Stupid Girl

By: Cindy Miles

Wake up! Wake up NOW!

Inside I shook, and my teeth chattered uncontrollably as my body ignored my mental command to drag itself out of the fog I wasted in. My eyes felt glued shut; my lips stitched together. Instead of waking fully, my breath came out in short little puffs between clenched teeth. Not from cold. The air around me was warm, humid, and my fingers slipped against my sweat-dampened skin as I crossed my arms tightly around my body, knees drawn up against my chest. Where am I? I lay on my side, the soggy ground earthy, pungent and gritty against my cheek, my ribs, hip. A grinding ache, low in my stomach, was accompanied by a burning sensation between my thighs. I tried to sit up, to shake my head and clear the haze from my thoughts, but I couldn’t budge. Couldn’t remember, couldn’t speak. It was as if invisible fingers dug into my skin, freezing all movement. The taste in my mouth sickened my stomach, and it reminded me of when I was little and had hidden a handful of pennies from Kyle’s piggy bank in my cheeks. Metallic. Cold. Bitter.

Finally I forced open my eyes and blinked. Two beams of light shot over me through the darkness. A motor growled. Then, furious voices rose above the sound in angered yells.

“I’m gonna fucking kill you, man! What the hell’d you do to my sister?”

“What’d you give her, Evans? Where is she? Open your goddamned mouth and tell me!”

Recognizing my brothers’ voices, I peered into the misty light and tried to focus. What were they doing here? The images were blurry at first, but the longer I stared, the clearer they became. My oldest brother Jace held someone by the throat against the hood of the truck. Kyle, two years older than me, took a swing at the body on the hood. Knuckles crunched against flesh and bone, and the body slammed into the metal of the hood, then grunted and swore.

“Fuck you, Beaumont. Liv knew exactly what she was doing—”

Kyle punched the body again, and a grunt escaped Kelsy Evans’ throat. Kelsy? My brain worked furiously, scrambling to think past the haze inside my head. Kelsy Evans. My boyfriend. We’d been going out for almost a year. There was a party. At Lawson’s Lake. That’d been tonight. Right? My lips tried to move, my tongue pushed against my teeth as I inhaled and forced a shout from my lungs. “Jace!”

My brother let Kelsy go with a jerk and in seconds was on his knees at my side. Calloused fingers pushed the wet hair from my eyes. “Olivia? Wake up, honey. It’s gonna be okay. I’m here, I’m here. Kyle!” Jace hollered. “Let him go, bro. She’s over here and her lip’s busted.” Jace’s hand gently gripped my jaw, turning my face toward the light. “She needs stitches.”

“I ain’t asking again, Evans,” Kyle shouted. He grabbed Kelsy’s jaw and shook it. “What’d you give her, man? Look at her! Look what you’ve done!”

Straining my eyes to hold focus, I peered past Jace to where Kyle held Kelsy against the truck, forcing him to look in my direction. Kelsy’s gaze held mine for several seconds. What had he done? Kelsy wouldn’t hurt me.

“Ecstasy! Just a half tab, bro—”

Kyle swung, his fist connecting with Kelsy’s jaw. His head whipped back, and Kelsy sputtered. “I was drunk, man! Come on!”

My insides grew cold as my brain began to work, fitting the broken pieces of the past several hours back together. Grasping at Jace, I held onto him, pushed myself up. My eyes drifted down my body, and I noticed one of the spaghetti straps to my sundress hung loose and torn. Beneath the material, my bra was pushed up and over my breasts. My feet were bare; my panties bunched awkwardly between my thighs.

Oh, God. Jesus God, what did Kelsy do to me?

I needed no confession. I knew then, the burning pain between my legs a tell-tale sign. My body began trembling again, and sobs escaped my throat. The way my cries sounded in the night air, as if everything else around me had stilled to allow my voice to echo through the trees and off the creek? It was as though the world had died, and only I was left alone to shout and scream, praying for someone to hear me. Anyone. To save me.

No one had. Because I had only screamed inside my head. No one heard me.

Every muscle between my legs ached, but I drew in a lung full of air and forced my voice out in a long, echoing wail as the truth crashed over me. “Nooo!” I clawed at my dress, the one intact strap hanging limp over my shoulder. Yanking hard, my breath came faster. “Get it off! I want it off me!” It felt filthy, soiled. It was disgusting! I wanted it off!

“It’s gonna be okay, honey,” Jace crooned as he pulled me against his chest and held me there. With his palm, he pulled my head tightly to him, and I finally stopped clawing at myself and sobbed into his tee shirt. I blocked out the sounds of Kyle beating the bloody pulp out of Kelsy Evans as best I could, and my fists worked Jace’s shirt tightly between my fingers.

“Take me home,” I sobbed, my breath hitching. A souring pit formed in my stomach, and a wave of nausea dumped over me. My voice dropped to a cracked whisper. “I just want to go home.”

Jace rose, and in the next second he’d bent down and lifted me in his arms. As I drifted through the night air, the one thing I’ll always remember is the fireflies. Dozens and dozens of fireflies blinked over the creek bed, like a million stars littering the heavens.

“Everything’s going to be okay, Olivia,” Jace’s deep voice soothed me. “I swear it will.”

Glimpsing the blinking fireflies once more, I closed my eyes.

And prayed when I woke up in the morning, I’d realize this had all been just a terrible, sickening nightmare.

A year later …

The moment I spied the Welcome to Killian sign at the outskirts of town, my stomach dropped and my hands gripped the steering wheel hard. The small Texas college town sat half-way between Lubbock and Amarillo. Two hundred and forty-eight miles from home. Three hours and forty-four minutes by car, going the speed limit.

I hoped to God it’d be enough.

Peering through my shades, I noticed Killian’s Sonic parking lot was filled to the gills with rowdy boys, souped up trucks and hot rods. As I passed by, I eyed several girls sitting on the backs of opened tailgates, laughing and flipping their hair. Reminded me of my hometown of Jasper. What was it about a Sonic burger joint? Always seemed to be the popular hang-out spot. Part of me wanted to pull in, tell the hair-flippers to get a grip and leave. But the bigger part of me kept my foot on the accelerator. Stay low, keep quiet, and no one will even know I exist. Just the way I wanted it.

Slowing down, I hit my blinker and pulled into the massive brick entrance of Winston U. Flanked by huge magnolia trees and planted mounds of petunias and other annuals, a little of my earlier somberness over leaving home eased out of me. It was replaced by an excitement I was sort of surprised by. Things would be different here. I just felt it. No more stares, no more whispers. No more muffled giggles. No more rumors. No one knew me here. I’d just melt in to the population and be a big nobody. Invisible, like a ghost. Perfect.

I started down the main drive leading to admissions, and scanned the grounds ahead of me. Large colorful banners stretched across buildings that said WELCOME FRESHMEN, along with several home-made Greek signs for Rush Week. People were everywhere, on the lawns, the sidewalks, the parking lots. Maybe I should’ve taken up Mom’s offer to come with me today. My brothers had offered to come, too. Even Grandpa Jilly. I’d turned them all down, insisting I could—no, needed—to do this alone. What was I thinking? Stupid, stupid girl. Too late now, I was in it up to my gills. No turning back. Drawing a deep breath, I pushed my self-doubt aside. I can do this.

While not super huge, Winston was mostly well known for their successful baseball and football teams. The Silverbacks. But I’m not exactly a jockette or even into sports, so that’s not what drew me. Winston also had an extraordinary astronomy program, with a mega-observatory to boot. They called it the Mulligan, and when it was first installed in 1910 it had been the largest scope in the country. I’d been lucky enough to gain employment in the Science complex through the financial aid department. It was geek-girl heaven, and I’d be right smack in the middle of it.

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