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"Rubbbyyy, common let's do our makeup!" Ashley said impatiently. I pulled my make-up bag out of my backpack and parked myself on the floor in front of her mirror. We were going to Brendon Boone's party. He was in his grad year, extremely popular and exceptionally good-looking. He was throwing a party to kick off his grad year, and he had invited Ashley and me personally. Obviously we were more excited than is humanly possible. We decided to wear dark make-up, "smoky eyes" as its called in Hollywood, to look older.
Next we picked out our outfits, I tried on a few and settled on dark low-rise jeans and a blue and white striped tube top with flip flops to keep it casual. After three hours in front of the mirror, with all imaginable beauty products in front of us and our looks complete, we stepped out of Ashley's house and locked the door.
Two months ago I was sitting on the dock at Face Lake, my feet dipped in the cool water, soaking up the sun's rays and laughing with my friends over some inside joke. We chatted about school and boys, the constant drama in our lives. We all pretended to hate it, that it was tiring and annoying, but secretly we all craved it, the excitement, the melodrama. It kept life interesting. In those final weeks of summer my girlfriends and I spent hours talking about the coming school year. Our high school was being bulldozed, the land being remoulded into a new strip mall with tanning salons, quickie-marts, liquor stores etcetera, and the students of the school were being relocated to the surrounding high schools in our area. My friends and I were lucky enough to end up at the same school, Brawns Secondary.
I have to admit I was pretty excited to go. I had barely knew anyone from Brawns, so a new school seemed like a new adventure for me and my friends, or at least that's how I made it seem when I talked to them about it. But with the first day of school just a weekend away the feeling of excitement drained out of me. Instead I felt sick to my stomach. My old school was comfortable and easy. I knew the teachers well, I knew my place in the social scene, I fit in easily, and I also knew that the potential for all of that to change was large. Teenagers in high school are prone to a kind of bipolar disease; they change friends, styles, and personalities like they change their clothes. Like every other group of best friends, me and the girls swore to be "best friends forever." I wasn't an optimist when it came to the success rate of high school friendships, so who knew if we would stick together throughout the war of a new school. Life is never predictable, I knew that much, and in high school, its even less so. Sometimes I just wish I could be four years old again, when simply tying my shoes for the first time deserved applause, and you made friends by throwing mud at them.
We decided to walk to Brendon's house, he only lived about fifteen minutes down the street from Ashley's and her parents were away for the weekend anyway so a ride was not an option. We didn't mind, a car would be too small to contain our emotions. The walk to Brendon's went by quickly and soon we are at his front door. It was ten o'clock and the party was in full swing. From the outside his house looked perfectly normal. The blinds were drawn and nobody was outside, the giveaway was the faint thump from the base resonating from the house and the vibrations that came up through his wooden deck to touch our feet. However when we entered, the was packed with people and music was pounding loudly. People danced in the living room where the sofas had been pushed back against the walls. The classic red and white plastic party cups littered every available surface as well as beer cans, empty 2'6s and other liquor bottles. I cringed as I walked by, I wasn't a big drinker. We followed the sounds of music through the house until we came to the back yard. The smell of pot and cigarette smoke hit my face like a slap, it made everything feel hazy. Ashley tugged on my arm and pulled me towards the dance floor, where I lost myself in the music and excitement of my first high school party.
"Do you want a drink?" I screamed to Ashley over the music, "Drop it Like It's Hot" was pumping through the speakers and my voice was barely audible.
"No thanks," yelled Ashley "I'm good," she said as cute blonde boy moved up beside her and started to dance.
I turned my back on the music and made my way from the crowded living room to the even more crowded kitchen. I felt as if I was in a scene from every classic teen movie I had ever seen, I couldn't have been more excited if I tried. I edged my way through the drunken mass and finally reached the fridge. Through the mass of beer and vodka I pulled out a diet Coke. I thought it was quite ironic, that fridge full of liquor was just like the crowd around me, and I was the only diet Coke. Even Ashley had started drinking. I began to make my way back to the dance floor, manoeuvring may way through the people and clouds of smoke when I bumped into something very big and very solid.
"Sorry, are you alright?" I felt large hands on my waste, steadying me. It was Brendon. I could see the laughter in his eyes and I relaxed a little. He was six foot 2, wearing black jeans and a white v-neck t-shirt. He was absolutely gorgeous.
"Yeah, definitely," I replied "No harm done."
"Cool." Brendon leaned towards me. I could smell the mingled scents of cologne and beer, and I breathed in deeply. " Let me get you a drink."
"Umm yeah, sure," I replied, not wanting to appear like a child by refusing. He took my coke and walked to a table on the other side of the room. He came back with the classic red and white cup in his hand.
"Rum and coke," he said with a mischievous and completely distracting smile.
I smiled in return and took the drink, taking a large gulp and feeling the bubbles tickle and the alcohol burn as they went down my throat. The drink was as sweet as my excitement.
"Do you mind if I talk to you for a minute?" Came Brendons voice softly in my ear.
"Alright," I replied easily. I expected us to stay where we were, but instead he grabbed my hand and led me up to the second floor and into a room that was deserted. It was simply furnished, obviously a spare bedroom. There was a queen-sized bed against the far wall with a plain white dresser sitting across from it, and a small T.V. in the corner facing the bed. Upon entering the room I immediately dropped his hand and took a step away from him.
"You can sit," offered Brendon politely. I took another sip of my drink, trying to seem at ease while my heart pounded in my chest. I sat on the bed to steady myself, not thinking what that might look like to Brendon. He walked over and sat on the bed beside me, close enough that our thighs were touching. He leaned back, casually resting his arm on the bed directly behind me. He leaned in, and I felt his breath tickle my ear.
"You're so beautiful," he murmured as his hand slid off the bed and onto my knee. I felt some emotion growing inside of me, but I couldn't pinpoint what it was. I felt his hand slowly moving up my thigh. I tried to speak but my thoughts were like rocks, too heavy to pull out of the fog clouding my head. I felt a soft pressure on my shoulder and my body relaxed back into the bed. I blinked, trying to gain some control, but my eyes were heavy, resistant. His hands were moving again; I could feel them glide up my waist and across my chest. I felt fabric slide over my skin and realized that he had taken my shirt off. I moved my lips, a weak no escaping from me like a breath. But it didn't matter; he either didn't hear it or didn't care. His fingers were on my jeans now, undoing the button, his hands sliding past the zipper, touching the lace on my underwear. Moving my arms was impossible; the thought of such an action didn't even seem conceivable, I was trapped. I slid in and out of consciousness, only briefly aware of what was going on. I could feel Brendons' weight on top of me and there was a pressure inside of me that hurt, but the source of the pain was hard to locate when my entire body felt as if it was floating. At some point the weight and the pressure disappeared. I was only faintly aware of the music still pounding below me, but I couldn't attach that thought to any others inside my brain. I felt hollow.
At some point I heard Ashleys' voice in the distance, calling my name but I couldn't respond. Lights opened up the room a few minutes later and I heard a gasp as Ashley saw me lying on the bed. I had a vague idea of what I looked like. I heard the door close again and the sharp click of a lamp switch that illuminated the room. I felt my body being tugged this way and that, Ashley was dressing me. She left the room after a minute and came back with a glass of water and instructions to drink. I complied. After a few minutes my mind began to reconnect with my body, my thoughts sliding together like puzzle pieces. I was able to sit up, but the room spun and I couldn't keep the ground beneath my feet. Something warm and solid was around my waist. Ashleys arm. Her slights tugs and words of encouragement led me through the room. I became more awake as I felt crisp air on my face. We were outside. I couldn't hear the music anymore, or the thump of the base, just my footsteps on the pavement and then nothing.
I woke up in the brightness of Ashleys' bedroom the next morning. I rolled over and my head protested angrily, heavy pounding my reprimand. My body ached and the inside of my thighs felt sticky. My night came back to me in waves and flickers, some which made sense and others that didn't. I knew what had happened to me. I wanted to cry but the tears wouldn't come. I just felt empty. I got up and went to the bathroom, my body protesting painfully against every movement. In the bathroom I washed off my smeared makeup, evidence that tears had been shed last night. With my eyes free of make-up, I looked at myself in the mirror and saw the source of my discomfort. Bruises covered my arms and legs. I could trace a palm and fingers on some of them. Purple and blue. I took off my pyjama bottoms, not remembering putting them on, and saw blood, dry and tacky, on my legs. I wiped myself clean with toilet paper, but even with the blood gone, I still felt dirty.
I said little to Ashley when I went back into her room, she was awake and waiting for me. I told her it was Brendon, but that was the only detail. I assumed she'd be able to fill in the rest from the state she'd found me in. We went into her kitchen to eat breakfast, but my stomach protested with every smell, so I drank a glass of water instead before calling my mom to come and pick me up.
The first day of school was a blur. I didn't think anyone knew about what had happened, but I felt as if everyone's eyes were on me, judging me. The first week went by quickly, I heard people talking about the party, but my name was never mentioned. I saw Brendon in the hallways almost everyday, but he always pretended not to see me, pretended he didn't know me.
"I heard you went to Brendon's party on the weekend," whispered Kristy in my ear during German. Kristy was Brendon's girlfriend, she was in my grade and had come from my old school, but we were nothing but acquaintances.
"Yeah I was there, what about it?" I kept my voice casual but on the inside my heard was beating like a drum. Surely everyone could hear it.
"Well I heard a few people talking,â€¦" she said.
"Oh really?" I asked, feigning polite interest. The drums picked up speed.
"Well I don't know exactly. I mean, they all could be lying," Kristy's voice was hesitant.
"Well what were they saying exactly?" My guilt heavy on every word, or was I only imagining it?
" Well, is it true that you and Brendon went upstairs and weren't seen for a half an hour?" Half an hour. That was it? It felt like days.
"We did go upstairs together butâ€¦" My voice trailed away, I couldn't think of anything to say without giving it away.
"But what?" Kristy asked, I hint of iciness behind her words.
"I don't know if we were gone for half an hour exactly. We just talked, I swear!" I finished lamely.
"You know what?" Her words were like ice chips against my skin. "I don't think I believe you. Its been around the school for weeks that you have a crush on him. There's no point in denying it now."
I was lost for words.
"I knew you two were dating, you have to believe me!" My pleading sounded like confession.
"Actually, I don't." She gathered her books and moved to the other side of the room. Tears pooled in my eyes, threatening a flood. I blinked quickly as they slid down my face, I wiped them off with my hands, I didn't deserve to be upset.
At home I acted like everything was fine. I began to eat less but my parents didn't seem to notice a change in me. I responded when talked to directly and smiled when it was necessary. I put on a good show, but at school things only got worse. Not only did I have to put up with the looks from Kristy but from her friends as well. Also Kristy had taken it upon herself to inform the entire school that I had tried to sleep with her boyfriend. The word whore was commonly used to describe me in the halls now. It was scratched into my locker, written on my desks, scribbled on my notebooks and stamped to my forehead. German was the only class I had with Kristy, and she ignored me until Friday. Halfway through class a note got passed along to me, my heart beating a million miles a minute as the paper unfolded in my hand.
I'm sure you've already realized that I talked to Brendon about the party, he told me you lied, that you came on to him at the party and he had to push you away. You stupid lying slut. Watch your back.
I glanced over at Kristy as I finished the note. She was looking at me but her expression was unreadable. I tucked the letter, and stared down at my books.
The threatening notes that I got from Kristy and her friends only increased over the following weeks and each letter became more and more vicious. Adding to this, I hadn't seen or heard from Ashley since the morning after the party. She did not attack me like everyone else at school, but her eyes held an accusation that I couldn't deny. Her silence was like a constant bee sting, its poison was incapacitating.
"Ruby, dinners ready" I jumped at the sound of my name, and my sisters presence in the room. "I'm coming"
I walked into the kitchen and saw my family sitting together around the dinner table like a picture out of an Home and Style magazine. When my parents first got married at nineteen they were broke. Neither had even gone through college yet, but they pulled their life together and went to school. My Dad got a high paying job as corporate lawyer. My mom became nurse. They moved to the city and bought a house on a street lined with identical houses. They all had perfect little decks with picturesque gardens and trees on their delicate lawns and it seemed as if the same kind of people lived in every house. Accountants, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and women. Power couples, if you will.
I thought of my house like a museum, like everything should have red velvet ropes surrounding it with "DON'T TOUCH" signs on little plaques on the walls. Sure my house was nice, beautifully decorated with coordinating color schemes and art, but it was unoriginal, stuffy and suffocating.
"Mashed potatoes Ruby?" my mom asked me.
"Mom, how many times do I have to tell you, Iâ€¦doâ€¦notâ€¦like mashed potatoes," I said for the millionth time in my life, pushing the bowl as far from me as possible. Even the smell made me nauseas.
"Mom, can I go to Jamie's party tonight?" questioned my sister through an unattractively large mouth full of meat. There seemed to be a party every night now that my sister was in her grad year. She was never home anymore.
"Will any parents be at the party?" asked my father like the lawyer he was. This was a nightly routine at my house. Questions always followed a request, and if you didn't have the right answers to those questions, your request was denied. I think my father took pleasure in his little household courtroom, though it was nothing but annoying for the rest of us.
I looked up from my reverie and realized that my family was waiting for me to respond to some question I had clearly not heard. "Sorry, what did you say?" I asked.
"I asked if you were going out tonight" Dad repeated.
"No, not tonight." I replied in a voice that sounded monotone to my own years.
"What's Ashley up to tonight? She hasn't been around here in a while, you should call her," Chimed in my mother.
At this point I was saved by the ramblings of my sister about the latest gossip at school and I was able to eat my food, or pretend to, in peace. For the last few weeks' conversations have been torture. Like a pin is being stuck in my arm with every question and comment. Silence is easier. Silence is what I deserve.
In October some of my friends finally managed to convince me to go out with them to a movie. We walked home from the movies and each separated at our own streets and soon I was walking by myself. I decided to take the short cut home, which led down into a deep gully with a flowing creek. Giant elm and oak trees lined the gravelled path that crunched beneath my feet. As I started down the trail the sun began to set and darkness crept up everywhere, climbing up the trunks of the trees and casting the path and my surroundings into almost total darkness. Only the moonlight that seeped through the canopy above gave an eerie light on the darkened trail. Half way down into the deep gully I heard whispers coming from the shadows. At first I thought my imagination was running away with me, and I shook my head to clear out the sounds. A few minutes later I heard it again, this time I could distinguish my name clearly. I could hear a voice that sounded as if someone was standing right behind me, talking softly in my ear. My heart began to pound and blood was rushing in my ears. Fear crept up my body like the darkness, paralysing me on the cold earth beneath my feet. I stood still, straining my ears to hear he sounds around me, but the rushing blocked everything out, until a clear voice spoke out behind me.
"Hello Ruby, funny seeing you here." A voice full of malice filled the air around me. I spun around to see the smirking face of Kristy coming out towards me from the shadows. Around her more and more girls emerged into the blue light of the moon. One, two, three, four, five, six.
"Do you want something?" I asked. My voice shook.
"Ha ha. Yeah I want to borrow a pen," replied Kristy, every word drowning in sarcasm. Her friends were slowly coming closer, forming a circle around Kristy and me. Everything was going fuzzy; black was closing in on my eyes. I didn't have the strength to fight. My guilt was like weights. It held down my hands, my feet, my voice. It blocked my courage and motivation, my ability to reason. I had no justification for defence. The girls came closer, their breath sending up puffs of smoke that clouded the air around me. I could feel their hands on my skin. Pulling at my clothes, whispering in my ear. I closed my eyes and waited.
She felt no pain and couldn't remember what happened to her but she couldn't get up and she could feel that she was lying on something cold and uncomfortable. She heard footsteps coming closer and then a blood curdling scream split open the night air, and then blackness, and then nothing.