When Karen Page is twelve years old, stupid Bobby Williams sticks gum in her hair and the stupid principal cuts it out with a dull pair of scissors. Karen's mother hushes her sobs and promises to get it cut cute and short—“Just like Tinkerbell, baby.” But Karen cries and cries and thinks that this is the worst thing to ever happen to her.
Karen Page is twenty-six years old, and there are bruises fresh on her neck when her head is bashed into the wall of her apartment by an intruder. Before the stars have cleared from her vision, she thinks of the pixie cut she got when she was twelve, and how Bobby Williams told her it made her look cute.
She'd punched Bobby Williams in the nose.
At twenty-six years old, Karen thinks of her twelve-year-old self, a longing so painful that it overshadows the ache in her head and her throat. She misses the flick of a blade being popped out, misses the man in black stepping through her doorway and hurtling at her attacker. She is thinking of her short hair, and the way Bobby Williams' nose bled and bled while he wailed that she was a bitch.
(Karen's mother had said nothing when she picked her up from the office that day, but in the car, she had run a hand through Karen's hair and smiled like a secret.)
When she is twenty-six years old, Karen lies to Matthew Murdock about having the file, because she will not see another innocent person hurt like Daniel was. She jokes with Foggy Nelson because even though she is scared of getting close to people, she is more scared to be alone in a city full of dark corners. She meets with Ben Urich because no matter how scared she is, she's also angry and even if the bruises on her neck are just starting to fade, that will never go away.
Twenty-six years old, and Karen thinks she's wise and clever and covering their trail. Then she's grabbed outside of Elena's apartment, and her fingers are being crushed around her mace. There is a moment of white-hot anger before she brings her knee up into the guy's crotch because how dare he talk to her that way. When Foggy shows up, Karen begins to understand that Hell's Kitchen breeds a certain type of person, and that she might be more similar to that then she thought. She isn't bothered by it.
The sound of Foggy's bat cracking into the man's skull is horrifically satisfying.
On her twenty-seventh birthday, Karen and Foggy go out for drinks. Matt can't be reached, and neither of them mention it even though they feel it like a phantom limb. Instead, they get appropriately smashed and end up falling asleep to Kill Bill on Foggy's couch, propped against each other. In the morning, Matt is curled up in the chair across from them, snoring lightly. They all go out for breakfast together; Karen thinks she might be okay.
A few days later, she is called to identify Elena Cardenas' body. Something inside of her shrinks, small and hard, and tucks itself away.
When she is twenty-seven, Karen is sitting across from a man at a table, tucked away in a grimy warehouse in the corner of Hell's Kitchen. Wesley, the man who had asked Matt and Foggy if they only hired pretty ex-clients. Karen had been unable to decide at the time whether to cry or shove her pen down his throat. Now, at twenty-seven, Karen sees that he has made the mistake of leaving his loaded gun on the table, and fires six warning shots into his chest.
She is done feeling threatened by this city.
She gets home and drinks an entire bottle of whiskey, thinks absently about how Bobby's nose had bled more back on the playground. Daniel's bloodstain looks fresh on her carpet, and she runs trembling fingers over it. Then she throws up and falls asleep.
At twenty-seven, Karen feels too tired to pry secrets out of Foggy and Matt, so she doesn't. In her dreams, she is shooting Bobby Williams for pulling out her hair, and when she is not dreaming, she's imagining the slack way that Wesley's head had tipped back after the third shot. Her mother had never scolded her for punching Bobby, and she does not feel bad about killing Wesley, but she hasn't slept well in a week. If Foggy or Matt notice, they are too busy avoiding each other to mention it, and Karen does not offer.
Karen Page is twenty-seven when she attends the funeral of Ben Urich. There is a heavy weight crushing her that feels like guilt, and it's making bile rise in the back of her throat. Doris assures her that Ben died doing what he loved, but Karen suspects she is more than responsible for this story, this ending. Ben's death is another stain, like Elena's or Daniel's, that gnaws at her at night. At twenty-seven, Karen remembers thirteen-year-old Bobby Williams, a bully on the playground who thought he was invincible.
Karen knows that, if given the chance, she would put six bullets into Wilson Fisk's chest and never feel a shred of remorse. If Wilson Fisk and the Devil of Hell's Kitchen are products of this city, then so is she.
When Fisk is finally caught and put away, Karen goes out to Josie's with her boys to celebrate. Josie kicks them out to close, and they stumble home and cram onto Foggy's bed, too warm and close. At twenty-seven, Karen falls asleep with Foggy and Matt's arms draped over her, thinking of Ben and Elena and Daniel. She does not dream.