6 comments

Sad Contemporary

This story contains sensitive content

Trigger warning: sexual abuse, self harm, suicide

As darkness settles into every corner of the bedroom, fear begins its nightly assault. She lies immobile, watching, waiting. Soon, the nightmare will be at her door; the heaviness inside her grows as she thinks about it. His hands holding her down. His knee forcing her legs apart. Tears staining her face afterwards.

Dread builds as her ears strain to listen for the thud of footsteps, the gentle sound of the door being opened. Strange that a monster can be so quiet, that a frame so large can stifle every sound. He is here. Terror slides across the room as he approaches. She freezes, willing herself not to move, to become invisible – but he always sees her. The bed creaks beneath the weight of him as he sits down and gently strokes her face. She wants to cry out, to let her mother know what’s happening, but her mouth is sewn shut and she feels here and not here at the same time. She is waiting for the inevitable to happen: his hands holding her down; his knee forcing her legs apart; tears staining her face afterwards.

Eyes shut, she blocks out what is happening, retreating to a happier place that only exists in the stories on her bookshelf. For a moment, she wonders what it would be like to be one of those girls she reads about: to have a father who doesn’t touch her and a mother who doesn’t pretend not to hear. But perhaps she’s the problem: has she done something wrong? Is that why his hands hold her down and his knee forces her legs apart and tears stain her face afterwards?

She catches a whiff of beery breath as he looms ever closer and it mingles with his aftershave into a smell that will make her feel sick for years to come. She is pretending to be asleep – but he knows the truth. His voice whispers to her as his fingers push and prod, touching parts of her she always keeps hidden, peeling her apart until only self-loathing and disgust remain. His hands holding her down. His knee forcing her legs apart. Tears staining her face afterwards.

Night after night, it continues. Her face is pinched and white every morning; there are circles under her eyes. Perhaps, she thinks, if she looked more like a child... She starts by making herself sick after every meal, vomiting up what she’s eaten, puking up her fear, her loathing, her self-disgust. At last, she stops eating altogether, punishing herself rather than him, but it makes no difference. And so the nightmare continues, on and on. Darkness. Beery breath. Pushing. Prodding. His hands holding her down. His knee forcing her legs apart. Tears staining her face afterwards.

In public, he pays her scant attention: it is only in private that he wants her to know she’s special. Their ‘little secret’ can’t be shared with anyone else – he tells her this all the time: every night as his hands hold her down and his knee forces her legs apart and tears stain her face afterwards.

Her weight has plummeted; she’s stopped bleeding; but he still wants her. The first time she cuts herself, it’s a relief. She peels apart the skin, letting the disgust and self-loathing leak out. She’s damaged goods – inside and out. Each time the knife nicks her skin, she imagines it severing her link to him. Cut. No more darkness. Cut. No more beery breath. Cut. No more pushing. Cut. No more prodding. Her sleeves hide the scars on her arms but the ones on her heart won’t heal. No matter how many times she tries to cut herself off from him, he’s always back again in the night, his hands holding her down, his knee forcing her legs apart, tears staining her face afterwards.

She’s desperate to tell someone – her mother; her teacher; her friend – but the secret’s locked inside her, in a place she can’t reach. And what would she say? She can already hear the disbelief, the condemnation: ‘Why do you let him do that to you?’  She has no answers for this question that will never be asked; no words capable of explaining something she doesn’t understand herself. His hands holding her down. His knee forcing her legs apart. Tears staining her face afterwards.

Sometimes, she finds it hard to remember a time before this started happening to her. Was there a time? Time loses all meaning when you lie awake every night, unable to sleep, dreading the moment when the nightmare will be at your door. The heaviness inside her grows as she thinks about it. His hands holding her down. His knee forcing her legs apart. Tears staining her face afterwards.

Pain is now her only friend: the only one she can trust. Each time she peels apart the skin, she cuts a little deeper, feels a growing numbness that hints at welcome oblivion. This time, she thinks, I might not survive. This time, I might really escape.  This time she lets the blade slide deeper, lets herself fall into blissful unconsciousness where the darkness that surrounds her is surprisingly safe. This time, there are no hands holding her down; no knee forcing her legs apart; no tears staining her face afterwards.

She wakes in hospital, her wrists bandaged, a tube in her arm. So, no escape after all. Gradually, her eyes focus enough to make out the visitors at her bedside. He’s there with her mother, shaping his face into a mask of concern. Words rumble from his mouth: the sounds of a man showing the world how much he cares about his daughter. She wants to cry. The bed creaks beneath the weight of him as he sits down and gently strokes her face. And that’s when she knows the nightmare will continue, that she will spend the rest of her life with his hands holding her down, his knee forcing her legs apart and tears staining her face afterwards.

February 19, 2023 20:44

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6 comments

Emanuel Diaz
02:32 Mar 02, 2023

If I can say something about this story is that you have a great present visualization of the subject and the heaviness of it. Is hard to visualize a story that deals with *Grape* due to how uncomfortable it gets while you work the details. Thank you for the story.

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Jane Andrews
19:01 Mar 03, 2023

Thanks for your comment. It was uncomfortable to write but I think stories like this need to be out there to raise awareness.

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Wendy Kaminski
17:06 Feb 25, 2023

Just tragic, Jane! And all too common a reaction to that monstrous betrayal. This was brutally honest, and I appreciate you digging deep to share what is so often happening to many but is never shared, always kept in secret shame. Heart-breaking but so realistic a summary, at the end.

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Jane Andrews
20:46 Feb 25, 2023

It wasn’t easy to write, but having been trapped in my own cycle of abuse ( not with a family member) in my early twenties, I know how soul destroying it can be when something is happening to you and you can’t stop it - or talk to anyone about it. If it resonates with anyone, I hope they feel able to do what my MC couldn’t do and tell someone.

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Michelle Oliver
11:29 Feb 21, 2023

Oh this is horrible for the MC and you have presented it to us in a tone that is so matter of fact. So chilling. The repetition of the last line reflects the repetition of the offences, and the inescapable inevitability that your MC is almost resigned to. Even though she tries to escape through self harm, she is unable to break free of her abuser. Even the ending implies that she will never be free of her abusive parent. Interestingly you and I went in the same kind of dark direction for his prompt.

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Jane Andrews
11:54 Feb 23, 2023

I think I went to a very dark place here - one of the reasons it isn't longer is because the whole thing was so uncomfortable to write about. At the same time, although it's fiction, it's based on the very real suffering experienced by a lot of young people who don't know how to tell anyone what's happening to them. In that sense, the repetition portrays the neverending cycle of abuse and the sense of feeling totally trapped. I really hope that this helps people who might be in this situation to realise that the person being abused is not at...

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