Chapter 36 - Hear Me
“Hear me, I’m cryin’ out, I’m ready now / Turn my world upside down, find me / I’m lost inside the crowd, it’s getting loud / I need you to see, I’m screaming for you to please / Hear me” – Hear Me, Kelly Clarkson
I thought about what Mia said to me, about telling James the truth, the whole truth behind the scandal. The truth that still only four people know about. A fifth person was not meant to be added to the list, ever, under any circumstances, but yet, I still think about what Mia said. What would James do if he knew the whole truth? Would he be able to keep it to himself? Would he be able to hold onto a truth and keep it a secret for the rest of his life? Would he keep this secret if I asked him to or would he have to seek justice like I tried to do and failed miserably? I trust James and I want to tell him everything, I want to explain the entire story so he can see my side of what happened so that he no longer thinks of me as a monster. It’s bad enough having everyone at this school thinking I falsely accused someone of rape, but having James think that is unbearable. But I don’t want to bring him into this terrible mess of my life because once I let him into the mess, he’ll never be able to get out. And I don’t want to be the one to take that choice from him. The less he knows, the better for him. He’s safe this way.
“Arya!” I hear a voice from behind me and turn away from my locker, the voice snapping me out of my distant thoughts. “How are you?” Malcolm asks me, concern on his face.
“How do you think?” I answer.
“Probably not great.” Malcolm says, “I’m sorry for not coming up to talk to you earlier. I didn’t know…”
“It’s fine, Malcolm,” I say, interrupting him so that he doesn’t have to search for words I don’t think he’ll be able to find.
“He misses you,” Malcolm says.
“He doesn’t want to talk to me,” I say, “and I don’t blame him.”
“I know there is more to the story than what Lisa told us.” Malcolm says, “I know you are a bit crazy, but not that crazy.”
“You called me psycho bitch.” I smile at him and he laughs.
“Okay, yes,” Malcolm says, “but I was wrong. You are passionate, passionate beyond belief. That’s why James likes you so much. I have never seen him as happy as he was with you. Even before his dad died. Whatever the real story is, whatever you are trying to hide, don’t. Not from James. I can’t stand seeing him going back to how he was before. You brought him back to life, Arya, you can’t leave him now.”
“He already knows everything, Malcolm.” I say, “Just like everyone else.”
“I don’t buy it. Arya, I don’t know what happened to you or what happened between you and this guy, but it’s not worth losing your relationship with James over.” Malcolm says, “If there is even a chance you can save the relationship, you have to take it. Don’t let a mistake ruin your life.”
I look Malcolm in the eyes and blink back the tears that want to form. “When did you become so philosophical?” I ask him.
“I’m a man of many talents, Arya.” Malcolm says smiling, “Don’t let my looks fool you,” and I roll my eyes at him, “don’t roll your eyes at me, it’s your fault for missing your chance with me.”
“Oh ha-ha!” I say, slapping him on the shoulder.
“Please consider what I say.” Malcolm says sincerely, “You were meant for James. I’d hate to see you two miserable because you didn’t let him know the full story.”
“Thank you, Malcolm,” I say. Malcolm and I have become friends since James and I started dating. Surprisingly, he’s the one I’ve become the closest with of James’ friends. The guy who hit on me and my sister is gone, and he has been nothing but a funny and sincere friend with me. I hug him and he hugs me back. The embrace of a friendship, of someone that cares about me. I’ve been pushing so many people away that it feels good to have Malcolm wrap himself around me. A guy who cares so much for his friend’s happiness. A guy who I initially hated has become a close friend.
“James,” I say, standing beside his opened locker. He’s alone, organizing his soccer bag. It’s the first soccer game of the season and the boys are playing away, so he’ll need to get on the bus soon.
“What?” he says, continuing to organize his bag, not looking at me.
“James, we need to talk,” I say softly.
“About?” he asks.
“You know what,” I say.
“I thought you told me everything,” James says irritated.
“I’m sorry, James.” I say to him while he continues to avoid eye contact with me, “I did not want you to find out about my past that way.”
James stops what he’s doing and turns to me, “You had so much time and so many opportunities to tell me, but you didn’t. But you weren’t ever going to tell me though, I know that.”
“There is more to your story,” James says, “but you don’t trust me enough to tell me.”
“No, James, just listen…” I say.
“Was he your boyfriend?” James asks.
“No, you know that…”
“Did you sleep with him?” James asks. He’s taunting me, he’s trying to get the truth out of me by pushing me to the edge.
“Did you sleep with him and then regret it, Arya?!” James raises his voice at me. He doesn’t know what he’s saying.
“You really think I would do that?” I almost want to say yes. Take all the heat on me, because it’s what everyone thinks anyway. Everyone thinks I had sex with a guy and then regretted it, so I called him a rapist. Or, my favourite, that he and I got into an argument after sleeping together. That I wanted more from him, but he just saw me as something to fuck so I called him a rapist to protect my reputation. Maybe I should go along with that story. Fuckin’ high school. Everyone has their own story of what happened.
“I don’t know what to think anymore, Arya,” James says, “You won’t tell me anything.”
“James, I’m not the person everyone is making me out to be,” I say.
“Then who are you, Arya?” I stay silent. “Did he hurt you, Arya?” James asks honestly. The answer to this question will change everything. It will change how he looks at me.
He hurt me physically and emotionally. He hurt me in my soul. He hurt me in a place that I had never felt pain before. I felt helpless. I felt trapped. I had to see him all the time, knowing the truth about him while everyone else saw him as a god. Instead of lying down, like he was hoping, he ignited a fire in me, but I was the one that got burned. I don’t know what I was hoping for with this conversation with James. Maybe I thought after a week that we could move on. But that was stupid. How can you move on from this? “No,” I say, “he didn’t hurt me.” Better for James to stay away from me. Better for him to hate me than to bring him into a mess he doesn’t deserve to be in. Malcolm and Mia’s voices are distant. I don’t even hear their advice anymore. I just hear my heart telling me to protect James, even if that means letting him go.
“Really, Arya?” James asks softly because he doesn’t believe me.
“I told you, I tried to ruin his reputation,” I say, “he angered me, and I tried to ruin his life. It backfired.”
“Would you have done that to me? If I upset you, would you try to ruin my reputation too?” James asks.
“How can you even say that?” I say. I cannot believe James would ask me that. It’s like it’s someone else, this isn’t the James I know.
“I shared everything with you, Arya!” James yells in my face. “I left nothing out, I told you everything, about my dad, about things I have never told anyone, but you can’t do the same for me! You are holding back from me. I can see it in your eyes. I don’t know what to do to make you tell me the truth. I’m all out of options, Arya. I can’t be with someone who keeps secrets from me.”
“James,” I say, “you told me once that people are entitled to their secrets.”
“Don’t throw that at me,” James says, “this is bigger than that and you know it. I can’t understand why you would call someone a…” he doesn’t want to say it, he shakes his head. “and you won’t let me understand because you won’t tell me anything.”
“You said you didn’t care why I came to East Side,” I say.
“This is different, Arya,” James says, “you are not the person I thought you were. The girl I knew would never do something like this. And if what you’re saying isn’t false, if you were…” he still doesn’t want to say it, “raped, I know you wouldn’t keep it from me. You can’t keep those things from someone you’re in a relationship with, Arya. I want to know what he did. I want to know what he could have done to make you so angry that you spray painted rapist on his locker. OR if he actually did do what you accused him of, and you are just not telling anyone the truth. You have to tell me, Arya. You have to tell me the truth. I promise I will believe you. And I will protect you. I told you, there’s no one I’m afraid to stand up for you against.”
He’s a monster, I want to tell James. He’s a sick person. But I can’t tell him. ‘You are never going to tell anyone about this, ever.’
“I’m sorry, James. I shouldn’t have come here.” I say, knowing that there is nothing I can do to save this relationship. I’m admitting defeat. I start to turn away from him.
“So that’s it?” James says and I look back at him. “You’re throwing us away?” he gestures between the two of us.
“I guess I am,” I say, the words painful coming out of my mouth. “I’ll stay away from you.”
“Stay away from my friends as well, Arya,” James says angrily.
“Excuse me?” I say, surprised by the comment.
“I saw you yesterday with Malcolm.” James says, “I saw you two hugging in the hallway.”
“That didn’t mean anything.” I say, “He was just comforting me as a friend.”
“He’s my friend, Arya,” James says, pointing to himself. “Not yours. I don’t want to watch you sinking your teeth into him or any of my other friends.”
“James…” I start.
“I was fine before you came to East Side and I’ll be fine if we never cross paths again.” James throws his soccer bag over his shoulder and shuts his locker. “I have a soccer game to get to.” And then he just walks away from me.
And all I can do is stare after him.
How can one person cause so much destruction? The point of leaving West Side was to escape him, to get a fresh start. But he’s still here. He’s still ruining everything.
‘Do you know what guys say about you?’ he said to me. ‘They call you a prude, Arya. That you purposely make yourself look as desirable as possible, just so you can reject guys. That it’s a game to you. 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. Knock you down a couple of pegs.’
I tried to ruin him. I wanted him to pay. But I’m the one that’s losing everything. I slam my hand on James’ locker out of anger and frustration.
“Ohhh…” I hear a guy call out, “watch out for the West Side princess’ temper tantrum!”
Everyone in the hallway just laughs as they look at me. It’s lunch so there are only about ten people in the hallway in scattered groups of two or three. “Going to spray paint James’ locker now?” someone hollers.
I just want to feel my emotions. I just want to be angry, but I can’t do that anymore. Not without being ridiculed.
“Oh, don’t piss her off now,” another guy calls, “she’ll spray paint your locker too!”
I have to get away. When I turn to leave the hallway, I run into a tall, strong guy with tanned skin and black spiked hair, who is purposely blocking my way. “Leaving so soon?” he smiles at me.
“Be careful not to touch her,” I hear a male voice say coming up behind me. “She might call you a rapist too.” And then I feel a hand on my hip that moves under my shirt to touch my bare stomach. I feel him pressing his hips into me. “I’m curious, is this rape?” he says into my ear.
“Fuck off,” I say and then turn away from him, out of his grip, to now face him, my back to the other guy. He’s just slightly taller than me. Messy brown hair and a cocky grin.
“Careful, I like girls with a feisty side to them,” he says to me. “You know, most guys are scared of you. Scared that you are going to call them a rapist if they do anything to you, but not me. I see it as an opportunity. Because why would anyone believe the girl who cried rape?”
I turn to leave, to get away from these two guys I’m sandwiched between. When I try to turn away, the tall guy pushes me to the other guy that is enjoying taunting me too much. Crashing face first into him, I feel his hands on my hips, his fingers looping around my jeans belt loops so he can hold me close to him. I push myself away from him, but he just holds me closer, enjoying every minute of this.
He smiles at me and I know that no one in this hallway is going to step in. They are just going to watch, eagerly waiting to see how far this will go. “The hotter the girl, the crazier she is. You seem to fit that description perfectly,” he says to me. I don’t like how close his face is to mine. I can feel his breath on me.
“Get your hands off of me,” I say sternly, glaring at him.
“We’re just gonna have a bit of fun first,” he says, and then pushes me up against the lockers, trapping me there. He’s strong despite his lean body and I am sure he has no problem showing off that strength if he needs to.
“We’re in a fuckin’ hallway,” I say to him. Is he really going to do something more with everyone watching? I try to step on his foot, but my leg can’t move enough to get any impact. I push him, knowing that it’s no use, but I can’t just stand here and do nothing.
“Don’t resist,” he says, “it just turns me on more.” He’s a monster. He’s sick. He doesn’t care if the girl wants it or not. No, he’s worse. He likes it if she doesn’t want it. “I don’t like easy girls. I like a challenge,” He comes up close to my face as if he would kiss me, but both our eyes stay open, our noses almost touching. “You come to this school, walking around with your fancy outfits, perfect hair, perfect makeup, thinking that you are better than everyone. Thinking you are above every guy here. But it turns out you’re just a West Side slut.” He laughs. “I was curious about what was underneath all these clothes. I’ve wanted to bend you over and fuck you for a while now. Something that a lot of other guys want to do too.”
The bell has to ring soon. It will be my only saving grace. Stalling him until the bell rings or a teacher comes. I turn my head away from him, praying for a bell to stop this madness. He takes his right hand away from my belt loop and feels under my shirt, across my stomach, starting to reach his hand down inside my jeans. I lift my knee to try and knee him where it hurts, but I barely make an impact.
“You don’t want to do that,” he says, taking his hand away. I stomp on his foot, and I finally make an impact. Enough that I can knee him between the legs and make an impact there too. “Fuckin’ bitch,” he says under his breath, and I know I hurt him. I turn to get away from him, but he grabs me, drags me, and then pushes me through the doors of the boy’s bathroom, throwing me up against the wall. “You are going to regret that,” he says to my face. He grabs a fistful of hair from the back of my scalp, tilting my head back. “You have a really pretty mouth,” he says, “there’s somewhere I’d like to see it.”
He starts undoing his belt buckle and I hear him undo the zipper of his jeans. I don’t hear anyone else in the bathroom and I fear that the bystanders in the hallway will just remain bystanders and ignore the terrible thing that is about to happen in here. Pretend that they had no idea. Say it wasn’t their problem. Are they afraid of stepping in? Do they think I deserve it?
“I trust you have done this before,” he says, pulling on my hair to try and get me to my knees. I resist, trying to get his hand off of me, but he just pulls harder. I hold back a scream, feeling my eyes water at the pain. When he kicks my shins to get me to the ground, I let the scream out, my knees slamming to the floor. I close my eyes, feeling the tears on my cheeks. I don’t want to see anything. He takes a stronger grip of my hair, weaving and digging his fingers in painfully, trying to pull me closer to him. I still try to resist, pulling away from him, but I know he’s enjoying this. And we both know who is the stronger one of the two of us. “You have five seconds before I smash your fuckin’ head against this wall.” I’d rather he smash my head against the wall. Knock me unconscious so I don’t have to remember this ever happened.
“What the fuck are you doing?!” I hear a voice say, coming into the bathroom. When I open my eyes, I just see a blur of two guys throwing my attacker away from me. I move from my knees to sit on the ground, leaning against the wall, frozen, trying to calm myself.
“What the fuck, man?!” the attacker yells at my saviours that I recognize Grade 12 football players. My attacker is on the ground, trying to do up his pants.
“You need to leave her the fuck alone,” one footballer says over him.
“And you need to mind your own business,” the attacker says, getting up.
“If you don’t leave in the next five seconds, we will beat you to the ground,” the other footballer says, and the attacker just glares at them. The footballer grabs him by the collar of his shirt. “Fuckin’ leave!” he yells at him and then he starts dragging him to the bathroom door and throws him out.
I just curl my knees to my chest amid all the madness going on around me.
“You okay?” the one footballer comes up to me. He’s big. He towers over me in height and width. I’d hate to be against him in any scenario. The other one is small but strong.
“Yeah,” I say softly, feeling more tears about to come. “I mean, thank you. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if you guys didn’t come in.” I run my hands through my hair, not looking at these footballers that saved me when everyone else was just going to let it happen.
The larger of the two comes up and sits next to me, leaning against the wall, while the shorter one just stands there in front of us. “I’m sorry that happened,” he says. I can tell he doesn’t know what he should say, but that’s okay because I don’t know what he should say either. Just being here is enough.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to say either. I just can’t believe how crazy he went and what he was going to make me do. The bell rings, signally lunch is over. For fucks sake, now the bell rings?
“Can we walk you to your locker?” the one standing says. Class and then our first soccer game. I don’t want to move.
“I’m fine,” I say.
“I don’t believe that for a second,” the one on the ground says. I look at him and find him staring at me with a straight face. “Is there somewhere else I can take you? The office, outside, anywhere?”
“I should probably get to class,” I say and look away from him to the ground, but I don’t move. He must give a look to his standing friend because I hear the bathroom door open and then it’s just the two of us.
“You’re the West Side girl that everyone has been talking about,” he says, and I just ignore him. My silence should confirm his answer. “I have a feeling you didn’t falsely accuse anyone of anything.” I turn my head to look at him. This is a guy I don’t know that helped a stranger because he saw it as the right thing to do. That’s it. It didn’t matter who I was or what I’ve done.
I can’t stop the tears, so I just let them out. I don’t know what the tears are for exactly. Is it for being given the decision between giving a guy oral or having my head smashed? For the destruction of my life because of a West Side jerk? Or is it that things were going so well and now they are going so wrong and I don’t know how to fix it? He puts an arm around me, and I just lie my head on his shoulder, letting the tears out while he just sits there and lets me, never saying a word. He lets me cry through the warning bell and the final bell which means we are both late. Any time the door of the bathroom opens, he just yells at the person to get lost, which they quickly do for the large football player.
“I’m sorry,” I say, lifting my head and drying the tears.
“It’s fine,” he says. I start to get up and he follows. “I’ll walk you to your locker.”
“That’s not necessary,” I say.
“I know it’s not,” he says, “but let me do it for my peace of mind over yours.”
I smile. “Thank you,” I say, “for you and your friend saving me when no one else would. For staying here when I just needed someone.”
“I’m a pretty good listener if you ever need as well,” he says.
“I might take you up on that,” I say, and then we finally leave that awful bathroom.
No POV – Before the attack
“What the fuck is going on in there?!” Alexander, the large Grade 12 football player, yells running towards the tall guy standing in front of the bathroom door.
“Nothing,” he says, shrugging his shoulders.
“You better move out of the fuckin’ way,” Sebastian, another Grade 12 football player, says coming up behind him. “He’s going to rape her!”
“They’re just having a bit of fun,” the guy says, and then they hear a female scream.
“Fuck this,” Alexander says, and both of them easily wrestle the guy at the door, throwing him aside and rush into the bathroom to see a sight that they wish they could unsee.