Sweat and Tears 19
There were so many things going on just then, things I didn’t see or know about till it was all over, or very nearly. What I was involved with was my healing, or healing as much as I was able. So much of it could never go away, never get better. I took what I could, though, clinging onto the wonders of my release, and all through it the love of my friends.
I didn’t settle with men around me for a long time, but a few were always there, always welcome. Simon and Roger, of course, and dear Brian, who had done so much. It was clear that Karen had found more than a ticket out of a dead end life, but a gem, and at times, when we spoke, and Brian went a little distant, I knew that there were things in his own past that tied us almost as brothers.
It was the same with Sid. He prattled on and on, making jokes of everything, particularly of the fact that with three lost years I had a huge number of books to get through, and how that made him jealous. All the time, I could feel his own memories, his own pain, bubbling away beneath.
I was standing naked one morning, in my room, my little sanctuary, looking at myself in the full-length mirror on the wardrobe door. I was seeing myself through two sets of eyes. One, dispassionately, saw the girl. She wasn’t tall, but she had long and shapely legs for her height, and moderately large and shapely breasts which were only marred by the faint scars of old bites. Her body wasn’t heavy in the hips, but definitely female, and attractively so, marred only by the small but obvious penis. Strawberry blonde hair, clean now, fell to her shoulders.
Through my own eyes, as Steve, I saw myself warped. The hollows, the dark patches beneath the eyes, had gone, and while the various scars were still there, they were healing. I knew, however, that I could never be myself again. Even cutting the tits off wouldn’t get rid of the changes that had come to my pelvis, and that was like a small death. Mitchell, for whatever reason, had killed me.
I have read stories, years after things finally ended, or ended as much as they could, and there is a sort of convention in them. The changed boy learns to love his new femininity, embraces his curves, leaps into womanhood with a smile. Just like I learned to love it when men, and women, did those things to me? My body was just another type of rape, of murder, almost, but I was still alive to see my own corpse. Stupid, irrelevant thoughts came to me. I remembered those two boys who had chewed up and spat out the rest of the field on that windy race day, and knew I could never, ever compete against them. I could never compete against anyone. I wasn’t male anymore, and as much as I didn’t want it, I could never be female. I was standing there cursing and looking at my stupid fucking tits when Emily came in.
“Fucking look at me, is this OK?”
She came up behind me and put her arms around me. “Somehow, love, I don’t think telling you how pretty you look would go down well, so hear me out for a bit.”
I started to make some angry reply, and she just covered my mouth with her hand.
“Steve, I fell in love with you at school. I was the awkward one–no, just shut up and let me speak. You came in and made that speech, that day you arrived, and sat by me, and you were funny, you were cheeky, and I could see that you were nervous under it all. You looked like a sponge; the more people laughed the more you soaked it up.
“I had enough crap in my life even then to spot a victim, and you were like that, but as soon as you got a chance you bloomed, and I was jealous. I was fat, I had a face like the moon, all holes and pimples, and you didn’t mind, and you ---shut up---you took me and you kissed me and you didn’t hide me away as the fat spotty girl that you played with in private. You even took me to your Nana’s, and told the world I was yours, and you were mine”
She came round to the front of me, and held my eyes with hers, and we were both crying.
“Do you remember that time we…oh, crap, the time I dry humped your leg till I came? That was the first time I ever made love to anyone, the first time anyone had ever loved me in any way whatsoever, and I have held that memory ever since. I loved you then, Steve Jones, and I love you now, and I don’t give a shit what you look like, because you did the same for me. Have you got that?”
She took her hand from my mouth, and kissed me, hard, and it was so different from all the others who had kissed me, their breath stale with tobacco or alcohol or worse, and so I did what I had dreamt of for three years, and kissed her back, and as I did so I realised that I was crying for the first time in an age.
Em let me go and stepped back, and slowly undressed until she stood naked and blushing before me. She was taller, by three inches or so, and plumper, though no longer as much of a butterball as she had been, but I hadn’t cared then and I didn’t now. Her dark curls fell to breasts that an odd corner of my abused mind noted were smaller than my own, and further down…
She leant in again, and kissed me again, and then led me over to the bed and we slipped together under the covers.
No, we didn’t. Life isn’t that simple, unlike her books, but she held me, and I held her, and after a while I drifted off to sleep in the warmth of her presence, and I didn’t need to hide in memories of the high fells and good times of the past, because the present was catching up.
From then on, whenever she stayed, she stayed with me.
It was Karen who found us, that lunchtime, as we dozed together, and she woke me with another kiss, and slowly, slowly, those two, and Nana, broke down the horror of physical contact I had learned in that place.
My statement was a marathon task, and once it was over the journalists were at me. Dave had done so much to get me out, even if it was to his financial advantage, and I couldn’t begrudge him my cooperation, though it had to be in very short bursts. One day, just after a session together, he said he had someone who wanted to meet me.
It was a short man, nondescript in a deliberate sort of way, somebody you would pass in the street and immediately forget.
“Steve, this is Aidan. He was up a tree a little while ago”
I realised that this was the man who had captured Charlie on film as he raped me, the man whose presence of mind even as he was ready to vomit had been the key to my release, and he was trembling as he looked at me. I stood up to shake his hand in gratitude, and to my horror he wrapped me in a hug, and I nearly screamed, but some small part of me said “No! Good guy! Good guy!” and so I just about managed to squeeze him back.
He dropped me quickly.
“Sorry, Steve, I didn’t think, it was just, well, that was the worst thing I ever snapped, and, well, you are alive and…oh shit, I was terrified the pics were going to be shown at an inquest, not to the victim. Sorry…”
Good guy. White hat. I was healing, slowly. I could never be whole, but I could be better, day by day.
Dave was still at work, as it turned out, looking for Iain as well as the missing piece from our dirty little jigsaw, and that was Mitchell. He had gone to ground somewhere as the news of the raid had reached him, and in parallel with the police Dave was doing his best to unearth the cunt.
I make no apologies whatsoever for the language I use here. If there were stronger words, I would use them, as the words I do use don’t even begin to express my hatred. Nana was the same; she swore like a trooper when she spoke of those people, as did Brian. It was only Karen and Emily who exercised any control over their language, but their feelings were clear. Emily burned, hot and passionate, like one of her literary heroines, while Karen, as always in control, had a cold, hard fury about her, and I knew that if either of them actually got their hands on Mitchell it would not be a Good Thing for him.
The police, meanwhile, were still digging, and had expanded their search to a couple of properties owned by the Cunninghams. Two days into their new search they found the first body.
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