Trigger Warning- Mention of assault
You are well aware of the repercussions, oh very well aware, and if the said awareness wasn’t crystal clear enough, they made it understandable when they threw the money at you. “Keep your mouth shut. Things like this happen. Be a nice girl and you can keep your job and money.” They knew they had struck a sore point, for you did love your job. But was that career ambition ever going to quench the nightmares? No, and neither could it lessen the desire for revenge that you’ll feel whenever you looked at that bastard’s face.
To say or not to say, the question haunted your every waking moment and the nightmares whenever you when you slept. You’ll eventually move on, but it won’t be enough, would it?
You couldn’t remember the entire thing, just that your colleagues had urged you to go to the yearly office retreat. Hesitantly, you agreed, after all, one does get tired of wearing heels, trousers and formal shirts. A decision and a car ride later, you came at the house of Stephen (it was his turn this year) and with all deadlines and worries aside, you partied like there was no tomorrow. Alcohol never agreed with you but dancing did, and oh-so splendidly. Eventually, things did die down, leaving only a few stragglers talking or eating.
You should’ve left, you knew that but perhaps it was the fact that you wanted to enjoy the moment longer. Or maybe the fact that it has been years since you’ve partied so ravishingly. So you stayed. Stephen came and sat beside you. “Never seen you at a party before.”
“Well, partying and I rarely find a common ground.”
He laughed. “Glad that you finally found that similarity. Care for a drink?”
You shook my head. “No, I’d rather not. Drinking and I never find common ground.”
He patted your thigh. “No worries. They’ve punch, it’ll be just right for you.” He gave you a Cheshire grin and went off to get the drinks. Maybe that was a sign you should’ve noticed but the thought went out of the window along with all the multitudes of observations around you; the furtive sideways glances amongst your male colleagues, or the muted whispers or even the passing of that tiny white pill that caused such destruction.
Within fifteen minutes of drinking the punch, you became disoriented. The still working part of your brain started to signal the red signs but it was rather a minuscule part. Light and darkness elapse. You felt movement but oddly, the calmness wasn’t leaving when you knew that panic should’ve already come knocking. Shuffling forward, tripping but not falling, seeing yet unseen, you collapsed on something soft. A blanket. Now the warning bells went off. But they were only bothersome, trying to invade the calm. Two pairs of hands shook the jacket off of you. That is possibly the last thing you remember clearly, for everything else seems too unreal to be the reality.
You do remember the glinting shackle of a belt, the sour smell of beer, a cold breeze that shouldn’t have been there under the layers of clothes and hands, just so many hands. Then lights pierced the gloom and you felt hands over you again, but these were protective and warm and under their influence, you passed out.
Next morning was excruciating. One of your friends had forgotten her coat in that room and she came upon the scene. She had rescued you from those monsters. You were much too horrified to cry, to react, to be angry, to be grateful to her. A cocoon of numbness floated around you and even a shower couldn’t cleanse that bubble or the accompanied feeling of being corrupted. Every night since then has been appallingly sleepless, flashes erupting from nowhere and leaving you nowhere.
Next day, you dared to go to the office. They were shocked to see you there but not the bastards. No, they had the audacity of giving you a sheepish smile, as if the entire incident had been another “boys being boys” episode. That made up your mind, those white, gleaming teeth and those marred lips stretching into a smile. The same day, you went to the police and filed the case.
The company became aware of this. They threw everything from their court at you; money, job, promotion, vacation, transfer, warnings, threats and defacement. They kept the balls firing for an entire month. Yes, it took the police an entire month, despite the availability of an eye witness for everyone besides her, the girl that saved you, vouched for the good reputation of the assaulters. At the end of the month, the lack of evidence triggered something within you. You felt weary, tired of all this going on. So, you took off at once to the police station on your feet, for walking meant thinking and you had a lot of that to do.
In front of the park, you sat on a bench, head enveloped in hands and kept thinking. An hour or so was spent there, amidst thoughts, tears and uncertainty. An hour later, a hand poked your arm. A little girl wrapped in a purple sweater, her frizzy and gorgeous hair in a bushy ponytail and her face morphed into a concerned expression approached you. “Are you okay miss?”
For some reason, this little girl set you talking. “I’m not sure. Why do you ask?”
A beautiful smile spread over her face. “I’ve been playing for an hour and I saw you just sitting here and you looked very sad. I asked mom if she knew why you were so sad and she told me ‘Mia, why don’t you go and ask that woman and try to take some sadness away.’ So I came here to make you happy.”
Her little smile and beautiful thoughts beckoned you. “Well, if you do ask, then I must answer. You see Tina,” You reached for her petite hand and grasped it. “I go to work and we had a work party. Yes, there are things like work parties. I went there and there were these two men and did very bad things to me.”
Instantly her smile vanished. “What did they do to you? Did they touch you, miss? My mother has warned me of such things.”
You reeled back at how this girl knew things like this. Your expression must’ve been confirmation enough for her. “I am so sorry miss. My mother taught me that not all men in this word are good, like my brother Douglas. Mother says he’s growing as a real gentleman, my brother and I adore him. Mother always said that if anyone did such a thing, I should hit them so hard that they fall asleep.”
After nearly a month, you laughed. “Well, looks like your mother is very wise. But I wasn’t able to hit them hard when it happened and now, there are many people warning me not to hit them.”
She nodded, as if in deep understanding. “Then you should hit those peoples too. My brother says to me that if anyone does wrong or anyone helps the person doing the wrong, they should be hit very hard or they will think that they are not wrong.”
You reached out and hugged Tina. “Oh, dear girl! Thank you! Thank you so much. You’ve no idea how many problems you solved for me.” You smiled at her and stood up. You finally knew what to do.
The next week passed in a blur. You did not take the case back and within two days, an office chat surfaced that had vulgar conversations and was evidence enough. The bastards were punished but you had aftermaths of your own to deal with. The company fired you but you no longer cared and thankfully, within another month, you had a job offer at your doorstep.
That little girl Tina, you were never able to find her but she was etched in your memories. Your nightmares eventually subsided, though forgetting was never an option. But you're glad you spoke out loud about it, for if you hadn’t, you would’ve seen every little girl’s face and would’ve felt guilt consuming you. You did it for them and you were ever so proud of that.