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.