Chapter 42 - My Story
“If I told you my story / You would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go / And if I told you my story / You would hear Love that never gave up / And if I told you my story / You would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine” – My Story, Big Daddy Weave
Grade 11 is an exciting year, finally being a senior and moving up in the world, there are now two grades below you and only one grade above. Now is the time to start thinking about what we want to do after high school and picking the right courses to be on track to get there, which is more scary than exciting, but it’s not graduation year yet so there’s no reason to go into full panic mode. Yet. I was looking forward to the start of my Grade 11 year, I was in the rhythm of the school year having done it already twice before, so doing it a third time would be a breeze. My sister Mia would be starting as well, coming into the school as a Grade 9. I was excited to have her there and hoped that her Grade 9 year went as smoothly as possible. She was beyond excited to finally be at high school. She assured me that she wouldn’t need my help, so I promised to stay out of her business and let her enjoy her time in high school without having to be reminded that her older sister was there, two years above her.
The school year was going well for both of us, but about three months in, that’s when things started to change. Mia was acting differently towards me and the rest of the family. She seemed more concerned with attracting male attention than her normal hobbies. I tried not to think too much of it. She was 14, of course she would be acting differently when put in an entirely new environment with new people, so I let it go and gave her the space that she seemed to want.
It was after the Christmas break when everything changed. One day in January, I was running back to the house from a jog (might seem crazy, but I like running in the winter) and I saw her. On the front porch, with some guy. I slowed down, just watching them, talking, laughing, and then he kissed her before he left, driving away in his car. I knew my parents were out and wouldn’t know that Mia had been alone with a boy at the house. I recognized him, even from a distance. Henri Young. I didn’t know much about him, other than he was a soccer and basketball player. And that he’s rich. His dad owns Young Construction. But Henri is in my grade. What is he doing with a Grade 9? I was suspicious of it. So, I asked Mia about it.
“It’s none of your business, Arya,” Mia says to me on the front porch.
“I’m just looking out for you.” I say, “He’s a Grade 11.”
“So, therefore, he can’t like me?” Mia asks.
“That’s not it,” I say.
“Are you jealous?” Mia says, raising an eyebrow at me. This is so unlike her.
“No, I am not jealous,” I say, angry that she would even ask me that. “I don’t even know him.”
“The light is not always on you, Arya,” Mia says, “someone likes me better.” And then she walks back into the house.
So, I decided I would talk to Henri instead, a guy I barely knew.
“Arya,” Henri says when he sees me approaching him at his locker, “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Are you dating my sister?” I ask bluntly, not wanting to waste any time with small talk.
“Yes,” he says, “Is there something wrong with that?”
“Why is a Grade 11 dating a Grade 9?” I ask.
“She’s cute,” Henri says, “And I think she’s nice and cool. Sue me.” I just stare at him, trying to figure out what type of person he is. “I have no bad intentions, Arya. I like her, so you can put your older sister instincts to rest.”
So I just let the relationship continue. I couldn’t just forbid the relationship, but in my gut, I knew it wasn’t right. I felt it, but I turned away and let their relationship continue like Mia wanted, and stayed out of her life and continued with mine. I let myself be distracted by a hockey captain.
Mia and Henri were together for all of January. Mia was more closed off from me than ever before. She spent a lot of time out, whether it was all with Henri or with her friends, I never really found out, but it doesn’t matter. Her appearance became very important to her, how she looked, how she dressed. Things she never cared about before, but that happens when you get older and are more interested in attracting male attention.
I never said anything. Any time I came to her about how she’s changed and her relationship with Henri, she just got mad at me, so I conceded. Until a Saturday night in the first week of February that I couldn’t just stand by anymore. With our parents asleep, I walked by her room to go downstairs when I heard her crying behind the door.
“Mia?” I say, knocking on the door. No answer, just tears. I test the doorknob and find the door unlocked. I open up to see my 14-year-old sister, dressed in my black dress that she must have taken from my closest and knee-high black boots, crying on her bed, not even looking up when I come in. “Mia,” I say and come to sit next to her on the bed, wrapping my arms around her shoulders as she continues to cry. I just hold her, waiting for her to be the one to open up when she’s ready. The tears eventually stop as they always do and she looks up at me, still holding her. I see the pain in her face. Her eyes are red from someone who has been crying for too long, her mascara slightly smeared, her bottom lip trembling slightly as if she would cry again if I said the wrong thing.
“He broke up with me,” Mia says.
“I am so sorry, Mia,” I say, wondering how bad a breakup it could have been to have her this upset. She wants to tell me more, but she’s hesitant, scared maybe? “You don’t have to tell me anything.” I say, “Only when you are ready.”
“I didn’t want to do it with him,” Mia says.
“Do what?” I ask.
“Not again,” Mia says.
“Do what, Mia?” I ask. Mia stares those big beautiful eyes at me. The innocent eyes of a girl that was trying to be a woman. “What did he do, Mia?” I say softly.
“Promise not to tell Mom and Dad,” Mia says.
“I promise,” I say.
And that’s when my sister told me everything. Mia and Henri had slept with each other. At least that’s what she thought. He pressured her, he convinced her, he guilted her, he pushed her, he did everything in his power to sleep with her. To convince her that she wanted it. Pressuring her to do something she wasn’t ready for, telling her that it was okay. Everyone was doing it. Telling her this is a part of what being in a relationship is. He took everything from her, and he didn’t even know or care. He told her she wanted it.
“I went to his house,” Mia says to me. “We were kissing and then, he just started…” Mia looks away, “it just became more than that so quickly, I didn’t know what to do. He told me to just relax and that he would make me feel good.” I dig my nails into my thigh to hold back my anger, “I didn’t want to do it, Arya. I just didn’t know what to do. He wouldn’t stop. He kept telling me ‘it’s okay’, ‘to touch him’, ‘to just take off my dress’, then he unzipped it himself.”
“I never said no,” Mia says, “but I didn’t want it. I tried turning away from him, but then he would just tell me to come back. That he wanted me more than anyone else. He touched me down there, told me that my body wanted it. I didn’t know…”
“You don’t have to say anything else,” I say. I’m trying to hold myself together as I hear how some jock took advantage of my sister and raped her.
But that night, when he tried to do it again, she outwardly refused. She told him she didn’t want it and he tried his tricks again, but she wouldn’t let him win. He became more forceful until her body reacting by kneeing him where it hurts. She was lucky. She got away from him as fast as she could and came back home. He didn’t follow her. He didn’t think it was worth his time or effort. He texted her later, saying it was over. But him saying that wasn’t what upset her. Being with a monster like him was what had brought her to tears in her bedroom.
“Stealing my clothes again, I see,” I say jokingly to lighten up the mood, grabbing onto the hem of my black dress that she is wearing.
“Arya,” Mia says seriously, “I know it was wrong, I know I shouldn’t have taken it, I know it’s your favourite.”
“No, it’s not,” I say, and then she looks over my shoulder.
I give her a confused look and then I follow her gaze to her desk chair where my favourite green dress lies draped over it. I walk over to it and pick it up. It looks the same, but it’s not the same. “This is what you were wearing when…” I can’t bear to say it.
“I’m so sorry, Arya,” Mia says.
“It’s fine,” I say, but it’s not. None of this is fine.
After getting her to follow the regular before bed routine, I wait until Mia falls asleep in her bed and I take the dress back to my closet draped over my arm carefully like it is still important to me. But as soon as I come to my closet, I can’t bear to hang it up with the rest of my clothes. I can’t have it up there like it’s fine like a tragedy didn’t happen in this dress. I throw it in the corner of my closet and close the door and go back to sleep with Mia in her bed.
You might wonder why she didn’t say anything after the first time it happened. It’s not something easy to talk about. I don’t think Mia even knew if she was raped or not. He had convinced her that she wanted it, but she didn’t. I also think part of Mia felt embarrassed about what happened, which she shouldn’t. And I know that Henri made sex seem like it wasn’t a big deal, so she in turn did the same. She quietly held her true emotions on the inside until she couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know though, but it doesn’t matter. She was never in the wrong. It was him and he knows it.
Things didn’t change for Henri, he continued on his life like nothing was wrong, it was Mia that was forever changed because of a guy who thought sex, pleasure, and satisfying yourself wasn’t a big deal. Everyone wants it right? I couldn’t stand it.
“You again,” Henri says happily to me as I approach his locker. “How are you, Arya?”
“I think you can take a guess,” I say annoyed.
“If it’s about your sister,” Henri says calmly which just irritates me more, “I am sorry it didn’t work out, she’s a nice girl. A bit emotional, but most girls are.”
“I know what you did, Henri,” I say.
“Surely I don’t know what you are talking about,” Henri says to me, “Your tone of voice says I did something wrong which I didn’t.”
“You took advantage of her,” I say.
“No, I didn’t,” Henri says.
“Yes, you did,” I say and then whisper, “She didn’t want to sleep with you!”
Henri laughs and then whispers, “Is that what she said? Of course she would say that now that I broke up with her. You don’t think I would do that, do you? We were just having fun.”
“You raped her.” I whisper, “You know it.”
Henri’s eyes turn angry on me. “I never did anything like that. She never said no, Arya. Whatever happened between us, she wanted it.”
“No, she didn’t,” I begin, “She tried to get you to stop but you bullied and pressured her into it. You are a terrible human being and if you don’t realize that you are even worse than what I thought.”
“She wanted it, Arya,” Henri says, “it’s not my fault if she’s changing her mind now. She never said it at the time.” I glare at him. “I’m not a fuckin’ mind reader, Arya!”
“I know you’re not,” I say, “but you are a monster.”
“What are you going to do, Arya?” Henri says. I look at him, I wasn’t expecting him to ask me that. “Are you going to try and get her to file a complaint against me? You know as well as I do that won’t work. You really want your sister to have to describe our sexual relations in front of everyone, knowing that you won’t win?” Henri looks at me and I know he is right, even if we tried to build a case against him, his father would get him out of it somehow, the rich always do. And I couldn’t do that to Mia, she’s already been through too much and while I know she was raped, a judge might not agree with Mia and Henri retelling their sides of the story. “I would say it was nice talking to you, Arya,” Henri says, slamming his locker shut, “but it wasn’t.” And then he walks away from me.
I go to an empty bathroom, enraged and upset, feeling like there is nothing I can do. I refuse to cry because then I will have red eyes for everyone to see. So I let my anger out instead. I scream and throw my books to the ground. I scream as I pick up and throw my textbook, notebook, and pencil case at the wall, the rage building inside me, screaming louder as I pull at my hair, screaming until my throat and chest hurt. But it’s not enough. I grab my pencil case to open it and start throwing things from inside it at the wall, but nothing is large enough in my hands to truly get my anger out. Nothing is satisfying enough. The last item I grab from the pencil case is a red dry erase marker that I hold onto for a moment before throwing it as well. I look at the mirror, seeing the reflection of a girl that is breathing heavily and then I go up to it. I take the cap off the marker and write on the mirror slowly in the bottom corner, ’Henri Young is a….” I stop for a moment, ‘RAPIST’. I put the cap back on and stare at the words. Thinking about the words and how no one but me and my sister knows they’re true. It feels good seeing it written out, plain as day, easy to read. It seems to slightly subside the anger inside me.
I hear the door of the bathroom opening and quickly grab a tissue to rub off the words. Three girls I don’t know, in either Grade 9 or 10, turn the corner as I manage to get all the red ink off the mirror. They stare at me, looking at the mess on the floor of an open notebook and textbook and the exploded contents of my pencil case. They whisper to each other and then just laugh and smile among themselves, and go about their business in the bathroom, looking in the mirror to perfect themselves. I grab everything from the ground, stuffing my pencil case as fast as I can to get out of there, knowing they’ll talk about the crazy Grade 11 in the bathroom when I leave.
I get to my locker and start putting everything away. My mind racing a million miles a minute. I feel like I can’t think straight.
“Hey,” Lexi says, coming up to my locker.
“Hey!” I smile at him, because, no matter my mood, he still gives me butterflies in my stomach. And around him, I want to be the perfect girl he’s imagining. I love talking to him and spending time with him, laughing with him. I don’t want to distract him with my problems. I want to be the girlfriend he cares for, the one his teammates are jealous of, the soccer star while he’s the hockey captain. A perfect couple. I like him. A lot. And I don’t want him to worry about me, Henri is my problem and I’ll handle it on my own.
“I was wondering if I could borrow your notes from Physics class?” Lexi asks.
“First week and you’re already missing class?” I joke with him, going through my locker to find my notebook for him.
“You take such good notes that I don’t even need to go to class,” he says, and I smile to myself behind my locker door and finally fish out my notebook and hold it out for him.
“I knew you were just using me for my brains,” I say as he takes the notebook.
He laughs. “Believe me, that’s not what this is at all.” The ‘this’ he is talking about is us. Whatever we are because so far, it’s just been flirting, talking, and laughing up until this point. So after chewing out one jock’s ear for doing the unforgivable to my sister, why would I want to go for another? Because Lexi is the complete opposite of Henri. And I’m not going to let Henri ruin my relationship with Lexi. I’m going to go for what I want because I know Lexi wants it too.
“Then what is it?” I ask stepping as close to him as possible. Lexi smiles and looks away from me for a moment before looking back down at me.
“I might have a crush on a girl,” Lexi says.
“Is she pretty?”
“Does she like you?”
“Have you kissed her yet?” I ask.
“I want to,” he looks at my mouth.
“I think she wants you to too,” I say.
He locks the door behind us before coming back to me, grabbing me by the waist and lifting me on a table. He comes up to me, fitting himself between my legs that I wrap around him. He puts his hands all over me and I hold his face in my hands to kiss him on the mouth. It’s the first time I’ve kissed anyone, so I’m soft at first, but I can tell I’m not the first girl Lexi has kissed. He’s comfortable putting his mouth on mine, but he’s gentle, his movements slow to make sure he doesn’t go too far, too fast. He grabs my hair, tangling his fingers in it before runs his hands down my torso to my bare thighs, his fingers going just under my kilt. I put my hand to his chest and the other through his hair, pulling him closer, letting him know that I want him to continue. He opens his mouth and I just follow his lead, trusting him, but also trusting my instincts of what I want to do and what he might like. I bite down softly on his bottom lip and I can tell he likes that. He grabs my thighs and pulls me closer to him, our bodies pressed up against each other. I forget about everything going wrong, I forget about all the bad stuff happening. Lexi is making me forget all the bad things in my life, he’s making me feel safe. This drama room closet feels like a safe haven from all the bad outside the walls. In here, everything is alright. So I don’t stop, I continue, not wanting this to end, not wanting this feeling or this moment to stop.
But then the bell rings, ending the moment and reminding me that I have to face reality. Reminding me that while you can distract yourself from your problems, you can’t run away from them. Lexi breaks the kiss first.
“We should go,” Lexi says, breathing a little heavier, his face right by mine.
“I don’t want to,” I smile at him, grabbing his shirt to keep him close to me and he laughs. I just want to stay here and forget the terrible people out there. Or person, I guess.
“I don’t think you want us to get caught in here,” Lexi says, his hands on my thighs. “I don’t want to ruin your spotless reputation.”
“Ha-ha,” I say and straighten his collar, but don’t let go of it. “Definitely not spotless.”
“Could’ve fooled me,” Lexi says, running his hands higher up my thighs under the kilt. “Now let’s go before the drama kids get here.”
“You go first,” I say, gesturing to the door.
He smiles and then kisses me on my cheek, squeezing my thighs, before he heads out the door. Leaving me with my thoughts.
It’s one thing to hurt someone. It’s another thing when someone hurts the person you love. You feel constant anger towards them, and sometimes, your anger grows stronger than the person that was actually hurt. It’s a different kind of pain, the pain of watching someone you love be in pain. They’re suffering and there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t take the pain away because someone did something so terrible to them that it can’t be fixed with some encouraging words or by distracting them. They are hurting deep inside and they can’t tell you what they need, because they don’t know either. They just know they don’t want to hurt anymore. So how do I fix this? Mia was hurt by someone that she trusted. Someone that is at her school and she has to see in the halls. How do you overcome something like that? I can’t even imagine what she feels like and what she’s going through.
I knew I couldn’t put Mia through anything or have anyone know what really happened, but I had to do something. But what? How?
The next day, when the announcements congratulated the basketball team on winning their semifinal match and gave a special shout out to Henri Young for his game-winning basket, sending them to the finals, I felt my mechanical pencil break in my hand. I turned around in my seat and I saw him high-fiving the guys around him, happy as ever. When our eyes met, he winked at me.
It wasn’t right. People deserved to know who the real Henri was. I pulled out the red marker from my pencil case. Something bigger, I thought. Something everyone will see.