His mouth burned. His head spun. His lip tasted metallic. His eyes watered.
"Don't use that word."
His voice came out in a croak. Jesus Christ, he sounded so pathetic. His fingers dug into the seat underneath him.
"James, it's what happened."
"No, no, no, no it's not."
"So you're saying you wanted it to happen?"
"Fuck, no - "
"James. Look at me."
James moved his head up slightly to meet her gaze. Her face was grim. Her eyes were soft.
"You didn't want it to happen, did you?"
He sighed shakily. Chloe sat beside him. A few times she tried to pat his back but he stiffened and moved away. She instead scratched at her thighs. He heard her sniffle.
Ori rubbed her eyes. It smeared her makeup but she didn't say anything. James licked his lips. He had bitten through them again.
"We need to tell some-"
"NO." He stood up from the seat, startling Chloe. Ori glared back at him as he snatched his phone from the microwave counter.
"James, this is serious-"
"It's not that serious," he turned to Chloe, "if it was then wouldn't you have called my mom or something?"
"I wanted to. Ori wouldn't let me until she knew for certain what went on."
Ori tapped her nails on the side of a vending machine. They sat quietly for a few minutes.
“James, I love you, and because I love you I want this bitch to pay for what she did. You have to tell somebody.”
James shook his head.
“No, Ori, no. I don’t have to tell somebody. Jesus, I don’t have to-“
“This is a crime, James, understand that? It’s a crime.” Chloe said as she stood up. She didn’t touch him.
“Stop making it seem like such a big deal –“
“Because it is a big deal! This is something serious!”
“James, if you don’t tell anybody then I will.” Ori threatened. James was about to retort but Chloe blocked him.
“No, Ori, that’s not right.”
Ori stared at her friend.
“What do you mean? You said it yourself, this is a crime – “
“Yeah, but who knows if anybody is going to believe us?”
She straightened out her back. James swallowed a hard lump in his throat.
“Yeah,” he murmured, slowly letting himself down onto the seat again, “a senior in high school, raped by a sophomore. Nobody is going to believe that.”
Silence. Ori growled, kicking the side of the vending machine. But before she could say anything else there was a knock on one of the registers.
“Hello? Anybody here? I have some milk I want to purchase,” someone said. Chloe groaned.
“Dang, that’s Miss Porter. Hold on.” She jogged out of the employee lounge, immediately taking on a brighter tone when she got to her register.
“Ah, Miss Porter. So lovely to see you again. I’m sorry, I was helping to attend to my friend.”
“Oh, that’s fine, sugar cube, I was just waiting here is all –“
James blocked their voices from his head. Hell, he wanted to go home. He wanted to bathe in acid. He wanted all this touching, all of these smells, these thoughts to just…just…just disappear. He didn’t remember most of it – did he consent? Was it desired?
No, that seemed impossible to fish out of the folds of his brain. He was drunk. He blacked out. Pat took him to her own advantage.
He was raped.
The word seemed unreal. It seemed…as if it wasn’t actually a word to him anymore. Before it was just a story on a ten o’ clock news. Now…now it was an action. Now it was a thing.
Now it had happened to him.
Ori drove him home early from work that night. She kept prodding him that they needed to tell somebody. He didn’t argue – he was too tired. He wanted to forget everything that had happened. After she dropped him off at home, he stumbled to his room, collapsing on the bed and letting himself sink into the blankets. Mom didn’t come up to check on him. He slowly tumbled into a dreamless sleep.
He didn’t paint that night.
Saturday was the day James and his mom looked forward to. Usually, both of them didn’t have to work, and during the day they tried to do things normal families would do, like going out, eating at restaurants, going to the movies.
But now James wanted to do nothing. He took a shower, scrubbed himself with soap until his skin peeled and turned raw. Red. Blood red. He still didn’t feel clean. He couldn’t get the feeling off him. It was as if her hands hand touched him everywhere and had left her mark on him. Deeper than his skin.
He stepped out of his bathroom dripping with water. His rubbed the towel against his head, not caring on how much the pressure hurt. He avoided the paint stains and tried not to look at his canvas.
Downstairs, Mom was in her room, eating a bowl of cereal in the kitchen with her eyes trained on the living room TV. James pretended to look inside the pantry for something to eat. Mom noticed him.
“Morning.” She said without taking her eyes from the screen. James picked up a can of beans. For a moment he considered telling her.
“You wanna go anywhere today?”
James studied the nutritional value on the can. Why was she still talking?
He saw his mom turn in surprise from the corner of his eye.
He picked up a can of green beans.
“No, not…not really.”
Mom studied him. Then she turned off the TV. James winced.
“Why not? Usually we would go to –“
“Yeah, well, I don’t want to go anywhere.”
His voice was angry. He was angry. Why was he so damn angry? He heard the clink of her spoon hitting the side her cowl, and the creak of her chair as she scooted back. A second later her felt a hand on his shoulder.
“James, are you okay?”
He shook her hand off him and shoved the cans back into the pantry. Mom looked startled as he stormed back up the stairs, not answering her. His door slammed shut.
James seethed in his room. Why was he so angry? He was so frustrated. Why didn’t he tell her? She was right there. He could’ve just said it and be done. It wasn’t that big of a deal. It wasn’t a big deal.
Why did it feel like such a big deal?
He clutched his head.
Mom wouldn’t believe him.
Nobody would believe him.
He tried to make himself think of something else. Anything else.
But the spark of red hair never left his mind.
He stayed in his room for the rest of the weekend, and neglected anything that had to do with people, or outside. He stuffed his phone under his bed. Mom never came up after Saturday morning. It was good. It was perfect. It was easier to not talk to anybody. And it was easier to not say anything. All the crap he had seen on shows and books saying the one thing teenagers needed to do was to communicate.
The days were spent with him trying to work out the shade of brown his hair was. Or what color Ori’s eyes were. Or his. Or Zack’s. He tried to recreate the park by his house. The tree in his yard. The grass.
He never got the right shade of green.
But he started to hate the feel of the brush in his hand. He hated the way the colors didn’t mold like he wanted them to.
When at one time he saw the mixture of different green in his cup, he stopped. It was the same shade as Pat. He knocked the water down and it spilled across the carpet. Lime green soaked into the knots of fabric. He breathed heavily.
She was everywhere.
Why was she everywhere?
He took a hold of his brush. He tossed it into the bathroom sink. Then he crawled under his covers and prayed he would fall asleep. Soon. Anytime soon. He just wanted to get out of this reality. At least for now.
They were filled with the scent of Sangria.