AFTER FALLING ASLEEP QUICKLY THAT NIGHT, SHE FOUND HERSELF AWAKE EARLY AGAIN. In the semi-darkness, she could just make out it was four am. She sat up in bed, feeling very jittery, her stomach churned. Unable to stand it any longer, she got up, pulled on her dressing gown which hung on the wardrobe door, and made for the living room.
There she turned on the light switch, found the remote control and waited for the television to come on. She sat on the sofa with her legs underneath her bottom, breathing erratically. When the TV came to life, she kept the volume down low, so as not to wake Blake. Hoping to find something that might hold her attention, she flicked through the channels but found nothing of interest, and in her frustration switched it off.
Next, she looked through a pile of discarded old magazines and newspapers kept underneath the coffee table, and skimmed through each one, without really reading what she saw. By the time she’d done that, she found only half an hour had elapsed. How slow time went when you were enjoying yourself, she thought miserably.
Suddenly feeling very fidgety and agitated, she got up from her seat, and walked from one end of the room to the other, over and over again, arms folded, in a desperate attempt to rid herself of the awful anxiety feelings present in her stomach. After about fifteen minutes, she stopped herself, went back to the sofa, but although she lay down almost over-tired, she was too het up for sleep.
She needed to keep her mind active and off the attack. There were bits of fluff and dust on the carpet that Blake had missed and therefore needed cleaning. The vacuum cleaner was in a small cupboard just inside the front door.
The noise might wake Blake, but that couldn’t be helped. If there was a job that needed doing, she’d do it, sooner rather than later.
She was about to switch on the hoover, when Blake appeared in the doorway, wearing only his boxer shorts.
‘What the fuck are you doing now, Donna?’ he wanted to know, yawning.
‘A spot of cleaning.’
‘You what? At this time of the morning – I only did it last night. Have you gone nuts or something? I hope you realise I have to get ready for work in another hour or so.’
She frowned, her hands quivering.
‘You’ve got the whole day to do that – I need my sleep!’
‘I was awake and noticed the carpet was still dirty. I thought I’d –’
‘Well don’t!’ His eyes were ablaze with fury.
He turned round; and stormed back to their bedroom; banging the door shut, a probable futile attempt to keep out the noise should she switch on the hoover.
A sharp stab of pain went through her body. Blake’s insensitivity had hit her hard. She wanted to cry, and struggled hard not to. No point in letting know he’d hurt her feelings. He should have been more understanding and make allowances for her behaviour. But no, he had to lose his temper. Did he really care for her as he’d always said? Perhaps everything he’d told her was a pack of lies? Getting engaged no longer seemed a very good idea.
Cleaning was out for now. Fear of another altercation swayed her into returning to the spare room. As soon she slipped underneath the bedclothes, everything began going round in her head. The rape replayed itself repeatedly in her thoughts like a record stuck in a groove – and those dreadful images wouldn’t go away. And now Blake’s attitude was adding to what had, and was, happening to her.
There was no point in lying there closing her eyes and hoping for the best because it wouldn’t happen. Within a few minutes, she sat up again, switched on the bedside lamp and found out a book from the bookshelf next to the bed. One of her favourites, ’To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee.
She started to read, and at first, it took her mind off things, but then suddenly she was jolted by the alarm going off in the next room. Blake groaned loudly as he got out of bed, forcing her to stay put.
As he went about the business of getting ready for work, she wondered if he’d come in to her to say goodbye before he left. He didn’t. She was relieved, but also upset that he should be so callus.
So what could she do with her day? Maybe the housework, shopping, or perhaps bake a cake – she didn’t know.
In truth, she didn’t feel like doing anything. Nor did she want to stay in the flat alone either; because she was frightened. That left only a visit to her parents. Even though she had patched up her differences with them, their relationship was far from easy.
When she arrived on their doorstep later that morning, they were surprised, but also glad to see her. She hugged them both, but couldn’t stop herself from weeping again, her tears finding their way onto her father’s shirt. He pulled her back.
‘Still not very well, Donna,’ he commented. ‘Come and tell us all about it.’
Arm around her, concern in his eyes, he guided her into the living room, while her mother went in the kitchen to make them a cup of tea. Donna moaned, inwardly, looking around the room at the countless photographs of her displayed on the walls; in fact, in every available space. All taken in such a way as to emphasise her supposed beauty, which had been apparent to her parents from an early age since she’d won the Pears Baby of the Year Award.
She remembered how proud they were of her, and how much they’d encouraged her to become a model and an actress when she was older. She’d been a child protégé, appearing in many television commercials for soap powder, and cereals; and they’d made a tidy bit of money out of her in the process.
When against their wishes she turned her back on acting, modelling and show business in general, they’d been bitterly disappointed. Despite their opposition she found success through sheer determination via another avenue - Mathematics.
Her parents had always known she was clever - she’d shown that at primary school when in arithmetic she’d been way ahead of everyone else. Yet they were forever reiterating the fact that she’d make more money exploiting her looks rather than her brains. However, her enthusiasm for Mathematics never waned. She attained a place at University, and exceeded all expectations by gaining a first class honours degree. By then she’d put an end to modelling once and for all.
While appreciating what she’d achieved, her mother still secretly yearned for her to be in show business, but any hope of this was shattered when Donna was offered a job as a Statistical Analyst at Bluethorn. Although the job was well paid, it was nothing to what she would have earned in a successful modelling career. It all came down what to what gave her the most satisfaction. And until now working at Bluethorn had fulfilled her completely and she’d made a success of it.
As they sat either side of her, listening intently she said, ‘I don’t know what to do, or where to turn.’
They looked shocked and surprised as she revealed the full extent of her attack, including the rape, which she’d been too ashamed to speak of. Each put an arm around her, hugging and kissing her when she broke down once more amid a flood of tears.
‘Donna, go and see the doctor, and tell him what you’re going through,’ her mother said.
‘I did, but he didn’t seem to want to listen. He said these feelings will pass and offered me more medication. And that counsellor isn’t much better. She listens, but all she suggests is group therapy. But I don’t want other people knowing my business. And then there’s everything else. I’ve started sleeping in the spare bedroom because I can’t bear to be in the same bed as Blake. I’ve put him through hell. On top of all that there’s work. I don’t know what my boss thought when he came round. I probably haven’t got a job there now even if I could face going.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ her father said. ‘He’ll realise you’re not your normal self and make allowances. And I think Blake’s bearing up as well as he can. As long as he’s tolerant, and I know he will be, you’ll be fine.’
‘I don’t want to be like this, but I can’t stop myself. I long to be back to normal, but that will never happen.’ Sobbing, she dabbed her eyes with a tissue.
‘That bastard has got a lot to answer for. I’d like to know what the police are doing. They don’t seem to have many leads. The sooner they catch him, the better we’ll all feel,’ her father said breathing in deeply.
‘Oh sure we will. But what about Donna? She might feel safer, but ultimately it won’t bring back the old Donna, will it?’
‘If they catch him…’ Donna’s voice was shaky. ‘I want him to suffer, like he’s made me suffer. Yet even that’s too good for him. And if they send him to prison, he’ll be let out in no time, while I’ve got to live with this for the rest of my life.’
‘It doesn’t have to be like that Donna,’ her mother insisted. ‘You’ll get over this. No point in letting this low life ruin your life – you’re bigger and better than that. Rise above it. Bad things happen to everyone at some time in their lives. Although we never forget them, we have to carry on, and learn from our experiences, don’t you agree?’
Donna regarded her mother with a fixed stare, seemingly dismissing rape as something to recover from easily – as if she’d broken a leg or had a bout of the flu. The same as when they forced her to act in commercials when she hadn’t wanted to. One time Donna had run away and hidden in the garden shed, only to be scolded and given a slap round the face when her mother found her.
‘You’ll get better from this Donna,’ her father added staring at her, obviously trying to encourage her. ’You’re a fighter, always have been ever since you were little. You need time to come to terms with what happened. They say it’s the best healer there is. And they’re right. When I lost my dad, your Granddad, ten years ago, I’d loved him so dearly I thought I’d never get over it. For weeks if not months, I was an emotional wreck, but little by little with each passing day, gradually I was able to cope with it.
‘You know what I’d do if I were you. Get yourself back to work. Once you’re with friends and colleagues with your mind occupied, the pain should start to ease.’
‘You’re joking dad, I can’t do that now. They all know about the rape – it slipped out when Dave came to see me. He’s bound to tell someone and before long, it’ll be the talk of the place. Can you imagine what it’ll be like, knowing they’ve been talking about me behind my back? They’ll stare at me like an animal in a zoo and make snide remarks. I can’t face that.’ She screwed up her eyes as if she was in intense pain.
‘Well, leave Bluethorn if you want,’ her mother suggested. ‘There’s plenty of other things you could do – and for a lot more money too.’
Donna’s hand gripped hold of the pad of her seat; she found it hard to believe what she was hearing. ‘Oh yes, and we all know what that would be, don’t we? I’d rather die than go back to that.’
Her mum visibly jumped at this, then narrowed her eyes at Donna.
‘Never mind that now,’ her father said, his face full of concern. ‘It’s important for you to get well again, then everything else will follow. Why don’t you and Blake go away for a few days? That might take your mind off things.’
Remembering when previously she’d suggested a short holiday only to be rebuffed by Blake, she smiled, wondering if perhaps this time would be different.
‘Maybe I will, dad. I’m not good company right now, and we had a bit of a row before I came out.’
‘Nothing serious, I hope,’ her mother asked, her face dropping slightly again.
‘No, but – ’
‘Well, it’s up to you, love,’ her dad said.
However, the more she thought about a holiday together, the more convinced she became that it was a good idea. With that decision made, she relaxed a little more. By the time she left, she was in better spirits, and almost looked forward to returning to the flat. She must make an effort, or risk losing him. That on top of the rape, would finish her off.
As soon as she got back, she set about cooking him a Shepherds’ Pie, easy to prepare but also one of his favourites.
He came back at his usual time and went straight into the kitchen, looking rather tired.
‘Something smells nice,’ he remarked.
‘It’s only Shepherd’s Pie.’
‘My favourite. Great – I’m absolutely starving.’
She smiled, her eyes sparkling with this comment.
‘Go and change, it’ll be ready for you when you come back.’
As they ate their tea in front of the television, Blake told her about his day at work, and his problems with a certain large customer who’d gone overdrawn. Donna didn’t mind him talking shop, but felt guilty as she was giving more thought to how she might approach the subject of going on holiday.
‘I was wondering... ’ she began later, massaging the back of her neck. ‘What you thought about going away for a few days. I don’t mean anywhere exotic, just a trip to the coast or the country. We need some time together, Blake.’
He pulled a face, which quite surprised her. ‘Much as I’d love to Donna, I’ve explained how it is at the moment. It’s impossible to get any leave, especially as I’ve only recently had a week off.’
Donna’s mouth dropped open with shock. She’d been convinced he’d jump at the chance this time, and could get the days off, if he’d wanted.
‘Come on Blake, meet me halfway. This is important for both of us. What comes first, your girlfriend or your work?’
He squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. ‘Surely it could wait a while. I might stand a better chance at the end of the holiday season... all right?’
She clenched her teeth angrily and looked away.
‘Damn it Donna, don’t get stroppy with me. Look, I need to watch what I’m doing, or it could damage my prospects for the future. There’s no need for me to tell you how important that is, with us planning to wed within a couple of years. Especially if you can’t go back to work yet.’
‘Oh thanks a lot. Trust you to think about money, at a time like this.’ In her anger she picked up a cushion and threw it at his face.
He caught it with some difficulty. ‘Well, somebody’s got to think about it, seeing as you’ll be off work for the foreseeable future.’
‘I can’t help being traumatised. And besides I am still on full pay.’
‘Yes, but that’ll run out eventually and then what? Sick pay? That won’t go far towards paying the bills, will it? You need to do something. You’re on a very high salary. Somehow, get yourself together and back to work, or you can kiss goodbye to that nice expensive house we were looking at a few weeks ago.’
Her eyes seemed to bulge out of their sockets. ‘Piss off, will you, Blake.’
She got off her seat and stormed off to the bathroom. Flopping down onto the toilet with her hand over her eyes, she convulsed into a fit of tears.
She didn’t want to talk to him again and decided he probably didn’t want to talk to her either by the looks of it. They remained apart for the rest of the night.
The next morning, although she woke early she stayed in the spare room once more. He didn’t shout goodbye as he normally would before he left; but in truth she wouldn’t have answered him anyway.
All this made Donna even more depressed. There didn’t seem any point in getting up. It wasn’t until mid-morning that she got out of bed. And then she just hung around the flat lethargically.
The time seemed to pass so slowly. With nothing to do and nowhere to go, it was driving her crazy. She couldn’t face visiting her parents after yesterday, with them constantly fussing over her, and her mum forever hinting for her to return to modelling.
When Blake came home from work the flat was in a shambles, the sink was full of unwashed crockery and items of clothing were strewn over the floor and furniture. The look on Donna’s face suggested she didn’t care.
He sat down with a deep sigh, taking in the scene before him.
‘So how are you feeling now?’ he asked.
‘How do you think I feel?’
‘Look, I’m sorry about last night. I was out of order. I should have considered your feelings. So I spoke to HR and asked if I could have a week or even two or three days off. Luckily, Alex Cross cancelled his week’s holiday, and they agreed I could take that week, in a fortnight’s time, if you can wait until then.’ He breathed in deeply, obviously in the hope that this met with her approval.
A slight smile came across Donna’s face. Her heart flipped. All he’d done and said before, was almost forgotten.
‘So where do you want to go?’
‘I’m don’t mind. I’d dismissed the whole idea after you said you couldn’t get the time off.’
‘Well, think about it again now,’ he urged her.
She scratched the back of her head, her eyes looked upwards for inspiration. ‘I don’t know. I can’t. Why don’t you surprise me?’
‘I might do that.’ He grinned like a Cheshire cat. ‘But you need to look after yourself because no matter how long the holiday is, we still have to get on with our lives afterwards – don’t we?’
‘I know but it’s very difficult to carry on as nothing’s happened.’
‘Well, maybe this holiday will be the beginning of your recovery.’
Her mood lifted and even when she told him she hadn’t cooked any dinner he didn’t seem to mind. He even suggested they went out instead.
Donna’s mood had improved by the next morning. A visit to the doctor’s was imminent that day. He wanted to see how she was progressing, renew her sick note if need be.
Sitting down opposite him, on the edge of her seat, she looked down rather than at him. He had a quiet soothing voice, which did calm her a little. He asked her how she felt.
‘I’m still very anxious most of the time. And I get these horrible feelings in my stomach – butterflies, and I can’t seem to get rid of them. I don’t sleep well and nearly always wake early, but I don’t know, maybe a shade better than I was.’
‘Mm, you do sound a little more positive than before. Obviously, it will be a slow process, but you’ll find as time passes you will gradually improve. Are the tablets I’ve given you helping?’
‘I see. In the coming weeks they will start to kick in more. But don’t be afraid to tell me they’re not working as well as they should - all right? There are lots of other anti-depressants on the market; we can easily change them for another type if these don’t suit you.’
‘My boyfriend and I are going on holiday very soon, and then all being well, I’d like to talk to you about going back to work.’ She exhaled deeply.
‘Oh really – that’s good. But are you sure you’re well enough? Remember, what happened to you is very serious and traumatic. And it will be some weeks yet before you feel the full benefit of your medication. I strongly advise you to think very carefully about this. I’m sure your employers will be considerate even if you do need a few more weeks off. Come and see me when you return from your holiday and if you still feel ready, we’ll discuss it further then.’
She wanted to try to go back to work for Blake’s sake, especially after he’d managed to get time off for the holiday. All she hoped was that everything didn’t go terribly wrong while they were away.
All through the next week, although she still couldn’t sleep with him, her frame of mind continued to improve. He seemed to accept what she told him and said he was still pondering over where to take her on holiday. She began to look forward to something again.
As the day got nearer, she felt sick and was a little off her food again, but put this down to worrying over the holiday. However one thing kept nagging at her and the longer these symptoms continued the more anxious she became. Then two days before the holiday, she realised something had to be done.
When the doctor confirmed she was pregnant she couldn’t believe it. It was by far the worst possible scenario. And how should she deal with this? Discreetly on her own, so no one would be any the wiser; or did she tell Blake and hope for the best? In truth she knew her conscience would make her confide in him. How would he react? Well, she would soon find out.
She decided to mention it as soon as he got in from work that day before she lost her nerve.
When he came into the living room she felt embarrassed, her stomach fluttered as she tried to pluck up the courage to break the news.
She could barely look at him when she spoke. ‘Blake, we need to talk?’
His expression was one of surprise. A half-smile formed on his face as she finally looked sombrely at him.
He sat down beside her gazing straight into her eyes. ‘What’s on your mind, love?’
‘Blake, there’s no easy way to tell you this... sorry... but I’m pregnant.’ Her face was suddenly contorted up in pain.
‘You what? How can you be? We haven’t done anything since… it’s impossible unless you’ve been ... ’ His hand clenched his thigh tightly as obviously he thought about the implications.
The colour drained from his face as his eyes widened with anger. He’d jumped to the wrong conclusion. How could he think she’d slept with someone else after all he’d been living with her through this nightmare? Surely, he’d see that if she couldn’t sleep with him, she couldn’t sleep with anybody. And the other possibility didn’t bear thinking about.
‘I haven’t been with another man if that’s what you think. How could I after being raped?’ She was hurt he’d even considered such a thing.
‘So how else could you be… ?’ he began, and then he stopped in mid-sentence, as if it suddenly dawned on him. ‘They gave you a morning after pill at the hospital, didn’t they?’
‘They did.’ She wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand. ‘Either I was already pregnant, or the pill didn’t work.’
Shaking his head, he said, ‘I don’t believe this.’
‘How the hell do you think I feel?’
‘So what are you going to do about it?’
‘I... I don’t know...’
‘You’re not going to have it – are you? The rapist’s kid.’ He turned his face away in disgust.
‘It’s not the baby’s fault. It didn’t ask to be conceived. Did it? Anyway, who’s to say it isn’t yours. It’s not as though we didn’t have sex before the attack.’
‘Yes, but we’ll never know that until the kid’s born. No, I’m not having that. Get rid of it – and the sooner the better.’ He talked as if there was a monster in Donna’s belly.
Everything she’d feared seemed to be happening in the matter of a few seconds. There was so much anger on his face and it appeared he’d never accept the baby, but he hadn’t given himself time to come to terms with this. It was hopeless. She broke down and buried her face in her hands. Tears seeped through her fingers. She sensed this would mark the end of their relationship.
He remained where he was; made no attempt to touch her. Then pushed a tissue towards her. She took it, blew her nose, and peered at him through bleary tearful eyes; noticing the guilty expression on his face – perhaps he realised his immediate rejection of her baby was wrong.
‘Come on now Donna. This isn’t the end of the world, you know. Far from it. It’s a little setback – that’s all. Once you’ve come to your senses, you’ll see it’s the only thing to do. You’ll get over it, and then slowly everything will get back to normal.’
‘You really think so. This is my baby’s life we’re talking about here,’ she said, lightly stroking her stomach.
As he frowned; she realised it would be difficult to change his mind if his initial reaction was anything to go by.
‘I can’t kill my own child.’ She put her arms defensively round her middle.
‘It’s not even a baby yet, it’s just a tiny foetus. If you don’t, it’ll be the biggest mistake of your life,’ he said going red in the face.
It looked as if he wouldn’t budge on this. He’d go on and on until she did what he wanted. Maybe this time she wouldn’t shift either. And why the hell should she? Because what had it to do with him? It was her body, so it was up to her. She could do as she wished.
‘I’ll do what’s best for me and my baby, Blake. You can take your bruised ego and shove it as far as I’m concerned.’ She pushed him away in anger.
‘Hey, my opinion ought to count for something. We’re supposed to be getting married, remember.’
‘So you keep telling me.’ She got up from the settee.
‘For God’s sake Donna, stop going on, will you? At least think about it for a few days.’
‘That’s precisely what you haven’t done. As for me, I can’t stop thinking about it – first someone rapes me, and now I may be pregnant with his child; or the baby could be yours. But it’s also my baby, so ultimately it’s my call, despite what you or anyone else says.’ She began to walk away from him.
‘Donna! That’s exactly why you should have an abortion. There’s plenty of time for kids, later on when we’re ready,’ he insisted moving to follow her to the spare room, her normal refuge lately.
Turning to face him she pushed him to one side once again ‘I never want to speak to you again. Leave me alone.’
After she’d slammed the door in his face, she put all her weight against it, expecting him to try to force his way in. But it wasn’t necessary. Perhaps he’d given up or just didn’t care.