A short story I wrote in my final year of high school, based on my memories from the worst time of my life. It’s a very personal, abhorrent piece; click with caution.
This is a piece I wrote in year 12 as the mid-year Chemistry exam closed in.
All of Jennifer’s flashbacks in the bathroom are my memories. So is the scene she described, telling Grace how she told her mother. They are the only ones I still have; the only reason I know it went for two years is because that is what he confessed after I dobbed him in. The names in the story are not the same as their real-life counterparts.
As a side note, Jack is based on the guy I had a crush on at the time, who I have now been dating for the past three years. His love and support have helped me so much in dealing with all of this. In recent months, the posts of the pages I follow on Facebook has also given me the courage to transcribe this for public consumption.
I’ve left the piece largely unedited, so it reads as it was written when I wrote it. So sit back, and… enjoy?
Trigger warning: Descriptions of sexual abuse and discussions of rape.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Jen?”
I rolled my eyes. “Of course I’m sure, I’m not going to leave him in the shopping centre all alone!” I turned back to the mirror and put up my hair.
I could see Jack watching me silently in the mirror, looking concerned. “Hey, I know that I don’t know what’ll happen, but I think it’ll be fun, and the birth of a wonderful friendship. And I asked you along in case I’m wrong.”
Jack relaxed a little. “Just as long as you understand that. How long have you two been chatting, anyway?”
“Uhh… About eight months now. He’s Australian born but works in the US, he’s down for his brother’s wedding.” We left the bathroom and entered the kitchen. I grabbed and pocketed my wallet, slapping my pocket to check that my phone was still there. It was. Jack threw me my keys. “Are we ready to go?”
“Yeah…” Jack followed me out to the car. I started it up, pulled out and started heading down to the shopping centre. Jack glanced at me. “Nervous?”
“Yeah, little bit.” I eased back into my seat, taking a deep breath. “I think it’ll be alright though. Hope so, anyway.”
“Are you sure you wanna do this, Jen? We could still turn around and go home…”
We came to a red light. I shook myself. “Yeah man, he’s a totally nice guy. I can’t back out, and I don’t particularly want to either. We’ll see how it goes, eh?” The turned green and I kept driving.
“I guess… I dunno. I’ve just got a bad feeling about it all.”
Butterflies erupted in my stomach. “Don’t say that!! Now I’m nervous as hell.” We turned into the car park and managed to zip into a fresh space. “C’mon, let’s go inside.” We walked through the double doors together.
I paused. “So…” I glanced at Jack. He nodded.
“I’ll see you there.” He walked in ahead of me.
I wandered into the lolly shop, not really noticing anything. Relax Jen, he’s cool. After about ten minutes, I left and made my way over to the cafe in front of Target, feeling considerably more relaxed. I saw Grace sitting with Jack, engrossed in conversation. She glanced at me as I took a seat on the other side of the cafe. I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes, taking deep breaths, Chill, Jen.
I heard the chair opposite me slide across the floor and opened my eyes to greet my pen pal. The bottom of my stomach dropped; my heart pounded in my chest. I froze as the man introduced himself.
“The name’s Victor. Victor Theorzai.” He sat down with a smile. “You’re Raik?” He extended a hand.
I snapped out of my panic. I swallowed, forced a smile and nodded. I gripped his hand firmly and replied: “Jennifer. Jennifer Milton.”
The response was immediate. He let go of my hand and turned away, and I was shocked to see his face screwed up – in was it pain?
He abruptly got out of his chair and wandered to the counter; Jack shot me an enquiring look. I hung my head and folded my arms, watching Victor as he did an about face and sat back down in front of me.
“Jennifer, I -” He stopped himself, looking confused. He drummed his fingers on the table, fidgeting in his chair. I couldn’t help but stare; this was not how I had envisioned our meeting at all.
I tried to speak, but could not even find the strength to open my mouth. So I remained silent, watching the agitated man as he shifted in his chair as though he were sitting atop a bed of spikes.
I found my voice. “You going to say something or what?” I tapped my elbow with my forefinger, tense, eyes narrowed and watching him.
His eyes flitted up to meet mine; his restless movements slowed, his hands relaxing on the table between us. He leaned forward, lightly picking up my hand. His hesitating eyes met my gaze properly and he spoke in a strained voice.
“Jennifer,” he began, “I’m sorry.” He let go of me and leaned back in his chair. I maintained my silence. “I don’t know what my actions put you through -”
“Years,” I cut in coldly, silencing him, “of shit. Almost twenty years, Victor. That’s two decades. Two decades!” My anger rose with my voice. “You’re right, you’ve got no fucking clue what I’ve felt through all this time.”
“Jen, please, keep your voice down…”
“Don’t ‘keep your voice down’ me, Victor!” The surrounding people swivelled in their seats to stare at us; I watched out of the corner of my eye as Jack rose from his chair. Grace placed a hand on his arm, shaking her head. Jack reluctantly sat back down. “Don’t you come here and tell me what to do after you fucked my life over -”
“That was the old me!” he cried. “Tell me, Jennifer, what do I need to do so you’ll forgive me?”
My panting slowed as I seriously considered his question. What can he do? “Nobody is above redemption…” I muttered.
“So… what if… I let you hit me?”
I smiled. “In the face. And it won’t be soft.”
“Alright -” He cried out in pain as his chair rocked backwards and on to the floor. I flexed my fingers, cocking my head to one side as Jack and Grace rushed to my side. “Ah, excellent!” I exclaimed as the waitress hurried over. “Do you have any tissues?”
“But… Did you just…”
“It’s alright,” came a thick voice from the floor, “I said she could.” The woman hesitated before scurrying off to the counter.
I helped Victor to his feet. He was clutching his nose; it was bleeding badly. He managed a bloody smile. “Victor, these are my mates, Grace and Jack. Guys, this is Victor Theorzai.”
Another cry of pain rent the air just as the waitress returned with a box of tissues; the poor woman looked close to tears when she saw Victor sprawled on the ground again.
Jack stepped forward, but I grabbed a handful of his shirt and pulled. He held back, glaring at Victor as he got to his feet. Victor eyed Grace warily.
“Don’t think I’m not considering it,” she threatened. I smiled.
Victor turned to me. “Did that make you feel any better?”
“Yeah, loads. Considering I’ve wanted to do it for years.” I glanced at the clock up on the wall behind us. “I think we’re done here. It was good seeing you again, Victor. Surprisingly.”
He opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it and nodded. “Yeah, you too… Jennifer. Goodbye.”
I turned and left with Grace and Jack in tow. I charged through the double doors and into the carpark, glancing behind me as I approached the car. I unlocked the car and tossed Jack the keys, scrambling into the passenger seat. When Grace opened the back door, I asked, “Where’s your car?”
“Getting repaired. I caught the bus in,” she explained, shutting the door behind her. “I just came for some shopping. It can wait.”
I didn’t reply. I merely glared straight ahead.
When we arrived at home, I left the car and headed inside. I grabbed my MP3 player and pulled off my shirt as I walked into the backyard. I tossed my top to the ground, and, putting one of my favourite songs on, began to sing along as I felt, letting loose a barrage of kicks on my punching bag.
“I’ll pick you up,” I hissed scathingly, “won’t let you fall. I’ll build your trust, and it won’t hurt at all!” I skipped the next line and continuing to the following, more relevant one, I roared, “I’m through now, so take me, and blow me away!!”
I swapped from kicks to punches. “WHEN I feel numb, I’ll let you know. I won’t become what I was before. You cannot kill, what’s not your creation. This-” I emphasised the word, “is the art of breaking!”
“I think I might just lose my mind, if I have to watch just one more time. I can’t explain how many times I’ve, stayed for you when you were on my mind.” My movements slowed; I gave the bag one final punch and leaned into it. “No one ever said that it was easy…” I muttered.
Grace edged behind me, slipping her arms around my waist and leaning her head on my shoulder. When the music picked up, she murmured along with it; “I’ll pick you up, won’t let you fall. Jennifer.” I looked up and met her gaze. “It’s through now,” she sung softly. I placed my hand over hers and sighed. “Jack’s left,” Grace said softly, “and won’t be back until tomorrow. We have the house to ourselves.”
I nodded shortly and leaned back into her; she tightened her arms around my waist. I snapped out of my reverie and cried, “Are you gonna run away, and leave me!?”
“No way, Jen.” She gave me a squeeze.
I turned around and pulled her into a proper hug. “I know you wouldn’t, it’s just a great line.” She let go of me and we went back inside.
Showered and fully clothed, I spent the rest of the day winding down with Grace. A few hours into the night, we agreed to call it a day. I rummaged through my clothes and tossed a couple at Grace. “I’m assuming you don’t have any pyjamas.”
She stuck her tongue out at me. “No, thanks Jen.” She left. I changed and slid into bed, putting my arms behind my head and staring at the roof.
Grace reentered the room and jumped in beside me, hitting the lights. She reached for me in the darkness and gripped my hand tightly. “Sleep well, Jen.”
“I will. You too, Grace.”
I snapped awake and vaulted over the end of the bed. I dashed into the bathroom and began dry retching over the sink, clutching the edges of it so hard my knuckles were white.
I leaned my head on the marble before me, gritting my teeth as tears flooded my face to match the stream of memories in my mind.
I could hear Grace’s packing voice beside me, calling my name repeatedly. But she was blotted out by a soft “Shh”; the image of a boy in his early teens putting a finger to his lips for silence. His brother in front of us, unaware, happily playing NBA on the SNES. Unaware of his older brother’s hand in my underwear, feeling, roaming, exploring…
A shift. His brother gone inside to get us a drink, we in the makeshift cubby house; just a quick one, he’d urged. Some minutes of torture before the brother was back; he hadn’t seen a thing, we were done before then.
We were on his bed; his father due home late and his mother having taken his brother to swimming. Naked from the waist down; penetration. All the while, glancing out the window, hoping, praying, that the neighbours would not look over the fence, through the window, lest we get caught and I get into trouble… The final straw.
“JENNIFER!” I retched again, this time some fluid dripping into the sink. My body gave one final shudder, and stopped. I closed my mouth, my breathing beginning to even out. Grace began slowly rubbing my bare back. I wiped my lips clean with the face washer she passed me and threw it on to the tabletop, leaning forwards and breathing heavily.
Grace wrapped her arms around my waist and rested her head on my shoulder. We stayed like that for a little while; I stared into the sink. I suddenly shook her off and slumped against the wall, my heart twisting itself into knots in my chest. My eyes screwed shut; all I wanted to do was to give words to my feelings.
A song started playing in my head; the lyrics kicked in and I began to speak.
“I can’t erase it anymore, it follows me everywhere I go, it’s like a mask that I don’t want to wear anymore.” Grace slid down beside me, watching. “I think I’ve found a way to let it go, but it’s still too soon to know for sure, I’d give everything I am to just feel somethin’.” I whispered, “Can you feel that?”
I looked to the roof and yelled for all to hear: “Scream! When the pressure breaks me, when it’s too hard to see, when I feel like I’m, at the end of my rope, one more time. Scream! When the fire burns me, when it’s hard to break free, when I feel like I’m, standin’ on the edge of it all this time.”
Grace moved closer, silently placing her hand on my knee. I closed my eyes and spoke again.
“I can’t suppress it anymore, here it comes like a flood just like before, when it rains it pours and I don’t want to swim anymore.” I emphasised that final word, searching the wall for some sort of comfort. “I think I’ve found a way to let it go, I don’t know, I’ve never felt this way before.” I started shivering again, and choked out the next sentence. “But with everything I am, I just let go.” I again whispered, “Can you feel that?”
I opened my mouth to shout the chorus, but found that I couldn’t. I swallowed and fixed my gaze to the floor,
Grace slid up against me, putting an arm about my shoulders. She picked up my hand and placed it on my knee, putting her own hand on top. She sung softly; “I know how hard it is to feel like you’re alone. We’ve all been given a second chance, but the choice is all our own.”
I added my voice to hers as we cried, “Scream! When the pressure breaks me, when it’s too hard to see, when I feel like I’m, at the end of my rope, one more time. Scream! When the fire burns me, when it’s hard to break free, when I feel like I’m standin’ on the edge of it all this time!”
We stopped singing simultaneously, slowly allowing the din to die down. I closed my eyes and hugged Grace about her midriff, my head on her shoulder. I was still trembling; I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth, trying to fight it. Damn it, what is wrong with me!?
Grace spoke softly. “At the cafe today… That was him, wasn’t it? The one who raped you.”
I nodded, staring at the floor. “I don’t understand… why it affects me so much. I don’t even remember most of it, only a few of the times…” I coughed and shuddered.
“But it’s still traumatic,” Grace said gently. “Your mind probably suppressed most of the memories so you wouldn’t have to deal with them.”
“But… I know in my head that I’m fine, I know it won’t happen to me again and I know I’m safe from him and that most people don’t think or act like that…”
“Still,” Grace asserted, “that doesn’t take away from the violation; he took away your sense of security and safety. It went on for a whole two years, didn’t it?”
“Yeah. He was the son of a close family friend. Five years older than me. Jesus, Grace, you realise that made him twelve, thirteen, fourteen? Years six to eight! That’s fucked up man, absofuckinglutely fucked up.”
“Did you live close to him…?”
“No,” I said quickly, “Not when it started, anyway. We moved closer later on, though.” My shaking had slowed somewhat; still the occasional tremor wracked my body. I hadn’t let go of my lifeline, the only one thing keeping me sane. My grip on Grace’s hand tightened.
“You told, Jennifer.” I met Grace’s gaze. “You were nine, and you told your mother. Even grown women don’t have the courage or the strength to do that. And it may come back sometimes, but you’ve got us to talk to when it does.” She smiled, and I smiled weakly back.
Grace stood, offering me a hand. I took it, and she pulled me up. “Shall we go back to bed?” she suggested. I nodded and followed her back to my room.
I wasn’t even paying attention anymore; not now, not since I’ve decided to tell. I swallowed and got out of my chair. I entered the kitchen. Mum was humming; chop chop chop went the carrots. 17:32. I stared at the book on the table; I spoke.
“Yes, Jennifer?” She glanced at me. “Is something wrong…?”
My fingers skimmed the cover of the book. One of the maths ones Mum and Dad had bought for me. “Victor’s been having sex with me.”
The knife clattered on to the bench. Mum turned around, staring at me.
“I- what- how do you even know what that is!?” she spluttered.
I shrugged and turned away. She sat me down and a phone call later had a confession and an apology. I was quizzed on what exactly what had taken place; I reluctantly explained.
I abruptly sat up and leaned forwards, panting heavily. Grace stirred beside me as I placed my head between my knees; I leaned back and exhaled deeply.
“I’m good. I’m here.”
She placed a hand on my shoulder; I shivered. “I’m good, Grace. I just… had a dream.”
Her hand rested on my waist. “About what?”
“When I told my Mum. About it.” She slid up beside me and leaned on me. “When I was a kid.”
Her cheek pressed into my arm. “Do you realise how strong that makes you, Jen? You told her when you were nine. Nine – even grown women, in their twenties, thirties, forties – some even die without telling anyone, because they were too afraid or ashamed to do so.” She looked up at me. “And I’m sure you’re much stronger now than you were when you were nine.”
A smile flitted across my face. “Thank you, Grace. I… Thank you.” I gently shrugged her off and lay back down; Grace followed suit. She gripped my hand again and after a moment’s hesitation, I sidled up to her. She responded by placing her arm around me. In this relaxed state, I drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I’m not saying you have to forgive people who harm others in the way Victor did Jennifer. Jen chose to because she, like me, has an excellent network of friends and family who are always happy to listen to her when she gets upset about it all. She was able to move on with her life, and as such, could choose to feel compassion for Victor. Few people are able to do that, and I understand that. Again, like me, Jen believes that hate is a poison, and that NO ONE is worth harbouring a grudge against; it is far better to forgive and to move on.