The knock echoed around the hallway as she waited tensely for the door to open. The hallway was empty of the usual people scurrying around - tending to rich peoples whims – and the air was cool, making goosebumps appear on her pale flesh.
Lavendar – the scent was everywhere. She could taste it on the back of her tongue, cloying and sweet. Trying to ignore the odor, she concentrated instead on standing. It wasn't easy - resisting the urge to sink to the ground in a boneless mound. And now, thanks to the lavendar, she was fighting the impulse to retch. The lavendar aroma felt like it was engulfing her – filling every pore and clinging to her skin, never to be scrubbed off again.
The key card didn't occur to her until a second after she knocked, and she began to dig around in her purse for it. She found it between her Hearst ID card and her bank card, taking a priority spot in the front compartment of her most important cards. She pulled it out and slid it quickly through the electronic card reader with a shaking hand. She had expected to savour the moment – to take her time as she dragged it through the reader inch by precious inch – but today time was of the essence. The door opened with a click and she stepped through.
The room was dark – the blinds drawn across the doors to the balcony, although a faint glow of light seeped through. Veronica paused, waiting for her eyes to adjust before she stepped forward. Logan's bedroom opened and he stepped out looking sleep-rumpled. His hair was sticking up and he was clad only in a pair of shorts he slept in. Any other time, Veronica would have paused to admire the beauty of her boyfriend, to drink in his sculptured body and think deliciously naughty thoughts, but tears burned behind her eyes and all she wanted was to sink into his comforting arms.
"Veronica?" he said in surprise. "Hey, just wanna warn you…" he began, before another voice cut in.
"Ronnie, if you've stopped by for a late-night booty call – mind keeping it down? Although I wouldn't say no to a free show…"
She turned in surprise when she heard Dick speaking, and spotted him sprawled out on the sofa, his arm thrown up over his face.
Veronica bit down on her lip which was trembling uncontrollably. She knew Logan couldn't see her tear-stained face in the dim light when she said softly, "Bad timing. I'll see you tomorrow, Logan."
"Veronica, wait…" Logan called after her, as she shut the door firmly behind her.
Veronica didn't quite know how she made it back to her car and was startled to find herself standing next to her silver Saturn. She unlocked the door and clambered in. She gripped the steering wheel tightly, her breath coming in short uneven rasps. The back of her eyelids burned as tears finally spilled over, racing down her cheeks. Her throat ached painfully, as her skin crawled. The knot under her chin tightened, and she staggered out of the car just in time to empty the contents of her stomach into the pretty floral garden that decorated the grounds of the hotel. The taste of acid burned in her throat as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
She heard the sound of someone jogging towards her and turned to see Logan, now dressed in the jeans and t-shirt he had been wearing the day before. He was a picture of concern as, slightly breathless, he stopped next to her and put his hand on her arm.
"What's happened? What's wrong?" he gasped out.
Shuddering, Veronica looked up to find Logan's warm brown eyes boring into hers. She moved forward and pressed herself into his warm body. He wrapped his arms around her as she breathed in his distinct scent. Her stomach twisted ferociously as Logan reached out and opened the back seat of the car. He gently moved her nearer and sat down, pulling her onto his lap.
"What happened?" he repeated, whispering into her hair.
"Mac and I were going to see the midnight movie," she told him, tears still streaming down her face. He nodded for her to continue, his hand rubbing small circles across her back. "She was sitting in the hallway because Parker was in their room with a guy – and our tickets. I offered to get them… I couldn't see anything, it was too dark. I grabbed the tickets and we left."
She stopped, feeling like she was being choked as she buried herself deeper into Logan's shoulder. Saying the night's events out loud made the horrible nightmare seem even more real.
"We got back, and I was kinda drunk, so Mac offered me her couch. It was still dark, but when Parker woke up… she'd been raped, and her hair was shaved."
Logan's hand paused, his body rigid in shock.
"Oh, god, Logan – it was my fault. She was being raped, and I was in the room. I could have stopped it!"
"You didn't know that," Logan protested firmly. "How could you possibly have known?"
"How could I not?" she spat out. Anger coursed through her veins – boiling and bubbling inside – and she felt like she was going to explode. How was it even possible she'd not noticed something terrible was happening in the room? Shouldn't it have been obvious?
"Veronica," he murmured – his voice sounding rough and scratchy. "You didn't know..." he said, rocking her gently as she sobbed.
"He was right there, Logan! I heard what he was doing. God – I heard him and I walked back out."
Over Logan's shoulder, she could see the empty parking lot. Old-fashioned looking street lamps were placed sporadically, casting a golden glow. Was he out there? He knew what she looked like, had heard her voice. She'd been so close to him – he could have reached out and grabbed her. Veronica felt like she'd been cracked open, and everyone she normally kept herself shielded from could see her – exposed and vulnerable. Was he mocking her? Watching her, knowing who she was while she had no clue what he even looked like?
Why hadn't she flicked on the lights? If she had, it would have been all over. The darkness covering his identity gone – exposing him to the world. Had he laughed when the door clicked shut behind her? Revelled in another victory?
She could imagine the accusing eyes of the women at the 'Take Back the Night' rally, hear the disbelieving whispers… 'That's the girl… she's the one who was in the same room as Parker when she was being raped – and didn't even try and stop it.'
What did it say about her as a person? Sure, it was one thing to solve a fake crime in a classroom – and smile smugly as the T.A shot jealous daggers at her – but when she was in the same room as someone being raped, she didn't even realise…
She glanced up and saw with a start Logan's eyes were rimmed-red, swimming with emotion. She couldn't ever remember someone being so connected to her, sharing her pain so deeply.
"It's not your fault," he assured her, brushing some hair which had stuck to her wet cheeks away.
But how could it not be? She may not have been the culprit, but surely she was just as bad as all the people that turned a blind eye as Dick Casablancas carried her unconscious body into the guest bedroom at Shelly Pomeroy's party.
She's always prided herself in trying to do the right thing when she could. Fighting for the people that couldn't fight for themselves, trying to get proof for justice when no one else would. People didn't want to see what was going on right in front of their faces and now? She was one of them.
Veronica stiffened and pushed herself upright. She carefully wiped her tears away with her sleeve before she turned to look at Logan.
"Logan. When the hell did Dick flipping Casablancas move in with you?"