Only For You(4)By: Genna Rulon
“I’ve done nothing for you that you haven’t or wouldn’t do for me. You have been my shoulder to lean on enough times—it was my turn. I loved her too—I lost her too. Helping you helped me heal, and it was the last gift I could give in honor of the love she gave me.”
We were both orphans in our own way; the only true ‘family’ either of us could rely on was one another. I prayed I never had the occasion to repay Sam, but I would be there to hold her together if ever the need arose.
I broke free of my melancholy and walked to my dresser to find a black sports bra, which I wrestled on. The battle was close, but I triumphed. I quickly dressed in my workout clothes and sneakers, ready to spar.
In the kitchen, I refilled my mug with the rich black coffee I loved. Armed with my tonic, I headed to the bathroom to finish my preparations. I raked a brush through my medium blonde locks, taming the tangles, and then wrangled the mass into a convenient ponytail. I glanced in the mirror again and noticed my pale skin-tone. Late-January in New York didn’t lend itself to a golden tan.
“All done, Sam,” I called while heading to the living room.
In return, Sam bellowed, “I need ten more minutes.”
I sank into the couch and turned on the news. The anchor was reporting on the escalating assaults at Hensley University over the past sixteen months. Joining mid-broadcast I missed the details, but assumed there was another attack last night. Spring semester at Hensley began today, offering a smorgasbord of potential victims to prey upon.
The attacks began in October of my junior year. Initially they were believed to be isolated incidents of abuse, but as the frequency and severity of the attacks escalated, the connection became evident. What began as bruised faces became broken arms, which became internal injuries, and finally savage beatings with debilitating consequences. There had been no confirmation that victims had been sexually assaulted, but many assumed including the media outlets. All of the victims were female and students at Hensley, but no other commonality among the victims had been identified; the police suspected they were selected at random. Of the thirteen women attacked, three victims sustained injuries so severe they would suffer permanent physical disabilities. I was certain all thirteen would bear permanent psychological scars, even after the physical injuries healed.
Hensley University’s enrollment consisted of over 6,000 undergrads, to whom they were obligated to provide a safe environment, conducive to learning. In response to the attacks, Hensley significantly increased security and pledged cooperation with the police task force. Hensley was harshly criticized for their passive response after each incident. In the last year, 37 percent of the female students had transferred due to parental concern, and new student enrollment was down 68 percent. Understandably, Hensley was desperate, needing the violence to cease and the panic to recede. The self-defense seminar was their latest attempt to appease concerned students and parents, and mitigate the current public relations nightmare. Specifically developed for Hensley, the seminar was supposed to ensure our safety, or at least foster that illusion.
Suddenly, I was tackled to the floor under Sam’s dead weight.
“Ha! You totally need this class,” she smirked, “you didn’t even see me coming! Didn’t even protect yourself.”
“Come on ninja girl,” I rolled the petite body off me and onto the floor, “let’s get this over with.”
“There’s the enthusiasm I was looking for,” she deadpanned while rising from her prone position.
Sam headed to the door until I called out, “Wait a minute.” I scampered into the kitchen and grabbed the travel mug from the dishwasher, filling it with the remains of the pot.
“Okay, now I’m really ready to go.”
Snatching my purse from the kitchen table, I headed for the door. Sam eyed the coffee in my hands dubiously.
“If you wet yourself when I take you down because of your excessive coffee consumption, you will regret it,” Sam warned.
I pretended to ponder for a moment. “I hadn’t considered that method of self-defense…it has potential.”
We walked to my blue “hand-me-down” Honda with the rising sun at our backs. I opened my door and tugged the purse from my shoulder to my lap, rummaging for the keys.