Published: April 27, 2012
Flora threw herself upon the soft surface of her bed, burying her face in the plump pillows and smothered the sobs which escaped her mouth within them. The day had gone terribly, and though she had begun it with the fragile optimism she often found herself possessing, nothing could have prepared her for the harsh reality that had been this particular day.
School had presented her with little difference beyond the bleak repetition she was normally forced to endure, but the walk home had bestowed a different sort of challenge than bland monotony. While returning from the great, stone, prison-esque building that was her town's one and only high school, she had happened upon a group of troublesome looking men, all of whom wore baggy jeans torn at the knees, scuffed leather jackets, and shirts varying from tight white wife-beaters, to ragged t-shirts.
The men were hassling an older man who was sitting upon the sidewalk with his back against a building. The man on the ground was evidently a homeless man, judging by the mismatching articles of clothing he wore, all of which were filthy and badly requiring repair, and a holey cap pulled low over a grimy face. Wispy white hair poked out from under the cap, yet she could still tell that it was greasy, and in dire need of a good clean, similar to the rest of him. He protested loudly as the men attempted to take the thin, worn blanket which he had over his legs, and Flora could see that a great many of his teeth had fallen out, and the few that were left to him were clearly not taken care of. The men shared a hearty laugh at the objections of the homeless man, and one of them provided him with a swift kick to the side. With a cry of agony, the man fell to his side, curling in on himself and relinquishing his hold on his blanket.
"Stop, please," Flora cried, coming to the rescue of the elderly man, now lying on the dirty floor. She looked around hastily as the rowdy group turned their focus on her, making lewd remarks of her feminine figure and of vile acts that they wished to enact with her. Her face went quite red, a product of not only the vulgarity of their statements, but also the realization of the severity of the situation which had just now dawned upon her. Not a soul glanced their way. In fact, many people hurried past as if hoping they would not be dragged into a conflict that was not their own. Not even to provide aid for a young girl of sixteen, who was now entangled in a struggle with a group of disorderly hooligans.
The boys had all but forgotten the aged man, their attentions focused on the helpless girl dressed in a knee-length white summer dress. They continued their taunts, leering at her with cold, cruel eyes and advanced upon the now trembling youth. Behind them, she could see the man scramble from the sidewalk and begin to run in the opposite direction with his blanket clutched protectively against his chest in his gnarled hands. She took a step back, gazing at them pleadingly with her big blue eyes, her hands rising defensively. One of the men mimicked her look and his allies cackled viciously, causing Flora to whimper and back away, hoping for someone to offer her assistance. Yet no one was around; the streets were uncharacteristically empty for this time of day, as if the town knew she was in peril, only no one was willing to help and so they remained indoors, safe for the meantime.
One man approached, grabbed her roughly by her slender wrist, and jerked her forward causing her to stumble towards them. His grip kept her upright, and one of the other men joined in by catching her by the elbow, pulling her ever closer. She was close enough that she could smell their breath, overpowering her scenes with cigarette smoke barely masked by peppermint gum. The thug gripping her elbow took her chin in his other hand and she could feel the roughness of his palm on her face. She pulled back, attempting to remove herself from their hold. Their grip was vice-like, and she only managed to gain a small amount of distance between her and her assailants. Her futile attempts to free herself made the brutish males mock her further.
With rough hands, the men tore at the bodice of her dress, and she felt one strap tear and hung from her gown by a thread. The top split from the skirt along her left side, revealing the pallid skin beneath, and she could feel their hands endeavouring to manoeuvre her skirts above her waist. She felt a lurch in her stomach as she realized what these horrible men intended, and she struck out blindly with her hand, the suddenness of her movement surprising the male whose grip on her elbow had slackened. Her hand struck the solidness of one of her attackers, and she attempted once more to escape, this time bringing her knee up into the groin of the man still grasping her hand tightly. With a cry of pain, the man surrendered his hold. To the chorus of curses, Flora managed to disentangle herself from the fray and tore off down the abandoned streets. She heard, from behind her, the sound of their heavy footsteps, following her part way down the road before they gave up, choosing rather to taunt her from afar rather than pursue her further.
Her eyes stung with tears and she could still feel their touch, their hands working their way up her skirt, tearing at her once pristine outfit. She shuddered at the memory of how close they had come, yet she was relieved that she had succeeded in escaping her captors' grip. Flora did not slow her pace until she had arrived outside her home. By this time, she was truly out of breath and she shook with the force of her sobbing. She did not wish to cause more of a scene than she had already created outside the shops whilst defending the homeless gentleman, so she stepped into her cool entrance hall and, after kicking off her flats and placing them hastily side-by-side against the wall, and double checking that the door was locked securely behind her, she hurried up the stairs to her bedroom and curled up upon the fleecy covers. There she wept with her face concealed in her pillows at the fate that had befallen her. She had only intended to stop the delinquents from harming the homeless individual they had been pestering. Though she had come to his aid, no one had thought to help her.
Perhaps she should have kept her distance, but what sort of person would pass such dreadful behaviour without a second thought? No, though perhaps it had not been well thought out on her part, she could not have looked herself in the mirror had she not protected an individual who could not stand up for himself. After she had cried herself out, she stood and glanced at her reflection in the full length mirror in the corner of her bedroom. Her dress was irreparable, not that she had any desire to keep it beyond today, and her face was red and puffy from crying. She still felt chilled and she recognized that she was still in shock.
Flora jumped as she heard the sound of knocking on the front door. Hesitating, she shuffled down the stairs to the front door. The knocking had stopped shortly after it had commenced, and as she peered through the peephole, she saw the front porch was clear. Just to be certain, she opened the door timidly and stepped into the doorway, searching for any tell-tale signs that someone had been there, and the knocking had not just been her imagination. Though there were no people around; no pedestrian out for an afternoon stroll, nor any neighbour mowing their lawn or tending their gardens, no sign of whoever had knocked on her door, her porch was not clear. Folded neatly upon the painted wooden slats of the porch, was a well-loved blanket. She recognized it at once and, as she bent down to pick it up, she smiled.