"Hey Lexi, come here…" His voice gently repulsed me, though I knew he was trying to be charming and sweet. Honey, I don't want you any more. Sugar, fillings and trips to the dentist.
"No, Sam." His breath was hot and pushed against my neck, like his hands pushing me against the car door. The corvette that so impressed my friends had lost its charms five minutes into our date and I wanted nothing more than to be free of it, into the cool night air. Fly away, pretty bird, they want your wings for writing things.
"Let's have some fun… I took you out, Lexi… Here." His hand, large and too much a man's hand for a boy's body, pressed the fabric of my shirt onto my stomach. He moved his hand up to my breasts, squeezing, and his mouth met mine. Did he not feel the resistance, oblivious to my state of revulsion, or was he ignoring my anxiety? That's all boys ever want, the nursery rhyme that learns and hurts in time.
"I said no, Sam! No!" I tried to push him off me but what was a 110 pound sophomore on a 6"2' 200 pound senior quarterback? The words hardly got past his lips when he pulled my shirt open and slid his hand down my stomach to my skirt. His other arm was braced against my seat and I couldn't get out from under him. I wanted to scream but somehow, caught in the crossfire of messages shooting around my body, it stuck in my throat with the tears and cries for help that came to nothing. All sound was trapped like a bite of poison apple in my throat, burning like acid. The only thing to accompany the sound of jeans unzipping were my quiet sobs. Cry your cares away, my love, for there's no help waiting in the shadows.
It hurt. I knew it would. I mean, God – I was only 15. I didn't know or care about protection then. It wasn't actually something they prioritised in our middle school Health classes. The system changed soon after I finished high school, thank god. But I guess it doesn't help when you're rapists know how to cover themselves, so to speak. When he'd finished, he smiled like we'd had a great time and my cheeks weren't stained with the tears he'd pricked from my eyes. He offered me a lift home. I know you're shocked but I accepted. I wasn't there, my mind had shut down. I couldn't deal with what had just happened. The candle's been burnt at both ends, the wax has left the taper to spark and raze the flames to nothing.
You nod with understanding and you are my lifeline. If it wasn't you I was telling this to, some shrink with a notebook open and a damnable benign look on their face, I couldn't do it. I couldn't go through this again. But you need to know. I can tell. You don't want to but you crave the connection. Or maybe I'm wrong. The tears in your eyes seem so familiar, like coming home to a broken window.
When the car stopped outside my house, I opened the door slowly, like I was moving through water and not the overly warm air inside the corvette. The whole ride, I hadn't moved at all except to pull my skirt down hurriedly and close the front of my shirt. One button had been pulled off and I could see it on mat next to my foot. I didn't pick it up. As I closed the door behind me and stood, not looking through the window but through him, Sam smiled.
"Bye, Lexi. I'll see you at school tomorrow." He pulled away from the curb and my whispered words were lost in the revving on his engine and the rush of exhaust that trailed behind the car.
"My name is Alex."
As I whisper the words again to you now, my mind reels back to that night, crying as I slammed my bedroom door behind me. I lay on my bed, hurting and screaming into the pillows. Soon enough, my mother came in and was shocked to see me alternately attacking the mattress with my fists and collapsing against the pillows, sobbing. She held me, stroking my back as I cried. She kissed my forehead and whispered to me until I calmed enough for her to ask what happened. I told her, between choked sobs and hot tears. She was silent and rocked my like a baby. Rockabye, rockabye, ask not the reason why.
She spoke hesitantly. She knew it was wrong but she told me. We would go to the clinic in the morning and make sure I was ok. That there wasn't anything … wrong with me. Then I would be transferred to the Catholic Girls School just outside of town. I could board there. Wouldn't I like that? Wouldn't you like to go there? The standard of education is very high. Girls who attend that school went to Ivy League colleges and did medicine or law. Wouldn't you like to be a lawyer, Alexandra? Isn't that what you always wanted? Suddenly, in the arms of the woman who loved me most, my faith in justice was shattered. I knew she was wrong, I knew Sam shouldn't have got away with it. But our position … our name … it was better that way. Better to pretend like I was going to change schools all along. Oh yes, Alexandra was always looking forward to going to such a prestigious school. Lies feed picky children.
And so you know. I did go to the girls school. I enjoyed it very much and gradually, I got my self esteem back and I allowed myself to make new friends, go out and have fun. It took a lot longer for me to start trusting men again but I only had a handful of relationships between the time I graduated high school and starting work at Arthur Branch's office. You're probably not surprised. Workaholic, you always called me. Look for the girl with the broken smile and a briefcase in her hand.
Oh Lord, don't cry. I never wanted to make you cry. Never ever. I promised myself that. You see too much wrongdoing, pain and heartache everyday. And it's not as if you don't have enough hurt inside you already. No, I can see in your eyes that you're thinking of your father. I'm so sorry. Damn, I never wanted to make you cry. What? I am not crying. Your fingers brush over my cheek and the tears shining on your skin tell me otherwise. I'm sorry. You tell me to stop apologising, with that pain in your eyes. I can't forgive myself for putting you through it all again. The sharpest knife isn't made of metal, but it cuts through the heart like butter.
You pull me close and kiss my forehead. I'm surprised by this action. We're in the locker rooms at the precinct and anyone could walk in. The leather of your coat against my cheek and the rub of my blue suit along your wrist are so different to when you hold me at home. Soft cotton or skin against skin. You never touch me like this at work, not outside my office with the door shut and the lights off, long after all the other poor disillusioned saps have dragged themselves home to bed for a few hours sleep. You would barely even touch me here, in the bull pen, in front of your colleagues. Sure, you'd look. As I sat on your desk, played devil's advocate to your righteous anger, strode in to deny you a warrant or announce a win. I love the way you look at me. But here, in your arms, in your place where we could so easily be found, I feel so safe. I wouldn't swap you for all the locks and walls and guard dogs in the world. Safety in your arms.
After so long, so long that I forget where we are and why you're holding me, you pull away and brush the tears from my eyes. I do the same for you, cupping your cheek in my hand. You're always so beautiful. I tell you that the world is an amazing place, for something so perfect to come from an act of violence. You do nothing but smile slightly as one last tear slides down your cheek and into my hand. With that, I couldn't care if the whole world is watching and I kiss your beautiful lips, hoping against hope that all is forgiven, all is mended. We're closer still than we were before but both our lacerations have been salted. As you return my kiss, the searing heat that is you runs through my body. Cauterising the wound.
Ever aware of your surrounds, you pull back slowly with a warm smile. You run your hand through my hair and straighten my glasses. You laugh as I roll my eyes at the gesture and throw on a little of your cop bravado to ask if I remember where this guy lives.
As I give you a wry smile, I think of his house. That same one his parents lived in though they've since moved to a permanent cabin on a cruise ship. The same fence, the same porch, the same windows. All of that I knew well enough. We did live three blocks from each other. But now the yard has a small barking dog and two children playing catch. The front window shows a pregnant woman washing dishes with a sweet smile playing upon her lips. A man who looks slightly less muscly but all the more fatherly kisses her on the cheek before moving out into the yard, suggesting ice cream. As the children shout and laugh, tugging at their father's shirt, I turn the engine over and pull out into the street. I catch the puzzled look on the man's face in my mirror, like he recognised me but couldn't place from where. I do know where he lives. I didn't come from a deposition hearing. Keeping my smile in place, I lie fluently and admonish you for suggesting another act of violence. I know you too well – there is one area in which justice is yours alone.
I stand up and you follow, straightening your shirt beneath your coat and sliding your fingers beneath your eyes, trying to smooth your make up. I laugh a little; you're always beautiful. You give me a suspicious smile and grab my hand, kissing my cheek like a teenager. I wait for you to say something but you just look at me. I know what your feeling. But life goes on. And your partner is waiting for you.
"Go on, Olivia. I've taken up enough of your time. I'll see you later." As your hand loosens its grasp on mine and I feel you slip away, I say in a somewhat childish voice, "Go catch the bad guys." You look back at me with a pleading expression, which you quickly cover to save me the memories. What a thing to say.
"I will, Alex."
I smile because I know you will.
And my heart doesn't cry that you came too late for mine.