His silhouette got smaller and smaller as he got farther and farther away. She was on her own. She prayed that the numbness would stay. She was safe as long as it lasted. She screamed on the inside as she gradually started to feel the punches connect with her face and the kicks connect with her ribs. She tried to concentrate on this instead. She tried to ignore the leader of the group unzipping his jeans just to the left of her. She concentrated on the unceasing battering of her body and not the fact that someone had now pinned her hands above her head. She felt the sting of a slap across her face as she struggled.
She promised herself she wouldn’t scream but it was no use. She was a virgin. This wasn’t how she had imagined her first time. As the gravel bit deep into her back, she screamed and cried in anger, humiliation and sadness. She was angry at being left to this fate. Angry at God. Angry at a society that would allow men like this to exist. And she was sad that she’d never have a first time again. Not a true one anyway. They had taken that from her, along with her dignity. She felt something cold against her neck and heard a voice whisper fiercely in her ear, “Shut up or we’ll slit your throat!” She contemplated ignoring his order for a second. Surely death was better than this. But before she could make a decision she heard someone yelling, “Stop! Get off her right now!”
The weight on top of her disappeared. She could hear the sound of heavy boots retreating, replaced by the sound of lighter footsteps coming closer. Though she knew them to be the sound of the cavalry, she couldn’t help flinching and preparing for the worst.
“You’re okay now, sweetheart. You’re okay.”
She felt something being thrown over her body, to cover her shame and she was grateful. But she couldn’t bring herself to open her eyes. It wasn’t the fact that this person had seen her naked and bruised. It was the pity in his eyes she wouldn’t be able to bear. It would make everything seem so real. She didn’t want to see it because it would drive home the fact that someone who didn’t even know her had risked a confrontation with these awful men to save her. It was an absolute stranger that had thought she was worth the risk. She didn’t know how long it was before she passed out but when she woke up, she was in the hospital. Her mother was at her bedside holding her hand. They looked at each other and cried.
Alanna shivered and pulled her cardigan closer to her body even though it was a warm day. She looked up and saw Damon staring at her, a pained expression on his face. It hurt her to know that she was the cause of his pain but she knew it was for the best. She couldn’t go there again. It was too hard. Lana knew she owed him an explanation but she didn’t know where to start. And she knew he would be horrified for her and comfort her; and she couldn’t risk getting any closer to him. If she was honest with herself, she loved Damon too. But that just made the entire situation worse. Alanna broke the connection and buried her face in her hands.
Damon watched as Alanna sat on the bench with her head in her hand, convulsing slightly. He wanted desperately to go comfort her but he knew he couldn’t. He had to respect her wishes for now. After everything her mother had told him, he knew what was at stake. He wasn’t giving up. Not now. Not ever. But Alanna was more fragile than ever and he had to handle the situation delicately. He knew Lexie was right. He would be the one to help Lana fill in that last bit of sky. Just not today. He reluctantly turned on his heel and walked away, forcing himself not to look back.
Lexie observed the scene from her hidden vantage point. She knew what it must have cost Damon to walk away and leave Alanna on that bench. She grew more impressed with him every day. Alexis was more convinced than ever that he was the one for Lana and she resolved to do everything in her power to help Lana realise that. Her heart broke to watch her sister cry on that bench but she knew that Lana needed to learn to rely on her own strength; so, like Damon, she walked away.
Terrence was so busy staring daggers at Damon that he didn’t even notice Lana at first. Eventually, he grew interested in learning what had captured Damon’s attention so fixedly. He wasn’t entirely surprised to see that it was Alanna but he was surprised to see Damon walk away as she was obviously crying. He walked quickly over to the bench, noting that it was the same one they’d shared the last time they’d seen each other. Terry pushed that scene from his mind as he pulled Alanna towards him. She looked up briefly and he thought he saw a look of surprise, then relief cross her face before she buried it in his shoulder and cried her heart out.
They sat there for a long time. He rubbed her back and made quiet, comforting sounds until her sobs subsided into hiccups and she lifted her tear-stained face towards him.
“Thank you,” she said hoarsely.
He nodded and made to leave her alone with her thoughts.
“No. Please stay, Terry. I’ve missed you and I’d love to catch up. You know, after I’ve washed my face and made myself presentable. I must look a fright.”
Terry smiled and slid one of her stray locks behind her ear.
“You look fine, Lana. You always do.”
She blushed and blotted her cheeks with the edge of her sleeve.
“Come on. Let’s go get a drink at the pub,” Terry said as he offered her a hand up.
Alanna smiled and accepted the proffered arm.
“So, what’s new with you?” she asked.
“Oh, you know, same old, same old. Got my heart broken by another pretty girl.”
“What?! Are you serious?”
“Nah. Just you. Apparently, other women think my green eyes are just plain irresistible.”
“Do they now?”
Those green eyes twinkled mischievously at her and she knew that he wasn’t trying to make her feel guilty. She missed their easy friendship and was glad that he seemed willing to give it another shot.
They walked slowly up the path, towards the pub. By the time they arrived, Alanna was boiling in her cardigan and she knew that she had Terry to thank for chasing her depressing thoughts away.
As they waited on their beers to arrive she turned to him and said, “Thank you, Terry.”
She looked up just as Damon was slipping out of a door at the back. She bit back the urge to call him and run over; to explain that it wasn’t what it looked like. But she forced herself to stay seated. Alanna smiled at Terrence and focused on the funny anecdote he was telling about his trip home last weekend.
Everything is going to be just fine.