Author's note: A retelling of the V.E day episode.
It's Not Your Fault
Rita nodded to the jubilant display of union jacks behind the bar. "I must say I think it's wonderful you've gone to all this effort." But the bunting wasn't the only thing behind the bar she had her eye on. "And may I just say, there's nothing I love more than a man in uniform."
"Behave!" shrieked Audrey, playfully whacking her arm. "That's not your navy uniform is it, Peter?"
Peter chuckled. "What, this? Oh no, it's just something I got off the internet. My uniform hasn't fit me for years, I'm ashamed to say. Not as slim as I used to be."
"Where's Carla today?" asked Ken, looking around him. "I thought she'd be helping out."
"She's supposed to be, but God knows where she's got to. She's probably trying to avoid wearing her costume." Right on cue, Carla walked in through the double doors and Peter's face lit up like it always did whenever he saw her. "Oh hiya, love. Perfect timing. We were just talking about you."
However, his smile faltered when he caught the look on her face. She marched up behind the bar and presented him with a copy of the Weatherfield Gazette. He frowned at the headline. "What's this?"
She folded her arms. "You tell me."
"Brightwell beating," he read out loud. "A couple in their thirties hospitalised after being found unconscious in a squat…" He stopped reading and looked at her. "Wait, you think this is Chelsea and Jordan?"
"It's quite a coincidence, don't you think?"
He didn't like the accusation in her tone. He blinked at her furiously. "Hang on a minute... do you think I did this?"
"Well, who else was it, Peter? The Easter bunny? And you were late home last night."
"I told you where I was. I had a shift then I grabbed a pizza."
She infuriated him further with a disbelieving roll of her eyes. "At least you've got your story straight."
"It's not a story!"
"You just couldn't leave it alone, could you?" she said, jabbing a finger into his chest. "I'd dealt with it in my own way, but oh no, you had to take it that one step further, to hell with the consequences!"
"Now hang on a minute—"
But Carla was done listening. She shoved the newspaper into his grasp and stormed out the back. "Leave her, Peter," Ken said as he went to chase after her. "Let her cool off."
Peter held up the gazette to his father. "Did you hear what she said? How could she think I'd do something like this?"
"I'm sure she didn't mean it, lovey," said Audrey. "Ken's right, let her calm down, and while you're at it" – she lifted her empty glass- "could I get a refill?"
After taking some time to calm down, Carla returned to the bar dressed in a matching uniform to Peter's. "Wow, look at you," said Rita who sat over in a booth with Ken and Audrey.
"I wish I'd got dressed up now," chimed Audrey.
The place was still relatively quiet so Carla used the opportunity to talk to Peter.
She sidled up next to him, gently nudging his shoulder to get his attention. "Hey, listen, I'm sorry about before. I shouldn't have gone in all gun's blazing like that."
"No, you shouldn't."
"But come on, Peter, put yourself in my shoes, what was I meant to think?"
He turned to look at her and the hurt in his eyes cut like a knife. "You're meant to know me. But if you think I'm capable of roughing up a woman, then you really don't know me at all."
"Can we please not do this out here," she begged. "Let's go through to the back and talk about this properly."
"There's nothing to say. You clearly think I did it. Case closed, your honour."
"Oh come on, Peter, don't be like tha—"
She was cut off as Tyrone and Kevin approached the bar and Peter slipped past her, forcing an upbeat smile. "Alright lads. What can I get you?"
Carla returned from the cellar to find an enormous queue had formed at the bar. Angry punters were waiting to be served but there was no one there to serve them. "Where's Peter gone?" she wondered aloud.
"He headed out back maybe five minutes ago," said Emma who was propped at the bar, reading a magazine.
Carla shot a fleeting look towards the back room, then at the impatient crowd. "Emma, would you do us a massive favour and mind the bar for five minutes?"
She felt cheeky asking, it was Emma's day off after all, but Emma was only too happy to oblige. "Sure, no probs."
"Thanks, you're a star!"
She found him sat at the dining table, staring into space. She frowned at him from the doorway. "It's like Piccadilly circus out there. What are you doing hiding out in here?"
"Just needed five minutes."
He sounded distant and despondent and Carla knew something was wrong. "Is everything alright?"
"Everything's fine, just peachy."
He was in one of those sulky, sarcastic moods and Carla knew there was no talking to him when he was like this. "Fine, have it your way."
She went to close the door when suddenly he called out, "Okay, confession time. You want to know where I was last night?"
This caught her attention. She stepped back inside the room.
"I was at a meeting."
Carla closed the door behind her so they wouldn't be disturbed and joined him at the table. She sat watching him, waiting for him to speak, but he refused to meet her eye. "I was angry and upset about what had happened and all I could think about was having a drink," he admitted quietly, clearly ashamed of himself. "So I called Howard, he agreed to meet me, and he talked me down. And that's why I was late home."
"I don't get it, why lie, why not just tell me that in the first place?"
"Why do you think? Because I didn't want to worry you. I didn't want you to think I was struggling…" Lowering his head, he sighed wearily. "The truth is Carla, I am struggling. I can't stick a smile on my face and pretend everything's alright. That animal raped you—"
"But he did."
He needed her to see it for what it was.
"I know what it's like to be pinned down, to be physically powerless…." Tears started to fill her eyes as she shook her head. "This wasn't the same. I wasn't forced into anything, I agreed to it."
Peter's heart broke for her. "Oh, love… you really don't see, do you? You were ill. You couldn't agree to anything. And he took advantage of that. Used it for his own sick gain."
Carla was silent as Peter's words sank in. All this time she'd been blaming herself, thinking she was just as culpable as Jordan, feeling ashamed and disgusted, but now she didn't know what to think. With Frank there had been no room for doubt. He had used brute force to get what he wanted and left the bruises to show for it. But with Jordan things weren't so clear cut. There had been no violence, no struggle…
But that didn't mean it wasn't rape.
She gave an involuntary shiver.
The reality of having been raped again wasn't something she was ready to face up to yet. She wasn't sure if she ever would be.
A heaviness had settled in the room now, and Peter broke the silence before it became deafening. "Look, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that knocking seven bells out of Jordan didn't cross my mind, but the fact is someone else got there first. Besides, if I had got my hands on the little squirt, he wouldn't be lying in a hospital bed right now, he'd be six feet under. But attacking a woman… do you really think I'm capable of that?"
This morning when she had seen the gazette, she had jumped the gun, letting her anger overrule her judgment.
"No, of course I don't," she said at long last. "You might be capable of a lot of things Peter Barlow, but not that, never. I should never have accused you. I'm sorry."
He flinched at her words, as if they pained him. "You don't have to be sorry. None of this is your fault…" His voice cracked. "It's mine."
Carla frowned. "What are you talking about? What's your fault?"
"I could've prevented all of this. If I'd just opened my eyes to what was going on, if I'd gotten you help sooner, things would never have got as bad as they did; you wouldn't have run away and you'd never have ended up at that squat …" He swiped at a tear that rolled down his cheek. "I took my eye off the ball. The one time you needed me most, and I let you down…" He shrugged. "But hey, what's new?"
Carla was on her feet in an instant.
She circled the table and knelt before him, lifting his chin with gentle fingers, forcing him to look at her. "Now you listen to me. You did not let me down. I would never have gotten through last year without you. When the rest of the world turned their backs, you were the only one propping me up. I am so grateful to you, for everything, do you know that?"
It suddenly became clear just how much Peter was struggling as he broke down sobbing. Carla threw her arms around him and pulled him towards her. "It's alright," she said softly. "It's alright…"
The door opened and they sprung apart as Emma peered her head around the door. "Sorry, if this is a bad time…"
"No, it's fine," Carla smiled. "What is it, Emma?"
"It's just it's getting pretty busy out there…"
"We'll be straight out," said Peter, drying his eyes.
Emma disappeared and Carla focused back on Peter. "Listen, you don't have to go back out there, not if you don't want to."
"Ah, I'll be fine."
Somehow she wasn't convinced. "You sure?"
"I've said, haven't I."
Backing down to avoid another argument, she gave a playful salute. "Aye, aye, captain."
As she went to stand up, Peter caught her arm, and they locked in a stare. Her eyes narrowed with concern. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, just…" He let up the smallest of smiles, that twinkle returning in his eye. "I love you, that's all."
These past few days had been tough. A lot of painful, unwanted memories had been brought back to the surface. But they had weathered worse storms than this in the past and come through the other side stronger.
This time would be no different.
Carla smiled back at him and then she did something she had been dying to do since she first saw him in that uniform; she kissed him. It was a soft, lingering kiss that expressed what words alone could not. She pulled away and cupped his face in her hands. "I love you too."
Author's note: Just a little something I wrote because I was unhappy with how things played out after that brilliant episode with Carla and Peter. I thought the issue of consent would've been touched upon more than it was. Or at least for Carla and Peter to have a proper conversation about it. As a survivor of rape, it would be a massive deal for Carla to know it had happened again.
Yet the show has glossed over this fact as normal service was resumed the next episode.
It makes me wonder why they even bothered going down this route if they weren't prepared to give it the attention it deserved. It feels like nothing more than a plot device, a little something to keep Carla fans happy due to her unprecedented lack of screen time. It's also a massive disservice to Carla's character because the way it's been so quickly brushed under the rug undermines what she previously went through at the hands of Frank.
The showrunner had been hyping this 'storyline' up for months and ultimately what we got was very disappointing. I put storyline in inverted commas because I don't think what we got even qualifies as a storyline if it only lasted a couple of episodes.
Sorry for the rant, but yeah...slightly disappointed fan here.
Anyone else feel the same?
Also, I was thinking of writing a few one-shots or possibly a short story for the upcoming spoilers of Carla retaking the factory, so let me know if you'd be interested or not.
As always, thanks for reading. Please leave a review if you feel like it, they're much appreciated.