A Promise Kept
by Lisa McCourt Hollar
I was eating eggs and toast when I saw his picture. It was in the morning paper, right there on the front page. My heart started racing and I was having trouble breathing recalling the last time I’d seen his face.
Images of him on top of me, his knee pressed into my stomach while he groped at my skirt with his hands came into my mind. Feeling the room spin I reached for the table to steady myself and knocked my juice off the edge. The glass shattering against the floor brought my mother running.
“Jamie, are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” I said, shaking it off and smiling at her. “I’m just a little tired. I started to doze off over the paper.” I had never told anyone what happened and I wasn’t prepared to do so now.
“Oh would you look at that,” my mother said picking up the paper. “Jim’s back in town. Maybe we should have him over for dinner sometime.”
Have him over for dinner? HAVE HIM OVER FOR DINNER?!? I was beginning to panic, imagining having to sit across from him and pretend as though everything were alright, as though he hadn’t raped me nearly every night for a year.”
“He’s done well for himself,” my mother said, reading the article. “Vice President in charge of Customer Relations, I wonder what that means.”
“It means he’s in customer service,” I said, the sarcasm dripping.
“It must be more important than that, otherwise it wouldn’t be on the front page of the paper.”
Mother had always thought he was more important than he was. “It’s on the front page because this town has no news to report and Edgington and Burns employee half the town.”
“I remember when he first started working for Edgington, before Burns became a part of the company. “ I could see her going down memory lane in her mind.
‘DON’T DO IT,’ I screamed at her silently. ‘DON’T CALL HIM!”
“I think I’ll give him a call and ask him over for dinner on Friday.”
“He won’t accept,” I told myself. “He won’t accept. He won’t.”
But he did. Mother hung up the phone with him, excitedly. “He says he can’t wait to see us!” The look in her eye told me all I needed to know. She wanted him back. Would she, if she knew what he had done? I was only twelve when it started. That was five years ago.
“Tell your mother and I’ll deny it,” he said the first time. “Who do you think she’ll believe?”
I wasn’t sure. I should have told her, but the doubt that he’d planted, along with the shame…he told me I had teased him and it was my fault he couldn’t keep away from me.”
“You want it,” he said to me that second night. “The way you parade around in your shorts every night.” I started wearing sweat pants to bed but that didn’t stop him.
“You’re nothing but a teasing bitch,” he would tell me, while my mother slept in the next room, unaware of what he was doing to me. “A whore, that’s what you are.” Until that last night when I fought back.
Mom cut his picture out of the paper and hung it on the fridge. Looking in the mirror she said that maybe she needed to get her hair dyed.
Every day that week I saw his picture, remembering the things he had done to me. How he held me down and forced my mouth open, how I would cry and beg him not to hurt me anymore, the time he’d rolled me and sodomized me. By Friday I thought I was going crazy.
Friday morning I stood in front of the refrigerator looking at his picture. I could hear him laughing at me. “You little bitch, you little tease. Prancing around shaking your ass in front of me, you know you want it. Well I’m back and I’m going to pick up where I left off”
“NOT AGAIN!” I screamed that at the top of my lungs. My mom was at work. “NOT AGAIN, NOT AGAIN, NOT AGAIN!” I grabbed my keys and left. Using my cell phone, I called the school. Pretending to be my mom, I told them that I wasn’t going to be in today.
He was still home when I knocked on his door. It wasn’t hard to find his address. We are a small town. Everyone knows everyone’s business, except for the stuff they don’t want to know.
“Jamie,” he said, smiling from ear to ear, “So nice to see you. Why don’t you come in?” He stepped aside. I stepped past him and into his lair.
“And what can I do for you,” he asked, stroking my hair.
“You can leave town,” I said.
“Now why would I do that,” he asked.
“Because of what I said I would do to you if you didn’t leave the last time.”
I knew he remembered. His knee pressed into my stomach, I couldn’t breathe. I pulled the knife out from beneath my pillow and held it against him, pressing in just hard enough to draw blood, but not enough to cause any permanent damage. It was so hard to hold back, but I did.
“Touch me again, and I will cut it off.”
He saw the look in my eye and I saw the look in his. He left the next morning, packing his bags while mother was at work.
“You didn’t mean that,” he said, reaching for the buttons on my blouse. “You’re just a little teasing bitch, but you know you want it.”
He never showed up for dinner that night. Mother was disappointed but I knew she would get over it, she had before. When he didn’t show up for work on Monday they sent someone to check on him. He was found dead in his living room; his penis cut off and shoved down his throat. His murderer was never found. His picture is still on our fridge, but now I smile when I look at it.