Friday, August 31, 2012

The Story That Was Never Told

The year was 1986 and two young girls were running free in Kings Park, high above the city of Perth.

It was a typical hot summer day, the air was thick with the sound of crickets and the distant hum of traffic. The dazzling Australian sun gave everything a bleached, slightly yellow appearance that made you squint. Despite the heat, the grass was deep green and lush underfoot.

The two girls, seven and eight, were dressed only in bathers.  Let's call them Mary and Kate.

Mary's mother was settled in the shade, a picnic spread before her. Mary's older sister played nearby with a friend. The park was by no means quiet, yet somehow Mary and Kate found themselves alone, running down a grassy path.

Suddenly they no longer alone. A man stood before them on the path. To their youthful eyes he seemed old.  He was probably only in his thirties or forties.

The girls stopped and faced him, silent.  He smiled warmly at them.

'Do you girls happen to know where the nearest toilets are,' he asked.

The girls knew the park very well.  This man was obviously a visitor or else he would know the nearest toilets were in a far distant area.  They told him so.

The man looked embarrassed.

'I really need to go,' he told them. 'Do you think you could stand guard while I take a leak here. Warn me if someone comes?'

Without waiting for an answer he pulled down his pants.

The girls were now the ones who were embarrassed.  Giggling to themselves, they turned their backs and kept guard for people. They stared at their feet and glanced sideways at each other, waiting in silence.

They still had their backs turned when the man's voice was suddenly behind them.

'Those are nice bathers you are wearing,' he told Mary.

Mary looked up at him and shrugged.  She thought they were okay.

'I'm going to make a pair of bathers for my daughter,' he said. 'But I don't know what type of elastic I need to use. Can I just check to see what elastic you have in your bathers?'

The man slipped a finger under the elastic at the top of Mary's leg.  He stretched it out a bit, testing it, all the while having a serious expression on his face. As though he was really intending to sew a pair of bathers for his daughter.  He moved his finger further round the leg of Mary's bathers.

Mary's eight year old innocence doesn't realise where else he put his finger. She doesn't yet understand what is happening, although she know it feels wrong. Her face burns and she can't look him or Kate in the eye.

A voice further down the path startles the man. He withdraws his finger.

'Nice,' he says. 'Thankyou.'  He turns quickly and walks way down the path.

Mary and Kate, not speaking, run back to where Mary's mother and sister have gathered for lunch.

'There you are,' Mary's mum says, gathering the girls back into the fold.

The girls say nothing.  Not then. Not to each other.

Not ever.

6 comments:

  1. I don't really know what to say. But I feel something needs to be said. I hope Mary talks about it to someone, that someone tells Mary that what happened was wrong, but it was not her fault. That it is OK, to talk about it. I hope that if something like that happened to my daughter, she would tell me. I hope that you are OK. xx

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    1. I didn't know what to say either until I read what Jane said ... and that's *exactly* what I want to say too. xxx

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  2. Your story gave me chills. I have known a couple of people like Mary who have been taken advantage of, and it is always hard having to hear their stories, but it is a story that needs to be told. I hope that Mary is OK, I know that this can be a very hard pain to cope with, even thirty years after the fact.

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  3. I have read and re-read your story now several times and just can't stop thinking about how this would have impacted, and will continue to impact, the lives of Mary and Kate, and most likely the people around them. I feel helpless.

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  4. I suspect I have some inkling of how Mary felt. And still feels. Young Deb had a best friend called Liz and they went to all family outings together as well as on holidays. They both had much older siblings and were great-aunts at a young age. Many times they visited Liz's older sister and her family in their home in Upwey. Her friend's brother in law made Deb feel really uncomfortable. She didn't really undertstand at the time but thought it was weird him always asking if she had a boyfriend when she was only 11 or so, and went to great lengths to avoid him in the corridors. He always managed to find her on her own when she went to the toilet, but she was quick to escape. One day they all went out to lunch and Deb sat in the middle of the back seat of the car, with the friend's brother in law next to her. He somehow managed to squeeze his fingers between her legs and moved up to touch her where no young girl should be touched. Embarrased, Deb pressed her bag down on his hand, trying to stop him. She couldn't bear for anyone else to see what he was doing and didn't know what else to do. Deb was too scared to tell any adults what had happened. She didn't know if she was at fault. She was terrified of losing her best friend, and so she remained silent. Over the years he became very ill, suffering from gout, blindness and other conditions that eventually led to his death. Upon his death many years later, Deb and Liz agreed he was a creep and that his death was welcome. Deb will never know if his family knew what was going on. She still has mini melt downs from time to time, even though it was some 35 years ago. She always told herself it was nothing, not like he actually raped her or anything, but she has realised over the years that he stole her innocence. Thank you for Mary's story. Mary is not alone x

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  5. HI Shan
    I've been thinking about this post, wanting to acknowledge it, but not knowing what to say! I echo the sentiments of others, particularly Helen. This is a really wonderful piece of writing. You have captured something awful in a really special way, while keeping a lightness that suggests to me this is something in the past that hasn't pervaded the life of these gorgeous little girls. I can only hope this is the case. There are no words. Thanks for sharing.
    Liz x

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