I cried a lot as a child. I couldn't help it; the pain was so great. But it was always silent, muffled by the pillow and the closed door. I didn't want Dad to hear. Mam wasn't so bad. She wouldn't hit me, at least, and Dad sometimes did. Usually it wasn't hard, and it didn't always leave a bruise. But it was the look on his face when he lashed out that cut me so deep.
But I didn't want them to know that they'd hurt me, because--with all the naivety of a child--I still believed that if I was hurting it would bring them pain, too. Later, when I was a little bit older, I realised how wrong I was. Oh, I had plenty of time for reflecting, later on. After all, I had nothing else to do.
One time, Dad really lost his temper. "Just go hang out with your imaginary voices, why don't you?" he yelled. "Just go and crawl into the corner and let them soothe you." His bitterness and sarcasm brought the tears to my eyes. I looked down at the floor. I always did that when I was scared or upset so they wouldn't see the look in my eyes.
"They tell me to leave." The words came out before I could stop them. I didn't know where they came from. "They say this place is dangerous. They say I'll be in trouble if I stay here."
"Didn't I tell you not to do that?" said Mam. "Oh, Michelle, don't anger him. Your father's a little unbalanced at the moment."
I half-expected Dad to shout at her, too, but he didn't. He just stopped. All the colour went out of his face and he stared at me for a long minute, then spoke the words that would change my whole future. "This has got to end. I can't cope with this."
I spoke again without really realising, my voice harsh unlike its usual soft timbre. "This place is too close. Constricting. Binding me in one location so I can't escape. I have to leave."
Dad's fist came towards me, and I don't really remember much else. When I came to, the decision had been made. I looked up with bleary, swollen eyes.
Mam's face looked down at me. "You can't stay here," she said.
It was a week after my ninth birthday.