I wonder why the past just won't go away. Heavens knows I would like it to. I don't want it known. I don't want that to have been me. Can't we just pretend that it doesn't exist? I guess the problems with those wants are multifold. For starters, it was me. I am also going to assume that people would find it bizarre if you told them you didn't actually exist until you were in your 20's. And lastly, those are the days that shaped and made me. If I ignore them and don't let God redeem them somehow, then I suffered for nothing. I think that would be the biggest tragedy of all.
I grew up in a small Oklahoma town. The kind that even if you had lived there for forty years but weren't born there, you were still outsiders. The kind of town that the news of what you did made it home before you did. I must admit, it was not my favorite kind of town. I had some kindly neighbors when I was little. They would pick me up on occasion and take me to church with them. That was my only exposure to Jesus. I don't know why my parents didn't go, but they didn't. I think my mom liked the neighbor to take us, though, because it was some quiet time for her. There were four of us kids ages six and younger, and I think we took a toll on her. In elementary school, the pastor's wife at the Nazarene church took an interest in me and put me on the Bible quizzing team. I remember winning a lot and being so good at it. It made me proud, and I knew a lot about God's word. During that time, I started getting sick and after several months I finally had to drop out. By the time I was better, the church “thing” subsided and I was out of church again.
I didn't re-enter the church scene until middle school when I bounced between a couple different churches with friends. There was one church event, a hayride and a bonfire, which changed the events of my life forever. I was 13 at this time and completely boy-crazy. My teenage hormones were out of whack and boys were on the brain, so when I very clearly heard God calling me to surrender my life to him and telling me that I was going to be a preacher's wife, I said no. I told God that following Him meant that I couldn't do some of the things that I wanted to do and that I wasn't ready to do that yet. I didn't want to be constrained to some set of rules that I didn't want to follow. Let me say this without hesitation, let me be crystal clear: THAT WAS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF MY LIFE. If I had known what God was trying to protect me from, the hurt, the heartache, the ridicule, the embarrassment, the pain-- I would never have said no. But that's the funny thing about God, he is a gentleman. He wasn't going to force me to follow him; he wanted me to choose him willingly. I wish I could have that moment back to choose differently. To have lived a life free from the pain I have suffered. But that wasn't my plan. I don't blame God. The fault fully lies with me. I am stubborn and hardheaded. I want things done my way, and Hell hath no fury like me scorned. By the grace of God, He didn't give up on me, but the path back was a long one, and the price I had to pay was great.
Enter the boy-crazy, 14-year-old freshman in high school. There was a really cute boy the next town over that I liked to go out with. He was a church-going fella who wanted to get a little handsy. He was cute and sweet, and little by little I let him introduce me to some unwholesome activities. The one time we came close to having sex, one of my brothers knocked on my window and scared us. That ended our night, and we broke up shortly after that, for which I was grateful. Even just a year later at the age of 15, I realized that I had no idea what I was doing and was not prepared to make the decision to lose my virginity. Though I was only technically a virgin, I planned on maintaining what was left of my innocence for awhile. To be honest here, I cannot say that I planned on waiting for marriage. I only planned on waiting until I felt the time was right and that I was ready for that kind of relationship. The nuances were fuzzy, but the one thing that was clear to me was that I was not ready for sex. Unfortunately, though I was still boy-crazy, which is where the hot senior guy enters the scene. The guy who gets voted best looking in his class.The guy who plays football and other sports. The life of the party who is dating the captain of the cheerleaders .The very same guy who had also been flirting with me for a solid year until I fell prey to his charms. I felt a pull toward him, like all other things ceased to exist when he was around. And this is where I lost my ever lovin' mind, played with fire and made some bad choices. This is where my spiral began.
I am not sure where to even begin with Mr. Senior; I guess I could start with giving him a name. Let's call him Brian. I met Brian my freshman year when he transferred into my English class the second semester. That probably should have been my first clue that he was trouble. A junior shouldn't be repeating freshman English. He was handsome, flirty, fun and gave me plenty of attention, though it was mainly heavy flirting until the other-town guy and I broke up my sophomore year. Sophomore year I had Brian in Speech class, and he liked to harass me endlessly after the weekend’s about my other-town guy...that is, until the Monday I told him that we had broken up. Then his attention changed; then he began pursuing me. In an effort to maintain full disclosure, I must admit I knew he had a girlfriend at this time. There was no way I couldn’t have known; there were about 250 kids in our 9-12 high school. Everyone knew everything about everyone. The problem is that I didn't care; there was a spark, an attraction, and I felt that I wasn't committed to her--he was, and that was not my problem. So the flirtation continued at school, a stolen kiss here and there. We then progressed to making out in the girls’ bathroom between classes. I let him cross a few lines, but I drew a big line in the sand because I wasn't ready for more. But oh, the drama that followed him. When his girlfriend found out that he was messing around with me, it got ugly. There were public fights and confrontations, and I always stood my ground.. After a conversation between her and me about who the real issue was with, she left me alone and kept the fighting between her and her wandering boyfriend.
Things finally settled down a bit, and Brian seemed to understand that I wasn't going any further despite his attempts to persuade me otherwise. We were heading into the end of March when life took an altering turn. After weeks of not talking to Brian, I was walking down the hall to my next class running close to time, and the halls were empty. As I walked by the boys’ bathroom, an arm reached out, grabbed me, and pulled me through a door in the back of the boys’ bathroom into what was apparently the janitor’s closet. It was this moment that changed me forever. Brian started kissing me and unbuttoning my jeans. I started fighting him and trying to pull my pants back up. He asked me if he could take my pants off, and I told him no. He then picked me up and laid us down with him on top of me. He was still tugging, and I was telling him no and to stop. However, at 5' 5" and 105 lbs, that was not a fight I was winning. I did keep fighting though, and eventually he decided it wasn't worth the hassle to finish. Shocked and confused, I went to the bathroom when he finally let me up. When I went to the bathroom and checked, I found blood: I was no longer a virgin. I had no idea what I had envisioned my first time being like, but I can tell you that that was not it. I didn't imagine it being me fighting a guy off trying to keep him from doing that to me. I didn't imagine it making me feel like the world was ending. I just didn't imagine that.
I went into shock after that. For the next few weeks, everything was hazy. I barely knew where I was and what I was doing. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I wanted to tell, I wanted to call the police, I wanted him to suffer for what he did to me. But I was so embarrassed to let anyone know that I had done "that". Everyone would know what he had done to me and that I no longer had my virtue. I was a mess, and he was oblivious to what he had done to me. The one time I confronted him, he said that nothing happened and that I needed to grow up a little bit more. I can only surmise that because he didn't get to finish because I was fighting so hard that he didn't feel that he did anything wrong. I hated him. How could he do that to me when I had made it clear that I wasn't ready for that? It finally turned to the end of May and the end of school. I was still angry, but I was determined that no one would find out what happened. Then one day the phone rang and a new kind of trouble walked through my door.
Chris was also a Senior; he was a cute, very tall guy who asked me out. My parents had a rule about me not dating until I was 16, but since I was less than two months away from it, I was able to talk my parents into letting me go swimming with him. What I didn't mention was that we were going swimming at a hotel that his mom had rented him and his friends a room for the weekend. I still wasn't ready for an intimate relationship. So I started dating Chris and taking things slow. He came to my sixteenth birthday party, and sitting on the back porch swinging on the patio swing, he asked me if I was a virgin. So I told him what had happened to me. Chris and I kept dating after that, but Brian had started calling me and harassing me about Chris. He said that he had heard things about me and Chris, and he wanted to know if I had slept with Chris per the rumor. I was confused and angry. Why was he calling, and what business of it was his? Brian kept calling, wanting me to see him and wanting me to hook up with him. I was lost, confused, and still very angry. And that is where my crazy started: I couldn't get past the fact that my first time had been taken from me, and I would never get to experience that moment without fear and anger and hurt. So I came up with the idea that maybe if I recreated it, I could replace the memory. Looking back now I see the insanity in that, but at that moment I was so desperate to regain what I had stolen from me that I was willing to do anything. So I did. The next time Brian called I snuck out my window and walked to my corner where he was waiting for me in his truck. He had a sleeping bag in the back of his truck, and he rolled it out in my pasture. This time I gave myself to him willingly trying to replace the other memory he had given me. Let me go on record as saying it didn't work. My idea born of sheer desperation didn't work. And I was even angrier than before.
So now I was stuck. I had slept with Brian and it didn't fix anything. In my mind the next option was to see if Chris could replace the memory. So after 4 months of dating, I let him take me back to his apartment (he had started college by this time), put in a mix music tape, and seduce me. When he was driving me home after, I cried. I felt cheap, I felt unloved, and I was still very angry. As school started back--junior year--life became really complicated. I found out that while neither had said anything to me, Chris and Brian were best friends. I mean, like brothers, and had been for their whole lives. Apparently, I was the only person in our small town unaware of that. It made things somewhat contentious. I was dating Chris but he was aware that sometimes I was hooking up with Brian also. It was bizarre. Neither one of them talked about the other one to me, except the one time Chris and Brian pulled up to my friends and me on a Friday night and asked me which one of them was better. I obviously could have done without that.
While school was in full swing and I was busy with Chris and the Pom squad, the boys basketball coach asked me to be the team manager, as well. Life was busy, and I was struggling to manage my anger and hurt, only to have life throw me yet another curve ball: I was pregnant. I have to admit, I was shocked. I probably shouldn't have been; proper precautions were not always taken, but I was shocked nonetheless. I didn't know what to do, and I didn't want to tell anyone. But I think the most gut-wrenching part of it was that I didn't know whose it was. It could have been either Chris' or Brian's. Who would want to admit that?? But I also knew that I couldn't lie about it. So I kept it to myself for a while. By my third month, I knew I needed to say something.One night when I was spending the night with Chris (don't ask), Brian stopped by to see if Chris wanted to go out with him for the night. When Chris told Brian I was spending the night with him, Brian asked to talk to me. Chris went to shower, leaving Brian and me alone to talk. Brian started asking me who I had told about us because he was afraid that his girlfriend was going to find out about us. She knew we had messed around some, but she thought that was long over and had no idea that things had progressed to the point they were at. Truthfully, I didn't care what he was saying. I was so angry with him. I didn't care about him; I was only involved with him to control him. I said when and where now, and if I felt like it, I told him no and walked away. I felt like controlling him and the relationship was a way to get back what he took from me. If I could have only seen how messed up that was back then... Anyway, when he stopped talking, I told him I was late. I must say that got his attention. He asked me how late I was and I told him two weeks (actually it was 5 weeks). I was being very careful in what I said to him. I only gave him partial information because I was scared of his reaction. Turns out, I was right to be scared: his reaction was to tell me that he would take me to another town where I could get an abortion. I told him that I wouldn't do that, and he said I had to. The conversation ended after that. I had nothing else to say. I knew deep down that what he was asking me to do was the cowardly way out. I had made the bad choice, and my child didn't deserve to suffer for it. So I kept silent because I wasn't sure he wouldn't hurt me if I didn't do what he wanted. I did find it curious that he never questioned whose it was. He knew about Chris; I can only guess that since he and Chris were like brothers that it was almost the same. Either way, one of them would have been saddled with a pregnant 16 year old.
A few weeks later while at school, I had an abdominal pain so sharp that I had to grab my locker door to keep from falling. And I knew. I ran to the bathroom only to find that I was bleeding. I sat there on the toilet trying to decide what to do. If I went to the hospital everyone in town would find out that I was pregnant, and being only at the end of my third month, I didn't think they could save it. I was scared of the money it would cost and my parents finding out, so I just waited. The only thing worse than losing the baby would be to lose the baby and everyone still find out about it. Other than Brian, no one had any idea and I had been deliberately vague with him. So I waited and then went home; by that time I was cramping so bad that I soaked in a hot bath to try to ease the cramps. I will never forget the moment that I leaned forward in the tub and the baby came out. I call it “the baby” it was actually like a small sac that I presumed the baby was inside, and I was heartbroken. Despite being too young and the whole father issue, I loved that baby because it was mine. Here I was now with what was left of the baby, and I had to dispose of it. I don't know that I will ever completely recover from that. My child didn't even get a crappy makeshift burial. I took the chickens way out and flushed it down the toilet so that I could keep my secret hidden. Secret after secret, lie after lie, one thing to cover another. That was what my life had become, and I spiraled further out of control.
A few days later while I was running errands in town, I saw Brian was back in town for the weekend. I ignored him and his friends standing in the park because I was so angry. Apparently, he saw me though, because he got in his truck and drove around town until he caught me on a back street so he could talk to me. When I finally stopped, the first words he said to me were, "Are you still late?" I just told him no; he said I didn't think so then asked me to go hook up with him. I just drove away. I started bawling right there: here I was still bleeding after losing the baby he wanted me to abort, and I had to deal with him. I didn't want to sleep with him, I wanted to hit him. He always seemed to get what he wanted. He wanted my virginity and he took it; he wanted me to have an abortion and I lost the baby. Why did he always get what he wanted? What about me? I had hit rock bottom...or so I thought. As bad as the stuff before was, this is probably the hardest to write. This is the part where I become a person I never thought I was capable of being, where I didn't even recognize myself when I looked in the mirror. I let my grief and anger take me some place so dark that it is only by the grace of God that I ever came out of it.
After the rape, I seemed to have been able to compartmentalize my life. Chris and Brian were at college, so they only occupied evenings and weekends for the most part, but the part of my junior year that I haven't addressed yet was the time I spent at school. At school, I was able to hold myself together for the most part. Well, except for the being angry and cranky. Besides classes, I was in my third year of Pom, and the boys basketball coach had asked me to be the manager/stats keeper for his team. He had me come to the gym every day after school to hang out until basketball season started. I am going to guess that by this point you are already smarter than me, because goodness knows that I didn't catch on for a while. I spent the afternoons getting to know him. I'll give you the rundown:he was funny, really cute and kind of goofy. He was the fun teacher that everyone loved and loved to be around. Probably about half the girls in the school had a crush on him. He was much older than me (late thirties) and married with four kids, including one a few grades below me.
When basketball games started, I started traveling with the team. Usually it was just me and the guys, but occasionally I had a friend who would help me. At nights after the games, Tanner (guess I should give him a name) would call me and ask me if I had called in the stats to the newspapers. The first couple times I thought it was really weird to have a teacher call me at home. I don't even know how he got my phone number, but after a while I was just used to it. Since I was usually the only girl that would travel with them, he took good care of me and made sure that I was ok. It was comforting to have someone to look out for me, and I really enjoyed his company. It was nice to have someone talk to me as an adult and actually to listen to me. A red flag did finally pop up when, during one of our afternoons together he talked to me about another coach in our town who had been arrested for having sex with a 14-year-old. I can't remember exactly what he said, but I felt like he might have been feeling me out about how I felt about it. As quickly as that flag was raised, though, I shoved it back down. I told myself that he was married and my teacher and that I had just to be imagining it. So I kept doing what I was doing. As life with Chris and Brian spiraled out of control, he was the one rock I could count on. Obviously, I didn't talk to him about them, but he was my escape, a place that I could be carefree and just enjoy someone listening to me without expecting anything. Until the day came when I realized that he was interested in being more than just a friend. I was unsure what to do with that information; he had become someone who meant so much to me that I didn't want to lose him.
What I also hadn't realized was how obvious our relationship had become to everyone else. And as is the case in a small town, the gossip spread like wildfire. One night on our way back from a basketball tournament, my friend and I were sitting in a row in the middle surrounded by the guys. The only two black guys on our team (we small towns aren’t known for diversity) were sitting right in front of us and were trying to convince my friend to go out with one of them. I must confess--I was a bit miffed. My nickname was “Jail Bait”, after all--why weren't they asking me, too? I guess they saw the confused look on my face, because one of them said, and I quote, "Not you ‘cause you're doing the coach." I opened my mouth to argue, but I couldn't. Then I just looked away. It wasn't that we had actually had sex yet; we hadn't, but I knew we would. I knew that was the only way this would end. He had become so important to me that my only other option was to walk away completely, and I couldn't do that. So I just accepted what was to come.
He seemed to realize that I had came to that decision, because one night at a game while flirting under a scoreboard during the girls’ game, he told me that he wanted to wait until I was 18 to have sex. I just looked at him and said, “Do you really think that is going to happen?” “17, then,” he said, to which I replied, “It's a long time until I turn 17,” and I just walked away.
Shortly after that he started inviting me over to his house on occasion after school. It was on one of those occasions while we were practicing golf that he told me that he wanted to make a bet. He wanted to make a bet on the Bedlam basketball game. If his team won then, he got whatever he wanted; if my team won, I got whatever I wanted. The winner could choose the reward later. As I was leaving that day, he walked me outside and reached out and grabbed my butt. It freaked me out; that was the first time that he had ever touched me in a sexual way, and I was not prepared for it.
As I am sure he knew they would, his team won the bedlam game. After class he handed me a piece of paper with the name of a hotel, a date, and time at which to meet him. That was what he had chosen for his prize: sex. How I wish I would have said no or walked away... but I didn't.
So when that Friday night came, I went. I had to lie to my parent's about where I was going, and I had to lie to Chris about what I was doing because he wanted to go out that night. I drove nearly an hour from my home to someplace I had never been and where no one would ever think to look for me to meet Tanner at the hotel. He already had the room when I arrived; and he had left his vehicle unlocked so I could get the note he left for me with the room number on it. Doing the stupidest thing I have probably ever done, I knocked on that door. When he opened it there were two beer bottles on the nightstand next to the bed, which was the first thing I had noticed. He had wine coolers when we were at his house, but this time it was beer. I didn't ask for one because I didn't drink, but I was pretty sure one was for me if I wanted it. I'm not going to lie; I was really nervous. We sat down on the bed, and he leaned over and kissed me while he started unbuttoning my shirt. The first thought that ran through my mind was "oh my god I'm kissing my teacher," but I was far from home and didn't feel like I really had a choice anymore, so I let him do what he wanted. When it was time to leave, he asked me if I knew of a place to get an abortion if I got pregnant. (I wasn't on the pill and he wouldn't use a condom.) I told him I wouldn't do that, and he said ok. That was the beginning...I wish I could say our indiscretions were only that one night, but they weren't.
That was only the beginning of a series of events which included many more nights together, his wife throwing him out two weeks after we started sleeping together, my boyfriend finding out after his friends told him what I was doing, and all heck breaking loose in the town gossip chain as all of this information came to light. I had officially become the mistress of the basketball coach. I was the slut who was sleeping with a married man and who broke up their marriage. The one thing I noticed in all this as I was ostracized in the town was that I was taking all the blame. What about him? I was a 16-year-old girl, and he was a 38-year-old married man. Why was I the temptress? I would never have started it. Had he not spent so much time sucking me into his world, I would have never slept with him. Did he not deserve at least half the blame? Why was he allowed a free pass and I had to walk around with the proverbial scarlet letter A on my chest? As in many small towns, winning lots of basketball games gets you a free pass--apparently it also can get you an underage mistress. And as all of this fell on me, in addition to everything else, I became a different person. I was always angry, and I knew that I was in way over my head. I wanted my relationship with Tanner to end; I knew it wasn't right, but no one would call us on it. Everyone was content to talk about it behind our backs, but officially, to the school at least, it wasn't happening. Even though they knew it was. They even went so far as to call Tanner into the Superintendent's office and tell him that they would look the other way as long as we weren't caught alone together. If we were caught alone then they would have to do something about it. Let's just say that I became the worst version of me. I didn't much bother trying to hide my relationship with Tanner anymore, but honestly he never did so I don't know why I even bothered. I continued dating Chris since he didn't dump me when he found out I cheated. He just threatened to wrap my neck around the mailbox if I ever cheated on him again. Oh, and he threatened to tell Tanner's wife--but I think he was just mad. Brian creeped around every now and then. Apparently, I had lost all my sense of self-respect. To add to the chaos, I decided to pick up a few one night stands and short-term flings to complete my spiral into becoming someone I hated. I didn't even recognize myself anymore.
By God's grace slowly things began to change. Chris decided to join the military and was stationed in Japan, leaving me to do the long distance thing with him. I told Brian I was done, and after a year of mess with Tanner, the school finally found enough leverage to get him to stay away from me. Though he was a coward about it, he was called into the office one day and on the first day of senior year I was removed from his class. That was really how all that just ended. No explanation, no goodbye, no “I'm done.” Nothing. So for the first time in what seemed like forever, I was alone. And the silence allowed God to talk to me because I wasn't busy trying to drown out the noise with whatever random guy. I'll never forget the day I heard him speak to me. I was walking across the school parking lot when I heard a voice speak to me. It felt like he was talking out loud. The words I heard I'll never forget. He said, "I'll let you die if I have to," and I knew exactly what he meant. A few months earlier I had gone to the doctor, and she was able to discern some of the bad morals I had been practicing from the exam. She had asked me if I had ever seen someone with AIDS. Surprised, I answered no. She then told me that if I kept going the way I was going, one day that was going to be me. I was stunned. When I heard God speak, I knew exactly what he meant. I was destroying myself, and unless I called out to him he would continue to let me fall until it would ultimately cost me my life. He loved me enough to let me fall until I got so low that he was the only thing that could save me.
The next month our local Baptist church hosted a teen evangelism night. It was called “Let's Talk About Sex”, I believe. I don't even remember who the speaker was, but I remember what he said. He said that when our lives end, our life would be played on a big screen for everyone to see. Would we want everyone to see what we had done? At that moment, I decided I was done fighting God. I couldn't get to the alter fast enough. I'm sure I shocked a lot of people that day or maybe they just were saying to themselves, Man she really needs to be there!, but whatever the case may be, I changed that day. I gave my life to Jesus, and I couldn't believe that he would be willing to forgive me for all the things I had done. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I felt a sense of peace that I hadn't ever felt. I still found it hard to forgive myself, but I had no doubt that God did.
Author Notes: Forgiven is the follow up to this.