THE ATONEMENT CHILD.

CHAPTER 14.

The next day, Dynah called Sally Wentworth and quit her job at Stanton Manor House. Surprised, Sally asked why.

“I’m going to put more time into my studies.” She ignored the feelings of guilt that tugged at her. It was true, in part. She was going to have lots of work to make up once she resumed classes.

“If you need more money, I can get you a dollar-an-hour raise.”

“It’s not the money, Sally. Really.” She knew she would have to find some kind of job soon. She didn’t have the luxury of not working at all. The scholarship took care of part of the tuition. Her parents paid the rest, as well as her dorm fees. However, there were still the expenses of clothing and books and her car. She had to pay for insurance and gas and repairs.

If her car har worked last night, maybe…..

“Mr. Packard has been asking for you. He’ll miss you, you know.”

“I know,” she said, her throat closing up. She thought of the old man’s warning and felt the added burden of not having heeded it. “I can’t help it, Sally. I just can’t come back.” She couldn’t bring herself to even say she would come visit.

“I guess I can understand your feelings. This isn’t exactly a happy job.”

“I enjoyed it.”

“If that’s true, you wouldn’t be quiting. Are you sure there isn’t more to it, Dynah? This is awful sudden.”

She hesitated, then leaned her forehead against the wall. She couldn’t bring herself to tell Sally the truth. It was too humiliating. And worse, she couldn’t stop thinking about it. She was afraid, so afraid. Even the thought of being across town from the campus made her heart race. Ethan had gotten her car for her this morning, but what if it broke down again? What if Janet couldn’t pick her up? What if Ethan was too busy? She would have to make that long walk down Maple to Main and catch the bus. She would have to walk up Henderson past the park-

No. She shook her head. She couldn’t face it.

“I’m sorry, Sally.” She was ashamed to quit without notice. She was sorry to leave Sally and Juan with added responsibilities. She was sorry Mr. Packard would miss her. She was sorry about everything.

“Well, I took a chance hiring a student. I should’ve known better. I’ll have to work overt until I can find a replacement. Don’t expect a recommendation.” There was a sharp click as Sally hung up.

Over the next few days, Dynah tried to our herself into her studies, but she found it difficult. She was so tired, all she wanted to do was sleep. When she did, she was tormented by strange, vivid dreams. She couldn’t concentrate.

Officer Lawson called and arranged a follow-up interview at Middleton’s police station. He said he could send a squad car to pick her up, but Dynah said she would get there on her own.

The last thing she wanted were rumors starting. Janet said the campus was already buzzing with the news of someone’s being raped in the community park.

Ethan insisted he would drive her. When he picked her up, he said if anyone saw them at the police station, he had a plausible reason works out. They were doing a jail visitation and research. “Let me do the taking,” he said.

Neither spoke after that. He seemed preoccupied, grim, and her own thoughts were rushing headlog toward disaster. Her stomach churned. It was the first time she left the dormitory since that night. Instead of driving out the east entrance, Ethan took his usual route straight through the front gate and down Henderson. She kept her eyes closed until he turned onto Main.

Once st the police station, Ethan waited in the lobby. Dynah endured an hour of questions about the night of the rape. She mentioned the white station wagon with the Massachusetts plate. She couldn’t remember any of the numbers or letters.

Officer Lawson kept going back to the man again and again, gently but persistently prodding for details about his appearance, voice, anything that might identify him. Was he talk or short? Heavyset or thin? What was he wearing? Did he have any kind of an accent?

“All I saw was a dark shape. He didn’t say anything. He just…..grabbed me.”

There was nothing conclusive to connect the man driving the white station wagon with the man who had raped her.

She went home with a splitting headache that kept her vomiting half the night.

Dynah returned to her classes nine days after the attack.

The first day was torturous. She had always felt comfortable around people. Now she was nervous with so many around her. Worse, her friends chose the “incident” as their primary topic of conversation.

“I wonder who it was.”

“Maybe that girl from Maine. Didn’t she leave school a few days ago?”

“I heard she was pregnant.”

“I didn’t hear that. Really?”

“What if it was her? Could you blame her for leaving? I wouldn’t want to stay here if anything like that happened to me. Would you?”

“Did they catch him?”

“No. I saw a police car o Henderson yesterday. I think they’re talking to all the neighbors, trying to find someone who might have seen something.”

“It was in the paper yesterday that they’re looking for information about the driver of a white station wagon with Massachusetts plates.”

“My boyfriend doesn’t think they’ll catch the guy. He’s probably over the border and long gone by now.”

“Back in Massachusetts.”

“I hope he stays there.”

“I hope he had a wreck on the way.”

“Doesn’t it give you the willies thinking about it? I mean, can you imagine? I’ve been going down there every afternoon to study since I came to NLC. It sure doesn’t have the same feel now, does it?”

“Where are you going, Dynah?”

She blushed, trapped by their curious looks. “To the student employment office,” she said, backing way, he books clutched against her chest like a shield.

“You already have a job, don’t you? At Stanton Manor House.”

“I had to quit.”

“I thought they paid pretty well.”

“The pay is all right, but it’s too far away and was eating into my study time. I’m going to see about getting a job here on campus.”

Lies, lies. There we so many lies now…..

“There’s a job open at the library. I know because I quit. Shelving books was bore.”

She got the job, and by the end of the week, she had her work schedule. She started work on Monday.

To all outward appearances, everything was fine. If she seemed to smile less, friends just assumed it was because she was distracted by midterms looming. Wasn’t everyone?

But deep within, Dynah knew….. She was shattered and didn’t know how to put herself together again. She lay sleepless in her dorm room, a nursery rhymes running through her mind again and again.

Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall.

Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall.

All the King’s horses and all the King’s men.

Couldn’t put Humpty-Dumpty together again.

She wanted to talk about her feelings with Ethan, but everytime she tried, he changed the subject. She felt the distance between them like a yawning chasm, growing as each week went by. They still studied together in the library between classes.

They still went to dinner on Friday and the movies on Saturday and to church together on Sunday. Yet she was left yearning for what had been. She missed the tenderness and intimacy they shared. They had always talked about everything.

They still talked, but not about anything that mattered-not about what preyed constantly on her mind and heart, not about whatever was eating away at him.

Tonight, she sat in a small booth in a quiet Italian restaurant and listened to Ethan talk about his homiletics class. Over the past hour, he had gone over four different ideas he was considering for his presentation. The waiter had given them menus, returned to take their orders, delivered Ethan’s salad and veal parmesan and her side order of pasta, and left the check.

“What do you think?” He said finally, finishing the last of his dinner and looking at her over the edge of his water glass.

Dynah pushed her pasta around the plate and raised her head slightly. “What do you think?” She said quietly, aching inside.

She wanted to say, “What is it you really feel about what happened to me? Do you blame me, Ethan? Do you think it was my fault I was raped?” She voiced none of those questions, but he must have seen them in her eyes because his face hardened.

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