I am lying in the soft dirt; it gets under my finger nails and in my hair. It cakes the backs of my knees and the tiny hollows of my ears. The ground is somewhat wet from recent rain. The smell is not unpleasant; it's familiar, and I cling to it. I try to concentrate on the dirt, the way its heady scent fills my nostrils, the way it crumbles as I dig my fingers into it. This helps me not think of the pain as a man lies grunting on top of me.
I can picture my mother in the kitchen, watching the minutes tick by on the oven's clock. She is wearing an apron and a frown. The table is set and the kitchen is warm because the oven's been on all afternoon. It's Tuesday, so a pot roast awaits, drying out and shrivelling with every passing moment. She is probably annoyed that dinner will be over-cooked. She's probably thinking up lectures and fitting punishments to dole out when I come bursting through the door, late again. I imagine her pacing back and forth on the kitchen's linoleum floor, watching for my outline in the growing dusk outside the window. Impatience and annoyance reign for now; it will take many minutes more before concern begins to seep in. No one's even looking for me yet.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see a scrap of pink. Pink, the pink of my dress, torn from my shoulders, discarded with my favourite blue sweater with the buttons that look like small pearly white elephants. I blink back tears at the thought of my sweater getting dirty and damp. I must not cry. He has told me not to cry, not to make a sound. The only sound comes from him, a mixture of wheezing and guttural noises that reminds me of a class trip to the zoo. I will not cry.
He touches my cheek, my hair. He smiles at me, but there is no happiness in his smile. Obscenely, I think that he is as repulsed by his actions as I am, but he keeps on, thrusting and sweating and grunting. He forces himself inside me, and it feels like he's trying to rip his way out. The pain between my legs is unbearable. Well, not unbearable because I am bearing it. I believe it is the worst pain I could possibly live through but not die from. I wish I would die, and not have this pain. I whimper, and his eyes flash cruelly. He sinks his teeth into my shoulder, biting as though hungry, and when he raises his head I see that his mouth is smeared with my blood.
When he is done, he stands up and straightens his clothes. I shiver on the ground, and sit up though my head is spinning. I wonder how I will find my way home from this place. There is blood on my thighs, and I watch it trickle down to the earth below me. It looks black as it pools on the ground, and I tell myself that it's not real, that my pain is not real, that this is not really happening.
I try to brush the leaves and twigs from my hair. The ponytail that my mother so carefully gave me that morning is now crushed beyond redemption. I wince as I shift my weight to stand.
Where do you think you're going? he asks, and I see he is holding a knife larger than any I've ever seen before. Has he always had that knife? It glints in the last fleeting rays of sunshine that poke in among the trees.
Please, I say. Please. And even to my 8 year old ears, it sounds ridiculous. 'Please' is a magic word, my mother has told me. 'Please' is polite. 'Please' is a way of showing respect to your elders, and I know that I do not respect this man, and that even my mother would not object to its absence.
I could say No!, or Don't, or Stop, but I don't say any of these. I say Please, and it infuriates me when the word leaves my lips. And when I say it out loud, softly, pleading, I know that I am not alone. I hear voices, thousands of voices all pleading at the same time. I hear little girls, and grown women. I hear all these voices saying the same strange word, Please, and none of us really mean please when we say it. We're all hurting, we're all begging, and I don't understand anything other than this is not going to be all right.
Please, I say, as he slices into me. I watch the knife disappear inside of me as he himself did, not long before, and I feel detached. I feel as though I am floating away. Please, please, I say, long after I know it is useless. Please, I say, as I am leaving my body. Please, as I drift away, not even sure anymore that I am speaking. Please, I say, along with all the other voices. We form a choir, and with all of our pleading, despite all of our pleading, we all still suffer. Please, please, we say. And I am gone.