I was shaking with fear as I approached the huge, white building.
At nine years old, I had already been through more terrible things in my life than most people ever do.
Abuse, neglect, cruelty. I was desperate for the carefree life that kids should have.
Being put into the care system was a blessing after growing up with alcoholic parents.
‘This is the first day of the rest of my life,’ I told myself.
I had butterflies swirling in my stomach as I walked down the path, and then the door to my new care home.
I was greeted by the house-parent, Colin*, who showed me inside.
‘This is not bad…’ I thought, as I scanned my eyes over the strange surroundings.
I had expected bright colours and kids running around and playing, so the grey concrete walls and moss-coloured carpets were disappointing.
I was such a shy child, so I hid behind the door frame as I was introduced to all the staff – my new ‘family’.
I thought I would be greeted with warm hugs as I was shown around, but instead it was all handshakes and paperwork.
‘Come and sit down, Emma,’ Jim hissed, and I sidled over, placing myself down in a plastic chair and nervously rubbing my scabby knees.
I listened to the grown-ups talking about serious stuff, and looked around, wondering where all the other kids were…
For the first few months at the care home, I struggled to settle in.
All the other children already had mates, and I was a quiet, reserved little girl, so tended to keep to myself.
Things didn’t really work out how I thought they would in the home.
I expected to make a circle of close mates. I even thought I might be able to find a ‘sister’-like figure.
But instead I spent most nights in my room alone, drawing or reading magazines.
After around three years of loneliness, I received exciting news.
‘Emma, we’ve found you a foster family. You can meet them this weekend,’ one of the carers told me.
I went to meet my potential new parents and was so nervous.
‘How much further can it be?’ I thought to myself, as I was driven down winding country roads, not knowing where on earth I was but also not caring, because I finally was about to have a family of my own.
My shoes crunched in the gravel as I stepped out of the car.
It was cold and I shivered as I took in where I was.
I was to spend weekends here at first, and then, if everything worked out, move in permanently.
My new mum and dad, James Fairns and his wife Lynda*, greeted me at the door.
I approached the couple slowly – nervous.
But they had huge smiles on their faces, and hugged me close to them.
They welcomed me into their house, which was warm and cosy.
For the first time in my life I felt like I was home.
‘This is the best day of my life,’ I thought, hardly believing my luck.
We all got to know each other for the rest of the day, chatting away.
I kept looking around in disbelief.
‘This can’t be real…’ I thought, taking it all in.
At about 8pm Lynda* yawned: ‘Right, I’m going to head off to bed. Are you all set Emma? Did you bring your jammies?’
I nodded, yawning myself.
She wandered off to bed, and James watched her leave.
Then he turned his head and the jolly, smiling face he had been wearing all evening was gone.
‘Now,’ he said. ‘Come here.’
The things James proceeded to do to me still haunt me to this day.
He pulled me towards him, and I was terrified.
The abuse started on my very first night, and continued for what seemed like forever.
He put his hands inside my knickers and my clothes and fondled me.
I must have blocked most of it out of my memory, because I can’t remember anything except from freezing in fear.
My brain was whirring, wondering what on earth was going on.
‘How could somebody I had trusted do this to me?’ I wanted to scream.
It continued for a long time. Every single weekend.
I don’t know if Lynda knew what her husband was doing, but if she did, she did nothing about it.
James was an expert at getting people to like him.
He portrayed himself as an stand-up guy and was well loved and respected by everybody.
If only they knew what he did behind closed doors…
As well as touching me, James would verbally abuse me too.
‘Nobody cares about you!’ he yelled, spitting in my face. ‘Why would your family give you up if they really loved you?’
I couldn’t argue with that, so I simply cast my eyes down at the floor, begging for the time to fly until I could go back to the care home I’d wanted to escape for so long – now it didn’t seem so bad.
When I was 16 years old and a lot more mature, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore.
I had to move out of the care home and fend for myself.
I attended catering college and absolutely fell in love with it, and then when I graduated I got a job at Tesco.
I hadn’t trusted anybody for my whole life, so when a man at the bus stop started talking to me out of the blue, I was immediately wary.
‘I’m Terry!’ he grinned, and the way he looked at me, with respect and kindness, made me feel the best I had ever felt.
We chatted non-stop, every single morning whilst we waited for the bus to work.
‘So, how are you?’ he asked me – and that made me realise nobody had ever asked me how I was before, in all my life.
He made me feel special, and still does to this day.
We became a couple and married in March, 1995.
Now, we are about to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary in March 2020.
I confided Terry – telling him all about my past and all I’d been through.
One day – with his support and encouragement – I decided to do something I never thought I would.
I called the police and told them everything.
In July 2019 James Fairns appeared at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court and was found guilty of sex abuse and ill treatment of five girls between 1977 and 1984.
He was locked away for three years and nine months, and I couldn’t be happier and more relieved.
Although I think he deserved a longer sentence, the fact that he can’t hurt anybody else is all I could have wanted.
Over 30 years later and I am still suffering from PTSD, and have to take medication daily.
Terry has been better than I could have ever imagined – he is my rock and he helps me out every day.
It took me a long, long time but I’m so pleased I finally spoke out and sought justice for the abuse I suffered.