"So how does it feel to be back?" Penn Hayward asked Tinsley, hanging his arm around her neck.
"Great," Tinsley smiled. And it was true. Seeing all of her friends and family made her the happiest girl in the world.
"I bet. I don't know how you lasted all of those years without seeing this gorgeous face," Penn joked, winking at her. Tinsley gave him a friendly punch in the arm.
"Stop harassing my sister, please," Jenna said, coming up from behind them. She pulled Penn's arm off Tinsley and placed it around her waist. Penn kissed her temple.
"Don't worry, babe, you're the only Vernon girl for me," he said, now kissing Jenna's lips. Tinsley made a disgusted face and turned away from them. Chace was watching her from across the room. She sighed and walked towards him.
"Champagne?" he offered, holding up a glass of the bubbly liquid.
"I thought you'd never ask," Tinsley said, eagerly grabbing the glass from him. They clinked their flutes and said cheers before gulping down the drink. Tinsley ignored the burn in her throat and smiled at him.
"So…how was California?" Chace asked, leaning against the wall.
"Hot, sunny, boring…just how it seems on TV."
"Boring? Really? It seems like quite the contrary," Chace replied.
"That's how it seems in the beginning. But after five years of visiting the beach every single day, you get tired of it. There's not much else to do. Plus, my Aunt Deanna was extremely strict. I was hardly ever allowed out by myself. Pretty ridiculous, wouldn't you say?"
Chace shrugged. "Not really, considering the reason you moved there in the first place."
Tinsley sighed. "Yeah, yeah, yeah…just so I didn't get molested again, I get it…" The words still made her flinch.
It must've made Chace feel uncomfortable as well, because he then fell silent. Tinsley looked at him and bit her lip. "You can still talk about it, you know. I'm okay with it. I got over it a long time ago."
Chace hesitated before speaking. "I think that what happened to you was absolutely disgusting. You didn't deserve that, Tinsley. I'm glad that you're over it, though."
"I have no other choice," she told him, looking in his eyes. "I either dwell on it for the rest of my life or move on. I choose the latter."
"I'm happy for you," Chace murmured. He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her close.
Tinsley rested her head against Chace's chest. She wished for that moment to last forever. Instead, the dreadful memories of the past flooded through her head.
It was a gorgeous day in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York. 12-year-old Tinsley was gazing out of her classroom's window, anxiously waiting for the school day to finally end. When she heard the loud bell go off, she collected her books in her hands and got out of her desk. As she made her way out of the classroom, her teacher, Mr. Raymond, stopped her.
"Tinsley, may I see you for a minute?" he had asked.
"S-sure," she mumbled, her heart beginning to race. She had no idea what her teacher wanted. Was she in trouble? Was she failing? She was about to find out.
After all of the other students filed out of the room, Mr. Raymond shut the door and flicked the light switch off. The room was still bright due to the sunlight seeping through the windows.
"What's going on?" Tinsley asked, beginning to panic. Mr. Raymond ignored her as he shut the blinds. The room became dark. Tinsley fiddled with the buckle on her plaid skirt. Curse the Brearley School for requiring the students to wear ugly uniforms.
"You can calm down, Tinsley. I won't bite," Mr. Raymond chuckled. As soon as he said that, Tinsley started to panic even more. She could feel herself hyperventilate as he peeked through the door's window one more time before approaching her.
Tinsley studied Mr. Raymond's profile. He was a tall, sturdy man in his early fifties with graying hair and thick eyebrows. He always wore a suit and his hands were big and strong. He looked positively terrifying.
He leaned against his desk and motioned her to join him. She was standing against the chalkboard.
"N-no, that's o-okay. I'm g-good where I am," she stuttered.
"Just come here, Tinsley. I wanna show you something," he smiled. She took a deep breath and took one hesitant step forward. She didn't like how his desk was so far away from the door leading to the hallway. After a few moments, Tinsley was face-to-face with Mr. Raymond.
"What do you want from me?" she asked, her voice quavering.
"I want…" he said under his breath, grabbing Tinsley's waist and pinning her against his desk, "you."
Before Tinsley was able to register what was happening, Mr. Raymond's lips were pressed against her own. She began to pound against his chest, trying to push him away, but it was no use. He only kissed her harder. She tried pulling his hair, but he grabbed her wrists and pinned them down. She was trapped.
Tears began streaming down her face as he eased his tongue into her mouth. She tried thinking of other things, but it was no use. Mr. Raymond had her full attention.
As he pulled away from her lips and started nibbling her neck, Tinsley began to sob. "Please stop," she cried. "I won't tell anyone what happened. Just please let me go."
Mr. Raymond pulled his head back and gazed into her eyes. "Stop struggling, Tinsley. You'll only make matters worse," he snapped. And with that, he pulled her to the other side of the desk, where there was masking tape, rope, and scissors. She began to scream when she saw them lined up.
Holding Tinsley with his right hand, he used his left to grab the tape and rip it with his teeth. He then placed it over Tinsley's mouth, which was a hard task as she thrashed her head around. Then he used the rope to tie her little hands together. Then, with one swift move, he pushed Tinsley to the ground.
Tinsley struggled to get up. She rolled around and around, trying to push up on her feet. Meanwhile, Mr. Raymond was slipping his jacket off, and then loosening his tie. He crouched down and placed his body over Tinsley, who was now struggling to breathe. He lifted himself up, hovering over her. He started to undo her skirt buckle and slid her navy polo over her head. He pulled her skirt down and she was now wearing just lacy white underwear and a white sports bra.
As Mr. Raymond was undoing his own buckle, the door swung open. A bald male teacher, who was recognized by Tinsley as Mr. O'Neil, popped his head in the room. "Can I borrow your answer sheet for the Literary Course Exam? I have no clue where mine-" he began to say, but stopped when he realized what was going on.
Mr. Raymond's eyes widened."Fuck," he hissed.
"Holy shit! Paul, what the fuck are you doing?" Mr. O'Neil shouted. "I NEED SOMEONE TO CALL THE COPS! SOMEBODY HELP!" Then he ran over to Mr. Raymond and picked him up by his collar.
"It's not what it looks like," Mr. Raymond began to whimper, but by then, Mr. O'Neil had his mind made up. He punched Mr. Raymond as hard as he could, hearing a crack when his fist connected with his nose.
Tinsley was still on the floor, feeling embarrassed by her nudity and grateful towards her rescuer. At that time, four female teachers ran into the room, gasping. One had a phone pressed against her ear and the others ran towards Tinsley. A curly-haired woman gently pulled the tape from her mouth, tears welling up in her eyes.
"Oh my goodness, you poor thing," she murmured, placing her hand on Tinsley's cheek. "Don't worry honey, it'll be all over soon." She then undid the knot and pulled Tinsley's hands from the rope. She quickly slid the crinkled polo shirt over her so she wasn't completely naked when the police arrived. She wrapped her arms around the little girl, crying with her.
When the police arrived, Mr. Raymond was taken away immediately. Tinsley's mother was hysterical as soon as she saw her daughter's face, which was all puffy and red. Tinsley was interrogated by the police, and she rehashed every detail of the molestation. It was decided later on that Tinsley was no longer safe in New York. Shortly after, she was shipped off to California to live with her aunt.
"Are you okay?" Chace asked. His voice made Tinsley snap out of her daze.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just zoned out," she explained. Chace didn't buy it. He knew what she was thinking of.
"Well, there's no need for you to keep worrying," Chace whispered, "because I'm right here to protect you."
That was all Tinsley needed to hear.