Shattered (verb): to break something into pieces, to damage as by breaking or crushing to impair or destroy, to be broken into fragments.
Hollie loved words, she had ever since she could remember. It was something many found irritating. Until she met Jack.

Jack’s world suddenly comes crashing down with a knock at the door and a ghost from the past he tried to keep hidden returns to haunt him.
Hollie doesn’t know what to believe and where to turn. Will the ghosts shatter their perfect life or will it make them stronger?


5. Five

    “So what happened?” I ask.

    “Genuinely, Hollie, I was plastered. So was she. All I remember is agreeing to help her walk to bed so she could sleep it off. That is all I remember. The next thing is I’m waking up naked beside her the next morning,” he says. I nod. I don’t even understand in myself if I believe him. After everything, I never thought I’d ever not believe the man I agreed to spend my life with. But this stunt has just proven to me that I can’t trust him, and within that lies the question of whether I trust what comes out of his mouth, and I’m not sure if I do.

    “So did you two have sex?” I ask and take a sip of tea. I watch his expression over the top of my mug; his eyebrows knit together and I can tell he’s trying to remember properly. I know what he’ll say and that’s that he wouldn’t have done it if either of them are too drunk, but the evidence of them both waking up naked in the same bed points to something happening. And he would have made sure he had her consent before anything else, but then I’ll argue the point of drunkenness and consent, and he’ll get confused again, and then we’ll end up yelling at each other.

    “I don’t know,” he says. “I think so. But I don’t fluidly remember it.” His mouth tightens into a pursed line and I roll my eyes.

    “So one minute you are telling me that you did actually sleep with her. The next minute you’re telling me you can’t actually remember whether you did or not, just that you woke up naked in bed together. Which is it Jack? What is the truth?” I ask, putting my mug down. He looks pained, the colour in his face has been completely drained since this started and the Jack I know is gone. He’s a gaunt, scared, ghost of a shell and I don’t recognise him. I’m blinded by the anger of it all, but it’s only now when I let the anger be replaced with the rationalised version of myself that I notice it.

    “I…I can only assume. She said sex happened, we woke up naked next to each other, I mean… it makes sense doesn’t it?” Jack says and we lock eyes for a moment. I miss him, I miss the normal Jack. The one who would joke and play around, the one who is serious about work, uni. I miss him. This isn’t the Jack I know. For a start, he would never dream of cheating on me, he would never do something like this. And when he tells me that he would always have gained her consent, I believe him. But this? This isn’t him. Something like this is seriously out of character, and I should by rights, believe that he didn’t rape her, that she is either crying wolf or making it up because she knows she and he made a mistake and wants to cover her back. But… something about it… I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop imagining that he didn’t get her say so, that she was far too drunk to legally consent, that he is what they are accusing him of. I shouldn’t be thinking like that of the man I’ve known for two years and that days ago proposed, but I can’t help it. I believe he’s not a stereotypical violent rapist, and he would never do this to me, but something in my mind is telling me to doubt what he is telling me.

    “So what did you tell the police?” I question.

    “The truth – what I’ve just told you. I can’t remember but can only assume that sex did happen. That I would always make sure to get consent before having sex with anyone, whether it be you, a one night stand, whatever. That the entire thing was a mistake. I know if I hadn’t had alcohol, it wouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t have happened anyway,” he says and I can hear the truthfulness in his words. He does truly regret it, he truly wishes it hadn’t happened.

    “Why didn’t you come home and tell me the truth, Jack?” I ask, genuinely confused. If he seriously thought it was a mistake, a drunken mistake, then why didn’t he just tell me the truth?

    He looks down for a minute, chewing on his lip for the words to come out. “Because… because I was ashamed. Still am. It was a mistake, a misjudgement guided by alcohol. I thought I was never capable of something so damned stupid. I didn’t know how to tell you. You’re right, I’m paying for one drunken idiotic thing, and I just… I’m sorry,” he says. I still don’t know whether the look in his eyes is telling me he’s telling the truth. I can still hear the voice in my head pleading with me to ignore everything he’s saying, telling me he’s lying about something whether it be the whole thing or just one tiny detail. This isn’t the full story, I know that much. But for now, he’s given me this much, I suppose.

    I nod at him and sigh deeply.

    “So, where does this leave us?” he asks. I nearly splutter in shock; he wants to discuss this now? After the conversation we’ve had, he wants to discuss our relationship now?

    “You’re really asking about our relationship now? After what you’ve just told me, after what you’ve done – crime or not aside? You want to have this chat now, Jack?” I ask in half shock, half disbelief.

    “Well, I suppose I already know the answer, but there is no harm in asking is there? I’m not asking you to believe me, I’m not asking you to not believe me, I’m not asking you to forgive me or stick up for me, or anything really. I just want to know where I stand, that’s all,” he says and for the first time since this kicked off, I understand where he’s coming from. Merely days ago we were okay, a normal couple and then this happens and everything is in upheaval, and out of everything he’s lost so far: his dignity, his job, his course… I was the only thing he could sort of rely on, and now he’s not sure if I’m here anymore, and he wants to know if he’s also lost me too.

    But I don’t know. I definitely don’t know the entire story, I don’t know if I do believe him or not. I don’t know what I want, whether I can forgive him for the cheating let alone the rest of it. I just don’t know.

    “Honestly, Jack, I don’t know. My mind is all over the place with it right now. I don’t know what to think, who to listen to, what to do. I just… I think I need time to process it properly,” I say honestly. “For now, let’s just… live. You know? We don’t know what’s going to happen yet.”

    He processes what I say, and though I know he doesn’t like it or agree with it, but he has no choice really, and he knows it. So he nods without another word.

    “So, what, we keep living like this until… well, when?” he asks. I knew he was going to ask it, so I don’t know why my face moves into a confused way at him.

    “Until… well, until I can figure out in my head what is going on,” I admit. “I don’t know what to believe, and I know you haven’t told me everything, Jack. But that’s now your decision to make. I can only go on what I have, and until I know the truth, the absolute truth, and until I can work out in my head what I want and need, we will continue like this. I guess…we’re taking a break, if you want to put a label on it.” I watch his face fall in disappointment, and although I want to yell at him about how he’s done this to us and how could he expect any different, I can see where his disappointment is coming from. I keep trying to imagine how he must be feeling, but I just can’t put myself in his shoes. I can never, ever imagine or begin to think about cheating on him, not even when drunk. I could never do it. Hand on heart, I have never looked at another man the way I look at Jack. I just can’t get my mind around the prospect of wanting someone else whilst I’m in love with him, that’s not the way I see relationships; I don’t view them as something I can pick up and put down when it suits me, and I see sex as something that’s between the two people involved that no one else has with that person. How anyone can do it, I don’t know. And I thought Jack felt the same about it as I do. But obviously not, obviously I was wrong. Obviously his morals that I thought he had are only valid when he hasn’t been at the alcohol.

    “I…” he starts but he stops speaking.

    I take a breath to speak, but my words fail me. I think I’m disappointed. I’ve gotten angry, I’ve been shocked, and now words just fail me. I look at him and think about all the times we’ve sat and discussed what we want, where we imagine ourselves going and all the times we’ve spoken about values and relationships and all the promises he made me and I made him, and how now, after this he’s gone and thrown it all away for one drunken… incident. Let alone the catastrophic accusations being thrown his way, that’s not even… I can’t even begin on that one. Jack is the very last person I could imagine doing anything like this, but equally, why would anyone accuse him without there being even a shred of truth, I don’t know. It’s insane.

    “I understand it’s not, well, idea, Jack. But you have to at least understand where I’m coming from with this. My, well, fiancé, has just been accused of raping a girl, and then I find out it happened while we are, were, together. So not only do I have the whole accusation to deal with but the fact you cheated. Drunk or not, you still did it. And I need time to process it all. I think we both need time to cool off and process what’s happening here. How can we expect each other to be fully in this with each other when everything else is so much bigger than us, when it’s all happening. I mean, it’s overwhelming for me, as your fiancé, I can’t imagine what it’s like for you, because it’s happening to you. Whether you’re guilty or not it’s got to be overwhelming as shite for you, Jack, as well as the repercussions of being suspended and not allowed to do your final bits of the year. I just… I think for now, we survive. I’m not moving out, but I think our relationship needs to be put on hold for now. You can disagree with me, but I know deep down you know I’m right,” I say and I manage a small smile. I do understand how he must be feeling, I don’t get it and I don’t know what it’s like, but I can at least begin to understand.

    And that’s where I’m absolutely torn and broken in two. I can’t explain it. In my head, I know he can’t have done this. But equally, the phrase “there is no smoke without fire” is true, very true.

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