Author: Mick Beville

A story of abuse and rejection that leads Dina to face her ultimate truth.

Dressed in a light summer raincoat her face streaked black with mascara, Dina Moretti had had been standing motionless for almost fifteen minutes in the rain soaked Salford back-street clutching in both arms the plastic bag that contained every last trace of her life. The rusting industrial skip bin stood full to over flowing in front of her. Several plastic bags, some burst and stinking of disposable nappies, lay scattered with half hearted disposal on the asphalt around its base. “A strange peace had come over her and she took another step towards the skip bin. “It was only fitting,” she thought, “that a life such as her’s should end here.”

Seventeen years earlier amongst the vineyards and olive groves on the outskirts of Perugia, Italy Dina Moretti’s life had begun. “The year of your birth was a good year,” her mother Mejella had told her, as they picked raspberries from alongside the house wall. For a long time afterwards she would hold on to those words. “There were happy memories” and she would reinforce them over and over in her mind; bicycle rides into the town, a smiling father, and most of all that special memory of her eldest brother Louie swinging her around in the long summer sweet smelling grass as they played in the meadow beside their house. And him laughing; laughing with such happiness and joy that it became indelible in her mind. Louie had been the cement that had held them all together.
Her other brother Aldo was one year older than her and had suffered through a particularly bad time with glandular fever and asthma. For these two reasons if for no other, he appeared the slighter and younger child.
In the year of Dina’s birth, Alfonso her father had graduated from the University of Perugia with a degree in veterinary medicine. Soon after his graduation he left the family home in Perugia and move to Pisa to do a post graduate course in animal health and hygiene. There were mixed memories of his visits home. The strongest being the funeral; she couldn’t recall the funeral itself, but she could recall the shouting and her mother taking to her bed for days on end.
“The stone wall had stood undisturbed for over a hundred years, and there would be no reason to believe that it could just give way like it did.” the policeman had said, during what he called “a curtesy visit to tie up a few lose ends.’
“I’m the king of the castle” Louie would sing out with compulsive regularity on his return from school each day. But not a single soul would witness his last act of bravado. A modest four feet could have reached the top of the wall from the pavement side, but Louie insisted on climbing the eight or nine feet that rose with a slight batter from the half acre meadow that ran out and around the house. Multiple Organ Failure was the official announcement that came amidst angry embers that were spitting from underneath a qualified sympathy. Who was responsible..? Where were the parents..? There were further uneasy rumblings when Alfonzo returned to Pisa, and once again Mejella took to her bed, leaving Dina and Aldo to fend for themselves.
It was sometime shortly after her first holy communion, but before they had all left Perugia, to start what her father had said “would be a wonderful new life on a “farm” in Watford England,” that he had first knelt beside her bed and touched her there. “It was their special thing,” he’d said, slipping his hand inside the cover. Sometimes it would hurt when he touched her there, but his closeness made her feel safe and warm.
The “farm” that he’d spoken of, was a run down cottage on an acreage, that was in essence, a tied house belonging to a private company that carried out research on animals. Alfonso had regularly drilled the family to keep their business to themselves and not to get involved in any of the village gossip.
“She has gone home to look after her sick sister” he had said, when asked by a colleague where Mejella was. Dina knew that this was a lie because she had been the one that had found her mothers note. There was no mention of herself or Aldo; it was simply directed to Alfonso, saying that she found life with him unbearable and was returning to Italy.
At the age of twelve Aldo was moved into an out building at the back of the house. “A boy needs his space” his father told him. Dina again knew better and dreaded her father’s visits to her bed. The excuses were gone; he would say nothing. She tried to blank the pain as he humped himself on top of her but each time his hot breath would invade her mind. After he returned to his room she could hear him praying to Mary for forgiveness; “holy Mary mother of god pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death amen.”

Some time after her thirteenth birthday he had started drinking heavily and the house had become over run with dogs, cats, rabbits and the fleas that came with them “I couldn’t just let them suffer” he’d say bringing yet another animal inside the house.

It was a Thursday night in early November, Dina knew by the excitement of the dogs that he was coming down the path on his way home from the village pub. “Leave the house now.” she told herself. “There is no way he wont find you if you try to hide in the house.” She had thought to take refuge with Aldo, but realized, that would be the first place he’d come looking.
As the dogs rushed to the front door, tails wagging, to greet him, she took a blanket from the bed, pushed one arm into the sleeve of her jacket, and quickly snuck out through the back door.
The wind had bitten at her face as she’d stumbled blindly and in haste over and along the fresh ploughed furrows in the field that had led her to the Brown’s boundary fence. She had no logical answer to the direction she had just taken, other than it would be the last one that he would have thought to follow.
After climbing the fence at the back of the shed, she felt her way along its walls until she reached two large corrugated iron doors that were held closed where they met in the middle, by a large chain and padlock.
Lying on the ground she wriggled and squeezed until she was finally all the way in through the gap at the bottom of the doors. “You’re safe now�” she told herself as she sat and waited for her breathing to settle. There was nothing to see in the blackness of her fox hole, but she could smell the diesel oil and the new rubber tires that had been put on the tractor only two days earlier. There was a strange comfort in the sound of the wind as it teased, tested and rattled the corrugated iron sheets.
Her breathing had settled now but she had no inclination to move. Taking a large breath she held it for several seconds before breathing out again, she breathed in, held it again and then breathed out again. Rising to her feet she took a cigarette lighter from her pocket held it at arms length and struck it alight. Its light led her between a tractor and a trailer to a kerosene lamp that sat on a wooden work bench.
She’d lit the kerosene lamp when she saw the hessian potato sacks that were stacked neatly in the corner where the bench top met the wall. One by one she held them against light of the kerosene lamp, checking first one side, and then the other, before methodically layering them on the dirt floor between the tractor and the work bench.
Mary and Joseph came into her mind and she felt warmth as she wrapped her self in the blanket and lay down on sacks.

She had first seen the shotgun and cartridges on the narrow shelf underneath the work bench as she’d put the bags on the dirt. The gun was laid, “somehow casual,” she’d though, with its cold black barrel broken at an angle. She’d felt the itch straight away to touch it� and at first that was all she did, but as the itch grew stronger she had taken it from the shelf. It felt heavy. It felt powerful and exciting. She closed the barrel and pulled the trigger. Click� It was only a click but she felt a sudden rush running through her whole body. She broke the barrel and closed it again. Click� and then again, click� and again, click�

Her father looked peaceful as he lay with his face half buried in the pillow. It was almost six a.m. and in less that one minutes his radio alarm would click to wake him for another day.
Her breathing had accelerated now and she put the end of the cold black barrel to the side of his face. “It was only a dream” she told herself, as she closed her eyes, squeezed the trigger, and waited for the click�

After spending eight days in the hospital wing of Holloway women’s prison, Dina was moved to a medium secure hospital in Manchester. The original charge of adult murder had been dropped after a neighbour had told police how she had seen marks and bruises on both Dina and Aldo that would corroborate Dina’s and her mothers claims of abuse by her father. Her case was transferred to the jurisdiction of the juvenile system where she was ordered to under go psychiatric assessment.
An application by Mejella Moretti for the custody of Aldo was granted and after a short time in care he returned with her to live in Perugia Italy. Dina was made a ward of the state and would spend the next five years in various juvenile institutions, of which the last six months had been spent with a foster family in Salford Manchester.

Twelve year old Sally Thompson, stood looking out through the front room window at the rain “Did you really kill someone?” she asked. “It’s so beautiful” replied Dina pulling the brush gently through the fine golden strands of Sally’s hair. “You didn’t answer my question” Sally persisted. “No, I didn’t” Dina replied, firmly. “And some questions are better left unanswered” Turning Dina put the hair brush on the oak sideboard. “Don’t forget your school bag” she said, her face now hiding in the art deco wall mirror under the pretexts of applying more mascara. Sally put her arms around her. “I’m going to miss you Dina.” The tears started to well in her eyes and Dina pulled away. “We did our goodbyes at the party yesterday” she said, reaching for the tissues “and you promised me you wouldn’t make me spoil my mascara again. Now listen�” she said, as she helped her on with her school coat, “tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life. You must work hard at everything you want from life and if hard isn’t good enough, then you must work even harder.
Sally’s eyes welled but she said nothing. She knew only too well that that today Dina would be leaving the district, to start a new life, with a new name and a whole new identity.