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“I’m a guy and I was raped; it’s that simple.”
The group attendant, Mrs. Chambers, rubbed the back of her neck, a wistful grimace resting on her cracked lips. The room was silent and Marla could hear the rain pour harder. She itched to go out and stand it. Another fettle attempt at washing herself away.
The boy responsible for it all sat cattycornered from her, but she didn’t know that. She had no idea exactly what happened between his and her attackers, but perhaps that was for the better.
His body told the story of being bored, but Marla noticed the way his finger resting at his side twitched. He was shattered as much as the rest of them. Sure they could be put back together, but the struggle was organizing all the pieces. Jagged and sharp they clicked easily but one often got cut during the process, and to Marla he already had an open wound.
Mrs. Chambers hummed quietly and grabbed her necklace, “How about you tell us your name? I’m sure we all would like to know you a little better.” His tick became more prompt.
“Draca.” Someone beside Chambers snorted and she shot them an icy look. Draca rolled his eyes.
"I’m used to it. My mom pulled my name from some 1920s ancestors. It means secret ‘cause I was hers.”
Marla leaned her elbows on her knees, shifting against the damp metal chair. ‘This guy is kind of laying it on thick. None of us really wanted to be here, but I won’t lie and say it doesn’t help.’
Chambers stopped playing with her beads and patted her knees, "Why don’t we all take a break?” She barely got through the word “break” before everyone was already dispersed. Marla sat quietly and watched Draca step out into the pouring rain. His twitching had stopped. Chambers patted Marla’s shoulder, "He’ll adjust, they all act the same at first.” She smelled of 80s perfume and baby powder. It lingered as she walked away. Marla decided she was bored and walked to the back door. She stayed under the overhang and walked toward a smoking Draca.
“Another tick?” she asked.
Draca didn’t open his eyes but he felt his heart palpitate. It was really her; she was beside him in the flesh. He blew out a hard puff, "Uh?” His stomach dropped. That’s all he could manage!?
She hugged herself as the wind picked up, "We all have a tick. It’s something that helps us in hard times. Chambers has her beads, you twitch and smoke.”
He couldn’t help the chuckle that bubbled up, "Then, what’s yours?”
Marla was taken back. She wasn’t used to that reaction; they usually call it nonsense and move on. In result, she self-consciously pulled at her baggy hoodie. “Can’t you tell?”
Draca peered over at her small frame, her eyes were drooped back into her skull; sunken like a zombie. Her fingers contrasted brightly against her black clothes; small and bony. She looked fragile. Broken.
“Anorexia?” He watched her face drop.
“I wouldn’t call that a tick…” She instead offered her hands. He felt nausea rise in his throat as he took them. How could he touch her after everything? If Marla noticed his inner turmoil, she didn’t comment—just stood patiently. Her hands were cold and light like a feather. He traced one finger before stopping at the finger nail. Half of it was missing, blood caked on the sides. They were still beautiful to him; red like a soft rose.
Chambers suddenly opened the door. Draca jumped back, dropping her hands as if he were about to be scolded. Her smile was back to its original brightness. “Breaks over!” Draca stepped around Marla and didn’t look back.
He acted indifferent throughout the rest of the meeting, but couldn’t ignore the stare Marla was giving him. He was ready to run to the door as the meeting came to a close. Marla stopped him quickly by blocking his way. “The more I think about it..." She trailed off a thoughtful look crossing her features, "Do I know you?”
His breath caught in his throat and he managed to wheeze out a ‘sorry’ before ducking around her. She watched him with raised eyebrows as he slammed the door.
It was a week before Marla saw Draca again. He sat close enough to hear every shaky breath she took. He was tempting fate and he knew it. Deep down he wanted fate to be tempted; tempted enough to show Marla the truth.
Mrs. Chambers called for break and Marla reach over and grabbed Draca’s arm. His heart skipped several beats before he pulled back, his back cracking as it met the chair behind him. He groaned before moving farther away from Marla, who sat wide eyed and frozen. “I’m sorry!” she squeaked.
“Don’t,” he moaned, rubbing his eyes.
Marla withdrew her hand. “Sorry, sometimes I forget certain people still have problems with skin on skin contact. I just didn’t want you to run away. I really am sorry!”
He pushed himself up harshly, and inhaled through his nose, "Stop!”
“Wha—” Tears gathered on her bottom lashes and his rage rose.
“Stop saying sorry! It makes me sick!” Marla’s lip wobbled and she slowly stood up. It was already too late for Draca to understand the scene he was causing. The rest of the group now stood watching and he felt his heartstrings being pulled. Panicking, he gripped his hair, "Wait, no! That’s not what I—”
One of the male group members stepped forward and slid between Marla and Draca. He blocked Draca’s view but he could still hear her sniffles. “I think it's better if you leave.” Glaring, the guy turned around and wrapped an arm around Marla.
Draca didn’t know what was happening till it was over. His vision turned red as he gripped the boy by his hoodie and tackled him. His fists took control and he aimed for only the face. He wanted the boy’s face to scar so it would serve as a reminder to not touch Marla.
The male under him roared and kicked him in the pelvis. Draca rolled off and winced. His victim rushed to stand up, holding onto Marla to help himself up. Draca felt blood pool in his cheek and he realized he had bitten through. He spit it out and glowered up at the standing guy. “Don’t. Touch. Her.” He took a deep breath with each word and everyone looked at him as if he was mad. “You don’t get to touch her! You don’t deserve to!”
Marla stepped forward. Her eyes were red and swollen from crying. “Are you okay, Draca?”
Something broke inside of his chest and his body started to shake; sobs racking throughout him. “How can you be so nice?” He was still on all fours but his pelvis was no longer what was hurting. “Please hit me! Do something!”
Marla stepped forward and bent down to his level,” why would I do that?”
Draca only sobbed harder and buried his head into his shaky hands. “I’m the reason for it! I caused it all! I encouraged them; I told them you were the easiest target!” Marla became rigid for only a second before straightening herself. “They said it would be me if I didn’t pick someone! I was only trying to save myself, but it didn’t even work!”
Marla remained emotionless as she walked in-front of Draca. Softly, she rested a hand on his head, “I forgive you.”
Draca removed his hands and stared up at her. His expression was broken but full of confusion like a child’s. “Wha-at?”
She tried to manage a smile but it resulted in a grimace, "Rule number one, never look back into the darkness. It will pull you in.” Abruptly, she pulled away and walked toward the exit.
Draca was left stunned but for once, he found his heart wasn’t beating at such a fierce pace.