Victoria Neumark on what it's like to be... unloved
Sometimes you just want to hit someone, to hit them and take something away from them. You've never had anything you can call your own that someone else didn't muck up and steal - your brothers or your dad in a rage, or even your mum once when she sold the christening mug your gran gave you because she was behind with the rent. So yeah, I did take John's pen, so what? I don't care and I'd do it again. You can't stop me, can you? Can you stop me? Can you give me a reason to stop?
That's Mick. Here's Kari.
Well, you go in a shop and you look around and they can't see you and you, quick, like shuffle it into your sleeve and walk to the door, not too fast and then out, no one's behind you - yes, got away; yes, did it. Now I can have that sparkly nail varnish too. Next time I'll get the hairband, and course you can have some. I'm not afraid, me. You live with my mum, you wouldn't be afraid of nothing else neither. There's worse things than the filth catching you.
Then Mick and Kari meet up.
It's a club, and you feel all woozy and there's this girl and she looks real gentle and soft. Her hair all floats out and when you kiss her she tastes of blackcurrant 'cos she's been drinking blackcurrant Hooch and you go in the park. It was just the once, didn't really know it was happening, could it be happening so quick, there.
So then Kari is pregnant.
"Get out of here, you little bitch, you're no child of mine." That's her mum.
"Can't keep it to yourself, eh, you little p***k?" That's Mick's dad.
"How would you feel about adoption?" That's a social worker, tentatively.
"I just want a little baby to love," says Kari.
"I wouldn't do the same what my old man done to me," says Mick.
They have to wait for a place in a local authority home. It takes too long. Social workers keep coming round to Kari's home asking why she isn't in school. They ask Mick about Kari's bruises. He doesn't want to tell them. He's been on the non-accidental injury register so long: what's it ever done for him? And how come they don't know, anyway?
Mick's due up for sentencing on the robbery charges just about the time Kari is due to have the baby. They find Kari a place in a mother and baby home. Mick is sent to the other side of the country to a secure unit. He never hears about the baby till long after.
The baby comes too early. She (it was a girl) is too small. She doesn't live. And anyway, it is the crack Kari has been smoking, gives her terrible withdrawal symptoms. "Best thing, if you ask me," says Kari's mum.
So, Kari goes back to school. She is 14. She finds it hard to concentrate. But she can get you anything from Woolworth's.
She hasn't seen Mick. He's been telling everyone, all the hard, terrifying older kids in the secure unit: "I'm a dad, me."
Well, it's something. It's a reason to keep living. Or is it?