Permanent

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A86 permanenet

Rebecca returned to the couch, crossed her legs and pulled some papers out of her bag. Owen looked at her for a minute before grabbing Hannah’s arm and pulling her to the back of the studio. The silver stud in the cleft of his chin flashed at her, and the small ring around the right corner of his bottom lip moved slightly as he breathed heavily in frustration. She concentrated on his chest, the muscles a suggestion pushing through the soft cotton of his old Misfits t-shirt.“Are you okay?”

“I’m—I’m fine.” This was so obvious a lie that there seemed no point in adding to it.

“Are you going to talk to her?”

“I guess.”

She shrugged and then reached up to massage her temples where a harp new headache had taken up residence. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t have to.”

She looked away and thought about what Rebecca had said: ‘several counts of child and sexual molestation.’ Several counts. Jesus. Owen was watching her, and exhaled when she caught his eye. He looked worried for her.

“It’s slow now. Go eat lunch with her, find out what she wants and come back in time for the rush.”

“I can’t you leave alone here. As soon as I’m gone five people will come in.”

“I’ll call Blade.” Their least favorite coworker was always asking for more hours.

“Don’t worry about it.”

Hannah considered protesting more, but then nodded.

“Fine.”

She went to the back room to clock out and pick up her old messenger bag and cellphone. Automatically she glanced in the mirror to see how she looked, smoothing out her black tank top and the cherry red short skirt she had chosen too quickly while Owen told her again to hurry up, that their boss would be pissed if they opened late. Her hair at least looked good, cut short and dyed peacock blue for the past year. At first she had been secretly scandalized by it, momentarily shocked every time she caught a wisp of her reflection in a store window or on the closed circuit camera that broadcast everything that happened in the studio. But she had finally acclimated, and now anticipated the loud statement her hair made to the world.

When she came back out to the studio, she stood next to Owen for a minute while he moved things around on a shelf. He tucked some of her hair behind her ear and the gesture was sweet. Still, she felt a kind of hollowness she wasn’t used to. For a moment she gripped a few of his fingers with her own, searching his face for something that would save her from whatever conversation she would have to have with Rebecca.

“Pretend you have amnesia?” he offered.

“I don’t think she’d buy it.” But Hannah cracked a smile.

“I can write you a doctor’s note?” He was smiling, but looked sad.

“’Dear Ms. Janssen, Hannah can’t talk to you about her past because it would cause adverse effects to her piercings?’” Hannah grinned despite herself.

“That would be a pretty great way to respond.” She sighed then, allowing her expression to become blank again, and let go of his fingers.

In the waiting area Rebecca was bent over her work, thumbing a message into a sleek Blackberry.

“It turns out I have some time now,” Hannah said awkwardly. “So…”

“Oh, wonderful.” Rebecca sounded surprised, but she put her things together quickly and stood up, looking very businesslike.They walked out the front door and into the August sunlight. Across the street Norman was opening up his used bookstore, and one of the waitresses from Clarke’s walked by and waved at Hannah. She waved back weakly, and looked at Rebecca.

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Author of Jewrotica's Double Mitzvah column, Tamar Fox is a writer and editor in Philadelphia. She will try anything once, including open relationships, dating someone who is chalav yisrael, and going to Suriname.
  • A powerful piece. Make sure you don’t miss our educator’s note at the end… The condensed version is pasted below:

    “The recovery process from sexual abuse should ideally include professional help. It may also be helpful for a survivor of abuse to speak with trusted loved ones who can offer their support when feelings surface from their sexual abuse. If you or someone you know would like to speak with a mental health counselor, please email mara@jewrotica.org for more information. You may also contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE”

  • mara yacobi

    Wow-

    This was powerful, riveting and IMPORTANT. There are many survivors of sexual abuse who need support…suffering from overwhelming guilt and shame. I was pleased to see how the girl in this story finds a way to reclaim a sense of power, which takes tremendous courage. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for giving a voice to a subject that is often silenced and buried in secrecy.

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