Trigger Warning: This chapter contains a frank discussion of Darcy's rape.
They say that there's a point for every person, when they know that they're not a kid anymore. I was in seventh grade, sitting at my computer, reading Lizzie McGuire fanfiction. The show was before my time, but Darcy taped all the episodes when she was my age and made me watch them with her. It had grown on me, and Gordo was my first crush. Sometimes, I liked the idea of a boyfriend who cared more about my brain than my body. Mom told both Darcy and me over and over again that our princes were out there, but the fantasy faded over time until nothing but a thick, confusing smog of Christian morality remained. Between the two of us, I always thought Darcy was the one who had a prince. She was beautiful, athletic, smart, cheerful, everything a guy could want. My life started to crumble when I saw those pictures she was posting to raise money for Spirit Squad. Guys were paying money to see her body. They didn't care that she was sixteen and Christian. They didn't care that she was my big sister, my role model. To them, she was just a body they could use. I remember begging her not to do it anymore, and I remember crying myself to sleep that night. Maybe it was her body, maybe I shouldn't care. At the same time, I knew Darcy. I knew she didn't want to sell her body. She wanted her prince and her fairytale wedding.
"How can you do this?" I asked her one day. "This isn't like you."
She sighed, so condescendingly, so un-Darcy-like. "You're young, Clare. You don't know what it's like."
Those words haunted me for days. I wanted to ask my mother if things changed when you hit high school. If the prince and fairytale wedding was all just a myth. I wanted to know why the other girls at Darcy's school laughed at her for wearing a promise ring. I wanted to know what changed so much that Darcy wasn't her old self anymore.
Before any of my questions could be answered, she came around. Adams came after her one day, and I called the police. I remember the night her stalker was hauled away in handcuffs. She took my hand and told me that I was good, implying that I was the only good one left between us. I told her she was good too. I thought the nightmare was over. My big sister was back and nothing could hurt us anymore.
When she first started acting out, wearing baggy sweatshirts to hide her body and shirking her responsibilities, I thought she was upset about Adams. My mother was at wit's end trying to get through to Darcy, and my father was never around. At the time, I didn't know why. All I knew was that I was the smart one. I had to fix it. I researched psychological problems and came across PTSD. Most places I went suggested that a traumatic event could be just about anything. It didn't have to be war. It could be an experience of bullying or stalking, and Darcy had definitely been through that.
By that point, Mom already knew about Adams. One night when Darcy didn't feel like doing the dishes, I volunteered in her place. "Clare, you really don't have to," my mother told me. "It's Darcy's turn," she said loudly, hoping her other daughter would hear.
"It's okay, Mom," I said. "I actually want to talk to you."
"Oh," she said, her voice full of concern. I realized I was rarely the one to say that phrase in that tone.
"It's about Darcy," I said.
"Oh," she said again.
I shrugged, gathering the dirty dishes off the kitchen table. "So I've been doing some research on PTSD. Remember what Darcy went through with Adams? I'm wondering if maybe she has it. It would explain why she's acting so strangely."
"I hadn't really thought of that," my mother said. "I admit it's possible."
Her tone didn't sound convinced, and my shoulders fell. For some reason, I had expected the light to return to her eyes the moment I uttered the diagnostic label. It wasn't enough.
"Thank you, Clare," she said. "I appreciate that you're trying to help."
Things with Darcy got so bad that my parents were relieved when they heard that Mr. Simpson sexually harassed her. Before, I couldn't really imagine a situation where parents would be relieved that their daughter was harassed. In our messed up situation, the harassment provided an explanation. A scapegoat we could blame. Hope that we could have our Darcy back.
In a few weeks, Darcy admitted to making it up. My mother cried. My father hit the wall with his fist, something that nearly never happened in our family. I just stood there, shaking, not knowing how to react. "Darcy," I said, following her up the stairs, "you couldn't have made it up. I know something's wrong."
She looked at me with tear-filled eyes and turned around. My parents glanced up the stairs at us and I shook my head, calling them off. "Fine," she sighed. "Fine, I'll tell you. What else do I have to lose? What else?"
Despite the harshness in her tone, Darcy didn't object when I followed her into her room. The moment she fell onto her bed, Darcy's pained expression grew blank. "I was raped, Clare. Someone raped me and I don't even know who he is. I don't know if he's a total stranger or someone I know. For all I know, he could be in my homeroom. Or go to our church. I don't know," she breathed deeply, "and I'm never gonna know. When it was over, I didn't even remember. Not really. I thought maybe I had sex, but that was it. As long as I didn't remember, I could pretend it didn't happen. But then I did remember. Moment by moment. Inch by inch it crept back into my head."
"No," I said softly, sinking into her desk chair.
She shook her head. "I was sitting in Media Immersion, staring at some stupid powerpoint Johnny DiMarco put together. I wanted to kill him, Clare. I didn't even know why. I just knew that he could be him and I hated him so much. Clare, I thought about killing him. I was literally sweating, watching him up there. I hated him so much, and I hated me for hating him. It made me sick. I was sick. I went home early, and there in my room everything just started spinning. The next thing I knew I could feel his, whoever's, weight on top of me. Literally feel it. Then, in a split second, it was gone. Like it was never there."
"Oh my God," I said. It was a rare occurrence when I took the Lord's name in vain, but there were no other words.
"The Friendship Club turned on me. They heard that I was no longer a virgin and so they took my ring. They took it and told me I threw away God's most precious gift. I was garbage to them. I'm garbage, Clare."
I shook my head in disbelief. "You're not garbage," I said, my voice shaking. "God would never blame someone for...that wasn't your fault."
"Tell that to the Friendship Club. It was Manny, the girl I endlessly ridiculed for having an abortion who took pity on me. Manny, the girl I lovingly referred to as the school slut who actually acted like a friend to me," she said.
Nodding, she continued. "It's funny. One minute, I'm this perfect princess and Manny's the fucked up one. Now, she's the one comforting me. I'm the fuckup now."
I sighed, pressing my lips together. "I'm sure if you explain all of this to Mom, Dad..."
"It's too late," she said. "Do you know what it's like? Knowing you hurt like hell and knowing you'll never even remember everything? I remember waking up, smelling his beer breath. Then, nothing. Then pain. Nothing again. More nothing. I have driven myself crazy trying to fill in those blanks," she blinked out a tear. "I psych myself out imagining every horrible possibility. Sometimes I think there was another guy. A second one. I can never prove it. I never know when I'm remembering things and when I'm just scaring myself. God, Clare," she gazed intently at me. "I wanted to remember so badly, to understand this thing that had happened, that I begged Peter to have sex with me. I pressured him. I thought maybe if I did it, I'd remember and at least be able to deal with it. Or if nothing else, I'd get some control over sex, so I could have some images of it that didn't hurt. But...I did it and all I did was hurt him and hurt me too. I don't even know what I'm going to do."
For the first time in my life, I felt honestly powerless. I had heard of people being raped on the news, but I had never actually imagined it happening to anyone in my family. Especially not my own sister. I wanted to be strong for her, but I cried. I couldn't help it.
"Are you going to tell Mom and Dad?" Darcy asked.
I wanted to have a plan. I wanted to tell her that we'd do it together, but all I could do was stare into space. The scum that stole Darcy's innocence, by proxy, took mine with it.