Chapter 11 - Tropical Beaches
November 28th, 1991
“It’s time to go to the beach, sugar,” he hissed in my ear.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“It’s still dark outside,” I said.
“You didn’t want the neighbors to see,” he said and smiled. “Get up and get your swimsuit on.” He rolled off me. I crawled to the edge of the bed. Grabbing onto the nightstand for balance, I rose and waddled to my dresser, grabbed my one piece, and headed to the bathroom.
“Wear the bikini,” he said.
“I don’t own a bikini,” I replied.
“Yeah you do. Bottom drawer.”
No longer surprised at his knowledge, I reply, “It’s too small.”
“That’s what I like about it.”
“I look ridiculous. My stomach hangs over.”
“You don’t have to wear it. We could skip the beach and stay here,” Sarge suggested.
Opening the bottom drawer of my peeling wood dresser, I found the swimsuit on top. I need a chance to get away. The beach could be a way.
“Put it on here,” he said.
“I need to go pee,” I said.
“Go pee and come back.”
I went to the toilet. The urine burned, and wiping caused tears to dribble down my cheeks. As I finished wiping blood and urine, Sarge walked into the bathroom. I started to stand and flush. He trapped me on the seat, bent over me, and flushed. He squeezed the blood out of my swollen wrists.
“You are going to be good when we go to the beach.”
“Good. Now put your suit on.”
He allowed me to get up and go back to the bedroom. I started pulling on the suit as he watched. I turned to get a t-shirt to cover up with.
“The beach will be cold in the dark.”
“I’ll keep you warm.”
He grabbed my husband’s trunks, pulled them on, and got two towels and a blanket from the linen closet.
“Come on,” he said as he led me out and a half a mile to the beach.
The waves were gentle and bubbling over the sand as he walked me to a spot secluded by the low vegetation, but every star in heaven could still see us. On a night with a full moon, anyone walking by might see me. It was dark. The crabs moved along the beach looking for carrion. The moon was a nearly closed eye, not wanting to see what would happen next.
While Sarge laid the blanket out, I walked to the water. The bubbles tickled my toes as the waves lapped over my feet and then receded into the ocean. Standing still on the shore, the soft waves buried my feet in the sand. The breeze was cool off the water, but the ocean itself was warm. I could’ve walked into the ocean. Maybe I could’ve found a nice shark in the water, instead of the one I was dealing with on land. Better to die than be toyed with.
“Hey, come on over here,” Sarge called from his throne on the sand.
I walked slowly to the blanket contemplating how fast I could actually run. Not fast enough.
“Take a load off,” he said.
Sitting on the farthest edge of the blanket, I tried to put any kind of distance between me and him.
“What are you doing, sugar?” he asked.
“Get your cute ass over here,” Sarge commanded.
I inched closer to appease him, but he grabbed me and pulled me to his side.
“Now, let’s see what I can do to make you not miss your husband.” He started nibbling my shoulder and neck, and goose bumps popped up on my arms.
“You love that. I can tell. That’s my girl,” he hissed into my ear. Then, he bit. He bit and sucked the side and back of my neck until it bruised.
“Now you’re mine.”
“What?” I asked not understanding him.
“How’r you goin’ to explain that hickey to your friends?”
“It’ll be gone before I see anyone.”
“No, it won’t. And if it is, I’ll just getchu again. I like our little swims.”
Panic brought more tears.
“Don’t worry, sugar. I’ll take care of you,” he said this as he pushed my shoulders to the ground and pinned me. As he lay on top of my body, I tried to fight, not his body or the things he did to mine, but his words. I tried to fight the thoughts he put into my head. My husband. After I tell him what Sarge did, he’ll kill him.
My husband will kill you when I tell him. He loves me.
“You’re…so…good…sugar…You’re a…good…girl,” Sarge said as he pushed what felt like sandpaper inside me.
My husband is coming home, and I am going to tell him everything.
“I…knew you…liked it…don’t that…feel…good…sugar…”
I didn’t notice when he finished. I guess he noticed my lack of fear. Evidence of his irritation with me emitted from his tone when he whispered through his glistening white teeth, “You’re mine, now and forever.” He was trying to make me afraid.
Fighting his words, I said, “I’m not yours. My husband will be back.”
“He’ll kick you out. He’ll hear from the neighbors about our loud sex. The bartender will tell about how you danced with me, kissed me that first night when you were so drunk you couldn’t stand up, and left with me the night after that one. You’ll have a hickey on your neck the size of Texas when he gets home. I’ll make sure you do. I’ll bet you’ll be pregnant with my kid, too. After he kicks you out, you’ll have to come to me. You’re mine for as long as I want you.”
Sarge smiled wide with self-gratification. As his teeth parted and came down for a taste of my blood, he stabbed into me.
This time, I kicked, scratched, hit, and screamed loud enough to wake Morpheus. He covered my mouth, and I clenched his flesh in my teeth and ripped it away as he pulled his hand back. Then, he punched me in the jaw.
I woke up with his crusted blood on my bruised face and neck. My suit was shredded, and I was lying on the sand—alone and freshly mutilated. I reached between my legs and felt a sticky fluid. When I looked at my hand, it was covered with blood and semen. The still absent sun was making the sky a lighter blue. I sat up. My head swam. I lay back down. The blanket and towels were gone and I was alone in the dark—his idea of punishment for my rebellion. It was really what I wanted.
I rolled over on the sand, pushed myself up to my knees, spat blood, leaned back on my heels, and tried to steady. The sky kept getting lighter. I pushed myself to stand up, and I did stand. I wobbled down the beach to the and walked into the salty water until it was above my waist. My still-fresh cuts stung as the salt water ran over them, cauterizing the wounds. I dove under a wave, and finally came up for air.
“Here, sharky, sharky, sharky.”
I walked practically naked on the beach until I found a backyard that butted against the beach. There was a towel lying over the fence to dry, and I took it. Now I am not only an adulterer, I am a thief. How many more commandments can I break before I’m 20. I walked the rest of the way home with a generous portion of bloody thigh hanging out, but it was early, and no one noticed a woman limping home in the dark, or if they did notice, they were uninterested. Every noise made me look over my shoulder. At one point I was walking backwards more than forwards.
Wrapped in a stolen towel, I called Chuck when I got home to the apartment. I called and begged my husband to come home. He asked why, and I didn’t have an answer. I looked down at the bruises on my wrists and told him I was mugged. Thou shalt not lie. He asked if I was all right and cried because he couldn’t come through the phone to hold me. Chuck’s sympathy saved me from losing what was left of my sanity.
“Please come home,” I begged again.
“I can’t get regular leave while I’m deployed. I’ll see what I can do about gettin’ emergency leave. Are you okay right now?”
“Who’s with you?”
“Go next door and see if Grunt’s wife will sit with you ’til I call back.”
Chuck promised me he’d call back as soon as he talked to his lieutenant. I couldn’t go to Grunt’s door, though. I kept hearing Sarge’s voice, “He’ll hear from your neighbors.” I sat in my apartment with the lights out and cocooned in my blanket. Every minor creak on the floor sent me into a fresh state of panic. I heard a key slide into a door. I thought it was my door.
I hurried to the door, and pushed on it with all my weight. I listened.
Grunt opened his door and called out to his wife that he was home for lunch. I relaxed for a second and then immediately retrieved the spare key from the mailbox. The phone rang as soon as I locked my door again, and it made the hair on the back of my neck stiffen. I ran to answer the phone to stop it from ringing again.
It was Chuck.
“I’ll be home in three days, sweetie.”
These words made me cry again, but I kept my voice calm, “When?”
“I leave tomorrow and I’ll have fifteen days before I have to be back.”
“Hurry. Please hurry.”
We talked for a few more minutes, until Chuck had to go back to work. After I hung up, I went back to my cocoon. I couldn’t move for a while. I rocked back and forth against the door trying to reason and calm down. I can’t think when I’m scared. I need to feel safe. Richard is safe. I crawled to the phone and dialed Fox Company barracks. I asked for him.
“Fox and Hilo are out on maneuvers on Molokai. They won’t be back for three weeks.”
I slammed the phone down without a thank you or a goodbye.
I ran back to my cocoon and rocked against the door. But then, something about what the soldier said filtered through my daze, Hilo Company. Sarge is in Hilo. For the first time in weeks, I let my breath completely out. I had been poisoning myself with that same carbon dioxide for weeks. Fresh oxygen filled my lungs. I came out of my stupor and looked at the clock. 6pm. I looked around me with a new set of eyes. What will Chuck see when he walks in?
I scanned the kitchen and living room, nothing out of place. I walked past those to the hall and saw the bloody smudges on the floor and wall. A fresh wave of guilty fear washed over me. Bleach. I went to the kitchen and grabbed the bottles of cleaning supplies that I have. I didn’t bother with a bucket. I poured the entire bottle of bleach on the hallway floor. I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed. I followed the path of the blood wherever it went. The bathroom. The bedroom. The walls. My skin turned red and rashy, my knees started to peel, and my hands were turning white with the dead skin. The fumes no longer registered in my nostrils.
When I finished with cleaning the blood, I looked at the bed. I wanted to burn it. I thought about how I could, but I couldn’t think of an explanation for Chuck. There were blood stains, sweat smells, and semen stains all over the bedding. I decided if I couldn’t burn the bed, I could at least toss the bedding. I gathered everything in a trash bag and placed it by the front door. I started to unlock the door and take the trash out, but hadn’t noticed that it had gotten so dark outside. The clock said 3am. A wave of forgotten fear sloshed in close to me. “Fox and Hilo…on Molokai.” Repeated words of safety pushed the wave back into the ocean.
I reached for the door and unlocked it. Grabbing the bags of trash, I scooted across the parking lane to the dumpster closest to my door. It wasn’t the one I was supposed to use. It was actually belonged to the apartment complex next to me, but I didn’t care. I sprinted back to my door, slammed it shut, locked and leaned against it.
Sliding to the floor and rocking myself against the locked door again, I stayed there for the rest of the night watching as the sky lightened.
At 8am, I walked through the house again trying to use another person’s eyes to scan the apartment for any signs. My eyes rested again on the stripped bed. I have to do something. I also looked in the mirror on the dresser. The salt from the ocean was still caked through my hair. The bruises were still purple, but they also had a slight green tinge to them. The bite marks still showed. His teeth.
I grabbed a towel and went to the bathroom to wash my hair. I needed to take a shower. I smelled like bleach and salt water. As soon as I walked into the bathroom, my arms started shaking and my knees wouldn’t work right anymore. I looked in the mirror.
“Get it together. Think of Chuck.”
I bathed quickly, but thoroughly. I didn’t want one trace of Sarge in my life, in our lives.
That bed was a problem. I couldn’t burn it. I had to go get more bleach.
I had to go out.
I needed to get some sheets and a new blanket.
I had to go out, and I had to go before Chuck gets here.
Bleach, sheets, and a blanket. That’s all I needed. It took me two more hours of rocking myself by the front door before I could open it. But before I opened it, I noticed something that gave me a little more oxygen. I had started my period. Relief overwhelmed me even as a pushed the dry tampon into my soreness. “You’ll probably be pregnant with my kid, too.” Kiss my ass. No Satan spawn.
This relief carried me through the front door and into the closest dime store, Ben Franklin’s, and home again; bleach, sheets, blanket, pillows, and lunch in hand.
I had forgotten how long it was since my last meal. I ate my lunch first, and finished quickly. The bed was my next project. I wanted to pour the whole bottle over it, but that would take too long to dry. I only had one more day before Chuck was home. I grabbed a scrub brush from the kitchen and started with pouring a little bleach on it and then scrubbing the mattress. It started smearing the stains, but eventually, it did lighten them. More importantly, the bloody, sweat smell went away. It was replaced by bleach. It took all afternoon to clean the mattress. Then I flipped it over. The underside was practically clean, an illusion. I put the new sheets, pillows and cases, and blanket on. Everything was fixed. I fixed ramen for dinner and tried to watch some TV before night fell.
The sky darkened. I rolled myself in the new blanket on the couch. The sound from the TV kept out the little noises, so I left it on. I don’t know when I fell asleep.
Chuck slipped his key in the door.
At first I didn’t remember I had retrieved the spare key, so panic ripped me out of my cocoon, and I threw my body against the door before Chuck got a foot in our apartment.
“What the hell, Lilian?”
I took a moment to recognize his voice through my panic, but when I did, I flung the door open and hugged him so tightly, he almost couldn’t breathe.
“It’s okay, Lilian. I’m here.”
He finally freed himself from my grasp long enough to see me, my body, the bruises on my neck and face. For a moment, I thought he was my valiant knight riding in to save the fair lady. For a second, I saw a murderous look of protection come into his eyes, but then, he looked at my neck and saw the teeth impressions. I saw suspicion creep in, and then accusation, and then I clutched on to him again trying not to see anymore.
“What happened to you, sweet pea?”
“I got beat up. I’m okay, though.”
“Who did it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where did it happen?”
“On the beach.”
“During broad daylight?”
“No. At night.”
“What were you doing on the beach at night?”
This is what I wasn’t prepared for. I couldn’t think of a good reason to be out at night on a beach by myself. There wasn’t one.
“I was just walking. I was trying to lose some weight before you got back.”
He stopped grilling me for a second to think. He pulled back to look at me, then his eyes settled on my neck. I saw his mind mulling over the lie. In his eyes, I saw a faint tinge of hope, and then it left and was replaced by resignation. He decided it was easier to accept the lie than to speak the truth. He didn’t want to know, and I didn’t want to tell.
We had fifteen days filled with silence. We didn’t talk about anything except what we were going to eat. Chuck tried to make love to me the first night he was home, but because my monthly visitor was around, it gave me a few more days of desperately needed healing. When we did make love a few days later, I cried silent tears from the pain, but I did not deny him anything. He thought making love would make us both feel better, to have him hold me, to pretend he didn’t see the bites on my neck. It did work as long as I didn’t think, as long as I let myself drift somewhere else. —home. Chuck really didn’t notice that I wasn’t there with him as long as he got what he needed. I had never had an orgasm with Chuck, or with anyone. I’d never seen sex as something I was supposed to enjoy. No one had ever shown me how. Recent events hadn’t changed that opinion or my situation.
We made love each night after that while he was home. The sex didn’t matter to me anymore, only pleasing him. Part of me was dead. He could do what he wanted, and he did. It wasn’t hurtful or mean. He was Chuck, the boy who loved me in high school. He was a sailor on shore leave. He was a husband seeking solace in bed with his wife. I was someone else.
When he left for again, I cried. He cried this time, too. We cried together and separately at the same time, and then he climbed aboard his airplane and went back to his duty, his country, and left me swimming in the ocean of emotions to fend for myself.
After Sarge, I couldn’t face being alone. I needed someone to be with me. When my husband went back to , I found company where I could. First, I went to the beaches just to be near a crowd. The first time I went, that’s all I was looking for. Just people. Then it got late. It got dark. I got scared. I wandered into a bar full of music, light, and tourists. I stayed until the bar closed. By the end of the night, I was too drunk to remember what I was scared of, and I woke up in a strange hotel room.
I liked not remembering—pretending it didn’t happen. I got good at lying—lied to everyone, especially myself. The best lie I ever told was that if I gave my body away, if I sought out the men who took what was mine, then I was in control of my body. They couldn’t take what I allowed them to have. I was too strong to be taken.