She’s been broken and even she doesn’t know where to begin finding the pieces. He doesn’t know either. The wind blows at them but it doesn’t blow the pain and confusion away.
“Let’s go inside.”
“I can’t go in there.”
Her hands tremble and her eyes seem to shift from him to the house and back. “He did it in there.”
A silent moment passes. Even the wind understands the gravity of grief and stops blowing. He takes her hand and slowly leads her back to the house. It looks more domineering now, as though the revelation that it is the scene of a heinous crime has made it more intimidating, sinister, bigger somehow. The pale glow of moon light amplifies its dark persona and as a howling gust of wind kicks up a dog barks in the distant, completing the scene.
Ciru has rejoined the party in the kitchen and they stand in silent contemplation. Simon has returned with a black shirt and hands it coldly to him.
“Sheila, could you warm up a cup of milk please?”
Simon’s momentary facial protest is met by Sheila’s and he opens the fridge to retrieve the milk. The rest of the group moves to the living room. He helps her to the sofa and sits next to her, her hand in his, her gaze still searching the floor. He places his free hand on her back and her spine jerks forward in instinctive shock. He withdraws it and she gives him an apologetic look, tears welling up in her eyes but held back in spirited defiance. He slowly pats her back and she smiles, only slightly. He understands.
Sheila joins them on the sofa with the warm milk. The pin drop silence is disturbed as the mug claps noisily on the glass table top.
“What happened?” Simon dares to ask. Angry eyes shower him as though he has committed a taboo. “What? I want to know.”
And it is true, they all want to know but don’t know how to ask the sensitive question. Sheila picks the mug from the table. Again the ceramic and glass chatter, almost discussing the tension in the room. She holds it in front of her and waits.
“You don’t have to tell us if you don’t want to.”
But it isn’t. A rogue tear betrays her as she reaches for the mug and touches it to her lips. She winces.
“Is it hot?”
“No, my lip hurts.”
“He hit you?”
“I just …”
Sheila stares venom at her boyfriend and he backs down.
“I didn’t want to but…”
He squeezes her hand and she squeezes back. She wants to tell them what happened. She looks at him and through the film of tears he can see that defiance that drew him to her aid in the first place. “We were in the kitchen having a few drinks and then that guy started chatting with us. He looked ok so we came to dance for a bit then we had a few more drinks…”
She trails off, looks up in an attempt to draw back the tears. She wipes the corner of her mouth with her hand and stops talking. Ciru reaches under the table and retrieves a box of tissues which she extends towards her.
Ciru only nods in response, anticipating the next step in the narration. She retrieves a tissue and dubs the corners of her eyes. Not knowing what to do with it thereafter, she holds it between her fingers, toying with it.
“So we were dancing and then he started touching me…and it was alright for a bit but then he pulled me really close and I tried to get away from him but he just said that’s how that dance was…and I didn’t feel alright but since everyone was doing it I thought… ‘What the heck’…and he started touching me some more and he was putting his hand around me…and holding my stomach and touching me…”
The tissue in her hands is now folded into a tight triangle. She stares at it but doesn’t seem to be looking at it. “I wanted to stop but…”
She looks up again but it’s too late to stop the tears from escaping her eyes. Ciru holds the tissues up to her but she’s closed her eyes and can’t see the kind gesture. Sheila takes the box and removes a tissue. Expertly she wipes the tears away as best as she can.
“…Then he started doing this thing…and he was rubbing himself on me…and his hands were on my hips and he wouldn’t let go!…And he kept pulling me towards him and rubbing and grinding. I wasn’t even dancing any more. And when I told him to stop he just smiled and kept doing it. Then he put his hands on my…”
She’s stopped fighting the tears and her bloodshot eyes just stare ahead without seeing. Her audience has simply melted into the background.
“I slapped him. Then he pulled me and kissed me by force…he put his tongue in my mouth and…started touching my back and rubbing my…he was so…”
Sheila tenderly rubs her back and she falls silent for a moment, wiping the tears roughly from her face with the back of her hand. “I pushed him off me and left him there…I went to the bathroom and I was feeling so stupid.”
Sheila floats the mug in front of her again. She takes a long sip and inhales deep, failing to keep the tears at bay but trying regardless.
“I was in the bathroom for a bit before he came in…”
“He followed you?” Ciru asks in bewilderment.
“Yeah, and he was talking about how we were having a good time…and how he was enjoying himself. I couldn’t even look at him so I turned around…but then he held me from behind and he started to kiss me on the neck and feeling my thighs. I don’t know if it was the drinking but it started to feel…it started to feel good and…oh my God…”
He squeezes her hand again but she pulls hers away and leans into Sheila’s comforting embrace. Perhaps it’s for the best because he can feel his pulse rise in a hot rage.
“…it felt wrong. He was kissing me faster and faster. Then he tried to bite me on the neck! I asked him what the hell he was doing but he just said ‘I know you want it’. I pushed him away but he just came back saying something like ‘You don’t come to a party dressed like that for fun’. I slapped him but he just held me…by force. He kept saying, ‘You want it’ and ‘Stop being stupid’. I tried to fight but he just stood there! He pulled my dress up and…and…”
Her audience remains captives of silence, too shocked to say a word in her defense.
“We fell on the floor and I could feel him onto of me…I wanted to scream but he covered my mouth with his hand. He was so heavy…I tried to lift him off me but…He put his knees between mine and forced me…”
“Oh my God,” Ciru whispers, a hand cupped over her mouth.
“He raped me…and I tried and tried but there was nothing I could do to stop him.”