Marg roused suddenly, with beads of sweat glistening on her temples, her face constricted as she heaved heavily for air. This was the ninth time she had awoken from her sleep. She glanced at the digital clock right in front of her, and made out that it was still 3 o’clock in the morning. She rose from her bed, and washed her face in the white marbled sink. She then stood in front of the mirror, as she normally does, and stared at her reflection. Somehow, she felt that the blank face that she stared back at her, that kept on evaluating her, was not the woman she was supposed to be.
Nothing could stop her heart from beating faster in agitation, and she knew it. She felt her head throbbing with anxiety and all the thoughts that haunted her daily. She took another brief look at her reflection once more and she saw that girl, with all her innocence and beauty. The girl who knew nothing about the impact she would have in the future. Dragging her reluctant body to her bed for one last time, she looked around her making sure that the man had not followed her, then she finally laid her head to the fluffy purple pillow.
Waking up every morning at six had been always a challenge, but somehow she managed every time. She stumbled out of bed and washed quickly, and robotically wore her clothes. The sunrays were shimmering through her sheer lacy curtains, and a couple of birds were chirping. For most people this would have been a pretty sight, but Marg could not be bothered. Walking to the kitchen, she put the electric kettle on and prepared her mug for a cup of coffee, placed two slices of French toast in the toaster and waited. In the meantime she prepared her daily dose of medication. The kettle started whistling, the click of the toaster indicated that they were done too. She slowly poured the boiling water in her cup and she prepared the bread with some butter and sliced cheese. Sitting down was never an option for Marg, her nervousness always got the best of her. She started swallowing the chunks of the toast, even if she felt they were almost chocking her, taking sips of coffee in between. As she finished the toast, she gulped down all the pills, together with the rest of her coffee.
Looking at her wristwatch she realised that she was going to be late, so she carelessly placed her scarf around her neck, slipped on the neat fitted blazer, grabbed her Marc Jacob’s handbag and rushed out to catch the train to work. On the way there, all she could see was the man, with a knife in his hand, and the little girl crying helplessly, screaming, and hoping that someone would hear her. The man, whose name she yet did not know, had done everything so flawlessly, as if it had not been his first time. The little girl was too young to understand that the man was going to hurt her and dump her on the floor surrounded by her blood and mud.
The train came to a stop in the centre of Rochdale; the mixture of scents and smells as she got out of the train station overwhelmed her. Cigarette smoke, cars’ exhaust, the fresh smell of bread, coffee – all those aromas filled her nostrils. Holding her bag close to her, she quickly made her way through the storm of people that came out of the station with her. She continuously kept on checking that the man was not among the people in the crowd, but all she could see were random faces of frantic men and women who were absorbed in their own reality. Marg tried her best to avoid eye contact; that kind of intimacy drove her mad. Cars parked carelessly blocked her way to cross safely to the road where her office was situated but after dodging them, she found her way.
Lower Tweedale Street had been under construction for the past five months at least, so the truck was already loaded with bricks and stones. Her office was a tall grey building, which stood out from the other crimson red houses that were clustered around it. She entered the building and rushed for the stairs. She still avoids the elevator, due to the fact that closed spaces now trigger tumultuous emotions that she cannot handle. Her job was not exactly what one could call exciting, but at least it was a way through which she could ease her thoughts for a few hours. Marg did not make much contact with her colleagues; she knew them by name, she had maybe greeted them now and again, but whenever possible she kept her distance from them.
When the wall clock ticked five strokes, she finally rose from her chair, arranged her chair and walked out of her office. It was already quite dark outside, and that already made her chest tighten. In her mind she just thought of what she had to do when she arrived home, at least that was what her therapist kept on telling her to do. The visage of the man however was stronger at night; she could almost feel what she had felt twenty-three years earlier. She had only been seven, she had not known any better.
The road where he had attacked her had to be closed down for two months or so to make way for proper investigation. Marg never walked even remotely close to that road again after her incident. He had kept calling her ‘darling’ and ‘love’ and all those indulgent nicknames that had lured her. The echoes of her screams, the crumpled baby-pink dress, the yellow flower she had picked up for her mother on the way, were all remnants of that day and that could easily trigger a panic attack.
Looking directly in the spotlight hurt her eyes, but she put on a radiant smile and looked at her audience. After a long awkward pause she took a quick breath to calm herself down and announced loudly: “Yes, I am a rape victim, but I survived! And after nineteen years the cruel man has been captured and put in prison! If you are here listening because you have been through something similar, I suggest you go talk to someone who can help you. You are not the cause of the rape, so do not feel guilty for it!” The crowd at the conference stood up and applauded her – she had never felt so happy before. Looking at the faces of the people, she realised that finally she could live again!