The Color Of Hell

The entire country collectively held its breath yesterday, hoping against hope that two teenage girls who had been kidnapped would be found alive. The resulting national sigh was nearly audible; after all, this country needs good news. They were alive. Safe. Getting these two girls back, so soon after the rescue of nine trapped miners in PA, was one of those things that both makes your heart swell and lumps form in the throat. Two good things followed potential tragedy.

But I kept hearing the same thing on TV: “Now they need time to get over it. They’ll get over it. Over it.”

That’s wishful thinking.

After the bloom of relief falls off this rose, these girls will be left with an unbelievable amount of anger, fear, sadness, and guilt. Therapy will probably help them get on with life, and let them live it to its fullest, but you never get over being so thoroughly, selfishly violated. It’s always there, stuck behind a cobweb in the recesses of the brain, whispering dark thoughts, a numb finger drawing dark shadows that color every future relationship.

More than just a couple of decades ago there was this fifteen year old girl; she had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, most of them her own age, but some of them older. She was particularly fond of one of the older friends; he was a senior, had a car, money, was funny and charming and considerate. He was nineteen years old – if he’d been just two years younger she would have asked him to come over and meet her parents; if he were younger he would have been just the type they would have approved her dating.

He was tool old by their standards, so she intentionally neglected to mention his existence. What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.

Not too long before she turned sixteen, she joined friends at a riverside party; the parents assumed this was a gathering of her younger friends – she never told them any different, and allowed them their assumption – and provided her a ride to a friend’s house. The friend’s parents would be driving them to the party. Or so she told them.

The river was a short walk from the friend’s house, and they made their way through thick overgrowth of bushes and trees to join the throng of high school juniors and seniors on the small, secluded beach by the river. There was a small fire for roasting hot dogs and toasting marshmallows, Frisbees and a radio blaring, and a cooler full of soft drinks. And a pony keg filled with beer.

It was a loud, typical teen party; kids paired off, wandered away to make out, splashed in the water, told stupid stories, and there was a lot of laughter. Laughter that rose above the music, enough noise that had this party been held at someone’s house, the neighbor’s would have called the police.

It was loud enough to drown out the screams of a fifteen year old girl who saw, in violent flashes of bared teeth and clenched fists, the other side of that charming nineteen year old senior. The drunk senior who wouldn’t take no for an answer, the kid who used sweatsocks to bind her wrists together, the man who tore into her so many times she lost count, so many times she wanted to slip inside herself and just die.

She didn’t dare tell anyone, especially not her parents, whom she was sure would blame her for everything. It would be her fault, just rewards for lying about where she would be, who she would be with. A deserving consequence for being out with That Boy. The sad thing is that she was right. Her parents would have blamed her.

The secret stayed buried for years; she got on with the business of living life, carefully at first, so that on one would know her secret. Later she was able to find some slice of happiness – she fell in love with a decent man, married him, had a kid, and had a Good Life.

But it never went away. It’s always there, looming, holding her back from ever being able to fully give of herself, no matter how much she wants to. It touches every remote aspect of intimacy, of trust. It colors everything, even the moments of joy. A simple kiss is Expectation. A hug is a Demand. Praise is nothing more than a Way He Gets What He wants.

Those two girls who spent a lifetime of terror in just those few short hours may have help, but they will never get over it. It will be there, always, hovering in the back of their minds, whispering, touching, reminding. The insidious deviant who did this to him, who died at the hands of the police, he got off easy.

He delivered them hell, and got off easy.

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