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kirkman's picture
Joined: 2019/03/27




Inspector Owen was a short, podgy man with a bald, freckled head and orange skin. Deep set, squinty eyes peered out beneath thick ginger bushes and his breath stank of something indiscernible, though highly unpleasant. Harriet had stared across the desk at him for nearly two hours as questions came thick, fast and without emotion from his lips, fat and juicy like two pink slugs. Her mother and father were waiting in another room a corridor a way and had endured the story twice at the police station, before they had been separated. The policewoman who had initially questioned Harriet had commented on how level headed she seemed about it, provoking a retort of anger from her mother who had heard her crying in the bathroom for an hour. At that moment there was a silence in the room as the inspector rocked back and fourth in his chair, eyeing Harriet every five seconds or so. She couldn’t believe the way he was acting, the way the policewoman had acted and that no one had yet said they were sorry or that they were here to help. He’d asked her three times if her attacker had asked consent. Three times, though in different ways. She had told him shamefully how he had asked if he could kiss her and then how he just forced himself on her, chased her and raped her.

            “I’m sorry” said Owen gruffly, a gale of stench crossing from his mouth to Harriet’s nostrils. “Its just procedure that we have to ask all these questions, you see”.

He tried a consoling smile, more aware that this girl was in some kind of grief.

“Look” he began, dropping his chair to the ground and leaning forward across the desk,

“You’ve given us a clear story and there’s more to go on here than often is the case. We’re going to have a good luck for this man-”

“I don’t care!” Harriet interrupted hysterically, “I don’t care! What can you do about me? I need to be tested. I might have aids for God’s sake! I might, I might-” and tears flooded down her cheeks. Owen’s eyes blinked in shock and he wondered whether to bring a comforting hand to the girl’s shoulder as her head buried itself into her arms against the table. There was a harsh scrape as he pulled his chair back and stood up. “Don’t worry. We’ll see to that. You’ll go to hospital tonight and after that, when your ready, you can speak to Trish again. She’s handled lots of cases like yours and knows all about it”. Trish was the woman Harriet had seen first and she wondered how she wondered how she knew all about such cases for all the little sympathy she had shown. The door closed behind the constable and Harriet wondered where he had gone and why he had not bothered to tell her. Wood clicked again as the door opened and her mother walked in, her lips aquiver against blotched red skin. She pulled the policeman’s chair out and along side Harriet and sat with her arms around her as sobs came. Even now, angry, bitter and scared, Harriet didn’t like to be so close to her mother, whose shoulder her head was now crushed into. She smelled old. From over the woollen of her mother’s sleeve she saw her dad lingering in the doorway. His face was pulled into a sad looking expression.

            Constable Trish Rose then appeared behind him, tapping his shoulder gently. The two adults entered the room, Owen reappearing with some chairs for them. He left then, taking his bad breath with him. “Now what you have told us is very good” began Rose, “And if you’re up to it, I’d like you to put it all in writing. It saves you from doing it later and your making fast progress. It often takes longer for girl’s to open up and it’s really good that you’re dealing with this fast”. The next hour was spent writing down the events. It was an ordeal in that little room surrounded by the three elders, sweating and glancing at her, her mother’s clammy hand ever resting on her neck and her father’s restless breathing crackling away. When she finished she had to sign it and two more papers and after a little spiel from Rose about how brave she was being it was time to go to the hospital. Though her parents had taken her to the station in their car, they were to be driven to the hospital by the police and returned to the station afterwards. They were driven by a very young looking officer through the bright city streets, lit up by fluorescent lighting. Across the pavements people were staggering around in fits of laughter, all the women with bare legs. The traffic was surprisingly heavy and at some lights Harriet watched a man throwing up at the zebra crossing in front. The policeman lifted his radio and reported the incident. Shabby houses drifted by and heading out of the city centre Harriet watched the hospital emerge. The vehicle pulled into the car park and the policeman asked if they wanted escorting inside. Her father mumbled a no to this, but soon the policeman was out of the car and opening Harriet’s door and then they were all walking the wide road to the emergency clinic. Harriet admired the hospital workers, surgeons, doctors and nurses. A role so needed by others and yet, especially for the nurses, so underpaid. As these people worked, getting up at the crack of dawn or staying through the night, bandaging and stitching, cleansing and calming, feeding and mending, Harriet imagined the mayors and lords and the foreign secretaries and deputy pm’s and the business fat cats. They would sit in their buildings, all carved and embellished stone, sipping coffee as they made decisions detrimental to other people’s lives.

            As the building drew near Harriet squinted in through the glass door and saw masses of people waiting, all of them unwell and needing. White coated staff rushed around with trolleys and stretchers and Harriet longed to stay out in the cool night air.

But she could not. The swing doors creaked open and the policeman waltzed up to the reception desk ahead of them. Speaking to the woman there he pointed at Harriet and she nodded knowingly. Harriet and her parents were some way away and the receptionist beckoned them over. The policeman said a brief goodbye and told Brian Spencer that a car would be called for them when they were finished. Harriet wondered just what she was going to have done to her. How was she to be poked and prodded? The woman behind the desk spoke, “Ok Harriet, Nurse Helen is going to be here any second and you’ll be seen to right away. I’m just paging her now, so if you just wait here she should be along any- ah, here she is now”. The apparent Nurse Helen strolled briskly up to them from a corridor, coat tails swishing behind her. Her face was serious but understanding. “Hello” she said to the three of them in a posh southern accent. She turned to Harriet. “You must be Harriet. Now, I want you to know that we’re here to help you and anything you want, you just ask”.

“Thanks” mumbled Harriet.

“Mr and Mrs Spencer, Mrs Brown here will just show you to a private waiting room and I’ll get Harriet back as soon as possible”. Her parents nodded silently and then she was following the nurse through a series of twists and turns. A stretcher was rushed past containing a man in terrible agony, his face burned. Nurse Helen turned to Harriet, to check the sight hadn’t caused too much shock and then they were through a door and into a thin, empty corridor.

“Ok Harriet. Do you prefer Harriet or Harrie?”

“Whichever” she replied.

“Ok then Harrie. Now we’re just going to go in here” she said signalling to the approaching door, “and Nurse Jane and I will perform some tests on you. They’re really nothing to worry about at all. Ok, in we go, ah here’s Nurse Jane. Nurse Jane was a fat woman in her thirties. “Hello” she said cheerfully, spreading a white sheet over a padded table. She lifted a white gown into view and Harriet was asked to undress. There was no screen or curtain to go behind and she hesitated, waiting for the women to say something. “Oh, would you like us to wait outside?” asked Helen. Couldn’t she just take a hint for God’s sake? She had to ask. Harriet didn’t reply.

“It’s nothing we haven’t seen before” exclaimed Nurse Jane with some kind of aggressive kindness. “I’m s…sorry” Harriet stammered. Helen gave Jane a communicative glance and opened the door. Jane brushed past rapidly and with what seemed like impatience. Helen followed her and the door closed. It was a heavy one which blocked out most sound, but Harriet thought she heard a small argument between the two. Two minutes went by and there was a knock on the door just as Harriet was pulling the gown over herself. The door opened and the two women entered. “Ok, that’s great Harrie” said Helen. “Now if you’d like to get up on the table and just lie back”. Harriet did as she was told. “Are you feeling able to go to the toilet at all Harrie? We’re going to need a urine sample”

“Yes, I could probably go now” she murmured.

“Ok, if you’d just like to slip this up your gown and do it in there” said Jane. She was handed a thick cardboard container with a hole in it and shaped to fit between female legs. It was uncomfortable against her crotch. She strained and the fluid came out in a loud pattering, tiny sprinkles rebounding into her pubic hair. Nurse Jane handed her a tissue and carefully Harriet dragged the container out and handed it to nurse Helen. “Very good Harrie, you doing very well” said Helen.

“It’s not exactly hard, is it?” Harriet snapped, surprised at where the anger had come from. Helen gave a wobbly laugh as Jane glanced at her, before exiting the room to give the sample to some poor sod to play around with. Harriet stared up at the ceiling, listening to Jane’s heavy, steady breathing. “It’s a hard job being a nurse” the woman said suddenly. Harriet wasn’t sure whether to reply to this, so didn’t.

“Long hours, low pay, have to look at all kinds of things. Some patients are easier than others”. The door opened abruptly and Helen was back, cutting Jane short.

“Ok Harrie” she chirped, “we need to take a swab now. It shouldn’t hurt”.

“Ok” she replied. Harriet saw Jane’s flabby arm come over and Helen’s comparatively dainty hand took the swab from it, a small stick with a bud of cotton on the end.

“Ok Harriet” began Helen, “please, just open your legs for me, there’s a girl”. Harriet felt Helen’s gloved hand on her thigh and watched as the woman lowered herself to peer up the gown. “Ok Harriet, I’m just going to take the swab now”. Harriet felt pressure around and inside her vulva for a few seconds. “Ok, all done” said Helen. “All done” meant all done with the swab and lastly Harriet had to be given a manual examination. She lay back and opened her legs wide. Nurse Jane was making her way round by Helen and it seemed she was the one to do the inspection. “Ok” she said with seriousness, peering inquisitively up Harriet’s gown. “Here you are” said Helen and passed the plump nurse a pair of latex gloves. Harriet leaned her neck forward and watched the woman bring her hands under the gown and then felt cool plastic material on her thighs. Jane’s hands slowly opened Harriet’s vulva and the pink flesh quivered against the cold. “Hmmmm” Jane quietly hissed. One hand travelled up and began pressing down on Harriet’s lower stomach as the green eyes searched for something. “No discharge” the nurse said to Helen, who now had a pen and sheet in hand. Harriet felt a slight sting as her vulva was opened a little wider than was perhaps necessary and she felt two fingers inside her for a second. “No” said Jane in her Yorkshire accent, “It seems to all be ok. We’d better just use the speculum in case”. Harriet felt blood filling her vulva and her cheeks turned red. Her body was going all wrong and she wanted this woman out of there. “Ok” said Jane and there was a faint sound like a wet kiss as the woman drew her hands away. As she rose upright her eyes met Harriet’s and her lips fleetingly spread into the beginnings of a smile. Harriet was alarmed to see Jane take a big, tube like structure from Jane and come back before her legs. “What’s that?” Harriet demanded.

“It’s called a speculum” said Jane, “It just opens you up and helps us examine you better. It won’t hurt”. Jane bent back over and brought the speculum inside Harriet’s gown.

“Ok, I’m just going to insert it” she said. Harriet felt cool plastic against her lips and the object slid inside her. Jane wangled the instrument around a little as her eyes surveyed the pink tunnel before she withdrew it.

“No, everything’s in order” she said to Helen. Harriet was then given the option of having a shower if she wanted one. She declined and got dressed, Jane tactfully turning herself away to a draw as Helen busied herself in a cupboard. Helen then escorted Harriet to her parents who were three corridors away. The nurse gave a quick commentary on how brave she’d been and told her father, upon enquiry, that the results would be back by the end of the week. She left them then, alone in the waiting room. No one said a word and fifteen minutes later the policeman from earlier was through the door.

They were back at the station quicker than the drive to the hospital had taken.

Before they left, they went back to the reception and scheduled an appointment with Constable Trish Rose and a Mrs Prichard, who they were told was a rape councillor.

Then they left and drove home in silence.

            The following days were the worst yet for Harriet. Her parents had hardly spoken about the incident at all and the trips back and fourth to the police station and to the councillor seemed to have only resonance to her. Her mother had read the statement she’d made, but had never asked Harriet what the boy looked like or how he’d approached her etc. Her dad had dealt with it in his own way. He’d just tried to be nice by offering her cups of tea and coffee, bringing her meals to her room and asking if he could take her out anywhere. It was as though she was dying of cancer rather than trying to recover from rape. Things were getting worse too. She’d felt so little of it at first but now she was descending into the first real abyss. The police made it seem all the more real and the recollection of the event was more disturbing to her mind. As the weeks went by her father retained his subservient offerings and her mother gave her the same wry smiles and spontaneous hugs but talk became more normal and the first questions, in an effort to return to reality, became of her next year at college and of exam results.

            “Oh, you get your results in two weeks” her mother said with feigned excitement at the breakfast table one morning. Prior to the recent fiasco there had been an unspoken resignation between them that her exams had gone badly and that re-sits would have to be paid for. All of a sudden her mother spoke of it as something exciting. When she opened the brown envelope, disappointed looks and words would be replaced with hushed condolences, all thanks to her being raped. Her mother had taken three weeks off work when Harriet had told her about the incident, but she was back now. Her father had never left. The holiday days fell into their usual routine where Harriet would stay and lie around or go for a walk. She’d used to write poetry or draw, but the desire had left her recently and in the stuffy rooms she contemplated the workload a new college year would bring and that she might be kicked of a course. Her history teacher had suggested it at the end of the last term, “unless you can really show that you are interested”.