Ginny Carmichael touched the edge of the journal page Amanda had produced. The evidence against her—she half expected Amanda to announce: Prosecution Exhibit # 1, but she lowered her eyes and stared at her hands now clasped before her on the table. The significance the fifty-dollar bill was a mystery, but there was no doubt about the journal page. She recognized her own handwriting and could clearly remember the entry. Tears pooled in her eyes. She didn’t need to read the words to know what was there.
It took only a certain aroma in the air, a song, a thousand sensory triggers to catapult her back fifteen years. A tentative reach to smooth Amanda’s hair produced a visible flinch as her daughter recoiled. Ginny withdrew her hand and placed it on the torn journal page. She reached with her other hand and pulled out three notebooks. The fronts of each had dates written on them with broad pen strokes; wordlessly she placed them in chronological order. Amanda barely glanced at the books, her eyes down. Ginny felt her mother’s hand caress her shoulder and knew that Nancy was praying, a habit Ginny both dreaded and craved. The journals had been hidden, a chronicle for her own eyes with no thought that anyone else would read them or of the effect the pages might have especially on Amanda.
Ginny took a deep breath and opened one and found near the beginning of the journal the ragged evidence of the page Amanda had ripped from it. She replaced it and closed the book, but not without her own memories catching up with her.
It had been a beautiful fall season. Ginny was a junior at Tulsa University sharing an apartment with Lindsey Meadows and Tiffany Bridges. They were a compatible group. Ginny, especially was happy that fall because during the summer she had become engaged to Robert Buchanan, from Edmund, Oklahoma. He had given her a very impressive engagement ring. Her grades were good; her future looked fabulous. The single negative in Ginny’s life was that Robert was finishing his architectural degree in Stillwater at Oklahoma State University, but even that had a plus side because she wasn’t tempted to spend too much time with him and ignore her classes. Her life could not have been better. She shared this with Amanda although she could not tell if she was listening.
Ginny glanced at her mother, who understood her dilemma. Nancy nodded and Ginny continued, knowing she might turn back unless she forged ahead. She started with the bare facts while her eyes lifted to the windows across from her. The wind ruffled the leaves on the tree outside the window.
The wind had been blowing that October day when she and Tiffany were crossing from the Student Union to the McFarlin Library. Both girls were trying to no avail to keep their excessively teased hair from tangling without dropping their books and papers. Ginny closed her eyes and could feel the wind. Tiff and she lost control of their books simultaneously. Whoosh! The books hit the sidewalk and the loose papers sailed upward better than any paper airplane she’d ever seen. It was during the scramble that she heard male laughter, looking up she saw Tiff talking to a guy who looked slightly familiar but in a distant way, like someone you see frequently but don’t really know. He started grabbing at the papers with them and stayed until they were pretty sure they had captured the majority.
“Hey, Ginny, this is Tom Gentry.”
Ginny glanced up from where she knelt on the sidewalk reassembling the pages giving Tom a wave and smile. He smiled back and offered her his hand. She gratefully accepted it and stood. Tom continued to hold her hand applying pressure when she pulled away and then more when she attempted to yank it free.
“Ouch! Thanks for your help, but I need those fingers.”
He winked at her, raising his eyebrows before releasing her hand. His eyes drilled into her skull and the smile that had appeared so charming a few minutes earlier looked more like a sneer to Ginny. Tom spoke to Tiffany while still looking at Ginny.
“So, Tiffany, who’s your lovely friend?”
“Oh, Ginny Mayes meet Tom Gentry.”
“Jennie? Is it short for Jennifer?”
“No, Ginny, short for Virginia. Come on, Tiff, we need to get to the library.”
The way he said her name gave her the creeps.
“I am going on, Tiffany. I have a paper due next week.”
Tom grabbed her hand again and pulled her closer.
“Everyone calls me Ginny.” She hoped the ice in her voice would discourage him, but he snorted and squeezed her fingers until it really hurt. She let out a little gasp and he flicked her hand away, still sneering.
“Hey, Tom, Ginny’s taken, engaged.” Tiffany stepped up beside her roommate. Tiff’s voice was light; evidently she hadn’t gotten the same vibes Ginny had.
“That right? Well, I am really sorry.” The charming face returned, “I was just goofing around. I hope I didn’t hurt you. Let me make it up to both of you. A bunch of us are having a bash Friday night, why don’t you all come?” He looked directly at Ginny, “Bring your fiancé. It’s going to be some party.”
“I am sure I am busy.” Ginny said coolly. In retrospect she should have stood by that statement, but in the end she succumbed to Tiffany and Lindsey’s argument that with three of them together they could watch out for each other.
“Only trouble was, we didn’t.” Ginny said, turning her eyes from the conference room window to glance at her daughter.
The story that followed led Amanda on a convoluted path in her brain. As her mother’s story unfolded about her conception, she found herself remembering Greta’s story and another baby’s conception more than 60 years before. Her mind bounced from a campus party to a park in Savannah, Georgia. The more Ginny revealed the greater the kinship Amanda felt with Greta’s daughter Olivia. What if Max had never told her Greta’s story?
As Ginny disclosed the secrets and the grief that directed her pen on the pages of her journal, Amanda listened, initially with her eyes riveted forward. Nancy Mayes rubbed her daughter’s shoulders in encouragement but remained silent.
Ginny struggled forward reliving the event, she chose her words carefully because to Ginny Amanda was a still her little girl so even as she re-experienced that night she wanted to shield her from the horror.
When Tiffany, Lindsey and Ginny arrived at the fraternity house, the party had been going on for a while. The music wafted into the street and blasted their ears as soon as the door was open. Getting in required squeezing past pulsating bodies packed so tightly that what masqueraded for dancing was little more that vertical body rubbing. Ginny wanted to leave the second she arrived, but caught in the flow of people like being submerged in a rapidly moving river she finally surfaced near the bar.
In the crush of moving bodies she had been separated from her roommates. The mingling of body odors with booze along with a faint aroma of vomit added its own expression to the blasting music assaulting her senses and increasing her anxiety. Scenes from the nightly news flashed before her, trampling, fire, raids and collapsing structures filled her gut with a strange terror, which grew stronger as she found herself being crowded closer and closer by the crowd. Unable to push back or through the crowd, Ginny drifted with the flow, seeking escape at every pause in the movement.
“The party was in full swing when we arrived,” Ginny told Amanda, “There were people wall to wall. We got separated and I was very nervous, scared there might be a fire or something. I tried to get to an open space and found one on the staircase.”
When she reached the stairway, she stepped backward and up one step. For the first time since entering, she felt able to breathe; another backward upward movement increased her feeling of liberty. Unfortunately her flight ended with two more backward steps as two masculine arms embraced her. A look over her shoulder brought her face to face with a very inebriated Tom Gentry. Two other equally soused males moved closer to them. She struggled against his grip to the amusement of the others. The party of revilers less than four steps below her partied on oblivious or apathetic to her plight
Ginny shuddered as the clarity of the incident so many years past awakened within her senses an acute feeling of shame. It wasn’t a new feeling, but it never ceased being painful.
“I kept backing up on the stairs to get out of the crowd. I must have backed three or four steps when I bumped into Tom Gentry and two of his fraternity brothers.” Ginny gulped but continued, “They dragged me into a room upstairs. . .”
When Amanda was about to enter school, Ginny had a minor breakdown. Irrational fears about Amanda’s safety plagued her day and night. Eventually, she had spent a week in the hospital and then a year in therapy. It was there she had first revealed the whole story of that night to anyone other than Paul. The words she used to describe the actions of Tom Gentry and his fraternity brothers brought an unexpected reaction from her therapist.
Ginny had said, “You might say, those gentlemen had their way with me.”
Dr. Gwen Mallory, sat bolt upright in her chair at that description. Dr. Mallory was not given to emotional outbursts so it made her words stick in Ginny’s brain.
“GENTLEMEN? Three brutes, twice your size, take turns raping you and you call them gentlemen? Call them what they are, Ginny; they are CRIMINALS!”
The bile in her throat now reminded her of the horror and though she chose her words carefully, she did not use euphemisms to protect the guilty. With her eyes rigidly fixed on the edge of the table she described being dragged into a bedroom and attacked repeatedly. However, she chose not to say how she felt like a cast off dirty sock nor Tom Gentry’s parting words, “Get dressed, Virginia, and get out. At least you are ready for your wedding night.”
Sometime midway through the recollection, Ginny felt Amanda’s hand reach out and touch her arm. Ginny reached with her other hand, placing it over her daughter’s. Tears welled and spilled.
Her daughter’s touch liberated Ginny. The story tumbled out, with stops and starts, with gaping holes that raised completely new questions, but Ginny thus freed by her daughter’s hand continued. Robert Buchanan didn’t exit when Ginny told him about the attack; he believed her, but when she told him she was pregnant two months later, his solution was “get rid of it. You don’t even know who the father is. I won’t raise some jerk’s child. Abortion’s legal and surely even moral in a case like this.” His parents agreed, but hers balked, “Ginny, this baby is our grandchild”, but in the torment of the moment gave in. Granny Nan, just as the journal entry had said, drove Ginny to Wichita, Kansas to the Women’s Clinic to terminate her pregnancy.
For the first time since the emptying had begun, Ginny Carmichael reached for the torn sheet, preferring to read the words she had written, words that had driven her daughter to run. Her hands shook, but her voice remained level, monotonously level.
“It rained continuously all the way up I 35 this morning. Mom drove. We didn’t speak, not one word. What was there to say? All I could think about was how ashamed she must be of me. And Daddy just looks so sad. Whoever coined the term “love child” to cover the truth? Certainly this piece of tissue in me did not come from “Love”. Poor unloved little mass of cells, got no Daddy to want you, no grandparents to care and a mother wishing you had never implanted in her womb. Better to end your suffering now than to thrust you into arms that would just as soon you had never been born. That’s what I was thinking over and over again on the way to Wichita.
Well, it didn’t happen. Here I am home again and several hours more pregnant than I was before not because of the mass of protestors outside the clinic; I had braced myself for that. Mom walked beside me to the steps, her head down, red faced like a criminal. I almost made it in the front door, when I slipped on the pavement and fell hard on my knee. Mom tried to help, but it was one of the picketers who caught me before I tumbled down the stairs. I expected him to scream “murderer” in my face. I wish he had. He just smiled and gently pulled me to my feet. Someone was sobbing. I could hear her and then I realized the sobs I was hearing were mine. We drove home after that. I have a nasty bruise on my knee, a fanatic’s face in my brain and I am still carrying this loathsome reminder inside.”
Ginny barely made it through the last of the entry before breaking down.