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Inside the Cage

by Joseph Grant

Part 1 appears
in this issue.

“Great,” he said. John wondered if she’d become a bitch from living in New Jersey or had just been born that way. But he was tired and wondered if he hadn’t been too harsh on her and played with the idea of giving her a second chance, even though she was a bit mental. She had a nice body for a weird girl, he thought. He was attracted to her dark features and her full lips. “Look, I’m sorry if I was rude.”

“That’s okay, John. I’m a handful.” she said.

I hope so, he thought naughtily. From what he could see, she looked more than a handful, he said to himself with a devious smile.

“I’m just a brat.” she smiled. She had a very pretty smile when she wanted to show it, he finally noticed.

A real silence came between them now and a certain fumbling for the right words and ideas. Whatever was said seemed wrong on both parts.

After a few self-conscious starts, John spoke again. “So, you live with your grandmother, huh? That’s cool.”

“No.” she said insistently. “I told you I moved. We’re actually not far from her place and if you’re good, I’ll let you come inside for a moment and I’ll give you a tour.”

Finally, thought John, now we’re getting somewhere. “So, how was living with your grandmother?”

“How you’d think it would be. My Grammy’s cool. She’s going to be eighty,” she boasted, “We used to play cards, watch some tv, that sort of cool stuff.”

“Really.” John said, feigning interest. He couldn’t wait to drop off this deadwood and find a strip club. Obviously a virgin, he griped to himself.

“Turn here, John!” she said abruptly, “You wanna see her house?”

“Who’s house?”

“My Grammy’s house!” she said excitedly.

“Sure.” he shrugged. He wondered what he had gotten himself into.

“There it is!” she pointed and waved at the darkened house like an idiot, thought John. “Hi, Grammy!” she yelled through the closed window, “Oh, too bad. Grammy’s asleep. I would have introduced you to her. She may have had some freshly made baklava.”

He rolled his eyes and mouthed “Oh God!

“You wanna see my house?” she nearly came out of the seat, “It’s in a nice neighborhood.”

John nodded and took the left at the corner as directed. As he drove down the block she instructed him to almost immediately stop.

“What are we stopped for?”

“That’s my house. It’s in a nice neighborhood, don’t you think?” she asked with unmitigated glee.

“Huh?” John sputtered. What kind of person would move a block and half away from their old house, he wondered. “It’s your old neighborhood!” he heard himself sneer. He could not take much more of this. The girl was obviously demented.

“Well, it’s still a nice neighborhood, no matter where it’s at.” She sulked. “Anyway, you want to see it for a few seconds?”

He nodded. He had no idea what was meant by this question, but hoped they were talking about the same thing.

“Pull over here on the left.” She waved.

He pulled over and parked. He turned off the engine and sat with her. She stared straight ahead and did not say a word. It was a protracted nightmare.

“So...” he opened with conversational suicide.

She looked at him and then away.

Yep, suicide.

“You wanna get something to eat?”

“Maybe before, when I was hungry, but I don’t feel well.”

Uh-oh, he thought. Better act quickly. “We can still get something, a burger or something.”

“I don’t eat red meat.”

“Well, did you enjoy the movie tonight?”

She looked at him.

“Right, we covered that one already.” he nodded.

“It’s late.”

He looked at his watch. It was all of nine-thirty five. “Well, aren’t you going to show me your place?”

“I did.” she said. “It’s right there.”

“Yeah, but I thought you said about going in and getting a tour?”

“I was talking about my Grammy’s house. She’s got a lot of neat stuff, a lot of antiques, Hummels and dolls and cool stuff.”

“Dolls...” he said incredulously. “How about seeing your place?”

“Maybe next time. I don’t even know you.”

“Aw, come on, Andrea. Just for a little?”

“I don’t think so, John.” she made a face and shrugged, “if I knew you better, maybe.”

“But you said you’d maybe let me in to see your place.” he argued. He had no idea why he was begging. She wasn’t that good-looking, he thought.

“I don’t know.”

The ice is breaking, thought John. “Hey, I wonder what Judy and Ken are doing?” he hinted.

“Ugh, I don’t want to know.” Andrea shook her head. Both of them knew full well what they were doing. “I don’t know, John. You’re a nice guy and I like you, but I really think I’d better go.”

“Well, what about next week, then?” he asked. “Can I have your number?”

She rifled through her stuffed purse and found a scrap of paper in her barely used black appointment book. She hesitated and then wrote down her number in a scarcely legible script and handed it to him, reiterating her mantra: “It’s late, I have to go.”

“Well, don’t I even get a kiss?” he wondered.

She turned and started to exit the vehicle and then looked at him. It was clear to him that she was uncertain what to do and had not foreseen this circumstance. “Um...” came her nervous reply.

“Come on, I’m not gonna bite.” he opened his arms and smiled and gave her his best puppy dog eyes.

She vacillated for a moment and looked to see if any neighbors were nosily watching. She sat back in the car and leaned towards him. It surprised him when he leaned into her passionately and she seemed to like it. She shut the door with her hand and locked around his shoulder. He started to kiss passionately.

She returned his kiss and then her eyes shot open and she began to feel a panic attack commence. It was as if she couldn’t breathe with this guy pressing so hard against her. She tried to break free as he pulled her tighter and sent a breath of hot down her neck. Sweat broke out on her forehead and she pushed at him.

“What?” he finally said and released her.

“I don’t know.”

“What’s the problem?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then come on.” he looked at her and closed his eyes and drew nearer.

“You’re kissing too hard-.”

“Sorry, Andrea.” he again puppy-dogged her, “I like you. I’ll be gentler, I promise.”

She hesitated and then smiled in a surprised manner, “You like me?”

He nodded in a lie.

“Okay.” she said and wrapped her arms around him again, “but slow, this time, okay?” She made him promise and soon as this was extracted from him, she kissed him and let his tongue dance with hers and soon they both reclined to get more comfortable.

She began to rise again and he tenderly pushed her down. Her eyes half-closed in longing; she wanted to be with him, have him. Why she held onto a virginity that no one else seemed to want was beyond her, and here was a guy who was finally willing to take it from her for once and for all and rid her of this communal burden.

He touched tenderly at her hair and it was then she smelled the mechanic’s grease beneath his fingernails. In the darkness of the car she could no longer see his face and it frightened her. It was the face in The Dream. She felt his weight on top of her; holding her down, not letting her breathe free.

Panic washed over her once again. Short breaths he took for lust were actually her trying to catch her breath. She felt utterly trapped as she could not wrest herself from under him, she felt as if she was in physical danger as she struggled beneath him; movements he completely misread.

Andrea’s survival instincts took over. She pushed at him, slapping him and screaming “No!” at him over and over until a well-placed knee put the activities to a non-grinding halt.

She leapt from the car, up the lawn, half-stumbling, half-mad. Hyperventilating, she ran, knowing she had to get into her house, into her sanctuary and lock the door. She fell on the slick lawn more than once, with her sweater and her coat hanging from her. She cared not what the neighbors saw or thought any more.

Once inside, she locked the door and collapsed into a sobbing, wretched heap. The dream that had plagued her from childhood was very real, only it had been no dream, but a repressed memory now painfully all too real once again.

At work the next day, Judy was very distant and moody towards Andrea.

“Would you mind telling me what that was all about last night?”

Caught off guard, Andrea stammered, “I’m sorry?”

“You should be! Ken’s pissed at me now because I left his friend with what he called a nut job.”

“You don’t understand, Judy.” Andrea began.

“Save it. I understand plenty. You’re a tease.” she shot. “Because of your little stunt, I’ve decided I’m not working for you next Saturday.”

“But you have to. I was going to take my Grammy out, it’s her birthday-”

“You’re pathetic, you go out with a guy and treat him like crap and you want me to work for you next Saturday so you can go to the movies with your Grammy and not the guy, just pathetic.”

“You don’t know the full story. It’s more than what you heard, Judy.”

“Well, all I know is that you and he were kissing and things were going good and then you kneed him.” Judy spat, “that wasn’t very cool. Last time I do you a favor!”

“I kept telling him no.” she finally said.

“Oh, please...I asked him if things got out of hand.” Judy pointed her finger at Andrea. “And all he told me was that you two were making out and it got pretty hot and heavy and then you went all psycho on him, assaulted him and then bolted.”

“Assaulted him?? How about he was assaulting me?” she demanded, “I had to get out of there.”

“You’re nothing but a big tease.”

Andrea glared at her as tears streamed down her face, “Judy, you’ve got to believe me. I’ll tell you why I acted like I did and you can’t tell anyone. Promise me that you won’t tell anyone.”

“Okay, I promise.” Judy said and raised her hand, at a loss.

“My father molested me.” she blubbered.

“What? Ohmigod, Andrea, I had no idea.” she put an arm around her, “I am so sorry. If I had known, I wouldn’t have-”

“All these years I’ve tried not to think about it.” She cried, “I kept on having these recurring dreams... I mean, I’ve always had them, but...” She began to sob as Judy ran to get her a tissue. “The other night I smelled the grease in his fingernails like when my father used to come home drunk after work and it would just be the two of us in that horrible house after my mother died and all I ever smelled was that grease on him... and... and...” she bellowed before descending into a maze of tears and confusion. Judy held onto her as she sank to the floor.

“We gotta get you outta here, hon.” she tried to comfort Andrea, “We gotta get you home. Okay, sweetie?”

Some of her other co-workers started to filter back, wondering where all the noise and commotion was emanating. The animals started to echo her pitiable ululations. The scene was quickly getting out of hand. The manager ordered Judy to drive Andrea home.

On the long ride home, all Andrea could mutter was: “Judy, I never forgave my father, and then he killed himself. Because of me, Judy, because of me he died and I never got a chance to say goodbye. I never forgave him. Then they sent me to go live with my Grammy. I never forgave him! I loved him, but I hated him. I hated him! I hated him so much! Can you believe that? I was glad!” she bellowed, her voice then overpowered by her sobs.

“Every day, I wished he’d get hit by a truck and then when...” she sputtered, “and then when he hung himself, I was glad! How could any father do that to their own daughter?” she howled. “And everybody loved him! That was the worst part. Everyone thought he was the pillar of the community and Father of the Year and he always made me tell him: ‘I love you, Daddy’.

“After it was over, he bought me a puppy the week before he hung himself. I don’t know, maybe it was his attempt at absolution. I had to give it away when I moved in with Grammy.”

“Shush, Andrea. It’s okay now. He’s gone now and he can’t hurt you anymore.” Judy said, holding her and trying to comfort her, not realizing that she was stirring the turmoil of her conflicting emotions even worse. The trouble was although he was gone, emotional conflict he had caused was irreparable.

In the end, Andrea’s grandmother convinced her to attend twice-a-week therapy sessions along with other victims of abuse. Once a month, animals would be brought in to assist with the rehabilitation of the patients. Andrea would cherish these days most of all and as a favored small sleeping kitten rested in her lap, Andrea began to feel the freedom that therapy allowed her, little by little giving her the permission to open the door to the cage in which she had been imprisoned now for so long.

Copyright © 2009 by Joseph Grant

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