*Warning: sexual assault content below*

I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I. HATE. HIM.

I hate the way he smirks at people, as if he owns them. I hate the way he laughs at other people’s pain. I hate the way he runs his hand through his hair and admires himself in any reflective surface, the narcissistic bastard. I hate the way he wraps an arm around Delaney’s waist. I hate the way he whispers lies into her ear. I hate the way she has no clue–that nobody has a clue–of what a horrible monster lies beneath the perfect grin and Abercrombie clothes. I hate the way he has everyone fooled, and how I used to be fooled myself.

I hate what he did to me. I hate the way he made me feel–the way he makes me feel to this day. I hate how around him my throat gets raw, my hands start to shake, and I shrink myself, hoping I’ll disappear. I hate how nobody has noticed, or maybe nobody cares. I hate how he’s noticed, and that he has a glint in his eye whenever he looks at me, reveling in the memory.

But what I hate the most is there no way for me to undo what he did. There’s no way for me to come back from it. There’s no way for me to feel whole again. And there’s no way for me to move forward.

Well…there is one way. An unthinkable way. A way which makes my knees weak and my stomach volatile and my head faint. A way I have been avoiding to acknowledge for a month and seventeen days. A way which is undoubtedly impossible.

I feel disgusted. I get off my bed and rip off my clothes, careful to avoid my naked reflection as I toss them in the hamper. The bruises have faded from that night, but the self-mutilation scars which came after have not. This body does not feel like it is mine anymore. It feels like it belongs to him.

The pads of my feet brush against cool tile as I walk into my bathroom and step into the tub. I turn the metal handle and water comes streaming out of the shower head. I hesitate, deciding whether to make it scalding hot or ice cold, and choose the latter. The water hits my skin and goosebumps form instantaneously. I pick up the bar of soap, and scrub myself, but it’s futile. I used to take three showers a day to get rid of the thin layer of slime I felt all over my skin. It didn’t help. I still feel it. But, now, I know it’s something I can’t ever get rid of, because it’s on the inside.

I slide against the wall and sink down to the floor of the tub, wrapping my arms around my legs and bringing my knees to my chest. I start to shiver from the freezing water beating on my legs, and take refuge in it. I can pretend I’m shaking from the cold and not from the fear, not due to the memory which has tainted me with a perpetually hoarse voice and the metallic taste of blood in my mouth.

I bite my lip as the images barrage me. Squeezing my eyes shut, I try to picture something–anything–else, but no matter what I do, the memory only becomes clearer.

I remember lying there on the rough blanket in shock, staring at the popcorn ceiling. I remember my body feeling numb, almost reverberating at some unfamiliar frequency. I remember the sound of him pulling up his zipper, and the threat that followed, “If you tell anyone, I’ll make this seem like a walk in the park.” The first movement I made coming out of my trance was flinching as he slammed the door.

I would be crying now, from reliving it, except I have no more tears to shed. I am all shriveled up, like a prune left out in the sun. I hoped I’d be over it by now. I’ve tried to forget it, to shove the experience in the bottom drawer of my brain, under memories of walking in on my parents, or throwing up on the principal’s shoes at the fourth grade recital. Those memories are easy to keep at bay, only flitting across my mind once a year or so.

But he refuses to be forgotten. Every movement I make aches of him. His name slithers into every conversation; his face appears out of nowhere. Even in my sleep, there is no escape. I am being held prisoner by my own body.

But nobody has suspected a thing, because I haven’t let them. Because I am too afraid of what he would do if someone found out. But, also, because I am afraid of what people will think, once they know the truth. I know he would twist my words, making it seem like I was the one who wanted to hurt Delaney, like I was the one who wouldn’t stop pestering him. He would claim to be the victim, the one who was forced against his will.

And everyone would believe him, because they’d have no reason not to. They would call me a slut and say I had it coming. Delaney would never talk to me again. Nobody would ever talk to me again. My parents wouldn’t be able to look me in the eye after learning what happened. This way, it’s only me who hurts. And although it’s a perpetual and inescapable burden which grows slightly heavier every day, I’d rather bear it than divide it among my loved ones.

My gaze lingers on the spare razor blade resting on the edge of the tub. All it would take is two simple swipes, and the burden would disappear. But the pain I would cause from this is tenfold what would come from telling somebody, and I know I’m not strong enough to stomach either solution.  

My life has become a dreary, exhausting game of pretend that I am constantly floundering in. I wake up in the morning and choke down my breakfast, forcibly nodding through small talk with my parents. I take the bus to school, sit in the back of all my classes, trying to force myself to pay attention. The first week after it happened, I feigned I had the stomach flu, and, in my condition, I was quite believable. After that lapsed, I started cut class, but found out it was safer for me to go to school rather than be alone with my thoughts. I eat lunch with my friends, and try to pretend everything is normal while staying as far away from him as possible–and consistently fail to, due to his malicious perversity.

My friends suspected something at first. They kept pestering me with obligatory questions like “Are you alright?” and reassuring statements of “You can always come to us.” Then they just started to ignore me, and I became a wallflower–a presence who barely mattered, but is necessary to confirm everything is okay.

It became a routine, to go to school and keep my head down, come home and wallow in my misery, drifting deeper and deeper into depression. I started to wear baggier clothing, and no make-up. I tried carving apologies into my skin. I tried prayer, which usually ended with me convinced I was a sinner and with lung-racking sobs. I tried everything to no avail. So, now, I try nothing at all.

“I can’t go on like this,” I whisper to myself, brushing my lips with my fingertips to confirm I am the one speaking. I surprise myself. I thought I had entered a bitter state of acceptance about how this would be my life.

This isn’t living, my mind continues. It’s not even dying; it’s some horrible limbo in between the two. I have to do something. I have to move forward. My heart sinks to my stomach and my hands shake in fear.

“She’ll hate me,” I whisper to myself.

No more than you hate yourself, my inner demons whisper back. You have nothing to lose because you are nothing.

I stand up in a frenzy, almost slipping in the tub, and turn off the water immediately. I towel off and race to throw on some clothes. My uncertain spouts of determination only last so long, and I am going to ride this wave to the shore. I am going to try again. And I am going to succeed.

***

Delaney opens the door and the first thing I notice is her red lipstick. Then I take in the extravagant eye-liner and her hair slicked back into a high ponytail. She wears a black crop top and white high-waisted shorts.

“Oh, hey,” she greets uncomfortably. Then she smiles sheepishly. “Sorry, I thought you were David.”

I flinch noticeably at his name. “Do you think we could talk?”

Her face lights up like a lighthouse at the thought I am no longer playing hermit. But then she falters. “David’s going to be here pretty soon…how long is it going to take?”

I hesitate. “You know what, it doesn’t mat–”

“No, of course it matters,” she interrupts me. She opens the door to let me in, but then a honk sounds behind me. I turn around and see David getting out of his Dad’s Porsche.

I catch her girlish grin as he approaches the door frame, but then one glance at me and a look of pain is written on her face. She is torn, but David acts as a magnet and attracts her attention towards him. He wears a blue button up shirt and his brown hair is slicked back. His cologne is overwhelming, and I fight the urge to gag. He is the poster boy of America, and nobody believes it is possible for him to do wrong. Yet, it is all he aims to do.

“Hey, you,” David greets slyly. At first I think he is talking to Delaney, but when I sneak a look at him, I see his eyes are locked on me. I can’t bear to look at his face. I try to keep it blurry and out of focus.

“Hey, baby,” Delaney grins as she launches herself at him, right past me. He wraps her in a tight bear hug, nibbling at her ear.

I stand there awkwardly, ready to walk away, when Delaney’s face emerges and she looks me in the eye. “Are you sure it can wait?”

I open my mouth to beg her to stay with me, to not go out, but instead I glue my lips together. I can see in her eyes she’s begging me to speak the answer she wants to hear. Besides, he would be suspicious. He would stay if Delaney chose to, just to ensure I didn’t spill his dirty little secret. There was no point in asking her to stay.

“No, it’s fine. Have fun.” My voice is hollow and sounds as if it is someone else’s.

“Are you sure you don’t need a ride?” David offers with a smirk, and I get the urge to slash his tires.

“No, I like walking,” I reply quietly, and head down the sidewalk. They trail some paces behind me, and I hear Delaney giggle as David opens the car door for her. Only a few steps later, David’s engine roars to life and he honks as he races past me.

I don’t want to go home. To go home is to retreat, to admit defeat. But there really isn’t anywhere else for me to go. I only feel comfortable showing up at Delaney’s unannounced. Besides, it’s a Friday night, everyone else will be out having fun. I don’t have any money, or a car. I really have nothing except for her.

***

Look for the ending next week!

Edited by Sabrina Loftus

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