She left the library at 5 o'clock, signed her books out and slung her bag over her shoulder. She pushed the door open and waved goodbye to the tired librarian who was sitting at the information desk. As always, he waved back. He had long since gotten used to the slightly melancholy look in her eyes.
As she began the long walk home, she slid her fingers into her coat pocket and pulled out her Walkman. Her fingers unwound the headphones clumsily, but eventually she slid them onto her ears and let the soft moanings of whales calm her troubled mind.
Not a day went by when she didn't think of the cold eyes of Mark looking at her from that bog in the woods. They had dated for a while, but were back to being just friends when she had found him. His mouth had been open as if he were about to talk. But he couldn't talk. When the police had arrived, they asked her questions, the neverending questions. Ones like, "why were you here" and "did you know him well". She was never seen as a suspect. But she hadn't cried; she couldn't. When she'd got home that night, she ate and had gone straight to her room. Only then, with her face buried deep into her pillow to muffle her sobs, did she let the sorrow out. Suddenly, she was morning not just for Mark, but for her father as well.
She had not been the first one to her father's body, but she had seen it nonetheless; it just hung, limp, from the roof of the garage, the hose from the garden holding his neck tightly in place. They said he left no note; they didn't know about the copy of Little Women that he had slid under her door the previous night with a library card and a plea of "read this, then use this. Make me proud. Work hard. And stay safe". The book had long since been unreadable due to the wear and regular reading, but now many others lined her room on floor-to-ceiling shelves.
The track came to an end and she drew her palm across her face to blot her tears away as the sounds of the rainforest replaced it. Her feet hit the pavement rhythmically and with monotonous regularity. She begged her mind to shy clear of her father, and of Mark. Instead, her mind fell upon the growl coming from her tummy and the bitter knowledge that it wouldn't be silenced tonight. Her home was small, but her cupboards were smaller. There was little money left. And so she had to save every penny and protect what few luxuries she had. She let out a cry and her ankle twisted over and her shoes split. Her headphones were flung from her head as she fell, but luckily she caught her Walkman in time. She picked herself up and dusted herself down before walking over to where her headphones lay and shaking them a bit, then returning them to her ears. She slid the volume control up as she entered the park.
Leaves and twigs crunched underfoot and once again she marvelled at how quiet the town was. She was used to being alone; she hadn't had a friend in several years, and everyone she met was scared of the sunken and slightly haunted look of her eyes. Her skin was taut over her pale cheeks and her hair was whispy and stuck up at strange angles. She was a shadow of her beauty, now just a skeleton amongst the living. And she was so used to the dead, that she didn't notice the man walking just a few metres behind her until it was too late.
Her caught her wrist and pulled her around to face him and as she screamed, he smothered her face with his other hand. Her eyes were wide with fear as his read a malevolent desire. He pushed her backwards roughly and her knees gave way beneath her, weak due to lack of food. He pounced. Knowing that nobody would come even if they could hear her screams, he removed his hand from her face and roved both down her body. His tongue came out as he pulled at her skirt and ripped it off her. He threw it next to her broken Walkman and abandonned headphones as he tugged at his own zip, lowering his trousers just low enough. He pulled down his boxers and then slid his hand into her underwear, enjoying watching her skirm, helplessly. He tugged them down and hastily unbuttoned her shirt. Her fists hit feeble punches into his arms, but the only consequence was him
lowering his body closer to hers and thrusting himself so that she felt only immense pain. His breath stank in her face as his breathing pace quickened and her eyes screwed up in pain and fear.
Finally, it was all over and he got off her and replaced his boxers and trousers. Then he walked away, his pace unhurried. And the nine year old on the ground started crying.