THE ATONEMENT CHILD.

CHAPTER 13.

Dynah shook her head.

“You’ve been through enough tonight. Yoz can wait a few weeks. If you miss your period, you come back and have a pregnancy test. If it’s positive, you can have a menstrual extraction.”

Dynah didn’t want to think about what the nurse was saying. Being raped was horror enough without considering the possibility she might have become pregnant.

Oh, God, you wouldn’t be so cruel. Would you, Lord?

“You can take a shower now, if you’d like.”

Down the hall, in a quiet room, Dynah stood beneath a hard, hot spray of water, scrubbing and scrubbing. Still feeling dirty, she sank down hopelessly in the corner of the stall and wept.

God, why? I don’t understand. Why did you let this happen to me? What did I do to make you angry?

Someone tapped on the door, making her start.

“Are you all right, Miss Carey?”

“I’m fine,” Dynah said in a choked voice, huddled beneath the hot pounding water. “I just need to stay in here for a little while longer.”

“Your roommate brought you a change of clothes.”

Dynah pushed herself up. “Janet’s here?”

“She just arrived. She’s in the waiting room. Officer Lawson is speaking with her now.”

Dynah closed her eyes in relief and leaned her heard back against the wall.

“I’ll leave the clothes on the seat for you. Don’t feel rushed, Miss Carey. Take all the time you need. I’ll be right outside the door it you need anything.” Dynah sensed the unspoken message. The nurse would be far enough away to give her a sense of privacy but not so far she would be left alone.

Dynah emerged from the shower and dried herself quickly.

She donned the fresh cotton underwear, a lightweight white turtleneck T-shirt, a pair of faded blue Levi’s and a cable-knit pale yellow sweater. Even after pulling on the white woollen sock and gray vinyl zip-up boots, she was still shivering. She couldn’t seem to stop. The dark violence of the assault gripper her soul and wouldn’t let go.

Looking in the mirror, she saw the reflection of a face she barely recognized. Raking trembling finger through her tangled blonde hair, she tried to make a French braid. After a few minutes, she gave up. She didn’t care how she looked. She just wanted to leave. She wanted to go back to her room in the dorm, burry herself beneath a mountain of heavy blankets, and never come out I to the light again.

The nurse ushered Dynah to the waiting room. She saw Joe first, standing in the middle of the room, his expression filled with pain and compassion. Janet was sitting on the couch; Ethan stood near the windows. As she drew near, he turned and looked at her, his face etched with a terrible grief and anger. Janet bolted from the sofa and hugged her tightly. “Oh, Dynah,” she said crying. “Oh, Dynah, Dynah. Come on, honey. We’ll take you home. You’ll be OK now.”

On the way out, Ethan touched her once, a brief squeeze on her bruised shoulder. She flinched, and he withdrew completely, eyes shadowed. She felt his anger and was frightened and confused by it.

Janet bundled her into the backseat of Joe’s Honda. She kept her arm around Dynah, holding her close. Dynah glanced up and saw Joe looking at her in the rearview mirror. His eyes were dark, reflecting her pain.

“There’s a blanket back there, Janet,” he said quietly, starting the car. “Keep Dynah warm.”

Ethan didn’t say anything until Joe pulled out of the hospital parking lot. “We’ll find the guy, Dynah. I swear. And we’ll-“

Joe glanced at him sharply. “That’s enough Ethan.”

“It’s not enough! It’s not enough by half!” Ethan’s voice cracked. He turned. “What’d he look like, Dynah?”

“I don’t know.” She felt her mouth trembling, but she couldn’t stop it. “I never saw his face. All of a sudden, he was there, a shape in the darkness. And he grabbed me.”

“Leave it alone, Ethan,” Joe said firmly. “The police will handle it.”

“Yeah, right. They’ll handle it, like they handle everything else these days.” He kept looking at Dynah. “You must’ve seen something. Weren’t you paying attention when you walked up Henderson?”

“Leave her alone!” Janet said angry now as well. “You act like it’s her fault she got raped!”

“I didn’t say that!”

As soon as Joe parked in front of the dormitory, Dynah pulled away from Janet and fumbled for the door handle. Joe got out of the car and opened the door for her. He helped her out. Contrite, Ethan caught up with them at the front door. “I’m sorry, Dynah. I didn’t mean-“

“I just want to go inside.” She pushed at the handle and found the door locked. Curfew had long since passed. Her heart hammered. The glass door rattled loudly as she fought to open it.

Joe put his hand over hers. “Easy. The house mother’s coming, Dynah. She’ll open the door. You’re safe.” His calm, reassuring voice and presence calmed her slightly.

Mrs. Blythe opened the door. She allowed Dynah and Janet inside. “She’ll be all right now, gentlemen. Thank you. We’ll look after her,” she said and closed the doors again.

Dynah glanced back at Ethan standing on the other side of the glass. She was thankful to hear the sound of the key turning in the lock. Mrs. Blythe turned to her in concern and put her around her. “I thought the hospital would keep you overnight.”

“She wanted to come home,” Janet answered for her, a solid presence on her other side.

“Well, that’s all right, I suppose, if you’re sure she’ll be all right.” She looked at Dynah, assessing her and grimacing in sympathy.

“I’ll be all right,” Dynah said, forcing a smile, wanting to allay the dorm mother’s worries. She wanted to stay here, not in a strange room with strangers to care for her.

“I called the dean. I’ll let him know you’re here so he won’t go to the hospital in the morning. He’ll want to know how you’re doing.”

Mortified, Dynah said nothing. How many people knew what had happened to her?

“He’s alerting the student body tomorrow to the danger in our community,” Mrs. Blythe went on. “he assured me your name wouldn’t be mentioned, dear, but it’s important for everyone to be warned until this man is arrested.” She pressed the too button.

“Dean Abernathy wants to save you as much embarrassment as he can.” She assessed Dynah’s bruiser face again. “I think it would be best if you stayed in your room for a few days.”

“I have classes.”

“I’ll send word to your instructors that you have a bad case of flu. They can send your assignments here. And Janet can bring your meals. Hoe does the sound?”

Dynah nodded bleakly as she stepped inside the elevator.

“I’ll call your parents in the morning.”

Dynah slapped her hand against the door to keep from sliding closed. “No! Please, don’t do that!”

“But they should know what happened, Dynah.”

“There’s nothing they can do. You’ll just worry them. I want to forget it happened.”

“We’ll talk in the morning. You get a good night’s sleep first.”

“Promise me, you won’t call them.”

“Do you think they’d blame the school?”

“They’d be upset. I don’t know what they’d do.”

“Well, we’ll wait and see then.”

Janet stood by solicitously while Dynah got ready for bed. She asked how it all happened, and Dynah told her. She wanted to talk about everything, to our out her anguish and feat, her feelings of shame and degradation, but at the facts, Janet grimanced in repugnance.

“I’m sorry I asked. We won’t talk about it anymore. It’s better yoz forget it happened.” She pulled the blankets up and tucked them snugly around Dynah. “Put it out of your head and get some sleep.” Bending down, Janet kissed her forehead.

“I wish you’d called me. I would have picked you up.”

Dynah felt a stab of guilt for not having done so. She should have heeler Mr. Packard warning. She should have asked Sally Wentworth for a ride. She should have listened to Charlie and watched herself. “You said you were going to study at the library tonight.”

“I didn’t go. I went out with Chad for coffee instead and then came back here and studied.”

Dynah didn’t say anything more. She couldn’t speak past the lump of pain tightening her throat. If only….. If only…..

“Will you be all right by yourself for a few minutes? I need to wash my face and brush my teeth.”

Dynah nodded, forcing a smile as she fought back the tears that burned so hot.

Janet picked up her pink silk pajamas and her toiletry kit, then turned out the bedside lamp. Opening the door, she pressed the switch for the overhead light and sent the room into darkness. She stood silhouetted against the light from the corridor. “I won’t be long, Dynah. Try to sleep. Everything will look better tomorrow.” She closed the door behind her.

Turning onto her side, Dynah curled into a fetal ball, pulled the covers over her head, and sobbed.

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