Outside my house, I hear a child crying and a man yelling. I write it off at first, thinking it’s someone else’s toddler having a tantrum. “Get in the car,” the man screams. In fact, in a few hours, I’m off to go pick up my own toddler. The commotion outside keeps going. Then it clicks, that’s not an infant crying, that’s a woman.
“Is everything okay?” I ask from my front step.
I eyeball the man. A tall spidery creature, he’s dragging a teenage girl by the legs on the muddy verge. Her white sandshoe comes off in his hand. He quickly realises someone is watching and drops her legs and the shoe.
“She’s mental,” he sneers. “Get in the car or you are going to RPA, you hear me.”
The girl curls up in a ball. “He hit me with my shoe,” she sobs. I talk him into letting her calm down a bit. She rolls out of the muddy grass patch and plonks herself on the gutter.
“See… she’s absolutely insane. See what she is doing?” he motions at her. I watch her sitting in the gutter. Such a teenage thing to do.
I grab her a chair from my verandah and put it on the footpath out near the verge. She sits on it, wiping her eyes. Her clothes are soaking wet too. It’s been raining for most of the morning. She’s wearing black and purple socks from Kmart, I own the exact same pair.
“If you don’t get in the car, I’m getting the cops,” her dad threatens.
I look at the ground and shake my head a bit, what a f__wit. I need to do something here. I need to buy her some time.
“That sounds like a good idea mate, maybe just go up the street and get them.” I point towards the police station located at the end of my street.
The threats roll on, but I manage to stay calm. The girls face is all crumpled with tears. Her name is Millie* and she’s 13. Eventually her dad huffs off in his car, toward to the police station. He should have walked, I tell her, he’ll never get a park. We both laugh.
It’s starting to rain, I ask her if she wants some dry clothes. But she refuses. “I’ve got ADHD,” she says.
“There is no excuse to drag a young woman by the legs on the ground,” I tell her.
She tells me about her best friends, they go to a different school now. Emotion creeps into my throat and I start to feel anxious. I remember when I got smacked on the head with an encyclopedia and left home at 17. I was so lonely. Millie’s so lonely.
I ask her if her mum can help. Nah, she says, no one wants me. “I’m sorry it’s all so shit honey,” I say. “In 250 weeks you will be old enough to get a job and have a nice life of your own, away from your parents.” We both laugh again. “I love metal and rock bands,” she tells me, and her face lights up. She’s already seen about ten bands at all-ages gigs. One of the bands is on the black hoodie she’s wearing. I’ve never even heard of them.
Her dad is back, and it’s raining hard now. He gets his rain jacket out of his car and puts it on. Millie and me just stay put in the rain, getting soaked, and then it dawns on me that I have umbrellas inside and I go and get them. We wait awkwardly while her dad calls the cops multiple times to ask them why they aren’t coming down, eventually they do.
“These cops look like really nice people,” I say to Millie as we watch them walk towards us in the rain. The female has a gentle smile and the male looks like dad-of-the-year. I leave Millie with them, as they take her back up to the station for a chat without her dad. I take the chair and the brollies inside and then I burst into tears.
Kids Helpline is a free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25. Phone 1800 55 1800 or https://kidshelpline.com.au
*Not her actual name.