I don’t feel safe. When things are scary, I draw into myself. There is no one I can trust so I find safety inward. I don’t know when, but I have stopped being able to look at myself in the mirror. I will look at parts of myself: eyes, teeth, hair. Just enough parts to make sure I am presentable. I feel shame, I cannot face my reflection. The girl in the mirror asks questions. She wants to know why things are happening, and if we will ever find love. I try to convince myself that the relationship I have with Charlie is real. I know it is not. He is using me for his pleasure, and I feel like a tablecloth. Spread across the table for everyone to feast upon. At the end of the night I am thrown in with the dirty laundry. I am trying to balance between Ted and Charlie. I want to tell Charlie about Ted, the years of molestation and how it’s still happening. I know what would happen: Charlie would tell his Dad, Pastor W, and somehow it would turn around on me like it always has. I stay quiet, I hide, and when I cannot hide, I shut down. It’s better to stay quiet than to be exposed.
I want: to hold hands, to kiss, to walk around in love and unashamed. I do not have that. I have: hiding, groping, unwanted force, public ridicule, told that I am disgusting, and ugly inside and out. I believe them. I don’t know anything.
I have started spending a lot of time with the preschoolers since I am helping teach them during school hours and babysitting most evenings during Institute. I am using the children to avoid Ted and Charlie. I am so relieved to be away from my desk during the school day. I am free from Ted and his wandering hands under the desk. In the evenings the footsteps from upstairs signal a break in their bible studies. I will hurry up and run into the kids’ room if they are sleeping, or try to busy myself with them if they are awake. I hear Ted’s footsteps on the stairs and my breathing becomes rapid, but I try to stay calm. He will persist, hang around, become agitated. I cannot walk away from him, there is no escape.
One night I don’t hear the footsteps, I miss my cue. I was sitting on the couch alone when Ted walked in the room. I got up, he advanced. I tried to walk past him and he blocked me. I told him “no”, he didn’t seem to hear. We are downstairs in the basement of the church. In a room that only contains a door, not even a window to escape, and no one to hear me call for help if I wanted to scream. I pushed against him and he pushed back, harder than I did. I was back on the couch before I even knew I had been pushed. I realize my helplessness. I apologize, and he has his way.
He tells me that he won’t go “all the way”, because I’m not 18. But it is clear to me that when I am, Ted will have more freedom. The thought of that is terrifying.
I push forward. I stay busy with the kids. They look to me for guidance, care, safety. I do my best to provide this for them. I look at them because I can’t face my own reflection. I am lost, I can’t care for myself, and I won’t feel safe for a long time.