Short Story: The Shame


I remember when I was a little girl I dreamt of fairies and unicorns, and all things pretty. But now that I am older I realise that none of that is real, and now everything I dream of is ghastly, with ugly streaks of pain, fear, and most of all, shame. If only I’d opened my eyes sooner – they would not be haunted by this madness. But the damage is done and now I will have to live with the shame of it for the rest of my life.

I was naive, that’s all I can tell you. My parents took no notice of me so when it happened I didn’t understand, until the clawing at my face and screaming happened. My counsellor doesn’t understand me; it’s as if, at times, I’m speaking a different language.

“Why?”

“I don’t know why.”

That’s the main conversation we have.

Walking over to the reception now, the familiar fear and shame rise up to the surface, only to drift back down again as the receptionist smiles at me with assurance. Kindness. I’ve never been kind I realise, and the shame resurfaces immediately. And as I walk through that door, the feeling only intensifies. I see her sat with him. Oh the pain I’ve caused her. I nearly slam the door shut and run out, but I know I can’t avoid her forever so instead I close it behind me and sit down, completing the triangle. I look from my counsellor to her and back again, over and over, until she opens her mouth to speak. My eyes rest shamefully on her.

“Charlene. Why?”

I want to answer but my tears prevent me. I loved her daughter really, but I did it anyway. And as I sob, to my surprise she shifts her chair towards me so that she can fold me in her arms. And over my gulps and hiccoughs, I can hear her sniffing quietly, which only makes me think again of what I have done, causing me to burst into fresh tears.

What feels like a lifetime afterwards we finally break apart, and I pull myself together with such a force that the waterworks come to an abrupt end. I look at the poor woman, studying her mascara stained cheeks, and the little smile she gives me. And as I study it, I notice that the smile doesn’t just contain the sorrow and grief I had expected for the loss of her beloved Kate, but also something else.

Sympathy.

For me.

And so the story spills: the party, the drinking, the jealousy, the rooftop, the fight, the fall. And so now, although I still feel terrible, although my mind is still guilt-ridden...

Although I still carry that shame, I now know that what my counsellor constantly tells me is true, and I’m not alone. I will always feel that shame, but the support I will be receiving will help me through it. And so, as I walk out that door, as I walk past that reception and back home, for the first time in six months I do something I never thought to be possible again:

I smile.

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