“He raped me.”
They all stare at her, gob smacked.
She sits by the sink, eyes cast shamefully on the tiled floor. Her hair falls over her face, a curtain to hide her face from the world. She wraps her hands around her frame, loosely, as if she has accepted just how fragile she is. The room seems to slow to her still pace, quietly receiving her words and processing them, formulating a response but coming up with nothing. They just watch her in silence. He watches, calming his own nerves.
“Oh my God, you’re bleeding.”
All eyes jump to her and even she is startled as she stands and looks herself over. Sheila dashes out of the room and Simon spots the injured party. “Dude, are you alright?”
“Who hit you on the head?”
Sheila returns and he is rushed to the seat by the sink. The focus shifts from her to him.
“Take off your jacket,” Sheila commands as she runs a jet of water from the tap. He complies and removes his leather jacket. He catches the unmistakable gasp from his impromptu nurse.
“Are you sure you’re ok?”
“What is it?” Even he can feel the slight tremor in his voice. Her gasp and tone do not fill him with confidence. He can feel Sheila’s fingers just touching his shoulder and turn him towards the others and he angles his body in her guided direction. Ciru, wide-eye,d turns and dashes out of the kitchen.
“Who hit you?”
“What? What is it?”
He stands and looks directly at Sheila. She cowers under his gaze but he misses the fear in her eyes. The unmistakable sound of Ciru throwing up in the downstairs bathroom pierces the room. He calls to her but she assures him she is alright. Sheila puts a hand on his shoulder and pushes him down to the chair.
“You’re not feeling even a little light headed?”
“No. I feel fine…”
“But there’s so much blood…”
“What did he do to you?”
“He hit me on the head…”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I didn’t see it, ok?”
His spine is tickled by a rivulet of cold water and he sits bolt upright. “Sorry,” Sheila calls from behind him as she dubs at the wound with a wet piece of cotton wool. He fights the urge to arch his back as the water rushes into more uncomfortable regions and catches her smiling at his discomfort. It’s a nice smile but the pain and shame lay treacherously behind it. He knows this because she meets his eyes and the smile evaporates, replaced by the floor searching expression of shame.
And he too is drawn to her shame and his eyes follow hers to the floor not knowing what he is searching for but searching. The stinging sensation of methylated spirit on an open wound pulls him from the search. He clenches his jaw as his senses are electrified by the sensation.
“Babe, could you bring one of your shirts?”
“He can’t stay in this one.”
Simon leaves as Sheila helps him out of his white T-shirt. She holds it in front of him and he sees the large red patch at the back.
“That’s on my jacket too?”
She’s been holding the jacket, quietly in the background of the first-aid procedure. He looks at it and at her. “Are you alright?”
She drops the jacket and runs out the back door.
He follows her out, the cold night air hitting his bare chest. The moon is still hanging low in the sky and the cool light silhouettes the scene beautifully. A lazy gust of wind rolls across the scene, coloring it in. She stands a few paces away, holding herself tight, bracing against the cold and wind. Her fragility forgotten, she’s trying to hold herself together.
He steps closer and hears the sobs coming from her delicate frame, sees her shoulders rise and fall as she takes deep, sharp breaths to fuel the pain filled tears that he knows are trailing down her cheeks. His feet slow and stop. He doesn’t know what to do next.
“I’m fine! Leave me alone!” she shouts even as the hand of excruciating grief traces icy fingers through her voice.
“No you’re not,” he whispers after a cold moment passes. She turns to face him and he can see her accepting her vulnerability, being fragile, being broken.
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.”