Morning finally arrived. The hands of the clock stood at half-past seven, the sky shifting from pale blue to a brighter shade with every minute. A few cars flocked at parking lots and in driveways as doors opened to release children to their schools, while the luckier ones would lie asleep until the sky had become azure. Weekends, Serena loved to spend resting, but today was a Tuesday. The school would expect her in an hour’s time.
Serena had woken up to Cordelia’s back touching hers. Rain had been fast asleep on the bed, the only one wearing proper nightclothes. This had elicited a quick laugh from Serena, but it didn’t last long- her stomach was empty and her hair was in dire need of brushing. She got up abruptly and changed her clothes without the usual deliberation, wondering if Corrie intended to go to school this morning. She probably should not, but then again, Rain would do much in helping her feel more safe and secure.
Negative feelings had a tendency to dissolve when someone entered Rock Island High. A school of less than three hundred students aged eleven to eighteen, most knew each other well. It seemed as though little was considered out of bounds among the close-knit students; from time to time, Serena had been hugged by a perfect stranger, complimented as 'cute' or 'pretty' by another boy, and even asked for certain afterschool activities on one occasion. But despite the excess of affection, bullying was very much a non-issue within the school.
Then again, there were a handful of somewhat homophobic students. And as Cordelia had been inadvertently exposed as being of that sexuality, she did have to face some odd looks and awkward or demeaning questions. Serena never understood why. There were other same-sex couples that she knew of (both female and male), and she knew at least two students- Marc and Isaiah- that regularly asked other students for sex. Why would Robin, Shanna, and the like be more bothered by Cordelia than by the unwholesome pursuits of others?
Vaguely, Serena began to wonder why someone would consider her attractive. She had a small and round face that made her deep brown eyes stand out, with heavy eyebrows and thin, unimpressive lips. Always, her hair was done up in two ponytails streaming from the back of her head, although they were less neat today. She had no piercings, hair-dye or fancy clothing, and her short size made her feel awkward in comparison to the many taller students. But that wasn’t important, she decided, opening her locker and depositing her backpack.
Serena wanted the chance to speak with Robin before class. But predictably, he was nowhere to be seen when she walked into the little history class, and she immediately wondered if Cordelia had already reported him. Shanna, also, was absent- to Serena's relief. Robin might have been a tolerable classmate if he hadn't tried to physically violate Cordelia, but Shanna would never be. Her unstable mental condition made her an exasperating and volatile classmate, switching back and forth from blazing anger at an errant comment, to loud joy at someone’s joke. As much as people sympathized with her lonely and rough past in an orphanage, it was annoying to endure her antics that even Shanna herself didn’t seem to be able to control. Thinking these facts over, Serena picked her spot next to Rain and Cordelia (who had arrived earlier in a great hurry) and began to think on what assignments she had to turn in.
But work proved very difficult for Serena that morning. She was too involved in her contemplation of Robin's crime to focus much on the Russian Revolution or math questions, feeling that real-world matters were more important anyway. Rain and Cordelia were normally productive during class hours, but the same couldn't always be said for the remainder of the class. There was Morgan, Norri and the talkative Mira, who had already started a lively discussion about their upcoming school play. Serena was not interested. All she wanted to do was find out where Robin was and whether or not anybody else knew about what he had done yet. She absent-mindedly scribbled down answers with loud music in her ears, and her friends knew better than to try engaging with her at the moment.
Finally, a few minutes before morning classes were over, Robin appeared without an announcement. He was a tall boy who looked oddly like Rain, with his white-blonde hair and brown eyes set in a bitter, gaunt face. But unlike Rain he was not altogether pleasing to look at, with his heavy eyebrows, tight lips and seemingly-permanent scowl giving off an air of definite hostility. Serena hade never witnessed Robin smile more than momentarily, and did not hide her glare as he approached. Silently he strode a few steps into the doorway, arms folded. Nobody other than Rain, Cordelia and Serena seemed to notice his appearance until he spoke, his voice quiet.
"Miss Minarsky, you're needed out here." Robin growled, mocking Cordelia’s soft voice. In an instant the selected girl became rigid with fear, and in response Serena got up from her chair and strode up to Robin. He was almost half a foot her major in height when she stood near him, but she resisted the intimidation emanating from him.
"Well, you're not taking her anywhere alone." Serena snapped, heads rising curiously when she spoke. "I'm coming with you."
"Not unless your name's Cordelia, you aren't." Robin maintained, speaking calmly but glaring venomously at Serena. Behind him, Cordelia had risen from her seat and was approaching shyly, Rain beside her. Robin noticed this and told Rain to sit down.
"No, I'm coming with her. And where's Shanna?"
"Couldn't find her."
"Well, go find her. She was in on this too."
"For God’s sake, she didn't come to school today!" Robin retorted, anger creeping into his words. "Look, I need Cordelia out there right now, I have to talk to her. And as far as I know, you don’t have permission to come along."
Serena was about to blurt that obviously Robin could not be trusted, but was stopped by a shake of the head from Rain. Reluctantly, Serena moved aside and watched Cordelia head out of the door behind Robin, her eyes very wide and her hands at her mouth again. Rain, however, didn't seem concerned with her friend’s obvious fear, for she was again sitting placidly, typing out something in her notes. Refusing to sit down in anger, Serena checked to ensure that no one was looking at her before she opened the door quietly and looked down the hallway.
Robin and Cordelia were standing apart from each other and sounded like they were talking. (As could be expected, Robin sounded angry while Cordelia was stammering on a few words, looking at the floor rather than anyone’s face.) But on the other hand, a police officer was watching the two of them closely, taking down notes when Cordelia would answer a question. Even from the distance Serena could tell that Robin was, bizarrely, upset in some way; he was not meeting Cordelia’s eyes at any point and was no longer glaring or speaking angrily. Serena was quite relieved that the pair wouldn't be headed anywhere alone, but could not shake the worries she had for Cordelia. Serena contemplated confessing this to the officer as she returned to her table, but noticed with irritation that Morgan was chuckling in her direction.
"Robin's not taking a liking to Cordelia, is he?" the boy chuckled slyly, and his own girlfriend giggled brightly. Serena only groaned; she wished that was the case.
"Serena, what's going on with them?" The voice was Norri's, Morgan's blind- but good-natured- girlfriend.
"Nothing that concerns anyone else here." Serena hissed, trying to stop herself glaring. "I hate to be rude, but seriously, don't ask her. It's not a nice thing and she doesn't want to have to tell anyone."
Norri fell silent, but the tension was broken when Morgan gave her an affectionate poke. She laughed aloud and drew something on one of his worksheets. Serena exhaled noisily, wishing that the day would end so she could spend the rest of the night at home, with Cordelia. She hoped very much that she would return soon from the hallway.
Even before yesterday, Serena never liked Robin a great deal. He rarely interacted with others in a civil manner and was known to fight- verbally and physically- with other students if they provoked him. It was not unbelievable that he would take advantage of a girl- especially one as timid as Cordelia- and he was definitely somewhat homophobic if he had any degree of friendship with Shanna. But the idea of sexual violence still repulsed Serena. Later, when her friend returned, she would have to ask her exactly what Robin had done to her, because she was very uncertain so far. She stared doubtfully at the clock clinging to the adjacent wall, wondering if the bell had rung already and she had not heard it.
Robin sauntered back into the classroom hastily. Cordelia was behind him, the officer absent. Serena jerked up and glared at Robin with a start, but the frightened girl prompted her not to speak with an urgent look. Robin now stood in the front of the classroom, with everyone in his view. Nobody was looking at him with interest, so he raised his voice to garner their attention.
“Everybody, listen up…” he began hesitantly, his voice faltering a little. Serena realized with surprise that Cordelia was standing next to him.
“Robin, what are you-“
“Shut up, Serena. I’ve got up here to say something, so you’d all better listen…” Robin muttered, aware that everyone was looking keenly at him. Cordelia was holding her fingers to her lips and looked near to tears. Serena couldn’t imagine what Robin was about to say, so she stayed uncharacteristically silent during his speech.
“So, a few of you probably know what went on last night. For anyone who doesn’t, I want you to know that I… that I seriously hurt Cordelia last night.”
Everyone except Serena and Rain gasped or had a confused look at Robin’s words, but he kept going. Cordelia herself was standing a safe distance away from Robin.
“…I took her to my house, and… And I violated her. I violated her privacy by touching her and forcibly stripping her. I… I regret this. I wish I hadn’t done it because I wasn’t thinking about how it would make Cordelia- the victim- feel. So I’m here to say that I acknowledge what I have done was wrong, and I will never do anything of the sort again. I want all of you to recognize that I am not a threat to your safety.”
Total silence followed Robin’s words. Morgan and Norri’s faces were alight with disbelief, while Luna’s revulsion seemed to match Serena’s. Three words had stood out to them: touching and forcibly stripping. What exactly did that mean?
At the front, Robin was staring at the class with stony brown eyes. Cordelia was looking up as well, drawing shaky breaths and touching her lips with the tips of her fingers. It was clear that some of the students wanted to speak, but none could find the right words. Naturally, Rain was the first to find them.
“Robin, why did you do this?”
The sixteen-year-old turned his tired gaze onto Rain. Everyone was now fully focused on him in a confusing combination of horror, disbelief, and disgust. Well aware of this, Robin took almost a full minute before he gave a reply. The bell rung with a start, but nobody moved from their seats.
“…I did it because I wanted to.” Robin muttered, although everyone heard him. “
Serena audibly gasped. One thought swirled through her head repeatedly. From what little she had heard, Robin probably intended not to let Cordelia possibly report the incident; in simpler terms, kill her. Serena would not pretend that she had never had thoughts of deliberately harming anyone- it happened to her almost daily, and she simply never acted on those thoughts. Robin had. Horrifying stories of violent youth began to invade Serena’s imagination.
Feeling sick, Serena shoved herself out of her chair and stormed off in the direction of the bathroom. Rain followed her, and Serena broke into a run, not wanting to be watched. All she could think of was what not only what had befallen the innocent Cordelia, but what could have befallen her if Isaiah had not intervened. Swearing under her breath, Serena knelt in front of the clean toilet and vomited.
Rain waited until Serena had finished throwing up to approach her. She helped her to her feet, asking gently how she felt.
“…Sick…” Serena muttered, speaking the truth. The emotion flowing through her was overwhelming and would erupt soon, so she may as well make it now, when nobody but Rain would have to watch. Shakily, she followed her friend of out the bathroom and into a much quieter hallway, where she leaned against the painted concrete and closed her eyes tightly. It was instinctual for Serena to conceal her emotions until she was alone, but she hadn’t had to deal with something this horrible in years.
Rain was beautiful to Serena, but opinions varied among those who didn’t know her as well. She was of moderate height and fairly heavy weight, with a slightly stocky body and a very large chest. Her hair was white and short enough to barely touch her collar, but her elegant face and graceful pink lips identified her as definitively female. She often wore complete outfits that included jackets, a scarf, earrings and boots- a stark contrast to the other students who had been seen in pajama pants on some days. No matter where she was seen, Rain had always seemed to be composed and organized; she was always the one to help when someone injured themself, was not known to swear, and achieved high grades. Many saw her as boring or even prudish, but Serena liked Rain quite a bit, and Cordelia even more.
“I feel a little sick, too.” Rain confessed once she had found a quiet place. “I admit that I don’t know what to do here, if anything.”
“Neither do I.” Serena replied dully.
“Serena, do you think Robin was actually sorry for what he did?”
“Why are you asking me? I don’t know the guy.”
“Well, I couldn’t tell myself. His speech sounded so flat and emotionless. If he was truly sorry, I believe he would be a little more emotional.”
“But you can’t judge how sincere he was just by that.” Serena pointed out. “I don’t know either, I just hope to high hell that he is, because that wasn’t excusable in any way. He scarred Cordelia for life. I know she can’t take too much without breaking.”
Rain put a hand lightly on Serena’s shoulder. “But we can keep her safe now. I’m not justifying what he did in any way, but I’m glad that he at least didn’t take her.”
“Are you going to talk to him?”
“Yes, me and Sean.”
“I don’t know yet. Probably when he approaches us himself. I can’t help but feel that Robin’s got a chip on his shoulder.”
“Rain, that’s no excuse to hurt someone!”
“I know it isn’t…” Rain answered slowly, her dark eyes thoughtful. “I believe that if he tries talking, he could feel better if he’s troubled by something. And even if he isn’t, sharing his feelings in a calm way will do no harm.”
“Fine… What should I do, then?”
“Keep this to yourself for now. If Robin wants to talk to you, tell him to come meet me or Sean. He needs to know that there are people here who will listen to him, and we don’t approve of what he’s done. But we won’t hate him for it. I’ll forgive him the day Cordelia does.”
“She’ll just try to forget it completely, knowing her.” Serena observed.
“Maybe that is a good thing to do, too. Let her make her own decision. Corrie’s tougher than you seem to think she is, Serena.”
Serena would have asked Rain for clarification or examples if she was not so upset. She wanted to lean against her friend, but instead chose the wall, closing her eyes weakly. Her legs were shakier than she realized.
“You seem a little ill. If you want, you can leave early.” Rain suggested.
“What are you, my mother?” Serena grumbled. “No, that’s what toilets are for if I get sick again.”
Rain issued a deep sigh. Sometimes it was hard to have to be considered the ‘counsellor’ of the Rainbow, but it was times like this that felt next to impossible. What kind of rumors, accusations, and distortions of the story would she and Sean have to deal with now? She would have to seek out Robin and talk to him as soon as was possible.
Serena slunk away without speaking, obviously trying to pack away her emotions. Rain followed her back to the lockers, wondering if Robin could be found within the school. A thought came to her then- did the officer think that he would be safe around students after just an apology? Rain didn’t know who she should find first: Cordelia, so she could make sure she was safe- or Robin, to make sure he wasn’t a danger to anyone.
Written by Grizzly Bear