As promised, Liam dropped me off at my car. I noticed it was getting dark and there was less lighting than I expected. Against my better judgment, but also not wanting to be annoyed by the parenting voices of my friends, I turned my phone back on but left it in my car. It was a short distance from the apartment, as he had said. Besides, I wouldn’t be missed in the time it would take to tour his place, and if I were, they could call back or leave a message. I wasn’t in the mood for their supervision or their questions.
I noticed immediately that the apartment complex that Liam had found was brand new. They were still seeking tenants indicated by the signs out front. There were no neighbors meandering. In fact, it seemed as if when we talked our words echoed in the emptiness of the space around us. I started second guessing my choice to leave my phone, but then I saw him waiting outside of his apartment with a smile on his face, dismissing any apprehension that might have started to surface.
“Here it is!” He proudly opened the door wider for me and extended his hands as an invite.
I slowly stepped inside. It wasn’t as stark as I’d thought it would be. He had a sense of style and definitely liked order. His books were neatly stacked in piles on suspended shelves, and his collection of movies and music were arranged on a bookshelf. I couldn’t help but be impressed. His space was far different than Robbie’s truck, with the discarded fastfood and trash threatening to take over the seats. I smiled. He was tidy. I liked that.
He walked to the kitchen, “Can I get you something?”
“Sure,” I could linger a little.
He reached into his fridge and pulled out a can of coke, “Cup and ice?”
“Sure,” I answered, making my way over to his couch to get a closer look at his music.
I glanced through his collection and made note of the few classical music items. I wouldn’t have pegged him for being sentimental, but then again, I seemed to have had the wrong opinion of him based on how the night had gone. I noticed one of my favorite soundtracks was open.
“You like Phantom of the Opera?”
“Oh yeah,” he answered, quickly surfacing from the kitchen. “You?”
“Definitely,” I answered. “Andrew Lloyd Weber is a genius!”
“Jesus Christ Superstar?” he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
I laughed, “Not one of my favorites. Phantom is just so rich. The music comes to life. You don’t even have to have actors, the purity of the music stages the scenes in your imagination.” I stopped, feeling embarrassed by my obvious nerdy interpretation.
“I take it you’ve listened a time or two?”
I blushed, “Or three thousand.”
I noticed he still held our drinks in his hands. I reached to take one and he drew it back. “Have a seat, and I’ll play it.” He put one of the glasses on the side table, “That’s your coke.” He walked over to his entertainment center and started his stereo. “What’s your favorite song?”
I didn’t have to think, “The Music of the Night.”
I settled into the couch as the strains began, filling the air with the Phantom’s operatic vibrato. I took a sip and sat my drink down and listened. I was a true classical nerd. I loved the even rhythms and the grind of the strings. I forgot where I was for a minute seeing in my mind the scenes as they played out. Liam placed his hand on my knee and made me jump.
He laughed, “I think I lost ya for a minute.”
I blushed, “Sorry. Music has a way of doing that to me.”
“I think it’s beautiful. Such passion over something so many take for granted. And you looked beautiful enjoying it.”
I felt his eyes look over me and awkwardly responded, “Thank you.”
Unsure what he was thinking and wanting to make sure he knew where I stood, I shifted the conversation to something more comfortable, “So, what do you think of our little town of Monroe?”
He smiled, “Its…”
“Boring,” I filled in and smirked. “It’s okay, you can admit it. I’ve lived here my whole life, and I have traveled to a lot of places. It’s boring.”
“I was gonna say interesting… I don’t find it boring at all.” He looked at me intently that time. He was definitely coming on to me. I flushed under the intensity of his gaze. It was more than attraction, it was…desire. I felt it.
I reached for my drink to try and distract his attention. Robbie’s words filled my head, “There are men that will fight for you and guys that simply see you as a conquest.” I shook it off. I was being sensitive. Then I remembered some of the lines from earlier. I dismissed them as corny charm, but seeing his eyes, feeling the tension, I wasn’t as sure.
I took a deep drink to try and clear my thoughts. After finishing the glass, I turned back to him, “You have a really nice place here, but I should go.”
“What’s the hurry? The song isn’t even over. Relax.” He settled in next to me, “I identify with the Phantom. He gets a bad rap. Christine wanted him, but because of the fear or maybe his deformity and her vanity, she resisted her passions.”
Not sure what to say and feeling more and more unsure about my senses, I pushed up to try and leave again, “I think I need to get home before my parents start wondering where I am.” He didn’t know me well enough to know that was a lie.
He glared at me, or it seemed like a glare, it took me off guard as the world around me started to feel more concave, “You sure about that?” he asked.
The music seemed to get louder, and I felt uneasy. “Yes. I am sure.” I finally stood up, but the dizziness stopped me. I put my hand to my head for just a minute. I muttered, “I must have gotten up too fast.” He reached out to catch me, “Or too soon.” His response unnerved me. I pulled away, “I’m fine. Just give me a minute.” I tried to process what I was feeling. The room was starting to spin and the music was dragging.
“Is something wrong, Oona?” I looked at him. He seemed to be zooming in and out, and there was a sneer on his face, or it seemed that way. I honestly couldn’t trust my perceptions because everything seemed intense. I was unnerved but, despite my protests, he reached to stroke my hair and pulled me to him. His touch felt like fire.
“No,” I said, stumbling over my shoes trying to get from behind the couch. But, instead of stepping around the couch, I found myself falling into it. Nothing felt right, “Why is it so hot in here,” I muttered pulling at my clothes.
“Let me help you,” Liam fell beside me and started taking off my cardigan. I tried to pull my sleeve back on, but he was insistent.
“No, stop,” I begged thickly. My voice was slurred, the room was spinning, he was smiling and suddenly I knew. It was like some overdone teen drama, and I was the stupid girl that fell for the trick. I looked over to the table where my glass sat empty, drained, “You did this.”
“You just needed to loosen up,” he coaxed.
I was sick. I was betrayed. My mind was spinning and I felt weak, but painfully, I wasn’t losing consciousness. He had succeeded in getting my cardigan off, and I watched in horror as he reached under my dress. I tried to punch him, but every hit seemed to miss and none had any weight. He was far stronger than I could fight, and I found myself unable to move at all. I looked at him, tears filling my eyes and spilling down my cheeks. “Don’t,” I mumbled. “Please.”
I tried desperately to disconnect from my body, from his touches, from the pain. Somewhere above, I watched in complete shame as he devoured me head to toe, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It was like a movie that I both saw and felt, and I couldn’t leave. I was undone. All the strength I ever thought I possessed seemed like a feather’s weight in that moment, while at the same time, my body seemed to weigh three hundred pounds and every inch of me was stretched and hurting.
He finished and laid there stroking me. I was in shock and also felt condemned. My choices had led to this moment. Why had I not listened? Why was this happening? The anger came rushing in, and I wanted to hurt him! My strength was still gone, and my rage shifted. I had to get out of there while he was somewhat relaxed. I grabbed the one thing I could reach from the couch, my keys, and stabbed with as much strength as I had straight into his groin. He cursed at me, but I had immobilized him. I prayed for strength to run, and for him not to follow.
Luckily, (if anything about that night was lucky) I made it to my car, thankful that I was driving, thankful that it was just a sprint from his apartment. I fumbled with my keys to get inside, looking behind me, relieved that he wasn’t coming. It had gotten dark, and I saw my phone light up from the passenger seat where I had left it. Zella’s face popped up on the screen. I just looked at it through my car window, slumped to the ground, and cried. I was a fool, a stupid, stubborn, fool.
I don’t know how long I sat there. I had no strength. I had no desire to move. I even smelled of Liam and his betrayal. “I’ll be here,” I almost audibly heard Robbie’s words in my ear. I found the strength to get in my car and reached for my phone. I called him. No answer. I called again, desperate to hear his voice. Nothing. I decided to send a text. No response so I called the third time and let the voicemail pick up and begged, “Please, I need you.” I was hurt. Sad. Afraid. More alone than I had ever felt in my life. I sent one more text and headed home in a fog.
No one had responded to my screams as I ran through the house. All that met me was painful silence and no one came. I was furious, and I screamed out again, “It figures! You never cared! Forget you, mom!” I ran to my bathroom, my solace and safe-place. I collapsed on the floor, still in shock over what had just happened. I could barely see through the tears that filled my eyes. I didn’t even attempt to hide them, or my sobs.
I was hurting, I was hurt, I was used, abused, mistreated, deceived and still no one cared! So I did the one thing that I felt would fix it all, I grabbed a razor blade. I had lied when I told Robbie that I had thrown them all away. I reached behind the toilet and found the one that I had taped behind the bowl. I knew that life would find me back in a place where all that would meet my needs would be found through a slice. Despite my strategic assumption, I could have never imagined the preparation was for the God-awful, desperate moment such as the one that I was living. Wrestling the blade from its sticky hold, I wiped my tears away and groaned. Had it really come to this? Had I really not listened to the warnings and speculations of all my friends and done the very thing that led me here? I had done it, hadn’t I? I had been the one that made myself available to that loser. I was the one that had taken the drink. I was the one that had stupidly trusted the supposed God-fearing predator when all the time everyone told me that something was wrong. I was the fool!
I tore off my dress and made the first slice. I started with a long line at the curve of my arm and with each cut, with each tear of the flesh, my embedded anger became greater and greater until finally I looked at my handy work.
It was scrawled down my arm like some kindergartener had written it with a red Sharpie. I stared at the letters, taking them as my new name. I watched as the blood dripped down each side of my arm, suspended in my shock. I just sat there. And, somewhere in the recesses of my mind I must have called out to God to help me.
I didn’t hear my bedroom door open. I didn’t hear her turn on the water in my tub. I barely felt her lift me up off the floor and place me in the warm suds. I think, even if I had, I wouldn’t have believed it. I must have been delirious. I must have slipped into a dream where my mother actually cared. But, instead I was frozen, numb. It barely registered as she cleaned me. She kept speaking to me in low tones, caring tones that I didn’t recognize, but I couldn’t hear exactly what she was saying. I wish now that I had. I know that she was crying. More than once her tears hit the bubbles and formed holes. I remember watching those holes as they grew and thinking how very much they resembled my heart, fragile and disappearing. She dried me off, bandaged me up and put me in my bed. To this day, I’m not sure how she did all that. My mother is a petite woman, not at all weak, but in herself, not in the least bit strong enough to tote me around like a child. And, yet that night, God chose her to be my hero. I’ll never forget that.