The notice of motion asking for custody sparked one reaction I did expect. Eight-year-old Dash flew into the fray. His rage was swift, his hostility palpable on the phone. I tried to keep my nerve, but I was left shaking after each exchange. Even though I had spent three weeks persuading Dash to come on a ski weekend with us, he called the night before we were leaving and demanded to know if we were still going.
“I want an answer,” he snarled. “It's simple, are we going to Whistler or not? Because I don't want to go.”
“Okay, Dash. We'll stay here, if that's what you want.”
“I don't believe you.”
“Dash, I promise you. We'll stay here.”
“I won't come.”
And he didn't.
Dash kept up his hostility and distance from me, and I kept trying to bridge it: I called, every day, telling him I wanted to see him, I loved him, I was there for him. When Peter wrote me a letter saying that Dash had decided he wouldn't visit me until I called off my application, my resolve only grew firmer. This is sickness.
Dash retaliated still further. “I don't want to see you. I don't want you to come and pick me up on Friday,” he said angrily. “This is your warning. Goodbye.” Days later, Peter had a courier deliver a handwritten letter. “I will not be visiting until the custody stuff is over. Dash.” I panicked. Dash is in a worse position than ever. What am I doing? Whatever it was that Peter did to make Dash respond like that, to be able to say those things, terrified me. The cruelty seemed limitless. He was orchestrating and manipulating Dash in exactly the ways Norman Goodwell had predicted.