She couldn't stop biting her nails. It was a good, non-destructive way to deal in her opinion. Her mind would flash back to that thing, that night she'd forever be trying to forget—And she'd nibble away at an already chewed up mess of a nail. Then, she could concentrate on biting in a neat line, or pulling at the skin around her nail instead of thinking about narrow fingers with unbitten nails, and smooth fingertips running through her hair. She pulled away at a nail with a rough yank from her teeth, bringing skin with it. She licked away the blood that'd begun to pool, and pondered shaving her hair off.
Her parents were worried. She hadn't eaten in two days. She whimpered and pulled away when they tried to touch her. Her mother noticed she'd bitten at her fingernails again, a habit she'd been so proud of breaking. Her father noticed her tugging on her hair, almost violently. They tried writing it off. It was impossible. Tried asking her what was wrong. She wouldn't talk to them. It must've just been a teenage thing.
She heard her mother on the phone, her voice heavy with false concern for her daughter who wasn't eating. Her mother was wrong anyway. She was locked in her room, living off Skittles and stale pretzels. She didn't like staying downstairs to eat. It was too close to the backyard, and sometimes her mother would leave a window open and it made her sick to smell the outside. Her room was safer. She could eat, and bite her nails, and trim away at her hair—or even cry if she wanted, all without worry.
She couldn't stay in her room forever, though, and was reminded of it Monday when her mother woke her to get ready for school. She tried to say she was sick, but she couldn't talk. Her mom placed a stack of clean clothes on the bed, asked why there'd been so much dirt on her pretty pink skirt. She didn't answer, her mom left, and she put the skirt in a shoebox and kicked it under her bed.
She didn't have her math homework, and couldn't give her teacher a reason why other than an apathetic shrug. He sent her to sit in the hallway, and she obeyed. She was more comfortable in the hallway by herself. She didn't feel like everyone was staring at her, like everyone knew. She wished she'd brought scissors with her; maybe she could've taken another inch off her hair. Then she saw him, coming towards her, a hall pass crumpled in his hand. He noticed her and froze. As if he was the one who needed to be frightened. She bit down, hard, on her thumbnail, her face paling. His face was pallid too, his mouth opening to spill forth a stammered mess. He mumbled something that resembled a sorry, she thought, and rushed toward the bathroom. He felt a little queasy.
He was leaned over the toilet, knees getting wet from what he hoped was water spilt on the floor. He flushed his regurgitated breakfast, and stood up, supporting himself against the stall wall. No amount of puking could get rid of the sick feeling boiling in his stomach, it couldn't get rid of the memory plaguing his mind. He couldn't believe he'd done that. Would she tell? Was she okay? What was wrong with him anyway?
She stared into her mirror, ruffling her hair with her fingers. It was much shorter now, falling in straight brown lines to her chin. She liked it this way, it was a little harder to remember the fingers running through her hair, tangling in it and getting a good grip on her. She saw the black shoebox peeking out from under her bed, and remembered the gorgeous pink skirt it held. It was the only skirt, and only item of pink, she owned. She had called it her ballerina skirt, and used to love twirling in it like a little girl on her birthday. That was what she'd been wearing that Friday night, and now it was ruined forever. She chewed at the skin around her pinky, and wondered if maybe she'd go back to normal if she could just tell someone.
He was her next-door neighbor, and had been since she was six and he was eight. They used to be best friends until he got to middle school and the girls his age grew boobs. They pretty much ignored each other after that point, and it got even worse once he entered ninth grade. It wasn't like he was Mr. Popularity, and he was positive hanging out with his female seventh grader of a former best friend wouldn't help that any.
Which is why she was perplexed when he took what seemed to be a sudden interest in her once she herself became a ninth grader. She finally had boobs, she noted, but it wasn't like the girls his age had disappeared. Maybe it was okay for them to hang out now that she was in high school. That had made her happy. She missed him.
He started frequenting her house after school, just like when they were in elementary school. It was a lot more fun though; listening to CDs in her room—him pretending he liked the same music she did, driving aimlessly around town, meeting up with his friends and her pretending not to be uncomfortable around them. They sat in the backyard too, on the swing set, just like when they were younger. She'd chatter away, speaking of mindless things he didn't care about and maybe she didn't either, swinging back and forth as high as her teenaged body would allow. He would smile, and nod, and laugh in all the appropriate places, thinking about how pretty she'd gotten and watching her long brown hair fly behind her as she swung. He could tell she had a little crush on him. He liked her too, why not act on it?
She couldn't remember why she hadn't stopped it from the very beginning. When she wasn't swinging, only rocking side to side slowly. It was windy and she had her eyes fixated in childish delight on the way her skirt fluttered around her legs in the breeze. He stood behind her, pushing the swing forward gently like she was a kid again. His fingers laced in her hair, running through it, twirling around it. Her face burned, not sure if she wanted this attention but decided against saying anything. The fingers remained tangled in her hair, and he leaned down to whisper to her, placed his lips on her ear, on her neck. She giggled, embarrassed, standing up to get out of his reach, but he grabbed her before she could. He kissed her, and she liked it maybe, until she felt his hands. It made her stomach hurt, and she tried to push him away but he wasn't having that, and she tried to tell him, maybe he didn't know he was hurting her? He couldn't decipher her mumbles, after all his lips were still covering hers. And his hands were still exploring, and she wanted to cry. And once he had her on the ground, messing up her hair and her clothes, she did cry, but he didn't care, or didn't notice. He did notice once it was done though, she sniffled as she pulled her skirt back on, and he tried to say something to her, tried to grab her arm. But the words wouldn't come, and she pulled away, and he was sure he'd lost his mind.
She sat on the swing, shivering not only due to the cold, the scene playing over behind her closed eyes. Was it really rape, he hadn't heard her say no after all. That was all she could imagine someone telling her if she spoke, they'd call her a tease or a slut. He'd ruined her life, and left her with bitten fingertips, short hair and a mind that would surely explode soon from all the thoughts she had to keep inside it. And she wasn't sure if she hated him, but she did know she wanted him dead.
He hated himself anyway, and he felt like throwing up yet again, seeing the small girl outside on the swing set. He was sure she would tell, what was taking her so long? Maybe it'd be a release, maybe he'd feel better if everyone knew and it wasn't some dark secret he had to torture himself with anymore. He doubted that though, and wished he could've changed everything, starting back from when he was eight. Wished he had never moved here, never seen her. Then he wouldn't be going insane, and he wouldn't be going up the stairs to look through his father's second drawer.
Or maybe he would.
She was at his funeral, in a new skirt. She didn't like this one, plain and black and sort of itchy. They kept his coffin closed, even though the bullet hole in his head had been covered up. It was better that way, her not being sure if even seeing him dead was enough comfort for her. It might just make things worse, knowing he was gone and would never be punished. She doubted he would've anyway, even living. She was glad she didn't have to waste a bullet herself though, because she wasn't sure if she would've had enough strength to pull the trigger.