You are four years old when it all starts to fall apart.
It's been hard on your family. You are primarily the cause of it. You know this much.
You hear things, of course.
You hear Mrs. Kelly, there is something very wrong with that child and Christ, what are we gonna do with her but it's not all your fault, not at all.
Daddy's just been laid off you don't know what that means but you know it's not good and Mummy's been so busy getting ready for the baby and it's not all your fault when Daddy reels his hand back and slaps you to the ground.
But it's still a little your fault.
Your head hurts real bad all of a sudden.
There is something wet and warm on the side of your face and your hand is stained bright red after you touch it and suddenly everything is spinning and falling apart, all you can hear is Mummy screaming what the fuck did you do that for she's just a baby and you are being carried somewhere far, far away.
It's not all your fault.
You are six when Daddy hurts you again.
He's in one of those moods. He's angry, he's yelling, he's punching walls and slamming doors.
It scares you.
It scares you when Mummy comes in your room to tuck you in and there's bruises on her face and her hands won't stop shaking.
It scares you when Daddy's drinking from that big brown bottle and slurring his words.
It scares you when baby Trav won't stop crying and Daddy picks him up and screams and shakes him hard and you are so scared, you are so so scared.
It's way past your bedtime when you patter down the stairs to make yourself a choccie milk, but you've had a rough day, and you know how to make one, and…
And you spill your milk all over the carpet.
You don't know how long Papa's been standing in the doorway, but before you can say or do anything he grabs you by the arm and smashes you against the wall.
"You stupid little cunt ! Do you know how much I fuckin' paid for that?" he shouts, and you don't know what that word means, but it's what he calls Mummy when he's yelling at her.
You're crying now. Everything hurts. Hot tears are flowing down your face and you can't stop it, you can't stop any of this.
This has to be a nightmare, this is all some horrible dream, this cannot be real, but it is, and the throbbing ache in your head only increases tenfold when Papa grabs you and drags you over to the stove then turns it on and…
The pain is like nothing you've ever known.
Your wails wake up Mummy.
"What are you doing to her?! My God, what have you done ?!" Mummy shrieks, and she tears you away from Papa and picks you up and holds you tightly in her arms and she is screaming, she is screaming like you want to but you can't fucking breathe.
"I'm takin' the kids to my mum's and I swear to fuck if you come near us again I'll slit your throat you pig ," Mummy hisses through clenched teeth.
That's when you start screaming too- not because of the unbearable pain but because you know for certain, as much as a six year old can know anything, that your life is going to change forever.
You leave that very night.
It is freezing cold and raining and Mummy sobs the whole drive to Nan's house, I'm sorry Louise, don't worry baby doll, he can't hurt you again love, but she goes back to Papa after a week and he hurts you so many times more.
You are nine the first time Dad creeps into your room.
His drinking has been getting real bad lately. He comes home late at night, always something foul on his breath, always looking to pick a fight.
Maybe that's where you get it from.
"Hello, my beautiful Wheeze," your father croons, stroking, pawing at your face, your body with work roughened hands, and something tells you this is anything but a social call.
His smile is sharp and angry and the word shark teeth instantly springs to mind, you've been learning about them in science class lately, they're pretty cool, this is not happening this is not happening this can't be real no no no
Thankfully, it's over soon.
"'S'alright, darl," Dad calls as he buckles up his pants. "That's normal, eh? Every dad and daughter."
You know he has to be lying.
He presses a disgusting kiss to your forehead, and leaves you there to rot in what he's done to you.
You are twelve when you first get pinched.
It's been a month since Dad died thank you thank you thank you finally, it's been a month since you've had to drift out of your body and count the ceiling tiles of your room, forcing yourself to think about sharks or decimals or whatever you had been learning at the time.
Trav is barely eight when it happens. He doesn't understand death just yet. He keeps thinking Papa is on a trip, that he's gonna walk through that door any minute now in his big clunky work boots, and…
"When's Papa coming home?" Trav asks, wrapping his arms around your legs. He looks up at you with those big wide innocent eyes just like you used to have and--
You shove him to the floor. "He's dead! He's dead and he's never coming back so just shut up !" you scream, and you don't even care you made him cry, you don't feel bad even when your mum comes rushing in and scoops Trav up in her arms.
"For goodness sake, Louise! Look what you've done!" she shouts, patting Trav's back and murmuring words of comfort in his ear.
That's not something you ever got. You didn't get anything from her but just tell them you fell down the stairs, Louise, and you won't tell anyone about Dad, right? and don't be ridiculous we can't leave him he's everything to us and that is when you realize she does not love you and never will.
"Fuck you!" you scream, and yes you might be too young to use words like that but you're too young for everything that's already happened to you.
You run you run you run as fast as your feet can carry you, you run out of the house and into the street and you don't stop, you don't know how to stop.
It's hours and seconds and days and minutes before you come to a pause, planting your hands on your knees as you breathlessly pant.
You want to hurt. You want to kill. You want to break, you want to ruin everything around you like you have been ruined since that night when your father decided you belonged to him.
So you pick up a rock and you throw it through the window of the nearest storefront.
You are seventeen when Ms. Samuels asks you to stay after class.
It's not like you haven't thought about her like that . She's pretty, she's nice to you, she never questions why you look like you haven't slept for days you haven't or why you only wear long sleeves even when it's warm.
You like it when people don't ask questions. You don't have very many answers.
"I hate to say it, but...I'm worried about you." Ms. Samuels is sitting cross legged on her desk, her dress a warm olive green and her jacket the same color.
It's likely a matching set, and it's oddly nice to think about it catching her eye and her thinking Well shit! I've gotta have this.
You flinch at the mention of your given name.
"Lou," you bite out, glaring up at her and crossing your arms.
"My name is Lou. I don't like Louise," you say with a disgusted wrinkle of your nose.
It's true. You don't like your name. Too many memories associated with it.
"Well, okay, Lou. I'm worried about you, love."
"Have you looked in the mirror lately?"
"You know what I mean. You...don't look okay."
"Oh shit. Guess I better start up a new beauty regimen, eh?"
Ms. Samuels leans forward. She puts her hand on her knee, and you wonder if she knows what she's doing to you.
"If you need someone to talk to," she says gently, rubbing her thumb over your thigh, "I am always here, darl--"
You kiss her.
It's far from the most stupid thing you've ever done, but you're pretty sure it's up there.
Until she kisses you back.
It is two months of secret visits. It is two months and empty promises and emptier kisses and you know she doesn't love you, not really, but you've always been good at lying to yourself so maybe she does.
Then Ms. Samuels turns into Mrs. Anders, and everything is gone .
You are eighteen when you first go to prison.
It's a place called Barnhurst.
You smashed some bloke's head against the sidewalk for grabbing your arse in a bar. You don't regret it, not really, until you're taken away in handcuffs and flashing lights.
Of course your mum is furious with you. You're furious with yourself , you have fucked up your whole life, and…
There is still a small, sick part of you that's glad you did it.
You don't admit to anyone, not even yourself, that you pretended it was your father whose face you smashed in.
It felt good.
But you are stuck in a shithole for the next three years, so it's not entirely worth it.
You are twenty five when you first come to Wentworth.
This time, it's a robbery.
It's way fuckin' scarier than Barnhurst, and you're not one to get easily scared.
There's something evil about this place. The walls have eyes, the closets have skeletons.
You make friends fast, you make enemies fast. That's something you've always been good at.
Friends like Liz, who lets you curl up and sob in her arms late at night.
Enemies like Jacs, who's had it in for you since the moment you got here.
One night, she corners you in the gym with her crew. There's a screwdriver in her hand, there is an evil smirk on her lips, and you know in that instant you are fucked.
"This is what happens to little girls who don't know their place," she croons, eyes going big and soft in mockery as she slides the screwdriver down your stomach.
That is when you realize Jacs isn't going to shiv you.
She's going to fucking rape you.
That's when you put up a fight- there is no way you will ever let that happen to you again. That is the promise you made to yourself at twelve years old in the bathroom of a funeral home, and you will never ever break it.
So you scream.
You scream, and in comes a large woman with greasy black hair who grabs Jacs by the back of her head and slams her down to the ground, then takes care of the rest of her crew with only a handful of punches.
You are shocked into silence as Jacs and her crew hobble away, and you stare at your savior with wide eyes.
She grins at you. "Looks like I saved your arse in there, eh?"
You nod. What the fuck?
She sticks out her hand. "I'm Boomer. And I really fuckin' hate Jacs."
You are thirty two when you arrive at True Path.
You've gotten your life on the straight and narrow. You just got off parole last month, you're back talking to Trav, you have a job, a place of your own, and…
Something is still missing.
You don't know what it is. This is the happiest you've ever been in years, even if you're not that happy, and...
There has to be more to life than this.
And there is.
Your salvation comes in the form of a cherub faced boy with sweet brown eyes and he is way too fuckin' young for you, and he's a he, you're a dyke, and…
Somehow, you fit together just right.
You are thirty five when you lose everything.
You are thirty eight when you take a razor to your wrists.