Part 6

by Kim Pritekel with Alexa Hoffman

For complete disclaimers, see part 1.

Thanks Linda for all your help for the Tucson info.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at XenaNut@hotmail.com

School was back in session for my second semester at the University of Arizona, and I was ready for it. I didn't have classes as early this time as I did before, so this was a definite plus. I hadn't seen much of Carrie, only passing her on the way to my Music From Around the World class. She looked at me, keeping her head down before quickly scurrying away to her own class. I felt sad, but I still wasn't ready to talk.

Part of me missed her, after all, it had been nearly two months since we'd spoken. I didn't know what to do, but figured it'd hit me on the head when I did.

"Thank you very much. Goodnight." The lights lowered, and we were clear to pack up our gear and head home. It was CID's first night to play at Gotfry's on the Wednesday underage night, and I think it went off pretty well. We had to break them in all over again, very few Friday regulars hang around with a bunch of teenagers. We also toned our music down a bit, too, trying to stick with modern favorites so we wouldn't lose our audience.

I packed up Than and Melo and headed to the bar for my end of the night glass of water.

"So what do you think, Greg? Were we a hit?" I asked the bartender before slamming the cooling liquid.

"Yeah, I think so. Obviously the weekend crowd is a better bet, but I think they liked it fine. But, I have to say, I never in my life thought I'd hear you pop off a Britney Spears song." He grimaced. I laughed.

"Yeah, me either. We'll catch you Friday."

"Later, kid." I put the empty glass on the bar, and grabbed my babies, ready to head out.


"Hey." I was surprised to see Dagny standing at the end of the bar. "What are you doing here? Where's everyone else?" I looked over her shoulder trying to see if any of her friends were sitting at their table.

"Nope, just me." She smiled, taking Melo from me. Gladly I relinquished half of my load.

"Why?" We started to head out the door into the cool night.

"Miss one of Casually In Debt's performances? I don't think so." She smiled and winked. I felt like I was flying.

"Really? You just came to see us play?"

"Well, actually more to hear you sing." She looked a bit shy, surprising me all the more. We finally reached my car, and she helped me load my babies in the trunk.

"That's really sweet." I turned to her, completely flattered.

"Well, hey." She shuffled her feet. "Oh, um, do you have plans now?" I shook my head.


"Cool, well earlier today I made some homemade potato soup. Want some?" My mouth was beginning to water just at the idea of it. Dagny smiled as she could see my jaw already starting to work. "It's really yummy." She enticed even more.

"Oh, okay." I grinned, and we headed for Freud.

"So how are classes going? It sucks not being able to see you much anymore." She turned to look at me briefly before turning her eyes back to the road.

"I know. I have to admit, um, I miss you." She smiled warmly, reached over to rub my arm.

"Me, too, Chase. Hey, isn't that your friend over there?" I turned to look at the park to the right as we passed. Sitting on a park bench, not far off the road, sat a couple who appeared to be making out. It was Carrie and the guy she had had in her room the night I had gone to talk with her. He slid his hand up her leg, under her skirt, she stopped his hand, but kept kissing him. I turned away, disgusted.

"Yeah. That was my friend." I said quietly, ashamed that Dagny had seen that.

"Have you seen or talked to her lately?" Dagny asked, her voice quiet, sad. I shook my head. "I'm sorry, hon." I shrugged.


I was quiet the rest of the short drive to Dagny's apartment, my thoughts solely on Carrie. I had noticed a liquor bottle on the bench next to the guy. What was she doing? I felt my eyes stinging as tears built up behind them, trying valiantly to push them away. I didn't need to cry, nor did I want to. It was her life, right?

"Come on in." Dagny unlocked and opened her door, letting me in first. She flicked on the overhead light and I headed straight for the couch, this apartment almost like a second home to me after all the time I'd spent here during Christmas vacation.

Dagny sat next to me.

"Here, lean forward." I did. She put her hands on my shoulder, began to work the tight muscles there. "God, you're so tense, Chase. Want to talk about..."

I exploded.

"I mean, we've been best friends since we were two years old, Dag. Two!" I held up two fingers to emphasize my point. "And never in nearly seventeen years have we gone a day without seeing each other, and definitely not without talking on the phone." I swiped an impatient hand across my eyes as I felt the stinging from earlier coming back. "We didn't even see each other on Christmas! Didn't that bother her, Dag? Didn't it?"

"I don't know, hon," she answered, still working magic hands on my back and shoulders.

"I mean, how can she let this happen? We started partying together in high school, nearly got kicked out as I told you before, but then I slowed down. I did!" I put my hand on my chest. "Why can't she? Why can't she grow up and see what she's doing to so many people? She's hurting not only me, her parents, her grades and chance at college, bur herself. Mostly herself. She is going to end up pregnant, or get into some kind of accident, or worse. God, she's a goddamn alcoholic at eighteen. She turns nineteen the day after I do, Dag. In three weeks. That's seventeen years of friendship down the drain," I snapped my fingers. "Just like that." I pulled away from my friend and turned to face her. "What do I do? How can I save her?" I pleaded.

"I don't know, Chase. There just may be no way for you to. She's on her own self-destructive path right now, hon, and only she can stop it." She placed her hand on my knee. I loved the contact, needing to feel connected to someone. Connected to Dagny.

"But, isn't there something I can say? Maybe someone I can talk to?" I ran a hand through my hair, pushing it back from my face before I gathered it into a ponytail.

"Well, you could talk to her advisor, I suppose, or even her parents." Dagny shrugged. "What do you think? Would she be receptive to something like that?"

"I just don't know anymore, you know? She is totally a different person than when we started here."

"So are you, Chase." I ended my tirade when she said that, just staring at her. Had I changed?

"Why can't she change again?" I said, my voice pitifully quiet, when I felt the stinging become far too much for me to handle, and it bled out my eyes, releasing the pent up pain from nearly five months of a slow, painful wedge that had inched it's way between my best friend and I. I was feeling the cut now.

I lunged into Dagny's arms as the sobs burst from me, erupting from my chest with vicious strength.

"Shh, baby. It's okay." I could hear Dagny's soothing voice from somewhere above me as I let myself go, somehow allowing myself to reveal a most inner part of myself to Dagny, knowing that my secrets were safe with her.

Dagny held me, her arms strong and comforting around me as she gently rocked me, petting my back, brushing hair that was sticking to my tear-streaked face. I was amazed that I didn't feel alone anymore.

An hour or so later I stood at the door, a Tupperware dish of potato soup in my hand. I looked at Dagny, my eyes red and swollen. I felt a little awkward, but didn't feel ashamed, which was shocking to me. I hated to cry in front of people. I hated to cry at all.

"Thanks, Dag." I said quietly, holding the cold dish of soup against my chest. "I really appreciate it." I looked up at her shyly.

"No problem. You can have my homemade soup anytime." She smiled, winked. I grinned.

"Yeah. Well, I'm going to go. I'm beat."

"I bet. You take care, and if you need anything you let me know, alright?" I nodded, holding my free arm out for a hug. Dagny stepped into it, wrapping her arms around my neck, squeezing me. We stayed like that for a moment, neither moving, almost not breathing.

"I'll see you in the morning, Chase." Dagny smiled as she pulled away, gently patting my shoulder. "Sleep well."

"Thanks." I took one last look, I left the apartment.

* * *

I couldn't hit the pillow fast enough for my eyes to slam shut, game over. It had been after one in the morning when I had finally gotten to bed, and not two hours later when I heard voices in the room.

I opened an eyes, my back toward the room, so I listened.

"Please, I need to talk to Chase." The voice was low, but obviously very upset.

"Hang on." I heard foot falls then felt Natalie's hands on my back. "Chase, some girl's at the door for you. I think it's your friend, Carrie." Both eyes flew open, and I turned over to look up at my roommate. Her long hair was a mess, and she looked about to fall asleep on her feet. Looking back at the door I could see Carrie in the hall. As soon as I saw her face, I shot out of bed, headed to the door. Her heavy eye make-up was all over her face, as well as her lipstick, which she wiped at with her hand as I watched.

I barely noticed Natalie staring as I hurried out to my friend.

"Carrie?" her head jerked up, her eyes wide, almost wild. As soon as she saw me she broke into tears.

"I'm sorry to come here, Chase, I know it's late, I didn't know where to go,"

"It's okay. Come on." I closed our dorm door, looking up and down the hall, trying to decide what to do, where to take her. Spotting the bathroom door, I grabbed her arm, lead her toward it, hurrying to a shower stall, pulling the curtain closed around us. I looked at her, trying to figure out what the hell had happened. Her make-up was indeed smeared all over her face, but as my eyes trailed down her body I saw that her dress was torn in several places, and she was dirty. A wave a nausea flooded through my body, but I had to hold it together. "What happened?"

Carrie looked down, leaning back against the tiled wall, she took a deep breath, her hands playing with a fringed edge on her dress. Finally garnering enough courage, she looked up at me.

"I was raped." She said quietly, then quickly looked down again. I had noticed that there was some blood mixed in with her lipstick at the right corner of her lip.

"The guy you were with on the park bench?" I asked, just as quietly. Her head jerked up.

"You saw us?" I nodded. She swallowed hard, her eyes beginning to fill as they looked everywhere but at me. "I didn't mean for it to happen, Chase. I, we were just kissing, and he started to try things, you know, and I told him no, threw his hand off my leg, I didn't want him that way. I just wanted to have some fun, you know?" She looked at me, her eyes full of pleading, begging for my understanding. "I didn't want this." Her voice broke, and so did she. I wrapped my arms around her heaving body, my eyes squeezed closed as I fought my own emotions.

"You have got to go to a doctor, Car," I whispered.

"No. I can't," she sobbed, grabbing me painfully tight. "I'm sorry, Chase. I didn't want to disappoint you. I didn't have anywhere else to go." Her cries echoed throughout the bathroom, and I sucked in a breath as I heard the heavy bathroom door squeak open. Carrie lifted her head, biting her lip to try and keep her tears in check until the most unwelcome girl left. We listened to the stall door open, shut, and the lock slide into place, then the agonizingly long peeing session.

"God, finish already," I nearly growled. Carrie, under control, fell into me again, her head resting on my shoulder as she clutched at my shirt. The girl sat there for a minute waiting for I don't want to know what, when finally she flushed the toilet and left. I let out a breath, and gently pushed my friend away. "Carrie, you have to get checked. If nothing else, they can give you a morning after pill. Please? I'm begging you."

"No, Chase. I can't." She began to cry again. "I don't know what to do." I hugged her, staring up at the shower head, praying to its chrome brilliance for guidance. Dagny. She'd know what to do.

"Carrie, listen to me for a second. Do you remember my friend Dagny?" She nodded against my neck, calming a bit. "Let me call her. She'll know what to do, okay?" She pulled away from me, shaking her head.

"No! She's a teacher, Chase. She'll turn me in."

"No, I swear to you, she won't. She's one of the kindest people I know, Car. She'll know what to do, I promise." She stared at me, dark eyes so tired, worn out. Finally, reluctantly, she nodded. "Do you have your cell?" Again she nodded and handed me her purse. I dug through it, finding a rolled up joint and a travel-size bottle of Jack Daniels. "Carrie," I whispered, pocketing both. Feeling the smooth plastic of my friend's phone against my fingers, I pulled it out and dialed Dagny's number. It rang three times, and I was worried she wouldn't hear it.

"Hello?" came a barely intelligible voice.


"Chase?" Her voice sobered immediately. "What is it? What time is it?"

"It's really late. Put it this way, we go swimming in three hours." I could barely force a smile out. "Dag, I need you here now. Please."

"Are you okay, hon?" She was awake now. I could almost imagine her sitting up in bed, already scanning her room for clothes to throw on.

"Well, define okay. Please, Dag. Just come." I looked at my friend who had curled herself up into a little ball in the corner of the shower stall.

"Be there in five minutes." The phone went dead in my hand. I clicked it off, sticking it with Carrie's other goodies, and knelt down to her.

"She's on her way, Car. She can help."

"I'm sorry, Chase." Carrie looked up at me with sad eyes, fresh tears waiting to fall. "I'm so ashamed." I gathered her in my arms, rocked her gently.

"We'll work it out, Car. We always have." I kissed the top of her messy, dirty hair. "We have to go, Carrie. We'll meet her downstairs, okay?" She nodded. I helped her stand as she was not steady on her feet at all. We headed back to my room where I grabbed a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt. We then headed out, my arm around her waist and me playing Cloak and Dagger around every corner, making sure no one was there until we reached the cool night air.

"Do you hate me, Chase?" I looked at my friend. She looked so dejected, like she was resigned to the fact that I did. I smiled, as reassuring as I could and shook my head.

"I could never hate you, Carrie. You're my best friend." Crying again, she threw herself at me, sobbing against me for different reasons now. I could hear the relief in it as opposed to the devastation from before.

"I love you, Chase."

"I love you, too."

True to her word, within a few minutes, I saw Freud taking a corner into the parking lot at a ridiculous speed. The little SUV pulled up beside us, and Dagny was out in a flash, running around the front to the sidewalk and bench where we were. She was dressed in a pair of black soccer shorts, tennis shoes with no socks and a sweatshirt, hair hidden under a baseball cap.

"What happened?" She went immediately to Carrie, kneeling in front of her, looking up into the tortured face. "Oh, honey." She looked up at me with questions in her eyes.

"She was raped." I said, my voice low, doing my damnedest to hold it together. She nodded as if she had guessed as much. I stood from the bench, allowing Dagny to take my place and talk some sense into her.

"Carrie, honey, do you hurt anywhere?" Dagny put her hand on my friend's hand that rested in her lap. Carrie nodded. "There may be some damage, hon. We really need to get that looked at." She stared into Carrie's eyes to make sure she had her attention. "By a doctor, Carrie. He may have torn you, okay? If you don't get that fixed up there could be some more problems. Also the doctor can give you a pill to prevent pregnancy." I watched how tender Dagny was with her, stunned anew at what an incredible person Dagny really was. "Will you let us take you, hon?"

"I don't want to get in trouble," Carrie whispered.

"You won't honey, the bastard who did this to you, will. They will want to know his name, okay? Will you do this for me, Carrie? For Chase?" She looked up at me for a second, our eyes meeting, both filled with worry and both scared for Carrie. Dagny looked back at Carrie, pleading with her to let us take care of her.

As I watched them my mind raced back to earlier times, happier times with me and Carrie. I saw us together at five years old, playing in my mom's flower bed, throwing dark, rich potting soil around until we were both covered head to toe, our eyes the only thing visible on our faces. Next came my tenth birthday when I got my first BMX dirt bike, silver and blue just like Carrie's; we rode all day and all night, as far as our mothers would let us go. Then when I fell off my bike at thirteen, skinning my knee and Carrie taking me home, me riding on her handlebars, nearly dumping me into my father's car once she turned into the driveway. Getting drunk for the first time together at sixteen, and finding out we had both been accepted at UA.

What went wrong?

"Okay." Carrie whispered, clutching Dagny's hands tight. "Will you guys stay with me?"

"The entire time, won't we, Chase?"


"Okay. I'll do it."

Carrie filled out all the appropriate forms, then was taken into a little examination cubicle where neither Dagny or I were allowed to go. I tried, nearly getting thrown out of the hospital, wanting to stay with my friend. Finally resigning myself to the ER waiting room with Dagny, I paced back and forth as she sat, legs crossed, looking the picture of calm, but I knew better. The toe of her left tennis shoe was tapping non-stop on the white tile, and she kept sucking her bottom lip into her mouth only to let it go seconds later.

I didn't know what to say, wondering what was going through her head. I felt very protective of Carrie right now, like a mother bear and her cub. I knew Dagny wouldn't say anything, more than likely feeling much the same way I did, but I was ready all the same.

"Are you okay, hon?" I turned, looked at her. She beckoned me over with her hand. "Why don't you sit, Chase? Come here." I did as I was told, plopped down in the black vinyl chair next to Dagny's. My head seemed to weigh a ton all the sudden, and it found its way onto her shoulder. I felt an arm come around my shoulder, pulling me closer.

"Yeah. I'll live. I just keep thinking about all the times when we were kids." I smiled. "God, we were evil together, constantly getting into something, some kind of trouble." I sat up, my mind focusing on the memory, but my hand straying to Dagny's, needing to still feel the warmth of her skin. "One time we got home from school before my mom did, and we found a bag of marshmallows that I knew were to be saved for a fruit salad my mom was going to make," I chuckled. "We grabbed a candle from the table and lit it, now keep in mind we're like eleven. We lit it, stuck those big, fat marshmallows on the end of dinner knives, and roasted them. We made the biggest mess." Dagny broke into laughter, and I quickly followed her. "My mom nearly killed us over that one."

"What did your mom do?"

"She grounded me for a month, though she only made me stay grounded for about a week, and I had to buy her a new bag of marshmallows." I shook my head, the smile still on my face. "We used to steal Carla's lunch money all the time, right out of her backpack. She had no idea. That lasted for about a year until she finally caught on. And they say she's the smart one?" I grinned. "What do they know."

The sliding doors opened, a female police officer walking through. She headed straight for the ER doors, disappearing through. Part of me wondered if she was here for Carrie. I looked at Dagny. By the look on her face, I figured she was thinking the same thing.

"How long does this stuff usually take?" She shook her head.

"I really don't know." She looked at me, her eyes sad.

"You don't have to stick around, Dag. It's so late, and I know you have such busy days. Really, we can-"

"There is no way in hell I'm leaving you, Chase." Her look was stern, telling me not to ask again. I smiled.

"Okay. Just giving you an out."

"Well, I don't want one, but I do want a Coke." She indicated the machine near the door. "Want one?" I nodded. "Okay. Be right back." She patted my hand, walked over to it, a few minutes later bringing two cans back. I opened and drank from mine, more for something to do and get my mind off this than being thirsty.

We stayed like this for another half hour, neither of us speaking, my head on her shoulder again. Finally the doors opened, and the female police officer, joined by a woman in scrubs and a white lab coat came out.

"Chase Marin?" They walked up to us, the only people in the waiting room. I stood, Dagny by my side. "Hello. I'm officer Campbell, and this is Dr. Williams. We examined Carrie."

"How is she?" I asked.

"She's alright, I suppose. As well as can be expected. She was given a thorough examination by Dr. Williams and myself."

"Was there any damage?" Dagny asked, holding my hand a bit tighter as we waited for the answer. The doctor nodded.

"Yes, there was a bit, but nothing serious. I put in two stitches, and it should heal up just fine. Physically there wasn't much going on, except of course for the usual bruising, small cuts here and there."

"It's the mental and emotional, though," the officer finished. "She's really going to need you guys." She looked from one of us to the other. "She will go through some depression, nightmares, that sort of thing. She has opted to press charges, and that will be another ordeal for her."

"What can we do to help her?" the officer looked at Dagny.

"Just be there for her. She probably shouldn't be alone tonight."

"She was given the morning after pill, and that shouldn't have any affects that are too serious," the doctor said. "Blood work was performed, however she will need to come back in about two weeks to see the results. Often it takes a while for things to show up in the system."

"Um, you mean like diseases?" I asked, feeling sick. The doctor nodded. "Oh, god." Dagny's hand tightened around mine.

"Any more questions?" We both shook our heads. "Okay, well, Chase, she's asking for you." The doctor smiled at us, and headed back through the double doors, the officer leaving the ER.

I followed the doctor, clothes in hand, my stomach still churning. Only one person could see a patient at a time, so Dagny went to get her car and pull it up to the curb for us. I took a deep breath as I got closer to cubicle number 33. Quietly sliding the curtain aside, I saw Carrie sitting on the side of the narrow bed wearing a hospital gown. She looked up, relief shining in her eyes when she saw it was me. They had washed her face, attended to the cut at her mouth. She was pale, looked so tired.

"Hey." I said, at a loss for words. She gave me a weak smile. "Are you ready to go?"

"Yeah. I don't want to be alone, Chase." Her voice was quiet, hoarse.

"I know. We're going to Dagny's place. Is that okay? I can't take you back to my room with Natalie there, and you've got Rachel in your room." She nodded. "Good. Here, here's some clothes for you to change into."

"Thanks." She took them, staring down at them, but not moving.

"Are you okay, Car?" She looked up at me, reached her hand out to me. I took it, it was cold and clammy. I wondered if she was in shock. "Can I give you a hug?"

"Please?" I took the few steps that separated us, and enfolded her in my embrace, wanting to take her inside me and protect her, save her. She took a deep breath, releasing it in a shaky sigh.

"Are you okay?" I asked while in the hug. I felt her nod against my chest.

"I want a shower." I smiled.

* * *

It was after five by time we reached Dagny's apartment. She had demanded that Carrie take her bed, and I join her.

"You can't leave her alone tonight, Chase." Dagny explained as Carrie took a shower. "She needs you."

"God, I don't want to kick you out of your bed, Dag. We're already intruding-"

"Don't ever think that, Chase. You are always welcome here, and Carrie is, too. Especially after this. Really, do it. Please?" I sighed resignation.

"Okay." I was so tired, sleeping on my feet. Carrie got out of the shower, the towel wrapped tightly around her body, her arms over her chest.

"I want to go to bed," she muttered.

"Okay. Come on." I put my hand on her shoulder, lead her to Dagny's bedroom. I looked over my shoulder at our hostess. Dag was standing by the couch, a pile of sheets and blanket in hand for her make-shift bed. She smiled, nodding encouragement. "Goodnight."

"Night, Chase."

* * *

My head lifted slightly from the pillow, my nose leading the way. Waffles? Have I died and gone to Heaven? My eyes cracked open, feeling like they're filled with sand. I glanced at the alarm clock on the side table to see it was after ten. Five hours of sleep, had worse, but I felt even more tired as I was so emotionally drained. I turned to look at my friend, she was still asleep. Last night had been rough, Carrie's sleep very fitful, restless. She had cried out once and I had wondered if it had been from a nightmare or from pain. She had been in my arms most of the night.

I slowly, quietly got myself out of the bed, grabbing my jeans off the floor, having only slept in a tee and underwear. I could barely hear the clanking of dishes in the kitchen, and made my way out to it.

Sure enough, Dagny was standing at the counter, her hand on her hip the other on the top of the waffle maker, waiting for it to finish.

"Hey." I said quietly. She looked at me over her shoulder, smiled. She looked just as bad as I felt.

"Hey. How did it go? Is she awake?" I shook my head.

"It was okay, I guess. I think she had a lot of bad dreams, but other than that, she slept for the most part." I grabbed the carafe of fresh coffee from the coffee maker, and poured myself a cup.

"How are you doing?" I looked at her, shrugged.

"I'm fine. Why?" she turned to me, her head slightly cocked to the side.

"Chase, you witnessed the results of a brutal attack on your best friend. That's sure to cause some problems, affect you deeply."

"I don't need a psychiatrist, Dag." I glared at her. I didn't want to be bothered. I was fine. She was taken aback, nodding and looking back at the waffle maker. I sighed, feeling horrible. What had I done? "I'm sorry." I took a couple steps toward her, not sure what to do or say. "I'm really sorry." I set the cup down, my head hanging.

"It's okay, Chase. I won't push." I felt a hand on my head, fingers running through my hair, leaned in a little toward her, wanting a hug but not quite knowing how to ask. She got the picture, and her arms slid around my neck. She rubbed my back, I buried my face in her neck, inhaling the smell that was Dagny. She slowly ran her hand up my back to my neck, resting her fingers on the warm skin there. I didn't want to part, didn't want to move from that spot, ever. I knew I had to, though, so reluctantly I moved away, looking into her eyes to see if she was still hurt or mad with me. I can't stand the thought of her being either. She smiled, and it reached her eyes. We were fine. I smiled back.

"Breakfast is ready. Do you think we should wake Carrie?" I glanced down at the waffle maker, then out toward the closed bedroom door.

"I don't know. Maybe?" I looked at her, unsure. Our question was answered when the door opened, and Carrie stumbled out, still dressed in the sweats and sweatshirt from last night. She didn't look at us as she made her way over to the bathroom.

"We should try and keep her busy today. How is your schedule today?" I looked at the clock on the stove.

"Um, well I should be in Biology right now." She nodded.

"Yeah, I understand that."

"You're right, though. We can't leave her. Shopping? Don't most girls like that?" I drew my brows as I thought. Dagny chuckled.

"Yeah, I think most do." She nudged my arm, turning to breakfast, serving it up.

* * *

The mall was fairly busy to my surprise, as it was a Thursday afternoon, and I figured most people either had work or school. Guess I was wrong.

Carrie had been pretty blasé about the idea of taking her out, not really caring much, but Dagny and I knew if she sat around, she'd do nothing but think about it all day. I had been surprised, actually. I figured she would have fought us on wanting to go out in public.

She walked around in a pair of borrowed jeans of Dagny's, the same sweatshirt, with her shoulders hunched over, hands buried in her pockets, almost looking painfully stiff. She looked around, looking at every person, especially guy, that we passed. She looked like a rabbit caught in a trap, Dagny and I either side of her to try and give her support.

"Where do you want to go, hon?" Dagny asked, looking around for some sort of place that might be of interest to Carrie. Carrie shrugged.

"I don't care." Dagny looked at me behind my friend, her eyes filled with questions. I shrugged.

"How about See's Chocolates?" I pointed, knowing that was Carrie's weak spot. She glanced over at it, shrugging again. "Come on." I tugged at her arm, Dagny following.

"Oh, it smells so good in here." We looked in the cases at the delectable treats. I was thoroughly stuffed from the waffles Dagny had made, but this could make my stomach growl no matter what. I was pleased to see that Carrie was actually looking around, seeing what was available.

"Can I help you?" the sales girl said, smiling. "Some samples, maybe?"

"Oh, look at that, Car?" I pointed out a tray of dark chocolate wedges, her favorite. "Can we get a sample of these, please?" The girl handed my friend a little paper cup with some of the dark chocolate in it. Carrie took it with a small thank you, looked at it for a moment before nibbling a tiny piece. I smiled, glad to see that she wasn't too gone. I looked at Carrie's face to see how the bruising was doing. She looked like she'd been in a small scrape, but nothing major. She was still pale, which made the bruises stand out more, but her mouth looked better, the cut being much smaller around her mouth than I had originally thought. She would be okay.

Carrie seemed to perk up a bit after leaving See's. We walked around, looking at clothes, books and music. Dagny bought her the newest CD by Pink, which made her a very happy camper. She actually looked like she was enjoying herself, only getting quiet off and on. We took her to lunch later on in the day, then settled in for a movie, a light-hearted comedy that she laughed at. Dagny and I breathed a sigh of relief a little too soon.

We walked down the main hallway of the mall, talking and chatting when I saw a group of high school-aged guys walking toward us. I didn't think anything of it, but apparently it got Carrie thinking, and thinking got Carrie upset and scared.

She stopped dead in her tracks, staring wide-eyed at the guys, most ignoring us, a few checking us out, but they said nothing.

"I can't, I can't," she said, pulling away from us. Her body had gotten tense as she started to get into that fight or flight mode.

"Carrie? What is it? What's wrong? Was it those guys?" I looked back at them to see if they were doing anything, but they were headed into the music store, not giving us another glance.

"Did you know them, Carrie?" Dagny asked, just as concerned and confused as I was. Carrie shook her head vigorously, really starting to get upset now.

"I think they reminded her of, well," I trailed off, looking at Dagny. She nodded understanding, and we lead Carrie to a bench in a secluded nook. I gently pushed her down to sit, sitting close by, my hands on her back. Dagny sat on the other side, caressing her leg.

"It's okay, Car. It's okay." She leaned into me for a moment, quiet. I could feel her hot breath against my neck, then wetness. She was crying, silent and soft, just letting the tears come. I pulled her close, gently rocking her. "I know, Car. It's okay."

Dagny watched us, just lending support with her touch, sensing that this was a moment between Carrie and I. Carrie's soft crying quickly turned into sobs that racked her entire body, pushing her against my neck even harder. I closed my eyes, my heart aching for my friend, knowing there was nothing I could do to help her but be there for her. My heart was heavy, the sting behind my eyes from yesterday returning, but I swallowed it down. She needed me to be strong, not fall apart on her.

"I didn't mean for this to happen, Chase." She whispered through her cries. "I really didn't. I didn't think it could." I nodded, still rubbing her back.

"I know, Car."

"I'm sorry. I never want to disappoint you." She took a deep breath, trying to get herself under control. She pulled away a little, looking at me. I tried to clear my face, knowing she didn't need to see how bothered by this I really was, nor did I want her to see the fact that deep down I really was disappointed. I knew that what had happened last night was not her fault, nor did she ask for or deserve it. But if she could have just calmed down her reckless lifestyle, taken some responsibility for her action. "I don't know what to do." She pulled a Kleenex out of her purse, wiped at her eyes and blew her nose.

"Do you want to talk to your parents, Car?" I asked gently. She looked at me for a moment, then sighed.

"I don't know. Part of me does, but another part of me is so ashamed."

"Don't be, Carrie. This was not your fault." Dagny said, rubbing Carrie's knee. "It was that sick bastard who did this, not you. Carrie looked at Dagny, her eyes like a child, wanting so much to believe.

"I just don't know."

"Well, if you do, I'll be there for you, okay?" She looked at me, a small smile lining her lips, then she leaned in to me for a hug, reaching her other arm out to Dagny, pulling her into our little hug.

* * *

Dagny dropped us off at Carrie's dorm, as she wanted to try a night by herself. I decided I needed to talk to Carrie's roommate, Rachel. They were pretty good friends, and since they lived together, Rachel may really be able to do her some good.

"Give me a call later, Chase," Dagny said from her car. I smiled.

"Thanks, Dag. You've been wonderful." She smiled.

"Anytime." Carrie walked up to the open driver's side window, leaned in to give Dagny a hug.

"Thank you, Dagny," she said quietly. Dagny talked to her for a moment, their voices low until finally Carrie nodded, stepped away from the SUV. With a final wave, Dagny drove away. I watched until her lights disappeared, already missing her.

"Come on, you." We walked into the building, hurrying to Carrie's room. "Do you still want me to drive you home this weekend, Car?" she nodded, turned to me.

"Yeah. I think they should know, especially when it all comes down and we end up in court."

"I think it's smart, Car. Your folks have a right to know, plus they could probably really help you right now." She nodded.

"Yeah. I think so, too. My father is going to fucking freak." She grinned weakly, as did I.

"This is true."

Carrie's roommate, Rachel, was sitting at her desk studying when Carrie unlocked the room door. She glanced at us, smiled, then turned back to her books. It wasn't uncommon for Carrie to not show up for days at a time, so Rachel wasn't really that worried nor surprised.

"Get some sleep, Car." I took my friend in my arms and hugged her close, wanting to try and convey all the love and friendship I had for her in that hug. She nodded after we parted, began to change out of my sweats.

"Rachel?" The girl turned to look at me, looking almost irritated that I would actually interrupt her studies. "Would you come out here with me?" I headed toward the door. Carrie and I had talked ahead of time, and she had asked me if I'd talk to her roommate for her. Though they were friends, she couldn't bring herself to talk about it, certainly not to explain it.

Rachel stood from the desk, looking over at Carrie in confusion, but met me in the hall.

"What's going on?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest after pushing strands of brown behind her ear.

"Something happened to Carrie last night. Now, you've got to promise to keep this to yourself, Rachel. It could really be detrimental if it got out, okay?" She nodded, her face serious, eyes riveted on me. "Last night Carrie went out with a guy, and well, things got out of control. She was raped." Rachel's eyes got big, tears automatically welling up within them.

"No," she breathed, bringing her hands to her mouth. I nodded.

"She's really going to need you, Rachel. Can you be there for her?" Shaking herself out of her shock, she nodded.

"Yeah. Why isn't she staying with you?"

"Well, she wanted to come back, try and get her life back, you know? I think it's good, but she knows she can come to me anytime, for anything. Can she count on you, too?"

"Oh, yeah. Definitely. God, I'm so sorry." She glanced at the door to the room she shared with my friend, then looked at me with a sigh. "Thanks for telling me, Chase. I'll do what I can."

"Thanks. I better get going. See you." I smiled, turned to head out of the hall.

I was a bit nervous as I walked to my own building, looking around frequently as the night shadows hid the campus, the overhead lights just not able to dispel all of them. I tried to put myself in Carrie's shoes, what had she felt? What had gone through her head as that son of a bitch did that to her? Had she just tried to lose herself? Did she feel anything physically? I would never know the answer to these questions as I'd never ask. It wasn't my place.

Soon the familiar lights and sights of my building were right in front of me, and I felt I could actually breathe a sigh of relief. I just wanted to be surrounded by lights and familiarity. Part of me wished I was back at Dagny's apartment. I felt so safe with her.

The room was empty as Natalie was at a revival for her bible study, and part of me was sad, yet another part of me was glad. I knew she'd want answers, understandably so; after all, my best friend came knocking at our door at three in the morning, make-up smeared, broken and bruised. I just didn't want to have to be the bearer anymore, I didn't want to have to explain. Why couldn't someone explain things to me?

I flopped down my bed, back against the wall, and sighed. I felt strange, like I was so heavy, yet filled with something that was expanding and needed to be released. I saw the cordless phone sitting in its charger on the desk and reached over to grab it. The seven numbers I dialed came as easy as my own.


"Hey." I reclined on the bed, then turned on my side not a little ball.

"Hi. Some day, huh?" I smiled into the phone.

"Yeah. How are you?"

"I'm okay, I think. You?" I thought for a moment, how was I?

"I don't know, Dag. I feel so strange, like something's squeezing my middle. My heart hurts."

"Are you okay, hon?" I heard her voice lower to an almost intimate level, and I could almost feel her presence in the room with me. I needed her to be, but couldn't dare ask for that. She had done too much already, given too much.

"I don't know." Was all I could respond with. To my horror my voice had betrayed me on that last word, it coming out shaky and unsure.


"Yeah?" I whispered, feeling that stinging again. No, no, no.

"I'm coming over."

"No, Dag." The dam was finally breaking, and I could feel my emotions that had been pent up for two days come rushing through its damaged walls.

"Be right there." The phone was dead in my hand, and I hated that fact. Couldn't she take her phone with her and talk to me the entire way? I knew that was ridiculous, but I wished all the same.

I was trying to get myself together again, swiped my hand across my eyes, trying to rub the tears out of my eyes to make them go away. It wasn't working that great, but I was calmer now. Until I heard the knock on the door, that is. The lump rose into my throat again, this time it wouldn't be swallowed.

I walked to the door and let her in. Dagny, dressed in the same jeans and shirt from today, walked in, her hand on my arm.

"Hey, you." She said quietly. She got a little wave from me as I didn't trust my voice. "How are you?" I shrugged, headed toward my bed where I plopped down, back against the wall. She sat next to me, her hand still on my arm.

"Why?" I looked at her, the word just blurting from my mouth like water from a spring, unstoppable but necessary. Dagny knew what I was talking about, and she shrugged.

"I don't know, Chase. Sometimes things happen that we just don't understand, but I do believe everything happens for a reason." I nodded.

"I understand what you mean." My voice was shaky again, and Dagny's hand moved from my arm to my shoulder, squeezing the skin and muscle there. I reveled in the contact, so glad she was there. "Want to hear something horrible?" I turned to her, almost afraid to admit my innermost feelings, but deep down I knew Dagny would not judge me for them.

"Sure." She smiled encouragement.

"Part of me almost feels relieved now." She looked confused, so I went on to explain. "I mean, I never wanted this to happen to Carrie, it's horrible. That guy should really pay for this, but at the same time, I think this made Carrie finally hit rock bottom. I think she needed to maybe do that to see where she was headed." I looked up at her with sad eyes. "Does that make me a total bitch?" She smiled and shook her head.

"No, Chase. It mean that you care about her and want the best for her. It's also a sign of tough love."

"Yeah, I'd say." I smiled weakly.

"Sometimes people need that. You know the whole, can't appreciate anything if it's all given to you? This is a little different, but along the same lines."

"Yeah." I hiccupped as a sob tried to escape, but I held it back.

"Don't stop yourself from crying, Chase. It's very healthy, you know."

"Yeah." The hiccup again.

"Come here." Dagny tugged gently on my neck until I fell over sideways, my head laying in her lap. I felt the tears tickle my nose as they slid down my face, gathering into a little wet spot on Dagny's jeans. She didn't seem to mind. I felt my chest heave as her fingers played in my hair, smoothing it back from my face only to return to caress my skin.

My shoulders shook as the sobs got closer together and a bit louder, a little more violent. I cried for Carrie, her loss of any innocence she had left, the violation of her body and emotions. I cried for our friendship, seemingly lost to me, only now did I feel that there may be some sort of hope, but I was afraid to dream. I cried for myself, so lost in a world of turmoil, my emotions a tempest of confusion inside me. The woman who held me now was part of that, never knowing she comforted her prey, not knowing of its hunger. It was my hunger, my default. Was I defective?

"Shh, Chase. It's okay, hon." Dagny whispered in my ear over and over again as I continued to cry, letting go of so many years of pain and sadness. I cried for my friend, I cried for myself, and I cried for what would never be. Yeah, some day, alright.

Part 7

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