My fingers traced the silk blouse that hung too loose around my shoulders. Ten pounds isn’t much to lose, but when the body is already frail, it’s enough to lure the dragons from their caves. Shaking like a junkie, that woman in the mirror wasn’t me. She can’t be me, can she? Hands brushing, clothing smoothed, presentable is what they would say. “Hold your head up like a Kennedy. Don’t you fail the family again, Mary.” Stuck in place with invisible glue, I knew what I was doing tonight was for the best. After everything that I have endured, this was the final chapter from the past. I need to close that door forever.
The drive was short, but seemed like a million years of anticipation between home and that place. As my little black Porsche pulled into the parking lot, I really didn’t know if I could get out of the car. A slip of the keys and the ring looped around my finger. Knuckles tight, my head pushed back into the headrest. Why does everything that hurts have to be so hard? It’s not the physical pain that I fear, but the mental anguish that repeated over and over in my mind. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do, but for my own sanity, I know I have to choose. The door opened with ease, and my feet stepped out. Hey, that was progress, right? I have to think of all the little things, not the big picture. Baby steps in the right direction were tactics I have preached to everyone and failed to use on myself.
The building is one of those made of red brick, and looks almost regal, but a closer scratch to the stone would reveal chipping paint. Soft breaths, I took one last look in the glass door before pulling the weighty door open. I don’t even know why I am scared, but inside of my stomach is a butterfly forest, all coming out of their cocoons to stretch over sized wings.
“Hello. Are you here for the meeting?” the woman asked. She was 40ish, large, and wore shoes that squeaked when she walked.
I cleared my throat, nodding; the words are stuck again. God dammit, I am a grown adult and having trouble speaking? What’s wrong with me? “Uhm, yes. Sorry. I’m nervous is all. I am here for the meeting,” I added.
“Come with me, dear. There’s no reason to be scared. Everyone here is in the same boat as you. We’ve all experienced it at least once in our lives,” smiled the woman.
Her voice soft, almost like that of a grandmother who serves warm cookies and milk when you visit. A comfort for a long soul like me. I guess I don’t have many things that comfort me these days if this woman seemed like a blessing. As I walked into the main room, the place was large enough to hold a convention, but the crowd small enough to give me a little comfort. I’ve never been one for large amounts of people, so this was better than I expected.
“Come in, take a seat. Please make yourself comfortable,” the woman said as she made her way to the front of the room to start the meeting. “Hello ladies, we have a new guest today. Please, honey, introduce yourself to the group. I promise, they don’t bite,” she laughed. “Janis makes the best cookies, and Sofia there, she made the coffee tonight.”
I smiled, a fake one, but a smile. “Hi, I’m Mary Kennedy. Thank you for allowing me to join tonight,” I whispered.
“Welcome Mary. We love you,” they all said at once.
I will admit I was taken aback by that statement. I don’t deserve the love of anyone, or that’s how my brain thinks. My head says that is wrong, but my heart believes it. Maybe this is why no one ever bothers to know me before they leave.
I watched and waited as the ladies spoke. One by one, they went to the front and explained why they were there. Some of them talked about recent events, and others about the reason they walked through those same doors I did tonight. Each time it came closer to my turn, I wanted to bolt from the room and never come back. That would be the easy way out, right?
“Mary, would you like to close us out tonight?” someone asked.
My fingers twisting and turning in the fabric of my skirt as I pushed myself to my feet. God, why the hell did I even come here tonight? I tell no one my problems. Not like this.
“Okay,” voice cracking.
Speak, just do it. They can’t hurt you. No one can anymore.
“I’m Mary Kennedy, and I was raped,” my voice trembled with judgement. Would all of them stand and laugh at me for my confession? My father always told me that if I ever told, they would never believe me. “At 11 I was,” words stopping, my eyes scanning the room, “My father touched me then. That was the first time he did, but not the last. I got away when I was 16.” Shaking, I gripped my little purse to my chest, “Three months ago a man who took everything away from me brutally raped me, but most of all, he took my pride.”