Written by Luan Goldie
This week’s short story is The Best Days by Luan Goldie. It explores one woman’s memories of an old colleague when shocking allegations make the news.
When the story breaks, I send you a text.
– Are you seeing this?
The message is delivered yet not seen.
The last time we messaged was sixteen months ago, triggered by a song from back then, remade into something we both hated. There were a couple of texts back and forth, the usual glorifying of the good old days, which you called ‘the best days of our lives’.
I lie on the sofa listening as my phone vibrates against the floorboards. No matter who they’re from, the messages fall into one of three camps, mostly: Outrage (another one, are we even surprised?), Support (must be tough for you hearing all this) and Gentle Prodding (did you ever see anything?).
Deep down I wonder if everyone is a little bit in the third camp because we all know how this works; we’ve seen it play out many times over the last few years. One woman speaks, then another, then another, until it feels as if every woman has an account.
But I don’t.
Is that why you’re not messaging me back?
Your reply comes later than night. Mostly ramblings about how happy those days were, the fun we had, the impossibility of so much freedom. But what about him, I ask. What about all these women and what they’re saying happened. You message back.
– I never felt unsafe with him
I ask if you recognised the voice of the blackened silhouette in the documentary. You must remember her, I say. Because no known voice can be hidden by decades and a false name.
– Yeah. I remember that girl
That girl, now woman, who we spent so much time with back then. That girl, now mother, whose surname I don’t recall. That girl, that victim.
I remember her too and I remember… we never liked her.
We had been desperate to be part of it. We worked the shit jobs and never complained because with every passing day it felt as if we were getting closer to the centre of that circle, to him, the star. Then, that girl arrived from nowhere and was suddenly catapulted to the heart of it all.
You message again.
– I thought they were a couple. Now she’s saying he raped her
I went to that girl’s flat once. A dark brown room far away from home. I was probably asking questions, digging to find out her origin story. I was probably friendly and that’s when she told me, sheepishly, that they were seeing each other. Seeing each other. Is that what she said? Was that even a phrase back then? Or had she said she was his girlfriend. Or that they liked each other. I can’t remember the words, but I remember the gist of it, the realisation of, ‘Oh, she’s one of his girls.’
My husband asks, ‘What did your mum think back then? Of you hanging around with an older man?’
My mum has not messaged me since the news broke. I wonder if it’s because she hasn’t seen it or perhaps she isn’t comfortable in asking if I was ever touched by him.
‘My mum had no reason not to trust him. None of us did.’
Thinking back, she was probably relieved when the man, who was her age, drove me home at night. If I had called my mum back then to say I was stepping into the passenger seat of his car, just the two of us, she would have probably slept easier than if I said I was getting on a night bus.
– Some situations were uncomfortable, but we knew how to handle ourselves
The story falls from the headlines and timelines. Everyone moves on and I stay, sifting through over-exposed photos of our impossibly young faces and listening to old songs until the weight of them depresses me.
I find a group photo with him in the middle. His arm is around the waist of our friend from college. She’s not smiling. But photos from back then are full of people caught at the wrong moment. I try to remember why she never came out with us again. I prompt you to think about this too. To think about all the things I have been obsessing over, the lone car rides and parties and girls and comments. I see you’re typing, then stop and delete, then type again and the reply simply says:
– Best days of our lives.
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