“I’d like to press rape and assault charges against all three of these men.” There was a dramatic silence and then pandemonium broke loose.
Paul suppressed a sigh as he headed down the hall to the bathroom. The dim lighting helped to hide the scuffed walls and worn carpet. The dorm smelled of old sweat, dirty socks, and faintly of the strong ammonia cleanser that the janitorial staff used to curb the mold and bacteria that pervaded the fifty-year-old building.
His mind was not on the bleakness of his living quarters tonight, however, it was on the embarrassing date he’d just ended. His dates were often awkward; this one had been downright mortifying.
He had taken Tammy out because it was expected of him. He was a wide receiver on Washington State University’s football team. It was his responsibility to date beautiful women. Tammy definitely qualified as that and then some. She had waist-length soft brunette curls, sparkling brown eyes, and the body of a lingerie model. She sat beside him in his economics class, which she was skating right through, so she was plenty smart too.
She was lively and fun, and their flirting had been escalating since classes had started a month earlier. He enjoyed her company and thought maybe things could work between them, but asking her out had turned out to be a huge mistake.
Dinner was fine—they’d gone for pizza at Milly’s. It was close to campus, frequented by his friends, and kind to students on a budget. They’d run into several people they knew and ended up sharing a table, pizzas, and pitchers of soda. It was only afterwards, when he walked Tammy home, that he got into trouble.
Their conversation on the way to her apartment had been light. He’d tried to leave her at her doorstep, but she’d cajoled him in for a beer. That was my first mistake, he thought. I never should have gone into her place. It gave her the wrong idea about my intentions. In spite of her urgings, he had kept his beer consumption to two. He knew better than to drink too much when he had an early class the next day.
She, however, was under no such compunction. She’d consumed four beers in the time it took him to drink two and got more flirtatious with each one. The more aggressive she became, the more uneasy he felt. Most guys would have loved it when she unbuttoned her shirt to show more cleavage, or when she rubbed up against them in the kitchen while they were getting a glass of water. Paul had just panicked.
He knew what was wrong: he preferred guys. It was not something he admitted to anyone. He barely admitted it to himself. Although Washington state had recently legalized gay marriage, that open attitude was firmly confined to the other side of the state. He’d grown up on a farm outside of the Tri-Cities where, at best, gays were ridiculed—more often they were demonized and bullied. WSU had a mix of students from all over the world, so it wasn’t entirely conservative, but he was on the football team where anti-gay sentiments were common.
He had tried to squelch his natural tendencies. He’d known he wasn’t straight since he was twelve, but he was hoping he was at least bisexual. He wanted to find a girl who could make him happy, it just hadn’t happened yet. He’d had sex with girls. He’d even enjoyed it, but he had to be in just the right mood—or perhaps stone-drunk since that’s when it always seemed to happen. The girl also had to say and do the right things; if he felt pressured at all, his dick would refuse to cooperate.
That is what had happened with Tammy. She had rushed him and he’d run. Literally. I must have flirted too much. I must have encouraged her without meaning to. It was a fine line to walk: flirting enough to keep the girl interested and feeling good about themselves, but not so much that they were brave enough to make advances on their own. He’d underestimated Tammy; she was braver than he thought. She must have assumed he was just shy and needed some additional incentive. She had clearly been tipsy when she’d pulled off her shirt, ostensibly to show him her new lacy bra. That’s when he had bolted, wanting to get out quickly before she had a chance to realize his cock was still completely flaccid. I’m not normal. Most guys would have been all over her.
He winced as he remembered the expression on her face. He hoped the incident wouldn’t come back to bite him too badly. At the least, it would be embarrassing to see her in class next week.
Should I give up on girls altogether? he wondered. He didn’t blame Tammy; he was angry with himself. He shouldn’t have asked her out and definitely shouldn’t have gone into her apartment. Now it was already after midnight. He should have come home early and been sound asleep by now.
While he’d been ruminating over his disastrous evening, he had reached the bathroom, set his toiletry bag on the counter, and gotten ready to brush his teeth. Glancing at himself in the mirror, he noted that the bruise he’d gotten on his cheek during practice a few days earlier had faded. His thick blond hair was sticking up more than usual—he was way overdue for a haircut, but never seemed to have the time or the money. He looked tired, the redness in his eyes making his blue irises appear smoky gray.
He was just about to turn the water on when he heard a small noise coming from the shower area. He paused and tilted his head to listen. It came again and this time he was sure it was a sob. What the hell?
He moved on quiet bare feet around the corner into the shower area. If it was some freshman crying because he was homesick or his girlfriend had dumped him, then he would probably give him his privacy, but there had been a truly distressed quality to the sob he’d heard, and something told him he needed to make sure that whoever it was wasn’t about to commit suicide or something.
The shower area was made of individual stalls with changing cubicles, and the noise was coming from the one furthest away.
Should I say something or just peek in? he wondered. Whoever was in the last stall sucked in their breath sharply and then moaned. He sounded like he was in pain. That decided for it Paul.
“Hey, are you okay?” he called as he strode quickly to the end stall and pulled open the curtain.
The sight that met his eyes was one he would remember vividly for a long time to come. A thin, young man was huddled on the wet tile floor in the corner of the shower. He was naked and visibly shaking, his knees drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped around them. His face was buried in his arms, but he looked up in alarm as Paul swept the curtain aside. His huge dark eyes were filled with terror and glassy with pain. There were tear streaks down his face and a red mark was blooming on his cheek as if he’d been struck.
“What happened?” Paul asked as he entered the changing stall. He was about to ask the youth if he were okay again, but he clearly was not. As Paul squatted in front of him, the young man stiffened and then whimpered in pain. He was clearly terrified, and the sound he made ripped into Paul’s gut like a knife.
“Go … go away!” the young man cried, his voice making a weird hiccupping sound that Paul remembered having made himself when he was a small child and had cried too hard.
“I won’t hurt you,” Paul said gently. “I want to help. Please tell me where you’re hurt. Should I call 911?”
The boy shook his head, but some of the panic faded from his eyes. He buried his face in his arms again, his body still trembling. Then Paul noticed wads of duct tape here and there on the shower floor. One of the wads had a hunk of dark curly hair in it—obviously the boy’s. What the hell? Looking more closely at the young man, he saw a scrap of duct tape stuck to his forearm and the redness around his wrists indicated that he’d been bound.
All the air left Paul’s lungs in a whoosh. He was so shocked he was unable to restrain his response. “Oh my God! Someone tied you up and … and beat you?” he blurted out. It occurred to him that the boy might have been raped, but he couldn’t say that.
“Leave … just … please,” the boy begged, his voice breaking.
The tightness in Paul’s chest was painful. His emotions felt too big to be contained by his body. The thought that someone had terrorized this vulnerable young man horrified him beyond words, and the need to make it better, to somehow right this atrocity, overwhelmed him with its intensity.
“Who did this to you?” he demanded. “Was it someone you knew? Did they … did they…?” He couldn’t get the word rape out. He hoped to God they hadn’t raped this sweet kid.
Paul reflected that he really didn’t know if the youth had a sweet disposition or not, but he looked sweet. In spite of the ring in his full bottom lip, the small piercing above his eyebrow, and studs in both ears, he had an air of innocence about him. He looked very young, although certainly he was a bit of a wild-child for Eastern Washington.
The boy didn’t answer. He let out another sob and then a whimper. “Oh God! Oh God!” he wailed softly. His body began shaking more violently. Clearly he was going into shock.
Paul glanced around and noticed the young man’s clothes and toiletry bag were sitting on the bench, and his towel was hanging over a hook. He didn’t look wet, but he looked cold. Paul grabbed the towel and wrapped it around the shivering youth’s shoulders. The boy didn’t even look up at him.
“I’m going to get you some help,” he said. “…call the police.”
Now the boy did look up, suddenly and with panic in his eyes. “NO!” he cried. “No, please. No police. Just … just go away. Forget you ever saw.”
“No, I can’t do that,” Paul said, calmly but firmly. “I mean, you were attacked right? That’s … we need to report this. We need to find whoever did this.”
The boy shook his head vehemently. “I just want to forget,” he whispered. His big brown eyes beseeched Paul, and Paul wondered if he knew how impossible he was to argue with when he looked like that. He was instantly ready to concede to any demands the youth made.
Just then they heard the bathroom door slam open. The boy’s eyes grew round with fear. It broke Paul’s heart. Those expressive eyes should never know fear. Paul laid a comforting hand on the youth’s arm and held a finger to his lips, letting him know that he wasn’t going to say anything to whoever had come into the bathroom. They stayed frozen in place while they listened to the sounds of someone emptying a very full bladder. Whoever it was didn’t even wash their hands before they left.
The boy breathed a small sigh of relief then. He was still shivering, but seemed to be calmer than he’d been earlier.
“I’m Paul. What’s your name?”
The boy hesitated and Paul thought perhaps he wasn’t going to answer, but then he said in a soft voice, “Kyle.”
“Kyle.” Paul rolled the name around on his tongue. It seemed to fit the beautiful, unusual young man.
“I’ll be okay now,” Kyle said. “I’d like to take a shower so if you…” He made a small shooing motion with shaking hands.
“Um … I don’t think you should be alone right now,” Paul said. He wasn’t sure why he felt that way. Perhaps he sensed that Kyle really was not okay and needed help even if he wouldn’t admit it. Or maybe he just wanted to stay close to the handsome young man.
“I’m fine,” Kyle said. As if to prove that were the case, he rocked forward onto his feet and launched himself to a standing position. Immediately he let out and small cry of pain and crouched over, holding his stomach.
Paul grabbed his arm to help steady him. His eyes traveled down Kyle’s lean torso, noting the spreading bruises on his ribs and abdomen. When his eyes caught sight of Kyle’s penis, he let out a cry of dismay and revulsion. The tip of his cock was covered with blood.
Paul’s body had an instinctive reaction, trying to double over to protect his own precious goods. He drew in a sharp breath. “Oh my God, Kyle! What…?” He had to gasp for air again and couldn’t continue.
Kyle closed his eyes and small whimper came out of his mouth. He moved his hands down to shield his cock from Paul’s view. “My … my Prince Albert,” he whispered.
“What?” What the hell is he talking about?
Kyle took a steadying breath. “They ripped it out.” He opened his eyes and began searching the floor of the stall. “It’s a gold ring about a half-inch in diameter with a ball on it. Do you see it anywhere?”
“You … you had your dick pierced?” Paul finally understood what Kyle was talking about. And then, true to form, no filter for his mouth at all, he blurted out, “That is so hot!”
Kyle’s shocked eyes found his, and Paul felt color creeping up his cheeks as he quickly turned his face away with the pretense of searching the floor for the ring.
As the extent of Kyle’s injuries sank in, a deep anger grew in Paul. He fought to keep his cool and appear calm, but he wanted to tear someone’s guts out.
“I don’t see it anywhere,” Kyle said with a small sigh. “One of them must have taken it.”
“One of them? There was more than one?”
“There were three of them,” Kyle whispered. Paul felt his thin body trembling under his hand. “I … I didn’t see them.” His young face was etched with pain and humiliation.
Paul instinctively stepped closer. He wanted to pull Kyle to him, to hold and protect him from anyone that might hurt him. He wanted to undo what had been done to him, but of course that was impossible. While he hesitated, unsure if Kyle would welcome a hug, the young man looked up at him. He must have seen something in Paul’s eyes, because he grabbed Paul’s upper arms with both his hands, his fingers digging in almost painfully, as if holding tight to Paul would keep him from drowning. Looking down, he leaned the top of his head against Paul’s chest and took a big gasping breath.
Paul’s heart thudded against his ribs. Kyle’s hair smelled faintly of pine, reminding him of fresh mountain air. He began stroking Kyle’s back rhythmically through the towel that he still had around his shoulders, offering comfort. Kyle was a little shorter than him and fit in the circle of his arms perfectly. Let me help you, please, Paul begged silently. Let me hold you.
They stood there in silence and after a few minutes Kyle seemed to relax into him, letting go of the death grip he had on Paul’s biceps and sliding his arms around his waist, turning the embrace into a real hug. Then he began to speak in soft, steady voice. “I came in here to take a shower before bed. I usually always wait until I think the bathroom is empty before I shower, because…” He paused and took another deep breath before continuing. “Because I’m gay and everyone knows it, and some of the guys give me a hard time if I come in here when they’re here.”
Paul clamped down on his anger, trying not to let his body stiffen for fear Kyle would take it the wrong way. He said nothing and waited patiently for him to continue. He knew it must be difficult to talk about. Hell, it was difficult to hear, but if Kyle wanted to tell him, he would listen.
“So I came in here to take a shower, and they must have snuck in after me. I didn’t even hear them. I had just turned the shower on—hadn’t even gotten in—when they jumped me. I didn’t see them. They knocked me face first into the wall and one of them held my face there while the others taped my hands behind my back. Then they taped my mouth and my eyes. I … I fought like crazy, but they were too strong. God, I felt so helpless.”
He paused and Paul heard him swallow. There was a huge lump in Paul’s own throat. He focused on his slow stokes across Kyle’s trembling back.
“The whole time they were calling me a faggot and a whore and lots of other shit. They yanked out my Prince Albert, which just about did me in. I didn’t even feel them punching me. I went down pretty quickly. I was just praying that it would be over soon and that they wouldn’t kill me.”
Kyle’s breath started coming in quick gasps and Paul felt him grab handfuls of his t-shirt in tight fists. When he spoke again his words tumbled out quickly, his voice pitched higher with emotion. “They were saying that I liked to take it up the ass … and then they … and then one of them … oh God!” Kyle’s voice broke at this point and a sob came out. He began to cry quietly into Paul’s chest.
Paul blinked back his own tears as he gathered the young man more closely into the protection of his arms. “They raped you,” he whispered.
Kyle nodded. “One of them,” he confirmed, his voice sounding steadier. “The other two held me still and egged him on. Afterwards they kicked me a few times, cut my wrists free, spit on me, and left.”
Now that he was done with his story the tension seemed to leave his body and Paul felt him sway. He might have gone down if he hadn’t been holding him so tightly.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered in Kyle’s ear. “I’m so sorry this happened to you.”
Kyle nodded slightly but said nothing more. After a few moments, he took a long shuddering breath and pulled away from Paul, who let go reluctantly. “I need to take a shower,” he said.
“No, I don’t think you should.”
Kyle’s eyes widened and he looked up at Paul in surprise. “Why … why not?” he asked.
“We need to go down to the clinic and have you checked out,” Paul said. “You … you might have sustained internal damage. And you don’t want to wash the evidence away.”
“I … I think he used a condom. I don’t feel any … uh…” Kyle trailed off as Paul visibly winced. “Sorry.”
“No, no. You have nothing to be sorry about. God! I don’t even know how you’re dealing with this so well. I can’t … it’s overwhelming.”
“I’m sorry,” Kyle said again.
“Oh, sweetheart…” The word came naturally out of Paul’s mouth, and it sounded endearing rather than condescending. “Let me help you. We’ll go down to the clinic together. I’ll get us a cab.”
“No, I don’t want to,” Kyle said defiantly. He glared at Paul and his lower jaw shifted out slightly. He looked both stubborn and adorable. “I just … I’ll be okay. I just need a shower and some sleep, and I’ll be fine tomorrow.”