After sixteen years, that voice.

After hundreds of nights alone in my skull, awakened by my own whimpering, nightmares snaking up my spine, that voice.

After years of passionate attempts to convince myself that it wasn't my fault, that I didn't have it coming, that my skirt wasn't too short or my "NO" not forceful enough, that voice.

After learning to trust men again, after self-inflicted wounds, after four hospitalizations and thousands of dollars spent on therapy, that voice.

And suddenly, with his soft "Hello, Ashley," I was fifteen again, ashamed again, bloody and sticky and voiceless.

I don't remember much of what he said. Something about finding my name over the net, fond memories, good times, how am I doing? Something else about his career - oh yes, his career, because he was able to dust the memory of that night off of his trophy life and move on to college, to seminary (yes, seminary), to graduate school. He never stalled out, never needed to spend precious years on the mundane chore of healing - after all, he'd done nothing any seventeen year old boy wouldn't do, right? It hadn't been our first time, it was his right as a boyfriend, as a quarterback, as a son of a police harm, no foul. Nonconsensual? No such thing, not for a boy like that, a boy all the girls wanted, but who I was lucky enough to have. Lucky me, the luckiest of girls.

Oh, yes, now I remember...he works as a triage counselor at the Institute of Psychiatry here in town. Through grants and loans and charm and undeniable intelligence, this man now decides which delusional, broken, human husks need to be hospitalized immediately. Some don't, I'm sure...some can be managed with the right combination of medicine and counseling and prayer, all of which he's fully licensed to dispense. He's made the world a better place, clearly.

But enough about me, he said with that old charisma firmly in place (like capped teeth, like lipstick on a corpse). Enough about me. How are you, Ashley? I always knew you'd be succesful in whatever you chose to do....

And I didn't say this: I've been successful, yes, Fred, in nearly forgetting the clammy feel of your hand over my mouth whenever my husband makes love to me. I've come close to loving myself on more than one occasion, thanks ever so much. I've successfully failed to kill myself on two occasions, and the razor scars on my forearms have successfully faded. What a successful, lucky girl I am!

I also didn't say this: Give me back what you stole. I was a little girl, I was innocent in all the important ways. I was learning to look forward to my future, and you killed that infant hope with your careless, ferocious lust.

I said, thank you. Thank you for asking. I thanked my rapist for his kind inquiries, and politely asked him never to call me again. I wish I'd said more, I wish I'd said less.

But mostly I wish I'd never answered the phone, never allowed that voice to squirm its way back into my life.

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