Consider this your warning: this post could be a trigger. It's heavy and emotional. It also is probably quite badly written because, like all my other flash fiction pieces, it is a first draft. I have more comments at the end.
Please read, but read with care.
“Hold on,” Nathaniel said, pulling her back by her hips.
She stumbled slightly as she drew back from him, her knees bumping up against his unmade bed. "What?" she breathed, tugging at the shoulders of his shirt.
“Can we--I mean--lets talk about...we just need to figure out what we're doing."
Miist laughed, though she didn't really mean to, and sat down on the edge of his bed. "Oh, babe. I think we know what we're doing.”
"Yeah. For tonight." He stepped back and ran a hand through his hair. It almost shimmered in the dim light of his lamp, not but shifting momentarily from its perfectly crafted peak.
She exhaled and pulled her eyes from his hair. With the look of stress he suddenly wore on his face, she knew she had better do something more useful than admire his hair. "What is it?" she asked, trying not to sound disappointed.
He eyed the bed. “You know what we're doing.”
“I have a pretty good idea.”
“You're fine, then?”
“The room is a little fuzzy, but it might just be the hour.” It wasn't. She couldn't hold scotch for anything.
“I want this,” he stated, as if he were swearing into court.
She nodded. She was pretty sure they had both made that abundantly clear.
“Do you even know what ‘this’ is?” he asked. Miist took to her feet.
Suddenly rage boiled in the pit of her stomach and she clinched her jaw. “Don't talk to me like I'm a kid,” she barked. “Of course I do.”
“Look, I don't know how it was growing up in Koesym, okay? I don't know what they think about all this—” he waved his arm toward the bed, “—but it means something around here. It means something to me.”
Miist gaped. "And you think, what? that just ‘cos I'm excited about it, that means I don't ‘get it’ or something?”
“That's not what I’m—”
“You think I've done it before, do you? Like, with every gibbin’ toshi I met?” What in hell was she saying? It was like a volcano had erupted inside of her, words spewing out void of control, but charged with fiery emotion. Someone had taken the reigns on Miist’s voice, on her words, and it didn’t feel like herself.
Nathaniel's vague worry had vanished, replaced by horror or embarrassment or something. “I don't think any of that, Miist. Tides!”
She sat back down, plopping herself onto the bed in exasperation. She didn't even know, not until Nathaniel was on his knees wiping a tear from her cheek, that she was crying.
“Ramei, Miist. I so sorry.” Now he really did sound horrified. He no doubt thought these tears were his own doing. Anyone else probably l would, too. But if they had been his fault, she would have known they were there.
Ramei, she felt stupid. She hugged herself, squeezing her upper arms tightly. She subconsciously pushed his hand away from her. “Don't be. Really. I shouldn't get so upset.”
He was watching her face closely, more closely than he ever had. She suddenly became startlingly aware of her own heartbeat. It was racing like mad, beating against her ears. She stared down into her lap. Her hands were shaking.
He rocked back, his head cocked to one side as he tried to look at her face around her hair. For a few minutes, it was quiet. They sat in the silence, Miist surprised as every second passed that Nathaniel wasn’t doing anything. She kept thinking, Now he’s going to push the subject. Now he’s going to tell me to get over myself. Now he’s going to leave. Now he’s going to make me slap him. I don’t know how, don’t know what he’ll do, but it’ll be something awful. The thoughts swam around in her mind over and over again with each tick of the clock on the wall.
Then, finally, he spoke. “I just…want to make sure we’re in the same place,” was all he said.
Her hands were still shaking. When she didn’t respond to his sentiment, his eyes dropped to them and she was flooded with the fear that he was going to try and hold her hand. Before he had the chance, she reached out and took his.
His eyes opened wider. She realized a moment after she’d done it that she had grabbed his hand almost violently.
“Miist,” Nathaniel said. He was barely whispering. “Are you okay?”
His question released something inside of her that she didn’t even know she was holding back. Her stomach churned and, in a flurry of panic, she threw him aside and darted for the small waste basket in the corner of his room. Her stomach convulsed and she vomited, with surprising force, into the can.
She coughed, her throat burning. She took this moment to be glad of her short hair, which was trivial enough that it calmed her.
When she was sure there was nothing more inside of her, she leaned back, resting on her heels.
Nathaniel crossed the room and knelt down beside her. “So, I’ll take that as a ‘no,’” he said, grinning with some visible effort.
“I’m sorry,” she said, her voice hoarse.
“I couldn’t—I don’t know why…”
“It’s okay,” he said. His voice was still light, like he wasn’t spooked by her reaction to him at all. “I’ve never really kissed anyone. Ramei, not like that. I might be awful at it.”
She deflated, or felt like it, and shook her head as she put her shaking hand over his. “No. Gods, no. I swear it wasn’t you. You were…great. I overreacted.”
But he shook his head. “That wasn’t overreacting, Miist. That was something else.”
She lost her focus on him, her eyes gazing out into nothing. “Yeah,” she grunted distantly.
“Can you tell me what’s bothering you?” he asked. His tone was soaked with concern. She might have told him she was dying.
“I’m not sure,” she replied honestly, pulling her gaze back to his face.
That response appeared to somehow give him hope. “But there…is something wrong?”
How could she have let this happen? She had sworn up and down that this wasn’t going to come back to haunt her. It had been years…years since it happened. Almost as long since she let herself think about it. She had been so certain that it was gone, locked in her past like her memories of Faenmount, like her days in Toshiana’s care. All of it was history. Her future had always been unanchored to the events of her past, and she had been damn proud of that. She had defeated every bad thing that had ever happened to her. But this? This was out of control. This wasn’t her conquering the way she had always done. This was being conquered. She hated it.
Nathaniel touched her arm and she jumped away, the flash of hurt in his face making her regret it instantly.
She hated it, but it was involuntary.
“I didn’t mean to keep it a secret,” Miist said, surprised as the words spilled out that she was saying them out loud.
“‘It,’” Nathaniel replied. His shoulders had fallen.
Miist opened her mouth to keep talking. Her jaw trembled and she found her voice gripped by some unknown force.
Nathaniel shifted his weight. He reached for Miist’s hand again, or started to, but he stopped himself. Part of her appreciated it, but it also broke her heart.
“Look,” he said, folding his arms across his chest. “I’m not…I’m not good at the serious stuff. You know that about me. I’m kosh at advice, and usually the moment someone starts crying, I’m out the door. I don’t know what to do. And tides know I don’t know what to do right now, but I’m not going to run, right? I’m not going anywhere, not unless you want me to. I want to be able to help you, but I’m worthless without someone telling me what to do. If you want me to shut up, then I get it. But if you want anything else…you’ll just have to tell me.”
She half-smiled, exhaling somewhat dismissively.
“I mean it,” Nathaniel said. “I’ll do anything you ask. Anything in the whole world. But…you will have to ask.”
He finished with a smile and Miist felt some of her tension dissolve.
“I don’t know what I need,” she managed to say. “I probably should have warned you before that I came with a lot of baggage.”
He snorted lightly, shaking his head. “If you think that would have changed anything…”
Miist felt like she couldn’t breathe, but for the first time it wasn’t panic or sickness. Her heart was beating loudly in her ears, but it didn’t make her dizzy. “I love you,” she said.
The look those words produced on Nathaniel’s face was worth every second of the entire evening. He averted his eyes, but only for a second. The smile on his face, softer and more genuine than she’d ever seen it, melted her heart.
“Yeah,” he breathed. His voice sounded broken.
“You said you wanted to make sure that we were in the same place, and so I’m telling you where I am.”
“I’m not finished.”
He lifted his eyebrows curiously.
“A lot of shit happened to me in Koesym. I was there for nearly a decade as a prisoner. It’s not surprising, really, if you think about it…and I have always prided myself in the fact that I never let anything they did defeat me. They shaved my head? Cuks. I owned it. They dressed me in brown? Idiots. Who the hell cares?” She tugged on her brown skirt, the same one she wore almost every day. She always wore some shade of brown. They had been trying to humiliate her, but she had never shied away from their jabs at her. She loved her short hair, even though toshis saw short hair as humiliating and sinful. She looked great in brown, even though earthy tones were reserved for dirt and those lower, so the toshis thought. “Nothing they did got to me.”
“Nothing,” Nathaniel repeated, though he didn’t sound convinced. Rightly so.
Her gaze dropped from his face to the ground. “Almost.”
In the brief silence, she could hear the heavy, quick breathing of Nathaniel’s. His mouth was closed, at each breath he took made his nostrils flare. She looked at his hands. His knuckles were white.
She closed her eyes. She shouldn’t have, but she did, and for the first time in years, she saw his face. He had been a officer in the Perzar’s army, though she had not known his ranking. She hadn’t cared. And even if she had cared, she never had the chance to find out. But she could picture his face. Even after all this time, she saw it: horrid and disgusting. Her stomach lurched.
“Miist,” Nathaniel’s voice hissed. She knew the second she opened her eyes that he’d said her name several times. His eyes were wide with fear.
Out of the corners of her eyes, she could see black hair growing from her own head. Toshi hair.
“Oh, gods!” she exclaimed in disgust, mentally ripping the threads of his face away from her own.
“What happened?” Nathaniel demanded, sounding far more scared than angry.
“The threads,” she stumbled over the words that were trying to pound their way out of her brain. “His fucking threads. They’re all over me!” Tears were streaming down her face now. She could feel it this time.
“Tell me what to do,” Nathaniel pleaded. Were their tears in his eyes, too? He was holding out his arms toward her, not daring to get any closer.
Miist was shaking her head. “I’m not okay,” she said. The words came out of her like stream. She might have repeated them several times, but she wasn’t sure.
“Miist, please.” His voice was strained against his sobs that had seized control of him now. “I want to help you.”
She stood up so fast she nearly lost her balance and walked away. Nathaniel sat on the ground, his fists so tight he was beginning to bleed onto the floor.
“Stay there,” she barked, holding out a hand. She sat on the bed, trying to catch her breath. She covered her face with her hands, pressing against her eyes like she would be able to hold the tears in. When she finally pulled her hands down from her eyes, several minutes later, Nathaniel had not moved. She found herself surprised, but couldn’t exactly figure out why. Had she expected him to be gone?
“I’m so sorry,” she said, pressing her knuckles against her thighs.
“Sorry? Why in the tides are you sorry?”
“This isn’t your fault,” she sniffled. “Half an hour ago, I’d bet you thought we’d be in a slightly different…situation than we are now.”
“You probably did, too.”
“Yeah…I shouldn’t get so—”
“Upset?” Nathaniel snapped. “You’d better be upset. I mean…are you saying that…that you were…”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Nathaniel. I really don’t.”
Nathaniel bit his lips, forcing himself not to reply. He had stood up, but not come any closer.
“I should,” Miist said, seeing the look in his eyes. “That’s what you’re thinking.”
“I don’t know. I think you should, yeah, but I’ve already said that I don’t know anything about…this kind of stuff.”
Miist looked away from him, silently looking off into the far wall. In the quiet, her attention was drawn to her heartbeat again. Now, it was solid but slower. She took a deep breath and looked at her hands and she fidgeted them in her lap. “I never thought this was something I would really have to move past. I guess I don’t know myself very well.”
Nathaniel said nothing. She didn’t blame him.
“Rape,” she said at last, almost gaging as she did. “It’s an awful word, isn’t it?”
Nathaniel’s chest fell. He looked simultaneously like someone had validated his pressing suspicions and also stabbed him in the heart.
“Just once,” she said, almost suddenly. She wasn’t sure why. Once was enough. It was a million times more than enough.
Nathaniel’s mouth was forming several shapes, but no sound except punctuated breath was coming from him.
“Oddly enough, it was Toshiana who saved me. From that part, anyway. She tried to make me think she was my hero, and I was idiot enough to believe her for a while. But after a while I started to suspect that she planned it all just so she could save me. It’s probably shite, but it wouldn’t have been to surprising. She’s a bitch.”
He was just standing there. Miist almost felt bad for how completely helpless he looked. At least now that she had calmed down, he had as well. The tears weren’t gone from his face, though. He looked hurt on one level, subtly livid on another.
“So…” she said, his silence beginning to fill her mind with fear. Her voice quivered and she tried not to focus on all the horrible things he was saying in her mind’s version of this scenario. It wasn’t real. And it was all coming from a part of her mind that she had so successfully snubbed out for a long time. “You probably…feel diff—I mean, you weren’t expecting this, were you? In a relationship. You always expected it would be easy. Easier than this, anyway. I’m not…I’m not who you thought I was.”
“No,” he said.
And she nodded, her throat stinging and eyes welling. She managed to swallow.
“You are exactly who I think you are. Hills, Miist. I love you to your soul, and this…this doesn’t change that. I could never think less of you. You didn’t do this. Some sick bastard—” The last words seemed forced out of him, his jaw closed and teeth clinched. Then, he relaxed, inspiration dawning in his eyes. “I’ll kill them! The whole toshi empire. I mean, it was part of the plan anyway, right? What are you doing right now? Are you busy? We’ll leave tonight.”
Miist smiled, wiping a stray tear from her cheek. “No. There’s no need for that. It’s already really late.”
Nathaniel’s face brightened immensely as a smile took over his features. “See? You’re still…absolutely perfect.”
He was still standing in the middle of the room where Miist had told him to stay before. She found that comforting, oddly enough, and held out a hand toward him. “Come and sit,” she said.
He cautiously took a step toward her. She tried to look reassuring, though she wasn’t sure how good of a job she was doing. He sat down awkwardly next to her, his hands folded in his lap. She reached out, hesitating only slightly, and took his hand. They smiled at one another and Miist felt a little of her tension melt away. He was still warm. Why was that so nice?
“We’ll figure this out,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I have to, whatever you need…”
“I just have to tell you,” she finished.
“Tonight…can we just sleep?”
Nathaniel nodded, almost enthusiastically. “Sure. And you don’t have to ask.”
She nodded. Her tension was still flowing away. How much had there been? Tides. She felt like a waterfall.
“I’m serious. If you need something to be a certain way, that’s how we’ll do it.”
She looked up at him. His brow was knitted, and the look of seriousness in his gaze somehow made him adorable.
Miist couldn’t help but smile as she scooted backward, lying down on the bed with a sigh. He didn’t move until several minutes later when she gave him permission.
“You don’t have to always wait for me to say,” she said with a small laugh.
“Alright. I just didn’t want…you know.” He eyed the wastebasket.
Miist had forgotten all about it. “Oh! Right. Should we dispose of that somehow?”
“I’ll take care of it,” he said, getting up. “Don’t worry.”
She snuggled back down into the bed, pulling a blanket over her. “You really are the absolute best. Has there really not been anyone else that’s noticed that?”
She had kind of been joking, but he looked out the window reminiscently. “There was one girl,” he said. “But it didn’t work out.”
“Oh? Why not?”
“My life was too complicated for her.”
Miist snorted a laugh. “How cute. I envy you and your simplicity.”
“Yeah. Well. You’re among the few.” He wrinkled his nose as he lifted up the trash can and left the room.
Miist turned to her side and breathed in through her nose. Everything around her smelled like Nathaniel. She tucked her blanket in around her body so that she was cocooned inside. Sleepiness washed over her in a way it hadn’t before. She opened her eyes a few moments later to the sound of Nathaniel clearing his throat. He was standing next to the lamp, poised to douse it.
“Do I need to sleep on the couch?” he asked.
“No,” she mumbled, reaching a hand toward him. “I never want you to be that far away from me again.”
“Even when you don’t want me to touch you?” he asked, putting out the lamp. He took her hand right before the room fell dark.
“Yes,” she replied. “Especially then.”
First, Miist's situation is something that I have zero personal experience with. As such, I did quite a bit of research into the subject, but research and experience are not the same thing. If you have something you feel is a glaring (or more importantly, an offensive) inaccuracy in this account, I beg you to let me know, and to do so kindly. I realize that this subject is a loaded one, and I can't begin to pretend I understand what it's like.
I love Miist as a character, and I was honestly surprised that this story took this turn. After it did, I thought, "Oh, yeah. This makes perfect sense." It also made perfect sense to me that Nathaniel, though often thick and a bit goofy, would be the best equipped to properly handle something like this because, despite all his flaws, he is caring and loyal beyond comparison.
I had never planned to write a character who had been raped, let alone a major character. I want to do it well. If you have advice for how she can be improved, then leave it in the comments or send me a private message.