the last time – three versions

One of the most difficult issues to write about – for me – is sexual assault, especially when it comes to detailing a scene. I’ve been struggling with this scene for the last week, ending up with three versions. The first version ended up – quite unsurprisingly – something that we would wish could happen in reality, but unfortunately, all too often it doesn’t. It’s quite dramatic, and at least to me, it reads like a scene from a Hollywood movie. It’s completely unrealistic.

The second version – I think you can tell that it’s a sort of a struggle I had with myself there, trying to keep some of the action, but tuning it down a bit. Still, it didn’t read quite right to me.

The third version, there’s almost no action. I tried to get inside my 12-year-old character’s head, and I think this version is much more realistic. I’m still not 100% happy with it, but I think I’m getting there.

The last time – version 1

Three years of hell, Eman. I remember clearly the last time. We were downstairs, Baba was away on one of his construction sites down south, Aunt Samira had taken Sitto to the market, that’s how I know it was a Thursday. Omar was out with his friends. I was hungry and I went downstairs to the kitchen. I don’t know if he was already inside, because I didn’t hear the door opening of closing. I was heating up some bamiah on the stove, on a low fire, stirring it, when he came behind me, stealthily. I jumped, and the wooden spoon splashed red sauce all over my dress and the floor. I don’t know what made me do it. Maybe the fact that I was wearing a white dress that Baba bought me, the first dress he ever bought me, but something inside me shifted. I unfroze my body, turned around and hit him on the head with the spoon as hard as I could. He sneered at me, and grabbed my left breast, squeezing it hard. I guess he didn’t believe I would even gather the strength or courage to stand up to him, to resist. I loosened my body for a moment, let his hand stay on my breast. I waited for his hand to relax and begin rubbing my breast. His other hand reached under my dress and between my legs. I bit my lower lip. He took a step closer, until his body was rubbing against mine. His head cocked backward, he took half a step back, the hand that was on my breast now opening his zipper, then guiding my hand down there. What came next took even me by surprise. I swung my leg backwards, and with all the force in me, I kicked him in the balls. For a split second, he froze, then doubled over, and went down on his knees.

I stood over him, not moving, the wooden spoon still in my right hand. I could hear my heart pounding in my head in that silence. The bamiah was bubbling behind me on the stove, the smell of its sauce reaching my nostrils. When he looked up at me, there was a thin trickle of blood running down the corner of his mouth where he bit down on his lip to stop himself from screaming. “You daughter of a sharmuta,” he managed to spit out. I stared down at him, terrified. He had murder in his eyes. At that moment, I realized my power over him all at once. “Today was the last time ever your filthy hands touch me, you animal,” my voice was rising from somewhere. “If you ever touch me again, even by accident, you’ll be dead. I promise you.” I don’t know where I got the words, or the strength, to confront him in this way. He slowly got up to his feet, his murderous eyes never leaving mine, a painful grimace distorting his face, and started backing away towards the door. “Oh, and one more thing, you ugly animal,” I said. “Make sure I see as little as possible of your ugly face around here.”

The last time – version 2

Three years of hell, Eman. I remember clearly the last time. We were downstairs, Baba was away on one of his construction sites down south, Aunt Samira had taken Sitto to the market, that’s how I know it was a Thursday. Omar was out with his friends. I was hungry and I went downstairs to the kitchen. I don’t know if he was already inside, because I didn’t hear the door opening of closing. I was heating up some bamiah on the stove, on a low fire, stirring it, when he came behind me, stealthily. I jumped, and the wooden spoon splashed red sauce all over my dress and the floor. I don’t know what made me do it. Maybe the fact that I was wearing a white dress that Baba bought me, the first dress he ever bought me, but something inside me shifted. I unfroze my body, turned around and hit him on the head with the spoon as hard as I could. He sneered at me, and grabbed my left breast, squeezing it hard. I guess he didn’t believe I would even gather the strength or courage to stand up to him, to resist. I loosened my body for a moment, let his hand stay on my breast. I waited for his hand to relax and begin rubbing my breast. His other hand reached under my dress and between my legs. I bit my lower lip. He took a step closer, until his body was rubbing against mine. His head cocked backward, he took half a step back, the hand that was on my breast now opening his zipper, then guiding my hand down there.

And like every time, I closed my eyes and left my body there. I thought of pretty things, like the times Mama would paint my toenails and let me paint hers. Her leaning on the balcony and calling my name. Her laughter. But this time, Mama kept disappearing, and the stains on my new dress kept making their way into my head. Would Baba be mad at me that I ruined it the first time I wore it? What will I tell him? I was shocked at myself that I hit Jalal on the head with the spoon. Maybe I could just kick him real hard in the balls, make him wish he’d never laid a hand on me. I began to calculate the distance between us. I could swing my left leg backwards and then jam my knee up between his legs. But that’s not what actually happened. I tried to move my leg, but it refused the order. I still held the wooden spoon in my right hand. I remember thinking, how awkward, wondering if it was dripping sauce on the floor.

And then a part of me made a decision. It all happened quickly. I pulled my hand out of his pants, brought it to his hand on my breast, and moved his hand swiftly away from me, all the while looking straight into his ugly, dark eyes, which followed the movement of my hand. I could tell he was trying to figure out what I was up to. It was the first time ever that my body responded in any way. I could hear my heart pounding in my head in that silence. The bamiah was bubbling behind me on the stove, the smell of its sauce reaching my nostrils. At that moment, I realized that I actually had power over him. I could stop this.

“Today was the last time ever your filthy hands touch me, you animal,” my voice was rising from somewhere deep in my stomach. “If you ever touch me again, even by accident, you’ll be dead. I promise you.” I don’t know where I got the words, or the strength, to confront him in this way. His face registered shock, but I could also detect some primal fear in his dark eyes. I kept staring straight into his eyes, unblinking but terrified at the possibilities of his reactions. After a few moments, he started backing away, without a word, towards the door. “Oh, and one more thing, you ugly animal,” I said. “Make sure I see as little as possible of your ugly face around here.”

The last time – version 3

 

Three years of hell, Eman. I remember clearly the last time. Baba was away on one of his construction sites down south, Aunt Samira had taken Sitto to the market, that’s how I know it was a Thursday. Omar was out with his friends. I was hungry and I went downstairs to the kitchen, still in my nightgown. Mama’s nightgown. One of the only reminders I had left of Mama. Aunt Samira had to sew the hem in so that it didn’t drag behind me, and I had to roll the sleeves up.

I don’t know if he was already inside, because I didn’t hear the door opening or closing. I was heating up some bamiah on the stove, on a low fire, stirring it, when he came behind me, stealthily. I jumped, and the wooden spoon splashed red sauce all over my white nightgown and the floor. It all happened so fast, I didn’t even know it was him before I turned around and hit him as hard as I could on the side of his head with that spoon.

When I realized it was him, my body slowly went into mode frozen, like every time his hands touched my body. He sneered at me, his eyes narrowing into two thin dark slits. He closed the space between us, and began touching me with one hand, while opening his zipper with the other. I closed my eyes tight when his hand reached under my nightgown and between my legs. With his other hand, he guided my right hand inside his jeans. I tried to leave my body, like always, but this time it didn’t work. I bit hard on my lower lip until I tasted the metal bitterness that comes just before drawing blood. My mind kept coming back to the red sauce stains on my nightgown. I was still holding the wooden spoon in my other hand. I remember thinking, how awkward, wondering if it was dripping sauce on the floor. The sauce. On my mama’s nightgown. I suddenly realized, to my horror, that the stains would probably not come out in washing, and that the stains would be there always, to remind me. Of him. The thought revolted me.

And that’s when a part of me made a decision. It all happened quickly. I pulled my hand out of his pants, brought it to his hand and pulled it out from under my nightgown, and put my palm on his chest. I looked straight into his ugly, dark eyes, waiting for him to look me in the eye. When his eyes finally met mine, there was confusion in them, mixed with surprise and anticipation. It was the first time ever that my body responded in any way. We stood like that for a few moments, my palm on his chest. The bamiah was bubbling behind me on the stove, the smell of the sauce reaching my nostrils. I could hear my heart pounding in my head in that silence, the cool tiles under my bare feet becoming warm and slippery from my sweating feet. In those few silent moments, I realized that I actually had some power.

“No more, Jalal,” my voice came out all shaky. I swallowed, tried to steady my breathing. “Last time you touch me, animal.” The last words came from somewhere deep in my stomach. His face registered shock, but I could also detect some primal fear forming in his dark eyes. I kept staring straight into his eyes, unblinking but terrified at the possibilities of his reactions. After a few moments, he backed away, without a word, and left.

I was still in the kitchen when Sitto and Aunt Samira came home from the market. They found me sitting at the table, wooden spoon still in my hand, staring at the red spots on the floor.

“For Allah’s sake, what happened here?” Aunt Samira scanned the floor, wrinkling her nose. Then, noticing the flame under the bamiah pot, rushed to turn it off. “Girl, what’s wrong with you?” I looked up at her, then at Sitto, tried to say something, but nothing came out. Sitto walked over to me, “Binti, there’s sauce all over your nightgown. Go and change your clothes and bring this to Aunt Samira, she’ll try to get the stains out,” she looked into my eyes, inquiringly. I could tell she wanted to ask something, but she held back. I stood up and, on wobbly legs, walked upstairs.

If you enjoy my writing, please consider supporting my work: www.patreon.com/khulud_khamis 

(c) khulud khamis | April 2017 | work-in-progress

 

2 thoughts on “the last time – three versions

  1. I love the 3 scenes in their own way…the second is utterly interior and we need to get more of the inner debate. As for the third one, if you could dwell on the look they exchange you might come up with a great scene.
    Thanks for sharing this!!!

    Like

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