-CHAPTER ONE-

Tina

"Ring!" the bell blared it's dismissal and the quiet classroom became loud and crowded with bored and anxious tenth grade students, ready to escape the classroom and the lecturing teacher.

The fresh autumn air rushed into the classroom as the door was flung open by escaping , relieved students. Well all but perhaps a few.

Tina Stewart was one of those who classmates would usually call "boring" and "dull". She kept to herself most of the time, but would not really be classified as a very quiet girl.

Although she was a bit shy, she enjoyed sharing her opinion and liked being around other people. She didn't have any friends, though she was a very friendly person, and she hated going to parties and "fun" teenage gatherings.

Her excuse was her studies. She loved to study. She would study day and night if it meant an A. She was determined, unlike most of her classmates, to become a success.

Like her mother had always taught her, if you give your one hundred percent, you will never go wrong. Wherever she went she seemed to always be carrying book, for a reason that most could not understand.

Her passion was English, one more thing that no one could understand. What made most confused was that she was a very pretty girl.

Honey-blond hair cascaded over her head in thick strands. Her body was slender, but not skinny, and her her face was soft and gently, with a determined jawline. A girl like that usually wasn't an "English wimp". As she walked among the crowd, and down the hall to her next class you could spot guys here and there, turning for a second look.

As she came to a stop at her Science class, she spotted one of her classmates approaching her. Oh, not him again, Tina groaned to herself when she saw him. She tried to calm her nerves so that she wouldn't look shy and vulnerable.

"Hey Tina! How about meeting me after school today," he called, knowing full well what her answer would be after hearing it so many times before.

Tina turned slightly away, hoping that he would just give up, but it didn't quite work like that.

"Hey, I said..." he said coming up next to her, but raising his voice. Tina didn't let him finish.

"I heard what you said, Aaron," Tina said trying not to snap, "And you know exactly what my answer is... NO! I'm way too busy,"

Tina turned back around and heard Aaron laughing as he joined his group of friends. Oh, this is so

embarrassing, thought Tina to herself, noticing some attention that she had gained by her quick answer.

It seemed to take forever for the science room to open. When it finally did Tina was one of the first to take her book and sit down in her seat.

I'm glad he sits on the other side of the room, Tina thought to herself.

Science wasn't exactly one of Tina's favorite classes, and the second hand seemed to drag around the clock. It was one of her last classes and she couldn't wait to get home.

Finally the hour was over and the class turned once again into a swarm of bodies. Tina walked briskly out of the classroom,across the lunch area, toward the parking lot.

Her mother hadn't arrived yet, so she leaned against the brick wall while the breeze teased the hair around her face. She heard some noise behind her turned around just in time to see Aaron and his friends turning around the corner and coming in her direction.

She groaned inwardly, then turned and quietly squirmed through the large crowds, and groups that seemed immovable. Slowly she made her way to the far side of the parking lot, hoping that they wouldn't see her.

After a few moments she saw her mother driving down the road, or rather saw the truck. Tina's family owed a "unique" truck, one of those easily picked out in a parking lot of shiny cars. The truck had long ago lost it's shine and had an engine that sounded like a helicopter ready to lift off when you were sitting inside.

As her mother neared, Tina raised her hand in a wave. Her mother waved back and Tina quickly opened the door of the truck, The front seatbelt of the two door truck had been broken for a long time so Tina somehow found a way to squish into the miniature sized backseat.

"Hi Mama!"said Tina happily. Tina always enjoyed being picked up by her mother.

"Hi Tina. How was your day today?" asked her mom smiling at her.

"Umm. It was Ok. Yeah it was good,"Tina answered, trying to remember the good moments of her day.

"And what does 'OK' mean?" her mom asked teasing in her voice.

Tina laughed then told her mom about her earlier embarrassment.

"I know," said Mama , "Guys can act dumb at this age. Don't show him that it bothers you though. That's when they will really start to torturing you. He wants to embarrass you, so stand tall and know that you are making wise decisions."

"Thank you, Mama." Tina felt like her mom always had a way of making her fell better, even in small situations.

During the rest of the trip home Tina told her mom all of the school news for the day.

"Math is getting so difficult!" Tina said exasperated. "All those formulas to memorize... sometimes it gets tough to remember what goes with what."

"Mmmmm. Math was never my best subject either," said her mother.

"I know... I asked the girl next to me for help, and she just barely gave me any explanation at all. She thinks she is all it... it drives me crazy." Tina continued.

Then Tina continued with telling her mom the better part of her day. About all the new things she had learned in language, and all about how sonnets worked. Tina's mother listened patiently as she always did.

By the time Tina was done with her story, they truck had pulled up to their house.

"Home Sweet Home," commented Tina's mom as the got out.

Tina somehow squeezed out of the backseat and grabbed her backpack, that had been earlier tossed in the front seat.

"Tina," called her mother from the door, " Would you mind watering the flowers now? They are wilting a little with the Autumn heat," she pointed to a nearby pot that was full of lilac colored pansies. Their delicate faces were now facing the dirt around their roots.

"Oh no," said Tina. Those pansies happened to be her favorites. "I'll do it right now," answered Tina. "I would hate for these to die."

"Thanks, Tina. I'll take your backpack for you."

After handing her mother her backpack. She trotted over to the gate that lead to the backyard. The latch holding the gate closed was on the opposite side of the fence, so Tina stood on her tip-toes so that she could reach over.

After opening it, she walked over to the faucet where the water can sat, patiently waiting. This was Tina's favorite part of the day. She filled the bucket and went over to the first pot.

It was filled with geraniums that were surrounded by sweet alyssum. Then it was on to her favorite pansies. Tina loved the way their little faces always faced upward, as if they could see something that others couldn't. Then it was on to the orange and yellow pansies, the roses, the pots spilling over with baby-tears and then, of course, her mother's favorite fuchsia.

After Tina finished watering the last plant, she hummed her way into the house where her mother was busy typing away an e-mail.

"I got hungry all the sudden," Tina said breaking the silence.

Tina went over to the refrigerator and opened the door. She got out some sandwich stuff and quickly shut the door.

"So am I,"answered her mother after she had finished typing.

A few minutes later the two of them were seated at the table with their lunches.

"This is good. I was so hungry," said Tina.

"Yeah me, too. So, after you finish your homework, would you like to come to the store with me? Your dad is going to Bar-B-Q tonight," said Tina's mother.

"OH that sounds so good. I'd love to come. I don't have that much homework. I'll save my math homework till papa gets home," said Tina's making a face at the word "math" as if it disgusted her.

"Haha," her mother laughed, "Ok, I want to leave in about an hour."

"Sure, Mama."

Tina finished her homework quickly and she and her mother made a quick run to the store. By the time they got back, Tina's dad had already come home and was mowing the lawn. He waved His hand in greeting when he saw them.

"Hey Papa!" said Tina when she had gotten out of the truck.

"Hey !" he answered back as he gave her a quick hug.

Tina went inside with her share of bags as her mother greeted her father. When she finished unpacking, she heard her parents voices coming into the room.

"Hear you're having a little trouble with math," commented her dad as he walked in with her mother.

"Oh I almost forgot about that! I wanted to ask you if you could help me with my homework. I'm having a little trouble."

"Sure thing. Let me just get the Bar-B-Q set up," said her dad as he walked by.

"Thank, Dad," said Tina gratefully.

"Anytime," said her dad, smiling over his shoulder.

Within a few minutes the smell of charcoal filled the air, followed with the smell of grilled chicken.

"It's done!" yelled her father after what seemed like a long time.

"Yeah," cheered Tina and her mother as the collected the loaded plates of chicken.

After a delicious meal of chicken, Tina and her father worked on math while her mother washed the dishes. After about an hour of tutoring form her father Tina finally started to understand.

"Thanks , Dad, I got it!" Tina said enthusiastically.

"No problem. Hey we better get to bed," commented Tina's dad looking at the clock. "We have a long day ahead of us."

"Wow, I can't believe it's that late already!" said Tina's mom.

"Ok, Goodnight, Mama," said Tina giving her mom a hug.

"Goodnight, Daddy," said Tina hugging her father also.

"Goodnight Tina, May God bless you, tonight," said Tina's mother, smiling before she and her father disappeared into their bedroom.

Tina got into bed with a light feeling in her heart that night. She had a beautiful family that loved her and cared about her. She was doing well in school and felt good that she was able to stand up for herself.

"Thank you God for giving me such a good day," whispered Tina into the darkness, "And thank you for blessing me with a beautiful family. Thank you for your protection and love.. in Jesus' name.. Amen."

And with a sigh, Tina fell into a deep nourishing sleep.

#

It was about a week later and Tina's damp hair streamed behind her as she rushed to get ready for the morning. Today was her bike day, and she was riding her bike to school. She never seemed to be able to get ready at the time she wanted.

She threw her backpack onto the couch, then ran back to her bathroom. She snatched her flat iron, pulled her hair through it stand by stand. Tina stole an anxious glance at the clock.

"Oh! When will I ever learn..." moaned Tina as she thought of the three times that she had pressed the snooze button that morning.

She finished flat- ironing and ran the comb through her hair, then sprayed her frizz hair down with hair spray.

"Ok," Tina said to herself as she looked at herself once more in the mirror. "Done!"

She quickly raced to her parents room and tapped quietly on the door. Her parents didn't answer, so she knocked a little louder. This time she heard a call from the room.

"I'm coming," said a muffled voice.

"I'm running late!" Tina called feeling impatient.

The door was swiftly opened by her father. "Hey, good morning. Your up early. We don't have to leave for another ten minutes," said her father.

"I'm riding my bike today," Tina answered.

"Oh right I forgot."

She gave her father a quick hug. Then Tina went over to the bed and sat next to her mother.

"Bye, mama," Tina whispered.

"Hmmmm what? Oh Tina, Your leaving?"asked her mother who had drifted back to sleep.

"Yes," Tina giggled.

"Oh Goodbye," said Tina's mom giving her a hug. "God is watching over you. Never feel ashamed of who you are, ok?"

"Ok mama, Thank you. I love you," said Tina smiling at her mom.

"I love you, too. Drive safely... I mean.. you know what I mean," said Tina's mother who was falling asleep again.

"Ok," said Tina trying not to laugh.

"Bye daddy, " said Tina giving her Dad one more hug before sprinting down the hall and into the garage.

She got her bike out quickly, then pedaled swiftly out of the driveway. The morning was so clean and pure. Tina wondered if the day could get any more beautiful.

This is going to be a beautiful day, thought Tina to herself. As she pedaled she listened to the birds singing overhead.

Oh that was a Meadowlark, Tina thought aimlessly. Oh! And that was a Robin.

Tina pedaled faster so that she wouldn't be late, but she couldn't help enjoying the world around her. A few minutes later she arrived breathless at her school. She saw a crowd of Aaron and his friends standing in front of the bike rails.

"Oh, brother," Tina moaned inwardly. "Remember what mama said. 'Never be ashamed of who you are'"

Tina held her head high as she opened the gate and walked past the group to lock up her bike. Then,

before he could stop her, she weaseled her way through the crowd to the entrance of her math class. Her teacher was already standing outside.

"Good morning, Mrs Memfus," said Tina smiling at her teacher.

"Good morning," said Mrs. Memfus looking down her nose at Tina with a frown.

Oh well, sighed Tina, she would never stop being friendly to her teachers.

"Kill with Kindness." That was something that her mother had taught her since the day she was born. "Tina, I know that we can't like everybody, but that doesn't mean we that we can't be kind to them. Give everyone love. That is what Jesus taught us. You will always find favor with God if you give love." That line went through Tina's mind everyday as she walked around school.

Tina quickly found her seat and waited for class to begin. Tina was looking forward to math now. Now that her dad had helped her, she was at the top of the class with some of her other classmates. Today was a review day for a test, and Tina wasn't worried. She knew the formulas and equations frontwards and back.

"All right class," said Mrs. Memfus as the bell rang, "Today is review day as you know. Let's see how much you studied."

Tina got almost every answer asked correct both out loud and in her head.

I knew this was going to be a good day, thought Tina smiling to herself.

Bling! The bell rang to dismiss the students home for the day.

I'm glad science is over for the day, thought Tina as she walked over to the bike rails. She quickly unlocked her bike and walked it over to the gate. She pushed the gate open with one hand and guided her bike around the gate.

As soon as she got out of the school yard, she swung her leg over the seat and rode quickly down the street in the direction of home. The sun had made the day a little hotter, but a cool breeze kept it from getting uncomfortable.

Tina had only ridden a block when she felt her pocket vibrate. Tina slowed her bike to a stop, so that she could answer her phone.

"Hello?"said Tina.

"Hi sweety. Did you have a good day at school?" asked her mother.

"Hi mama. Yes I had a good day," answered Tina.

"That's good. I was just going to made some food, but we're are out of rice. Since you ride by the

store... could you pick some up?" asked her mother.

"Sure mama," answered Tina. She always kept cash in her backpack just in case her mom needed something.

"Thanks honey, I'll see you soon," said Tina's mom.

"Ok, bye." Tina hung up the phone, then hopped on her bike and pedaled in the direction of the nearby store. The store was about two blocks away. Tina pedaled down the street, and as she did she caught sight of the name of the upcoming street.

"Babson?" thought Tina out loud. "Doesn't Babson run behind the grocery store?"

I'll just try it, thought Tina and she turned her bike to the left.

The street went down a neighborhood, then came to a dead-end for cars and lead to a somewhat sneaky pathway. Tina could see the store from where she was.

Cool, thought Tina as she pedaled onto the pathway.

The pathway was bordered on the left by a very tall brick wall, and was lined on the right by large oak trees that shadowed the narrow cemented path. Tina looked around her as she pedaled. The sun shined through the trees, making large shadows.

The trees were covered with small birds that looked down at her, chirping as if she were an intruder. Tina smiled to herself as she looked into the trees.

She was so absorbed in the birds that she forgot to look where she was riding. When she directed her attention back to the road, she saw a man almost directly in front of her. She tried to swerve, but the path had become much more narrow.

Tina's front fender crashed into a nearby trash can, and caused her to lose her balance. Before she knew it, she was on the floor with her bike laying over her legs and stomach.

"Oh," Tina moaned.

She knew she had instant bruises from the feel of her legs, and the handlebars had swung around and hit her in the head. Tina was just about to get up when she heard a voice.

"Hey! What are you doing here?" asked a slurred voice.

She turned at the sound. Standing a few feet from her was a man who looked like he was in his early twenties. The buttons down the front of his shirt were unbuttoned, and his hair was greasy, like he hadn't had a good wash in days. He smelled of strong alcohol, but what really made Tina's heart beat faster, were his eyes.

His eyes held a wild look in them. They were blood-shot and they seemed to be unseeing, yet at the

same time they pierced through Tina and made her stomach do a flip. She felt instant fear grip her heart. She felt so afraid she didn't know what to do. She was still trapped under her bike.

Don't panic, she thought to herself. Don't sow him your scared.

Tina shifted under her bike, and felt a sharp pain in her leg. She masked the pain as best she could, and dragged herself out from under the bike.

She tried to jump up quickly, but her bruised leg made it more of an earnest scramble to get on her feet. She quickly lifted her bike with a slight limp, and for a minute thought she was going to get out of this predicament, but then a hand on her shoulder stopped her from moving further.

"And... hic... where...are you going... so fast?" asked the slurred voice.

"To the store," Tina said more rushed than she had intended.

She grabbed the handle bars of her bike and proceeded moving forward, but the hand on her shoulder grew stronger.

Panic seized Tina with fresh intensity. She pulled harder, and tried to make a run for it. He grabbed the back of her shirt.

"Let me go," Tina meant to shout out the words, but the came out in no more than loud whisper.

He took another handful of her shirt in his other hand, and Tina felt anger and panic rise within her.

"LET GO OF ME!" This time Tina shouted the words, and pulled with all her might to get herself free. At first her actions seemed to confuse his buzzed mind, but then he grinned and only grabbed on to her tighter.

Tina was in a terrible panic now and she began kicking hard. She spun around as much as his grip would let her, and kicked his legs and punched with all her might at the arms that held her captive.

He seemed to not feel anything. Instead he grinned and his eyes took on a wilder look. Tina saw it and screamed.

"Help! SOMEBODY HELP ME! HELP!PLEASE!"

-CHAPTER TWO-

Shock

Tina pleas echoed against the walls. The empty echo sucked a lot of the hope out of her at that moment.

"No one hears you," said the slurred voice.

His voice chilled her to the bone. His words seemed terribly true. No one was around... not a single soul.

Oh God! Tina's heart cried. Tina kicked and punched harder, but it did nothing.

He seemed to have had enough of simply restraining her, and grabbed her belt so that he'd have more control of her body. His strength was immense, and he picked her up and held her high.

Tina squirmed and kicked, but she felt hopeless. He just held her squirming in the air for a few moments, then tossed her effortlessly so that she landed on her back on top of her bike.

It knocked the wind out of her and her body filled with pain. She wanted to scream, but the pain was so intense all she could do was gasp for breath. She heard a loud laugh come from above her. She wanted to move, to get up, but her body refused to cooperate.

He approached her again and she felt terror go through her body. He grabbed the front of her blouse and her belt buckle and lifted her again, only this time used force when he dropped her. Her ankles hit first, then the rest of her body hit, and her head crunched as it hit the pavement.

She landed on her side. The pain was worse and she felt as if her whole body was going to crumble. All she could do was gasp and let out a small cry. The world went fuzzy, and she saw the man approach her once more.

He looked as if he was laughing. He was pointing at her, as if he had played a good joke on her. She felt a chill rise up her wounded spine.

He knelt down next to her yet again and grabbed the collar of her shirt, bringing her head up. He leaned into her face. Tina felt his hot breath on her face. The smell of alcohol overpowering.

"There is nothing you can do," said his slurred voice. His voice held a hint of satisfaction.

Tina opened her mouth. She meant to scream, but let out a small squeaky, "no." The satisfaction in his eyes turned to darkness. He frowned at her, his grip tightening with rage. He lifted her a little higher and glared deep into her eyes.

It seemed like hours that he held her in that position. Then, his grip tightened even more, and pushed her violently into the pavement.

Pain overwhelmed her and she felt her world down in it. Then the world mercifully went black, all within a few seconds.

#

"Can you hear me. Oh come on... Can you hear me?"

Tina heard the voice from far off, as if it was coming out of the sky. She opened her eyes into slits, but quickly closed them again against the glare of the sun.

"Can you hear me? Are you are right? Hey come on... wake up."

The voice was coming nearer and nearer until suddenly it hit her loud and clear. Someone was talking to her. She attempted opening her eyes again and found a women hovered over her, her face pale.

Tina looked up at the women, confused for a moment, then recalling the horrible incident that had just happened, a gasp escaped her lips. She felt faint, but forced her self to come to, seeing the frightened face of the women.

"I can hear you," mumbled Tina surprised at how much her head hurt when she spoke. "My head," she gasped as the pain sharpened.

"Yes, yes," said the women. "Your head is bleeding . I called an ambulance. They will be here very soon. I-I think I hear them now!" said the woman relief showing in her face.

"Ohhhhh," a moan escaped Tina's lips as the ambulance came closer. The siren made Tina's head pound furiously like an angry drummer pounding his bass. She saw faces above her and then felt herself lifted from the ground. It all seemed to be a huge blur.

The faces above her were blurry and all of their voices seemed to crowd together into a loud rumble. She felt hands on her face and neck as she was strapped into a neck braise. After a while, she felt them lift her.

Panic went through her. For a minute she felt as if the scene was happening all over. She tried to calm herself. As they were lifting her, her legs raised a bit so that she could she them even though she was in a neck braise.

Her legs were bare! Her jeans were missing!

"What?" thought Tina confused. Why would they take off my pants to take me to the hospital. She was laid on the cart and felt herself being rolled at a very fast pase.

She tried to sort it out as the world flew by her. Why would they... oh no! Tina felt her head pound furiously. It wasn't they paramedics who had taken her pants, it was the man who had hitting and throwing her!

Oh no, thought Tina. But it couldn't be true..he had done enough. Did he.. had he … had he really raped her it broad daylight? They were at the ambulance now and she felt herself being lifted.

The confusion of her thoughts ever so slowly began to clear. The loud rumble began to turn into individual voices. Someone was asking her something.

"Hey, can you here me? Just say yes or no," said a man standing above her.

"Yes," Tina answered, again feeling the sharp pain in her head.

"Where does it hurt,"asked the man.

"My head. It-it feeling like it's pounding," Tina mumbled hoping that the man would be able to understand her through her gritted teeth.

"Could you swallow something for me," came the man's swift answer.

Good! He heard me, thought Tina gratefully.

Tina nodded gratefully willing to swallow anything if it would deaden the pain in her head. The man produced a pill and put it under her tongue. Then ,while supporting her head, gave her a sip of water. The water seemed to make her head throb even more, but she hoped that relief would come soon.

The man laid her head back down, and she willed herself to close her eyes and attempt to drown out the confusing sound. She must have drifted off into a troubled sleep, because when she opened her eyes she found herself being wheeled through the narrow aisles of a hospital. Where was she? Oh, yeah she had been on her way to the hospital.

Did I really fall asleep? thought Tina, amused that she would be able to sleep under such circumstances. And then she remembered, the pill.

"Oh thank you, God," she whispered to herself.

The scene around her began to change into the crammed quarters of a hospital room. A man was bending over her. A man in a large green mask that covered most of his face. She felt a pinch in her arm, and again heard the confusing rumble of voices.

"I wish I knew what was going on," thought a quite frustrated Tina. After a few minutes the rumble turned into a buzz and her eye lids became heavy.

Suddenly she fell into a deep sound sleep.

#

Tina heard voices going around in her sleepy head. One of them was a woman's voice.

"Mama?" Tina whispered in a hoarse, sleepy whisper.

"Oh! she's awake!" came a thankful cry. "I'm right here, baby. I'm right here. How are you?"

"My head feels weird," said Tina, suddenly realizing how much discomfort she felt.

"Alright. Your Daddy's going to get the doctor. Oh, Tina. What happened?" The last words cam out in a sob.

Tina tried to to clear the blurry room so that she might be able to locate her mother. The room slowly came into focus. There beside her bed was her mother. Her face full of worry, concern, and motherly love.

Tina took another deep breath to clear her head. At that moment the doctor came in followed by her father.

"I hear that you are having a bit of discomfort," said the doctor who was already checking the bandages that Tina had just realized were plastered onto her head.

"Mmm. It feels a little bruised," Tina whispered.

"Well that's normal. You had quite a gash on your head and it needed a bit of stitching up. You must have taken quite a fall," answered the doctor, his last words coming out in question.

"Uh-Huh," answered Tina dully, not wanting at all to share her dreadful story with complete stranger.

"Well if you start feeling any sharp pain or if the bruised feeling increases you say so alright?" said the doctor in a very businesslike manner.

"OK,"breathed Tina, turning to her parents who were bending over her. The doctor exited quickly.

"It's good to see you up,"said her dad trying to act more cheerful than he really was. Tina smiled wobbly in return.

"Tina, honey... what ...what happened," asked her mother again looking into Tina's eyes.

Tina looked up at the ceiling and went over for the first time what had happened. It had all seemed like a crazy nightmare.

She saw again the man. She felt his breath on her face. She felt the agonizing pain of her head hitting the pavement. Tears began to form in her eyes. They slid silently down her cheeks and into her ears. She wasn't exactly sure what to answer. Or if she would be able to talk at all.

"I- ," she started, then burst into tears now realizing that it really hadn't been a horrible nightmare. She had been attacked and robbed of her dignity in clear daylight, and no one had been there to do a thing about it. It had all been real. It cut through her like a razor blade; slicing unmercifully deep into her heart.

She hadn't realized how much shock she had been in. She hadn't realized just how real it really was until her mother asked her that question. How could she tell her mother,the person who loved her so much, that she, her daughter, had been raped. How could she? She could barely realize that fact herself.

She was sobbing now. And her mother was bending over her hugging her. She cried until she had no tears left. She sobbed until her body ached. When her tears finally dried up, her eyelids became heavy and she felt herself drift off to sleep once more.

As she slipped into the dark, she wondered once again, How will I ever tell her? She was thankful she wouldn't have to answer that question now.

#

Tina felt her eyelids flutter open and looked around her. Something was different. What was it? Tina turned her head to look at the door.

Oh yes. She was in a hospital, how could she have forgotten? She turned her head back and stared at the ceiling. Just as she moved she realized that her head did not pound, but just seemed a bit sore.

"Oh thank you, God," whispered Tina. She cautiously moved her legs and back, and winced at the pain the simple movements caused. Her back was the worst, and she breathed slowly in and out to try to dull the pain.

"Oh boy," grimaced Tina as she tried desperately to calm to calm her panicked heart so that she wouldn't feel the pain.

She finally got herself to where she could breath deeply, without it hurting so much. As the pain subsided she began to think. She knew that her parents would probably be coming soon and would ask her the dreaded question... "What happened?"

She did not know exactly how she would answer it without breaking up. She went over the scene again and a shudder ran through her. She still could not understand why she hadn't had any pants... or maybe she did, but she really couldn't accept the fact to be true.

She wished that her parents could just read her thoughts, so that she wouldn't have to voice anything she was feeling, or what had happened.

As she tried to think of just exactly how describe her experience; the side door opened and her mother walked in, followed by her father, and closely behind came a tall man in a dark outfit. She looked closer and saw that it was an officer.

Oh no, thought Tina. If he was here that means she would have to tell her story with a stranger present.

"Hi sweety. I'm glad that you are up. This man just wants to ask you some questions," said her mother.

Her voice was very steady, but her eyes showed fear and confusion. She looked into Tina face, her eyes pleading the answers of unasked questions.

Tina turned her face to look at the officer.

"Hi there. I'm Officer Jones. I just want to ask you a few questions about what happened so that I can fill out a report. Is that OK?" asked the officer.

His voice held warmth, and as Tina looked at him, his face seemed to be full of kindness. Tina felt instantly at ease.

Tina nodded her head and took a very deep breath. It was an instant regret, for a bruising sensation started to crawl up her back. Tina let more breath out and tried to calm herself. Slowly the pain once again receded.

"Ok so why don't you just start from the beginning. Why were you in the back alley of Babson Rd.?"

Tina looked up at the ceiling and tried to remember. It seemed like it had happened a long long time ago.

"Well, She was going to pick up groceries," Tina's mother cut into her thoughts.

Tina closed her eyes, trying to use her mother's fact to put some pieces together.

"Oh yeah,"said Tina suddenly remembering. "I was going to get groceries, and when I went down Babson it was a dead-end; so I went down the alley. "

"Ok," said Officer Jones smiling encouragingly at her. "Then what?"

Tina took a small breath. "Then I was riding and I didn't see the guy in front of me. I tried to swerve, but I was too late so I crashed into a trash can. And I fell." answered Tina slightly breathless. Talking made her ribs ache a bit.

"Ok," said the officer trying to shorthand what she had told him. "Then what happened? The paramedics said that you didn't have any bottom clothing," said the officer voice still kind, and his eyes showing kindness along with concern as he said it.

Tina's mother looked from the officer to her daughter. From the look in her eyes it was obvious she had not been told.

"What!" said Tina's mom a little louder than she needed to. She looked like she was about to run in panic out of the room. Tina's father reached out a hand and pulled her mother close. Tina's mother began to cry into his jacket.

Tina looked anxiously from the officer to her father to the officer and back again. Tina's father nodded to her to tell her to continue talking to the officer. His own eyes had gotten misty.

Tina wasn't sure if she herself could continue, but she looked at the officer and closed her eyes before answering.

She opened her eyes and said " I ,um, don't know how that happened,um, but I know that he was drunk and ,um, probably high. Um," she took a shaky breath.

She closed her eyes to try to remember.

"Um, I tried to get up, 'cause my bike landed on top of me. I got up to try to make a quick run for it, but he grabbed me. He was really strong. I couldn't get away. I tried to scream, but I couldn't. I just... I just couldn't,"tears were streaming down her face now.

"I see," said Officer Jones softly.

Tina took a shaky breath and closed her eyes once again to continue.

"He, uh, he grabbed my shirt and my belt and her picked me up, and then I did start screaming, but no one was there. And I kicked and punched, but he was just so strong. He sort of threw me.. onto my bike I guess... 'cause I remember the pedal digging into me. I couldn't get up 'cause my breath got knocked out. He picked me up again, but I couldn't do anything. Then he dropped me, kind of forcing me down, and I hit my head."

Tina tried to remember what happened after that, but her mind went black after that.

"That's all I remember. I think he.. he might have hit me again or something. Then the paramedics came and lifted me. I saw my legs... I didn't... I... I thought... I didn't know..." Tina faltered to a stop. "I didn't know why," she finished lamely.

"I see," said Officer Jones. "Did you see him before you blacked out?"

Tina closed her eyes and tried to replay the scene. She felt as if she was telling a story, but not something that had really happened, her heart wouldn't believe it.

"He ,um, I...wait... no... I think I heard him laughing or something.. I don't know," Tina felt confused as she thought about it. Why would he have been laughing? She was probably just dreaming now.

"Ok thank you. You did really good," said Officer Jones looking at her kindly. He glanced at her parents and back at her. "I'll just let myself out. You did good," he said again,and he left.

Tina shifted her head back to look at her parents. She felt suddenly exhausted. Her head felt sore from trying to remember everything, and her ribs felt even more bruised.

Her mother was just drying her tears, and turned to Tina.

"Oh Tina,"

Tina's mother turned and laid her head against Tina''s shoulder. Tina tried to respond, but her eyes felt

heavy. She knew that sleep was about to claim her.

"It's OK," was all Tina managed to whisper, then sleep claimed her and took her into a world where peace was all that existed.

-CHAPTER THREE-

Recovery

Finally ,after what seemed like a very long time, four days past and Tina was able to return home.

She still felt very bruised and sore, but she was happy to leave the constricted hospital room. She was tired of lying down , if that makes sense, and was tired of the room that smelled like rubbing alcohol all the time.

The fresh air blew through the car window, toying with Tina's hair and blowing it across her face. She felt like she hadn't seen the outdoors for years.

During her four long days she had only been allowed to be wheeled around the hospital. She had insisted that she was fine, but no one seemed to pay much attention. She had felt that she just wanted to be by herself for a while. But that was close to impossible.

If it wasn't her parents, it was the nurse, and if it wasn't the nurse, it was the doctor. But now.. finally she was on her way home. The strong breeze was almost enough to take her breath away, but she felt like she just couldn't get enough of it.

She took another deep breath of air and sank into her seat. She reached forward then and turned up the car radio a bit.

"Oh it's so good to be on our way home!" Tina enthused.

Tina's mother looked at her from the driver's seat and looked at her with a sympathetic smile.

"It was hard being cooped up, wasn't it?" asked her mother.

Tina nodded vigorously in agreement. A few minutes later, though it seemed much longer, Tina's mother pulled into the driveway. Tina let out a breath of air. She wished she could run out and rush into the house, but her bruised spots kept her at a slower pase.

"I wish I could move faster than this," joked Tina as she hobbled down the driveway. "I feel like an old lady!"

Tina's mother was hesitant to join in the joke, but she managed a small smile. She clearly didn't understand how her daughter could make light of it. Tina made it to the door and into the kitchen where she sat down at the table.

"Oh it's so good to be home," said Tina as she looked around her at her warm comforting home. Tina's mother smiled.

"Would you like something to eat?" questioned her mother.

"Oh yes please," said Tina, happy to eat anything other than the food she had been eating at the hospital cafeteria. Tina felt so happy to be home. She felt she never wanted to leave again.

Tina was truly happy that day. It seemed that th incident had passed as just a nightmare. Tina went to bed that night, happy to be home again.

But from then on, almost every night she had nightmares. Over and over and over again the scene of that man would play in her mind. When she would wake up in the morning she would be withdrawn and seemed to be in her own world. That scene just wouldn't leave her alone. And with each remembrance would come the question.

Why... Why did it happen to me? She had no answer. Her bruises slowly started to heal for which she was thankful, for it was one less reminder of what had happened. She had started going back to school and it helped distract her from her questions and the uneasy darkness that seemed to settle around her.

She tried the best she could to fake her old cheerful self. She didn't want anyone to worry about her.

Every day, throughout her busy day she would think of Psalm 23.

The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want. He leads me in the paths of righteousness.. She wished that she could forget the incident and move on with her life. When the image of the man would come to her mind, she would close her eyes and recite. "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death... I will fear no evil, for thou art with me..." and she would pray silently. Oh help me to forget!

But almost every night the dream would haunt her as she slept. Sometimes waking her from a deep sleep. Her mother must have sensed her inner turmoil, because she helped Tina all she could.

Giving her scripture to read and showing her stories of others who had gone through what she had. She appreciated her mother's efforts, but the fact that she was being treated differently was just another reminder of what had happened.

After a few weeks her bruises were completely healed, but her ribs still ached from time to time. The doctor said it was normal. That it would go away soon. Tina hoped so. She so wished her life could just somehow get back to the way it had been... normal.

#

It was a little over three weeks since the incident. The vision of the man came into her sub-conscious mind.

He smelled of alcohol. His eyes piercing through her. He came at her like a raving beast. His hysterical laugh could bring shivers up anyones spine. He grabbed her. And then..

"NOO!" screamed Tina as she bolted fully awake in her bed.

She breathed so fast she felt that her lungs would burst open. She slowly brought her breathing back to normal, and settled herself back into her down pillow. Her heart was still pounding.

The dream- the dream had felt so-so real, like it was happening all over again. She hadn't had a dream in a while. That made the dream even more startling.

She was so tired, and she wished with all her heart that she could fall back to sleep, but she just couldn't. She wrestled under her sheets until she couldn't take it anymore.

To her? It had happened to her? But why? She couldn't answer any of these questions, but oh, how she wished she could. She hated dreaming about it. It was to awful to think of. After a long while, she fell back into a restless, troubled sleep.

She cracked her eyes open and saw the light shining through her window. She slowly rolled over and looked at her bedside clock. It was exactly 11:30. She wanted to sleep so badly, but she knew her mom would worry about her if she slept any longer.

She had come to not enjoy the weekends that much anymore. They held nothing to really distract her, even though her parents tried. She always found herself just wishing the day to end.

She got up as quickly as her sleepy legs willed her to and went into the bathroom. After washing her face and getting dressed in the clothes she had worn the day before, she looked in the mirror and practiced a refreshed, confident, and happy smile.

She didn't want her mother to be more worried than she already was. She looked at her reflection and frowned. No, too fake she decided. She tried again, this time with a more relaxed look. Well, it was a little better.

I doubt my mom will expect me to look cheerful, Tina decided as she made her way down the hall.

"Hello Tina. How are you doing this morning?" Tina's mother's face showed motherly concern as she looked at her daughter. Tina's mom was cooking for the rest of the week, as she always did on Saturdays.

Tina opened her mouth to answer, but quickly closed it again. She suddenly felt nauseous. Her stomach was churning and rising to her throat. She put a hand to her mouth and fled to the bathroom. She reached the toilet and relieved all the food left in her from the night before.

After she was sure she had nothing left to lose, she went to the sink and washed her face. As she was finishing, she turned toward the doorway where her mother stood.

"Are you all right?" asked her pale-faced mother.

Tina nodded still feeling to sick to say anything. Tina looked into her mother's eyes and could read what she was thinking.

"No!" Tina said in a horrified whisper.

"Tina - I,"

"No, mama! That's not it. That couldn't happen. That-it- just wouldn't happen. I'm just sick, OK! Maybe I ate something yesterday. Yeah, that's it. I just ate something that upset my stomach." Tears were pouring down Tina's cheeks as she spoke.

Her last words came out in a shout. She looked back up at her mother. Tina's mother's eyes were filled with tears that were gently pouring down her cheeks. Tina was sobbing now, and she ran to her mother and rapped both arms around her.

"No—Mama—no," Tina choked out through her sobs.

Tina's mother hugged Tina close.

"Shhh. It's ok. It ok," she whispered.

Tina's emotions raved through her like a wild beast wanting to be set free.

"Mama, that- that can't be it, Tina said pushing her mother gently away so that she could see her face.

Tina searched her mother's face for the answer she wanted. The answer that said it wasn't ,and couldn't possibly be true. Tina's mother breathed a shaky breath and shook her head, tears still streaming down her face.

"No Mama!" yelled Tina and she ran out of the bathroom; down the hallway toward the front door.

"Tina wait," called Tina's mother, but it was to late.

Tina had already slammed the front door behind her and was running down the street, tears blinding her as she went. She ran , and ran until her lungs felt like they were going to rip. By that time she had reached her favorite stairway.

The stairway she always went to when she felt she needed to sort things out. When she came to the stairway she collapsed onto it letting her sobs shake her. She pounded her fist hard into the pavement, not able to feel the pain. She sobbed until her eyes were swollen and bruised and her face numb.

Finally after what seemed like forever she lifted her head from the pavement and sat herself up. She leaned her shoulder against the stairway pole and raised her head into the sky.

The sky seemed too blue, and too bright, for a day like this. The sun glowed in the sky as if it held happiness she could not find. The world around her was green and pure. She felt so alone.

"Why?" she whispered aloud. "Why would You let this happen?"

There was no reply. Tina knew it was true. She guessed that she had known for a while, but hadn't wanted to admit it. She was pregnant. She could feel it in her soul. Oh how she hated that that fact seemed to scream the truth at her. She new it was true.

Tina closed her eyes against the glaring sun and took a deep, shaky breath.

"God why? Why? Why me? Of all people, why me? I've always gone out of my way to prevent something like this. I've always served You. Why me, God? Why me?" Tina's heart pleaded for an answer she couldn't find.

Despite the fact that the October sun was beating on her, she shivered beneath her blouse. She crossed her arms against her stomach to try to warm herself against her inner coldness. After a while Tina looked down at her arms still tightly enclosed her stomach.

Slowly and shakily she let her arms fall down onto the steps that she was sitting on. She looked at her stomach, still in disbelief, then quietly laid a hand onto it. Why? She had no answer. She had no answer why it had even happened to her in the first place.

Tina wiped her hand against her swollen eyes and stood up. She walked down the steps slowly and turned the corner. She walked toward the busy street, past their neighborhood lake. She continued onto the street side walk blindly.

She walked until she found herself walking into CVS pharmacy, and finally she came to a stop in front of a shelf of pregnancy tests. She stared at them tiredly, ad blankly. She hadn't really even known where she had been headed until she had ended up here. She was a bit surprised to find herself here.

Did she really want to know the "official" answer? She took a deep breath and grabbed the one closest to her. Yes this would work.

She moved robotically toward the cash register, and reached a hand into her pocket. When she pulled the hand out of her pocket she was surprised, and slightly disappointed to see that it held a twenty dollar bill. The line seemed to go much to fast and as she paid the bill she felt a chill run down her spin.

She was terrified. She stood just inside the exit for a long time, just starring at her purchase. Then swiftly, she turned turned on her heel toward the bathroom. She pushed the bathroom door open and was sadly surprised to see someone else at the sink in the bathroom.

She wanted to be alone when she found her answer. The woman smiled her greeting, but Tina didn't have the heart the smile back. To Tina's relief, the woman quickly left the bathroom, and she was left alone.

Tina took her time closing the stall door behind her. How she wished she could postpone this moment forever. Tina slowly opened the box to reveal a small plastic stick. She quickly read the directions and and did her business.

She was afraid to lift the stick to eye level. She lifted it slowly , then closed her eyes.

"Oh come on. Your going to have to know sooner or later," whispered Tina shakily to herself. She slowly opened her eyes fully and stared and the test in front of her.

She quickly drew in a sharp breath. She wasn't sure why she was surprised, but she was. There starring up at her was a bold purple positive sign. She felt the tears form in her eyes and slid down her face.

"What do I do now, God?" thought Tina desperately.

Tina's walk back home was full of confusing thoughts. The more she thought about it the more angry that she became.

Why her? And why did this have to happen. She had sort been able to accept the fact that she had been attacked. Of course she still had had night mares, but they had started to go away...well until last night.

As she walked she felt anger grip her. Now she would never, ever be able to forget what had happened to her, or black it out in the back of mind.

Now every day she would remember what had happened to her by the signs of pregnancy. Her eyes dried up with the fire that burned behind them. Why did it have to happen to her? Why not some other girl. Why had she been the one?

Anger boiled through her and she quickened her pace. It's just not fair! screamed Tina's heart. Tina was almost home now.

She rounded the corner; walked up the path and opened the door. Tina's mother rushed toward her, laying her hands on Tina's shoulders.

"Oh, honey are you Ok?"

"I'm fine," answered Tina bitterly.

Now that she was home she really didn't know what to do. She couldn't go stomping around the house like she wanted to.

"Where did you go?" asked Tina's mother.

Tina had thrown away the box outside the store, so she had nothing with her. Tina took a deep breath before answering.

"I went to CVS," answered Tina, her voice sounding monotone.

She quickly looked down at her shoes, so her mother wouldn't see the turmoil in her eyes. Tina's mother looked at her quizzically, obviously not understanding why Tina had gone there, or the significance of going.

"I- I don't understand," said her mother, much confused.

She squeezed Tina's shoulders to let Tina know she was waiting for more. Tina looked up hesitantly from her shoes. She didn't look at her mother, but looked somewhere past.

"I went- I got the tests- for pregnancy- I- I just- I just wanted to know... you know?" Tina looked at her mother now, wondering if she had even made sense.

Tina's mother looked into her eyes and a tear spilled down her cheek. She nodded to tell Tina that she had understood. Tina looked away again for fear that she would begin to sob. There was a long moment of silence. Tina's mother broke it.

"What- I mean- is," her mother stuttered for the right words. "What- what did it say?"

Tina felt a warm flow of tears begin to pour even though she willed them not to come. She looked away from her mother and rocked slightly, trying to get a hold of the many emotions that she felt. She looked at the wall on her right, then at the ceiling.

She didn't trust herself to speak as the tears streamed down, pouring over her girlish cheeks. Tina's mother waiting for a moment, then turned Tina's shoulders so that she would be forced to look at her.

"Tina" her mother's voice quivered.

Tina didn't want to admit it out loud. She could barely admit the fact to herself... let alone her mother. Tina knew her mother was waiting.

"I- I -am," was all Tina managed before her sobs overtook her. She hoped that her mother would understand.

Her mother pulled her into her arms and let her weep on her shoulder. Tina grabbed desperately at her mother. Feeling so many emotions that she felt she would compressed into the wood floor boards of their home.

She wished... Oh she just wished that she could disappear from the face of the Earth. How would she ever face the world again? Tina sobbed harder into her mother's shirt. She could hardly breath. Her mother let her cry a while longer, before leading her to the couch,and grabbing a Kleenex box from the counter-top.

Her father came home later that day and her mother told him what had happened. Tina' father turned truly sympathetic eyes toward her.

It was almost more than she could bear. She felt that she just couldn't stand one more look of sympathy. It only proved to herself that it was true. She had been raped, she was thankful she had no memory of it. And now she was pregnant.

What was she going to do? How in the world was she going to deal with this curse that had come upon her? She closed her eyes tight against the thought.

Her father came over to give her a hug and to tell her how sorry he was, but Tina could not respond, nor take in his sympathy.

She felt like screaming at the world, "I had been fine! I had a good life! Why was this allowed to happen! Why didn't anyone hear me scream! Didn't you hear me!"

Tina fought her emotions, and tried to listen to what her father was saying. Her father's voice seemed to be drowned out with the intensity of her thoughts. She nodded mutely as she watched her father's lips.

When they stopped and he patted her hand, she gave him a quivering smile and got up and walked to her room. She closed the door gently behind her even though she felt like slamming it.

She threw herself onto her bed and grabbed her pillow. She buried her face into it and sobbed, first tears of sorrow. Then tears of confusion. Then hot angry, bitter tears ran down her cheeks, burning their way down.

She sat up and wiped at them angrily. Anger boiled inside of her. She grabbed her pillow and punched with all her might into the pillow.

"Why?" the question came in a grunt, choked by anger and sobs, and the intensity of her fist hitting the pillow.

"Why?" she cried out louder this time. She punched angrily at her pillow, then grabbed into both hands. She pulled her hands apart with all the strength that lay in her body. Nothing happened, and her anger made her pull harder, and harder until she heard a loud RRRIIIPPP!

The sound almost gave her relief, and she dug her hands into the tear and pulled hard. The rip grew quickly and stopped abruptly at the seam. She took a fresh grab at it and pulled until it hurt her whole body. Nothing happened.

After another try, she flung the pillow across the room until it hit the wall, flinging stuffing as it went. She retrieved it and banged it against the wall as fresh tears streamed down her tense face. As she banged it she yelled,

"Why- Why did you do this to me! Why did you do it to ME ! WHY! I just-"

Tina's voice had weakened along with her arms. She threw the pillow to the ground one last time, and then fell onto her knees, then landed on her stomach onto the discarded pillow. The weight made the last of the stuffing fly into the air and settle around Tina. She hardly even noticed. She buried her face into the last of the pillow.

"I just want to know why," she whispered and sobs over took her once more.

Her anger had exhausted her, and before she knew it she fell asleep with hot tears still running down her cheeks.

#

When she woke up the sun had gone down and a breeze was blowing throw her open window. She eyes felt bruised and puffy from crying, and her shoulder blades hurt from banging her pillow, and from her sleeping position on the floor.

She put her hands under her chest and pushed herself up. When she looked around she saw a peace of paper just inside the door. She walked over to it and crouched to pick it up, then plopped into the floor bending her legs under her. She opened the peace of folded paper, and began to read:

Dear Tina,

I know that life can really be extremely difficult sometimes. Tina, I can't tell

you how sorry I am to know what was done to you, and what happened because of it.

I just want you to know that your father and I will always be here for you. We love you

no matter what. Never doubt our love for you, Tina. You are a very special person.

God loves you and will always care for you.

Love,

Mama

Tina brushed away a fresh tear and flipped the paper over. This was a message from her father:

Hi Tina,

God's favor is over you. God has promised to see you through everything... including this. Lean on Him. We love you, Tina.

Love,

Papa

Tina folded the note back up again, and laid it at her side. She wanted to sob again, but her eyes felt so bruised that she willed herself not to cry. She stood up slowly from carpet and walked to her bed.

She lay her face deep into her remaining pillow. Still laying down, She folded the quilt out from beneath her and tucked herself into it.

She didn't feel like she could change into pajamas without ripping and tearing her clothes in frustration. She hugged her pillow as she buried her face. She was so exhausted , and her face felt swollen.

Her eyes fluttered shut after a few moments, and she fell mercifully into a deep sleep.

The next morning Tina woke up to a bruised, swollen face, and a heavy heart. Light was shining into her window, and she could hear the birds chirping through her open window. For the first time in Tina's life her heart could not appreciate the sound.

She laid stiff in her bed. She felt miserable. She wished she could just die, right there in her bed, and disappear from the nasty world that she had entered. She had once thought that life held promise. That life held exciting new things for us to grasp and that God would help us get through every situation.

Well He sure didn't help me through this, thought Tina a bit bitterly.

Just when she had thought she was recovering. Just when she thought that life just might start to get easier, she had to find out that she was pregnant. Pregnant? Her? She still couldn't believe it. Why hadn't He stopped it? wondered Tina. He could have!

She hugged her pillow closer to her chest. Life would never be the same for her again. Not ever. She heart ached at the thought. She heard the shuffling of feet near her door and heard the turn of her knob.

She quickly buried her face into her pillow just as her mother peeked in. Tina heard her mother tip-toe in and felt more than heard her stop in front of her bed. Tina felt her mother's hand stroke her forehead.

"I love you, Tina," whispered her mother, then she planted a kiss on her head before retreating quietly from the room.

As soon as the door closed behind her mother, Tina settled herself down for a fresh burst of tears.

-CHAPTER FOUR-

Facing the World

When Tina finally got up later in the afternoon, she felt bitter and irritable. A noise such as the bang of a pan on the stove made her feel that her anger would explode. Her mother seemed to know better than to bother Tina with questions and concerns, so she let her be on her own.

Tina tried to go through the routine of the day, but gave up after a while and went back into her room. She lay on her bed, feeling too depressed and miserable to even think about what was to happen in her future.

That was how the rest of her weekend went. It was spent in her room. To confused and riled with emotion to even think clearly. She just sat for endless hours on her bed. Her mother brought her food even though she refused, but she didn't eat much.

She didn't want to eat. The twisting knot of hunger pain in her stomach almost felt good and was a way of relieving her anger.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday all came and went. Tina's mother did not push for her to go back to school, but she did worry about her. She was going to get behind soon. Especially with the end of the first semester coming up.

She told Tina of her fears near the end of the day. Tina did not answer, but only looked bitterly at her mother. Her mother opened her mouth to console her daughter, but Tina stopped her saying first quietly than shouting,

"How the hell am I supposed to show my face in that... that stupid school ever again. Tell me. Will you Mom! You have all the answers don't you. Well then will you tell me how the hell I can face anyone in that school again and have them find out that I was stupid enough to get raped and now am pregnant. Can you tell me that! Can You!"

She addressed her mother but looked off into the distance as she said it. Her voice edged with anger. Her words did not seem to be meant for her mother, but in her anger she had spoken the thought that had been on her mind since the day that she found that she was indeed pregnant.

Her mother's face showed a shock at the words of her usually quiet daughter. She quickly recovered knowing what a difficult time her daughter must be going through. Her mother took a deep breath and looked off to the side.

Tina's anger subsided and she looked across at her mother who had silent tears slipping down her cheeks. Tina felt immediate guilt.

"Mama I didn't mean- I- I'm sorry," whispered Tina as she reached out to touch her mom's arm, glad to have something to get her mind off herself.

Her mother looked up and shook her head.

"No. I- I know what your going through," her mother took a shaky breath. "I don't have all the answers. I never have, Tina. All I know is that God makes everything happen for a reason and a purpose. Even something like this. I don't what that is... but."

Her mother stopped for a breath and cupped Tina chin in her hand and looked into her eyes.

"Sweety all that I can tell you is that your father and I will always support you no matter what. Our love for you will never stop. We will always help you with whatever you need. Don't harbor all you anger. Talk to us. We will always be here to listen."

There were tears streaming down both Tina and her mother' s faces. Tina nodded and leaned forward into her mother's embrace. She hadn't realized how much her mother had been hurting for her.

As she laid her head on her mother's shoulder, she decided however much it hurt, she would do what it took to make her mother smile again. She didn't want her mom to suffer with her. But...

"Mama?" whispered Tina leaning back out of her mother's embrace.

"Yes?"

"Mama- I -I'll do anything -whatever- but please, please don't- don't make me go to that school again,"

Tina felt fear grip her heart as she searched her mother's face. Her mother sighed and looked deep into Tina's eyes.

"Tina this is going to be hard. I'm not denying that. This might be one of the hardest things that you have ever done. But you have to go to school. And God will be with you."

She stroked Tina's cheek and stood up.

"Now I am going to bring you some dinner."

The look she gave Tina told her that it wasn't a question. She needed to eat. Tina merely nodded as her mother exited the room. Tina then stood slowly and walked the length of her room and across the hall the the bathroom. She blew her nose then wiped her puffy eyes with a nearby towel.

She was hesitant to look at herself in the mirror, but she forced herself to. Staring back at her was a red puffy faced girl, with greasy-black looking hair. She hadn't bothered with a shower in days.

She closed her eyes against the image, took a deep shaky breath, and opened them again.

"OK God. You had this happen. Now help me get through it," she said softly. If she had to go to school she would at least try to be presentable. She nodded to the mirror as if confirming it, then turned to retrieve towels for her much needed shower.

She shifted restlessly in the passenger side of the car. How she dreaded walking into that school. They where almost there. She let out a breath causing her mother to look over at her worriedly.

Tina tried to give her mother a convincing smile before turning to look out the window. The school was approaching all to quickly. Her mom stopped at the drop-off section of the school.

"Are you going to be OK?" asked her mother softly.

Tina turned to her mother, and took a deep breath.

" I guess I'm about to find out," whispered Tina meaning to make a light joke, but scared by the truthfulness of the statement.

Would she be OK? Could she answer questions if any did arise about why she was absent? No. She wouldn't let herself think about it. She had to do this... for her mother. Tina reached for the door handle.

"Tina."

Tina turned once more.

"You're never alone... He is with you."

Tina bit her lip and nodded. He had never seemed farther than right now. She closed the door firmly behind her and offered a small wave before heading slowly down the hall to her class. She walked timidly.

No one seemed to be paying any attention to her. Her emotions felt so raw that she felt that everyone around her could read her every thought and feel the tension going on inside of her. She brushed past other teenagers and continued on, thankful that no one seemed to be able to read the turmoil inside of her.

She finally arrived at her class and made her way to the back of the line, where she stood feeling very self-conscious. She stared out into space until she heard her name. She turned at her name, her heart pounding. Stop it, she told herself. No one can knows what you are feeling except you.

She pasted a fake smile into place as she turned in the direction of the voice. The girl who sat next to her in class ,Shelly, was just a few feet away from her.

Of all the people, thought Tina. Tina had always kept her distance from Shelly. Shelly was a supper popular girl in school. She was a real brat in Tina's eyes, and her whiny voice got on Tina's nerves.

Shelly approached Tina with four of her "followers" with her.

"Hi-ya Tin-a," said Shelly stretching out both words as much as she could.

"Hello Shelly," answered Tina surprised at how stable her voice was.

"So," said Shelly tilting her head to one side and looking over Tina critically as she did almost everyone. "Where ya been?" she asked popping her gum as her followers giggled behind heavily ringed fingers.

Tina tried to keep herself from rolling her eyes or turning from them and laughing out loud at their stupid behavior.

"Oh," said Tina nonchalantly, but inwardly saying, Quick! Think up a good excuse! Outwardly she said.

"Oh I've been sick with a crazy cold. I finally recovered. What a nasty time for it to come to. I mean how am I supposed for all our tests with a flu."

Tina, you're babbling, said an inward voice. Tina took a deep breath.

"Yeah, well I'm just glad it's gone," Tina finished lamely hoping to end the conversation.

Shelly turned to her "followers" and laughed that annoying, fake laugh.

"Ha did you hear that girls? She had a cold! Aww," they turned fake pathetic eyes her way.

Tina looked back at them confused, but refusing to submit by lowering her gaze.

"Ha! Yeah," she turned back to Tina, "So tell us. What REAL- ly happened? What? Did your parents go on vacation? Who was the guy?"her mocking eyes staring at Tina.

Tina narrowed her eyes still not getting what they were hinting. Then it dawned on her.

"What- you- you No! What kind of a person do you think that I am?" she blurted out, to angry to stop herself.

Shelly turned to her "followers" with a look of victory.

Oh. Tina groaned inwardly. I gave her what she wanted.

They all laughed before turning back at her.

"Oh! Yeah, Oh so sorry," She pushed her lip out pretending to pout. "We forgot your the good little Christian girl. You have never even had a boyfriend have you?"

She said it loud enough for everyone to hear. Tina's face flushed with heat, and humiliation. She refused to show it.

"No," said Tina keeping an even tone and giving Shelly an icy look. "And there is nothing wrong with that at all."

Shelly eyed her then looked at her "followers" with an amused look.

"Right," said Shelly saying it slow and deliberately, stretching out the word.

She then turned with her group, laughing as they walked to the end of the line as if they had played a good joke. Tina stared out into the distance, determined not to look at anyone so that they wouldn't know how much her words had hurt her.

Well it DID get my mind off my troubles. thought Tina to herself. Not exactly what she had had in mind. She could feel eyes looking at her but she refused to look at anyone.

Everyone knew her to be different. That was bad enough. She didn't need anyone to point it out. Oh where was her teacher!

Finally Mrs. Memfus opened the door. She had never been so happy to get into her math class. Tina opened her mouth to say her usual 'Good Morning' ,but Mrs. Memfus was already frowning down her nose.

She had had enough criticism for one day. She closed her mouth and walked in the class without speaking. A first for her. She had a feeling this was just one of the beginning of many "firsts" to come.

#

School continued as normal. Or at least to all those around her it was just like any other day. The emotional turmoil going on inside of her was almost more than she could bear. She looked around her and everywhere she looked she saw girls laughing at some joke with a friend, or strolling down the sidewalk on the phone with a carefree smile. That should be me. Thought Tina to herself. But just as quickly as the thought would come, she would push it far away. It hurt to much to think in that direction.

Finally science came, and Tina waited outside the door. Her brain tuned out everything around. It was as if she enclosed inside of an invisible wall. In her own world. Far from all that could hurt her. She faded so far into her world that she didn't hear the bell ring. Nor did she see the students passing her. She stayed, looking at the ground. She didn't move until she felt a hand on her back. She felt her throat constrict and an image flashed through her mind. She looked up and whipped around. It was Aaron.

"Finally, I caught you slacking," said Aaron a triumphant smile on his face.

Normally Tina word have snapped, or said something in return, but her brain froze. She looked back around to the door, and moved robotically toward the classroom door. She raised trembling fingers to the door, but they would not function. An arm reached over and opened the door.

Aaron looked down at her quizzically, as he held the door. She turned her expressionless face away and moved to her desk. She sat down and knew her face was probably pale. Her knees shook. How crazy that one simple touch could wake up so many of the emotions of that day.

She barely heard a word her teacher said that day. She was too deep in thought. Though only one phrase was in her mind as she spaced out everything around her.

Will I ever be the same again?

Page 34