Hard Lesson Learned
The day that I really started to worry was the day I couldn’t get the top button of my jeans to stay closed. No matter how hard I tried, it just wouldn’t. Besides, it was really uncomfortable when it did. The pressure of the waistband around my middle was enough to make me want to throw up. Again.
At that moment, it all started coming together. For weeks now, my brother had been teasing me about the time he had walked into the bathroom one morning before our parents were up and found me vomiting in the toilet. I didn’t even know he was there until it was too late. I could barely convince him not to tell Mom, but for once he kept his mouth shut. But whenever he walked by me I was reminded of that day.
“Blaaaaaaa!” he would whisper in my ear as he walked by. “Blaaaaaa!” I could only imagine what he would say if he knew that morning was only the first of many. Now it was beginning to look like I really might be pregnant. But how could that be? It just didn’t make any sense.
Maybe if I had a boyfriend, this could be possible, except that I would never do THAT with him. I didn’t do things like that. Or did I? Another memory came flooding back at that moment and I thought I was going to need to run to the bathroom again. I pushed away the fuzzy thoughts I didn’t want to think and pulled a pair of sweats out of the closet. They might not look like the things I usually wore, but maybe I could convince everyone that I just didn’t feel well and wanted to dress comfortably. It was actually true, now that I thought about it.
For the rest of the day at school, I couldn’t keep my mind on what I was doing. “What’s with you today?” asked my friend Emily. “Are you okay?”
It seemed like my brain was full of fluff, but the muffled word “Baby” kept repeating itself rhythmically through my brain. How? How? How? I had to think about that night. I had to figure out what happened. “I’m okay,” I mumbled to Emily as I brushed by her in the hall. I had to go somewhere quiet to think about this.
As soon as I arrived home and used my key to let myself in the house, I headed to my bedroom. I was more tired than I could recall ever being before in my life, and I had spent the day in a fog. The dark quiet of my room welcomed me, and for the first time all day, the fuzz began to clear and I felt like maybe I could think about this, figure out what had happened, and figure out what to do.
Every Sunday for as long as I could remember, my family had attended church near our home. On Wednesdays, I hung out with the youth group as we did various service projects around our community. I love helping people, and honestly, though the details sometimes didn’t make sense to me, I loved God and wanted to do his work. I read my Bible almost every day, and for the most part, understood and believed it. I almost always did the things my parents asked. What really bugged me was the one time I didn’t.
I wondered now if maybe God was punishing me. It wasn’t really a big deal, I thought, that I didn’t obey my parents. It was just that one time. And if God loved me like I was taught He did, wasn’t this a pretty harsh punishment for one little mistake? After all, I was 17, and did as my parents said most of the time. A whole lot more than some people I knew. Why me?
I was going to have to face the thoughts I had been pushing away for about two months now. Maybe the night I disobeyed my parents was a bigger deal than I thought. That night, when I got to Emily’s house to spend the night, we hadn’t planned to go the party. We knew about it, of course; everyone did. But we usually didn’t hang out with the people who were going to be there. Emily’s parents had even heard about the big “back to school” bash somewhere, and had mentioned it to my parents at church. Though they knew I didn’t usually go to things like that, they had made a point before I left the house that night of telling me not to go to that party. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind, I had told them.
That was before we ran into Emily’s cousin when we went out to get something to eat. His family went to church with us, yet he did hang out with the people who were going to be at the party. He told us it would be fun, and that everyone would be there. Emily looked at me, and I looked at her. In my head, I could hear a voice, saying “Don’t go. This is a bad idea. Do as your parents said.”
“Want to?” Emily asked.
The voice got louder. I knew better than to go. “Sure, if you want to,” I heard myself say. What was I thinking?
When we arrived at the party, it was already in full swing, and it was obvious that nearly everyone from school was there. Cars filled every spot of grass along the lane from the main road and most of the yard. Music pounded though the house, and the sound of people laughing uproariously rose above the rhythm. I had a sick feeling in my stomach that this was not the kind of crowd I wanted to be with.
Inside the house, people covered nearly every inch of space in all of the rooms. Pungent smoke stung my nostrils and my eyes. Everyone I could see was holding a drink of some kind, and against the wall of the front room sat a table covered with buckets of ice and drinks. Wandering close to the table, I looked to see if there was anything I wanted to drink, but it appeared to all be alcohol. I might be here, but that didn’t mean I had to make another dumb choice. I wasn’t really thirsty, anyway.
I scanned each room as I passed through; looking for people I might want to talk to. At some point, Emily had disappeared, and I just thought I would wander until she turned up. I was standing in the kitchen when a guy I knew vaguely from school stopped close to me, his arm touching mine.
“You don’t have anything to drink,” he commented, looking in my eyes.
Surprised, I stared right back. I was desperately trying to think of this guy’s name. I had been in a class with him once, and I thought he might be on the basketball team. But I had never spoken with him before. Why was he talking to me?
“I, uh, don’t drink,” I mumbled, wishing he would go away. Instead he moved closer. I could feel his hot breath on my face and smell the beer he had been drinking.
“We do have Coke, too you know. Let me get you some.” The air around me became easier to breathe as he turned away. I watched as he poured some Coke into a green plastic cup from a bottle on the counter. “Here,” he said, smiling and handing me the green cup.
“Thanks,” I said, taking the cup. I was a little concerned that the drink might be spiked with something, but I didn't want to be rude. I tried to sniff the contents as I was bringing it to my lips. It seemed okay, so I sipped a little as he watched, then sipped a little more. I didn’t know why he was watching me, but I could tell he wanted me to drink the Coke. I wanted to be polite, and it was only Coke, so I smiled weakly and took another drink. Come to think of it, I was pretty thirsty.
It was a few minutes of polite conversation later that I first started to feel a little funny. The room seemed to be backing up, the noise and light receding. The guy with the soda was still standing next to me, and I wondered vaguely where Emily was. After that, things got really strange, and the next thing I remember…. No, I don’t want to remember that.
But the memory came, unbidden. It was really dark, and quiet, but the room and bedclothes felt and smelled strange. Where was I? I sat up, but lay back down when my head pounded so hard I thought it might split in two. As the pain subsided, I sat up again. I grasped the sheet covering my partially naked body. Then my head cleared enough for me to panic. Naked? What in the world had happened to me?
My eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and I could see enough to find a lamp. As the light cut the darkness of the room, my foggy brain tried to make sense of what I saw. Never in my life had I been in this room before; of that I was certain. My clothes lay on the floor next to the bed, so I threw back the sheet and swung my legs over the side of the bed to get them. Pain ripped through my lower body with that movement. I gasped to see the dark red stain that covered the sheets. I closed my eyes and breathed slowly, willing the pain to go away. Deep down, I think I knew that something very precious had been taken from me. I just had no idea at the time the impact that loss would have on my life.
Now it was hard to breathe as hysteria welled up in my throat, threatening to choke me completely. How did I get here? The party? But I didn’t drink anything. Or take anything. The Coke. Was there something wrong with the Coke? There couldn’t have been. I watched as he poured it, straight from the container he had just opened.
My head continued to pound as I pulled my jeans back onto my bruised legs. I wondered, not quite clearly, where Emily might be and why she hadn’t come looking for me. I tried to choke back the sobbing and wiped tears from my face. As I put myself back together I tried to ignore the voice in my head that was shouting “I told you not to come here. You knew better. Your parents trusted you to do as they said!” Leaving the messy bedclothes where they were, I left the room. That mess would have to be somebody else’s problem.
I knew in my heart what I must have done; only I couldn’t remember doing it. God, I breathed, please forgive me. I don’t want anyone to ever know what I must have done. I shook my head to try to clear the confusion, then stopped, because it hurt. After leaving the bedroom, I looked around at the remains from the party. The music no longer played, and most of the people were gone. Cups, cigarette butts, and overflowing ashtrays lay everywhere, and passed out or sleeping people were strewn about on the floor and furniture. What had we been thinking? I wondered again. I had to find Emily and get out of there.
It never occurred to me to call the police, to report the guy who had given me the drink. What would I say? I didn’t know the guy, or what had happened, really. All I knew was that I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been.
A quick check of the living room produced a sleeping Emily on one of the couches. “Get up,” I mumbled, nudging her arm. I couldn’t seem to get the words out of my mouth. I tried again, this time more clearly. “Emily, let’s get out of here.” I tugged on her arm.
Slowly, Emily opened her eyes and looked around. “Are you finally awake?” she asked. “Who was that guy you were with?”
“I…I’m not sure. C’mon. We can talk later. Let’s go.”
As we headed for my car, I tossed Emily the keys. I still wasn’t right, and my head was pounding. “You drive,” I said. “I’m too tired.”
On the way back to her house, I told her about the Coke, and waking up in the bed, but not about being naked, the pain, or the blood. The rest was to be hidden, forgotten, never thought of again. I was glad for the semi-darkness in the car as my face burned again with shame.
I heard my mother’s voice. “Jenna, honey. It’s time to get up for dinner. Are you feeling okay?”
I opened my eyes and found myself in my own room, on my own soft bed, where I must have fallen asleep while trying to clear my head. I still didn’t know what I was going to do, but dinner did sound good. “Thanks, Mom. I was just tired. I’ll be down in a minute, okay?”
My mom left the room, and I sat up and looked around. I still couldn’t remember what happened after the Coke I drank at the party, but the end result was becoming more and more obvious. One thing I did know. If I had listened to the warning my parents had given me, I wouldn’t have this problem to work out. My parents were going to be so disappointed in me. I felt tears threaten again at the thought, but took a deep breath and headed downstairs for dinner.
The next few days were a blur for me. The only thing that was becoming way too clear was that there was a baby growing inside of me; the result of an experience I was desperately ashamed of, but couldn’t even remember. I tried being mad at God, though I knew, somehow, I wasn’t really being punished. I finally gave up running from Him, and knelt down to pray. A feeling of peace, and the knowledge that everything would be all right overcame me. Along with it came the conviction that I had to tell my parents, and ask their forgiveness, then their help. I also knew that no matter what, I wouldn’t be alone.
That was a Friday night, a time when I would usually make plans to go out with Emily and some others from the youth group. That night, I stayed home. I knew that my parents would both be home, and that my younger brother would be over at his friend’s house. I would have Mom and Dad all to myself. It was time to tell the truth.
“Mom, Dad, I have something to tell you. And an apology to make. I hope you will be able to forgive me.” My next words were a long time coming. I knew this would hurt them deeply, and I didn’t want to do that. But I could see no other choice. I took a deep breath and told them what I had done.
“I know you had your reasons for telling me not to go to that party. I thought you were being unfair, and that you just didn’t want me to have a good time. So I went anyway, even when I knew I shouldn’t.” The silence in the room was deafening. For once both of my parents looked evenly back at me without saying a word. I guess they could tell there was more to come. I looked down and watched my hands fiddling with the fabric of my sweats.
Looking up, and with a trembling voice, I went on. I told them about the drink, and waking up in the bed, violated, confused, and alone. “I thought I could forget, and put it behind me. That no one would ever know. I thought that if I just learned my lesson and tried harder to obey you from now on, that it would all go away. But it hasn’t.” By now my mom had gone pale, and silent tears were running down her face. Four fingers of her right hand were touching her lips, and she appeared to be holding her breath. My dad looked angry, but sat motionless, waiting for me to continue. I was thinking about how they had taught me to save myself for marriage, for the one that God had chosen just for me. How I’d thrown that away. After what seemed like forever, I continued.
“I’m so sorry that I made this mistake. I wish now I had listened to you, and the voice in my head that said not to go. But I didn’t, and now I’m going to pay for this all my life. Mom, Dad… I’m pregnant.” With that I burst into tears, both from the relief of having finally told someone, and from the pain of seeing their shocked reactions.
In just a few seconds, warm arms wrapped around me, and I could tell my parents were crying too. We sat that way for a long time, the three of us, and again I felt peace. They still would love me, and would help me find the right solution. I also knew they hurt for me, wishing we could all go back to a time when disobeying meant being grounded, not life-altering decisions.
Eventually, the tears dried, life went on. Both of my parents were angry, which I had expected. Dad was the angriest, but it turns out, not at me, at the guy. He told me that there was a drug a guy could slip in a drink that would allow him to take advantage of a girl without her having any idea what had happened. He assumed that was why I couldn’t remember anything. It would be difficult to prove, but the pregnancy would help. They were upset that I had disobeyed, but I wasn’t to blame for what the guy had done. And I had their forgiveness.
It’s been several months now. The police have been contacted, statements have been made, and charges have been formally pressed on the senior basketball player who was found with a few pills still in his possession.
Right now, we are still waiting to see if they guy’s lawyer wants to take this to court or just plead guilty to the rape charges. And in just a few minutes, a nice young couple will be coming to pick up their new baby girl, a baby girl who is the answer to years of prayers. A beautiful, healthy, baby girl, born just last night. My baby. For them, a miracle. For me, a hard lesson learned.
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