“So, you want the good news?” he asked.

There was more?

“As luck would have it”—he jerked his head over his shoulder toward the house behind him without taking his eyes off her—“I have a bedroom right here.”

She could not do that. She knew this. Do not go inside with him, Jane told herself sternly. It will be okay as long as you do not go inside. “It’s so nice out here. The fresh air. The stars.” It was true. There weren’t many stars but there were a few, and the night air was cool and smelled of summer and lake.

“Then let’s stay here.” Chad smiled his perfect, glowing smile and put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. He kissed her on the mouth, just barely, her first kiss, and there was only one word in her head now: lucky. “I like you, Jane Doe,” he said.

“I like you too,” she managed. He put a hand on her cheek and she flinched. Would he feel stubble?

“What’s up?” He seemed genuinely concerned.

“Oh, nothing. A bug,” she said, and he laughed and kissed her again, less gentle but better, more sure, and then there was his tongue, soft and sweet, and it was true what they said: she saw fireworks; she heard symphonies; she was aware of herself and him and nothing else in the world. She let herself have this. She let go of the worry and the doubt and the lying, the strain of pretending all the time. She let go of everything and just luxuriated in this, this perfect moment, this perfect night, her life finally arrived.

And then she felt his hand on her leg, high, up under her skirt. For an instant, it was the most pleasure she’d known in her life. In the next instant, it turned to pure panic. And the next, knowledge, certain knowledge, in the moment before it happened, that she’d let it go too long, it was too late. She was Cinderella as the clock struck midnight, standing in her dirty work clothes between one life and the other, thinking, Goddammit, how could I have forgotten the only important thing there was to remember and gotten out of here five minutes ago? But when he found out, the prince didn’t care about who she had been, only who she had become, so maybe Chad would—

The instant after that Chad’s hand recoiled and then all of him. He stumbled up and back and away. His look in that moment wasn’t anger. It was pain. He was hurt. That she’d lied? That she’d tricked him? That he’d liked someone—something—as disgusting as she was? Maybe he was hurt that he’d lost her. Maybe he didn’t have to. She reached out to explain. The words on her lips were, “I’m…” What? I’m sorry? I’m Jane? I’m not what you think?

But she didn’t get them out. Whereas every moment leading up to this one this night stood crystalline and perfect, what happened next was a blur. He hit her across the mouth. He hit her face. He called out and lights went on in the house and guys came, guys arrived, one after another. They laughed. They yelled. They spit. They pushed her to the ground. They kicked her. She struggled. She fought back. She was strong. She had a single moment—just one—where she thought: I’m as strong as you are. One of them, maybe, but all of them together, no. Still, they must have been scared of her because feet turned to fists, and then someone pulled the knife out of the spent watermelon.

And when she was done—stopped fighting back, stopped struggling, stopped moving even—they’d just left her. They thought, maybe, she was just hurt and would get up and limp home soon enough. They thought, maybe, she had had enough, and they were doing her a kindness by leaving her alone finally. They thought nothing at all—they were drunk and tired and ready now, after all the excitement of the evening, to go to sleep. They went inside and turned off their lights and slept like the guiltless. They did not hear the sirens. They did not hear the police banging on the front door. They did not hear their lives changing forever as well.

Sometime between midnight and dawn, a campus cop had had the worst night of his career, hearing soft moaning, soft weeping behind the overflowing garbage cans in the alley behind the fraternities and deciding to investigate.

Rosie saw all of this. She saw the whole thing. She saw it the moment she peeled back the clothes. The only thing she couldn’t figure was the barely gunshot wound. If they were going to shoot her, why not in the head, the heart? If they were going to kill her, why not kill her?

Later, when the whole story came out, or as much of it as could be pieced together, it turned out it was Chad who’d gotten the gun, that having kicked off what quickly got out of control, he couldn’t get his fraternity brothers off Jane Doe. He screamed and pulled at the backs of their shirts and tried to push them off her and away, but they wouldn’t listen anymore, couldn’t listen anymore, and so he’d gone into the house and into the room of a brother he knew kept a handgun in his nightstand. He’d meant to fire it into the air or something to get everyone’s attention, but he missed. It was his first time with a gun. An inch to the left, and it would have been over instantly. He’d very nearly killed Jane Doe. He’d very nearly killed her anyway. He’d also very nearly saved her life. But not quite.


Rosie had a map and a headache. For the latter, she had taken an aspirin she didn’t have the remotest hope would work. For the former, she had three different colors of highlighters and the opposite kind of hope—the impossibly high kind, the this-will-solve-everything kind, the kind where you fix the problem you can instead of the problem you can’t. It was sometime after three, maybe four. The kids would be up soon, she knew. She should go to bed, she also knew. But she had not been sleeping well. She had not been sleeping at all, and better to get up and do something—anything—than to lie there and think about why.