Carbon

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Chapter 7

I sat on Lily’s bed as she paced back and forth impatiently, waiting for Devin to come out of the restroom in an outfit my girlfriend constructed. Lily somehow thought it was her duty as a citizen to suddenly use my friendship with Devin to repay Devin for all the cruelty Lily had committed against her. Lily finally confessed she started most of the rumors regarding Devin’s sexuality as well as rumors she was using steroids to gain athletic scholarships. She tearfully confided she just wanted to mend the relationship. And somehow, this solution fell into place.

Remember that time I spread a rumor about you? Well, I made you acceptable to our high school’s norms, so we are even. Oh, what about that time I tried to sabotage you? But I made it up to you by taking you to this party.

Unfortunately, I had no clue Lily invited Devin over to venture over to the party as a small group. I would have brought Brody or another friend to balance the third wheel. I just walked in, expecting Lily to open the door, but then shock set in when I saw Devin whip open the door.

“Oh my god, what if she hates this party?” Lily stomped suddenly and halted. “What if she totally ruins the get-together?” Her black dress clung to her tiny curves flatly, emphasizing her thin frame to an almost cartoonish silhouette. Her tawny skin peeked from the fringed skirt and sleeves seamlessly, and her brunette hair hung loosely on her shoulders, falling just below her bare collar bone.

I leaned back on her bed and snatched a pink pillow from the head of her bed, pulling it behind my head. “You’re being ridiculous.”

“Are you sure this is appropriate? I always just wear jeans and a t-shirt.”

I sat up as Devin awkwardly walked in the room, so uncomfortable to the point it looked like she wanted to crawl out of her skin like a leathery jumpsuit. Devin shoved in her hands into her short pockets. The shorts cut just below the curve of her ass. A thin shirt hung loosely on her torso, cut on the sides to reveal a black, lacy bra I did not expect. Lily caked on some makeup around Devin’s eyes that heightened the serene blue and emphasized her full lips. Her blonde hair kinked and curled freely in all different directions wildly. She tucked a strand behind her ear as her eyes met mine and quickly turned away. I pulled the pillow from behind my head and covered my crotch.

Lily cooed, “You look super hot.”

Devin’s blue eyes peeled from the floor and fell upon Lily. “Are you serious? I feel like I’m in a costume.”

Lily waved her concerns away and turned to me. “Doesn’t she look hot, Ned?”

Devin pivoted in my direction and folded her arms across her chest loosely. “Um, yeah.” I swore Lily would contrive these questions late at night just to trap me. If I hit on the chick, I’m screwed. If I don’t compliment her, Lily will have my hide. I shrugged my shoulders and loosely nodded, “Yeah, you look nice.”

Lily hopped up and down, clapping her hands, her black dress bopping up and down, almost exposing her lack of underwear to the world. I didn’t quite understand it, but Lily never wore underwear when she went out in a dress. Something about “visible panty-lines” or another stupid explanation. “Sweet!”

I glanced at my watch and asked, “Ready to go?”

Devin sat down next to me on the bed and clapped her hands against her thighs. She whistled and punched me in the ribs. “What the heck did you let your girlfriend do to me?”

Lily shuffled over to her closet smoothly and began to peel shoes out of the pile of clothes stacked on the floor. A black heel smacked into Devin’s leg followed by its companion. “You wear those, and I’ll find some for me.”

I whispered, “Why don’t you just deny Lily the pleasure of being her personal Barbie?”

“I didn’t have a choice.”

“What? Blackmail?”

“I’ll tell you later,” she breathed through clenched teeth.

Lily slipped on vibrant, red heels that shone in the dull light in her bedroom. She glanced over her shoulder at me and gave me a furrowed brow. I responded with an inquiring expression. Her eyes fell on Devin and then back on me, shaking her head slowly. I shrugged my shoulders; she parried with a daring look. I inched away from Devin on the bed, and Lily retreated to her façade of confidence and allure. She smirked at her easy manipulation and purred, “I’m ready to go, Ned, dear.”

I never understood why she took the image of Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby whenever she went out with me in public—at least, that’s what Devin would think. Focused solely on controlling this image of our relationship, she ignored us. The thing she was willing to most freely advertise to the world, she was failing to fully participate in.

I drove silently to the party hosted by Ethan Cars, a kid no one exactly was friends with but knew he had access to liquor thanks to his older siblings so was simply an acquaintance. Irony should be the major theme of high school. Everyone knows who you are, but you have no friends—just traces of human interaction taunting your imagination.

Lily lucratively spoke of the many awesome things that awaited Devin when she walked in the party. She was so focused on making Devin Cinderella for a night, but that just wasn’t her. Devin bit at her thumb’s cuticle in the backseat every time I glanced up at my rear-view mirror. I smirked at her nervous tick and shook my head. If only Lily wasn’t totally oblivious to the fact that her Cinderella would always be stuck in her t-shirts and soccer shorts.

I noticed Devin stared intently out the window, mindlessly watching the world pass her. Her blue eyes flickered as we passed light poles quickly. She was gone from reality and entrapped in her own mind. A part of me was indifferent but another part of me was curious as to what came to her.

I pulled up to the front of his house with cars queued up on both sides of the street. I parked behind a silver Corolla, hoping no one would mess with my SUV. I just had it buffed. I pulled the car into park and unlocked all of the doors. “Alright, out ’da car.”

I stood in the corner of the room, sipping a bitter vodka I poured from the stove. A game of beer pong transpired, two guys against two girls, all tipsy and drunk on the sauce. I sipped another foul gulp and observed the whole environment. Lights strung across the tops of the walls and bannisters connecting to the second floor. Music pounded against the walls in a rebellious tantrum, and people sporadically would bust into a slow dance that failed to match the blaring hip hop. Girls huddled in groups and glanced at some guys who began to drink competitively.

Ned leaned against the wall beside me, not drinking anything. He let out a resigned sigh, and I inquired, “Not liking how things planned out for you?”

His eyes turned to Lily grinding against a chair provocatively while giving him an alluring call, already drunk after fifteen minutes and three shots. If she was part of the wild, she would either be destroyed or immediately mated with. “Ned! Ned! Come here! You’re so hot!”

Ned rolled his eyes and groaned, “Designated driver—the title everyone loves.”

I gave him a smirk and pointed to his girlfriend. “You better make sure she doesn’t toss her cookies any time soon.”

“Question.”

“Perhaps an answer.”

“How much have you had to drink?”

“Why? Because I’m not concerned.”

“Seriously.”

“About ten shots.”

“Holy shit, how are you not falling over?”

“Called tolerance.”

“You an alcoholic or something?”

Lily fell off the chair and began to call for Ned.

He groaned and murmured, “Excuse me while I babysit my girlfriend. You good?”

I nodded as he stalked over to his girlfriend and picked her up off of the floor. He escorted her out of the room, and then I lost view of him. I quietly leaned against the wall, frozen by my social anxiety, unable to talk or meet new people as I no longer had my security—Heath.

It was the first time I went out publically drinking since Heath died, and it was alien. He was able to persuade me to talk and embrace new experiences, but now Ned, the last figment of Heath, was gone. I had absolutely no one. I curled into myself and sipped away at the vodka, trying to fall into the wall as a perfect wallflower.

“Hey, you’ve got a partner for beer pong? I need one.”

I turned to a kid who stood maybe a couple inches taller than me. His dusty brown hair held specks of gray littering the strands. He wore a comforting smile and innocent mottled eyes. His yellow shirt accentuated the green flecks pronounced in his tawny eyes, but his ripped jeans emphasized his short limbs. I have no room to talk, being only five feet, but he was still so short, especially compared to Heath.

“Oh, I’m not playing.”

He glanced at the table and then shrugged. “Then you need a partner. Hey, we call next round!” he roared over the crowd.

One of his buddies already lined up asked, “With whom?”

“Devin, of course, you idiot!”

I shrunk away from the guy before he raised my hand with his as if we won a fight in an octagon. I shrugged him off of me and lurched further back into the wall. He turned to me with a smile and asked, “You okay?”

I stared at him with cold eyes and inquired, “How do you know me?”

He confided, “Come on, Devin. You know everybody knows who you are. You’re like a celebrity.”

I furrowed my brow and took a step away from him. My heart raced, and I flustered to regain my breath. Everyone knew. Everyone knew about me, and everyone knew about every little thing.

“Just kidding. We had class together a couple years back.” He stuck out a hand. “Ethan Cars.”

I kept my hands on my red cup. “Nice to meet you again.” His hand fell loosely back to his side, an essence of disappointment obvious in his reaction.

“Oh, we’re up.” He waltzed up to the long table and set up the red cups in a pyramid and took a step to the side to make room for me. I just stared at him until he grabbed my forearm and dragged me to the table. “Come on, it’s just a game.”

I shook my head. “Never played.”

Lie.

“What?”

“Yeah.”

Heath and I won beer pong tournaments at the gay bar. Just lie until you get out of this awkward situation.

Ethan wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me closer to him, shaking me as he laughed. “I’ll teach you, babe.” He gave me a peck on the cheek.

I blushed at the pet name. And then a part of me wanted to sock him in the face for being so familiar.

“Dude, quit hitting on her and play the freaking game.”

Ethan turned to the two guys across the table who wore very similar uniforms to Ethan, almost like identical cronies with different faces and colors. He snatched a ping pong ball from the table and tossed it across the table. It flew into one of the guys’ chests. I sighed and sunk a ball into a cup on the first go.

“Oh, wow, I didn’t know you were any good.”

“Good enough when I’m halfway drunk.”

One of the guys whooped at my comment and then tossed the ball back across the table, smacking the tip of the cup. The ball fell out onto the table, and I rolled it across the table the other side. None of the guys sunk a cup, and I ended the game by sinking every toss and throw. The spectators cheered whenever I sunk the cup and gave the boys grief for losing to me. I turned back to my vodka and continued sipping as the other team took their punishment ungraciously. They swore I must have cheated.

But Heath and I used to play Gatorade pong as a joke to pass the time in between games at soccer tournaments, so… I guess I had some experience with the game.

I took a sip of my vodka, and Ethan leaned in close to me and whispered, “Hey, let’s go somewhere to talk.”

I glanced at him through my peripheral and murmured under my breath, “Sure.”

Ethan wrapped his fingers around my wrist and gently tugged me out of the little coven with the beer pong. He snaked through cliques giggling and talking boisterously, trying to speak over the deafening music. I remember passing Ned frantically motioning something to an extremely drunken Lily. Ethan led me to the foot of some stairs leading up to the second floor, but I noticed very few people were upstairs. I stuck my feet. He whipped around and inquired, “Devin, what’s up?”

“I’m not going up there.”

He nonchalantly shrugged and turned back to me, fumbling down a step. “Alright, babe. You’re good.” He wrapped his arm around my lower back and pulled me over closer to him. I tripped over my own feet and stumbled into him. He rocked back and forth awkwardly, embracing me in a taut embrace that forced my face into his neck. “Oh God, I can’t believe it.”

I peeled away from his chest and tilted my chin back, staring up at his tawny, marbled eyes—aloof and not present. “What?”

“I’m talking to the girl that everyone is talking about.”

I dipped my chin against my chest, a hint of doubt and paranoia sneaking into my imagination.

“What do you think they say about you?”

“Not anything good, I’m sure.”

“Well, the guys say you’d be hot if you didn’t have that harsh look on your pretty little face. The girls are jealous of the attention you’re receiving. Both genders swear to God you screwed Heath so good he slammed into the ditch or you swerved the car… either way, people say you killed him.

“I’ll give you one thing; I wouldn’t mind seeing what Heath got to mess with.” His hand cupped my butt, and I shot to my toes, trying to peel away from his clammy hand.

I began my nervous tick, cracking my thumb against my palm, wringing my wrists out like a wet shirt, tearing off my cuticles. I bit my lip and tried to step back away from him, but he held me tautly. “Let me go,” I whimpered quietly.

He mustered, “You’re good.” He snatched my wrists as I tore away and pulled me back against his body. I felt him harden against my stomach, and I awkwardly tried to ignore him. I couldn’t. Extremely uncomfortable barely encompassed how I felt.

“Stop.”

“I got a few questions for you.” His knee separated my legs and rested below my crotch. His tongue fell over his bottom lip as I watched his eyes absorb every portion of my body.

“Get off!” I hissed. No one seemed to notice the problems going on. I begged for someone to get him off of me. The scent of alcohol permeated his breath and bathed me in the sweet stench. Why was no one paying attention?

“How good are you? Are you a bad girl or a good girl?” He leaned in and forced his tongue in my mouth.

I shoved him backwards, smashing him into the bannister. “Shove off,” I warned. I tried to march away from him, but he grabbed my arm and pulled me to him. I poured the rest of my drink on his head before he yanked me forward harder. The cup clattered to the floor loudly.His other arm wrapped around my shoulders, and his forehead rested upon mine.

He smirked and started to giggle—drunk. “Naughty girl, huh?”

I growled fiercely, “If you don’t let me go, you’re going to regret it.”

“You wanna know the way to get over Heath?”

I pierced his eyes with mine—a feral grimace stretching across my face as I bared my fangs like a wolf. I’m sure I looked like a crazed girl who skipped her medication, but a pit formed in my stomach, and I needed him off of me. I needed him away from me.

A sour taste came to my mouth, and I realized an episode was inevitable.

“The only way to get over a guy is to get under another one.”

I slammed my forehead into his, and he immediately crumpled to the floor. My hand shot to my forehead, and I pulled my hand back to my face—no blood. My heart pounded against my rib cage like a bird searching for freedom.

He roared, “God, you stupid bitch! I was trying to help you!” His hands covered his face as he rolled back and forth across the floor.

I knelt down beside him and grabbed his crotch fiercely.

He stiffened at my touch and stared with great fear invading his calmness. His brow furrowed as he tried to pull away but was stuck in my grasp.

“Do that again, and I’ll fucking castrate you.” I unleashed his genitalia. I shuffled around his body and scoured the room for Ned. Only faces I didn’t recognize stared back at me with incredulous expressions, frozen by my acts. They began to whisper, and paranoia tainted my thoughts as I frantically searched for Ned, running through the rooms.

“Dev, what’s wrong?”

I pivoted on my heels before Ned grabbed my arm before I fell.

“Dev, you okay?”

I shook my head fervently and declared, “We’ve got to leave; we’ve got to leave.”

Ned let go of my arm and silently led me out of the house without following to diversions provided by other students. Ethan ran up next to Ned and hissed, “She’s out. She’s kicked out.”

Ned didn’t answer as he turned back to me with an inquiring look.

I shook my head again, motioning to outside. The door slammed behind us, and I heard the deadbolt lock as we descended down the stairs. I glanced over my shoulder to see blood trickle down Ethan’s forehead somberly. I bet that sobered him up pretty quickly.

We shuffled inside of his car, and I buckled up my seat belt.

“What happened?”

“He wanted me to have sex with him.”

“What?!”

“Nothing happened, but I needed to get out of there, okay?”

“Did he hurt you?”

“No.”

The engine purred into life. “I noticed he had a pretty nasty gash.”

I leaned back into the seat sadly and didn’t answer.

Ned glanced at me without turning his head away from the horizon. His lips turned down in a concerned expression with a cocked brow. His veins bulged behind his thin, alabaster skin as he turned the wheel and then drove straight.

I remembered what it was like to drive a car… I remembered how the leather scolded my hands on a hot summer day and how cold it was in the winter. I remembered the period of time in which the air blew cold as the heater revved up in the freezing weather. I remembered the way the gas pedal felt against my right foot, and how the wheel locked after twisting it to the extremes.

I leaned back further in my seat, searching for a haven to hide away from this guy. He was probably so embarrassed I was so blunt about what happened, let alone I barely knew him. “Where’s Lily?”

“I took her home earlier. She was too drunk.”

“She blow chunks everywhere?”

“Just in her yard.”

“Good call.”

“Yeah, she’ll have to explain again why there is a trail of vomit leading to her front door to her parents for the fifth time this semester.”

“It’s only September.”

“I know—back to you. What the hell happened between you and Ethan?”

“I told you already.”

“As far as I know, you can take a few words without throwing a punch. What did he do?”

I remembered the vile taste of him polluting my mouth, and I remembered being so disgusted with myself as well as him. I crossed my arms and began to massage my forearms with my hands furtively, giving myself any little comfort I could manage. “Nothing, I told you.”

He slammed on the brakes and turned to me skeptically. “Dev, come on.”

I thought it was funny I never gave him permission to call me that, but he managed to weasel his way into a vulnerable part of my heart. If he was a friend of Heath’s, he was a friend of mine. I shrugged my shoulders. “He kissed me and asked if I was a dirty girl.”

He leaned into his seat, and his fingers combed through his kept hair. “God, what a douche. I should have stayed with you. I’m so sorry.”

“He was drunk, so it’s okay.”

“No, how does that make any of that okay?”

I didn’t answer. I was drunk, too.

Ned pulled the car back into drive and continued to drive aimlessly through back-roads of neighborhoods I had never seen before. I pressed my face against the cool window, the night breeze pressing against the glass, transmitting the coolness. My breath created a cloud on the inside of the window, and I drew a simple sad face with my index finger.

“You going to clean my window?”

I ignored his comment and asked, “You aren’t my friend because of the rumors, are you?”

“What? What rumors?”

“You know. Either I’m a slut or I’m a virgin. There isn’t any in between. I give road head like no one’s business, or I’m a prude. Are you here to have sex with me or take my virginity? Take your pick. Are you my friend because you think you will receive something in return?”

He didn’t immediately answer. I turned back to him and saw the stunned expression carved into his boyish features that managed to mature more every time I saw him. “Ned?”

“Devin, that’s ludicrous.”

I cracked a smile.

“I’ve got a girlfriend, remember?”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“Not every guy is a total horn-dog.”

“Tell me one thing. Why are guys so obsessed with sex? I mean, what makes it so hard-wired in their little minds that it is okay to use girls for sex? We aren’t sex dolls. You’ve got a hand, use it. If a girl says, ‘no,’ use your freaking hand.”

Ned cackled at my last comment. “What the hell goes on in your head?”

“I don’t know. Just my thought.”

He nodded his head silently. “What guidelines do you abide by before you sleep with someone then?”

“Who says I’ve slept with anyone?”

He cocked a brow. “I know Heath had sex, so I assume you must have had sex with him at least once.”

“None of your business. What about you and Lily? I heard a rumor she’s a nymphomaniac. I bet you and her go at it all the time. What are your guidelines? What is classified as a reason to have sex?”

“Whoa, hold your horses. What makes you think I’ve had sex?”

I responded with a peaked brow.

“Fine, yes. I guess, love? I mean, you should have sex with someone you love, right? If you love that person, it should be perfect and great, but I don’t know. You?”

“I just know one thing: I am no one else’s. I am mine before anyone can claim me as theirs. I am mine.” My hand clenched around my heart as I thought of the heartbreak I had encountered just a short time ago. I couldn’t afford to get hurt again.

“I mean, love isn’t owning someone—“

“Isn’t it? Isn’t it being no one else’s and being loved by no one else? Isn’t it remaining in a monogamous relationship? Responding to that one person’s fears and motives as your own? Isn’t it accepting that person as your own and sacrificing your heart for theirs?”

“I don’t know.”

“I just know I have to be mine before I’m someone else’s.”

“I don’t know. This is your stop.”

I leaned across the console and punched Ned in the arm. “Thanks for the ride, man.”

“Yeah, yeah, now I can’t enjoy anymore of your mind babies.”

“What the heck? Why do you have to use such weird phrases?”

“Why do you have to be so weird?”

“Touchè.” I shifted out of the car and slammed the door shut, giving Ned a small wave.

He shook his head and shifted his car into gear. The wheels hugged the loose gravel on the asphalt, leaving me behind in a cloud of dust. I put my hand into my pocket, a piece of paper rustling in the little coven. I pulled it out and glanced at ten digits. I turned back to where he once sat in his SUV, and I smirked, remembering how he complained he could never get a hold of me. At least I could get a hold of him when I needed.

“Whose number?”

I started and pivoted on my heels toward the voice. Recognizing the short, thin frame with ruffled hair and tawny eyes coming into view, I straightened up. I squinted my eyes and noticed the glasses kind of askew on his nose and his hands in his pockets. I mumbled, “Leslie.”

He nodded his head.

I laughed and murmured, “Fuck my sister, yet?”

“God, why do you have to be such a freak?”

“I swear to God, if you hurt her—“

“I know, you’ll kill me. We’ve been over this. Why are you coming back so late?”

“Why are you leaving so late?”

He glanced at the sheet of paper over the rim of his glasses. “Ned Mortis?”

“Shove off, Leslie. Go home.”

“He’s got a girlfriend, you know.”

“We’re just friends. God, why do you have to be in my business? Do you hate me that much you’re obsessed with me?”

“Same goes for you.” He then walked back into the house, and I followed him as I lost my key and my sister managed to give him a spare—even with my mother’s approval.

I wish I remembered what happened next, but I don’t.

My eyes slipped open, and the world appeared blurry. I slowly blinked, and I realized I was laying on the area rug in my room. I sat up, and the world spun. My hand gripped my crown as a headache reared its head—a hangover hell summoned from its depths. My eyes fell to my bed, and I noticed my sheets were pulled over me, ripped off of the bed frame.

The sheets fell away from my chest, and my bare breasts breached the air. I caught my breath in my throat and leaned forward, stunned. I never slept naked. I glanced at my side, and my clothes were thrown on top of my bed in a small huddle near the foot of it. My hand covered my mouth, stifling a gasp as I glanced at my trash can.

A wrapper of a condom appeared inside the mesh container.

And then the panic attack happened.

I lost control of my body again, and someone took advantage of it. My hands pulled on my ears as I silently screamed into my bare thighs. I rocked back and forth incredulously, staring straight ahead as to what I had been thinking. What had I been doing?

I regretted putting my guard down for one minute. I glanced at my night table, and Ned’s number sat on it. I jumped to my feet, pulling on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt from my pile and then throwing them away. I threw out the clothes I wore the night before—they were Lily’s, but I couldn’t stand to look at them anymore. My fingers brushed through my hair, and I noticed my strands were damp. I pulled the sheets tautly around me like a towel and began to hyperventilate.

I took a shower last night… I presumed after the rape.

My eyes fell to the clock: 11: 34… He had to be up.

I dialed the number down in the kitchen. My mom left a note saying she, Esther, and Leslie left about an hour prior to attend church. I had another hour before they’d be home, so I quickly shuffled through the house, finishing my panic attack and then returning to the kitchen to call Ned. I pleaded for him to pick up.

“Hello?”

I froze. Maybe I shouldn’t have called him. It was none of his business what happened. He couldn’t help me. Hell, if I really did take a shower, no one could help me.

“Hello?”

“Ned?”

“Yeah?”

“I think something really bad happened to me last night.”

“What? Why? What happened?”

“I woke up naked, and there’s a condom in the trash can.”

“Holy shit…”

“I don’t know what happened… I think I was raped, but I can’t be sure.” And then I noticed a hickey on the top of my right thigh. I crumpled to the floor on my knees and simply stared at the mark. An image blurred across my face, and I remembered a sweet taste I couldn’t fully identify, and I remembered kissing someone in my room. All of his features were blurred by beer goggles, and I cursed myself for letting myself allow for this to happen. “Oh god, I screwed up. This is all my fault.”

“Listen to me. This is not your fault, Dev. Have you gone to the police?”

“No. I took a shower, so the evidence is gone. I have nothing, and I wasn’t in my right state of mind.”

“I didn’t think you were black-out drunk.”

“Oh God, Ned, what am I going to do?”

“Calm down, Dev, it’s going to be okay.”

“It wasn’t you, was it?”

“Absolutely not. I left, remember?”

“Yeah, just making sure. I just don’t know what happened, and I’m really scared right now.”

“I understand it must be terrifying. Do me a favor, okay?”

I nodded my head, and then I realized he couldn’t see me. I murmured, a tear streaking down my face as I morphed back into the little girl I once was, “Yeah?”

“Don’t do anything drastic. Calm down. Watch a movie. Read a book. Listen to music. On Monday, we can bring this up again, but not right now. Tomorrow.”

“Okay,” I heaved.

“I promise I will help you find this creep, okay? Everything will be okay.”

I nodded my head. “Thanks.”

And then he hung up.

I put the phone on the receiver and crumbled beside the island in the kitchen, resting my head on the side of the cabinets. I began to beat my head against the wood slowly. The sheets rustled with each impact, and I buried my face into the cabinet. “God, you’re such a fucking idiot, Devin.”

“You said it, skank.”

I glanced up to see my mother standing above me with a derogatory sneer on her face. My sister held the same motionless expression as she stared down her perfect nose at me. I stood up, wrapping the sheets around me like a towel and shuffled to my room and slammed the door shut as loudly as I could, just to piss off my mom because that was the only distraction I could manage currently.

That Monday, I think Ned and I were too terrified to even mention the subject. I persuaded myself that it couldn’t have been Leslie, despite all the evidence pointing to him. I locked all of the doors when I came in, and I was just so lost at who it could possibly be. Ned must have been embarrassed for me because a tinge of sympathy invaded his gaze, but he never mentioned it again. My rapist was my own problem, but I succumbed to the thought that I would never figure out who did this to me—trying to censor the faded memories from my mind.

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