Down by the tracks

This is a work of fiction. A short story of 1350 words.

Zoe was using a torch to see what she was writing. The thick marker pen made it easier, but the long roll of wrapping paper kept trying to curl in on itself. She weighted one end with some stones, and continued to add the lines, using bold capitals so there could be no misunderstanding.

Just under two years earlier, life had been good. Zoe had a good job, and a large circle of friends. Her family members were supportive, and at the age of twenty-five, she was as happy as she could ever have expected to be. Then she was invited to that party.

Fancy dress was always a good excuse to try out something new, and have fun with the make-up and outfit. Danny’s birthday bashes were popular, and she knew that everyone would be there. Maybe her choice of punk bride was a little different, but the dress was cheap from a charity shop, and she cut and slashed it into a good representation of a bridal gown that a punk might wear. Crazy hair, lots of black eye make-up, black nail polish, ripped fishnet stockings, and she was pleased with the outcome.

It was a great night. All the gang made a big effort, with the exception of Elliot, of course. He never followed the crowd, and most thought he was something of a geek, only interested in computers. But he had been friends with Danny since they were little, so of course he was invited. When it was all over, dawn was approaching. Nobody could get a cab, and Zoe didn’t dare phone her Mum, to ask for a lift at that hour. When Elliot offered to drive some people home, three of the crowd accepted, including Zoe. Once he had dropped off Fran and Nathan, Elliot asked for directions to her house. He hadn’t been drinking, or taking advantage of any of the recreational drugs that had been passed around that night.
Zoe told him where to go, and stayed in the back, stretching out in the seat. It had been a long night.

She hadn’t realised that he had stopped the car. When the back door opened, it snapped her out of her reverie. She thought she was home, and he was helping her to get out. Then he was climbing on her. She laughed at first, until she became aware that something was very wrong. When she tried to fight him, he slammed her head against the door frame, fumbling under her dress, not saying a word. When she screamed and yelled, he clasped his hand over her mouth, and she felt as if she would choke. When it was all over, she was trembling. Her body was shivering, feeling cold, and she sobbed quietly and uncontrollably as Elliot drove from the country road back up to her street. When he stopped outside her house, she leapt from the car and ran inside, calling for her Mum and her sister Joanne to help.

The police were called. She was taken to hospital, then to the police station. An officer who looked like her grandpa took the statement, writing down all that she said without comment or expression. Photos were taken, along with swabs and other tests. Later on, some detectives came to ask her all the same questions again. They seemed more sympathetic, and told her that Elliot had been arrested. By the time she got home, it was late afternoon. She could finally have a shower, and get some rest.

It took over a year to get to court. In the meantime, she lost her job for being off sick with depression. She constantly argued with her Mum and sister, convinced that they didn’t believe her version of events. Few of her former friends would talk to her, as Danny had started a campaign against her, and it was all over social media. Those that still acknowledged her tried to avoid her when they could, so she stopped bothering to go out.
The prosecutor had told her it wouldn’t be easy. She had got into the car willingly. She was dressed provocatively. She had been drinking. And as well as that, marijuana had been present in her system. She was not a virgin, and was taking the contraceptive pill. The defence would produce no less than ten men who would claim to have had sex with her. One of them would say that she was only fifteen when they had done it, and he had been the same age at the time. Worse still, Elliot was admitting to having sex with her, but claimed it was consensual, and that she had instigated it.

“What about the injury to my head?” Zoe had asked her.

“He claims you hit it on the door during frantic love-making.” The prosecutor consulted her notes once again. “And the hospital report says it was superficial.”

“But what about the state that I was in when I got home? Why would I have called the police?” Zoe had started to cry. And she had promised herself that she wouldn’t.

“They will say that it was because you were drunk, and you didn’t want to admit to doing it with the town geek.” The woman was sounding bored now. “Perhaps you should think hard about whether you really want to go on with this, Zoe. They will give you a hard time in court.”

“He raped me. I tried to fight him, but I couldn’t. Of course I want to go on with it. I have done nothing wrong. I am the victim.” Anger came through the tears.

“Make sure you don’t get angry like that in court. The judge won’t like it, and the jury will take against you. I will see you next week then. Don’t give any interviews, or talk to anyone about the case before that.” She put the papers back into her briefcase, and left the room.

The court case was like a bad dream, and Zoe spent most of it in tears. They showed photos of her in the ripped dress and stockings. A doctor described her injuries as a bump’, and a different doctor talked about high levels of ‘illegal drugs’ in her body at the time, as well as lots of alcohol. Old boyfriends were paraded in , all telling lurid tales of sex in cars, adventurous games, and sexy attire. Danny gave evidence against her, agreeing that she was provocatively dressed, and asserting that she asked to go in Elliot’s car because she liked him. The police officers described her as ‘crying but controlled’, and even her Mum and sister looked at their shoes through the whole two days.

The ‘Not Gulity’ verdict was inevitable from the start. Then the press started on her, and she had never thought a person could feel so alone. Since then, she had hardly been outside the house.

As a child, she had enjoyed going down by the railway tracks. She would watch the trains appear from the tunnel, and imagine herself in one of the seats, setting off to an adventure in a new place. She always felt better there, but once her sister came along, she hadn’t been allowed to go. That night, she felt relaxed in her old spot, and when she had finished writing, she unfurled the long note, reading over her words.

I’m sorry that you think I’m a whore, Mum.

I’m sorry that you never believed me, Joanne.

I’m sorry that I wore that outfit.

I’m sorry that I just wanted to have a good time.

I’m sorry that I had so much to drink.

I’m sorry that everyone hates me now.

I’m sorry that I ever met you, Elliot.

I’m sorry that I got into that car.

I’m sorry that I didn’t allow myself to be choked.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t fight harder.

I’m sorry that I just didn’t die.

She rolled up the paper and placed it nearby, where it would be found.
As she lay down across the tracks, she could see the light from the approaching train.

 

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37 thoughts on “Down by the tracks

  1. Such a sad story Pete, but incredibly well written. I kept hoping that people would believe Zoe, that common sense would prevail, but sadly not. Though you’ve written fiction, it’s sad that this actually happens far too often.

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  2. I had to come read this one after reading your newest one and the comments that followed. Another really good, although sad as others have already said, story. I’m sure there are many who can relate to this story too. It’s really a shame that all this does still happen more than we know about. I like your writing style and the details you provide in your writing. The scene is easily pictured in one’s imagination. I don’t write fiction as of yet but working on an idea. Have just been trying to catch up on some reading this week. Glad I choose some of yours.

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    1. Many thanks, Sandy. I used to write at school, and hadn’t written much fiction since, until I started blogging after the age of 60. I have tried to develop a style, or should I say adapt an existing style to my own way of telling a story. As you have seen, I do not use a lot of conversation in the stories, and tend to stick with descriptions and the thoughts of the characters.
      Some stories are pure imagination, and others adapted from experiences of work in the Ambulance Service and the Police, or from my youth in South London. I write them straight off, with little or no preparation, and almost no notes or work-up. I am told that this is now called ‘Flash Fiction’, though to me it is just my way of telling stories.
      If you would ever like to read something longer of mine, I have posted some multi-part stories previously, that I really enjoyed writing. These were more challenging, but very enjoyable to work on. Here are some links to help you find them.
      https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/travelodge-part-one/ (This is a three-part murder story that has to be read in order)
      https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/jackie-jam-jar/ (This is a six-part ‘saga’ about a group of gangsters in London that has to be read in order)
      Thanks again, Pete.

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      1. Thanks for the links. Those look interesting and can’t wait to read them. I hadn’t heard that “Flash Fiction” comment before. Does that mean I write “Flash, NON-Fiction” (lol) because that is exactly how I write from memories and experiences in my life. It’s usually done in one sitting and how it comes to me at that moment is how it gets put on paper with very few revisions. I can’t say if that’s good writing or not but that’s me and most everything I write about is a true event in my life. I am trying to write a children’s story and also a novel of sorts but find it a challenge. Hopefully I’ll get the hang of it one of these days.

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        1. I have also written some very long pieces about my life. One series explores my employment history, another my relationships, and three marriages. Like you, they are written from experience, and for me, are the posts that I have gained the most satisfaction from writing. Putting my life down on the pages of this blog has been cathartic.

          This is the definition of Flash Fiction. Not sure that I qualify.
          “Flash fiction is an umbrella term used to describe any fictional work of extreme brevity, including the Six-Word Story, 140-character stories, also known as twitterature, the dribble (50 words), the drabble (100 words), and sudden fiction (750 words).”

          https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/third-time-lucky-part-one/
          https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/selling-yourself-part-one/

          Thanks very much for your engagement on my blog. It is appreciated, I assure you.
          Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Thanks, Laura. This is an important subject, and needs to be highlighted. As Pippa said in her comment, it works both ways, when a man is wrongly accused, and his life ruined. Perhaps I will write a story based on that scenario one day.
      Thanks again for catching up on so many of my posts, and for your valued comments.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. I think you would do a fabulous job writing the flip side of this endless problem.. Looking forward to it..

        If, we were sitting across from each other at a table sipping coffee or tea, I’d say more on this subject as it does hit home… But, not in this open venue…So, yes it does need to be addressed and you’ve written it beautifully for the reader to continue to read and not turn away from this subject.. That is a feat in its self… Bravo my dear friend ~ Your talent with words is endless and it’s my pleasure to sit a spell on your blog… Take care, Laura

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  3. Reading this was a devastating start to my Sunday! Characteristic of your integrity to address such a complex and prevalent problem, and to imagine another person’s experience so completely. The story’s impact is clear from everyone’s comments. From my own experience in reporting an attempted assault (a stranger on the street in Snaresbrook, not a party date – I was lucky he was deterred by my screaming and gave up – the luckiest moment of my life) I know how derogatory the police interrogation can be – their implication always being that the woman brought it on herself by what she wore, the way she walked.
    It is a crime of violence, not sex. But there are many kinds of cases, ….Would you tackle a different rape story from another [innocent man’s] point of view?

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    1. I have long been concerned about the injustices surrounding the complex area of rape and sexual assaults. Once I joined the ambulance service, I saw many examples at first hand. These included men who had been raped by other men, as well as women and girls who had suffered at the hands of strangers, casual acquaintances, or in many cases, husbands.
      Some of my own colleagues were quick to judge victims, often based on ‘revealing clothing’, and said things like, “What did she expect, dressed like that?”
      I have no doubt that many accused of rapes and assaults are also innocent, and would be happy to write a story from that point of view.
      Sorry to devastate your Sunday, Pippa.
      Best wishes as always, Pete. xx

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    1. Thanks, Ro. I think that in many cases, this sort of thing sadly still goes on, and some women are dissuaded from continuing with the charges. This story was prompted by one of those ‘true case’ films that I saw some years ago.
      Hope you are both well. x

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