Once upon a time there was a girl.
She grew up on a farm in the country. She was the youngest of four children who were all much older. She has almost no memory of all six of them living in that white weatherboard house with a blue tin roof. Perhaps she should, because she remembers other things that occurred in the same time frame, but she does not. She vividly remembers going to kindergarten. She remembers her first day at school and yet she cannot remember the simple act of six people sitting around a dinner table eating roast lamb.
What she does have memory of is fear. Dark days. Violence. Being picked up and thrown as Queen's 'Another One Bites The Dust' is hummed. Watching as a dog mauls a cockatoo to death in her backyard. There are other events too, but the details are hard to recall. Perhaps that is a good thing?
She does remember living in a house of three. Mostly happy days spent playing with her cousins and friends. Working on the farm with her Dad. Making cubby houses, riding bikes and wishing for a horse that never arrived. She cherished weekends with her sister where her hair was braided and she made cupcakes in the kitchen of a ramshackle cottage on a hill.
As the girl grew into a woman, the dark days returned. She was alone in the white weatherboard house with a blue tin roof, but he turned up and interrupted her day with shouting and hitting and breaking and threats. She wishes those days hadn't happened, or at the very least she wishes she could forget them. But she can't. They swirl around her, reaching out and piercing her soul. Made so much worse by the refusal of acknowledgement from those that matter most, the ones who should protect her.
Eventually, the woman is forced to move away from the white weatherboard house with the blue tin roof. Away from the shouting and hitting and breaking and threats. She rents a little flat and spends a LOT of time at the pub. She gets a crappy job and there she meets a man.
There are happy days at the start, lots of happy days. But soon the days again turn dark. It happens rarely at first, the shouting and hitting and breaking and threats, but soon becomes part of her normal day. She learns to live with it, after all, she has before, hasn't she? She thinks about running away, but she is stubborn. So stubborn. The thought of admitting to everyone that she was wrong, that she IS wrong is more terrifying than the abuse. What if she is not believed this time? So she stays. For almost four years she stays.
Then comes a birthday. She does not behave in the manner expected of her and he turns, like he has so many times before. Lots of shouting. Lots of threats. Lots of breaking and even some burning. To this day the woman is not sure what exactly happened, but something within her changed and she walked out the door. It was not easy, there were more threats, some empty promises and a lot more shouting. Eventually there was a court appearance, one of the hardest days of her life. But now it was over. Or was it?
The woman moved back into the white weatherboard house with a blue tin roof for a while. Life continued on. There wasn't any shouting or hitting or breaking. The threats had always remained though, always in the background of any encounter. She moved out of that house to the city and tried to work out where she fit into the world.
Many years later, she met the most wonderful man and fell in love. He felt the same way and they started to make plans for a wedding. She's not sure how it happened, but all the dark days that she had barely even thought about for years suddenly crept up on her. She had a breakdown. She started to doubt everything about herself. She was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Luckily, she sought help and underwent therapy and took medication. Life went almost back to normal.
The woman became a wife. She promised to love and be loved, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer. It was the best day of her life. She went on amazing honeymoon to Europe. Her husband bought her a cat. Life was perfect.
By now, the farm and the white weatherboard house with the blue tin roof was owned by someone else. No trace of her family remained there. They all had their own families, in their own houses. Her parents lived in the town now and it was there that the wife and her husband went to live while they built their own house. They day after they moved in, the girl's dad was diagnosed with cancer. Trips to doctors in the city began. Operations were planned. The prognosis was good. The cancer was removed and chemotherapy began.
Her Dad had a reaction to the chemotherapy. A bad reaction. Barely any platelets. Doctors not sure what to do. Two days after Christmas he was sitting up having some toast one minute and was gone the next.
The girl's world fell apart.
Arrangements had to be made. Music selected. Flowers chosen. So many decisions. So many different points of view in a family of so many. Nowhere to run to, she was living in the middle of it all. Two days before the funeral it all came to a head. Lots of shouting. Almost some hitting.
Even though it was no-one's fault, the girl got the blame.
She went back into therapy, back on the happy pills and is again trying to work out where she fits in the world. Most days now she can see the sun shining through the dark clouds and life is getting better.
Once upon a time there was a girl. Let's call her Jo.