Thank you to my wonderful Beta and best friend, Laura.
"Aiofe, I'm leaving."
"Yes, I'm going home. I cannot stay with my uncle forever."
"What will happen with us? When are you going?"
"You ask too many questions. I leave first thing tomorrow morning."
"That's so soon. Will I see you again?"
"I hope not. I love you, Aiofe, I really do, but you need to get on with your life, as I need to get on with mine."
"So this is it, you go home tomorrow, and just forget all about me? I thought we had something here!"
"Oh Aiofe, don't be silly, I could never forget about you. You're so special to me."
"But you're leaving me, and you just said-"
"Aiofe, don't you see? We still have today. Let's make it the best day of our lives; one we will never forget." He reached out and caressed my face, his fingers soft and warm. I leaned into his touch, trying to memorize his smell, and his heat. His hands trailed down my neck until his arms were securely wrapped around me. He pulled me forward into his embrace and leant in, pressing his lips to mine. The kiss was soft and gentle at first, but became deeper and rougher quickly, his hands suddenly possessive on my waist. He walked us backwards so my back was pressed against a tree trunk,the bark digging into my spine painfully. I jerked my head to the side in protest, flattening my palms against his chest. "Reuben , stop. You're hurting me."
He angled his head to the side, where he could reach my neck with his mouth, sucking a mark into my neck greedily. "I'm not going to hurt you, my love. Just relax; we're just having some fun. Having a day we will remember." His hands slid lower down my back, until they were touching my butt.
"Reuben , don't, please. I'm not comfortable with this." I pleaded hopelessly, tensing up.
Reuben continued to kiss my neck, and murmured into it, "Just trust me, Aiofe. Would I ever hurt you?" Too quickly, he hooked his fingers into the belt loops of my shorts and yanked them down my legs, along with my panties before I could push him away. He dragged his fingernails along my flesh, exposing me to the forest and his hungry eyes, even as I cried out.
"Reuben ! Please stop, please!"
Aiofe jerked awake, tangled in her blanket and coated in sweat. Her breath came out laboured and panting, her chest heaving as she stared emptily up at the ceiling. She sighed in relief when she saw she was in her room, safely in her own bed. As her heart slowed down its frantic gallop, she reached down and touched her stomach, it definitely felt slightly larger than usual and slightly hard. I'll tell him today. She had made this silent promise to herself multiple times, but this time it was real, this time she had planned it all out in her head.
Aiofe pulled the blanket off her legs and placed her feet firmly on the cold, wooden floor. Yawning fiercely, she plodded in the direction of the bathroom, pausing outside her dad's door; his snoring could be heard, vibrating through the plaster and wood between his mouth and her ears. Satisfied, she wandered into the bathroom and shut the door behind her. Humming quietly, she put the plug into the bottom of the tub and flicked the taps on. She went to relieve herself while she waited on the tub filling up. While she sat down on the toilet, she realised how common an occurrence this was, waking up in a state from the same dream, going for a bath to rid of the sweat and then trying to persuade herself to tell someone. Somehow, for god knows what reason, she never did.
The park was buzzing with life, like an ant hill, children swarming all over the toys and parents running after them with sun cream and tissues. Aiofe and her dad found a vacant bench and sat down on opposite ends. Aiofe sat sideways with her back on the armrest; she tucked her legs in underneath her.
Her father reached down and unclipped the dog's leash and the Labrador immediately bounded towards a strangers' picnic.
Joseph turned to his daughter; she was shifting about on the bench agitatedly. "Aiofe? What's going on?" He snapped. "You're attracting attention, we're strictly here on business, remember?"
Aiofe nodded. She had gone over this hundreds of times in her head, although in her head there wasn't her 6 foot 8 drug dealer father in front of her. "Dad, can I tell you something?" She ventured.
He was looking over her shoulder at a black van that had pulled up on the curb, his wild eyes eager, distracted.
"Sure kid, make it quick; that looks like the merchandise van." Clearing her throat, Aiofe nodded and gulped down her fears.
"Dad, a while back, that day Reuben told me he was leaving, he ra-" Her dad abruptly put a hand on her shoulder and roughly shoved her, and she fell onto the gravel beside the bench with a yelp.
She felt a sting in her elbow and looked at it, blood ran down her arm in a steady trickle and pieces of gravel were stuck in the small wound. Angrily, she looked up at her dad and glared at him, her look faltering at the oddly blank expression on his face. She started to pick herself up from the ground and in the sudden, unnatural silence she heard a soft click. It didn't sound too far away, perhaps five of six the noise, she stilled, and continued to watch her dad, who stood with stiff shoulders and wide eyes; he put his hand on the back of the bench and started to get onto the floor, his movements carefully slow.
There was a terrible, loud, rackety noise and pieces of metal flew everywhere. From her vantage point on the floor, Aiofe could see children falling from climbing frames and running frantically to their mothers' arms. People fell all around, clutching wounds and bleeding. Aiofe looked up at her dad again, lost. He was shouting something to her, but her daze clouded her hearing, and she stared blankly at him. His eyes goggled, his arms flew forwards, something else flew forwards too, it splattered, wet and warm across her face. Her father pitched forward and fell ontop of her, twitching and moaning very gently. The noise stopped and car tyres squealed in the distance. She pushed her fathers' now still form off her torso; he rolled so his face was on the floor. She sat up slowly and looked down at him; there was a massive wound on the back of his head, bits of shrapnel lay in blood. Still. His heart had stopped, he was dead.
Aiofe stood up and looked around, still unable to comprehend what was happening. People were screaming, sobbing, and lying still on the ground, staining the grass an ugly crimson. Children clung to their respective parents like koalas clinging to the tops of their home trees in a forest fire.
Aiofe pulled her dad's rucksack off the bench and slung it over her shoulders. She stumbled blindly away from the bench and towards the main road. She looked back at the bench where they had been sitting, there was bullet hole in a diagonal line across the back, the metal was buckled; it looked beaten and bruised and sorry.
Aiofe turned her back and walked away, with a sense of emptiness. Now wasn't the time to examine her feelings on the situation. Right now, she needed to be alone. Keeping her eyes down, she followed the crowds and the lines on the pavement. She weaved through and around crowds, dodging under and between people, who didn't even seem to notice as she barrelled past. As she turned a corner, she broke into a sprint. She passed a sign for the police station and took a right with the rest of the crowds, shouldering past the people who muttered feebly in protest.
Aiofe ran through the car park, where people were gathered, doctors and nurses working from tents and vehicles, tending the wounded and carting away the dead. Aiofe barely glanced at the organized chaos around her while she darted through the crowd. She wasn't paying attention to where her feet were taking her, which is why she grunted suddenly as she slammed into something hard. She looked up to find a man in a police uniform, wearing a bulletproof vest and sporting a baton strapped to his belt. The star attached to his jacket told her he was the Chief of Police, Charlie Reynolds. Aiofe noted with a faint sense of relief that she recognized him; he was the officer that had helped her after the encounter with Reuben .
He put a hand on her shoulder and peered at her. "Aiofe Harley? Joseph's daughter?"
"Where's your father?"
She kept her eyes fixed on his badge as she spoke. "He's dead. Lying in a puddle of his own blood on the ground in the park."
Chief Reynolds blinked and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a packet of tissues. "Better clean up your face before someone thinks you're injured and throws you to the next available doctor."
She took a tissue from the packet he held out to her and scrubbed every essence of someone else's being from her face, wincing at the scarlet-smeared handkerchief as she finished.
"Aiofe, is there anybody there for you at home?"
She looked up at him, and shook her head. "I don't mind though, I don't need anyone."
He took the dirty tissue from her and looked into her eyes. "Aiofe, the last time we spoke I had just found you in the woods after had just been raped, and if I remember correctly, you needed someone then," he nodded to her enlarged stomach, "And you can't handle that on your own, can you?"
"What are you trying to say? That you want to put me in an orphanage to be shipped away to some complete strangers who want to pretend that I belong to them? That I should give up my baby? That you don't think I can do this?" The words gushed from Aiofe's mouth before she even considered them. She gestured to her stomach. Tears were suddenly streaming down her face and falling onto her t-shirt.
The man shook his head, "No, Aiofe. You're a strong girl; I know you can deal with a baby. I just don't want to see you have to go though it alone. Nor do I want to see you so upset. You know, there are plenty of local people who would look after you, one of your father's friends perhaps?" His voice was gruff, but Aiofe could hear the good intent behind the words. Still, she was a little ill at ease.
She shuffled her feet,
"Joseph doesn't HAVE friends. And who would want me once they find out that I'm pregnant with a rape baby?" She spoke harshly, "I can do this alone, as you said, I'm strong."
He put a hand on her arm, and spoke before she could throw it off. "Aiofe, you're 15. You can't live alone, you can't. You've got no choice in the matter. But I'll tell you what, go and sit in my office and when I'm done here, I'll join you and we can discuss your options." Before she could argue, he pressed a set of keys into her hand and pointed to the one for his office.
Aiofe couldn't help but snap back once more, bitterness swelling beneath her ribs. "But you just said I don't have a choice, now you speak of options?" She hated her voice for wobbling. Sniffing, she hurriedly walked away before he could answer, dragging a hand across her cheeks to angrily wipe off the weak tears.
Aiofe walked inside the building, looking around with a detached sort of interest. It was new and, well, round. The seats were round, the tables were round, the reception desk was round, even the room was a circular shape.
She quickly found the Chief's office and let herself in, key fumbling in the lock as she struggled to get in before someone questioned her presence.
Inside, the office was well-decorated, with a brown leather couch, an oak desk and beige walls. Aiofe took a seat on the couch and dumped the rucksack on the floor. It landed with a dull thud. She sighed and peeked out the large window. Chief Reynolds was talking to a tall, middle-aged man with blonde hair and light eyes. He was wearing loafers and smart trousers under his doctor's uniform.
They seemed to be talking very intently about something, tense mouths and serious eyes. The Chief pointed to the office window and when the other man looked over, Aiofe ducked behind the curtain to avoid eye contact.
Feeling the lengthy day bearing down on her, Aiofe lay down on the couch so nobody could see her and studied the pictures on the walls. Most of them were newspaper clippings that were too far away for her to read the words, but there were pictures of police cars and officers, and children. There was a photograph on the desk of the Chief in a tuxedo beside a woman in a white wedding dress. Chief Reynolds looked noticeably younger and happier, with less frown lines and crinkles around his smiling eyes. His wife was stunning, with her hair curled and pinned back with blue pins, and a fiercely happy grin touched her lips.
Aiofe was reminded of the photos she has seen of her mom, with kind, gentle eyes and a warm smile. She suddenly ached for something she'd never had. With these sombre thoughts occupying her mind, she soon fell asleep on the comfortablecouch, to the muffled background noise of people talking and children crying outside.
She was woken by someone gently shaking her shoulder. Her eyes fluttered open and came to rest on the Chief's worried face. His eyes wore bags of exhaustion and faint frown lines creased his face. "Aiofe, do you want me to give you a lift to your fathers' house to collect your things?" He asked with gentle concern.
"What? Why, where am I going?" Aiofe asked blearily.
He sat on the couch beside her and looked earnestly into her eyes. "I'm not allowed to let you go home and be alone. I don't actually have anywhere for you to go, but I realise you're probably traumatized from seeing what you saw today. Aiofe, would you like to come home with me and stay for tonight?"
She blinked. "I'm not sure. Although; I don't have a choice, do I?" The words tasted sour in her mouth, but she ploughed on. "Okay, I'll go. Do I grab all my stuff from my dad's or just some clothes?"
Evidently, her attempts at bravado weren't as solid as she had hoped.
Chief Reynolds shot her a comforting smile. "Don't look so worried, Aiofe. You won't be alone with a horrible old man in a house. My girlfriend lives with me, and her seventeen year old son lives with me too."
Aiofe's eyes flickered to the photograph and back to the man. Girlfriend? It didn't fit with what she saw, but she stopped herself from asking about it when she realized he was still talking.
"Why would you need all of your belongings? You can get all of your things when we have more permanent arrangements made."
She nodded and looked at the clock. 7:48 PM.
"It's that time already?" Aiofe was startled. She'd been unconscious for a good few hours.
He looked over at the clock and nodded. "It probably went fast because you were sleeping. Are you ready to go? I don't know about you, but I'm starving." Charlie stood up and she followed, grabbing her bag on her way to the door. Together they walked out of the office and towards his cruiser.
Just in case anyone was wondering, Aiofe is pronounced eef-ah, and Reuben in pronounces Roo-ben.
Thank-you for reading. Please review.