Tina sat on her bed, the sage green sheets pushed aside for her comfort, listening to her mother berate her father in the next room. She wished she could go to work, but Mel’s was closed for the funerals.
“I ask and I beg and I plead with you,” her mother hissed, “but you just sit there, you lazy, lazy piece of shit!”
“Oh, fuck off, Doris,” her father grumbled.
Tina reached for her iPhone and slipped the earbuds in, hitting Shuffle and letting Beyoncé drown out her parents. She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around her knees.
She hadn’t seen Ray since stealing his four-wheeler. He hadn’t called her or stopped in the Pizzeria. She had not been to church for weeks. She wasn’t going to the memorial service today because Ray would be there, watching his dad speak. Fuck Ray.
The first time he hit her, they had just had sex for the first time. He hadn’t expected to lose his virginity when they went to her room and started playing cards on her floor. She had tricked him into it, he said, had offered herself to him, had taken advantage of his naïveté. She laughed, then, thinking about how eagerly he’d squeezed her breasts and how quickly he’d come, even with the condom she’d taken from her nightstand drawer and rolled onto him. He finished so fast that she hoped he might be eager to help her climax afterward, but his accusations began almost as soon as he withdrew. Her laugh enraged him, and he slapped her.
None of her boyfriends had ever hit her before. Some had yelled, called her bitch or slut, but never that. She was naked and suddenly scared.
Her fear startled him, she thought. He recognized what he’d done. His turnaround had been immediate, tearful and sincere, words of scripture flowing forth as he asked her to pray with him. They held hands, kneeling by her bed, and he begged the Heavenly Father for strength and love. They were both still nude, the condom hanging loosely from his limp penis as he spoke tearfully of Christ and forgiveness.
And she had forgiven him, thinking of how he held doors open and pulled chairs out and wrote her letters that came in the mail complete with bad teenaged poetry. She thought of the Reverend Morris, his warm smile and trusting words. Taking this sweet boy, full of innocence and God, and offering him her body… She felt ashamed then, and she prayed, too, asking the Lord for the strength to be virtuous, to keep Ray in her life.
They played their parts in the months to come. He, the chivalrous man saving the damaged girl; she, the eager pupil learning the Scripture at his feet. They did not have intercourse again, she having decided to avoid future confrontations by offering only blowjobs and handies, which he accepted without complaint. He struck her again, of course–when he caught her smoking weed, when she blasphemed–but she convinced herself that such suffering was penance, that Ray was helping her.
The attempted rape changed that. His violence stemmed not from a desire to bring her to salvation, but something selfish, something condescending. She saw her true self reflected in his eyes then–as a slut. As someone he could fuck and punch and violate in whatever way he wanted because she was less than a person.
He’d heard the rumors, like everyone else. He pursued her anyway, because he wanted to see how close he could get to the edge of lust and still pull back. And he hadn’t pulled back. Desire got the better of him, and he loathed her for it. Loathed her, so he used her.
Tina saw the last several months for the cruel joke they were. As much as Ray hated her, she hated herself for being fooled, for chasing respectability. More rumors would start, if they hadn’t already. What would the next man expect from her?
She took out her earbuds and let her parents’ rage wash over her until she thought she would drown.