The need, the physical yearning for anonymity struck hard. It sent her on two trains to a suburb she'd never been before, and then it sent her to a bar.
She sat there on her own, drinking cider on an empty stomach, it didn't take long for her to start unraveling. She looks out of place, a girl in a skirt and a too big sweater on her own and she can feel eyes crawling over her but for once she doesn't care.
There's kareoke and she sings, clumsy drunk tongue stumbling over the words and she laughs and laughs. Savage freedom. Dimly acknowledging the time, the last train leaving, she pays and leaves, the cold outside turning her mouth into a surprised 'O'. She has time to realise how extraordinarily drunk she is and then everything fades out a little, trying to walk faster up the overpass, the sense of time running out, the blur of bright train headlights leaving her stranded she's in a police car, they're asking her what she's doing out so late and she tells them about kareoke and she missed her train and thank you guys so much for picking me up.
In the statement that arrives a week later, the officers will write that they'd found her lying on the medium strip, passed out or close enough for there to be no difference, but she doesn't know that now. They exchange weary looks, talk about calling her a taxi, and she hunches down, ashamed a shudder of time and she was out on the streets again, she registers that it had gotten colder and that she didn't know how she'd gotten out of the station (it was only later, when she woke up the next morning with shattered memories threatening to split her mind in two, that she would realise with helpless agony that none of this would have happened if the police had just taken her home), but that the relief of escaping the atmosphere of accusation and cruel fluorescents was almost worth the discomfort.
She trudged along, occasionally stumbling, drunk and scared and chilled to the bone. Her arms wrapped around tight, trying to lose herself in her sweater. She walked as if she was in a tunnel and the car approaching behind her, slowing and stopping beside her, didn't exist until she heard the driver call out, hey, aren't you cold?
Do you want a lift? Blinking and confused, still walking, she replies I'm ok thankyou and hears herself slur the words.
Are you sure? She nods her head twice before the shakes hit again and she buries her head into her shoulder against the wind, keeps walking, one foot in front of the other. Goosebumps painful on her bare legs. The car keeps pace. His voice continues, low and reassuring and implacable. It was cold outside, she wasn't safe on the streets on her own. Slowly her pace dropped and she swung her head right, looking at him, just a guy in a car.
He was smoking a cigarette. She stopped. That's better. Why don't you get in the car and I'll drive you home? Misgiving, gnawing at her brain. She wrenched its teeth free and walked toward the car, half sitting, half falling in the passenger seat. Closed the door, lay back against the seat, head spinning, dazed eyes half closed. Where do you live?
She mumbled her address. He accelerates. They talk, she doesn't remember about what. The afterimage of streetlights rushing past are like comets on the inside of her eyelids.
He gives her cigarettes, better than candy. She'll end up smoking the rest of the packet by the end of the trip. She remembers the man asking if a cute little thing like her had a boyfriend and her answer flying out of her mouth that she'd broken up with him six weeks ago. Another question, and here it got bad, it got really bad, why did you break up with him?
A thousand answers flying through her brain and all she wanted to tell him was the truth. Her mind screaming at her fucking traitorous mouth that she was going to get herself in trouble, you know how he's going to view you if you say it, you know this is a bad idea, you know what you're opening yourself up for, just lie, say it was personality, your families don't get along.
Just don't- We weren't compatible. Oh yeah? In what way? She takes a long drag, holds the smoke in her too full lungs, lets the answer escape along with her exhale.
Sexually. Oh really. Yeah. The question repeated, In what way? and she felt a sudden and overwhelming sense of inevitability. It crushed her. She couldn't breathe. She forced a ragged inhalation. Well, I kind of like it rough, you know. and he wasn't really comfortable with that. she trails away, glances at him, sees his speculative eyes and shudders. Head a mess and spinny with nicotine, dumping tar into her lungs.
His voice a drone in her left ear. She remembers the phrase I wouldn't have expected a girl like you to be into that stuff and then the guilt hits her, distracts her and she breaks into whatever he's saying, apologising, I'm sorry you have to take me home, you don't have to, I'll just get a taxi, I don't want to trouble you.
She says I fucked up, I missed the train. She says, it's my fault. She says that over and over and then he starts telling her that she fucked up, too, and that's comforting.
She only protests weakly when he slides his hand into her panties. The rest of the drive is a blur. She directs him automatically, disconnected from the things he's doing below her waist. She thinks at some point she asks him to slap her, and she only realises how much and how hard he hit the next morning by the ache in the side of her face.
They reach her house, and pass it, she hears her voice say, subdued, almost resigned, I think you drove past, I live back there. and him replying, let's just drive around the block. He pulls into a carpark, stops the car, opens his door and walks around her her side.
Opens her door. He tells her that if she screams, he'll get all his friends to- and she doesn't bother explaining that she doesn't need that, that she was already handled. The inevitability forcing her to her knees, prying her mouth open. Being bent over the car hood, mouth frantically working to produce saliva, hand collecting it and swiping it between her legs before he forces his way in, a single bright and horrified thought, oh jesus I want to IMPRESS him making its way through her protective mask of compartmentalisation.
He told her it was payment. After, he gets her number and calls it to make sure it's correct. He says, you gonna answer when I call? She nods her head yes, her head blank and gone. He hands over her panties, the ones she'll pull on with shaking hands in bed at home, the ones she'll wear for the next three days.
She thanks him for the lift, and flees.
And when he doesn't call like he says he will, as the days afterward stretch and become weeks, she'll realise that she's scared of what would happen if he did, very scared, but not as scared as she is of the thought that she hadn't been good enough, hadn't done a good enough job to warrant a second go.