Except now I was tainted.
I was soiled.
Someone else touched me. Grabbed me. Talked dirty to me.
The memory of the man on top of me, telling me I was nothing but a tease, came over me. A car horn blared loudly and I snapped out of it just in time to see the overly bright headlights of an oncoming car as it barreled straight at me.
I jerked the wheel, swerving back into my lane, narrowly avoiding an accident.
I drove the rest of the way with a pounding heart, gripping the steering wheel until my knuckles ached. Finally, I pulled into the parking lot of my apartment and let out a huge sigh of relief.
Cam was parked and off his bike in lightning speed. He pulled open the car door and leaned down just as I shut off the engine.
“Are you okay?” he demanded. “What the hell was that?” He ran a hand through his hair and then stared at me. “Are you sure you aren’t hurt? You’d tell me if you were hurt, right?”
“Yes, I’d tell you. I’m not hurt.”
He stepped back for me to get out and then reached into the back to grab my bag. I walked ahead of him up the stairs and unlocked the door, pushing it open. Cam shouldered by me, going in first and flipping on the lights. He went through the apartment while I went into the kitchen to grab a bottle of water. The icy coolness of the drink felt wonderful against my throat.
“Everything looks fine,” he said, coming into the kitchen and grabbing a beer out of the fridge (I finally bought some man food).
“I’m going to take a shower.”
He nodded. I felt his eyes follow me as I walked out of the room. He didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything.
For some reason the silence hurt.
In the bathroom, I unzipped his leather jacket and peeled it away, taking care to hang it on the back of the door. Then I stared at myself in the mirror. The pink corset was still untied. The lace ribbon was rumpled and wrinkled. It hung open just enough so I could see a gap of skin, from my neck all the way down below my navel.
My hair was tangled in dark waves around my shoulders and cheeks. My skin was pale and my eyes were red. I spun away from the mirror and reached into the shower to start the water, turning it the hottest it would go.
I stepped out of my heels and pulled off the boy shorts, kicking them into the corner where I hoped I never had to see them again. Then I reached for the corset.
Open your top and touch yourself.
The words—his words—echoed through my head a million times, bouncing off every barrier they hit until I couldn’t take it anymore.
I ripped the corset off my body, balling it up into a tiny wad of fabric and then throwing it against the wall. My chest was heaving when I glanced back in the mirror. Even through the shroud of tears, my blurred vision saw it.
There was a bruise on my left breast—marks from where his hand had grabbed me, where his fingers brutalized my flesh. I hadn’t even felt it. Why hadn’t I felt him grab me?
It must have been just before Cam pulled him off.
I stared at the discolored patches on my otherwise creamy breast. Fingerprints. I had the fingerprints of a… a rapist on my body.
A sob so deep ripped through my body, causing me to double over the sink. I sat there for long minutes just breathing, and then I pushed away and stepped behind the curtain and beneath the scalding hot water.
It burned. It made my skin tingle and turn a blotchy red. But I didn’t care. I wanted him off me. I wanted every last trace of that sick human being to wash down the drain so I never had to feel like this again.
I grabbed up the soap and started at my shoulder, gripping the bar so hard that my fingers turned white and the soap bore the indent of my hand. I covered my arm in a thick lather, trying to wash away everything.
But you can’t wash away a memory.
The soap slipped out of my hand and hit the floor of the shower with a loud bang. I stood under the too-hot water and started to cry. The sobs were so deep I didn’t even breathe. All I could do was heave as big fat tears rolled down my cheeks and mixed with the water of the shower. I cried silently—the kind of cry that was so painful my body just wasn’t capable of making noise.
I was mad at myself. Mad for putting myself in that position. Mad for not listening to my gut and trying to hold on to a job I really didn’t want. Mad that I felt dirty and used. Mad that every time I looked at my chest and saw that bruise, I was going to be reminded.
I leaned against the shower wall, resting my forehead against the tile and sucking in great gulps of oxygen.
The shower curtain slid open and Cam stepped into the shower, pulling the curtain closed behind him.
“Hey,” he murmured, lifting his hand but letting it fall between us.
He didn’t want to touch me.
A sob echoed around me. And then another. I couldn’t even remember the last time I cried this hard.
“Don’t cry,” he said, his voice breaking just a little. His body shifted closer.
He was wearing all his clothes. Even his shoes.
“I’m stained now, aren’t I?” I said, my voice hollow and deep.
“It’s the reason you don’t want to touch me. It’s because of him. Because he touched me.”
He made a sound like he was in pain. “Is that what you think? You think I don’t want to touch you now?”
I didn’t reply. I just let the water pour over my back and kept my forehead against the wall.
“I’m afraid to touch you. I’m afraid if I do that, you’ll flinch away. If you flinch, I’ll hunt him down and kill him.”
“I’m not going to flinch.”
He hauled me against him, wrapping me up against his body and holding my head to his chest. I could feel the hard beating of his heart and the finest of tremors through his arms.
“Your skin is burning up,” he said, turning so the water hit him in the back and I was no longer underneath the spray.
“I want him off me.”
Cam bent and picked up the soap and used it to gently wash my skin. I shook my head. “Harder, it needs to be harder.”
He pressed a little harder, covering me in bubbles and then using his hands to rinse them away. I knew immediately when he saw the marks. He stilled. He didn’t breathe as he discarded the soap.
He traced his fingers over the fingerprints of another man. Then he leaned down and kissed them softly. Tears clogged my throat because his tenderness was utterly sweet. “I’m so sorry, baby,” he whispered and pulled me into him, hugging me close.