christen had been holding herself together for as long as she could remember. she remembered being four years old and not being able to catch her breath, not knowing that she was having panic attakcs. she remembered elementary school, and how badly her stomach always hurt. she remembered in middle school not being able to stop sweating and shaking. and she remembered high school, when her nails were bitten to a stub. every year she seemed to fall apart just a bit more.
freshmen year of high school the arguments started to get worse. she hated being home. it was a constant war zone. but she was stuck. but she couldn’t drive, and had no where to go. so she sat in her room and listened to music so loud she couldn’t hear her parents scream things they should regret, but she knew they wouldn’t. she taught herself guitar and sang her heart out to songs that used to make her happy. sophomore year the tears were a constant. she let people walk all over her, and spent the better part of her year crushing on a girl who didn’t give a shit about her. then she could drive, and suddenly she was free from her home. no more arguing. no more screaming. junior year was awful, but she made it somehow. she dated a boy for a few months, but ultimately nothing was there. she lost friends, and gained new ones. she gave her all to soccer, hoping to get scouted. it was her ticket out.
senior year of high school was when it all fell apart. the holding together she'd been doing so well, for so many years, began to fall apart. the walls she'd so carefully built were breaking. it started about a week into the new school year. she was at a party, one her best friend was hosting. it was supposed to be fun. julie had practically had to beg her to go. parties just weren’t christen’s scene. she hated the smell of spilled beer, how it always ended up on her body. she hated how sober she stayed. she hated how at the end of the night she always ended up taking care of all her wasted friends.
but either way, here she was at julie’s party, the first week of her senior year. it was going to be a good year. this was a kickoff. christen hadn’t even seen julie for over an hour, and had resorted to making sure no one drowned in the pool.
drunk teens are worse than toddlers, she thought. christen looked up at the cloudless night, wishing she could be somewhere alone and quiet and just watch the starts.
“christen!” a breathless voice called. “come play beer pong with me!” julie had appeared out of nowhere. christen shook her head and looked back up to the stars. please take me with you, she silently begged of them.
“julie, i love you, but no. you know that’s not my thing. i want to be outside. it’s too loud in there.” julie was not one to take no for an answer, and was already dragging christen down the patio to where a lively game of beer pong had broken out.
“chris it’s fine, i’m so good you won’t even have to drink,” julie promised. christen settled for just standing near by to provide moral support for her best friend. across the room she made eye contact with a boy. he was a senior in school with her and julie, even in a few of their classes. she knew him a little. trusted even, a familiar face at the very least. (she knew very few people at this party, julie had a tendency to invite exclusively people christen did not know or care about) he smiled at her, and christen offered a small half smile in return.
by the end of the night christen’s friends were beyond gone. she’d held back hair, poured water, and made a round of grilled cheese for anyone who was hungry. julie was equally as trashed as everyone else, so christen tucked her and a few other girls she knew into various beds and couches around the house. she made sure others got to their uber’s safely, even calling a few for some classmates. this was just what she did. cared for everyone when they couldn’t take care of themselves.
when it was finally quiet in the house, christen was starting to clean up. she threw empty beer cans and red solo cups into trash bags, cringing at how much beer was spilling all over her.
“need some help?” christen looked up. it was that boy. she could have sworn she’d put him in an uber half an hour ago, but there were too many people to really tell.
“uh, sure. you could help pick up cups,” christen said nervously. the boy, she should really get his name... jack was it? began to help her clean.
“i’m jason. we have econ together,” he said, as if her blank stare gave away just how confused she was.
“yeah, yeah i know. are you staying the night?” when the words left her lips, christen knew how they must have sounded to a teenage boy. he nodded, but didn’t say anything else.
after checking on her friends one last time, and placing bottles of water near everyone, christen returned to the living room. jason was sitting on the couch, doing nothing in particular. christen took a deep breath and joined him. her mind was running 100 miles per hour. embarrassed as she felt, she also wanted to live a little. she was determined not to start college as a virgin. she just couldn’t do that.
she moved closer to jason.
but she was nervous and inexperienced, and when he began kissing her, the memories started flooding in. he pulled her on his lap so she was straddling him, and began grabbing at her breasts in a way that felt sloppy, uncomfortable. christen couldn’t see anymore. she could hardly feel her own body at this point. she was unclear of what happened next. she knew he slipped a finger inside of her, maybe two, but it hurt and she didn’t want this to happen. christen leaned her head back and bit her lip, trying desperately to enjoy this, to be a normal teen. but she only felt fear. when she closed her eyes she saw the images she'd worked so hard to forget.
right on the verge of a panic attack, she excused herself with little reasoning except a whispered, “i’m sorry, i’m tired.”
jason nodded and told her it was okay, but she could tell he wasn’t happy. the pounding in her head was so loud. her legs were shaking and her were hands cold. she wanted to go get julie and talk out everything in her brain right now, but julie didn’t know. she wouldn’t understand. wouldn’t get why christen was scared all the time, why she was so determined to just fuck around like a normal teenager.
i wish i was gay, christen thought. at least then i’d have an easier excuse.
so she fell asleep on the couch, jason next to her. now that he wasn’t touching her, she didn’t mind his presence as much.
when christen woke up the next morning, jason was gone. friends and strangers, all various different levels of hungover, hustled around the house. christen lay still on the couch, wishing she could just get out. of where, she wasn’t sure. just out.
that day christen took three showers. she should have seen that as a sign of something, but instead she pushed it down, along with everything else.