Overall, my life is going as planned. I get a job I had wanted since middle school, successfully building up the networks that I need, and finally have a nice apartment in a strategic location. Or so I thought, until I received a call from my high school junior, younger by ten years whom I had never met before, asking to meet. His name is Natta.
Meeting with him, I discovered that nothing could erase what happened. My mistake was thinking that it would not affect anyone else. After all, what I did was buried something that went outside my plan, that threatened my future, how could it affect anyone else other than me?
His question has been ringing inside my head for a few days now, “I heard you were… involved with Ms. Runa in your third year of high school. Is that true?”
How I wish I could answer with a simple no, but I still remember her office, the clean white walls, soft-yellow curtain covering the window, the sofa’s rough fabric on my palm, her hands on me—
His question didn’t surprise me, dozens already asked, after all. My friends had patted me on the back for ‘scoring’ the hot counselor as the rumors spread like wildfire. Unlike the others who were persistent in asking far more invasive questions about it, Natta just nodded, “I understand if you don’t want to answer. But will you hear me out?”
And I heard him out, but that’s literally the only thing I did. I didn’t say anything to him other than introducing myself at the beginning, and reply “okay” as he excused himself. I didn’t even apologized, even though it’s clear that my choice is what caused him to be there, sitting across from me, asking for my help, rather than hanging out with friends or play video games or other things that most teenagers do.
Lara shakes her head, “It is not your fault,” She whispers.
I blink, confused and surprise. Truthfully, I expect her to say that indeed it is my fault after hearing the story, curse me to hell and back, and then leave. I don’t even understand why she is willing to meet with me.
Also read: What Good Would It Do Anyway?
“But it is,” I reply, “If I had told someone and report her, then she wouldn’t be able to do anything to him or anyone else.”
“You don’t know that.” She says, this time her voice is clear and steady. And when I look at her, I know Lara will not change her mind.
I sigh, “Look, we’re not here to play the blame game. I just want to ask for suggestion in what can I do? I doubt that my testimony would help him in court, there’s no proof and the rumors will only make it harder. At the end, it would be ‘she said, he said.’”
She says nothing for a while, merely stares at me, before finally replies, “Probably, but you know I’m not an expert in law, right? If you want help with his case, why don’t you ask experts who can actually help you?”
I don’t know. Believe me I know how shameless I am for asking her help, but she is the only one who came to mind, someone who went through something similar like I did, “I don’t know.” I answer. I didn’t apologize to Natta, not yet. But at the very least, I owe her one, and I can say it to her right now, “I’m sorry about what happened when you told me that he was–“
Imagining that she might still be in hell if my brother had not passed away makes my mouth feels dry. I sip my tea and finally say it, “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.”
“That’s not—“ She sighs, “I forgive you a long time ago, Soren. And I’m… better now, but are you? Are you okay?”
“It’s a long time ago.” I answer, “And it’s not about me, it’s about helping Natta.”
Stubborn she is that she continues to ask, “Why didn’t you tell anyone at that time?”
Talking about what happened at that time is the last thing I wanted, but I have called her here for no clear reason, so the least I can do is answer her question.
“There’s no evidence. No witness. When the rumors of my involvement with her spread, no one suspect what really happened.” I chuckle, but she doesn’t even smile, “I don’t think anyone will believe me, it didn’t even make sense to me, still doesn’t. I mean, Ms. Runa is small, only around half my weight, I could push her easily, but I didn’t—“
I didn’t move. I couldn’t. She pushed me down on the sofa and did what she wanted, and I just… lay there. The only thing I did was tell her “no” over and over – all the while she was smiling.
I gulp down my iced tea to stop the bile from rising up to my throat, “And also there were still some university entrance exams that I had to take…” I trail off and laugh, “Sound so stupid, right? I didn’t even think it through.”
“Soren, it’s not your fault.” She repeats, “Nothing is your fault. There’s no universal response to… sexual abuse, sometimes our brain tries so hard to protect ourselves that it doesn’t make sense. And even if you report her and she goes to jail, there’s no guarantee that she will not do it again when her sentence is over.”
She pauses to take a breath, “You said we are not playing the blame game, but you do when the only one to blame is her. It’s her decision. No one responsible for it, but her.”
There’s a part of me that believes her, but another part can’t help but think if only—
“If you want to really help Natta, blaming yourself or trying to find a way for him to forgive you isn’t the answer, because… Soren, there’s nothing to forgive in the first place.” Lara says as her eyes looking straight at me.
I hate this…dwelling on feelings isn’t something I usually do, because it’s pointless. Whining or crying doesn’t solve my problems, but right now— damn it! I can’t stop it as my throat feels constricted, my sight starts to blur, and then I’m crying. If my father sees me, he will tell me to start thinking of how to solve the problems rather than crying about it.
But I’m so, so tired.
For the next hour, Lara just sits there. She doesn’t shush or comfort me, just looking outside the window or sips her coffee occasionally. And for that, I’m grateful. I need the space.
Only when I stop crying that she offers me a pack of tissue, and I can’t stop the laugh that escapes me, “Why didn’t you offer me one before I have snot all over my face?”
She stares at me for a moment before letting out a laugh, what a mess I must have looked. My eyes still hurt from crying and I’m exhausted, but strangely, I feel… lighter in a way. Is this why people say that crying is healthy?
I take a deep breath as I remember her words. There’s nothing to forgive.
Although I’m not entirely convinced, but Lara’s right: it’s Ms. Runa’s decision and she is definitely responsible for it. Before I can change my mind, I take out my phone, and send a message to Natta, asking to meet him and all the authorities involved to discuss the next step.
No one speaks for a while, but then she surprises me when she suddenly says, “Thank you,” She smiles, “Being here helps me. I know you don’t understand, but I hope you will, someday.”
Yes, I don’t understand, but seeing Lara looks so serene as I remember her face when she told me what my brother did to her— “I hope so.” I reply.
After everything that happened, she still gets better. Maybe Natta and I will too.