This is another excerpt from what I’ve been writing this month for national novel writing month. I can’t seem to make much of a transition to fiction again this year. Some of this is blatantly ripped off from my life, but it’s interesting to see it from the perspective as part of a story. Those of you who have read the non-fiction parts of my blog will no doubt recognize parts of the story. However, some of it is completely fiction, and it’s meant to be fiction, although there’s a lot of truth in it.
This is another installment of my novel, in progress. More pieces here.
Sarah sat in the beige hallway waiting room and looked at the woman across from her. Zelia had long black hair, liberally threaded with grey, which she wore unbound, shoulder length around a thin face. She wore no makeup, and a pair of dangly shell earings. Her black pants were paired with a knit shirt and cardigan in rust tones, and her shoes looked good for walking. She had a soft accent, south African it sounded like. Sarah didn’t want to ask, she thought speaking to a white person from South Africa might bring up uncomfortable topics, and she needed this woman as an ally. They hadn’t known each other long.
Zelia had met with Sarah in the offices at the family service centre and had explained what would happen. Sarah didn’t tell her her story, but Zelia was aware of the basics. Zelia said the officer might not let her be in the room when she told her story, but she would come with her, and wait for her outside if she couldn’t be there in the room.
Sarah wore black pants and a long sleeved black turtleneck. Her skin fully covered like this made her feel safer, more protected, although she knew even in this she was still a target. Her flat heeled shoes made her feel more grounded, and she wore thick soft socks that caressed the one part of her body she could easily love. Her light brown hair was tied back with two metal clips in a fashion more practical than fashionable. She had blue eyes that boys had told her were beautiful often enough that she thought it might have some truth in it. She carried her tall frame with a bit of a slump, perhaps so that people wouldn’t notice how tall she was. She had her grandmother’s skin, fair and translucent like thin porcelain. She liked it too, unless it was flushed red with embarassment or exertion, when the translucence failed to mask dark blotchy redness. She wore no makeup. Why invite male attention she desperately didn’t know how to field? Today, all she wanted was to look respectable, believeable, and feel safe. She’d have to settle for one out of two.
A door opened and a tall RCMP officer in a blue uniform entered. Miss Norland, would you come with me please”.
Sarah thought “I thought you’d be a woman, don’t they have women officers for this?” She wasn’t sure she could be alone in a room with a male police officer. As if in response to her thoughts, Zelia stood up and introduced herself. “I’m a victim legal support worker, I work for family services. I’m accompanying Sarah today.”
“Can Zelia to come with me?” asked Sarah. She wasn’t sure where she’d found the voice to speak to the officer. She’d never spoken with a police officer before. She had to do this. She had to do this for her little brother’s sake, if not her own.
The officer looked them both over and questioned Sarah. Do you know this woman?
Sarah hesitated, “well, we just met, but she works for Family Services and they said she could come with me to help me make my statement.”
“She’s not a family member, or a friend?” he asked, looking at both of their faces for a reaction, as if they might be lying.
“No”, said Sarah, wondering why it mattered. Well, now that she thought of it, a family member she could see, they might try to shape her story. Then she got it. “This person has no personal connection to me or what happened to me. ” she said. It did kind of make sense. She wouldn’t have wanted her mother sitting in on this interview.
“It’s my job to be do legal accompaniment” confirmed Zelia.
The RCMP officer looked at Sarah and Zelia, considering, and then motioned them both ahead of him, through a door and down another hall into a small beige interview room.
The officer introduced himself and gave her his card. He got out a note pad, and prepared a tape recorder on the table. Sarah got out her notes.
“Why don’t you tell me what happened in your own words” he said.
Sarah looked at this man, and then at Zelia, who smiled. “you can do this” her eyes said.
“I’m from Still Lake. Beginning when I was about five, my father raped me.” she started.
“When you say ‘raped’ what do you mean?”
Sarah thought, “if this guy was a woman he’d know exactly what I meant” but said, for clarity”He vaginally raped me”
“Do you mean he had intercourse with you?”
Sarah didn’t like that term for it, there is no ‘with’ in rape, and the way it was phrased implied she’d had consensual sex, but technically, that was the term for what he’d done ‘with’ her. “Yes.”
The officer motioned for her to continue.
“It happened from the time I was about 5 till I was 15, when he stopped. When I was twelve he… switched to oral and anal rape. I think he thought I might get pregnant once I started having my period.” The officer asked some questions to clarify what she meant by oral and anal rape, as if it needed to be clarified. Zelia didn’t look surprised at the questions though, so she went on, patiently, as emotionlessly as possible explaining what he wanted to know.
The police officer asked how many times it had happened. Sarah honestly didn’t know. More than once? he asked. Yes. she said, definitely more than once. No, I don’t know how many times. How did she know it had happened more than once? I remember at least three different locations where things happened, so it must have happened several times. In my memories I’m different ages. It all runs together.
When did it stop? he asked. I don’t remember exactly, but I know definitely by the time I was fifteen.
“It slowed down when I started having my period. I think he was worried I’d get pregnant. Then later, he was worried I’d tell, so he stopped.”
He had stood in front of her in the hallway, tall, trying to look gentle, concerned, like the nice daddy he pretended to be in front of others, and sometimes for her. She had stopped pretending she believed in his act, and it worried him. Lately she’d been arguing with him in the evenings before he passed out in his chair. She’d found out he wasn’t supposed to be doing what he was doing and she had stopped being a good quiet little girl. Away from everyone else, he’d cornered her there with his back to the fabric wall hanging of trees, hanging at the end of the hall. She kept her eyes on the hanging. He said brightly “you know I’d never hurt you”, like this was the truth she was supposed to believe, or more likely tell others she believed. Sarah looked at him and said nothing, but her look did not comply or submit. That was the day she was sure it had stopped. He never abused her after that day. Her mother and brothers did not stand up to him. He’d tortured and terrorized her almost her entire life, she had refused to comply, and it had ended.
“Why are you reporting this now?” asked the officer.
“I am not living with my parents any more, and my dad doesn’t know where I am. My little brother is at home and I want to protect him. I think he might have moved on to him.”
“Why do you think that?” asked the officer.
Sarah told him of her suspicions, that her dad had taken too much interest in her brother being naked in the shower, had made a sexual comment to her once about her brother. Her father said creepy things, like they were perfectly normal, but this made her wonder if he was eying her brother sexually. Mike’s bedroom was next door to the one Sarah had been abused in, even closer to the master bedroom than her own had been. Access would not be hard.
The officer was not impressed. Fathers abusing daughters, he could apparently believe, but teenage sons were a bit beyond his credibility. He asked how old her brother was, and evidently thought he was too old to be abused. He thought that her father would not abuse boys and that a fifteen year old could defend himself. Sarah knew that her dad controlled her home so absolutely, he could do whatever he wanted, to his wife who should have been old enough to defend herself too, and even to his son, but how could she convince the officer of that?
“Do you think he would rape his own daughter and stop at boys?” Sarah thought to herself, but didn’t say it. She hoped her brother had been spared. Truly hoped it. Instead she said “He would do anything.”
The officer asked her a few more questions, gave her an incident number and told her that a typed transcript of her statement would be sent to her. At Zelia’s prompting, he asked whether Sarah felt afraid about her father’s response, and she said, he doesn’t know where I live, I think. The officer aske d if her mom and dad might try to get her to retract her statement, and Sarah allowed that they might try. She was more afraid her father would come to town in person. That would be very bad. He said he’d add a no-contact order to the file, so her father couldn’t contact her. Sarah didn’t know that was even possible, but was so relieved she could barely speak. S nodded, relieved.
The officer seemed to be done with her at that point, and showed them back to the waiting area. Sarah couldn’t have spoken more, she was so relieved to be done, if frustrated that she hadn’t been able to convince them to protect her brother. She was so glad to be out of the small room with the big man, and left. Zelia told her she’d done a good job. She drove her home and said goodbye. Sarah never saw her again.
The police sent the transcript, as promised. Sarah waited. Almost seven years later, apparently under political pressure to clean up the backlog of sexual assault cases, they questioned her mother, father, older brother and she didn’t know who else. The no-contact order was apparently a fiction until then, if they presented it at all. She found out later that her mother refused to speak to the police. Until charges were laid they couldn’t force her to do so. Her father had been taken down to the station in a police car by two police officers, who had read him her statement and questioned him. Sarah had decided to let that be her justice, that he’d been treated like the criminal he was. He’d immediately lawyered up, and refused to talk to them iether. Her mother told her later that he was terrified afterward for years that they would come back for him.
When, twenty years later, her mother informed her that her father had a recurrence of the cancer he’d almost died of two years before, Sarah realized that till then she had always been waiting, hungering for his death. She wanted the satisfaction of knowing that it was over, that he would never hurt anyone again, and that it was no longer her responsibilyt to stop him. She had been dreading the tidal wave of emotion and possibly, horribly new memories her mind would release once assured of her safetly from him by his death. However, despite these fears she could feel his hold of fear on her, like a psychic choke chain, weaken to a thin strand, near breaking.