THE SUN was shining the next morning, but my world was gray, covered in dark clouds like I was in a fog.
I was disoriented. I really didn’t remember going to bed. In fact, I really didn’t remember anything from the night before.
I pulled the covers up and looked down. I was wearing my favorite pajamas, but I didn’t remember putting them on. I had no recollection of getting into my bed, yet I was surrounded by my four fluffy pillows and covered with my teal and black comforter. I was even wearing my dad’s socks, the wool pair he had given me after I complained about my feet always being cold when I slept.
I knew that I was in my room, but I felt like I was on the surface of the moon, as alien as it all seemed. I frowned; it was like I’d been drugged.
When I was twelve, my friend Staci and I had begged her brother to give us a joint. We were dying to try marijuana after watching a movie where teenagers were smoking and having a great time. We thought it would somehow magically propel us into adulthood if we could smoke it. Donnie was more than happy to oblige us, for the mere price of ten bucks.
What he didn’t tell us was that the rolling paper had been soaked in PCP.
For nearly a month after smoking that joint, I would have these weird episodes that I could now describe as “out of body experiences.” I would know that I was in my home, in my kitchen, talking to my mom, or whatever, but I felt like I was hovering just outside of the physical realm, watching life as it happened from afar.
That was how I felt when I awoke in my room.
I struggled to remember how I had gotten to bed. The last thing I remembered, I had made meatloaf for what would probably be another “Mom and Beth alone” meal, since Rod and my dad were both off doing whatever they were doing. I remember putting it in the oven and then going back to finish my homework…
…and finding Ben’s phone.
But that was the end of my memories for the evening.
I frowned as I threw my legs over the side of the bed and sat up. I was dying of thirst, so I grabbed the water that had somehow magically appeared on my nightstand and chugged it down. Yet another mystery. I definitely didn’t remember getting water.
Since it was already sunny, I knew I was running late, so I stood. A wave of dizziness threatened to take over and I sat back down and moaned. I put my hand to my head and that’s when I heard the door open.
“Oh, you’re awake! How are you feeling, sweetie?” my mom asked, and I cracked an eye while turning my head to look at her. Even though my bedroom was freaking huge, I have excellent eyesight, so there was no reason for my mother’s image to be so blurry.
I blinked furiously several times, trying to clear my vision.
“I feel—” my voice was a croak, so I cleared my throat and tried again. “I feel awful. What happened? I don’t even remember going to bed.”
My mom walked up to me and put the back of her hand to my forehead, the typical “Are you sick?” mom test. I looked up at her to see she was frowning.
“You were gone longer than I thought you would be, so I started to head out to look for you, but as I was backing out of the garage, I saw your car in the drive. You were sitting in it, with it running and the heater on full blast. It was like an oven in there and you were sweating, sound asleep.”
I returned her frown. “Gone? Where did I go?”
There was no mistaking the worry on my mom’s face then and she turned to sit next to me. “You said you found Ben’s phone and were going to take it back to him, remember?”
No, I didn’t remember. I did remember finding the phone, but nothing after that.
“When I found you, I had a heck of a time waking you. I thought you were drunk, honestly, but I knew you hadn’t been gone long enough for you to be that intoxicated.”
I turned my head to side-eye her. “Seriously? Drunk?”
Her cheeks colored. She knew that was the last thing she’d ever have to worry about with me. I never partied. Harvard was too important to me and with the way my life went, I’d get busted for underage drinking. My life was lived by Murphy’s Law — if something could go wrong, it probably would. Not being pessimistic, but that is the way things usually turned out for me.
“I know! I’m sorry,” Mom blurted out. “I knew it was a dumb thought, but honestly, I had no other idea what could be wrong with you. But then, you suddenly seemed to come to your senses said you were going to bed.” She shrugged.
“I figured then you were just really tired. I know teenagers need a lot of sleep and you rarely get enough, with all the studying and hanging out with Ben and all.”
That comment triggered another memory — Ben said he wouldn’t be able to stay for dinner, because he had some sort of meeting. So, if I took the phone to his house, what happened from the time I left to when I got home?
I mentally shrugged. There was no sense beating myself up trying to remember. All I knew was I needed to take a shower and get ready for school. I said as much to Mom as I cautiously stood again.
Her eyes widened. “Honey, it’s one-thirty. I called you in to school this morning.”
I whipped my head around to look at her and another wave of dizziness hit me. “Whoa,” I breathed, both from the dizzy spell and the knowledge that I’d slept so long. I didn’t even hear my alarm.
Maybe I was sick after all.
“I’m gonna try taking a shower,” I mumbled as I walked like a drunk toward my bathroom. I figured Mom would probably stay in my room in case I needed her help and with the way I felt, that was a good idea.
I turned on the water to warm up and peeled off my pajama top. I winced. I was sore, like I’d gotten beat up. I figured then that I had the flu with accompanying muscle aches. But then I glanced in the mirror and saw bruises on my chest, right above my left breast. They looked just like fingerprints.
I leaned closer to the mirror and looked at my face. My eyes were hollow-looking, like I’d been sick for a long time. But even weirder, my pupils were dilated, despite the bright bathroom lights.
But the strangest thing of all came when I peeled my pajama pants and panties down and I saw the dried blood on my thighs. I frowned; because of the bad cramps I get with my period, the doctor had put me on the Amethyst birth control pill, which stops you from bleeding. I’d been very careful to take it regularly ever since I went to the doctor back in January, when Ben and I started dating.
Mom said I took his phone to his house. I had that memory of him saying he had a meeting or something, but maybe he’d been home. Maybe we’d finally hooked up. Maybe what I was seeing was evidence of my cherry popping.
But why couldn’t I remember something so monumental?
I would have to look back through my texts and see if I could piece the puzzle together, but for now, there were just too many mysteries to solve without caffeine in my system, so I stepped under the hot spray and tried to wash all my worries and confusion away.
Mom must have decided I was okay, because she wasn’t in the room when I came out of the bathroom while towel-drying my long hair. It was a pain and I was seriously thinking of cutting it all off. I really liked Skyler Samuels’ hair from The Gifted, cut right to the shoulders.
My stomach rumbled then and I realized that I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before. Maybe. Who knew what I had done the night before. I could have scarfed a whole pizza and not remembered it.
I figured there was no reason to get dressed in “real clothes,” so I pulled on a pair of sweats with a Harvard sweatshirt. I nabbed my phone from my nightstand and tucked it into my pocket, figuring I’d do my text detective work while I ate. I then grabbed a pair of fuzzy socks from my drawer and sat on the bench at the foot of my bed to put them on.
I had just pulled the socks on, when I heard a crash from downstairs. It sounded like Mom had dropped something very breakable.
Since I was still lightheaded, I carefully made my way down the stairs while hurrying as much as I could. I figured Mom was in the kitchen, so that’s where I headed.
And stopped dead in my tracks.
Mom was standing by the island, next to the kitchen television, surrounded by what looked like pieces of a plate. The television was on the news channel, showing a man being arrested in what looked like a locker room. Probably another sports betting scheme.
Even though she was facing the screen, Mom wasn’t watching the broadcast. Instead, she was staring at her phone with a horrified look on her face.
She must have sensed my presence, because she looked up at me then. The three words that came out of her mouth in a whisper would haunt me for the rest of my life.
“How could you?”
I frowned at my mom. Maybe I was still too disoriented to have heard her properly. She held her phone out like it was a diseased rat and wanted me to take it away.
Something told me that I should turn and go back upstairs, climb into bed and sleep until whatever life-changing event that was about to unfold blew over. But instead, I stepped forward and took the phone from her hands.
It was a video. A porno, from the looks of the naked ass I was staring at. Honestly, I really didn’t want to see it, but apparently Mom thought I needed to. It had finished playing, so I hit the little triangle.
Definitely not a professional porno, and don’t ask me how I know that, but it looked like a homemade one. The video started with a man’s naked ass, his pants pulled down to his thighs. He was thrusting into some chick who was lying on a desk while he held her thighs up with his hands.
I frowned as I squinted at the little screen. The room looked familiar somehow, which was weird. The guy seemed kind of familiar too, even though I couldn’t see his face.
But then the camera angle changed, and I saw his face. I had seen that man before, at my school. It was Ben’s dad, Coach Penn.
My eyes flickered back to the television, realizing that the man I’d seen getting arrested was the Coach. I wondered why—because of a homemade porno?
I looked down to my mom’s phone and saw that the camera angle had changed yet again. Now the viewer could see exactly who it was that he was screwing.
My entire world tilted on its axis then.
I might not have remembered the events of the night before, but there was no denying what had happened. As I stared in horror at the video, I saw how Coach grabbed my breast. My hand went to my left breast where the fingerprint bruises were. I winced when I saw how hard he squeezed it then.
The girl in the video — I knew it was me, but it wasn’t me, if that made any sense; it was truly the only way I was coping at that moment — moaned and it sounded like she was really enjoying it. In fact, the whole thing seemed… consensual.
But there was no way I would have had sex with Ben’s dad. No fucking way in hell. I was saving myself for Ben, had been all my life, even though I didn’t know it then. His asshole father had done something, must have, to hypnotize me, or…
“Oh my God,” I breathed as I looked back at my mom and stepped toward her. “That’s what happened last night.”
My mom did something then that she’d never done in my entire life. She slapped me. Hard.
“Don’t pretend you didn’t know what you were doing!” she yelled, then snatched her phone out of my hand and turned it so the screen was aimed at me. She pointed to the disgusting evidence.
“You’re right here, moaning and groaning and obviously enjoying yourself! And with a man your father’s age!” she screeched.
I stood there, hand on my stinging cheek, tears welling in my eyes and just stared at the only person in the entire world that I thought would always—should always—have my back. Protect me. Believe in me.
The tears ran down my cheeks and I sucked in a breath. “He drugged me,” I whispered. “I… I don’t even remember it. I told you I didn’t remember leaving last night. The last thing I do remember is finding Ben’s phone.”
My mom was scowling at me like she hated me and that broke me even more than watching the video of me spread-eagle on Coach Penn’s desk, losing my virginity to a scum-sucking asshole rapist.
“You said you thought I was drunk when I got home,” I whispered, begging her to believe me with my eyes. “I never would have given my virginity to that man. I wanted it to be Ben…” a sob escaped me then and I collapsed on the floor, not caring that the shards from the plate were cutting into my flesh. The broken plate was like my heart—shattered.
I put my face in my hands and wept.
Mom sucked in a breath and then she was on her knees, pulling me into a hug. She rocked me as she cradled my body and I clung to her.
“I’m so sorry. I… I just… that horrible video,” she was crying too and that made me sob even harder.
We held each other for what seemed like an eternity but was in reality probably only a few moments. Reality started seeping back into my brain then and the pain coming from my backside made me shift out of Mom’s embrace so I could stand.
I swiped angrily at the tears on my face. “I wanna press charges,” I told her. “That asshole needs to pay for what he did!”
My mom nodded in agreement. “I, um, don’t know how this works, but from NCIS I know you have to go to the hospital to get tested.” Her face paled then.
“Oh my God,” she breathed, “you don’t think you could have gotten pregnant, do you?”
My face reddened as I shook my head. “No, I got on birth control last month… once I realized Ben who I wanted to be my first.”
Another sob escaped me, and Mom made a move to grab me again, but I held my hand up. If she gave me any more sympathy, I wouldn’t be able to hold it together. At. All.
“I’ll just go get my shoes,” I told her, and she murmured something about warming up the Escalade.
As I climbed the stairs, I had a sickening thought that should have occurred to me before, and would have if I weren’t still so foggy — how did my mom get that video?
I turned and headed back down. Mom was just coming from the garage and I could hear the Escalade’s motor before she shut the door behind her. She looked about ten years older, I noticed. Not surprising.
She glanced up at me in surprise. “Who sent you that video?” I asked.
She frowned and pulled her phone out of her pocket. “I don’t know—I didn’t really pay attention.” She handed it to me and I turned on the phone. The video was still open, but stopped, thankfully. I tried to ignore it as I looked for the sender.
The text with the video attachment said “Important! Big changes at Athole coming!” I frowned at that and then looked at the sender. I’m pretty sure all the blood drained from my face then.
The sender was the school’s messaging system, the one that’s used to alert parents and students when we have a snow day, or there’s an event coming up. I knew I probably had the video on my phone too.
Every parent. Every teacher. Every student. All would have seen it and assumed I had sex willing with Coach Penn.
Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe and my chest felt like it was being crushed under a truck, because, if that wasn’t bad enough, I knew that the only people who would have had access to the message system were those who worked in the office.
Broken, book 1 in the Athole Academy Series, coming soon. Sign up HERE for updates!