"I know this is unpleasant," the officer said. "I was on the case last time."
"I recognize your face," I mumbled with a nod.
We were still sitting on Artemis' bed. He was holding me tightly as Officer Gillian sat on the desk chair. It was true: he was the officer that took care of me at the station while my mom was in interrogation. I was as tired then as I was now.
"I need you to tell me what happened, Miss Scout," he sighed. "Would you be against me using my recorder?"
I shrugged. "I don't care."
I leaned more into Artemis as he pressed the record button.
"This is Officer Gillian interviewing Deidre Scout and Artemis Kilgore. The time is...." He checked his watch. "4:13 pm. Okay, Miss Scout, start from the beginning."
I sighed. "I was here alone."
When the officers finally left, there was a media circus outside. Officer Gillian offered to stay behind and get rid of them but Evelyn refused.
"It will just give them more material to write about," she said bitterly.
They were snapping pictures as my father was pushed into the police car. I watched from my bedroom window. My door opened and my mother came in. She spun me around and hugged me tightly.
"Oh, baby, I'm so sorry!" she sobbed.
"It's not your fault," I said, hugging her back.
"I never should've gone to work!"
"You didn't know he'd come," I said. "It's my fault."
She stepped back and stared at me with wide eyes. "What do you mean? How could it be your fault?"
"I let him in," I sighed, sitting down on my bed. "It was like I was a kid again: I couldn't stand up for myself. Everything in me was saying not to let him in, to push him out, but I couldn't do it. And then, when he... it was like I had accepted it." I wiped my tears away. "I let him do it, Mom. I didn't know what else to do."
I sobbed into my hands. She got on the bed and put her arm around me.
"You didn't let him do it, Deidre," she whispered. "He took advantage of you. He knew that you wouldn't be able to defend yourself against him. I wouldn't be surprised if he had been waiting for the right time for everyone to be gone."
"But what if-what if I let him do it because-because it felt good?"
"Did it?" she asked softly.
I thought. "No, it didn't. It made me sick to my stomach. I wanted to puke."
"Then you have nothing to worry about."
I stared at my hands. "So why do I feel this way.
"Because you were molested and raped by him again," she sniffled. "Back then you blamed yourself and you're doing it now. Do not blame yourself."
"What about Artemis?" I breathed. "He must think I'm a whore!"
"No. He doesn't. I swear he doesn't."
"I didn't fight him off!" I yelled. "Artemis came in while-while he was doing it! Any guy would see that and think I was wanting it."
She sighed. "Wait here."
"No," I said. "No, don't go get him."
She looked at me sadly. "You'll be marrying him, Deidre. Wait here," she repeated.
I groaned and slid to the floor, gripping my hair. Artemis didn't come in for a while. I could only assume that it was because Mom was telling him everything. When my door opened and I smelled his deodorant, he didn't say anything. He put my coat on my shoulders and put my socks and shoes on for me. He then helped me to my feet and took me to his car.
The media was still lingering on the driveway and yard, despite the snow falling. Artemis didn't pay them any attention, though. He didn't even give them a warning honk as he backed out of the garage and onto the street. I didn't say anything as he drove; I just stared out my window. I put my arms through the sleeves of my coat and nibbled on my lower lip.
He pulled up outside of the park where the Chase's light display was up. It was dark enough for people to be walking through but he didn't take me there. Instead he walked through the snow for a little bit, looking for something.
"Stay here," he whispered. "I'll be right back."
I nodded as he walked over to Mildred. She passed him a bag and he said a couple words to her. When he came back, he set the bag on the ground and rubbed his hands together.
"Okay, Deidre, it's time," he said and I stared.
"Time for what?"
He knelt down and started gathering snow.
"It's time for you to build a snowman."
That was the last thing I expected. He was digging through the snow and took my arm, having me get on the ground with him.
"The bottom has to be the biggest," he explained. "If it's not, the snowman will fall over and look weird."
It took us several hours to build the snowman. Inside the bag were a hat, coal, a carrot, and two sticks. We stepped back to admire our work and Artemis put his arm around me.
"Look at that," he said. "We made that, you and me. We didn't put gloves on, we didn't ask for help. The snow was cold. I don't know about you, but my hands are numb." I nodded. They were red, too. "Although I had you get on the ground with me, I didn't make you build the snowman. You did it because you wanted to. And you enjoyed it. Now, if this snow were a living, breathing thing, it probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much. But it's not. It didn't have any say in what we just did."
He turned me to look at him and took my head in his cold hands. He looked into my eyes.
"You are not responsible for what happened to you. You did not enjoy it. You did not ask him to do it to you. It took many times and many years of him doing that to you to make it hard to fight him off." He pointed to the snowman. "A lot of that we had to pack in tight so it wouldn't crumble apart. It took pressure and a lot of time." I was crying and he wiped my tears away with his thumb. "But, when I look at that snowman, I see beauty. I see the hard work it took to make sure the rough edges were smooth. I see how, despite everything, it's not crumbling."
I took the front of his jacket and pulled him to me, our lips connecting. He wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed me back. My tears fell into our mouths but he didn't mind.
"I love you, Deidre Scout," he whispered, "and nothing will change that."
I closed my eyes and put my head on his chest.
"Thank you," I said in a small voice.
He let me go and got his phone out. "Now, let's take a picture of this beauty and walk through the lights. How does that sound?"
I beamed. "Can we get some hot cocoa, too?"
"You bet we can."