“Are you sure?”
I nod, refusing to look up. Dad exhales heavily. He’s frustrated with me and casts a beseeching expression of help toward my mother. He wants me to say it out loud but my mouth is sealed shut. I’m afraid of what will come out if I open it. But she’s not going to convince me to change my mind. The sadness and fucking pity on her face is the exact reason I’m sure of my decision.
“You’re going to miss Switzerland.” He makes a last ditch effort to change my mind. What he doesn’t get is that he’s barking up the wrong tree, chasing the wrong ball, whatever wrong metaphor there is, he’s doing it.
There. I’ve said her name. Acknowledged her existence. The piercing agony that slices through me as the vowels and consonants reverberate through my head is less this time than the last. I’ll keep saying it until I can’t feel anything any longer. Not pain, humiliation, shame, over even…love. I just want to stop feeling.
Because if I went to Switzerland and the first thing I see on Charlotte’s face is the expression my mom is currently wearing I’d…well, it wouldn’t be good.
We sit there in silence, waiting. I’m waiting to be dismissed. Dad’s waiting me to say something, anything. I’m hollow inside. I retched out every ounce of liquid in me earlier today when I woke up nearly bare assed in my bed with only gauge memories of what happened the night before.
I dry heaved for half an hour after Nick anxiously recited how he found me in a room on the third floor of Juliette’s house starring in my very own personal porno.
After I kicked Nick out, I sat in shock and horror watching the video while texts from Charlotte came in, first cheerful and then worried. After my continued silence came the calls and the unlistened to voicemails.
The sounds echoed in the bathroom and I turned the volume off to shut out the barf inducing fake porno sighs from the two girls in the video. One of the girls I hadn’t ever seen before. She’s kissing me or at least her face is on top of mine. I look dead. My mouth was slack and my eyes were closed. Greta was grinding on top of me. It looks like they were fucking a corpse. Nick swears we weren’t fucking. That it was all for show. I don’t even care at this point. What I know is that someone took something precious from me. Charlotte’s trust.
What could I say to her? No matter how many times everyone said it wasn’t my fault, I knew that wasn’t true. I could have made different choices. Like staying home and not going to Juliette’s. Or walking away when the fuckhead challenged me. Or paying more attention to Nick’s warnings about Greta.
“You’re not at fault,” Dad says gently as if he can read my mind. Maybe he can. And if that’s true it’s just another reason to get away. I don’t want to be here where everyone knows me and can tell every little thing I’m thinking. Where everyone looks at me with pity. “You’re the victim.”
I fucking hate that word. I’m over six feet tall. Over two hundred pounds. “I’m no victim,” I bite out.
Mom sucks back a sob which tears at me. I should have protected all of us. That’s my job. But I let everyone down and now I’m weak and used up. Worse, the guys at school are acting as if I’m some kind of fucking hero. The texts they’d sent? All congratulatory with a whiff of jealousy. No, no one would believe that I’d been done wrong, no matter that I was drugged. No matter that I didn’t want it.
Man, you got some at JW’s. Major props.
We’re not worthy!
Shit man. 2 at 1 time. Your getting your bucket list done.
Charlotte would have made me text back It’s you’re you dumbass. I didn’t respond to any of them.
No one is going to belie that I had been forced to do something against my will. No one would believe I was…I can’t even say the word in my own head.
Dad sighs again. “Okay, hoss. You’re going to have to come to your own conclusions. But let me repeat my words. You didn’t do anything wrong. Not by going to the party. Not by fighting some asshole. Not by drinking. No one deserves what happened to you. Not a female and not a male. With time, you’ll come to that realization too. I called Gray. He’s expecting you at the beach house where you’ll spend time with Sam and him and the kids.”
I open my mouth to protest, but Dad shakes his head. He’s talking. “Only for a week. No arguments or you don’t get to go there.”
I sit back in my chair. It’s a compromise I can live with. “We done?”
At his nod, I rise and walk toward the door. As I’m leaving, he says, “I’m proud of you. Proud that you’re my eldest. You’re a good boy, Nathan, and you’ll be a good man. Don’t listen to the rest of the shit that’s swirling around your head. We love you.”
He draws my stiff body into a hug and I’m tempted to lean into him like I’m a child again, but right now, I don’t deserve it. Mom is next. “You think you see pity in my eyes, but it’s not. It’s anger. You can be angry too. You have the right to be angry about what happened but don’t hold that inside you. Let it out. We love you so much honey.”
I squeeze her back because shit, I can’t help it. She’s my mom. But the hug is all I can give.
Nick comes in while I’m packing. “Charlotte texted me. Said she was having problems connecting.”
Unspoken is the question of when I’m going to call her. “Yeah, I just…” I run a hand through my hair. “You gotta take care of her now, Nick.”
His return gaze is somber and he allows me to leave without another word.
I’m sorry you weren’t here for the birthday party. We had ice cream cake and the restaurant served limoncello which Dad encouraged me to drink. It was so awful! I hated it and everyone at the table laughed including our waiter who brought it. Dad says that all liquor is that awful and I should stay away. It’s like he thinks I’ve never snuck sips of his brandy with you. 😉
Your mom gave me a writing set which is why you are getting this handwritten letter. It’s beautiful paper isn’t it? I already ruined about ten pages trying to write in a straight line. How do people write without lines? This time I’m using a ruler and it’s working out better.
Anyway, she said that your dad and her used to write letters when he was in the Marines. Isn’t that cool? I had no idea. I can’t see your dad writing love letters. He gave me a weird look the other day asking if he had some leftover dinner on his nose which he didn’t. But I couldn’t stop staring at him because you know he seems so imposing and well, not a little uptight at times. Don’t get me wrong. I totally adore Uncle Noah but Daddy is so much more easy going and I could totally see him writing my mom corny love letters. When I asked Daddy if he wrote to Mom, he said no. That he couldn’t bear to be away from her long enough to write a letter. That and he didn’t know Mom while he was in the military.
Your dad told me that you were joining up, though, because you wanted to be a Navy SEAL which seems both awesome and dangerous at the same time. I wish you would have told me but I guess I understand why you didn’t. I probably would have begged you not to go and because I was sick or whatever, you might have changed your plans. I didn’t realize what a selfish girl I’ve been! It’s so easy to get caught up in my own problems like the stupid things about losing your hair or your eyebrows! Who needs eyebrows???!! No one, right. They are like…the appendix. Unnecessary things. My new resolution in life is to stop worrying about stupid things. I’m going to save my energy and worry about big things like…when am I going to see you again. I miss you so much.
Is that selfish of me to say that? I hope not. Because I tried not to say it but it spilled out here at the end and now that I’m almost done, I don’t have the will to try to write another version tonight. I know that I’ll just end up saying the same thing. I can’t keep it inside.
I love you and miss you but I’m trying to understand that our lives are both changing and that you just need a little space. I get that. Okay, I don’t really get that but I’m trying to. I’m including a picture that Colin took of the family. I should be going home in three months.
I hope you’ll be home then. Your Dad wasn’t sure of your schedule. Let me know, though, so I can keep sending you this letters. Wow, this pen is really awesome. Your mom picks out great stuff.
Love and miss you a thousand times.