Chapter 35 - What I’ve Done
“Put to rest what you thought of me / While I clean this slate / With the hands of uncertainty / So let mercy come and wash away / What I’ve done” – What I’ve Done, Linkin Park
The rest of the day was a nightmare. I’ve never been the topic of everyone’s discussion before and as I sit in class, walk the halls, I know that I’m what everyone is talking about. I hear them hush people when I walk through the halls, I know they are staring at me, judging me, thinking ‘What type of girl does that?’. James doesn’t approach me again and I don’t blame him. I shut my friends out who can’t believe what they have heard. But I am fortunate that they don’t shut me out. They don’t want to abandon me at my lowest point.
“Arya,” Diana says at our lockers, “If you want to talk, we are always here to listen.”
“You already know everything.” I say, “Everyone does.”
“I don’t think that’s true.” Diana says, “I think there’s a lot more to the story that you won’t tell us.”
“I did do what she said.” I say, “All of it was true.”
“I don’t think you would have done it without a good reason,” Diana says. “I think you are hiding something, Arya. What did he do to you? What did they do to you?”
“I told you, we had an argument, and this is what I did to get back at him,” I say.
“That guy at the party,” Diana says, “he’s the guy…”
“Leave it,” I say.
“It was him though,” Diana says. “He said you guys had a disagreement before…”
“We did,” I say. “We had a disagreement and then I lost my temper, I lost control. I did something really bad to get back at him.”
“They tried to save both our reputations by sending me away. And as karma works, in trying to ruin his life, I ruined mine.” And then I slam my locker and walk away.
“Arya!” Mia yells at me while knocking loudly on my bedroom door, “It’s time for dinner!”
“I’ll be down in a minute!” I yell at her, sitting at my desk doing homework.
I am still waiting for the gossip and rumours about me at East Side to stop. It’s been a week and I’m still waiting to no longer be the topic of everyone’s conversation. I’m waiting for the stares and whispers to stop. Some people make comments to me like, ‘Do you accuse every guy you sleep with of rape?’ or ‘Falsely accusing someone of rape is as bad as if you were the rapist’ or ‘What did he ever do to you? You could have ruined his life!’. The messages in my inbox and posts on my wall are far worse though. People are confident when they have a computer screen to hide behind. They say the cruelest things to me, ‘Kill yourself’ or ‘Scared of your Catholic family finding out you have loose morals?’ or ‘We don’t want West Side’s trash at our school’.
I don’t think I am a bad person, but all these people think I am, and all the hate mail is becoming too much. I ended up deleting my account. I couldn’t respond to anything and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I’m a leper. I’m the person everyone loves to hate right now. Everyone has agreed that I am a terrible person and have joined together to bring me down. To make me feel so terrible about myself that I just leave East Side. That’s their goal, that’s what they want, and they will cheer amongst themselves if they make my life so miserable that I break. They just see someone that deserves all the hate they are throwing at me, they don’t see the person suffering because of it.
Mia opens the door and walks in to sit on the bed. “You can’t keep doing this.”
“What?” I say to her, not looking up from my work.
“Shutting yourself in your room all night, only coming out for dinner, barely making conversation with anyone, not leaving the house unless it’s school, work, or soccer.” Mia says, “Mom and Dad are getting worried, I overheard them talking. It’s been a week now, Arya. I’ve given you a week, but you can’t continue like this.”
“We talk,” I say, turning to her. Mia is the only one I can just be myself around this past week. She’s one of the four that knows the whole truth. When it’s just us, we can pretend that everything is okay and that the outside world doesn’t exist. But I think she’s done with that now.
“Arya, it’s not the same,” Mia says, “What about James?” Mia asks. Just his name pulls at my heartstrings and makes it ache.
“He won’t talk to me,” I say bluntly, “and I don’t blame him.”
“Have you thought about telling him the whole story?” Mia asks, venturing into unknown territory.
“What do you think?” I say unkindly, irritated that she would even ask the question. But I immediately regret my tone with her. “I’m sorry, Mia, I didn’t mean…”
“I know, Arya. You trust him though, don’t you?” Mia says.
“This isn’t about trust, Mia,” I say.
“He would never tell.” Mia comments, “If you asked him to, he wouldn’t tell a soul.”
“I can’t do that to him.” I say, “And I don’t know how he would react if I told him.”
“He deserves to know, Arya.” Mia says, “I see him in the hallway, he looks so miserable.”
“I don’t want to bring him into this mess, Mia.” I say, feeling tears in my eyes and she comes up to me and hugs me, “He doesn’t deserve it. This is my fault. I have to accept responsibility for what I did. Anger can make you do crazy things.”
“Arya, look at me,” Mia says, holding my face in her hands so that we are looking at each other face to face. “I was always jealous of you in high school. You were so happy and carefree, you had everything going for you. Smart, amazing soccer player, great friends, beautiful, I just couldn’t wait to be in high school and be just like you. But as perfect as your life appeared at West Side, as happy as you were there, I have never seen you happier than when you were with James.”
“Mia…” I say.
“You have always been there for me, Arya,” Mia says, letting her hands fall from my face. “I just want to be there for you, Arya. You have always helped me and given me advice, now it’s my turn to give you advice. You need to tell James the truth, he will understand. He wants to understand, he wants to be a part of whatever mess this is. Tell him, Arya. That West Side jerk has already taken too much, don’t let him take away your happiness, don’t let him take away James. You can’t let one person ruin your life. You can’t let him win.”
“Mia, this is my fault,” I say, “I have to accept the consequences. I knew what I was doing that day. Vandalism isn’t exactly a healthy way to express your anger.”
“Anything you would have changed about that day?” Mia asks.
I ponder the question. “Would have done it on Thursday instead of Wednesday,” I say and Mia and I both laugh.
Then my phone rings and I see the caller and just ignore it like I’ve been doing all week. “Who is it?” Mia asks.
“No one,” I say.
“Really, no one,” I say.
“I don’t believe it,” Mia says and reaches for the phone, but I slap her hand away. We continue to fight over my phone until I take it and jump on the bed holding it up out of Mia’s reach and we are both laughing.
“Arya!!” I hear my dad’s voice calling from downstairs. I look to Mia and she just shrugs her shoulders. “Come down here! Now!”
“If you’re not telling me something…” I say to Mia.
“I swear I have no idea,” Mia says honestly. “I was just told to bring you down for dinner.”
I jump down from the bed, with Mia following behind me as I venture to the staircase and then I see him inside the front door, talking and joking with my dad. The town’s favourite hockey player has come to my house. I walk down the stairs slowly with Mia just behind me.
“Arya,” my dad says, all smiles for the hockey superstar in our house. “This fine young man is here to see you.”
“Great,” I force a smile at my dad.
“I won’t take too much of her time, Dr. Secord,” Lexi says to my dad.
“No problem, Lexi,” Dad says. “Take all the time you need.” I roll my eyes. Hockey is big in this town so my dad is more than happy to leave me with the town’s superstar player. “Mia,” Dad says, “let’s go help your mother with dinner.” And then they leave us at the front door.
“Your dad still likes me,” Lexi smiles.
“What are you doing here, Lexi?” I say, crossing my arms.
“You wouldn’t answer any of my phone calls,” Lexi says.
“There’s a reason for that,” I say.
“Look, Arya,” Lexi says, “I know we’re not together, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. I want to help you.”
I look at him and then I see his gold cross necklace coming out from his shirt that he always wears tucked underneath. A reminder that Lexi is from a Catholic family. Another point for him in my parents’ books. I walk up to him and grab the necklace to put it under his shirt.
“What are you doing?” Lexi says, backing away from me. The necklace is back safe and sound under his shirt.
“I didn’t want a flashing symbol to remind my parents why you are the perfect guy,” I say, and he laughs.
I hear the sounds of pots and pans clanging in the kitchen and then my mom comes up to us. “Would you like to stay for dinner, Lexi?”
Lexi smiles sweetly at her. “No, but thank you, Mrs. Secord,” Lexi says, “I have dinner waiting for me at my house.”
“Okay, but you’re always welcome here, Lexi,” Mom says, and I roll my eyes.
“Thank you,” Lexi says, “I was wondering if I could take could maybe talk to Arya for a bit if that’s not too much trouble. I’m sorry for coming right before dinner.”
“Of course!” Mom says enthusiastically, “Be my guest! You guys can walk the trail at the end of the road.”
And then my mom walks away happily back to the kitchen. My mom and dad both know that James and I are no longer together. Something they could easily guess with how miserable I’ve been and that they haven’t seen him, and I haven’t met up with him. Thankfully that’s all they think is wrong. And now it looks like they are happy to match me up with this West Side hockey player that ticks off all the boxes a parent looks for in the guy their daughter is dating. Even dads can’t say no to hockey players dating their daughters. What is it about them?
“Your mom likes me too,” Lexi winks at me.
“Let’s just go before my dad forces you to stay for dinner,” I say, gesturing to the door. I put on my sandals as Lexi opens the door and we head out on the sidewalk towards the dirt trail that goes along the river. We walk in silence for a while before Lexi finally breaks it.
“Are you going to tell me what happened now?” Lexi asks.
“Everyone knows,” I say.
“What really happened, Arya?” Lexi asks.
“I got very angry at a boy and then accused him of rape,” I say, “I spray painted it on his locker. Did you not get the memo?”
“What did he do?”
“Doesn’t matter,” I say.
“It does,” Lexi says, “you told me, actually you promised me, that you weren’t…” he doesn’t want to say it, “raped. And I believed you. Should I still believe you, Arya?”
“I didn’t lie, Lexi,” I say.
“Then what did he do to you that you got you so worked up?” Lexi says, “I know you wouldn’t accuse a guy of…”
“I did, Lexi!” I yell at him. “Stop pretending like you know me and what I would and would not do.”
“Arya, you’re holding back…”
“Lexi, I am not going into this with you,” I interrupt him.
“Arya, I’m being very patient with you right now, but you are testing that patience,” Lexi says sternly.
“You know the truth,” I say, “there’s nothing more to say.”
“I’m doing this out of courtesy,” Lexi says, “getting the story from you first before I do anything because I’m 99% sure I know who the guy is.”
“No, you don’t.”
“It’s Henri,” Lexi says, and I look at him with a straight face. “I’m going to kill him, Arya. Just give me the ammunition.”
“I have none to give you,” I say.
“I know Henri is a jerk,” Lexi says, “I already hated him.”
“Leave it, Lexi,” I say. “I made a mistake. A big mistake. And now I’m paying the price for it.”
“Did you…” Lexi starts and then takes a breath. “Did you and him ever…”
“Just stop, Lexi,” I say, mortified that he is even asking me this.
“Arya, there is nothing to be ashamed about,” Lexi says, “if he did something…”
“Please stop,” I say, “there’s nothing to talk about.”
“You spray painted his locker, Arya,” Lexi says, “you spray painted rapist across it. Why would you do that if it wasn’t true?”
“Because I’m crazy and can’t control my anger,” I say, “I have plenty of references to call me a psycho bitch, batshit crazy, a tease, the list goes on, Lexi. Take your pick.”
‘Do you know what guys say about you?’ he said to me. ‘That you’re asking for it. They say that some guy just needs to bend you over and fuck you so that you can get over yourself.’
“Arya, I can’t help you if you don’t at least meet me halfway,” Lexi says, “I want to protect you.”
I stop on the trail and he stops with me to face me. Hurt him, Arya. Break him. That’s the only way he’ll let it go. “I’m not yours to protect.”
“I’ve never been yours, Lexi. We kissed. Once. That’s it.” I say. “I don’t want your help.”
“You’re shutting me out,” Lexi says, “just tell me the truth.”
“Leave me alone, Lexi,” I say sternly. “Just accept that good people do bad things sometimes. I’m not the ‘perfect girl’ you thought I was.”
“What did he do that you can’t tell me? Did he threaten you? Because I can…”
“Just fuck off, Lexi!” I yell at him, enraged. Hurt him, Arya. Make him angry. “I don’t need you to play the ‘macho guy’ and beat up a guy so that you can feel better about yourself.” Lexi glares at me. Push him, Arya. Push him over the edge. Make him hate you. “You want to beat him up to prove to everyone that no one messes with ‘your girl’. It has nothing to do with you caring about me. We never had a relationship, Lexi, and we never will. Accept it and move on.”
Lexi walks straight up to me to tower over me. “You have so many people willing to protect you and help you, but you just shut them all out,” Lexi says angrily. “I think something bad happened to you. I think Henri did something bad to you, but for some fuckin’ reason, you don’t want to tell anyone. I’ve tried, Arya. I’ve tried so bloody hard with you, but you aren’t budging at all.” Lexi takes a deep breath. “This mess you’re in, Arya,” he waves his finger in a circle in the air, “it’s your fault. You did this to yourself by not reaching out. And you deserve to be in it.”
Lexi turns away from me, walking back to where we came from. He hates me.
I wait a long time before coming back to the house.
“Where’s Lexi?” Mom says as soon as I walk through the door.
“He had to go home,” I say.
Mom frowns. “Oh,” she says, “I was setting aside dessert for him to take home.”
“Mom,” I say, “I’m not dating him, please stop treating him like a future son-in-law.”
“But he’s so handsome, Arya!” Mom says excitedly. “He’s a hockey player, his dad’s a doctor, he’s Catholic, he…”
“Mom!” I grab her. “Please stop.”
“I just thought he might be a nice person to have around considering you and James,” Mom says. “He’s a nice boy, Arya. You should at least think about it.” What would my mom say if she knew Lexi and I made out in the drama room closet when I was at West Side?
“I’ll think about it,” I say to appease her.
“I left a plate of food for you on the table,” Mom says.
“I’m not hungry,” I say.
“Arya,” Mom says, “I get that you and James were close, but you can’t let yourself go because of one boy. He’s clearly an idiot for not realizing what a great girl he had.” I’m not a great girl, Mom. If you knew the things I’ve done, you wouldn’t be saying that.
I walk upstairs to my room after forcing half a plate of food down. I want to pretend everything is okay. I don’t want my family to worry about me. I’m trying to put on a brave face in front of them but locking myself away just seems to be so much easier. It’s selfish, I know, but I can’t help it.
I go into my closet, pulling back the curtain of clothes on the hangers to get to the back of it. It’s just lying there in a dark green lump, discarded and forgotten. I kneel to pick it up and hold up the green dress that used to be my favourite. It’s a long sleeve that flares out at the elbows and goes down to the knees. It’s made of rich, thick material. A dress you could wear in the winter and would keep you warm.
‘We were just having fun,’ he said like it was no big deal.
I turn it around to look at the back. There’s a long silver zipper that runs down the back and it’s opened all the way. I couldn’t be bothered to do the zipper up when I threw it in the back of my closet. I just wanted it out of my sight. It reminds me of him and what he did.
‘I’m not a fuckin’ mind reader, Arya!’ he yelled in my face. That one hurt.
This used to be my favourite dress. I loved wearing it on Christmas. I bought it in Montreal when we were visiting there. It was very expensive, but I pleaded with my dad and he gave in like he always does. Money is not an issue for him and if he could give me the world he would.
‘I didn’t do anything wrong,’ he said to me.
Now my favourite, expensive dress just lies in the back corner of my closet. I couldn’t bear to throw it away, but I know I’ll never wear it again. I can’t. All the good memories that this dress has experienced don’t compare to the one bad experience.
‘What are you going to do, Arya?’ he asked, knowing I can do nothing.
I cannot bear to put this dress on again, knowing what happened in it. Why am I keeping it if I know I’ll never wear it again? Throwing it away wouldn’t be good enough.
‘You are never going to tell anyone about this, ever.’
I need to burn it. Burn it and destroy the memories that this dress holds.
“Arya!” I hear my mom’s voice call, “Aunt Suzie’s on the phone!”
I throw the dress back where I left it and close the closet door.