One Page Stories

Shoes

Christina turned onto 9th Street and carefully guided her blue SUV in between parked cars and adventurous cyclists.

“I just think I need to get out of this town,” she said to her passenger, James Jenkins. “Out of this university. Just go somewhere else, where I don’t have to think about what happened.”

“Don’t leave,” James pleaded, turning toward her in his seat. “Things are going good for you here. And you said you don’t even remember what happened.”

She glanced at him in irritation before returning her attention to the road. “I don’t have to remember it,” she said. “I know it happened! Those guys assaulted me, James! They put something in my drink, and they attacked me when I was unconscious, and they left me on the floor!” She shook her head. “Look, I know you think there’s more to the fraternity than those pieces of crap, but every time I walk by the building, or see someone I met that night, I wonder if they remember me, if they were the ones who did it. I have to wonder what they did.” She ran the back of her hand across her eyes. “I just need to leave, James. I just need to get out of here.”

“They’re not all bad, Chris,” James said quietly. “You know, maybe if you went to the police about it, and tried to identify them, they could be punished for what they did. And you could stop wondering.”

“I went to the police,” she replied. “They made me have a rape-exam, but nobody found anything. And they kept asking me how much I had to drink, and if I was with anyone. They didn’t seem to care at all.”

“I’m sure they care,” James said. He frowned. “Maybe somebody else at the party saw something?” he asked finally. “Maybe your friend Jenny saw who it might have been?”

Christina shook her head. “She left me there to go hook up with some guy. She was totally wasted. She said she’d stay with me, but she left me there.”

They drove in silence for a moment. “If anyone else saw anything,” Christina said finally. “Wouldn’t they have done something?” She looked at him again. “All those friends of yours? Wouldn’t they have done something, or stopped them?”

James had trouble meeting her gaze. “They aren’t all my friends,” he protested. “The ones that are, are all really good guys.”

Christina shrugged. “I know you mean that, James,” she said. “But at least one of them took advantage of me when I was alone and vulnerable. That’s not really good, James.” She wiped her eyes again. “All I can remember is all these guys talking to Jenny, and someone handing me a drink, and then later I remember someone taking my shoes off – my pink sneakers. I loved those shoes.” Her voice trailed off as she relived what brief and disjointed moments lingered in her memory. Someone – or maybe more than one – had taken her shoes, and hurt her, and left her on the floor in the foyer of a stranger’s house.

She steered the SUV onto a side street and slowly came to a stop in front of James’ apartment building. “I know they’re not all bad,” she said. She tried to smile. “You’re not,” she added. “You’ve been really great about all this, really supportive.”

“I try,” James said, giving her an equally half-hearted smile. “I understand why you would leave, but I hope you stay. I would miss you.”

“I would miss you too,” Christina told him. “You’re a good friend, James.”

James blinked, and swallowed a sudden lump in his throat. “So are you,” he said. He grabbed his backpack and opened the door. He tried not to think about the night of the party, when Christina was hurt, but he couldn’t help it. He had been right there, for God’s sake! He had been there. He had seen three of his fraternity brothers – ones he didn’t know very well, ones who seemed a little too gregarious for his tastes – circled around someone who was passed out on a couch. He had seen one of them removing pink sneakers and putting them on the floor by the couch. He had seen.

“Don’t worry, bro,” one of the men said, clapping him on the arm. “She’s just out of it. We’ve got her.”

He had thought to help her, but the three men had seemed so sure of themselves, so affable and innocent. He hadn’t known who it was. He couldn’t see her face. Just the shoes, really. Just the pink shoes.

He had walked away. And the man who had clapped him on the arm had grinned at him and told him he was a good guy.

He shouldered his backpack and leaned back into the car. “I really hope you stay, Chris,” he said to her, and shut the door.

She watched him walk to the door of his apartment, then waved at him and slowly drove away.

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