The Innocent (Short Story)

The day was hot, but the lemonade was cold; that alone made the heat and the sweat that flowed down Elizabeth’s back like the lake behind her house easier to endure.

Elizabeth’s mother was frying chicken, and, for whatever reasons, she just sat there her mouth watering from the smell as her stomach growled from the hunger.

Normally, Elizabeth would go and hang out with her friends at the park, but, today, she had other intentions; his name is Tommy Franks, he was a constant on her mind, and she wanted him to be hers.

Life in Elizabeth’s world was always simple; she was spoiled, being the only child of the charismatic Pastor Waters, but because she was also an excellent student, she literally got any and everything she asked for.

Elizabeth thought, although Tommy was acting strange lately, he was mostly ignoring her; she normally didn’t like being ignored, she didn’t care this time because it was Tommy.

For some time now, Tommy had stopped responding to her advances—especially after that heated kiss they had shared, but she really liked him, she wanted him, and she, being so wonderful in her eyes, knew that she’d eventually have him.

“Baby, will you go to the store for me?”

“Sure, mom,” Elizabeth said downing the last of the lemonade.

“Here’s some money and the list, be quick, and bring back my change, ya hear!”

“Yes, ma’am,” Elizabeth quickly said and began walking into town; she went by Tommy’s house, on purpose; although, it wasn’t anywhere near hers, but she wanted to see if he was at home. She was hoping he could walk with her to the store.

Knock Knock

“Elizabeth, yes, dear,” Tommy’s mother said.

“Hi, is Tommy home?”

“Naw, he’s in town with them Mitchell boys, but I’ll let him know you came by.”

“Thank you, have a good afternoon.”

“I will child; my show ‘bout to come on,” Mrs. Franks said, laughed, and closed her screen door.

An hour later

Elizabeth was running, running for her life. She stopped. She cried. No one heard her. Elizabeth looked at her hands—skin, blood, and hair were packed under her nails.

Elizabeth screamed though it wasn’t one where anyone would hear; she began running again, but this time she ran into the soda shop where she knew someone would notice her and see her torn dress and the blood pouring from her wounds.

Elizabeth went to the lady in the blue and yellow sundress; Elizabeth knew this lady, her daughter was the junior class president.

“Please can you help me,” Elizabeth cried to the woman.

“Move away from me, child,” the woman said, not lifting her eyes from the pages of the novel she read.

“Please can you help me,” Elizabeth said to the other woman sitting at the table.

“No, I cannot, and why are you in here? You need to leave,” the woman in a broad-rimmed brown hat said.

Elizabeth fell, hard, to the floor; she was terrified to go back outside. Elizabeth began to lament; her body jerked as if she were having a seizure. No one moved; no one noticed her—no one cared.

Elizabeth began to pray, “Father God, please send someone to help me; he’s waiting for me, and if I go home, my mother will surely kill me—in Jesus name, amen,” she said softly through her tears.

Suddenly, someone banged on the glass window of the soda shop. Everyone stopped what they were doing; oh, they noticed that, Elizabeth thought.

They all stood up; they moved, swiftly, around Elizabeth as if she’d become part of the floor, invisible even.

Don’t they see me? Don’t they see my condition? Don’t they see how I look? What is wrong with these people?” Elizabeth cried in low tones.

“Boy, get away from this window banging on it like that—you break it, you pay for it.”

The boy didn’t move.

“Tommy? Tommy Franks, is that you? What, why are you dirty? Are those scratches on your face?”

“That looks like blood,” the lady in the broad-rimmed brown hat said.

Tommy stood there looking through the throng of people, looking at the Elizabeth in her soiled, bloody, white dress.

Tommy wanted Elizabeth; he really liked her. Tommy was taken with her; he never would tell anyone what she did to him when he couldn’t get over himself long enough to stop her and what she was doing to him.

Remembering what happened, Tommy became sick, he had no idea he could become that way—someone he himself didn’t even recognize.

Tommy raped Elizabeth.

Although, Elizabeth fought him—scratches on his face and neck told that story; Tommy was very confused by the whole thing and how the tables had turned.

Elizabeth had bit him; she must have also broken a few of Tommy’s ribs because he was having trouble breathing as he held his side.

“Tommy, whose blood is that on you,” an unfamiliar voice said. “Boy, I know you hear me talking to you.”

Tommy didn’t say a word; he just stood there gawking at Elizabeth; he wanted to say something, anything, but he couldn’t find the words. He knew it would be difficult, just as difficult as it is for him to breathe.

“Maybe he’s in shock,” the woman in the blue and yellow sundress said, “Tommy,” she cried his name, but Tommy remained silent; call it shock, call it pain, one could even call it love, but none of those things would be enough to try and fathom Tommy’s silence.

“Tommy Franks!” Elizabeth finally yelled—sick of them doting on Tommy while she was in obvious turmoil; Elizabeth saw Officer McMichaels move to stand by Tommy. “He raped me,” she blurted out. “Tommy raped me,” she said again, but with more veracity; then everyone turns as if they were being instructed to do so by a choir director. “When I came in here for your help, you,” she pointed to the woman in the broad-rimmed brown hat, “you told me no, you could not, and then you asked me why I was in here. And you,” she said in mounting anger, “you told me to move away from you. He raped me,” her quaking voice rang out.

Everyone turned again to look at Tommy. Mr. Anderson, the owner of the soda shop, came to the Elizabeth, but her shaking grew more violent.

“So now you notice me?”

“I’m sorry, I just thought—”

Thought what? That a colored girl was just running into a whites-only soda shop to do what?

“I’m sorry, I, we…someone please go get Dr. Stewart; come with me, girl…”

“No, I’m not going—” Elizabeth said in defiance.

“Little girl, if you don’t come with me now!” At this point, no one knew who she was; they had not seen Elizabeth’s face since her hair was flying in every direction, but it also covered her face at the same time.

Elizabeth was unrecognizable.

But, suddenly, voices rang out: first the woman in the broad-rimmed brown hat, then the woman in the blue and yellow sundress, but then the loudest voice cried, “Elizabeth; oh, God, get Pastor Waters!” Mr. Anderson yelled.

The last thing Elizabeth saw was Tommy being taking away for what he had done to her; his eyes never left hers.

 

Months later

There was a trial, with clear evidence that Elizabeth was raped, including the fact that she was pregnant.

Tommy never said he didn’t touch Elizabeth, as a matter of fact; Tommy hadn’t said two words since the incident. Tommy went to jail because he nineteen and Elizabeth sixteen—no way he’d get off for this.

After Tommy was convicted of her rape, and, after, Elizabeth had given birth to Tommy’s son, who she gave away to a family in Savannah, Elizabeth wrote in her journal one night after returning home from her best friend’s house.

I wonder who else I could get thrown in jail for raping me.

For more information and published work visit http://www.stephanienburgessbooks.com

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