Free Souls, Chapter 18

“Damn!”

Sandy looked with disgust at the empty plastic container.  It was 3:00 AM one night a week or so past the middle of April and she had a project due at noon that same day.

“What is it?” asked Mike, who sat the next table over.  “You put a hole in your vellum?”

“No, I’m out of F leads.  You have any I can borrow?”

“No, I prefer HBs.  The store downstairs should be unlocked, with all the studios that have deadlines tomorrow.”  He grinned.  “They trust us not to steal the place blind, I can’t imagine why!”

“I guess so,” Sandy said.  “Thanks.”

She ran down to the basement, alone, to buy what she needed.  Her money had just clinked into the lock box on the counter when she turned and there was Jeff Chesters, of all people, standing with his hand on the knob of the now-closed door.

“Well, well, well,” he drawled, in a voice that was slightly slurred. “If it isn’t little Sandy Beichten.”

She couldn’t speak. Immediately she knew it was all wrong. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be, how he was supposed to be.

“Hi, Jeff,” she finally managed to croak out. “I, uh, came down for– I mean, congratulations on your– I have a deadline, I need to– ”

But before she could move he’d taken three strides across the little room and had pinned her against the wooden counter. “Little Sandy Beichten,” he said again. “I’ve seen how you look at me. You’re horny for me. You want me, don’t you?”

She shook her head dumbly. Not like this. Not like this!

“You’re lying,” he said, his face close to hers, his voice rasping in her ear. She could smell the weed on his breath as the stubble of his beard abraded her cheek. “You want me, and tonight I’m going to give you what you want, right here, right now!”

She was trapped between the hardness of his body on one side and the cruel edge of the counter on the other. She tried to push him away but he caught her wrists in a single iron grip.

“It’s no use trying to leave,” he said with a leer. “I locked the door and there’s nobody down here anyway.”

Even so, she tried to scream, but her voice, her limbs, every part of her was paralyzed. Her breath came in short gasps; no, of course she couldn’t breathe, he was pressing the breath out of her. Pinning her arms behind her, he shifted his weight and thrust his hand into her jeans.

It couldn’t be happening. Gone, flown into non-existence were all the romantic visions of art and love; she only knew this outrage couldn’t go on. “You like that,” he was muttering. “And that, don’t you? Your first time, isn’t it? I can tell!” His other hand was entangled in her long hair, tilting her head painfully back; he was trying to kiss her, and the marijuana smell from his arrogant, wet-lipped mouth was making her retch. She tried to turn her face away, and as she did, out of the corner of her eye she saw an open X-Acto knife lying on the store counter. Absorbed by his own performance, Jeff didn’t notice as she wrenched her right arm free, grabbed the razor-sharp blade, and plunged it with all her strength into his left biceps.

He screamed in pain and jumped away from her. “You filthy bitch!” he said, his tone low and ominous as a snake ready to strike. “Just for that, I’ll tear you. I’ll tear you bad!”

“Hey, what’s going on in there?”  A male voice, out in the corridor.  Whoever it was shook the door handle, trying the lock.

Sandy held the blood-smeared knife up where Jeff could see it. “Leave,” she said in a whisper. “Leave now, or I’ll scream. Or I’ll cut you again.”

Clutching his bleeding arm, Jeff looked at her hard, as if to decide if she really meant it. Then he called to whomever it was outside, “It’s ok, I just tripped over something in here, nothing serious. Door must’ve locked on me when I came in, sorry.”

“Chesters, is that you?” the voice said again. “We were looking for you. We’re going to make a donut run. You in for it?”

“Sure,” he responded easily. “I’m right behind you.” In the corridor, the footsteps shuffled. Thank God, whoever it was was waiting.

Sandy stood out of the line of sight of the door as he opened it and stepped into the hall. As he did, he turned on her a look of sheer hatred, then he was gone.

She was never sure how she completed her design that night. She only knew that that night and the rest of the semester she threw herself into her work, trying to blot out the memory, trying to forget.

She never told anyone what happened, not even Tracey, certainly not her friends back home. And neither, to her knowledge, did he. She had no idea how he explained the wound in his bicep and she didn’t care. A month or two later he graduated and moved to New York City or someplace she never intended to work, and now she could only wonder how many other women he’d abused in the same way in the years since then.

She should have reported it, she knew that. But back then, at eighteen, it simply wasn’t possible. She had been afraid she’d be expelled for stabbing him. And even without that, how could she let anyone guess what Jeff had taken from her? The attempted rape of her body had been appalling enough: the destruction of her dreams was more unbearable still.

___________________________

by Catrin Lewis, 1983; revised 2013 & 2014; all rights reserved

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