by Marie Gethins
She wakes up with a hand creeping along her thigh. Several blinks, some guy’s face comes into focus. Half-asleep, her brain not quite clicking, she whispers what are you doing in my room? and he says something like come on baby as if they’re at the university bar. Synapses begin firing and she pulls his hand out from under the sheet and talks louder, louder hoping her I-sleep-like-the-dead roomie will unfold to a full 6’1” height and scare the shit out of this snake, but no dice. She sits up, pulls the sheet tight. Fabric that was lead during the night’s heat, now tissue thin. You shouldn’t be here. Her feet paddle backwards. You need to leave. In the far corner of the bed, she folds legs to chest. He leans forward.
Later, she will replay it on an endless loop. His white-white teeth. Stale beer and sweat. Hands that reach out for her but miss. Rolling away, pushing his bulk out of her path to cross the room. A glance at his t-shirt with three Greek letters, hazy in dawn shadow. But in this moment, the choreography is directed by someone else. Stand, shoulders back, long neck. Neutral face. Strong, strong, strong.
She marches to the door, pulls it open. An order: Get Out. She points to the hall, hopes he doesn’t see how much her arm trembles and thank God he leaves. After the lock double-clicks, she shakes her roomie’s shoulders with enough adrenaline to toss a car across the quad. They sit holding hands until the scents of coffee and buttermilk pancakes drift in from the cafeteria.
At campus police, two officers on the counter exchange low-lid glances, ask if she’d been drinking or smoking or whatever else. The one filling out an incident report form snaps his gum, tells her the guy must have been Spiderman to scale the wall and climb through a second-floor window. He tosses the form into a metal tray, says buy an electric fan.
A week later, she’s exiting a women’s bathroom near the dance studio and there he is—face plastered eye-level on a police poster. Seems he was more successful hiding in a toilet cubicle by the library and raped a girl. Her legs and arms go all twitchy, but she tells herself it’s just muscle fatigue and to get a grip. She stands there for who knows how long, like an idiot, in an empty restroom staring at a wanted poster for the guy that climbed into her dorm, leaving permanent fingerprints on her thigh.
For the rest of term, she plays coulda, woulda, shoulda and the weight of what happened to that library girl sits like a snowbank across her shoulders. Back home, she watches her family from a foreign land. What’s wrong with you? They pester until she releases the tale kept in a mental box for weeks. Her father asks how two athletic women couldn’t tackle and subdue one smarmy college boy. When she tries to explain, her tongue refuses to move. What sort of girls leave their windows open to the world at night? Her mother looks shocked, but she guessed that’s exactly what he would think.
Marie Gethins’ flash has appeared in NFFD Anthologies, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Banshee, Mslexia, Jellyfish Review, Fictive Dream, Litro, NANO, FlashBack Fiction, Wales Arts Review, Synaesthesia, The Incubator, The Nottingham Review, Spelk, Ellipsis Zine, Words with JAM, Paper Swans, 101 Words, and others. Marie is a Pushcart and Best of the Short Fictions’ nominee and an editor of the Irish ezine Splonk.