I attended my rapist’s wedding.
I swallowed a mouthful of gauze as I watched him kiss the woman with which he was supposed to spend the rest of his life, the outdoor patio trembling as family and friends writhed in applause and cheers. A woman ran inside the pavilion to ready the buffet line of hamburgers and fill the coolers with ice and beer. Someone knocked over a Mason jar, glass scattering across the wooden boards like a handful of terrified butterflies.
My mother nudged me and said something witty, something like, “Hey, that’ll be you some day,” and I wanted to tell her that I already knew what the inside of his mouth tasted like, a force he exerted upon me when I was a child in his bed, but I held my breath and smiled. When I made eye contact with the bride, I willed into her the silhouette of his body on top of mine, hands digging underneath my fleece nightgown, but blinded with pearl-white and baby’s breath, she averted her glance to her toes and filled the porch with immeasurable warmth.
Was I supposed to tell this woman, my new cousin by law, that her husband used to peel back my skin and eviscerate me from the inside out? Could I physically put into words the nature in which he used to send volts of electricity to every one of my limbs when he cast his hand over my mouth, eyes peering into mine, small bulbs of light suspended above us while he ordered me to be a little quieter? My mind happily added, You just did, and then I grabbed another beer without telling her.
The bride and rapist began their route of thanks with an elderly couple nuzzled in one of the corner benches of the patio. I listened for the hissing of her wedding dress against the wooden grain of the deck, and when it brushed the inside of my ears, I escaped to the opposite side, a discarded, fragile piece always parallel, never perpendicular.
I finished my third beer and tossed the empty can into the nearest trash bin. Someone behind me yelled, “Dip her! Dip her!” I imagined the rapist and bride sharing their first dance together as rapist and wife, a crescent of people watching the two sway and bend to their selected country ballad, a song I used to listen to with my sister when we were children. My mother’s voice urged the couple to spin around faster. With my back to the crowd, my eyes pinned to the line of stars suspended above me, the moon pulsating with a pale light to match the porcelain features of my face, I closed my eyes and wondered.
Would he do to his children what he did to me? Was there a way for him to trick the pubescent bundle into slipping into bed with him, a body vulnerable and available to his liking, a map he wished to travel in the dark, without the supervision of direction or light?
Another Mason jar cracked on the deck floor. Pieces of glass fell through the empty spaces between boards. I imagined a new set of stars twinkling beneath me, the glass teeth shimmering in the flashing lights from the hired DJ.
“Thank you for coming,” a heavenly voice snuck its way into my ear.
I turned to see the bride, a beautiful blonde-haired woman with freckles along her bare shoulders and a corset of pearls and white lace holding her in place. My heart trembled like a bird in a cage, rib bones shaking as it tried to escape. Did I tell her? I found a safe set of words. “You’re welcome. Thank you for inviting me.”
She fixed her veil. “We’re family now.”
I remained fixed in place, heels glued to the patio floor, knees buckled and palms sweaty. “Yeah, we are.”
The silence between us weighed so much that she excused herself a few moments later after asking me to help myself to more beer, a weight draped around her shoulders, a sense that dwindled the more distance she put between us. I watched the white of her disappear in the thinning crowd. I wore white the night it happened, and I was envious that she could blend in so easily, her ability to hide a craft she mastered in moments and something I could never do after so many years.
My mother’s hand found my shoulder. I saw her freckles in the moonlight, a trait that skipped me and instead consumed my sister. She tossed back a Jell-O shot. “You having fun?”
I nodded and said through a set of teeth of lies, “Yeah.”
She was unable to read the registration of everything on my face. Good, I thought, because I wanted to continue the façade, the fact that nobody in my family knew that the rapist snatched my utmost beautiful gift to a man, a secret I kept in veins by sending ice to my blood. I caught a glimpse of the rapist through my peripheral vision, his tuxedo shining in lights of red and orange, techno music carrying his limbs as he danced in a terribly embarrassing fashion. I hated myself for smiling at his effort.
“When do you want to leave?” My mother readjusted the purse hanging from her shoulder.
“We can leave whenever,” I said, my voice hardly a whisper. She asked me to repeat myself, so I said again, “Whenever. We can leave whenever.”
The stars and I made eye contact as me and my mother walked to our car in the parking lot. They sent down waves of pale blue light, a star glow of sorts, to help me navigate the gravel and grass to my Chevy Cavalier. I glanced over my shoulder, half-expecting the rapist to be there, a glance on his face, that lop-sided smile underneath a worm of facial hair, a beast taking in the presence of pray—God, how I hated him, the fact that he could be there without being near at all.
She closed the driver’s side door. “What?”
Was this when I told her?
I saw the novel on my tongue before I let it escape. The story about those nights in his bed, what started off as curiosity that bloomed into a monster that could split my skin and feel terror in my wounds. He was the salt to my body, the essence that burned, the substance that lay like a blanket across my eyes, the filter through which I always saw. My throat swelled at the memory, and I tried to cough, tried to expel him from inside of me. Somehow I managed to say to her, “Forget about it,” and then I rolled down the passenger’s side window.
She lit a cigarette. “Well, if you remember, tell me.”
I closed my eyes and dove into his bed, feigned the strength to push him away, screamed through clenched teeth and clawed at his face, an act that woke up my great aunt in the other room, gave her the ability to discover me bleeding and crying in his bed, fleece nightgown hanging at my ankles, but these actions only served to warp the memory into a new breed, because I had been too weak to do anything.
The air held my shame as I hung over the passenger door. The white line of the road beneath me held me close, a caged animal, domesticated and obedient. I vowed to one day see the white without seeing the red.
I prayed that I was his only one.
Amber D. Tran graduated from West Virginia University in 2012, where she specialized in lyrical non-fiction and contemporary poetry. She is the Editor-in-Chief for the Cold Creek Review literary journal. Her work has been featured in Calliope, Sonic Boom Journal, Spry Literary Journal, Cheat River Review, and more. Her first novel, Moon River, was released in September. She currently lives in Alabama with her husband and two dogs, Ahri and Ziggs.