Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration.
If you are of a sensitive disposition DO NOT READ THIS.
Laura sat on the lounger looking out over the small garden of her suburban home. It was late into summer; the flowers were in full bloom and the hedges were filled with twittering birds. It was a peaceful, beautiful scene, guaranteed to put you at rest. It had no effect on Laura however as she sat; as so often happened when her mind was allowed to wander the memories began to rise up again, filling her thoughts with their dark recollections.
She remembered the night two years previously. She had been out with people from work. They had ended up in a nightclub dancing and chatting and flirting until the time came to leave. The night was busy and when they reached the stand they found there were no taxis. Everyone else lived on the other side of town so against their protests and confident that she had not had too much to drink Laura said she would walk home.
She remembered the walk through the dark, dead streets. The cool night air had gotten to her and she felt light-headed. She muttered to herself an old joke that she had heard and giggled to herself at the punchline. The laugh was so great that she stumbled over her high-heels and nearly fell on her backside. Embarrassed for herself her looked around and only saw a single man slowly walking along the path, his face hidden by the shadows.
Laura remembered being concerned about the shadowy figure; something about him disturbed her. She turned back in the direction of her home. Picking up the pace as fast as her wobbly heels could take her. Occasional glances over her shoulder showed he was still there, easily keeping pace, if anything shortening the distance.
She remembered turning into the laneway of her apartment block. Her breath laboured from the unaccustomed speed. She heard the figure’s footsteps on the concrete. Looking back in horror, realizing that she was too far to run she waited. A man, emerged from behind the wall guarding the lane. He moved confidently and quickly, crossing the street and continuing down along the main road. He didn’t even notice her. laura remembered feeling incredibly foolish.
She remembered the walk up the laneway and finding a man lurking right at the door. It was Clive, her neighbour. He seemed very drunk, so much so he couldn’t figure out how to use the key to open the door. She offered to do it for him and he murmured thanks.
Laura remembered helping Clive up the stairs. As they reached his apartment he said something about how grateful he was and opened his arms for a hug. She jokingly accepted only to find that he then held her so tight that she could not get free. As his door opened, Laura could smell the alcohol on his breath and hear him speaking about how much he wanted her, how he knew she wanted him. She could feel him starting to pull her inside.
She remembered saying no to him; telling Clive to stop. But he chose to ignore her, instead his grip tightens and his voice took on a darker turn. Not actually saying but implying with the strength of his words and the hands that held her that resistance would not be a good idea. He then pushed her against the wall in his corridor, forced her skirt up and took her.
Laura remembered it not lasting long. Clive used her and when he had his fill of her he pushed her back out of the door and slammed it behind her. Laura walked over to her door. He body aching and her mind in tatters. Had that just happened? Was she dreaming? It didn’t feel real, she felt that she might have been going mad.
She remembered the smell of him on her. She tore her tainted clothes of herself and stepped into the shower. She welcomed the hot water in the hope that it would wash away how she felt. She didn’t know how long she was in the shower, she lost track of time but her misery was interrupted by her Roommate Sandie. The look of annoyance on Sandie’s face instantly changed to concern when she saw laura.
Laura remembered clutching her cup of tea while telling Sandie what has happened, hesitating often due to the still present shock, and then protesting loudly when Sandie marched over to Clive’s door. Sandie must have spent ten minutes shouting vile abuse against the unresponsive door after which she went straight to the phone and called the guards. “Let’s give the bastard what’s coming to him” she said confidently.
Laura remembered the Garda cars, a glimpse of Clive being lead out in cuffs, a quick perfunctory exam by a doctor overworked as it was and questions after questions. They left her in a waiting room while Sandie tried to get into contact with the Laura’s family.
She remembered the woman Garda who came in with yet another cup of tea. She sat beside Laura, looked into her eyes and explained the situation. “I want to start by saying that I believe you; we all do. The thing is. We have seen a lot of cases like this. If it goes to trial with no physical evidence of being forced, it will be your word against his. We cannot tell you how it might go.” She put her hand over Laura’s “I wish we did; but we don’t. I might get very difficult for you.”
She remembered the wait for the wheels of justice to turn. She left the apartment; she couldn’t bear to see that hallway again, she moved back to the suburbs with her family, Sandie visited regularly. Clive was bailed and moved to a friend’s. They tried to keep it a secret but things got out, they always do. People split over what they believed, two stories were circulating, the rumour mill was spinning. There was counselling but it could only do so much. Laura’s work suffered, she never went out.
Laura remembered the trial coming after twenty months. She saw Clive for the first time outside her memories; looking nervous, as if he was waiting for an exam. She remembered the defence barrister; an odious turd from the deepest pits Clive’s family’s money could afford. He questioned Laura on every part of her story, asked her about her sex life, he even showed video stills from the nightclub detailing every man she had talked to, and offering signs on flirtatious body language.
She remembered his closing speech “Reasonable doubt. That is what I am here to provide. You have to ask yourself , ‘is it reasonable?’ Could Ms Williamson here, bereft of male attention, yielded to my clients innocent advances and then, shamed by what she had done, invented the story of saying no, without fighting or struggling or resisting in any way to save her damaged reputation? You don’t need a certain doubt, just a reasonable one. But if you have a doubt; a reasonable doubt, then it is your duty, ladies and gentlemen, your responsibility even, to acquit my client.”
Laura remembered the verdict. It was a majority; acquitted of all charges. The judge said he was free to go and all laura and her family could do was watch. She saw Clive smile, he actually smiled, and hug his lawyers. The papers were filled on how justice was not done and once again the same talking heads came out and decried the problems with the system. Questions were asked but nothing changed. laura; anonymous to the world, was left to fade into the background.
She sat back into the lounger as she often did when left alone. She searched her pockets and removed the collection of sleeping pills and painkillers that she had acquired from trusting shopkeepers and liberated from friend’s bathrooms. She had more than enough there, she had enough for quite some time.
The only thing that stopped her taking them was the thought; the horrible thought, of something she had once heard. It was said memories live on after you die and the thought of living with such horrible memories was not something that Laura could abide. It was a fantasy but it had kept the thoughts of ending it all at bay.
The question was; for how much longer?