Chapter 7, Part C
Estrelicas phone rang in the front room. She let it ring a few times as she continued looking for the top hat in her bedroom, then when she realized the caller was going to persist, she abandoned her search and went to answer it.
"Sorry, Im not in, may I help you?...Oh, hi. How are you?...NO, Jesus Christ, No, when?...Are you okay?....When did it happen?...So, youre okay...Are you sure...Do you want me to come out and see you?...Well, I should be able to afford it...Jesus Christ...Did you know him?...Fucking hell...Yeah...Yeah...Yeah...No, I dont think so...Oh, you mean the guy who used to hang around at Petes? Okay, I know who youre talking about...No, I never really met him, but he sure wanted to meet me a few times....Have you told anyone? Have you told your folks?....Have you seen anyone yet? Are you pregnant?.....Yeah....Okay....Yeah....How have the people there been? ....Yeah....Thats good....Jesus Christ, I cant believe this happened. I was just thinking about you this morning, too....Yeah (chuckle) Yeah...Well, do you want to talk about it? I could call you back...yeah...yeah..."
Vic had gone over to take another look at Estrelicas portfolio and flipped to the photographs hed already taken a look at, the ones of the severely beaten women. He gazed at them looking at what had been flesh, what had been blood, what had been women that for all he knew may have been enjoying life, now scarred with something theyd have to live with for the rest of their lives. Vic made a quick mental inventory and started to tally up all of the females hed ever known who had been victims of some sort of abuse and he decided it might be easier if he just counted those who hadnt been victims. He thought of his gender, his tribe, and was reminded that no matter how he could try to understand women, that empathy only goes so far. He thought of the idea of surrendering. He flipped the portfolio shut and was about to put it back where he found it when a stray photograph fell out and landed at his feet. He picked it up and noticed that it was a nude photograph of Estrelica running through a field. He thought to himself that if hed seen the photograph just five minutes ago it would have melted him, but now all he could think of was who, if anyone, was lurking in the background waiting for her, because he knew how long men can wait, and some men can wait forever.
Estrelica hung up the phone as Vic suddenly felt very uncomfortable.
"Maybe I should go."
"No, thats okay. You havent finished your coffee."
He didnt respond.
"That was a friend of mine in Pennsylvania. Speak of the devil: She was just raped."
Vic didnt respond.
"FUCKING HELL!" she bellowed.
Vic didnt respond.
"Shes okay. It happened a few days ago. I dont know whether I should fly out and see her or not. Im going to call her back tomorrow. She had just broken up with this guy and she happened to be at this bar, and this new guy happened to start chatting her up, and she didnt want to go with him, but I guess she did. They got to his place and he started coming on to her and she said she wanted to go and he pulled a gun and...FUCKING HELL!!"
Vic didnt want to respond, but felt he should say something.
"Whereabouts in Pennsylvania?"
"I know some people in Allenstown."
"Yeah. Whats her name?"
"Deidre. Deidre Morris."
"No, I dont know her. But I do know another woman in Allenstown who has been raped before. A real survivor who had this trial that went on for months, but she won and shes picked the pieces up in spades. I could get her in touch with your friend if you want."
Estrelica thought for a second, then agreed that it might be a good idea.
"Yeah. Yeah. That would be good. Could you do that?"
Vic took out his list of addresses and phone numbers from his wallet and found her number as he walked over to the phone.
"Just keep it short." she asked.
Vic tried the number he had, which had apparently been disconnected long ago with no forwarding number. He tried another number he had in the area and found the same thing, and realized it had been a while since hed been in contact with anyone there. He looked over at Estrelica who felt him watching her and went into her bedroom. He tried another number. He tried a stab in the dark. He dialed the area code and the prefix he had been using for the other numbers, then chose four other numbers at random. He could hear the phone on the other end ringing once, twice, thrice, then someone answered.
"Hi, uh, this is a long distance call so please dont hang up, and I know that this is kind of a stupid thing to ask, but, do you know Natalie Brown?...Shes about 25, 26...brown hair...Do you know any Browns?...Well, Im trying to get a hold of someone, its pretty important...Well, a friend of a friend of mine just got raped and I was trying to get in touch with someone I know whos been through the same thing...."
Estrelica fell on her bed oblivious to everything except what she had just learned from Deidre and transposed her feelings of her own rape next to Deidre in her mind. Her mind raced and she found herself having to fight off meltdown for the first time in years. She summoned up all of her concentration and thought as hard as she could about Deidre. She began to cry and thought of the man who was in the next room. She felt scared, but thinking back on what she had been through today she knew she had no reason to be and wished she wasnt, but just the fact that Vic was a man weighed so heavily in her mind that she didnt know what to think. She thought of the difference between the Old and the New Testament for some reason. Something she hadnt thought about in decades. She wondered how much space she had left in her heart for the human race, or at least men. She knew that none of this had anything to do with Vic, and if anything, he was out in the front room trying his best to help, which she appreciated. She thought of a few of her friends who had become men-haters after such experiences had happened to them, and she wondered why she also didnt hold a grudge against them. But, she also knew that if she did, that that was the first step towards alienating herself from other groups of people. Most of her friends were men, and they were men that she trusted very deeply. She could think of no logical reason why she should hate men, just as she could think of no logical reason why she should hate many of the women shed met who, in her eyes, were far worse than quite a few of the men shed come across. She thought about letting her heart turn to granite like so many of her friends had. She sighed once more, whispered "Fuck it. Im still here," and went back into the front room to rejoin Vic.
She didnt bother making eye contact as she reentered the room and hoped that he would understand. Vic had just hung up the phone as she walked past him and gravitated to the voice singing on her stereo, stood by the window that shown out onto the street, gazed out into the night and leaned gently against the wall. A car full of teenagers screamed by the front of the house with the radio blasting a song whose only words she could make out were those of a heavy metal singer shrieking "I LOVE YOU BABY!" Estrelica snapped.
"SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
She went over to the sofa and pulled out her portfolio and searched for a photograph, trying desperately to gain her composure and gently offered Vic a photograph.
"This is Deidre." She murmured.
Vic slowly got up and walked over to her, taking the photograph from her hand. It was the photograph he had seen minutes ago of who he thought was Estrelica running through a field.
"She looks a lot like you."
She didnt respond as Vic studied the photograph again and tried to clean up what he could.
"Would you like a drink?" he asked.
He set the photograph down on the sofa next to her as she picked it up and gazed lovingly at it. Vic slowly walked into the kitchen to open the fridge and sighed under his breath "The fridge is beerless and we sit here peerless." He tried a couple of the cupboards, shifted a few things around and found a small bottle tucked in the back corner and brought it out. An old bottle of Baileys. He walked back into the front room and poured a nip into both of their mugs.
"No, wait, theyre probably stone cold by now. Ill go and make some more." she said.
He realized he should have made some more, but also thought that doing something might ease her mind a little. She went back into the kitchen and made two more lattees for them. While she was waiting for the coffee, she went into the bathroom to wash her face and see what she looked like. She grabbed her hair dryer to dry her face; she never used it to dry her hair, but she always loved the feeling of hot air on her face before dabbing away what was left of the moisture with a towel. She went back into the kitchen and waited for the coffee, remembering that he had used the phone.
"So, did you get through to anyone?"
"Uh, you wont believe this, but I just met a pretty cool person. Lynn Rhodes from Allenstown. I couldnt get a hold of my friends because their numbers had been disconnected and there were no forwarding numbers, so I tried the same area code and the same prefix I had and just dialed four numbers at random. I just tried asking if the person on the other end had ever heard of my friend. I mean, I have no idea how large Allenstown is or anything. Ive never been there, but I know a couple of people who have been there for a couple of years. Well, the first person I got a hold of was a really cool 16-year-old who obviously wasnt disgusted with the world yet because she was pretty helpful. Shes also been raped before, and although she doesnt know my friend, she said shed keep a lookout for her and go into a couple of the Rape Relief Centers in town, which she does all the time anyway, and see if she can find her. She said that the Centers in the town are pretty good."
"Yeah, thats what Deidre was saying, too. Shes already been there a few times."
"So, uh, yeah. That might help."
"What was her name?"
"Bless you, Lynn Rhodes."
"Ive got her address and phone number if you want, She was so cool. I mean, the first person I got through to...."
"Yeah, thats really sweet."
"Shes a waitress at the Ponderosa, I guess."
Estrelica chuckled and her spirits started to lift.
"Were you on the phone long?" she asked.
"Dont worry about it. I paid for it already."
"Thank you. That was very sweet of you."
He smiled the same way he had when he first noticed Estrelica looking over at him in the 5 Point earlier in the day. She recognized the smile and started to beam.
"Are you for real?" she asked.
"Nah, Im a bastard, just like all the rest of them."
"Oh, come here, you."
He got up slowly, walked towards her, crouched over her with his hands on his knees, leaned down by her ear and whispered.
"Would you like to dance?"
"Id love to."
He offered his hand as she stood up, and murmured as he took her in his arms. She nodded slightly as she put her arms around him. They danced ever so slowly and quietly, both of them closing their eyes to escape the garishness of the lights in the room. They both kept their eyes closed for a minute or two until Estrelica opened hers to find her tapered red candle stuffed into an old bottle of port on the mantelpiece of the fireplace looking unwanted. Without letting go of him she took her Zippo out of her skirt pocket and aimed their dance over to the candle so she could light it. He opened his eyes.
"Okay, now we have to dance over to there." She said.
Darkness fell on the room like a comfort, helping both of them distance themselves as far as they could, if only for a few hours, from what had just happened.
"Now we have to dance over to the phone." Vic obliged as Estrelica bent over to unplug it, and heard scratches at the window.
"And now the window." She said, lifting the sash to let her cat in.
"Christ, look at the shanks on that thing." Vic exclaimed. "Whats its name?"
"Armitage." she replied. "Anything else?" she asked of the room. No. Armitage gazed at the stranger in his presence, reserved commenting on the situation before him and jumped down to the floor, running into Estrelicas bedroom.
Estrelica & Vic, Chapter 7, Part D