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Holding up one hand to the pistol and the other to the man it was pointed at with her in between, she had no clue why this was going on.
“He doesn’t know why you’re after him,” she said with a calmness that was one straw away from shattering. “Just let me get him out of here.”
She had jumped in the middle of their fight just moments before and couldn’t believe it had escalated to this point. The unarmed young man was just as bewildered as she was as he tried to defend himself and his girlfriend.
Unfamiliar with this New Zealand town, she held onto the girl’s hand tight and stayed close to the young man as they backed out of the restaurant and ran without direction.
Taking refuge in a pub a few streets away, she hugged the woman that had begun crying again and kept an arm around the man. She wished she knew what to do to comfort him as he sat there switching between moments of being stunned, devastated and being filled with anger, but she was still numb to how she was feeling herself.
“It’s a beautiful night,” she said, teasing at the officers an hour after they had first arrived.
“So you don’t know them?” A pleasant younger officer was casually starting to ask her questions.
“Not beyond tonight. We just met at the restaurant while we were waiting for tables and decided to dine together. We were having a great time before the night spun out into a crazy left turn.”
“How did it start?”
“The attackers were hitting on us girls whenever we would leave the table to go to the dunny. As far as I can tell, that’s what started all the fun.”
“You’re not sure?”
“Nope. I think they slipped some party favors in our drinks.”
“You think you were drugged?”
“Well – the three of us were sharing a second bottle of wine in three hours when we started feeling dizzy. Whatever happened after that is black. When I came to, I was in a back room of the restaurant with my clothes thrown around as if they were playing musical chairs. The yelling I heard in the main part of the restaurant woke me up and I ran out after pulling on my clothes.”
“Do you think you were raped?” His question dripped with skepticism.
The common opinion of the officers had been that she a charismatic girl who was little more than a bystander in this situation. This new information along with her light-hearted attitude made him think that this statement could have been for the attention.
“Oh boy. It’s a party now,” she joked. “It’s possible….actually, probable. I’m still woozy and confused about everything, but I’m definitely feeling pain all over. I must be in shock. They took my money, but I still have my passport, so it’s not a total loss.”
“How did the fight start?”
“Couldn’t tell you. I’m guessing it has something to do with protecting the girlfriend, but I don’t really know.”
“How did this happen without the employees or patrons noticing?”
“I’m guessing these guys are familiar with the restaurant. It wouldn’t take rocket science to figure out that there’s empty rooms used for banquets and the employees would have been distracted with closing up since it was late.”
“You don’t seem to be taking this very seriously.” His attitude had turned.
“What would you have me do?” She asked, putting her hands in the back pockets of her jeans. The way she relaxed into a knowing smile showed that this wasn’t the first experience dealing with this kind of reaction. “This is already a terrible situation. Why would I want to make it worse by falling apart? What good would I be then? If I can make others feel better by adding humor or showing that it’s not the end of the world, why wouldn’t I? I’ll be damned if I’m going to give the horror of it any more power by being upset.” A flicker of pain swept over her eyes for less than a second.
“Besides,” she said, looking vulnerable as tears filled her eyes for the first and only time that night, “if I didn’t laugh and smile, how would I ever survive things like this?”
That was enough to convince him and he felt horrible for coming down on her the way he had.
“Don’t worry about it, officer. Most people don’t understand the way I react. Trust me – it hits later. What else do you need to know?”
“Uh,” he said as he grasped to remember what he was there to do, “how did you end up here tonight?”
“I’m a rolling stone that likes to travel alone, good sir. That makes me cautious of who I let my guard down to and very aware that there’s safety in numbers. I know that being alone makes me a target. I trust my instincts, and nice couples are usually a safety-zone. I found the restaurant by asking around town today and would have gone back to my lodgings early if I hadn’t met them.”
“You travel alone? That’s brave,” he said as he scribbled notes.
“Yeah,” she said sarcastically. “Look at the situation I’m in right now. Real brave.”
“If you don’t approve, why do you put yourself in risky situations?”
“This isn’t my first time being drugged, raped, robbed, in the middle or a fight or even looking down the barrel of a gun,” she said still smiling, but serious and with a numb look in her eyes. “Bad things have always found me. Even when I was in the sheltered environment of the upper-class life I grew up in. I figured that if it’s going to happen anyway, I might as well live life to the fullest and try to make the experiences I face worth something.”
“You must be pretty strong,” he said with admiration.
“Yeah,” she said leaning against the warm police car in the cold night air, “funny thing about that. This I can handle, but I didn’t have the strength to survive that life. It was killing me and I wouldn’t have lasted much longer if I didn’t get out. So many people seem indifferent to how much we’re all different. Sometimes strength isn’t where it’s expected. Maybe the real strength for me was in realizing that and doing something about it.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’ve always known who I am. I write, I love the arts, I love people and I love travel. I’m passionate and need to fight for what I believe in. I never had a problem knowing who I am. My battle has been fighting the outside forces that would tell me I am wrong.
There’s only so long we can run from ourselves before surrendering and that’s where I am now. I’ve given into who I am and what I love. That is what you see here.