The room I find myself stumbling into is dark, and it takes me a moment of fumbling on the unfamiliar wall to find the light switch. The dim light flickers into existence, flooding the wide open room with a warm glow. I blink rapidly, my exhausted eyes struggling to get used to the change. My hand remains on the wall in an attempt to steady myself; the fact is my body is too young to handle whatever has been forced into it by the roaring mass of people downstairs. In the pit of my stomach there is something squirming uncomfortably, but I feel it as if from far away, just as I can’t quite register my own thoughts through the haze in my mind.

The room seems practically empty on account of its size, but there is a large double bed and a desk with a computer, and a wardrobe in the corner. Bags and coats are piled up against the wall to my left, underneath the large window. Of all this I am most concerned with the garish floral pattern on the floor-length curtains which I forget to tear my gaze away from long enough to notice the figure sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Hey,” it says, and I feel warmth wrap up the squirming in my stomach at the sound of the familiar voice.

“Hey,” I reply, and go to join him on the bed, sitting tentatively, afraid that if I am not very careful the whole world will spin away from me and slip through my fingers. He doesn’t say anything else, for which I am grateful, because I fear I will not be able to respond. He sits close to me, but I can’t find the energy to move myself away, though I feel the need for more air than he is letting me have. My tongue is lead, and he leans closer still.

“I’m glad you came,” he says, and the squirming in my stomach unfurls once more as my heart begins pounding faster, as if desperate to be noticed. I cannot respond; I don’t know what I would say anyway.

His hand is on my knee, and this makes sense, because he is my friend, and I am thankful, because it seems that hand is the only thing I can feel. I had been worried about the numbness spreading through my mind and into my nerves, surrounding my body, but I feel his hand as if it were on fire, burning a hole in my tights, and for this I feel relief. His other hand creeps up to my shoulder, and then around my neck, forcing its way through my hair so his fingers land on the bare skin of my neck.

The hand on my knee moves higher, and my reaction is immediate; a strange force that I can only describe as panic rises within me, from my stomach to my throat, and my hand is somehow on his chest, but it moves too slowly. I think I meant to push him away, but I can’t seem to remember how to use my limbs so forcefully, which only serves to heighten the panic. I try to turn my shoulders away, but the arm he has around them tightens. He leans so close that his lips are in my hair, millimeters from my ear, so close that I can smell his rank, beer-stained breath through my numbed nostrils, and as I breathe in the smell makes the sickness in my stomach squirm more violently still.

“Shh,” he whispers, “Don’t be shy.”

I take a deep breath and try to wriggle free, but my body doesn’t seem to be responding the way it should, and I hear him chuckle softly. My breathing becomes shallow and irregular, and I am all too aware of my heart pounding in my ears and behind my eyes and in my throat. His fingers play with the hair at my neck and he takes his time to place the first, lingering kiss there. I try to tell him to stop but all that comes out is a noise somewhere between a sharp intake of breath and a squeal. He silences me by smashing his mouth onto mine, his face pushing into my jaw like he’s desperate to break it.

I cannot explain what happens in my brain; it is as if everything goes blank, shrouded in a thick grey fog. I am aware of his hands, but they are everywhere at once. I am aware of staring at the floor one moment, but the ceiling the next. I am aware that the noise I can hear is him, but the grunts and groans seem more suited to animals kept in cages too small. I am aware of the way my body is shuddering and tensing, the way the tears slide in every direction off my face, the way everything is dark because my hands are covering my face.

The next thing I am aware of is waking up alone.


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