Part 89

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When I reached home, five exhausting hours later, I pulled out the crumpled papers and sat with them, my eyes closed. If I read these, I'd know. Know what happened in full, know how much she remembered and how much she'd managed to forget. Every painful moment of violence, abuse and neglect until I managed to help. I'd know what I was responsible for and how much guilt I'd have to live with, for the rest of my life. I could wait. I had enough to be miserable over.

My angel was winging her away across land and sea, away from me, and it'd be two weeks before I'd see her again. At least I knew she was safe, I told myself. Her nightmares are over. And mine had barely begun.

I placed the papers carefully on my desk before I went to bed. Every time I opened my eyes, I could feel them burning a dark hole in my head, but I didn't touch them.

In the morning, I dug out the keys to the red Mercedes Caitlin hated so much. I drove it to a car dealership and haggled half-heartedly with a used-car dealer until he gave me a cheque in exchange for the keys and some signed forms. I trudged all the way home in a daze. It might have taken three minutes or three hours. I didn't care.

I offered the cheque to Chris, telling her I was keeping Alanna's car and I'd sold mine, so I owed her half the money.

She snorted. "Keep it. You need it more than I do." She chewed her lip, as if she was dying to say something. "Where's Caitlin? Did she finally kick you out?"

I couldn't summon the energy to get angry at her. "No, she's off on a holiday somewhere with a friend. Girls' trip and I wasn't invited. I'm not anatomically equipped for days of clothes shopping and cocktails."

She looked sad. "It's for the best, you know. She's not good for you."

Of course she is. She's amazing and perfect for me – everything I ever wanted. Everything I don't have. I didn't say it – she wouldn't listen, anyway. I clicked on the TV and took a big bite of my lunch sandwich. Sawdust or salami or spinach – I didn't taste it and I didn't care. It was as dry as dust in my mouth, anyway.

I didn't look at the papers when I went to bed that night. A white beacon on my desk, waiting to drag me into the darkest depths of despair. I wondered if there was any such thing as a white hole – like a black hole, only camouflaged in colour and light. Or carefully covered by a sheaf of pristine pages, lying in wait.

We ran out of milk so I ate my cornflakes dry. Soft and stale from sitting in the cupboard so long, untouched, I remembered how much Caitlin hated them. And why. I threw up the gooey orange mess into the sink, washing it away with a hissing stream of water. Wishing I could wash memories away like cornflakes. Like blood.

The pages taunted me day and night. Sitting in a patch of sunlight through the window, glowing in moonlight much later, hidden by darkness and ever lurking.

I should just ring Navid and hand them over. Never read, never know. But I owe it to Caitlin to read what she gave me, to know what she went through. The least I can do.

But not yet.

I watched TV. Light blended into dark and I didn't leave the house. I focussed on nothing but advertising – endless repetition of a dramatic voice, telling me that Caitlin will tell her story. The time, the day and the haunting picture they'd plastered over the papers. Her haunted eyes as she whispered, "End it." Over and over until I tried to reach out and touch her through the LCD screen.

I wanted to steal an old TV from someone's verge, one with a dodgy picture that wasn't so clear and real. I didn't want to feel like I was in among the action. If I couldn't touch her, it was more torture than entertainment. The minutes ticked 'til the Friday when they'd show the complete interview. Or as much as they chose to.

It was Friday night and Chris was out. I spread out across the couch with a beer and waited.

I tuned out through a story about cyber-bullying. My beer was empty and I went to get another one when the story switched to some con-artist who wouldn't say anything but swearing to the cameramen as they stalked his house. What else do you say to stalkers who won't leave you alone?

"Up next – miracle girl Caitlin Lockyer tells her story!" A quick flash of her duckling photograph from the newspaper and an ad for cornflakes appeared. Fucking cornflakes.

I went to get another beer, but we were out. I opened one of the lemon vodka things Caitlin had left here when she stayed over. When we'd…

"End it," her voice said from the lounge room and I ran back to the couch, only to find that it was an ad. A dancing dishcloth cleaned someone's house to upbeat music as I thought about ringing the TV station to complain about the wait.

I didn't do it. I drank a gulp of vodka, remembering the taste of it on Caitlin's tongue.

I'm going to order a copy of that photo in the morning.

"They hurt me. They came in the dark and…hurt me. I couldn't understand it – why they'd want to, why they came back again. Only to hurt me…" Her forlorn voice cut deep and I listened.

She never used the words rape, break or cut, though that's what they did. Only hurt. All she ever said was that they hurt her, a word that haunted me more than the precise ones she avoided.

Please don't hurt me…

My heart went out to her, wherever she was, and for the first time I saw the interviewer's tears, too. Yet Caitlin never cried – not a drop. She'd cried herself out in my arms and she had no tears left to shed when she talked of hurt and dark.

I stared at her angry-looking protector, knowing it was me in makeup, as the figure on the screen talked of how amazing she was and how she never gave up.

If I'd known then what I know now – that she could kill a man for what he did to her, no fear left for she'd spent it all long before…

Our kiss had the interviewer clapping and crying at the same time. I didn't remember her making a sound – maybe they taped her response later. My strong suspicion was confirmed when she asked one more question that I know I never heard.

"What were you thinking most, in the pain and the dark?"

Caitlin's whispered response was taken completely out of context. "End it."

And the interview ended.

No, she wasn't thinking that she wanted to end it, I fumed. She was thinking what she said, so many times in her sleep: Keep fighting. Don't let them win.

"Up next, a live performance from meteoric Melbourne band, Chaya, performing their debut single, Necessary Evil, followed by an exclusive interview with their hot lead singer, Jay…"

I clicked the TV off.

You didn't know her. You made her sound like a helpless little innocent, instead of the fierce fighter she is. No matter what kind of hell she's been through, there's nothing that would stop me from going to meet her again when she comes home.

Fuck it. I'm going to read the whole thing in the morning. I owe it to her. 

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