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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Faith Introduces Herself to Readers

Stuart's asked me to give you some insight into how I think, what matters to me, why I'm the person I am. Let me introduce myself. I'm Faith Heacham and I narrated the story of Breaking Faith along with Leigh. I hope that some of my rather strange background came through that narrative but there will be elements that you will either not know or be unfamiliar with, of course.
When I first started to work for Leigh, I was still imbued with my father's rather strange brand of Christianity and I was determined to develop Leigh's conscience and convert him into a devout follower of my religion. I don't tell you a lot about that aspect in the book, because I didn't want to come across as too evangelical. As it happened, I quickly learned that Heacham was in the wrong and that Leigh, for all his unusual and, dare I say, unconventional ways, was often in the right.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me set the scene. I was brought up for the first few years as part of a small family with my mother, and two younger sisters as well as Heacham. I'm sorry, I can't refer to him as my father knowing what I do now. He was, to me, relatively normal and although he was always a very strict parent, he seemed no more odd or different than any other parent, until Mother left him and took my youngest sister, Charity, with her. It was then that I certainly noticed changes in my life. I was very young but I was expected to take over most of the duties my mother had carried out.
Heacham was a man who gave the impression of being pious. It was only later I learned how truly awful he was, not only as a father but as a man. However, I was placed in a position where I was required to look after him domestically as well as nurse my severely disabled sister, Hope. She, of course, had no hope of ever becoming anything other than a baby in a woman's body. But I didn't know that until I was a lot older. My life was difficult and restricted, as I was no longer allowed to attend the local school but was taught by Heacham. His teaching took the form of indoctrination with his peculiar form of narrow-minded Christianity taken from the Bible and some books of sermons by a rather extreme clergyman. I was allowed an atlas, and a dictionary and two volume encyclopaedia, both of which he censored for all sexual matters apart from the purely biological aspects. We had no television, no radio and he would allow no magazines or newspapers in the house. Living in an isolated cottage well out of the small Dales village, I had virtually no contact with children or with other adults. This obviously left me with a very odd view of the world. But I was a quick learner and loved to read. As a result, I picked up a wide vocabulary and a knowledge of many things that most people never come across.
For exercise, I did the housework, kept Hope free of bedsores by massaging and manipulating her limbs and body, walked the local hills and swam in the isolated tarn up the hill from our cottage. I loved the freedom of those few hours, away from home and father's constant watchfulness. I would strip to my skin and plunge into the freezing clear water and splash about until I was thoroughly tired. By the time I returned home, my clothes had mostly dried on my body. Not that it mattered, since Heacham required me to work in the house wearing the bare minimum of cover. He told me it was to save my clothes from becoming stained and dirty. I know now that it was to afford him a sexual thrill of both watching me and controlling me in a state of more or less permanent exposure.
He indoctrinated me to believe that most men and women were inherently evil and would eventually spend eternity in the fires of Hell. If I erred, even slightly, he would beat me with his hand, a cane or his belt, always on my naked skin. He told me he was saving my soul and I believed him. We prayed together every morning and each evening before bed. He attended some old barn that he and a few other men with similar views had converted into their meeting place, which he called their chapel.
When I first started to work with Leigh and discovered his free-thinking ideas and his openness toward nudity and sex, I thought he must be the most wicked man alive. His models were all beautiful and showed no shame or shyness in displaying their entire bodies for his camera. I was initially incensed and later intrigued. But, though Leigh gave all the appearance to my uneducated mind of being a wicked heathen, I quickly learned that he was a kind, warm, generous and basically good man. I suppose it was inevitable that I would fall in love with him, as the only other mature male I had any contact with. Apart, that is, from his printing assistant, Mervin. He was the embodiment of true evil in my eyes. A crude, ugly, cruel and utterly selfish monster of a man.
If you've read the book, you'll know how I came to change and what those changes involved for me and those I came into contact with. If you haven't read it yet, I can only point you in the direction of this blog, where Stuart's posting the whole book for you to read, free of charge, a chapter at a time. I hope you get as much out of reading my story as I did from telling it from my point of view and learning Leigh's view of things along the journey.

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