with my grandmother until we got into our next home, or it may have been the women’s shelter we stayed at for a while. All I remember is the deep sense of fear, and the knowledge that my dad was going to do everything possible to keep his promise: If you ever tell anybody, I’ll kill your sisters and your mom in front of you, and then I’ll kill you.

I sometimes wonder if any of the kids at that school wondered where I went, and whether the teacher or principal made up a kid-friendly story to ease their curious minds, because no child should have to be aware of that kind of danger.

Me at the house on 23 Meadow Way, blowing bubbles with my cat Muffin shortly before we left.

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