I looked over at Whitney, who looked just as shocked as I was. I wasn't sure I had heard Annabel right. She couldn't have said raped. Who would want to rape our baby sister. Sure, Annabel's friends could be snotty, just like mine had been, but that didn't give anyone a good excuse. She was always so nice and innocent. I wanted to strangle the bastard who laid a hand on my sister.
Annabel continued, her eyes full of sadness. "To top it off, he was my best friend's boyfriend. After it was over and I was putting my clothes back on, she came in and assumed that I had slept with him. She was really upset and started insulting me. I tried to talk to her, but she just told me to leave her alone." My jaw was practically on the floor at this point. I had never liked Sophie, but I had never suspected the girl to be so cruel.
"After that, I shut everyone out. I didn't leave the house much that summer. I was scared to face my friend and the guy. I isolated myself from the world." Whitney looked like she'd had an euphony. I knew she would explain later, so I turned my attention back to my youngest sister. Annabel laughed sarcastically. "Turns out that came back to bite me. When I went back to school, no one would talk to me. My best friend had turned everyone against me, even the friends I'd had before Sophie. Everyone was whispering about what a slut I was."
She took a deep breathe. "I thought nothing was ever going to be okay. My life was in complete shreds. All my friends were turned against me, and my family was in shamble. My sisters were fighting over Whitney's eating disorder. My parents were too busy trying to fix her to worry about me." I looked over at Whitney, who looked extremely guilty over this. I noticed how Annabel said it without any emotion, like she was stating a fact. She was angry or bitter about it. This just taught me another thing about my youngest sister I didn't know.
No one in our family ever considered Annabel the strong one. Personally, I wasn't sure who the strong one was. Probably Dad. He was the only one of us who ever went into a problem head on. Mom was the weakest, prone to emotional bursts after her mother's death. She was like a fragile china doll, easily broken. Annabel was the only one who always took that into consideration. Whitney and I barely registered that in our heads; we were too busy fighting all the time. I was the loud one, Whitney was the quiet one, and Annabel was the nice one. We never thought about why it was that way. There was nothing else we had ever known. I had never considered that Whitney and I were the reason for that.
"Then I met this guy when I was looking for a place to sit and eat lunch. He was sitting by a tree, and I sat down a few inches away. I knew this guy had a reputation for anger management, but then I thought about how I didn't want people judging me by what I'd heard." She looked over at a really tall who I didn't recognize sitting at the table with Clarke. Whitney seemed to recognize him. "This guy, Owen, was a breathe of fresh air from the rest of my life. He was always honest, no matter what. It was okay to disagree with him. There would be no bruised egos or hurt feelings. I was actually allowed to have opinions." Annabel's voice had a sarcastic edge towards the end of that, but I ignored it. I was too absorbed by her description of this guy Owen. She sounded like a girl in love, like I was with Brian.
"We bonded over music. Owen was a music freak or just enlightened, as he liked to say. His radio station, Anger Management, was eclectic to say the least. Some of the music was good, and some of it was bad. I listened every morning, and he started putting some of my songs onto the show. I felt free with him. My life was wearing me down, while Owen was building me up." She smiled at him. I was now positive that he was Annabel's boyfriend. That definitely explained Annabel's increase in mood.
"But my secrets were starting to catch up with me. The guy showed up at school twice to pick up Sophie or something. I got sick at the sight of him. I wanted to tell someone, anyone, what was going on, but I couldn't. I thought the people around me would freak out or leave. That's what always happened. One time he talked to me, and my former best friend freaked out. She started insulting me and pushed me. Something inside me snapped. I pushed her back. She looked shocked and told me to stay the hell away from her and her boyfriend."
"Everything came to a halt when I realized I had feelings for Owen. One day, I went over his house to return his jacket that he had lent me earlier that day at breakfast. I would've waited, but it had his Ipod in it. I had a feeling he'd be missing soon. When I got there, his house was in chaos. His little sister was putting on a fashion shoot with her friends, and Owen was the photographer. The girls knew I was a Lakeview Model, so I was the stylist. I was helping a girl switch outfits when Owen came in. The girl ran out to join the group, and Owen and I were talking. He convinced me to let him take my picture. After being a model so long, I hated having my pictures taken. He showed it to me and said that's what he thought I looked like. The picture wasn't perfect but wasn't bad; it was just me." Annabel looked tentative to get into this next part.
Everything came crashing down one night when I went with Owen and his friend to go see a band at this club. I just lost control and couldn't handle it anymore. I left without telling Owen." She looked over at him once again, his apologetic eyes meeting hers. "The next month was just a blur, like everything before it. I drowned out everything around me with the cds Owen had made me to I could become "enlightened".
"Meanwhile, a friend of mine was also being ostracized by Sophie. She also had reportedly slept with her boyfriend as well. She came to me and told me that she knew what had happened to me now, since it had happened to her. Her lawyer wanted me to testify against him in court, but I was scared." Annabel looked down for a second before meeting the eyes of the audience. "I didn't want to break my family; I thought my mom couldn't handle it. There was too much going on."
Annabel took a deep breathe, like this part was particularly painful. "Kirsten came home for Christmas. She had found a focus in life: filmmaking. Whitney was constantly writing. I was happy for my sisters, but this made me feel uneasy. It made me notice how far I'd fallen."
Whitney and I looked at each other. It had never occurred to us that Annabel had never found her thing either. We'd all figured it was modeling. "So I went to the radio station to talk to him. I asked him why one of the cds he gave me was blank. Turns out it was just a malfunction. I ended telling him everything, beginning to end. He encouraged me to get up on the stand." A look of shame flashed across her face. "But I couldn't go up on the stand, so I just sent a statement instead. He was sentenced for 5 or so years in prison." The whole audience began clapping.
"Everything just started to fall in place. I made up with my old best friend, Clarke." Clarke stood up and took a bow while Annabel laughed. "I started going out with Owen and attending counseling. I even got my own radio slot. I don't talk to my former best friend or the other girl much, but we all have an understanding."
"I came here tonight because I needed to tell my story. Thank you for listening. And listen to WRUS." she said that last part with a smile. Annabel stepped off stage and into Owen's waiting arms. We got a pretty good view of their kissing. I got up and signaled Whitney to follow me. We weaved our way through the crowded café until getting to Annabel's table. Her eyes bugged out when she saw us. "What are you guys doing here?" Annabel asked, barely getting the words out.
"We got bored, and we wanted to see some really lame poetry." I joked with a weak smile.
"Well, that must've been disappointing then," Annabel replied with a smirk.
Whitney shook her head. "No, it wasn't." She stopped before asking the dreaded question. "Why didn't you tell us?" Whitney's voice wasn't angry or judgmental, just worried. If anyone knew what happened when you keep your problems to yourself, it would be her.
I could tell Annabel was choosing her answer carefully. "I was scared to say anything. I thought it would destroy Mom and make everyone else pull away." I noticed a small tear fall down Annabel's cheek. "I didn't want to lose anyone else."
I pulled my sister in for a tight hug. "We would never turn away from you. We're a family. Sisters stick together." Both my younger sisters raised an eyebrow. "Okay, so we haven't really had the best history, but that can change. We can change." I empathized that last part to show how serious I was.
Whitney turned to Annabel. "I'm proud of you," she told her with admiration. "You're stronger than you think. You proved that tonight." Annabel gave her a small smile.
"Thanks," she told Whitney. Annabel turned around and motioned for her friends to come over.
"Hey, Whitney, Kirsten. Enjoy the show?" Clarke asked without a hint of sarcasm. "Yeah, I actually did," Whitney replied. "I was able to get acquainted with the new Annabel."
I turned to Owen and stuck my hand out to him. "Hi, I'm Kirsten. I don't think we've met." I introduced myself.
"No, we haven't. I'm Owen, nice to meet you." he replied with a kind smile.
"Nice to meet you too." I turned to Annabel and whispered, "You have good taste." Whitney merely rolled her eyes at me; I stuck my tongue out her.
We met Owen's best friend and Clarke's boyfriend, Rolly, whose cousin's band was playing. They were called the Truth Squad. While I was dancing up a storm with my younger sisters, I was thankful for this night. I didn't know if Annabel was going to tell our parents or not. I didn't know anything about the future except one thing: We would always be a family, and I'd always look out for my sisters.