Shattered

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?

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9. Nine

    “He needs help. Professional help,” I say about Jack when we get home.

    “I thought this was a Jack free zone,” Sam says and I sigh.

    “There’s only so many times we can ignore the truth, I suppose,” I say. “He’s convinced himself of his innocence, he thinks this is all some dream and he’ll magically be proven innocent and win me back. He’s not mentally well, Sam.”

     “I know, I can see it, hear it. He’s reverted back to some kind of childlike behaviour,” he agrees. “But he is nothing to do with us anymore. We can’t help him, even if we wanted to. He is the state’s problem now.”

    I sigh. “I just…”

    “Please do not tell me you’re beginning to feel sorry for him, Hollie.”

    I sigh again and look out the window for some kind of magic help to get my words out. It’s never usually me that struggles for words: I’m a writer. I take things like sentences seriously. I like to pride myself in the fact I can think up at least three different synonyms for something without reverting to a dictionary. I like to get my meanings out without saying ‘if you know what I mean’ once. I can make stories without really thinking about it. I can think of words in an instant. But trying to convey to Sam how I feel right now about Jack? No, I’m struggling.

    “I can’t… I can’t describe it. And that’s a new one for me, believe me. But looking at him today, the childish stropping because I’m with you? The sulking faces he was pulling? The pure… he’s convinced himself, Sam. I don’t think he even remembers what really happened that night because he has told himself over and over that he’s innocent and didn’t rape her. I genuinely think he believes he’s innocent and he doesn’t know what he has done, if at all. I don’t think this is normal. Something has made him mentally unwell,” I explain. “And it kind of… it kind of hurts me to watch.”

    “Hurts you?” he asks.

    I nod. “I want him to suffer, if he has done it. If he’s guilty I want him to sit in jail for years and really think about what he’s done. But that? That’s not justice, that is pure torture. He needs help, whether he’s guilty or not,” I say.

    “Genuine question: why do you care?”

    I sigh and lower my head. “I don’t know. I suppose he is my ex fiancé, for lack of better phrase. I just… it does kind of feel horrible to sit there and watch someone you used to love regress. Even if he is guilty or whatever, it just feels horrible to watch if you know what I mean.”

    He puts his hand on my cheek and smiles at me. “It does make sense. But you, we, don’t have to watch it anymore. We’ve done it, we went and we told him and we can move on as much as possible now.”

    The way Sam is convincing us to move on from it, I don’t know, it just feels strange. We were brought together out of this mess, and we’re trying to move on from it when our entire worlds won’t let us do just that. It’s still a horrible thing to know whether he did it or not, that he’s sitting in there unwell in probably the worst way – mentally rather than physically – especially in prison, it has to be some kind of mental torture. But the other half of me remembers what he could have done, and what he did do, and I’m glad he’s suffering whether it be a proper sentence or not, it’s some kind of small justice. Everything in my mind is conflicted over it, and while I know Sam is right, that we should be moving on and we don’t have to worry about it, I still can’t help it.

    “Come on, dinner will get cold,” he says and plants a kiss on my cheek.

 

    I turn over in bed, watching the moonlight shine in around the edges of the curtains. It looks a bit like magic shining in, trying to get past the darkness of the curtains and failing, being blocked and never allowed back in. By the time the sun rises in a few hours, it’ll be forced back to its hiding place and getting itself ready for the fight for tomorrow.

    That’s kind of how it feels to be in either Jessica or Jack’s shoes right now, regardless if he’s guilty or not, regardless if he’s currently suffering illness or not. I bet it feels like they’re trying to fight against this force and get their story heard and they’re constantly being blocked. By stigma, by the police, by the truth, by the alcohol they’d consumed, by their memories being fogged. And all they want is to get past that block and for people to know the truth. I wonder what the hell she’s going through in all this; even if she is lying or telling the truth, the internal torture she must be going through is beyond even my comprehension. Maybe that’s why I’m so torn up by this, because I can’t imagine what it must be like to have that happen, to be so drunk and to be unable to consent and to have it anyway, to go through that confusion and pain… but then Jack comes into play. It must be shite to be him right now; to be so confused about if I’d done anything wrong or not. To be sent to jail just in case, to be so frightened that it causes a mental illness and I totally and wholly convince myself that I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. All of them, well all of us, the four people involved, we’ve all lost everything because of one drunken… mess. She’s lost her confidence, her reputation, probably everything she ever was and thought she is, and if she doesn’t suffer for life from it, then that’ll be some miracle. Jack? He’s lost his career, his degree, his fiancé, his friends, his life if he’s convicted. Sam and I? We’ve lost reputations and friends out of this. But we’re not entirely involved.

    I think that’s the saddest part of all of this: two lives and careers for two trainee doctors completely goddamn ruined because they both got drunk and Jack couldn’t control his urges. Even though he had a girlfriend at home.

    I turn over and look at Sam sleeping beside me, he starts his foundation programme in two days time, he doesn’t need all of this crap going on around him. I imagine what Jack would have been like at this point: everything he built up over the years, of studying for his first degree, then applying and starting his graduate course, meeting me, making a life with me and then one night just throwing it all away. He would have been like this, dreading that first day after medical school. He and Sam would have been dreading it together. And now Jack’s locked up and I’m here with Sam. It’s insane how much things can change over such an event that seems so small and insignificant at the time.

    “What’re you doing awake?” Sam stirs, his hand finding my face in the dark.

    “Can’t sleep. It’s okay, go back to sleep,” I say quietly. He groans and kisses my forehead before I hear his sleepy breathing kicking back in. I smile to myself; forever the one to put sleep before anything else. I suppose if anything good has come out of this entire crap, then me being with Sam is definitely it. I never realised how happy I could be. Jack made me happy, sure, but with everything that happened I was so sure I would never see my happiness again, but then Sam came back and I realised that this wasn’t the end for me. It may have been the end of me and Jack, and my reputation within a small space, but I didn’t realise that the happiness could come back to me. He brought me back to life almost, when Jack had somewhat killed me and my small little world that I had.

 

    I open the envelope. I know immediately where it’s from, mainly because of the stamps from the prison slammed on the front, but also because I know the handwriting, and I know no one else would send me a handwritten letter when I have a phone and social media. Sam sits drinking his coffee beside me and watching my hands rip the paper open and a sigh leaves my throat before I even read the words.

    “What’s it say?” he asks when I unfold the paper.

    I skim the words and read them out: “Hollie, I know now the feelings you described to me the other day when you came to visit. You told me that you feel betrayed by what I did. I was confused when you told me that, but now I realise. You were betrayed to find out that I had slept with a woman when I had you. Well now I know how you must have felt. You have been having an affair, Hollie, with my best friend. You’re right now probably in his bed. But the best bit? You will never understand what it is to be falsely accused like I have been. I may have cheated on you, and yes, I should not have done it. But I did not rape her, Hollie. And whilst you sit there, brooding over what you think I have done and telling me that you are hurt because I cheated on you, and that’s mainly why you broke up with me. However, now I know the truth. You are now doing what you claim to have had done to you, Hollie. You are a hypocrite, Hollie. A real, hurtful hypocrite. You are my fiancée and I love you, more than anything. So why when you have been spurned, would you do that to me too? With my best friend of all people. Why Sam? Why my best friend? Is it because you knew it would hurt me more than anyone off the street? Is it because you are after someone with status, potential for money? Is it that you are truly in love with him? No, I don’t believe that. I cannot believe that for one second. I think you are doing this to spite me, Hollie. You have cheated on me, and now we both know how it feels. We’re as bad as each other, Hollie. And one day, when I am out of here and my name is cleared, you’ll be sorry. You’ll both be sorry you ever doubted me. And you will want me back. Until then, you carry on your lie with him. We’ll see how sorry you are when the time comes when you realise how innocent I am. Yours forever, Jack.”

    I look at Sam and hand him the letter. I watch him reading it and watch his face crinkle in disgust.

    “This is pure bullshit,” he says, putting it down. He tries to slam it but of course, being paper it won’t slam, so he throws it. “He is pulling this crap out of thin air.”

    “To be fair, Sam, if he feels that way… who are we to say his feelings aren’t valid?” I say.

    “Because his feelings aren’t valid, Hollie. He is stuck in prison and he is quite clearly ill in someway shape or form. And I’m not the best one to make that diagnosis,” Sam says. “You broke up with him before getting with me, so he is wrong on that account. He is quite clearly ill in the mind, Hollie. Just ignore his bull.”

    I sigh and sit back in the chair. “It’s kind of hard when he’s threatening to prove me wrong and whatever he’s saying in that, Sam.”

    “Again, ignore him.”

    “Yeah, but you’re not the one he seems fixated on getting back and proving wrong and making a fool out of or whatever,” I say and glance at the paper from across the table. He is so intent that he is innocent. So intent that I have cheated on him… maybe he is innocent, and I’ve been wrong the entire time. Maybe Jessica is making this up.

    Or maybe I’m being naïve and doing the thing that Jack wants me to do: believe him. I wonder if he is so out of control in there because he has lost everything. And the only thing he can have any kind of control of was me. Kind of. Knowing that he’d have me to come back to, or thinking that he did anyway. Now I’ve said that I don’t want him and that I’m dating his best friend? Well, to Jack that is losing control of the only thing he had left. He didn’t have his freedom, he didn’t have his degree, his career, but he did have me. Now he doesn’t, he’s throwing his toys out of the pram and trying to win me back. Maybe that is what he’s doing, and he’s now fixated on that instead of fighting for his perceived innocence and freedom.

    The other thing I’ve been wondering this entire time is something totally out of the blue, and something even I wouldn’t have thought of until now.

    “Sam, you know they were both drunk? Or that’s the story anyway?”

    “Yeah, but I thought we weren’t going to talk about this anymore,” Sam says.

    “No, I know. But something’s been playing on my mind for a while. Jack says they were both drunk, and well, if Jessica is right and he did rape her, it’s simply because she was too drunk to consent. But what if… what if Jack was too drunk to know what he was doing as well?” I ask.

    “What?”

    “Well, it’s automatic rape isn’t it, if a woman is too drunk to consent. And men can’t legally be raped by legal definition, I know. But what if they were both too drunk to know what they were doing? He could have been too drunk to give his consent, so wouldn’t he legally have been sexually assaulted? It’s just one big massive mess anyway, and I’m probably overthinking…”

     “You are, Hollie,” he says. “Jack hasn’t said anything about not wanting what happened, he acknowledges it happened, and really, it is zero of our business. I just want to move on with our lives as best we can.”

    I stare at the TV, thinking about this one. Sam is right, Jack has given no indication that he didn’t want what happened to happen, whether it be consented be her or not. But he has said he was drunk and too drunk to remember much at that. But is that a thing? Men who are too drunk, the same as women, cannot consent. So would it then a case of rape and sexual assault on one another? Or is it his fault because he is the man? I have no idea how the law works and I don’t want to begin to understand frankly. But Jack seems so insistent that he is innocent in all of this. But equally, Sam is right in the sense that it is still none of my business, or his. This is nothing to do with us. He made his choice, for right or wrong, and now it is hand of the system. This is far, far beyond whether he cheated on me. This is a criminal case now, and I have taken myself out of it, whether people like it, know it or not, and I need to get over it.

    But that’s the thing: whether he’s guilty or not, I can’t seem to get over this at all. Even though by rights I should be getting over it because I’ve moved on from it. But am I really over it? Everything happened really quickly and before I even really had time to digest it, he was being arrested and carted off and then Sam came flying in to save me. I don’t even know how to digest the information that he’s being arrested and tried for raping a woman, let alone what will happen if he gets found guilty.

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