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Who am I – Writing Competition – Adults Winner

Adults Winner – India

Who am I?

Jaw clenched; face composed. I sit in my mum’s suit, it gapes at the shoulders, I have on my white school shirt and school shoes, my hair is in a bun, concealer is patched under my eyes to hide the sleepless nights where I cried myself to sleep night after night, lip balm on my lips, I look disarranged. My nails peel back the flesh under my palms. I stare at the figure in front of me.

I am being circled, sized up, how many bites would it take to swallow me, the fin stops circling and comes straight for me.

Questions are fired at me by this shark with black eyes,

‘If it wasn’t consensual, why did you go round to Mr Croft’s house?’

‘Did you pursue Mr Croft, Miss Vincent?’

‘Did you take your own clothes off, Miss Vincent?’

‘Did you say no, Miss Vincent?’

‘Did you push him away, Miss Vincent?’

‘Did you scream, Miss Vincent?’

Like gunshots, each landing in my chest, I stumble over my answers

‘I wanted to go round but…’ … ‘please answer the question, Miss Vincent’

‘I didn’t think… I don’t know, I thought we would just hang out after school, watch a movie or something’

‘Yes, but’… ‘That’s all, Miss Vincent’

‘I tried… I froze’

I fall over each question, my confusion reverberating across the gallery, cold faces boring into me.

He passes around me, he can smell the blood in the water, he comes for me again,

‘You lead Mr Croft along didn’t you Miss Vincent, yes or no’

‘There are witnesses at school that have testified that you wanted Mr Croft to be your boyfriend, yes or no Miss Vincent’

‘You have fabricated this story to ruin Mr Croft’s reputation didn’t you Miss Vincent’

‘No…I… I… I…’

I am free falling.

‘No more questions your honour’

Blood seeps from my wounds, he turns away and swims back to the other sharks.

I am dying.

Tears form tendrils down my face, my nose bubbles with snot which I wipe on the back of my sleeve. I cling to my chair to stop myself from slipping under the water. I am desperate for a kind face, for sanctuary, I search through the gallery and I see my mum staring back full of disappointment, she shakes her head at me, tears spill like hot springs, my father did not come he was too ashamed, everyone stares, it is a sea of unforgiving eyes that lay upon me pressing the weight of their judgement. I shrink as much as I can in my chair.

My heart heaving against my ribs.

No one believes me.

I look for him in the crowd of sharks, I can’t see him but he is in the middle of them, they are jeering with him, I want to scream why have you done this to me, you have taken everything from me, I open my mouth willing my voice to carry my pain and inflict it upon him but nothing comes out apart from a sob that I catch with my hand. I keep my hand there, behind my fingers I mouth the word ‘why’ in his direction. My face crumbles.

 

The judge in front of me does not look up, his eyes flittering on the papers in front of him, he looks sure, an old woman with steely eyes sits next to him with her typewriter, fingers poised above the letters like a racehorse in the stalls, men in horsehair-helmets whisper in each other’s ears, comparing notes, their fins slapping, low chuckles, one shark is patting the other shark on the arm, I imagine they are saying ‘we got her now’.

 

I am not a human sat here, I am livestock being sold at auction, they read out my history, breeding, weight and condition, no one puts in a bid to buy me other than the slaughterman with the smile full of teeth waiting to devour me with his confusing questions, mocking me as I trip up and stumble and make a fool out of myself, I am convincing no one.

 

Silence falls like the night sky, everyone leans forward with anticipation, the judge stands up and he points his finger at me like a gun, his mouth opens up like a cave and erupts ‘Miss Vincent you are GUILTY!’, the courtroom roars with a chorus of ‘GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY’ being boomed out of everyone’s mouths, a thousand fingers point in my direction. The curtain falls. Waterfalls. Water falls, slowly at first, like soft rain, filling up their coffee cups and soaking papers on their desks, it falls harder and harder, the courtroom floor starts filling up, no one seems to notice, the sharks in funny wigs start to clear away, they straighten up their soaked paperwork and folders and put them in away in their briefcases, water spills from the sides, higher and higher the water rises and blooms their black robes around them as they wade their way to the doors. I lift my feet onto the chair and clutch my arms around my legs as the water creeps higher around me, it’s warm, comforting, I bury my head into my knees and clench my eyes shut.

 

The commotion stops but the rain keeps falling.

 

I lift my head and open my eyes, my vision sways back into view, silk threads of water are falling on me from the shower head above, I look up and water pools in my eyes and mouth. I am free I think, I am safe. I grip the warm plastic sides of the bath and heave myself up, my eyes swim with dizziness from the hot water and I need a minute to balance myself. Sometimes under that hot shower reality swirls and it takes me to that courtroom in my mind, all those faces screaming guilty, I would have been 12 at the time. I can’t remember the face of the boy anymore or the event that destroyed my childhood, instead I look back upon it now as fiction because my mind covered the memory with a steel blanket to protect me.

 

The dizziness fades, I don’t know how long I have sat there, I turn the shower off and pat down my raw skin from where I scrubbed it, I have never felt clean since. I can hear chopping in the kitchen, the dogs are fussing over their tea, the sound of home comforts my torn heart. Time passes. I never got the opportunity for justice, I never told a soul what happened to me when I was 12, I was too frightened I would get the blame so I moved on and carried this ghost on my back every day since. I am no longer absorbed by fear for fear ebbed into love, love for the beautiful life I now live and strength and overcoming adversity come in rebellious forms such as simply waking up every single day and refusing to give way to the past.

Over the years the sun gave way to the moon and the moon gave way to the sun, flowers bloomed and gave way to the earth. Every day I woke up and refused to give way.

Who am I? I am a survivor and a rebel.