She had no idea where she was running to, only that whatever it was she preferred it to the alternative. She couldn’t go back to that house. She couldn’t go back to her father. It wasn’t that he had brought that man into their home either. That she could handle. The real knife in the back was that he had given up. He had stopped trying to save her. He had walked away; he had sat downstairs and felt sorry for himself while his daughter was upstairs being violated. Her knees suddenly felt weak and she stumbled onto the ground at the side of the road.
She didn’t know where she was but she was in a lot of pain. Her hands were cut and bleeding, she had a gash on her forehead that throbbed incessantly, pouring blood down her cheek to mingle with the tears. Her scalp ached where he had grabbed her by the hair and she was scared to reach back and touch her head because she knew blood was slowly trickling own the back of her neck. Her chest was still tight with fear.
She stayed on her hands and knees trying to make the world stop spinning long enough for her to stand up again. Had she killed him? Was he dead? Did she honestly care after what he had tried to do to her? She closed her eyes for a few seconds and instead of darkness she saw him. She could smell the sweat on his body, she could feel his weight crushing the air from her lungs. She could taste him in her mouth. Her back arched upwards as her stomach heaved and she was sick on the ground in front of her. She just managed to keep it off her hands but her hair wasn’t so lucky. She was grateful for her weak stomach now. The stomach acid was a welcome alternative.
When she had finally emptied herself she sat back on her heels and tried to figure out where she was. The night was dark and cloudless, the almost full moon illuminating the road ahead of her and making the trees around her look silver and mysterious. She knew where she was. The steeple of the church blacked out a large section of the stars to her right. She wasn’t sure if she was surprised or not. She hadn’t been here since the funeral and she hadn’t really intended on coming back except on the anniversary, maybe. But when one parent fails you, you turn to the other, right?
She could think of nothing else to do right now but carry on to where her subconscious had guided her. She raised herself up stiffly wincing as she put pressure on her injured hands. The gravel made a satisfying crunching noise underfoot as she made her way up the drive. The street lamp was on beside the gate that led to the cemetery. She was suddenly starting to feel the cold and wrapped her arms around herself, though it did no good. The right path wasn’t as hard to find as it should have been in her state.
And there it was; the angel. Her mother’s angel. She stood directly in front of it and held her breath for as long as she was able. There was no help here. She was alone. No one was going to hug her and tell her everything was going to be ok. No one was going to help her forget. No one was going to punish him. No one was going to punish her father.
The angel knew it. Her head was bowed, her hands pressed in a prayer of pity. Or maybe it was shame. Maybe she was ashamed of the girl who now stood before her. Bruised, bloody, weak and broken. What would her mother think of her now?
Victoria emptied her lungs and fell to the gravel path on her knees. Her face screwed up in wracking sobs forcing the blood to drip faster down her front. A large stain was beginning to form on her hoodie.
What could she do now? Where could she go? Eva lived forty five minutes away by car and a four hour bus ride would get her to her grandmother’s. If she had money, which she didn’t. And if she could walk, which she couldn’t. And despite what her mother had written, she was under no illusions that she would be taken in. Rosemary’s mother disapproved of her choice in husband and had not spoken to her daughter since the engagement. She hadn’t attended the funeral. Victoria had never met her, but she couldn’t help but agree with her at this very moment.
She had stopped crying. She didn’t have the energy left. She felt sick again, darkness pulling at the edge of her vision. She just had to lie down, just rest her head for a second and it would be ok. It would all be ok. She barely felt the ragged edge of the stones pressing into her cheek as her eyes began to close. But before she lost consciousness, she heard something; footsteps, crunching through the gravel towards her. They were fast, hurried. Panic tried to envelope her again, to make her move. Had he followed her? Was he here to finish what he had started? Had she killed him? But she was numb to the panic. She couldn’t move. When the hand gently shook her shoulder she didn’t even flinch.
“Can you here me? Victoria? Are you ok?” It sounded muted, that voice. But it wasn’t him. That was the only reason her eyelids fluttered open.
He was kneeling down in front of her, shaking her shoulder gingerly, his other hand hovering awkwardly in the air. She struggled to move her head so she could see his face. He looked oddly familiar but that was all the information she could wrestle out of her memory right now. It was as if her head was filled with foam. She felt so tired.
“Are you ok?” He asked again. He looked panic stricken, his long hair falling over his face. Victoria answered his redundant question with a redundant answer. “I’m fine.” She croaked.
He sighed and ran both hands through his hair. Victoria’s eyes started to drift closed again. He grabbed her shoulder roughly. “No, no, no. You can’t go to sleep.” He pushed a little too hard and she rolled onto back, showing no signs of protest. She was using most of her energy to keep her eyes in focus. “Shit.” She heard him say. The stars swam in and out of focus as the flustered and scared boy tried to figure out what to do with her. Then the stars disappeared altogether and the streetlamp lit up her peripherals. He was getting her to her feet. He swung her arm around his neck and held onto her wrist with one hand as he gripped her round the middle with the other. Victoria’s legs felt like they would give at any second.
“Where are we going?” Her voice fell flat, barely above a whisper. He grunted at the effort of dragging her around to face the other direction. “This way.” Was the only reply she got. She mumbled something inaudible and her body sagged almost to the ground as unconsciousness tugged at her mind again.
“Hey. Hey!” The boy called out to her, stumbling as he tried to support her full weight. Victoria’s head snapped up and they continued on towards the treeline. All he knew was that he had to keep her awake; he had to keep her talking. “What did you say? You said something, what was it?”
Victoria took a deep breath and tried keep her knees from giving way. “I said…. Are you going to hurt me?” The nonchalance of the question surprised him, as though she already knew the answer. What had she been through? Who had done this to her?
“No.” He said firmly, pushing a thick branch out of their way. “I promise I’m not going to hurt you.”
He was staring at her. He didn’t mean to but he couldn’t help it. The pretty girl he had run into a couple of weeks ago was not this poor creature in front of him. He had cleaned her up as much as possible when she had finally passed out, but there was still so much blood. She was unrecognisable. An ugly purple lump had formed on her forehead, her left eye was swollen along with her lower lip. He had glimpsed bruises on her shoulders and her hands were covered in cuts from god only knew what. She was asleep now on the mattress he had laid on the bare floor of the Hut. She was on her back, her face turned towards him, her blood clotted hair swept back from her face. Her once powder pink hoodie had a crimson stain on it that scared him a little even now.
Chris got up and went to the door. The hut had no windows except for the lop-sided blue squares that Chris had painted on the walls as a kid. The sky outside and thee surrounding forest area was beginning to turn grey, leaving the night behind. He rubbed his face with both hands and closed the door against the cold morning air. He was tired. Very tired.
He returned to his folded chair and eased himself into it. Victoria moaned in her sleep and Chris straightened, thinking she was waking up. But she wasn’t. He looked at his watch. His mother would be waking up soon and wondering where he was. He should probably get back to her. But what if this girl woke up while he was gone? She wouldn’t know where she was. She would be scared. And she had been scared enough. Last night she had asked him if he was going to hurt her. At the time it had made him sad. Now, a sudden anger flared up in his chest, and anger he hadn’t felt in a long long time. Why would anyone do this? Howcould anyone do this? She was just a girl. She couldn’t deserve this, no one could. His jaw tightened and his hands balled into fists in his lap. He wanted to know who had done this to her. He wanted to pay them back. He would make them pay. They would know what they had done.
Her finger twitched and that white hot surge of rage and vengeance was gone. He was back to the timid quiet boy who had helped a damsel in distress. He sat forward in his chair, careful of the creak, and pushed his hair behind his ears. He would have to cut it soon or his mother would become intolerable. He sighed. He would have to go home for a while. Surely after the trauma she had suffered last night she would be out for another few hours. God he was so damn tired.
As he stood up to leave he paused, butterflies fluttering uncomfortably in his stomach. What was he going to say to this girl when she did wake up? He choked back a chuckle. The first time he brought a girl here and she had been knocked unconscious. How his mother would laugh if she only knew. Chris closed the door as softly as he could before stepping out into the cold morning. He would think of something appropriate to say by the time he got back. He wondered what he would find if he googled it.
Victoria slumbered on.