The next day at school Carla could barely look Ridian in the eyes.
He knows, she thought. I’m filthy. The night before her brother hadn’t gone so far as to enter her and make it rape but he touched her all over, made her please him and slapped her around for a bit afterwards. When he finally left around one in the morning she went in the bathroom and puked for a good hour before taking three showers trying to remove his scent from her skin.
She scrubbed till she was raw and pink and wrinkled from soaking in the water for so long but it still didn’t feel like enough. Now when she looked in the mirror there was a shattered look in her eyes. She had the expression of one who was slowly drowning and could do nothing about it. Sitting in the tub for an hour Carla let the water run till it was cold and cried. That’s all she really did lately.
She screamed and howled beating at her head and tearing at her chest trying to relieve herself of the torment that ravaged her insides. With a pounding head and shaky fingers she slowly got dressed. Pulling on some leggings, a baggy blue sweater and gray boots she put her hair in a sloppy bun at the nape of her neck with loose strands framing her tired face. Carla had no energy to put on make up and it was all she could do to drag herself to her car and drive to school. Swerving a couple times from watery eyes she somehow made it safely.
As soon as she pulled up to the school her heart started to beat wildly in her chest so much it hurt and she was sure anyone who got near her would be able to hear it. Sweat beaded on her chest as she picked up her bag and stepped out of the heated vehicle into the brisk winter air, her mouth exhaling a small puff of white as she gasped slightly at the temperature change. Walking towards the building it felt like a million eyes were upon her, gorging holes of judgement into every available facet on her skin.
Carla hugged herself tighter and walked on head bowed to the ground. It was because of this that she ran directly into Ridian. He caught her as she stumbled and laughed slightly at her clumsiness.
“Hey babe, is this your new way of saying hello?” He asked her jokingly while still holding her upright. “If you wanted to press up on me you could have just asked,“. He moved closer to her wiggling his eyebrows suggestively and when his hand moved to her waist she immediately shied away from him, his touch reminding her of the night before. Ridian looked momentarily confused and slightly hurt at her actions before a look of concern quickly took over.
“What’s wrong? Did something happen? Are you hurt?” He stopped when Carla held up a hand in protest against the barrage of questions being hurled at her and gave him a small reassuring smile. Lifting her head slightly and adjusting her gaze to his collarbone she responded in a soft voice.
“It’s nothing...I’m just tired,“. The stress of not meeting his gaze overcame her and she bolted around him heading into the school building towards first period. She heard his heavy footsteps behind her a little while after and they followed her all the way to class and into the seat on her right. She proceeded to ignore him. It killed her on the inside but the thought of his disgust for her tormented her even more.
He knows! He knows! How could he not? I’m so filthy! I’m so filthy, she thought in despair to herself as her eyes rimmed with tears. After a moment she realized that Mrs. Trudle was calling her name. Her brilliant blue eyes were filled with concern as she asked her question again.
“Are you alright dear? Would you like to go to the nurses room?” Mrs. Trudle had stopped mid lesson when she noticed the way Carla was twitching and shaking in the back of the room and now everyones eyes were on her. Most were nonchalant, some were snickering and others just looked curious. To Carla they all looked like they were filled with disgust. Hiding behind her hair she nodded a sharp yes and quickly began to gather up her things.
As she approached the door Mrs. Trudle stopped her with a light touch on her arm but she immediately jumped at the contact, a frightened and wild look in her eyes. Mrs. Trudle became even more worried as she took in Carla’s pitiful appearance.
“Just know you can come talk to me anytime alright sweetheart?” Carla slightly tilted her head in what could have been taken as a yes before bolting form the room leaving behind shocked classmates, and an extremely concerned boyfriend.
Worry crowded in Ridian’s mind making it impossible for him to focus on the class for the rest of the period as he wondered what was wrong with Carla. He decided to go to the nurses office after class to check up on her but she was already gone, having left for the day when he got there. It got worse.
Every night for the next few weeks Danny went into Carla’s room and every night he got closer and closer to sex, never actually quite doing it. Unlike her mother he didn’t like to beat her, he was a cutter. He would make small incisions along her thighs and in her armpits or along her back making sure he didn’t seriously injure her but enough to cause agony. When she screamed loud and piercing he simply smiled and continued. Her mother never came into the room.
Every night he left she was in a worse state than the one before and it showed. She wore leggings and raggedy sweatshirts everyday, leaving her hair limp and dirty in front of her face, not even bothering to wash it. Showers hurt too much so she could only do them in stages before the pain became unbearable and she would quickly dry off before layering on cloths in an effort to stop Danny’s advances. They never worked.
She stopped talking; period. When teachers called on Carla they would get a mumbled response or just a blank stare and would eventually move on. Soon they stopped calling on her altogether. She never smiled or laughed, she made no effort to appear happy in front of anyone. When Sam and ridian would talk to her she wouldn’t answer and would instead stare blankly ahead.
She looked like death had already taken her soul and had just forgotten the carcass; nothing but an empty shell. Her green eyes were so dark they were almost black and carried no life within them. Her skin became unusually pale from spending so much time indoors inside of her room, scared to encounter Danny anywhere else. Her mother stopped beating her so her bruises healed but now she was covered in small scabs and red lashes from her cuts. Around the second week Danny moved from cuts to small burns.
His favorite activity became discovering different ways to brand her. The one time he attempted to brand his name on her inner thigh energy suddenly filled Carla’s body and she lashed out at him making the iron fall on his own limb and he cried out in pain. She then scurried into a corner of her room and hissed and growled at him like an animal.
Her eyes still held no emotion and her body was hunched inwards on herself. Danny simply laughed and left to treat himself before returning and grabbing her by her hair and pulling her back to the bed to continue, ignoring her howls of pain and protest.
By the end of the third week Ridian couldn’t take it anymore. He loved Carla but for some reason she’d become completely shut off from the world. She wandered around the hallways with a lost puppy look in her eyes and she would only give a blank unresponsive stared when people asked her anything until they would go away. Even the cheerleaders left her alone the way a predator won’t touch a rotting carcass. She was already done for.
Ridian had no idea how or why she became like this and was desperate to help her. Every day his heart broke a little when he saw her but he tried to treat her sweetly and kindly like he always had. It had no effect. Sometimes it didn’t even look like she recognized him and if he touched her she would immediately jump and shy away, the look of a frightened and haunted animal who’d been tortured before left to die would appear in her eyes.
When he asked Sam if she’d ever seen her like this she’d told him no.
“She used to be really quiet and shy and really sensitive to what others thought about her but this,“. Sam sighed and shook her head her brow furrowed in worry and confusion. “I’ve never seen anything like this in anyone,“. Sam was just as concerned about her friend if not more, as Ridian.
“That’s it,“. Ridian said. His face was set in an expression of grim determination. I’m gonna follow her home and get some answers. This can’t go on,” He glanced back down at Sam’s surprised expression. “If she needs help than I’m going to give it to her,“. Sam nodded in agreement.
“Count me in too,“. While Sam and Ridian had been talking they hadn’t noticed Peter coming up behind them. He had a grim and resolved look on his face. Ridian nodded not even attempting to stop him. He knew he cared about her just as much as he and Sam did.
The two siblings waited until last period and ditched to go sit in Ridian’s car and wait for Carla to come out. Peter joined them shortly after, having to work a little harder to get out of Office Duty with the nurse as part of his service learning. This way there’s no way she could evade them like she had been doing of late. Sure enough the second the bell rang they saw a small figure rush out the front door her limp brown hair swinging by her face as she ran down the steps and made her way to her car.
Carla always rushed home now. Being outside the house was hell because all she could think about was what she had to go to home and the fear ate away at her each day until she was sick in the bathroom sometimes. Quickly sliding into her front seat she started the ignition and drove off not bothering to let the car warm up. In her rush she didn’t notice Ridian’s white pick up truck following close behind.
Ten minutes later she arrived home and she expertly parallel parked in front of her house before getting out the car. Ridian parked five cars behind her where he could still see as she unlocked the door and entered the house, shutting it tightly behind her.
“Is this the only way to find out what’s been going on?” Sam asked after an hour of staking out the house. Ridian nodded grimly.
“I’d already spoke to the guy at the animal shelter a couple of weeks ago and he’d said she’d quit awhile back but she hadn’t seemed like this at the time. She used to go back and visit the animals but she stopped doing that too. I don’t know what else to do.”
“But wouldn’t this be considered breaking and entering?” Sam asked nervously.
“I’m pretty sure she won’t mind. I doubt she’ll even notice us. She’s been more like a ghost than an actual human lately,” Sam nodded in agreement.
“Let’s stop talking about it and just do it,” Peter interjected. The siblings nodded, nearly forgetting about their third passenger in the backseat.
“Let’s go,” Ridian said before they all got out of the car and began to make their way up to the house.