By Tracy Lia LynnPhoto by Jane FoxI tried to warn her not to walk away from public view with a guy she ‘d just met. I don’t know why I bothered, because she never listened. I could have screamed and shaken her so violently that she would flinch, but only sometimes.She preferred playing with danger like a kitten with a feather, behaving as if she’d never felt the consequences of my previous warnings, and had nothing to fear. I was often baffled and frustrated by her risky behavior. I know, more than anyone, that she is neither naive, nor stupid; yet, her actions would prove me wrong under the harsh light of judgments made by outsiders.That night would be no different from her previous choices. She would not be swayed, coaxed, or frightened from the edge of a cliff which promised to leave her ] wounded and scarred. In spite of knowing that I was wasting my time trying to stop her, nothing would dissuade my consuming need to do my best to hold her steady, every time she prepared to launch.We were at the Fourth of July festival, held every year in our small town. People were running, dancing, enjoying the festivities around us. I knew we should stay within clear view of the public, but she wasn’t concerned with what I thought.She became lost in the eyes of an older man, who was treating her like a grown woman. He was eighteen, we were only thirteen, and she was falling hook, line, and sinker for the bait he tossed at her.I saw him for what he was; just another man – in a string of more than I care to tell – that smelled her vulnerability and planned to take full advantage it. Her group of friends combined with his, totaled an even six and the older boys were laying down lines and sending bold signals of attraction to each girl.The girls were giggling and flirting back as most teens would, but the tone shifted when the promise of beer and make-out sessions behind the post office building was brought up. The other girls were excited to go and began pleading for us to come too. I wanted nothing to do with any of that nonsense, but my ill-fated companion forced me to tag along. I resentfully watched her sip his can of beer and I thought how foolish she looked trying to pretend that she liked it. Abandoning any hope for small talk, his lips were suddenly on hers, and my heart sank as she started responding in kind.She didn’t even care to remember his name, but she was kissing him with a passion most lovers would envy. It made me feel sick. I was suddenly on high alert when I noticed his kissing and groping became more aggressive and he pulled her tight against his groin.I became frantic with fear and I firmly told her we should leave immediately! She only continued to ignore me as she allowed the boy to pressure her into touching the swelling in his pants.I began to panic, so I reminded her of the last time this happened, and how her mother would kill her if she got caught doing this. This got her attention and she quickly pushed herself away from him. It was then that we noticed our friends had left and we were the only ones secluded from the safety of the crowd. My stomach was turning and my heart pounding, so I reminded her again about her mother.She finally started to pick up my vibe and she told him, more forcefully, that she had to go. He responded by holding her tighter, while saying he didn’t want her to go – but… if she did him a favor, he MIGHT let her leave. We both felt the fear of the situation we were in, when she quietly asked in a quivered child’s voice, “What do I have to do?” She was choking on her tears, but he didn’t seem to care. He calmly pulled his penis out and told her to suck it. We screamed, and tried to run, but he held her too tightly to escape. I was terrified and disgusted, as I watched him throw her on the ground so hard that her head bounced twice, as he simultaneously ripped her shorts off. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I cowardly fled the scene without a moment of hesitation or forethought. Instinctively, I knew I was not strong enough to bear witness to all that I imagined he would do to her.No words can describe how sorry I am for failing her so completely, when she needed me the most. He did freely whatever he wanted to her body without intervention,And I fled instead of fighting to the death for her. The moment I was able, I returned to find her struggling to pull her panties up as she shivered uncontrollably. Her entire backside was covered with mud and she was soaking wet from the pool of rainwater he threw her into. I cautiously looked around to see if he was still near and watching us, but he seemed to be long gone. I tried to subdue her shaking, as I encouraged her be strong and get up so we could try to find our family. The moment we rounded the corner back into the fairgrounds, we locked eyes with her mother who was glaring straight at us with the most anger and disgust her wild eyes could manage. Before we could explain what threatened our innocence moments earlier, her mother grabbed her by the back of her hair and began yanking her in violent jerks towards their car.When her mother noticed the mud on her back, she assumed – only partially correctly – that her daughter had laid on her back to pleasure some unknown man. Suddenly, and without warning, she repeatedly punched her daughter in the head, as she continued to yank her towards the car. Her mother shamelessly screamed insults that hurt worse than her fists ever would. Accusing her child of being a worthless dirty-slut that would spread her legs for every man that could stomach the sight of her face. She told her disgusting she was to men who would never be caught laying with such a filthy whore. She described, how her daughters ugly and used up body was going to blister and seep from herpes and a horrible future where she would die from AIDS. I tried to convince my friend to stop her mother’s assaults by telling the truth of what really happened behind that tiny, festively decorated, and well manicured post office building. Once again, I was ignored and she quickly plummeted down a pit of her own violent rage and irreparable humiliation.She stubbornly chose to pretend she was invincible to the flood of hatred that was drowning us, and nothing that happened that night would even register on her super-powered pain scale. She plunged so deeply in her coping game, she was unable and unmotivated enough to speak up for herself. As desperately as I wanted to, I could not shield her from her mother’s wrath, and proclaim her innocence; I was condemned to watch the tragedy continue to unfold. The emotional berating and beating continued all the way home, up the stairs, and well into the house. As an additional measure of shame, her mother refused to allow her into the bathroom, where she could clean herself up. Lying in cold filthy mud, mixed with the stench of the predator who feasted on her flesh, was something her mother said she might as well get used to; after all, that was the best her future would ever know. Together, we laid in bed, and I waited with her until she was convinced everyone was sleeping; only then, did she allow herself to cry.I didn’t know what to say to stop her heart-wrenching sobs. I could have pointed out her responsibility with a simple “I told you so” but I would never dare such cruelty – especially while she was plagued with immeasurable and extreme physical and mental distress. Instead, I wept in silence, hoping she wouldn’t feel so alone. All I ever wanted, or will ever want, is to protect her from the harm men seem compelled to put upon her. I felt so afraid and useless, when I should have risen to the call of my duties; instead, I failed her miserably.She had already endured so much more than most people could survive. I constantly feared she wouldn’t trust herself anymore and as a consequence I would fade into the darkness that threatened to consume me completely. I couldn’t rightfully blame her if she let go of me, of hope, of love, and even of life.I know better than anyone, how haunted her mind had rapidly become. All I could do was try to reassure her that she was not suffering this life alone, and how I neither would, nor could, judge or abandon her. I vowed that as long as she chose let go of control and trust me, I’d do my best to forewarn her, should anything evil head in her direction again. I cried harder, as I felt her cold body tremble uncontrollably from the icy water-soaked clothes against her skin. The stink of the hardening mud wouldn’t release her from the cycling memory of the night’s assault against her sanity.I hated feeling her pain so intensely; however, if I faltered and fell under the weight of her burdened heart, it could result in the death of us both. Though I hate feeling her endless overflow of fevered and frantically seizing emotions, I am prepared to absorb them all so she might find peace. Although it is both my honor, and my unfortunately difficult burden to watch from behind the scenes, while trying to protect her from every harm – it is also my most imperative responsibility; I must quickly figure out how to perform my duty much more effectively than I did this regrettable night, if I am ever to earn what I most desire. It is my dream, and my only hope for myself, that I will one day be recognized by her, as very good conscience. Tracy Lia Lynn is a freelance writer and artist of all sorts.