Bzzt. Bzzt. My phone goes off, luckily I hear it even though it's on vibrate. I have no idea what time it is as I search around my desk for it. I think about not answering, but I do. "mmm," I attempt to make a sound of acknowledgement much less consciousness.
"I think I'm in trouble!" she screams.
My brain wakes up. "In trouble how? Taryn where are you; what happened?"
She sounds frantic, panicked. There's strange noises: fast and heavy footsteps, rushing of wind, shallow panting and everything seems to echo although she's whispering. "I don't know, I don't know, oh God, I don't know. Angela please, I'm scared!"
"Taryn, it's okay, calm down. Where are you?"
"I don't know!" and now she's crying.
"It's okay, it's okay. Look for a street sign, a building, something." I'm sitting up in bed now. Good thing I don't have to worry about waking Jess because she must be out at the front desk already. So it's at least after 3am.
"It's too dark! I don't know. I can't see anything!"
I'm worried she might hyperventilate. "Taryn, calm down. Just,"
"Wait," she haults me. "Ambrose. Ambrose lane, I think."
I have no idea where she is. I flip up the lid of my computer and bring up googlemap, straining my eyes to find the street. "Please, Angela," she begs into the phone. "Please come get me."
She's gasping in-between her tears now. When one of the twins gets going like this they tend to make themselves sick. She has got to calm down. "I will! Taryn, I will okay? Just… have to figure out where…" There it is. I point to the street on the map, try to determine the quickest way to get there. "Okay, I'm on my way. Ten minutes and I'll be there, ok?" I tell her. "Don't move. Find somewhere safe to hide, okay? Try to find a gas station or a bus stop, something in the light okay?"
"I don't, see, anything," she stammers.
"Okay just, stay there, okay? Ten minutes, I promise. I will be there."
I grab the first set of clothes I find on the floor and throw on shoes. A quick glance at the clock as I close my computer: It's 3:46am on a Saturday night.
It's the longest ten minutes I've ever experienced. I have no idea what I'm getting myself into, what I'll find or what to expect. I throw the car into park as soon as I hit the correct street and get out. "Taryn?" I whisper against the stillness of the night. I don't see her. "Taryn." A harsher whisper. It must carry a bit farther because I'm just about to yell louder when I hear her voice.
"Where?" I'm in front of my car flipping my head from one side of the street to the other and I still can't see her.
I follow the sound to the other side of the street. "What are you doing in a tree?!" I ask.
"You said to hide." She says this very matter-of-factly, as if I had told her specifically to hide in this very tree.
I reach a hand up to her. "Well, come down already. Let's go."
She looks at me for a moment, as if questioning whether I am real. It's a bit disconcerting. Finally our fingers touch and she hops down, coming immediately into my arms. More like falling into them, actually. She grabs onto me as if she were about to fall off the edge of a cliff and I am her only lifeline. I cannot help but wrap my arms around her as well.
She's kind of hiccupping for breath after she lets out this seemingly giant sigh of relief. And I know how she is; I know how she needs this physical contact but I have no idea what kind of neighborhood we're in here at four in the morning so I want to get back in the car asap.
"Come on," I put an arm around her shoulder and pull her along, which is when, for some reason I suddenly realize she's freezing and what I thought were little hiccups is actually her shaking. In my haste I forgot to bring a jacket. "Dammit," I mutter.
"What?!" She stops instantly, a bit frightened and hyper-alert.
"Nothing, it's fine. Just get in the car." I assure her, closing the door behind her and locking them as soon as I get in.
I drive until I find a better lit street and then park again, but I don't turn the car off because I've had the heat on full blast for her even though I'm starting to sweat. I reach over to unbuckle her (which I had to put on for her in the first place, and even move the air vents too) and she flinches. I haven't really had a chance to look at her yet. It's not a pretty sight.
"Taryn," my voice is soft, gentle. The radio isn't on. This scene of the movie would not have background music. "Are you hurt?"
She's wearing the same outfit that I saw her in a few hours ago, except for her jean jacket. Her maroon shirt is ripped at the sleeve, her hair is a mess and there's tear streaks down the dirt all over her face. She still has her shoes on but her belt is hanging loosely.
When she doesn't answer me, I grab her right hand and flip the underside of her wrist up to the light. I have to undo her watch but still I find nothing. I do the same on the left where the wrist is untouched, only her hand's in a fist and there's blood all over it. Dried, but blood just the same. "Taryn,"
She's not looking at me. She's just staring blankly out the front window as her body continues to tremble against the heat. I peel her fingers back: she's clutching this small, almost triangular piece of glass. "Did you pick this up on a street somewhere?"
"Taryn, where did you get this?" I pick it up from her palm and put it in front of her eyes to make her focus.
"Do you remember, way back during Fall quarter," her voice is distant, dream-like and almost ethereal. "When we discovered, after Sabbath school, that one of the windows was broken?"
I expect her to keep going, but she stops. Looking back to the piece of glass, I suddenly see that it's goldish-yellow stained glass. That happened almost ten months ago. "You've had this that whole time?"
"It just happened," she breathes, as if it had jumped into her hand without her noticing. Maybe to her it seemed like that.
Regardless, it's a mute point. I toss the glass out of my window. I don't see any substantial cuts on her hand but the blood had to have come from somewhere. "Taryn, now you have to tell me, are you hurt? Anywhere? Your head? Your skin?" My eyes flash to her undone belt and ripped sleeve. "Anywhere?"
I can't think in this heat. I flip the dial off, trying not to feel guilty that she's still shaking. But then that thought pops into my head that maybe she's not cold, maybe she's going into shock because I've never seen her like this and I don't know what to do for her if it is shock.
"Okay. I'm taking you to the hospital." The last time I mentioned this idea to her, that October, she freaked and started crying and begging me not to take her there. This time she makes no response. I'm so used to an energetic and highly responsive Taryn. I don't know who this is that I have found. It scares me.
We drive in silence. I think about turning on the radio but I'm hoping she'll start talking. She doesn't. I park at the hospital and kneel outside her open door. "Taryn, come on."
She looks at me, at my outstretched hand but doesn't move. "Where are we?" she asks.
"The hospital. I want you checked out." Again, no reaction whatsoever to the hospital statement.
"This wasn't supposed to happen," she murmers and I think I've missed part of what she said.
She grabs my hand and looks straight into my eyes. "This wasn't supposed to happen." Then a pause, glancing up at the hospital markee. "Do I have to?" She whispers.
I nod. "You're kinda scaring me."
She looks back to me. "Don't leave me."
It's the clearest thing she's said all night.
"I won't." I assure her, and that's when she lets me help her out of my car.
It's also the last thing she says all night. I have to fill out the paperwork. When they take her back to an examination room, she pulls me behind her, unable to let me go. I have to explain to them what happened and how I found her. I help her into a hospital gown. She still hasn't said a word and the silence, that unfocused glaze in her eyes unnerves me.
They find some shallow cuts and hour-old bruises, most noticeable on her wrists and inner thighs. "Were you raped?" the nurse asks. She has no underwear.
"Taryn, this is important." I stress gently, but there's nothing. I think I'd prefer the panic to this. If she fights, I can take it, I can push back. But she's not giving me anything I can work with here.
The nurse comes over and whispers to me, which bothers me because she's acting like Taryn isn't right there in the room with us. "A rape could explain the signs of shock, but we can't do a rape kit unless she signs the papers."
"I'll do it."
"You can't unless,"
"I, I mean, I'll get her to sign them." I restate. "Just, do what you need to do." The nurse nods and brings me the papers.
"Here," I put the pen in her left hand and hold the papers for her. "It's for your treatment." A half-lie, if that, but if that's actually what happened to her, as horrible as that would be, I want all the bases covered. She signs it without fuss and I breathe a sigh of relief even through the twinge of guilt at her trust in me.
It's during the exam that she begins to understand what's happened and what I've done. She looks at me, terror in her eyes, begging for me to make it stop, just like last October. But this time I can't. I don't know what to do.
Taryn cries. Not audibly, not with shaking shoulders, but with a silent agony, the tears running in rivulets down her still dirty face. She watches me, looking for assurance that I can't give. "Ssshhh, Ssshhh. It's okay. You're okay. It's all gonna be okay." I tell her over and over. And she cries. She cries and all I can do is hold her hand.
When the police come to try to talk to her, she clings to me, shaking her head furiously. She's not talking anyway, so I make them leave. This I can do; this fight I can win. It energizes me. I can't yell at her to make her talk but I can yell at them to leave her alone. This one thing I can do for her and I will do it well.
"When she's ready, I'll bring her back, but right now we're going."
"Maybe if we called Brandy's parents," they suggest and I feel her knees buckle.
"Her name is Taryn!" I nearly shout. "No. We're done here."
We get all the way back to the dorm before I remember that the hospital has her clothes. She's in ill-fitting scrubs. "Wanna go back to your room and get some clothes?"
But she's exhausted. I can see that plain as day so I'm not surprised when she barely shakes her head at me.
Even when driving, she still hasn't let go of my hand. I'm lucky I drive an automatic. Don't leave me. I hear her voice in my head. I pull her into my room with me. "Why don't you sleep here with me, just for tonight?"
It's the first hint of a smile that I've seen all night. I give her a hoody and pajama pants, forgetting again that she doesn't have any underwear.
"Crawl in," I motion to the bed. "I'll run grab you a pair of underwear. Top drawer, right?"
I take a step towards the door but she yanks me back with a sudden strength and energy. "Please," her voice cries, cracking in distress. "I don't care, just,"
"Okay, okay. I'll stay. Don't worry."
I change clothes too and get on my side of the bed. I pull the covers over her shoulders. "Think you'll be able to sleep? Happy place," I try.
"It's all different now, Angela." She says simply. "Everything's different."
"Taryn, can you tell me what happened tonight?" We're both tired, but seeing as how these are the first cohesive words she's said pretty much since I picked her up, I don't want to waste the opportunity.
She rolls away from me. "HE found me."
Wait, she, what? "You know him?"
"I've waited all these years, and HE finally found me."
Okay, now I'm more confused then ever. "Who? Taryn? What happened?"
"I don't know," she mutters.
"I DON'T KNOW!" She doesn't yell it, but compared to the silence it feels extremely loud. "I DON'T KNOW! I DON'T KNOW!"
Whether she doesn't know who or doesn't know what happened I'm not sure, but I've suddenly upset her. I wrap my arms around her and squeeze tight. "Ssshhh. It's okay, it's okay." I whisper this into her ear until she falls asleep between my arms in my bed. It takes me longer to fall asleep, wondering and afraid of what is in her dreams.
Nothing's solved, but it's a start.