I jumped in his big comfy bed and scooted under the covers. Just as I was about to put my head on the pillow, Owen lifted his elbow and gestured to the crook of his arm. “Snuggling is always nice while watching TV,” he said. I looked up at him with a crooked eyebrow and he crossed his eyes at me.
“You really are goofy, you know that?” I said. “I’ll take a pass on the snuggling.” We were just sort-of friends, after all, and friends watch TV in bed, I figured. I really didn’t know what the guideline was when you were friends with a boy, but before I could finish my thoughts—and before Owen had a chance to argue with me about what show to watch—I had already fallen asleep.
I am nine years old and it’s the middle of the night. I am lying on my mattress on the floor of my old room. My window sounds like it’s about to shatter under the heavy pounding of the wind and rain. My pillow is smashed against my ear so I can’t hear the thunder crashing or see the lightning that lights up my room every few seconds. It must be why I don’t hear the squeal of my bedroom door when he enters.
I am holding on tightly to the only toy I’ve ever had, my stuffed squirrel Ziggy. Ziggy is a dog’s chew toy left at our house by one of my many “uncles”.
“Are you a virgin?” a voice asks from above me, hot breath in my ear. “If you are, I’ll try to go slow at first. But, if you’re not, I’m not gonna lie: I don’t want to be gentle with you at all.” The mattress dips deep as the weight of someone heavy lays down behind me on the tiny twin bed. I feel his sharp chest hair poking at the skin on my neck and his enormous protruding belly smashing up against my back. I squeeze my eyes shut as hard as I can, hoping he will leave if he thinks I am asleep.
I know he won’t.
I clutch the doll in one arm. I feel around under my pillow for the shard of mirror that just hours ago was used by my mother to chop up white powder before she sniffed it into her nose through a rolled-up dollar bill.
This man, the one with the hairy chest and protruding belly, had been introduced to me as “Uncle Sal” earlier in the day. He is the one who had brought my mom the bag of white powder.
Mom had no money. She screamed about it all the time, and my father was in prison. I am nine, not stupid.
I am payment.
The man reaches out and runs his swollen hairy knuckles down my arm from my bare shoulder to my elbow and back again. My stomach just about bubbles over. I resist the urge to purge what little dinner I had managed to find. I have to hold on for just a few more minutes. I have to bide my time.
He moves his hand to my waist and over to my stomach pulling me around to lay flat on my back.
The time is now.
I pull the mirror out from under my pillow, and as he pushes me down flat onto the mattress, and while his attentions are upon my naked body, I aim for his left eye, hard and fast, and don’t stop pushing in until my hand meets resistance.
Thunder muffles his screams. He coughs and produces a red spatter on the white wall, choking on the blood spilling into his mouth. He clutches what is left of his eye as he falls over on his knees to the floor.
I run from the room, still holding my squirrel, and then out the front door and into the awaiting storm. Why was I ever afraid of the storm? Out here it is just wind and rain, the real storm is back in that house, a house I vow right then and there I will never see the inside of ever again.
I run until I reach the vacant field at the end of the street. I no longer care that I am naked. I no longer care about anything. I stand in the middle of that field and raise my arms up to the storm, giving myself over to it. The cold rain rinses the blood from my body, and I pray that the blowing winds will take me away.
Now, I am no longer a nine year old girl, but my seventeen-year-old self. Still naked in the middle of the field, still asking to be taken from this life.
The wind responds by carrying me up in its embrace, and in an instant I float out of this life and out of this world.
“Are you a virgin?” a voice asks. “Because I don’t want to have to be gentle with you.”
Fear assaults me at first, the pounding in my chest so hard it turns painful, but then I realize that although the words are similar, the voice is not. This one is much younger, less weathered, although it sounds strained.
The wind dies down quickly, suddenly dropping me from its embrace. I start to fall, slow at first then faster and faster as I plummet back toward the earth.
Right before I crash into the very field where I was rescued by the storm, I see a face appear.
What is he doing here? Just as quickly as his face appears, it disappears.