December 10, 2009 by The Citron Review

by Heather Luby


She would refuse to give his name. What was done was done. She expected stunned faces, maybe some tears and most certainly some sort of interrogation. What she got was a fleeting moment of high drama from her mother and a look of gross misunderstanding from her father, then, dinner as usual. She didn’t have to refuse to give his name, because neither asked. She could only guess she was right, it wasn’t important, what was done was done. Her brief confession, her accusation, was followed by a decade of silence. It became as if she never told them, that they never knew or maybe they never believed.

It was just as well, because what she told them wasn’t the truth. It wasn’t a lie either, but the reality that lived in between the two wasn’t very compelling. Jumped in an alley is rape. She had a bed, and his address. She told him she was a virgin, but he didn’t believe her. “No virgin can move her hips like that,” he replied, and that was all the proof he needed. She wasn’t sure when things moved from touching and kissing to something more. She believed she could stop it, even after it was too late to stop anything. She said to him, “I don’t think I want to do this,” and he said, “then don’t think about it.” It was dark in his room. She searched for a hint of light, something shining in from a cracked door or parted curtain. Something to attach herself to. Maybe he just couldn’t have seen her tears, or that is what she told herself. He continued to move in her and she gave him nothing back except whimpers. Then it was over. Quickly and efficiently he was up and gone to a hallway bathroom, leaving her exposed, wet from tears and sex and aching somewhere inside that felt like her heart and veins and conscience all at once.

She had to call her dad. She would be late coming home and miss curfew. She called, dialing the long distance number with what felt like a strangers hands. “Daddy, it’s raining and so I’m running late, I’m so sorry.” He said it was okay, to drive careful, and not to forget her prayers. This was a thing he always said to her. Before bed, before she went anywhere, before hanging up on any phone conversation. It felt nice to hear him say it; something was still the same.

She was alone and she dressed quickly, gathering her things around her, not wanting to leave anything else behind. When he came back from the bathroom he didn’t bother to close his door and she could see him naked, silhouetted by the hallway light. She was embarrassed to look at him.  The sharp edges of his pubic bones and the careless slump of his shoulders. “I’ll be late for curfew, I’ve got to go,” she mumbled. “Don’t keep daddy waiting,” he said with a smirk and stepped aside to let her pass. She pressed herself to the doorframe, careful now to be untouched. His roommate was sitting in the living room, smoking a joint and watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He didn’t even glance her way, and she was thankful.  She didn’t know it then, but she would never be able to watch that movie again.  Sean Penn would be avoided at all costs. Though she would never explain why to her husband or maybe even to herself.

Her keys felt heavy in the door. She was home, but she wasn’t sure how she felt about crossing this threshold now that everything had changed. She wasn’t sure if she could believe or, even pretend, that everything could be as it was only hours ago. She could see from the front hall that the light above the stove was on, casting a tender glow over the kitchen. What had her parents eaten for dinner tonight? Were they talking about her, smiling in between bites, while she was flirting with a much older boy in his apartment across town? Were they eating scoops of rocky road ice cream and staring at the hazy blue glow of the television while this same boy was pressing hard against her, fumbling with her bra clasp. She felt a physical pain in her chest. They would be so disappointed in her; if only disappointment could actually encompass the magnitude of her regret. Once they knew, once they understood how poor her judgment had been, her light, the one she was told in Sunday school she was supposed to shine—that light—would be forever a little dimmer in their eyes.

Heather Luby is a former stock broker, cave guide, journalist turned freelance writer. She is currently pursing her MFA in Creative Writing with Antioch University, Los Angeles. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband, two daughters, a deaf dog and a 20 lb cat.


2 thoughts on “Shine

  1. Amber says:

    Great short! It definitely leaves me wanting to know more about the characters. Love how the title is tied in at the end!

  2. Jess says:

    Just came across this excellent story while reading back issues of this ezine. Very realstic. You nailed the right thoughts and emotions a parent feels. Good job.

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