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“You know, it’s really your fault that all of this happened.”
“The reason this happened is because you dress like a slut.”
“All you can do is blame yourself.”
“If you weren’t such a tease, he wouldn’t have had the thought to do anything.”
These are the whispers that follow me as I walk down the halls of my high school on Monday morning. I hitch my backpack high up on my shoulder and duck my head, allowing my long, caramel hair to act as a curtain between me of my classmates. The steps I take seem to grow heavier as I make my way to my locker. Time stretches from seconds to minutes to hours, it feels like.
“Breathe,” I murmur to myself. When I find myself at my locker, the tears that were pricking the back of my eyes begin to spill over onto my cheeks. Someone had beaten me to my locker this morning and spray painted the word ‘whore’ across the metal. Sighing, I spin the lock and open the tainted door. I begin to switch out books from my backpack with ones that crowded the insides of my locker.
“Well, well, well, what do we have here?” My locker door slams shut and I find myself face to face with him. I swallow hard and refuse to meet his amused eyes. He laughs and I feel my knees go weak (and not in the good way either). My stomach turns as he reaches out to tuck a stray piece of hair behind my ear.
“Please, don’t,” I whisper, squeezing my eyes shut. I just want all of this to go away. He roughly grabs my chin and forces me to look at him. I sweep my terrified gaze over his eyes that I once found so mesmerizing and across the sadistic smirk he wears on his lips.
“I thought we had a good time on Saturday,” he chuckles. “I know I did.”
“You can’t be near me,” I try to say a bit louder this time. I notice the empty hall and realize I have no one to help me. Again, he laughs in my face.
“Oh darling, you have nothing against me. Nothing at all,” he spits back at me. He lets go of my chin and straightens. I rub a hand against my jaw, wincing at the sudden rush of blood under my skin. I’ll have another bruise by this afternoon. Great, another one to match the ones on my chest and waist
He gives me one last smirk before turning to walk back down the hall. I lean against the wall of lockers for support. I soon find myself sliding to the floor. I take in deep breaths, trying to calm my racing heart. I let my head hit against the lockers and closing my eyes, I allow the memories to override my head.
“Come on, drink up!” A red cup is pushed into my hands and I automatically gag from the smell coming from it. Taking a small sip, I wince at the burning liquid runs down my throat.
I have no idea why I’m at this party. I don’t belong. My best friends dragged me along saying I needed to experience at least one high school party before heading off to college next fall. In order to get them to shut up, I agreed to come.
And now, I’m standing alone in a living room full of drunk high schoolers wearing clothes that aren’t mine and drinking a cup full of something that smells and tastes like gasoline.
I tug, once again, on the short jean skirt I was wearing, trying to make it look like it actually covered parts of my body. I can’t do much to the tank I was wearing, as it cut off inches above my navel, showing off a strip of my stomach. My friends told me I looked hot, but I just felt uncomfortable and over-exposed. I never understood why it was cool to dress like this.
“Well, aren’t you a pretty one,” a voice mutters into my ear. I turn around and find myself locking gazes with one of the most attractive guys I’ve ever seen. He had liquid hazel eyes framed by thick lashes, a sharp jaw and full lips that were begging to be kissed. I blink and let a small smile grace my lips. He staggers back, placing a hand over his heart. “Well, good lord, you’re even more gorgeous with a smile.”
“Are you this smooth with all the girls?” I ask, allowing sarcasm to drip into my tone. The guy chuckles and I find my stomach filling with butterflies.
“Feisty. I like that. Can I get you a drink?” He grins. I hold up my still-full cup.
“I think I’m good,” I reply. He shakes his head, a grimace on those beautiful lips.
“No, no. You have that god-awful radiator fluid. Let me get you a real drink.” He takes the cup from my hands and disappears into the crowd. I frown and cross my arms over my chest.
Within minutes, he returns with another cup and hands it to me. I take a hesitant sip and am surprised to find a sweet syrup running down my throat. He laughs at what I suppose is my surprised reaction to the drink.
“Good right?” he asks. I nod and he allows another full-blown smile to grace his lips. “So why haven’t I seen you around before? Are you a freshman or something?”
“Uh, no. I’m a senior. Just like you,” I respond, taking another long sip of my new drink.
“How do you know I’m a senior?” he questions, a surprised look on his face. I giggle at his expression--since when am I a giggler?--and shake my head.
“You’re captain of the basketball team and senior class president. It’s not that hard to figure out,” I say. He gives me an amused smirk. I down the rest of my drink and frown when I find myself with a dry mouth. “That’s weird. I shouldn’t feel this thirsty.”
“Here, I’ll go get you some water,” he says quickly, reaching for my cup. I nod slowly, my head suddenly weighing down the rest of my body.
I watch dizzily as he disappears back into the growing mass of party-goers. I try to follow him and stop as soon as the room starts spinning. I blink rapidly, trying to clear my vision. I take another step and stumble, falling to the ground. A hand reaches out and helps me back up.
“You don’t look so good,” he says, handing me another full cup. I take a sip and grimace at the sickly sweet taste.
“I thought you were going to get water,” I accuse him, shoving the cup back towards him. He frowns.
“They didn’t have any. This is soda. It’s the next best thing that was in that kitchen,” he answers. “But you really need to lay down. Let’s go upstairs and find you a bed, okay?”
I was too out of it to refuse, so I just nodded and let him wrap his arms around me, leading me up the stairs. I close my eyes and try to stop the world from spinning on its axis. I vaguely recognize him leading me down a hall and into a dark room. He closes the door behind us and I feel along the walls until I reach the bed. I sink down onto it and sigh at the softness of the mattress. He sits next to me, placing a hand on my bare knee.
“You’re so beautiful,” he murmurs, leaning in towards me. I feel his lips at the base of my throat and I begin to push him away from me.
“No, I can’t,” I mutter, straining to keep him at a distance. The hand on my leg tightens and my breath in shallow gasps.
This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. I scream to myself.
“Come on, baby. You know you want this,” he whispers raggedly. He pushes me onto my back and looms over me. I realize that I am unable to knock him off nor am I able to escape. Everything starts to get blurry around the edges as I continue to fight back.
The last thing I hear before passing out is the sound of a zipper.
Several hours later, I awake in the driver’s seat of my car. My head pounds as I lift it from the steering wheel. I look around and find myself in the empty parking lot of the strip mall on the outskirts of town. The lights are disorienting and make my head hurt even more than it did when I woke up.
How did I get here? The last thing I remember is getting ready for the party. I look around for my purse and keys and find them sitting in my passenger seat. I don’t remember putting them there. I always put my purse in the backseat and my keys in the center console. I sit up and find my shoulders and back screaming in protest. My hamstrings feel tight and my chest and stomach are sore. I feel as if someone had beaten me up.
There’s no way I can drive home. My head pounds again, reminding me of my serious headache. I immediately reach for my phone in my purse. I pull it out and dial my dad’s cell.
“Hey honey, how’s the sleepover going?” he asks when he picks up. I frown in confusion.
“Sleepover? What sleepover?”
“Ha. Funny, sweetie,” he replies.
Panic begins to take over. “Daddy, I don’t feel so great. I think I passed out in my car and I can’t drive home. Can you come pick me up?” Tears begin to spill over onto my cheeks and I attempt to choke back the sobs.
“Okay, honey. Where are you?” I can already picture him rushing to get dressed to come get me.
“I’m at that strip mall on the outskirts on town. You know, the one with the weird hispanic grocery store?”
“Lock your doors. I’ll be there in a few,” he replies.
I hang up and lean back against the seat. What sleepover is he talking about? I attempt to flip back through my memories of the night. I remember getting ready for the party tonight with my friends. I remember being told that I needed to go to this party and loosen up. But after that, nothing. I don’t even remember leaving the house for the party.
I flip down the mirror from my roof and turn on the lights in my car. Black circles line my eyes and my make-up is smeared. My hair is in tangles and there is a bruise in the shape of a hand forming on my neck. I lean in to take a closer look and pain shoots up my sides. I look down, pulling my shirt away from my body. I gag at the sight of the multitude of large bruises blooming onto my chest and stomach. I put the mirror away and turn off the lights, unable to look anymore.
My dad pulls up and I unlock the door for him. In that instant, I feel like I’m six years old again, coming to him with scrapes and bruises from an awful bike crash into a tree. I blink back tears and look up into his terrified eyes.
I let the sobs rack my body then. Someone hurt me. That’s all I could figure out at the moment.
My dad pulls me softly from my seat and that’s when I notice the dull ache between my legs.
“Daddy,” I sob, clinging to his shirt. I bury my face in his shoulder and let my tears fall.
“Sweetheart, it’ll be okay,” he whispers, stroking my back. My sobs come harder as he holds me. He rocks me gently and I try to catch my breath.
“I...I n-need to g-go to the h-h-hospital,” I whisper raggedly into his shoulder.
At that moment, I feel my father’s sobs, feel the shudders of his chest, because he immediately knows what I mean, but he doesn’t want it to be true.
The tears cling to my cheeks as I look at myself in the bathroom mirror. I take in a ragged breath and lift my shirt. The hand-shaped bruises are inked into my skin, a map a brutal assault.
My hands shake as I reach into my backpack. I pull out the box of razor blades I had stashed there earlier that morning while my dad made breakfast. I take one out and study the sharp edge. I run my finger along it, wincing once at the pain that shoots up my hand.
I sigh, oddly relieved at the physical pain that takes away from the emotional pain. My grip tightens its hold on the blade and I take in shallow breaths. In a quick movement, I slide it along my arm. The pain causes me to drop the blade in the sink, splattering it with sticky, red drops of blood. I grip the sink and tighten my jaw. Blood spills from my arm into the sink and I find freedom in the sight.
Maybe this will get rid of the pain and emptiness I feel inside...maybe now I won’t feel so weighed down....maybe...just maybe, this can make everything go away for good...