It was hot. Really, really hot. Canadian summers didn’t get this hot. Not usually. I tossed and turned in my small, single bed. My beige sheets were tangled around my torso. The window right above me was opened, the refreshing air spilling into my small room. Refreshing, but not cooling. I sat up, accepting that I was not going to sleep tonight. I squinted into the darkness, trying to make out the shapes that loomed outside my opened door. I could faintly see the outline of the small kitchen table by the counter. I saw the curtains move a little as they were brushed by the air that was coming in from the opened window above the table. I got up, hearing the old floor boards squeak beneath my bare feet. I felt my white silk nightgown brush the top of my knees. I tried to quietly make my way out of the cottage. I don’t know why I tried to be quiet, my aunt slept like a rock anyway. I couldn’t help the little grin that surfaced my face when I heard her snore from the room next to mine. I debated putting on my sandals which were located between the door and the small black leather couch. Why leather? I had no idea; it didn’t even go with the rest of the cottage. I decided on going out barefoot. I quietly unhooked the chain that latched the door and turned the knob. The heavy wooden door opened with a creek. As I stepped out onto the porch, I snuck a glance back into the cottage. I saw my aunt sleeping peacefully in her room. I couldn’t help but wonder how she could possibly sleep in this heat. I shook my head a little and closed the door behind me. I opened the screen door and walked down the three wooden steps. I felt the cool stone beneath my feet as I took a deep breath of fresh air. I smiled, feeling flooded with childhood memories. I stepped onto the soft grass and started walking around the property, at first not sure as to where I was going to go. However I suppose my subconscious knew where I was going to whole time, because I quickly recognised the path to the creak and the well. As I walked along the small path I couldn’t help but think back. This wasn’t the first time that I had snuck out of that cottage. No, I had been sneaking out for eight years, since I was only eleven. There was just something about the peacefulness of the night that lured me out. Not just the peacefulness, but the mystery. What was the world like at night when everyone else was sleeping? It was almost as if I was taking a peek at something that I wasn’t supposed to see. There was always something magical about night time for me. Before I knew it I had reached the creak. I smiled contently as the cold water washed over my bare feet. As I walked along with the small current I could feel the sand and the odd rock underneath my feet. I looked up and through the trees I could see the moon shinning down onto the earth and reflecting off the water. I even managed to spot the occasional bright star. The further along I walked, the deeper the woods got, and the more I seemed to be transported into my own world. I world that I had found eight years ago. It was my sanctuary, my escape from the real world. And after being away to university I was happier than ever to finally be back. To finally get that alone time that I had desperately missed over the past year. Standing alone in the darkness ahead of me was the well. That well was like a friend to me. I had watched it grow from bright red brick to faded red brick, highlighted with dirt and moss. It had watched me grow from just a toddler who couldn’t walk without her aunt, to an energetic child who marveled at her independence, to a hormone filled, attitude propelled teenager, to an adult who was still trying to find her way. It watched as I brought my dolls to play in the creek. It watched as I went through my hair colouring phase. And it watched as I fell victim to an event that changed me as a person. I walked up to it, stepping out of the creek and onto the cool grass, and reached out. My fingers lingered on the cool brick. I dragged them around the edge, feeling everything. The brick, the dirt, the moss, the moisture of the air that settled into the small structure. I leaned against the well, feeling the silk of my nightgown being tugged by the rough brick. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Feeling as if I was being reunited with an old friend; with nature. I couldn’t help but smile at the secret that the well had kept for three years now. It wasn’t the secret that made me smile, because that was a dark secret I suppose, but it was the fact that no one else knew about it. With my eyes still closed, I thought back to that warm summer night, when I was only sixteen. Was it ever a vivid memory.
My hair was blonde and short at the time. I had a nightgown almost identical to the one that I wore now, except this one was a rich red and quite a bit shorter. It was a hot summer night, just like this one. I had decided that I wanted to share my place of comfort. Not with my best friend, no, but with my boyfriend. Well my then-boyfriend. I wanted it to be our special place. We had been going out together for eight months, I thought he was the one. I snuck out of the cottage at around midnight and sat on the steps, waiting for him to arrive.
“What are you doing?” I asked in a harsh whisper.
“Turn that flashlight off!”
“Why? We’re the only ones around for miles.”
I sighed. “Because you don’t need it. We have the moon and the stars.” I got up, took his flashlight, turned it off and set it on the steps. I filled the empty space of his hand with mine. “Come on, let’s go.” I started leading him towards the creak.
“Where are we going again?”
“I told you. There’s a spot in the woods with the creak and the well, it’s beautiful.”
I pouted. “Don’t say it like that, you’ll see why I like it so much.” I led him to the creek. Once we seemed to have disappeared from the world, he was more into it. Water flew around us as we splashed and laughed and smiled like little kids. At that moment, I was happy to have shared this spot with him. We stood together in the creek, by the well as water trickled by us. He pulled me close and we rested our heads together. I couldn’t help but smile. To this day, I could still feel his lips against mine. We got a little carried away as we splashed out of the creek. I felt him press me against the well, then I felt his hand slip underneath my nightgown.
“No.” I said breathless.
“No? Why not?” He took a step back, almost as if he didn’t want to be near me.
I straightened up. “Because I’m not ready.”
“Don’t you love me?”
“Of course I do!” I cried out.
“Then why won’t you do this?”
“I told you, I’m not ready.”
There was a flicker of something in his eyes, looking back, it was anger. I guess that at this point I should mention that he was two years older than me, almost three. I think that might have made a difference in the way that he treated me that night. “It’s because there’s someone else right?! There’s someone else and you’ve already slept with him. That’s what it is! You just don’t want me to see that you’ve gained experience.” His voice was ice and his words cut through me.
“Someone else?! What are you talking about? You know you’re the only one! You know that I love you.”
“I don’t believe that. You’re lying to me.” He had walked back towards me and now his face was only inches away from mine, but it wasn’t comforting in any way. I was scared.
“I’m not lying. I swear.” I tried to keep my voice steady. But my breath quickened as I tried to anticipate what he was going to do next.
“I don’t believe you!” I watched as his hand rose up and I heard the deafening crack of skin against skin. My cheek stung and tears threatened to fall. I closed my eyes in an attempt to stop them. My heart was breaking, I couldn’t believe that he had hit me. Before I could find words I felt him pin himself against my body, his hand once again making its way up my nightgown. “Show me what you’ve learnt.” He grumbled.
I tried to wiggle out from underneath him and I felt his hand scratch my hip. “No! Let me go!”
“You’re not denying it anymore! I knew that there was someone else!” He pushed me back and the brick scraped the top of my legs. I winced in pain. But I refused to cry.
“Let me go!”
“No! You’re supposed to love me! Only me!”
I took his face in my hands in an attempt to calm him down. “I do! Only you, I swear! Just...just let me go.”
He had a tight grip on my waist with both hands. I could feel his fingers digging into my skin. I knew that I would have five grape sized bruises underneath my ribs on either side of my body in the morning. “You’ve never ask me to let you go before!”
“You’ve never tried to rape me before!” I said in rage.
“It’s not rape.” He said shaking his head, almost in a calm voice. “It’s not rape when you’re in love.” I didn’t think it was possible, he put even less space between our bodies. His tight grip on my waist loosened as he started pulling my nightgown off.
“No!” I screamed. Without thinking my hand lashed out and hit his face. Causing yet another deafening smack. I immediately saw a red handprint surface on his cheek. He stopped moving and let go of my nightgown. Rage flared in his eyes as he grabbed my bare shoulders with an even tighter grip than the one he had on my waist.
“You are going to regret that. You’re going to regret the moment that you said no to me!”
I was frozen in fear. I forced myself not to cry. I refused to cry in front of people and that wasn’t about to change that night.
“Let go of me.” I said through clenched teeth, trying not to focus on the pain shooting through my shoulders, or the itchy feeling of blood running down the back of my legs.
“Why would I do that? You’re just gonna go cry in someone else’s arms.”
“I don’t cry in front of anyone.” I tried to free myself of his steel grip, but it was no use. He was too big for me, and all his weight was pressed against me.
He ignored what I had said. “You’re just gonna go give yourself to him! He’ll get to see a part of you that I never got to see! Why should he get to have you when I’m the one who’s in love with you?!”
“If you really loved me you’d let me go.” I swallowed and took a ragged breath. His grip loosened just a little. I took that opportunity and shoved his shoulders, it didn’t do anything other than slightly unbalance him. But I was ready and that was enough for me to wiggle out from where I had been trapped. I ran in the grass along the creak, but I didn’t get far. I heard footsteps thundering behind me and before I knew it an immense force had pushed me to the ground. I fell with a thud as the wind was knocked out of me. I gasped to catch my breath. I was on my back now and he was on top of me putting an almost unbearable amount of pressure on my chest and stomach. As I slowly gathered my senses, I felt a shooting pain in my ankle and I prayed that I hadn’t broken it. I could feel dirt getting into the scrapes on the back of my legs. In that moment, a part of me was just tempted to give up, to just let him have me. But his next words changed my mind and gave me some more fight.
“I love you too much to let you go.”
It took all the strength that I could muster to say. “You don’t know what love is.” I lay there, pinned to the ground as he rambled on in rage. My mind was reeling, wondering how on earth I was gonna get out of this one. I didn’t even know if I could walk, let alone run. My eyes darted around in hopes that I would see something that would give me an idea as to how I could save myself. Suddenly, I felt another smack against my face; I couldn’t help but cry out in pain.
“You’re not listening to me!” He growled.
“It’s not like you listen to me. Get off of me!”
“So you can run again? Not a chance! I’m gonna make you feel what love is! You’re gonna feel it, and you’re gonna like it! And then you’ll never want anyone other than me!” I heard the terrible ripping sound of silk. He had shifted just a little, but that gave me enough room to bring up my good leg and knee him right where it hurt. I had no idea where all this extra strength was coming from because I was exhausted. I rolled out from underneath him, despite the pain that resonated through my body. I scrambled to sit up on the bank of the creek. I grabbed a fallen branch that was lying beside me. This was a good branch. It was about three feet long and thicker than my leg.
“Touch me again and see what happens.” My voice shook as the words left my mouth. The man that I recognised as my boyfriend seemed to surface once again. He stood in front of me, his mouth open in shock, his brown eyes wide with sorrow.
“I’m sorry...I don’t...I don’t know what happened.” He muttered on meaningless apologies.
“Leave. I don’t wanna see you ever again.”
“Go! Now. Before I get my strength back and actually use this.”
I looked down at the branch between my hands. By the time I looked up again, I saw his shadow fading away into the darkness. I let the branch fall to my side as I tried to gather myself. I wasn’t ready to cry just yet. I slowly got up and tested out my ankle. Pain fired through my leg as I limped down to the creek. At least I could walk. I felt the cool water beneath my feet. I waded deeper into the water, making my way to the middle of the stream. The water came up to just below my knees. I washed off the dirt that was caked onto my arms. I winced as I passed my hand over my shoulders. I splashed water onto my face, feeling it cool the heated areas on my cheeks. Every time I bent down to reach the water I could feel the bruising underneath my ribs. I tried to ignore that pain by focusing on the back of my thighs, which felt as though they were on fire. I kneeled into the water, letting it wash away the dirt that was stuck inside the gashes. I managed to find a rock big enough to sit on, yet small enough for me to still mostly be in the water. I slipped off my nightgown, letting the warm air caress my bare flesh. I looked at the damages. There was a bid tear at the bottom of the gown and one of the straps was broken. There were dirt and grass stains as well, but those could be washed off. I tossed it aside, onto the shore. I untied my hair and bent back a little, letting the stream wash out the dirt that had gotten into it. I knew that I would need a real shower once I got back, but this was the closest thing to a bath that I could get. I looked down and saw blue spots beginning to surface beneath my ribs. I took a deep breath then gasped in pain. My hands flew to my side. One of my ribs was cracked I was sure of it. It must’ve happened when I was flung to the ground. That was too much for me. Tears started streaming down my face. I couldn’t control myself anymore, tears showered down and became one with the creak. I cried out into the night, only to be responded by a slight breeze. I sat on that rock in the creak with my head in my hands and cried uncontrollably for at least half an hour. My body ached and my soul was bruised. Once my tears had finally slowed I got out of the creak and reculently slipped my nightgown back on. As I did, my eyes fell upon the well about ten feet away from where I was standing. It was the only witness to my horror. I slowly limped back to the cottage, using a strong branch for support. I somehow made it up the steps and into my room. I collapsed onto my bed, but I knew that I couldn’t sleep just yet. I took as much of a breath as I could and I sat up again. I changed out of my nightgown and limped to the bathroom. I closed the door and turned the light on. I opened the medicine cabinet and took out two long beige bandages. One of them for around my ankle, and the other for around my ribs. More tears fell as I looked into the full length mirror. I still had dirt caked onto my face. Both my cheeks had bright red handprints. My shoulders were already showing signs of bruising. I had scrapes along my arms. Just as I predicted I had five marks on either side of my waist accompanied with various red marks. On my hip I had three big red scratches. The scratches were deep enough for blood to have surfaced. I turned around a little and whimpered at the sight of my thighs. Even though they had soaked in water for over half an hour, there was still dry blood down my legs. The entire backside of them was red. The beautiful tan colour that I had worked so hard to achieve was gone, only to be replaced by hanging skin and blood. I had to stop looking. As I bent down to wrap my ankle, I noticed that it was about as big as a baseball. Once I had finished my amateur medical procedures I made my way to my bed and just collapsed again. I was too tired to even try and fathom an explanation for my situation. However, I did something that for the first time of my life, I did out of my own will. I prayed. I thanked God - or whoever the hell it was who was up there – for letting me live, and live a virgin. Yes I was badly banged up, but it could always be worse and I was thankful to have stayed strong.
So that’s the story that the well will always keep a secret. I never felt the need to tell anyone what had happened to me that summer night. I explained my injuries with a few vague sentences and I healed pretty quickly even though there was some scarring left on the back of my thighs. The bruises on my soul however took a little longer to heal. I wrestled a lot with whether or not this was my fault. In the end, I figured that it didn’t matter. This secret had made me a stronger woman. I knew that I had fight in me and that gave me confidence that I could take care of myself.
I opened my eyes and looked around. Nothing had changed much in three years. I smiled and looked down into the well. This would always be our secret story. I walked back to the cottage, feeling happy with my travels back to the past. It was an event that marked me as a woman and I didn’t want to ever forget it. I slipped into the cozy cottage and quickly fell asleep, but not without a final little prayer of thanks. Because I was still thankful.
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