“Ms. Cameron?” a gentle voice said, “Ms. Cameron?” Molly heard her name being repeated over and over again, but couldn’t bring herself to speak or move. She couldn’t help but stare at the one spot on the tiled floor where the white was disturbed by a drying stain of black coffee. She was acutely aware of the woman in front of her speaking to her, but she refused to listen. No, she simply couldn’t. So instead she focused her energy on the stain, the one thing that actually made sense in Molly’s world. The stain was easy. She knew where it had come from, why it had dried over like mud, and that a simple damp cloth would make the tile shiny and new again. She couldn’t help but wish it was that easy to make herself new again, to erase all the pain and the fear.
“Ms. Cameron?” She finally looked up at the woman who smiled softly. “Could you explain what happened?” Molly’s head cocked to the side as she examined the woman’s face. Her eyes were shining in a way Molly had seen all too often, pity. This woman most likely knew what exactly had happened that warranted Molly a visit to her office, but she needed Molly’s confirmation. It was an easy thing to ask what happened, but a whole other story to tell. Molly didn’t know what would happen when the words escaped her, when the truth finally set in, and she wasn’t ready for that kind of chaos. For now, she simply wanted to stare at the stain on the white background. Stare and stare and stare. But the longer she looked, the less she truly saw.
In a sudden blink, a numbness settled over her and her brain was silenced. “Ms. Cameron,” the woman called for her again. It was an effort for Molly to look back up at the woman. Everything seemed to lag, like Molly was stuck in limbo between her own body and a place that sought to protect her from the truth the woman wanted to extract. “I need you to be honest, so I can help you.” Her patience seemed to be running thin as her nails rapped against the table between them. Help. Molly knew it was too late for help. She had needed help six months ago.
But it was a hope that never came. And now she was here. Sitting in front of a stranger, absolutely broken, and in need of being saved from herself… the one person she thought she could always count on.
She rasped a breath, forcing herself back to the present, away from the limbo that protected her from the horrible thoughts that were becoming more convincing by the day. Molly opened her mouth, the first word was the hardest. It was part of the acceptance, the realization that something bad had happened. That she may never be sweet Molly Cameron, the girl who loved ponies, french fries, and life itself. That now, she was scarred and worthless. The words reverberated through her, screaming for her to be quiet, to keep the pain and embarrassment to herself. Because who else would care?
But Molly’s mouth never closed. Tears pricked her vision as she realized she had nothing to lose. She had nothing left. Her foot bounced up and down against the tile in a nervous tick as she finally spoke, letting the truth slip from her lips.
Molly was staring out the window, watching a red KIA SUV pull up to her driveway in a hurry. Her stomach dropped, her eyes glazed over at the thought of what was to come. She refused to admit the truth to herself. She convinced herself that the dread she felt were nerves, something that might relinquish with time, or maybe another six months of dating Julian. Molly waited patiently by the door for a familiar knock to sound. She hurried to open it, willing to correct her past mistakes and keep his wrath from emerging too soon. “Babe!” Her voice was high pitched and excited, it didn’t sound like herself.
Julian smiled, flashing his first row of perfect teeth. It was that grin that had entranced her at the restaurant, the first night they had met. Sitting beside him had been pure luck. Molly’s friend had invited her to an evening with her boyfriend’s friends and Julian had charmed her. With his calming voice that reminded her of waves washing up on the shore and his blue eyes that were trusting, so innocent it had fooled her for months. And when his hands had grazed briefly over hers, her breath had caught in her throat and she had realized that she had liked the contact, and craved more, for weeks after their first encounter.
“Hi,” he kissed her lightly on the lips before slipping past the door and towards the stairs that would lead to her bedroom. Molly watched him go and delayed her own steps as her mind began to quiet. A voice inside her had started to scream, a warning that she had so often ignored it made no difference to her now. “Baby?” his voice called out to her, caressing her body in a way that made her want to scrub her skin until only flesh and bone were left.
She hurried up the stairs, making her way to her own room. He was already sitting on the bed, her laptop open and playing a random T.V. show. Molly sat gingerly on the bed, only lying down against him when he put his arm around her, forcing her down to his chest. Her eyes strayed from the screen to the mirror that stared back at her. It was a blessing and a curse. The mirror was a few feet taller than her and completed the width of the wall. It held secrets, it saw too much. Molly silently scolded herself for even daring a peak. She forced her focus on what she knew was coming next, The Routine. A pattern she had taken note of, three months into their relationship.
It usually started the same as today. He would go to her room, turn on the show, and guide her towards him. They would talk, mostly about his day and how his parents had annoyed him that morning. Molly would normally interject with sympathy, or reasonable explanations as to why they were treating him poorly. She made sure to stray from the truth, to keep the words,
“Well, you were in the wrong there” from circulating to the surface. Molly hated to think what would happen if the phrase ever accidentally escaped her.
They would continue on, half listening to their show while talking about their friends, and the drama that had followed a weekend’s event. Molly would mention her dog and something cute she had done before Julian’s arrival which would give her the excuse to get out of her bedroom, out of the place that seemed to be the setting of unfortunate events. Julian would never argue too much, following her down the stairs. Her parents were always near the office or kitchen of the house. They greeted Julian like another son, an admiring part of the family. In the midst of the chaos of hugs and small talk, Molly desperately looked to her mom. She contorted her face, trying to grab her attention if only she would understand. But her mom’s stare never left Julian’s, as though he was a magician that usurped her attention. Her options diminished as he motioned her to follow him back upstairs.
She rarely told him no, rarely spoke her mind, knowing it wouldn’t matter in the end. That he would get his way and it was easier to avoid a fight with painful tears and simply agree. Every step to her room became heavier, slowing her down. Julian refused to acknowledge it, pulling her forward with his strides.
This was the part where The Routine usually ended. Where Molly could no longer predict what would happen but knew to brace herself for the worst.
A nervous hour passed where Molly couldn’t focus on the show because every movement and stroke from Julian made her flinch. The sun was falling and time was running out, that much Molly knew. The sun was passing through her sky light when what she had dreaded all along came. His hand stopped stroking hers, halting for a second as he moved it to her face, forcing her vision away from the show and to him. He leaned in, kissing her in a way that made her feel like property, like he was only doing it as a reminder that he could.
She didn’t pull away. Molly moved her mouth against his. But where he was rough and fast, she was light and playful. She tried to slow it down, tried to find any kind of enjoyment in it, but he robbed her of that as he forced her to keep up with him. His hands strayed from her face, moving slowly, but with an intended goal. Molly’s hands began to tremble lightly, a moist sheen of sweat settling over them. For a second, she felt frozen in time. She prepared for what was to come next, something she had done for the past two months now.
It took a while to convince herself it was okay, that she wanted to do this and by that time, she realized her clothes were gone. “Wait,” she started, putting a hand on his chest. The contact burned and she wondered if he could feel it.
“What?” It was more of a demand than a question. Anger flashed in his eyes, the lust that had roved her skin was replaced with contempt. His hands were on her wrists, his grip hard. A chill ran down her spine as fear set in. What was she supposed to say? She tried to picture what would happen if she said no. If she asked for some time to breathe. Pain registered in her arms. She looked down to see his hands were white from holding her so tightly.
“You’re hurting me, Julian,” she said through gritted teeth. He didn’t seem to care about her pain, her words, or her. He ignored her resistance, swooping low to kiss her neck. He nipped at her, and where his tongue made contact with her skin she cringed. It felt like an animal being branded.
She didn’t speak for the rest of the time, surrendering control of her body to him. She kept telling herself that it would be okay, that it wouldn’t last too long, that after it was all over she would be able to lay down and sleep. Hopefully forever. But the longer he forced himself onto her, the less she believed in her own reassurances.
Molly risked a glance at Julian, wondering what she had done to him to deserve this. Had she raised her voice? Had she not cared enough? A single tear slipped to the edge of her face, falling until it settled inside the crook of her ear and wetting a baby strand of hair. She focused on the feeling, trying desperately to occupy her mind. Why hadn’t he noticed? Time slipped slowly as she forced another glance at the man she loved, his face contorted in pleasure, his body moving against hers, ignorant of her lack of effort.
She waited it out, her head lolling uselessly to the side until she could see herself in the mirror. Her tears clouded her vision, a numbness settled over her mind and body until there was nothing else in this world. It was a numbness that she depended on when even her own voice couldn’t convince her that she would survive this. It was a numbness that brought her into a limbo between reality and dream. She was able to detach herself from the situation, to pretend that he wasn’t hurting her while she enjoyed her time in between two states where there was nothing but silence.
She felt strong arms grabbing her, but didn’t register the pain she imagined accompanied the action. She was flipped over on a bed that used to remind her of innocence, one that used to sport a polka dotted comforter. That was a long time ago and it was different now. Julian forced her on her stomach, her head against the bed and facing the mirror that haunted her nightmares. It was hard to ignore the truth when it reflected itself back at you. A blessing and a curse.
She felt a hand on her head, grabbing a chunk of her hair. This was a pain that was harder to ignore. So she did the only thing that was left for her to do. She lost herself in the mirror of a girl that looked like her, but couldn’t possibly be her. Not with those empty eyes, void of emotions. The girl in the mirror laughed at her, mocked her for her weakness. She could even hear the whispers of the girl’s voice in her head, saying that she deserved this, to feel worthless. That she had it coming for a long time and would have to keep experiencing it over and over again until her sins were wiped clean.
Molly wanted to scream, to ask what she had done and how to make it right, any other way. She didn’t know how much time passed, only that the pain got comfortable. That she was getting used to it the more time went on. She was vaguely aware of Julian moving her body to fit his expectations and wants. She didn’t say anything about it, letting herself detach from the very body that linked her to him.
Time trickled slowly until Julian finally pulled away. His hands left her body, leaving open wounds in their wake. Molly’s eyes found him. He was out of breath, tired, but there was a ghost smile on his face that told her he was satisfied. Molly forced her head to the side where the mirror once again held a truth she wanted to ignore. Her face was tear stained, her mascara clumping together in ugly pairs. Her face had fallen from the fake smile she had plastered for Julian’s benefit hours before. She couldn’t pretend anymore.
“I’ll be right back,” Julian commented. He leaned on the bed, kissing her forehead lightly, “I love you.” She watched him leave in silence. Molly couldn’t possibly understand how he didn’t realize that he was stealing a bit of her soul, piece by piece. She moved her body, the first time she had exerted control over it in an hour. Molly placed herself into a fetal position, hugging her feet to her chest and curling her neck until her chin hit her knees. She bit back sobs. She couldn’t cry now. She imagined Julian coming back to her breaking down on the bed, looking absolutely pathetic. Molly knew he would lose respect for her and she didn’t know how much more she could take.
Molly picked herself up from the bed, pulling clothes over herself. The fabric on her skin burned. She itched over her clothes, her skin too sensitive against any type of touch. Julian walked back into the room, settling himself beside her. He put an arm around her, as he had done hours before. She let her head rest on his chest, allowing herself to take comfort in the fact that the worst had passed. That she made it out of the other side of the pain and fear.
With every minute, touch, and kiss, Julian became more loving. Molly felt paralyzed again. She didn’t move, stuck in her own head. Every touch was a warning and a plea. It was a plea to stay, to ignore the bad and look at the good. A reminder of all the times he would take her to dinner, drive her to a doctor’s appointment, or dry her tears after a fight with her parents. But the warning was a palpable tension telling Molly to look at the signs, to stop allowing herself pain because she thought it was a sacrifice of love. Her mind was split in two.
Relief came two hours later when Julian announced he would be leaving. It took all her willpower to force herself out of bed, out of the room, and down a flight of stairs to the door. She didn’t think she would make it. She was sure she would collapse on her way, forced to prove how weak she was. She stared at her feet as she moved. One step in front of the other, she reminded herself. Molly focused on her breathing, to keep the panic from surfacing.
“I love you,” Julian said with a smile, leaning to kiss her. She didn’t stop him as his lips grazed hers but even that amount of contact threatened to bring her to her knees. Julian waited expectantly. He stared her down, and the longer she waited to speak the more his eyes narrowed. “I love you, too.” The effort of the words were a weight on her back. Julian seemed satisfied, giving her one last hug before moving to the door. “Text me when you get home,” she added, another pleasantry she knew she had to say to avoid a useless fight.
“I will.” As the door closed behind him, Molly felt the world go silent. She stared at the door, unable to move or think. She only walked back to her room because it was part of The Routine. It was simply muscle memory.
Fear laced her steps as she got closer and closer to her room. It took more effort than she wanted to admit just to walk through the threshold. And then she was truly alone. Her bed was ransacked and looked like someone had been searching for gold between her sheets. Her computer, still playing a random show, was the only thing that seemed untouched in the entire room. Molly made her way to the edge of the bed, placing her hand lightly on the velvet sheets. She cringed, opting out from the bed and taking her place on the carpet, right in front of the mirror.
A blessing and a curse. The truth was hard to swallow, even if it stared at her in the face. The longer she observed her face, her arms, her body, the more she realized that she was holding on by a thread. That she didn’t know if she could survive another day of Julian’s love. She stared intently at her face, seeing before truly feeling the single tear that escaped her eye. It was like the catalyst for the destruction of Molly’s world.
In the next instant she was sobbing, unable to hold back any longer. Panic rose to the surface, making her hands tingle until she was forced to grab hold of her knees, just to prove that she still had some seeming control. Her breathing was labored and sudden thoughts of never being able to breathe again protruded her rationality. She rocked back and forth in front of the mirror, massaging her knees as she repeated to the girl in the mirror, “It’s okay. You’re okay. It’s okay. You’re okay.” Molly didn’t believe it for a second. The pain was too much to bear.
And then the girl in the mirror seemed to give up on her too. Because the panic subsided, her breathing slowed, her arms and hands grew numb and fell in her lap. Molly stared. She had puffy red eyes, a tear stricken face, and lips that had swollen to twice their normal size. The girl in the mirror didn’t seem to care though, in fact, she relished the pain she felt that had brought her to this point. It was a reminder that she could feel something. But at what cost? Molly didn’t know she was falling until her head hit the carpet with a light thud. She was losing control of her body. She let herself lay motionless on the floor. Tears were streaming slowly at the corner of her eye and over the bridge of her nose. The absurdity of it made her chuckle lightly. The effort was painful.
Molly didn’t know how long she was lying on the floor, only that she genuinely couldn’t get up. Her body had given up on her, and her mind was following quickly. The girl in the mirror was broken and scarred. Molly could no longer look at herself and feel any sense of pride or love. All she saw were the places he had touched her and hurt her. She could see the handprints she had never wanted on her skin and over her clothes.
Her options were running out. She debated the prospect of leaving him but his relentless nature came into mind. Would he even let her go? She wondered if he would get mad and make the situation worse. Or promise to change and fool her with words just for her to end up right where she was now. Then she thought of her parents and wondered if they would be disappointed in her for leaving such a great guy. Would they blame her for ending it? Was she willing to risk her relationships with her friends that seemed loyal to Julian? He was like a virus that had embedded itself into every aspect of her life. He had become a constant, someone to expect. And he was loved. So where did that leave her?
It left her caged and it left her helpless. There were no options that guaranteed a smooth transition out of this internment. There would simply be more loss, more tears, more pain and she didn’t believe she would survive it. From afar, she heard her phone announce a new message. It brought another stream of fresh tears.
Molly wallowed in her grief. In that moment she mourned her innocence, her past self, her future. She couldn’t even see herself in a year from then. The light shining down on her dreams were dimming and intrusive thoughts strutted in their wake. It was those kinds of desperate thoughts that people shamed others about. They told her there was one last, easy fix. One that could make the pain and the fear go away for good. Sure, it would hurt some people in the process, but maybe a little less than if she left Julian.
Molly pondered the escape of this world for a while. More than she wanted to admit. She was so entranced in her thoughts that she didn’t hear footsteps approaching. She hadn’t paid attention to her parents’ yells for her to come down for dinner. She had forgotten to act normal, to hide it all under a smile and a simple phrase, “I’m fine.” The door opened, the sound bringing Molly out of her own thoughts. She didn’t even move her head to see who had walked in. She just didn’t have the strength to move anymore.
Soft hands grabbed at her arms, lightly moving her on her back and her vision landed on her mom. Her mouth was moving, but Molly couldn’t focus enough to understand what she was saying. In seconds, she watched her dad run through her door, kneeling on the other side of her. They both spoke to her, caressed her arms and face in what she was sure they believed to be loving ways. But it deterred her from trying to understand their words all together. The only thing she could focus on now was the feel of their hands on her, of any type of touch. Her sobs reached the surface again as she tried to move away. “No,” Molly begged, “Stop. Please.” The words were lost in her own parents’ chaos and grief until she gave up and completely surrendered herself to whatever was to come. She closed her eyes and begged for someone to take her away, maybe Peter Pan she mused. The only mercy she seemed to deserve was the gift of sleep.
Molly had finished her story. At least the one that had been the cause of this office visit. Her knee was still bouncing up and down. She placed her hand over it in an attempt to make it stop. She looked up at the woman, she had been scribbling down notes and nodding her head while Molly had spoken, as though she personally understood everything that was being said. Now her pen sat idly on the desk, her hands grasping her notebook.
Molly wished she would say something instead of letting the silence stretch. As though reading her mind, the woman said, “Thank you for sharing that with me. I can tell that you’ve been through a lot but I’m here to tell you that you are not helpless and that this wasn’t your fault. Now, do you have any interest in pressing charges?” No. Molly was convinced he still didn’t know what he had done. That she was the bad guy in his story. The woman looked skeptical as Molly shook her head but didn’t comment on it as she continued, “Alright, well, let’s talk about your options. Therapy and medication could…”
Molly zoned out of the conversation. The woman was naming off treatment plans and therapists that could help her, but she wasn’t convinced. A small part of her had hoped that telling the truth would somehow release her from the chains that seemed to bring her back to that bedroom, in front of that mirror. But it had done the opposite, simply adding a noose around her neck and pulling it taut. She had no interest in getting better. Molly didn’t understand why she was the one who needed to find help and go on medication when she had been the one being hurt. In the meantime Julian could simply move on with his life and file her away as just another failed relationship.
Yet she had been chemically changed and ruined. Her freedom had been robbed and her soul diminished into pieces. She would have to rebuild, to restart from the beginning. She would need to learn to control her anxiety, especially around men. She found that the panic was lethal even a few feet from a boy. She would have to regain the trust of her parents, leave the friends that had chosen him and not her, and deal with the aftermath of the thoughts that haunted her for most of her days.
Molly turned her head as the woman spoke to her. The longer she spoke of treatment the more it solidified the idea that Molly was in fact broken, something to be repaired and healed over time. But there was no point in any of it because it was simply too late. It was too late to fix what had been broken.
It was too late for help and for treatment.
It was too late for Molly Cameron.
It was simply too late.
Biographical Note: Oceane Goriou is a college student from Massachusetts. She currently attends Hofstra University where she is working on her English Degree. She has a passion for reading and creative writing and hope to share her writing with as many people as she can.