MINIMALISM

Veronica envies Parker.

She doesn't tell anyone that, mostly because she doesn't want anyone to think she's insane, or the biggest bitch in human history. Then again, most people would never guess the why – it always catches her off-guard, how few people actually know; Logan, Parker, Wallace... the list ends – they'd probably say it's about Logan. She's sure, with an ego like his, he'd like that, but that's not it. She tries not to think about it whenever she can, especially not in comparison to someone else, not to Parker. She's gotten bad at that, however.

She tried not to think about it, during the case. She had dealt with what Cassidy did to her three or so years ago, even if she didn't know it was him at the time. No reason to think about it now. Every reason to protect the girls on campus, the ones like Parker, from this monster – who she still didn't know who he was. But she doesn't have to think about Cassidy again, doesn't have to avoid Mac's eyes.

Sometimes she thinks about Mercer and the day she caught him. He was a monster. Or was he? When she thinks of that night on the roof (which never gets out of her head, not matter how hard she tries) she becomes less certain. You'd see the way Cassidy acted there – laughing, taunting, killing – and call him a monster. Veronica always has to remember that wasn't it. After all, who did he kill?

Maybe Mercer was the same, she doesn't know. She doesn't want to know. She tries not to entertain morbid thoughts; tries not think: If we looked at Mercer for a little longer, broken little boys dancing in her head. She doesn't want that, she doesn't want Mercer to have an excuse – she wants to demonize him, to point at him for Parker and all the others, to say: There! That's your bad guy! It's all his fault!

She could have avoided this, she knows it. If she had just been smarter, not believed the lie, she could have caught Cassidy without the tragic backstory. Then he would laugh and she would cry, and he would never, ever tell her how well he knew what he did to her. Then she would work her patented Veronica magic and make him pay, without a second thought to what might have happened to him. Then, of course, the bus wouldn't crash, and maybe Peter and Marcos would have made Woody pay earlier and less fatally (although she doesn't really care he died), and they wouldn't have brought up Cassidy, in search of their credibility. If only she could have been smarter.

Meg, her mind prods at her and it stings. She expected to miss her, like she did with Lilly – what kind of luck did she have, two of her three best girlfriends ever, murdered? - but she also expected, like with Lilly, that the pain would dull over time. Well, at least it had changed somewhat. The grief slowly went away, but the guilt stayed with her, munching on the bits of her brain in the back. She could have saved her – she could also have saved her other best girlfriend, saving her from loving not-quite-a-monster.

Veronica's read about thinks like this, self-blame. Rationalizing the process of the rape, making it your fault meaning you never lost control of the situation. But Veronica doesn't blame herself for the rape – except on her worst days, when she thinks she was an idiot to go to that party – she blames herself for the aftermath. The devastation. The fact she can't just tell one of her best friends the truth for fear of breaking her, the fact one of her best friends died probably thinking they weren't friends.

She frowns. Never lost control. Was that what Cassidy did? Did he, in his desperate, constant need to reclaim his power, turn it all into his fault in his head? Is that why he needed so badly to cover it up, to conceal his "crime"? Where did she fit in, in that scenario (her best guess is "nowhere" but that makes her feel helpless, like she hates)? For that matter, where did Peter and Marcos? Was what happened to them meant to be their fault too, did that make them okay to kill?

She is dreading the trial, which is stupid, because she's not the one who has to go on that stand and relive the most private, personal ordeal of her life. Parker gets to do that, and maybe Veronica envies the thought that Parker can dread that trial with good reason; that everyone would understand if she didn't want to go, have to testify – she would understand. They're both going to do it, because they are not letting Mercer Hayes get away with what he did (and she never managed to make Cassidy pay; sometimes she wishes she had just shot the gun), but she just doesn't want to. She doesn't want to go on the stand and conspicuously not tell them what happened to her.

It always frightens her, how secretive she is about it. But she can't tell. There are people; people with a hand in it, or the bus crash, who would have to feel guilty – would Dick say he didn't know, that he never expected Cassidy to actually do it? Would Lamb finally have felt bad for ignoring her, if he hadn't had his skull bashed in with a baseball bat?

Baseball. She doesn't watch it anymore, although her father tells her she can't blame a game for the actions of two people. She never liked baseball that much, so it's not exactly hard to give it up. She remembers that day, she had been with Duncan (God she misses him sometimes, wishes she could see the new Lilly). Dick saw Gia and immediately wanted to fuck her (that chills her to the bone; had Cassidy known who she was from that first moment? And seen what his brother wanted from her?). Cassidy was making jokes on that field trip, while coldly plotting to kill half of them – did he even care, what he was going to do?

She never quite manages to get these thoughts to stop, to erase all the fucking pity for her rapist. Parker didn't have to deal with this. Mercer was a monster, it was that simple. Parker didn't have to lie to Mac. Parker hadn't wished like hell Dick would be guilty of the rapes, so she could clear up that loose end in her story. Parker hadn't lied awake at night, trying to sort out her first, second, third first times. Parker hadn't been the one to comfort Logan, telling him it wasn't his fault Cassidy jumped, all the while wondering; Was it mine? If I wasn't there, could you have said something? Parker hadn't, on her darkest days, gone further back and wondered if someone "showed" the young Woodrow how best to "save" broken little boys.

Parker doesn't have to judge and second guess and never quite be confident in the solutions to her mysteries. Parker can just go on, the way rape victims are meant to go on. She can recover and get her life back; boys and clothes and America's Next Top Model, the things that other Veronica once believed in. But the naive girl Veronica once was is dead.

But Parker is still that girl.