Stay With Me
I wasn’t aware of anything around me until there was suddenly light in the closet and someone was crouched down next to me. I flinched away for a second before recognizing the person’s voice.
“Corey, it’s just me,” Nikki said softly.
I practically leapt into her arms as I latched onto her waist. She didn’t let me go, whispering soothing words to me. She made me meet her eyes as she placed one of my hands on her chest. “That’s my heart beat, okay? So just pay attention to that. Try to match your breathing with mine, Corey, okay? In and out. In and out.” She began breathing exaggeratedly for my benefit, waiting until I matched her pattern.
“Good job, honey, you’re doing wonderfully,” Nikki murmured. I could see her eyes rove over my face, her gaze narrowing at something. “Corey? Can you tell me what happened?” she asked in a soothing voice. “I need to know if I should call the police.”
Through sobs and broken phrases, I gave her the basics. I told her Jason ambushed me. I told her I ran. I told her that I didn’t know where he was and I was scared that he would find me.
“I-I don’t know what to do… the police can’t do anything,” I breathed out, full of fear.
“You’re hurt and we need to make sure he’s not here,” Nikki said rationally. She didn’t pick up her phone to call the police though. I realized she was waiting for my permission.
I nodded to her, not knowing what else to do. Nikki dialed the number quickly. I heard her speaking as if she was far away. “Someone tried to rape my friend… yes, at the Grand Hotel… we’re hiding in a storage closet on the first floor; we don’t know if he’s still near here.” There was a longer pause before she said, “Ray? Is that you? No, I’m okay, it’s Corey… just come quickly already.”
She kept the phone balanced on her shoulder as she held me closer, slowly calming me down. My senses were returning to me slowly, fear to be replaced with a heavy sense of shame. I’d… let him touch me. I didn’t fight back. His hands were all over me, under my clothes, and…
“I’m dirty,” I whispered.
Nikki’s arms tightened around me. “It’s okay. You’re not dirty, sweetie, I promise.”
Nikki put her hands on either side of my face. “He’s a living piece of shit. What he did was horrible, but he’s the one who did it. You’re not dirty, Corey. And I’ll be right by your side.”
True to her word, Nikki stayed with me until there was the heavy sound of footsteps outside the door. Light greeted us again and suddenly Ray was there in his uniform.
“Hey, Corey,” he said softly. “Can we move outside of the closet here? Can you walk?” He spoke to me gently, probably in the same way he spoke to any number of victims on his job.
Still, Ray’s warm and familiar voice was comforting. I nodded to both of those questions, letting Nikki help me stand. She and Ray led me outside, where even in my muddy mind, I noticed that it was too quiet to be a normal Saturday night at the hotel.
A female police officer, who’s name was Officer Henley, stood outside the door waiting for us. “Hello, Corey,” she said in the same soft voice Ray had used. “We’re going to talk to you, okay? Is there anywhere private we can use?”
“Um…” I didn’t know what to say, but Nikki’s hand was a comforting weight in mine. “Um, I…”
“Corey,” said the familiar voice of Kurosawa. His eyes were wider than I’d ever seen them during my time working with him. There was clear concern in his voice, his usual traces of stoicism gone.
“I-I’m okay, sir,” I said on reflex. Turning to Ray and Officer Henley, I said, “This is Greyson Kurosawa. He’s my boss here.”
“Is there a place we could speak to her?” Officer Henley asked Kurosawa.
Before Kurosawa could say anything, I asked, “Can we just use the lobby or something? I… don’t want to be in one of the staff rooms.” I didn’t know how to explain that I didn’t want to be in a cramped room where all the other employees could see me.
“How about the dining room? It’s not set up yet, but I can pull out some chairs for you,” Kurosawa suggested, asking me.
“But… wouldn’t that interrupt service?” I asked. I knew Kurosawa cared about his employees, but the last thing I wanted was to be an inconvenience.
Kurosawa gave me what could only be described as a warm look. “You’re more important, Corey. Officers, follow me.” Ever the professional, Kurosawa led us to the dining hall before I could protest. He shooed out a few people who were already in there and grabbed a few chairs before leaving, saying he would handle any other issues and would be available should they need him.
We ended up sitting in a makeshift circle of chairs, Nikki next to me while she held my hand. Ray sat on my other side as I relayed to them whatever I remembered. Both Ray and Officer Henley told me that what I shared was up to me, but I didn’t like the thought of keeping these memories to myself. I’d always been that way. Even when I used to do something wrong as a kid, I’d always confess right away. I felt better faster then.
I didn’t feel too much better this time though as I gave them broken facts. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what I was saying after a while. All I knew was that eventually, I ended up sitting on a table with Ray next to me and Nikki just a few feet away on the phone with Mikey.
I was leaning against Ray, suddenly tired. Officer Henley was running around looking for Jason and looking at the security cameras. She said Ray was too emotionally invested to do that stuff and should stay with Nikki and I to make sure we were okay.
“You’re not mad that Officer Henley stuck you with me?” I asked Ray, leaning back to look at him.
Ray was tense, obviously angry, but he said, “Oh, I’m not mad at Henley. She’s right. I’d kill the guy if I ran into him.” He clenched his fists, his voice surer than I’d ever heard it. It slipped my mind with how relaxed Ray usually was, but he was a police officer. He was strong and sure in a way most people simply weren’t. “I’m not mad at you either,” he said, interrupting my thoughts. “I’m mad at that asshole.”
“I should have fought him,” I murmured. I looked down at my hands. There were bruises circling my wrists from where Jason held me against the wall. I’d fixed my clothing, but I knew there had to be a dark bruise on my face from the way I could feel it throbbing.
“Fear is irrational, Corey,” Ray said immediately. “Trust me, I know. Before I joined the force, I was a scared kid running from bullies. Now I’m trained to react when scary things happen, but it’s impossible to ever be completely unafraid.”
I nodded, wringing my hands together. Swallowing, I took a deep breath. I’d told Ray most of what happened, but there was one thing I left out. “When Jason… attacked me,” I said softly. “He got even angrier when I told him I was a lesbian.”
Ray hummed. “People like him tend to. Did he think you were lying?”
“Yeah,” I said softly. “Then he…” I hated the way my voice hitched, the way tears fell from my eyes.
Ray placed a comforting hand on my back. “Hey, hey, it’s okay, Corey. It’s not your fault. Uh… tissues…” He scrambled around, looking for the box we’d had. Opening his hands, Nikki threw it to him, still on the phone. I didn’t miss the way she paused, as if stopping herself from running over to us, but Ray waved her off.
“Thanks,” I said, grabbing one to wipe my eyes. “Um… you know, I didn’t want to come out to him. He didn’t deserve to know, but I was just so scared. I thought… I don’t know, I thought maybe he’d stop. It was stupid.”
Ray grabbed the tissue from my hand gently and wiped my eyes for me, making me meet his gaze. “Corey, you were trying to survive. None of this is your fault. As for telling him that you’re a lesbian… have you told anyone else?”
“Um, Nikki knows,” I said quietly, my eyes darting to her as Ray placed the tissues on the table.
He nodded. “I kind of figured.”
“You aren’t mad I didn’t tell you too?” I asked, looking to him again.
Ray gave me a kind smile. “Of course not. I’ve been friends with Nikki for a long time. I know how personal your sexuality can be, and I’d never want you to tell me if you weren’t comfortable. I’m just glad Nikki at least knew first.”
I was glad too. Even after all I had been through in the past few hours, I was happy that Ray and Nikki were with me. They made me feel better. They made me feel like I would be okay, maybe not tonight, but some time soon.
I looked to Nikki, unable to stop myself from staring. I didn’t even feel rude or awkward as Ray nudged my shoulder. “You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but uh, only Nikki and I know? Not your family?”
I shook my head. “My mom would understand, and I know my brothers would tease me, but they’d be okay with it too, but my dad… um, he’s homophobic. I’m pretty sure me being a lesbian has been a recurring nightmare for him for years. He tells me I should be prettier to get a boyfriend, or dress nicer, or try harder. It’s hard to want to tell him I’m a lesbian when I know he’d hate it.”
There was a pause before Ray said, “Your dad sounds like an asshole.”
I actually laughed a little. “Yeah. He cares for me, but he’s an asshole.”
Ray smiled back. He patted my hand comfortingly. “For what it’s worth… you could show up with no makeup and sweats and I’m pretty sure Nikki would still want to be your girlfriend. With the right person, there’s no need to change.”
It was worth a lot to hear that. I smiled to myself, the churning waters of my heart calming ever so slightly.
“By the way, it’s pretty badass that you stabbed him with a fork,” Ray said seriously. “I only wish I could reassure you that he’d be in jail.”
“I know rape or attempted rape cases are tough to prove,” I responded. “You and Nikki being here is enough for now.”
Nikki and Ray weren’t the only people who came for me. Not a minute later, Nikki was opening the door and Mikey was running through. He stopped in front of me looking professional in the white coat he was wearing.
Ray raised an eyebrow. “So, did you put that on to be more professional, or were you actually studying or something?”
Mikey rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “Doesn’t matter—”
“He totally just put it on,” Ray whispered to me.
“—Corey, is it okay if I look at your injuries? We can take you to the ER too.”
I let Mikey check the bruises on my face instead of getting an ambulance. His touch was gentle as he talked through everything he was doing so that I would know. Apparently, everything would heal within a few weeks, but that didn’t make me feel too much better about walking around with these types of bruises on my face and wrists. Nikki reassured me that she could help cover them.
“But I still have to go to classes,” I said slowly, not understanding. “And you can’t come every morning just to help me.”
“Then I’ll drive you,” Nikki offered. When I looked at her in confusion, she added, “Corey, I think we can all agree that we’d like you to stay with us for at least a few days. To be sure you’re safe.”
My eyes widened. “But you’ve already done so much for me,” I protested.
Nikki shook her head. “Then do this for me. I won’t sleep well if I don’t know you’re safe,” she said seriously.
Ray was about to say something when his gear went off. He stepped away to take the call from Officer Henley while Mikey stood straight. “Dom said it was cool too. He went and got a few things for you to make you more comfortable.”
I blinked, surprised. Nikki and Mikey were looking at me with pleading eyes. I smiled at them gratefully. “If… if you insist.”
“Then we’ll head to your place to get some things for you,” Ray said, stepping back over to us. “Henley’s got everything handled for tonight, so she told me to get you home before I meet her back at the station. Mikey, can you head back and help Dom? Nikki and I will stop by Corey’s apartment. That okay, Corey?”
After a quick goodbye to Kurosawa, who told me that he would contact me and to take some time off, we somehow ended up at my apartment. To be honest, everything passed in a daze for me. I wasn’t paying much attention as I leaned my head on Nikki’s shoulder, exhaustion creeping up on me.
I only knew that we had arrived when Nikki shook me softly. “We’re here, Corey.”
She led me from the car, keeping her hand firmly in mine. I thought she was doing it because she felt bad for me, but the look on her face was enough to tell me otherwise.
Ray was the one who keyed us into the building and opened my apartment door while I blinked in confusion. Nikki chuckled at my expression. “Sorry, you were a little out of it. Your friend, uh, Dana got your bag for us. I hope that’s okay.”
I couldn’t help but to be amused. I knew the reality of what happened would hit me later, but for now, Nikki made me feel safe. “It’s okay,” I said to her, leading the way after Ray unlocked the door.
I should have anticipated the conflict that would greet me when I entered. Shawna and Jordan were sitting in the living room together, talking about something. They stopped right away when I walked in with Nikki and Ray behind me.
I didn’t acknowledge them as I walked to my room, but Shawna barked out, “I don’t know what kind of trouble you’re in, but would it kill you to clean up around here?”
I sighed, aware of the way both Ray and Nikki stiffened. I suddenly felt ashamed that the two of them got a glimpse into the shitstorm that was my life. “Yes, it would,” I snarked back for once. “And I’m not in trouble. Officer Ray here is my friend.”
Shawna scoffed. “Would you stop giving me attitude and just put your junk away?”
“I’m about two seconds away from clocking you,” Nikki said, surreptitiously placing herself in front of me. “I’m small, but I’ve got a mean right hook.”
I knew she was lying. Nikki told me as much, but it was nice that she was standing up for me. Admittedly, I wasn’t confident that Nikki could win, or that I wouldn’t get kicked out for fighting, so I was glad that Ray stepped in. “Nikki, go help Corey, okay? It would make it hard to work if you broke your hand.”
Nikki grumbled, but I was the one who said, “Just mind your own business, Shawna, and file a complaint with the RA if it bothers you so much. Just know that I’ll tell the RA that you don’t clean the stove, you’ve been harassing me, you mess with my dishes, and I can’t use the oven because you don’t clean that either. Let’s see who wins.”
I walked away after that, completely out of fucks to give about the cleanliness of the kitchen. As soon as we were behind my door, all three of us crammed into my much too small room, Ray clapped a few times. “That was freaking beautiful. Man, your roommates seem like real jerks though.”
“Jerky roommates, plus an asshole harassing you, plus school and work… I can see why you’re stressed a lot,” Nikki said sympathetically. “But here, let’s help you get a few things.”
They helped me grab my tiny carry-on size suitcase and fold a few tee shirts and jeans. Ray dutifully let Nikki and I throw in my bras and undergarments, but he did say he’d grabbed a few different colored socks. According to him, the color choices would be a surprise.
What didn’t surprise me was that Shawna had actually called the RA, a tall woman by the name of Shannon. She was chatting amicably with my two roommates, but stopped when Nikki, Ray, and I stepped out of my room.
Not wanting to prolong this situation any more than I had to, I asked Shannon to speak to me outside. Upon my request, Ray and Nikki came too. I trusted Nikki with everything I had, but I wouldn’t blame her for actually trying to knock out Shawna. I actually felt bad for Jordan, who looked uncomfortable by this point.
When we were outside the door, I explained the situation to Shannon about Shawna quickly, ending with, “Look, normally I would just let Shawna bully me and say whatever she wants, but I… I almost… um, someone attacked me tonight and I really just don’t want to be here or deal with this right now. I’m really sorry she bothered you.”
I couldn’t say the word rape. I didn’t even want to think it. But the bruises on my face were obvious enough, and Ray’s presence only backed up my story.
Shannon, who I knew was a sweet girl from the few times I met her, nodded kindly at me. “In situations like this, talking to Shawna for her side of the story will only send me around in circles, but I’ll talk to her and see what I can do about this situation. I know you both probably don’t want to move, but don’t think about that right now. Rest and recover and I’ll talk to a few people about this.”
She ended up giving me a nice smile, which I returned. Even though I doubted anything would change, I appreciated Shannon’s help. I was proud of myself too for finally saying something. Maybe I should have done it earlier, but better late than never I suppose.
I was keyed up from all the anxiety and the night’s events, enough that I stayed awake on the ride back to Nikki’s place. Ray dropped us off before driving his truck back to the police station. Even if Henley had given him time to escort me, he still had to do his reports and all that. I barely even noticed he was gone when Nikki led me up to her room after a quick hello to Dom and Mikey. I didn’t protest as Nikki handed me a towel.
“Why don’t you shower? I’ll set up here,” she said with a little smile.
Swallowing my anxiety, I asked, “Um, can you stay in there with me? I just… I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts right now.”
Nikki didn’t seem mad or put out at my odd request, but instead nodded. “Of course.” She ended up checking her channel while I threw my clothes over the shower bar before turning on the water.
I sighed in relief when the hot water hit me. I’d felt dirty all night, a skin-deep dirty that I knew wouldn’t come clean with a shower, but I had to try. I scrubbed myself, remembering the disgusting way Jason’s hands roved over me. Even the heat of the water and the steam rising around me couldn’t wipe away that feeling. It suddenly felt hard to breathe again when Nikki spoke.
“I… probably shouldn’t have left my channel like it did,” she said in an “oh, well” sort of voice.
“Oh, your livestream,” I murmured. “I… interrupted that, huh?”
“Not at all,” Nikki said casually. “I just started when I got your message, so you didn’t interrupt. I kind of ran out suddenly on camera though, so my whole channel is freaking out asking me what happened. They don’t know you as anything other then ‘my friend,’ but they seem very concerned.”
I heard her hum, probably typing away at something on her phone. I could hear Nikki’s fingers tapping against the wall nervously. A beat of silence passed between us before I said, “You should tell them what happened.”
“Corey, what you’ve been through is really personal. You won’t want me to have that stuff online.” I couldn’t make out what emotion was in her voice, but her tone was soft even under the sound of the water.
“No, I mean… um, maybe without using my name, you could explain to everyone why you left. Maybe you could make a video or something. But I’m sure all your fans are worried.” I wasn’t the brave type and I would never tell anyone about what happened to me on my own, but at the same time, I didn’t want to keep all this inside either. Maybe using Nikki’s channel, someone could learn from what happened to me. Maybe it would be a nice distraction from the panic and tears I was desperately holding at bay for now.
Nikki hummed contemplatively. “Maybe. I’ll write up a script and have you look over it. But not tonight. You’re too tired to make decisions on stuff now.”
She gave me a soft pair of pajamas to sleep in and led me to her bed when I was done. I knew Nikki would go downstairs to sleep to give me some privacy, but I grabbed her wrist and asked, “Would you… um, sit here? For a little while?”
She did so without question. And if I woke up in the middle of the night crying and having a panic attack, Nikki never said anything as she held me closely and wiped my tears away.