It was probably a bad idea, getting so deeply involved with someone over the internet, not knowing who he was or how far away he lived. We thrived on first names and life stories; nothing more. I'm still not sure how we managed to get started video chatting; it's not something I usually do with people I don't know. But it happened.

He would be on the other end of the camera, more or less, watching, listening to the screaming in the house, the fighting, the unrest, seeing the unease and the hurt I bore. I wonder if he could feel the oppression the way I could, if it was a palpable presence over the internet as it was in reality to those experiencing it. I wonder how much he knew, and how much he guessed, and all in all, how much he understood.

Probably more than I gave him credit for.

In return he told me all about HIS pain, his hurt, his anguish. He told me how his dad drank, how his mother had left them, how he was struggling to pay for college and how desperately he wanted to escape from where he was. He felt like he was trapped in a dead end, locked in a cage with no way out.

He felt the way I did; he just put it in words better than I.

Somehow we became very, very close through those video chats. I doubt there was a single secret between us intentionally kept, besides those of surname and location. When my life became too hard for me to bear, I turned on the camera, grabbed my microphone, and sat with a sharpie, talking to my one confidante and drawing butterflies on my skin.

I suspect he thought it was silly, but The Butterfly Project helped me, somehow. Drawing delicate, lovely butterflies with different colors and patterns was to me what yoga must be to a guru. It was soothing, clearing my mind as my friend soothed and cleared my soul. My scars started to heal under the ink, and the unseen ones healed with his tender care.

I'd like to think I helped him as much, but he never said. I suspect I did; it was a two-way street, that relationship. He was there in desperate straits seeking my comfort as much as I was there for his, and neither of us ever stated it aloud (or in any other way) how deeply we needed and appreciated the other.

I suppose that made what happened that night so much worse for both of us.

By that time, my friend had gotten used to me leaving abruptly, shutting the computer down with such suddenness I'm still surprised I didn't give it one of those odd complexes computers get when you don't go through the five minute long shut-down procedure. This night was no different; I heard the monster coming again, the awful brute that had somehow remained a 'boarder' in our house. I knew he was nothing more than my father's drug buddy, and though everyone else did too, no one cared.

And no one cared what he did to me when he was lucid enough to stand.

I stuttered out a rapid-fire apology and goodbye to my friend, but for once he did not let me leave.

"I want to help, please, don't go," he pleaded.

"You can't help; you don't know where I am, and if I told you you STILL couldn't help. It would make no difference, no matter what you did." I spoke hurriedly, the pounding feet coming slowly down the stairwell punctuating my sentences.

"Then tell me why you run, tell me what's going on, let there for you somehow!" He was frustrated, anxious, worried.

I didn't answer him, I just turned off the computer screen and the speakers, leaving the rest going. He would see; and he'd regret it.

I know I regretted it. I still do. I wish I'd never let him see what came next.

Sokko threw my door open, catching me as I stood from the computer chair and moved over towards my bed. I knew what was coming; and I knew I'd never be able to stop him. But still I fought. He was taller than me, a hard user of some drug that I couldn't remember, but somehow his thick body was still built like a foot-ball player's. I wonder if he took steroids or something too.

And that night, he was drunk.

I'd never seen him intoxicated, and I was fast finding out how bad it could be. I tried to escape him, but he grabbed me, his grip like iron. He swung me around, pulling me against him, so I could smell his sweat and the liquor on his breath. He stank like filthy male, and I could almost taste his dirt on my tongue. I gagged as he grabbed my hair to hold me still and pressed his rough, slimy lips on my mouth, trying to drive his tongue inside it. I would have bitten him, could I do it with my mouth closed.

His other hand made itself busy undoing my clothes, warring with my hands as I fought him urgently. Finally he let go of my hair and grabbed my wrists in his hands, pinning them behind my back with one of his big, beefy paws and groping me with the other, working my pants off. When his fingers found their way inside my underwear I ripped one of my hands free, slapping at him. He grabbed me and slammed my head into the wall, once, twice, again...again...again. I lost track of how many times I impacted; but when it stopped I was limp and listless, aware of what was happening to me but helpless to fight it.

Sokko's fascination with the wall didn't end there. Having ripped away my shirt while flinging me around by it, he shoved me against the wall roughly and yanked at my bra, unbending the hooks in back so that came undone and slipped off my arms. The hooks had been so badly bent from repeated abuse that they scarcely worked anymore. He squeezed my exposed breast as he dropped his pants. He never undressed fully, but he always wanted me stripped down to bare nothing.

Over his shoulder I could see the webcam atop my monitor, and as I stared into the lens I realized what a mistake I'd made letting my heart's friend watch this. I hope he'd turned it off, looked away. Hidden. I felt so ashamed at what was happening to me. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I turned my gaze to the ceiling, not seeing anything, hardly aware of the man pressed against me, inside me, tearing me apart in more ways than one. He had my arms pinned above my head, his hand roaming me as he invaded my body.

When finally he was done, he released me abruptly, standing aside as I collapsed down the wall to curl in on myself brokenly. I felt shattered, so much worse than ever before. Sokko discarded me like a used banana peel, yanking his pants up and buttoning them, but not zipping his fly, sauntering out of my room and leaving the door wide open.

It felt like ages that I sat there, semi-conscious, feeling warm blood dripping down my neck and thighs, aching in so many insurmountable ways that I knew it would always be with me. The hot tears still rolled from my cheeks, but I didn't care. I could taste their saltiness on my open lips as I rasped in air slowly, harshly, like an old woman with lung cancer. I felt like I was dead.

Somehow I managed to crawl the foot or so to the door, swing it closed, and pull a blanket from the bed to cover me. I wasn't aware enough to clean up the blood. With a motion I didn't even have to think about, I turned the monitor back on. On the screen was my friend's face, ghastly white and horror-struck. He'd obviously watched the whole thing. The anguish in his hazel eyes pierced me through, wounding me on a level I could never describe, with a pain no words can ever give voice to.

Dimly my mind registered a sound coming from my headset. In my haste I'd forgotten that turning off the speakers does no good when the headset is active. Numbly I put it over my ears; it sat awkwardly, but I was too drained to realize how to fix it.

"I am so, so sorry..." I blinked, tried to focus on his face. His shaggy, dirty-blonde hair was sweat soaked and plastered to his face, and his eyes flitted back and forth as though looking for a way to jump through the computer to my side.

"Don' your...fault..." I could hardly speak; I wonder what empowered me to form words.

On the monitor, my friend cried.

And I hung my head, staring at the floor. The blanket slid off my shoulders, but I couldn't care. I just sat there, hearing his soft, heartbroken sobs of helplessness in my ear.