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5 800121 656897


That Skirt’s A Whore Helen J. Reynolds

Lincoln


Copyright Š 2017 by Helen J. Reynolds All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal. First Printing: 2017 ISBN 5-800121-656897 Fresh Page University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool Lincoln, Lincolnshire LN6 7TS UK http://hjreynolds3.wixsite.com/freshpage

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Published works by the same author:

R.I.B On Mondays I Eat Brain (and go insane) Half-Slice, No Fat

Acknowledgements Writers’ Forum magazine The Playmakers Script Company

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“I’d been taught that women get raped for a reason. Their skirt is too short, their smile too wide, their breath smelled of alcohol… I was guilty of all those things, but the only thing that could have stopped me from being raped that night was the man who raped me, if he had stopped himself.” Thordis Elva: Our Story of Rape and Reconciliation – Ted Talk, 2016.

This is a work of fiction inspired by real life stories that have been shared online and in the news.

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That Skirt’s A Whore

The camera was rolling. Jamie took a quick look at his notes, but all the facts he’d researched blurred in front of him, it was only the headlines he could think of, things everyone knew. He couldn’t even remember how he’d got this interview. A story like this wasn’t exactly freshman material, yet here he was, in the apartment of Nathan Beck. Just mentioning that name got a lot of different sorts riled up. “The legend of third year” no-one knew whether he’d graduate or do time. Everyone had an opinion though.

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‘This for AF news?’ Nathan’s best friend, Pete, asked. ‘You want to be part of the interview?’ ‘Me? I weren’t there that night or anything but I was at the trial. Spoke under oath and all that.’ Pete came with a beer and spread out on the sofa next to Nathan. ‘You okay with that?’ Jamie asked. Nathan was a good-looking guy, clean-shaven, dark hair and eyes, the sort that liked the camera. He had a nice apartment too, not the typical student set-up, his place was modern and the only mess seemed to come from his friend, whose bottle cap clinked as it fell on the wooden floor. The location wasn’t bad either, a five-minute walk to the infamous club, Rox Beat. Jamie and Karl, his cameraman, already had plans to get some soundbites there later that night. In fact, it was Karl that Nathan was paying attention to, watching him test the angles and adjusting the blinds for the light. Jamie asked him, again, if he was comfortable with the changes.

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Nathan nodded. The interview was all about him and he seemed to enjoy the fuss that came with it. Karl gave him the okay. Good to go, Jamie pushed his glasses up, and hid his notes under his seat. He looked to camera. ‘This

is

Jamie

Mayturn,

reporting

for

Alternative Facts news. Today, I’m interviewing a student whose been the subject of mass protest, as well

as

some

overwhelming

support.

He’s

considered dropping out and the dean almost gave in to pressure, largely from feminist groups, that called to kick him out. Still here, still studying, it’s Nathan Beck.’ Karl zoomed out for a wide shot. ‘Thanks for having us, Nathan.’ ‘And I’m Pete. Pete Callows.’ ‘Yes, also here is Nathan’s friend and ally at the trial.’ He took a calming breath and adopted a more relaxed position. ‘Let me start by saying that you’re in your last year studying law. Has what’s happened put you off from the courts, or does it make you even more eager to become qualified?’ 7


‘More, I think.’ Nathan had a deep, confident voice. He stroked the armrest and didn’t seem to notice the camera anymore as he leaned forward. ‘The law can be annoying to study because it’s so complicated, but I got to see how the process works, as a defendant myself, so I have first-hand, true faith in the system.’ ‘The verdict was given three weeks ago. You must have been pretty worried leading up to it. How did you get through that time? Did you still have exams or assignments to do?’ ‘Sure, but uni’s been really great with all that, and I want to correct you: the dean never considered kicking me out. I’ve spoken with Ian and he always knew I was innocent. It’s only idiots that don’t know me who say these things.’ ‘Right. Pete, you even spoke for Nathan in the trial. You were sure of his innocence too?’ ‘Yeah,’ he swallowed back a burp, ‘I was a character witness for him. We’ve been on nights out and we were in student halls so I’ve lived with him, you know. I knew he wouldn’t do anything like that.’ 8


‘You weren’t there that night though?’ He shrugged. ‘Doesn’t matter.’ ‘Were you there on the night back in 2015, when the first accusation happened?’ ‘That was dropped.’ Nathan pulled a face and moved back. ‘Ask anyone about Mila and they’ll tell you that was a load of bull.’ Pete laughed. ‘Yeah, we all knew her as the Bicycle. When she started saying that shit, man, we had your back,’ he said, slapping a hand on Nathan’s shoulder. ‘We’d all had a ride or two on the Bicycle. I mean she could have said that about me or anyone of us. If you’d met her, she might have made claims against you, man, think of it like that. Pretty dark what she did.’ ‘She left university after the police decided to drop the case. Have either of you heard from her since?’ ‘No,’ Nathan said. ‘I doubt she’s any different though. She was always out drinking and who knows what else. She didn’t even know. I would feel sorry for her but… I mean, it’s not like she would’ve 9


graduated anyway. Then after she lied about me, noone wanted to know her.’ ‘Okay, so the first accusation was dropped. Why do you think the police took seriously Sarah Mitchum’s claim?’ Nathan became energised, shaking his head. ‘That’s what really frustrates me about the whole thing. Just because I’d been accused before, they took it serious from the start. It didn’t matter that the claims were fake last time, when you get marked, you get marked. I mean, obviously, this girl knew the police had talked to me before, everyone on campus knows about it. She probably thought she could get some attention making the same claims. You watch, the local press offers her a deal, she’ll be on page three. Just that type, you know. If I hadn’t had a mark against me, police would’ve turned her away, guarantee it.’ ‘Damn straight,’ Pete said. ‘I couldn’t believe it was happening again to my best bud. I mean, seriously, you have to see these girls on a night out. You know?’ 10


‘But you weren’t there that night. The night Sarah claimed Nathan took her outside Rox Beat, away from her friends, and brought her back here, where she alleged he raped her?’ ‘Right. But who goes to some guy’s place if they don’t want it? I mean it’s just stupid to say she weren’t interested in him. Calling it, what, rape, because she’s too drunk to remember? Give me a break. I’m friends with one of hers on Facebook,’ Pete said, getting his phone out. ‘There’s this picture with Sarah tagged in it from that night. You look at it and tell me she didn’t want my mate to buy her a drink? Give her some attention?’ He faced the phone toward the camera. On the screen was a group of four girls, all of them in short dresses posing in front of a mirror. It was captioned: The obligatory bathroom selfie! The girl on the far right was shorter than her friends with bleach blonde hair and was laughing, her eyes red and wide in the flash. Jamie turned back to Nathan. “What’s your memory from that night?” 11


Rox Beat, November 8th I remember a taxi driver yelling at me: No sick ones! I didn’t want to go home anyway. That would involve movement and I just wanted to sit on the curb and close my eyes. My feet ached from dancing all night, I’d taken my heels off after this song came on that got everyone going… It feels like a different night in my head. Mel getting me to do the routine to All the Single Ladies in bare feet. We went to the bar straight after for shots. That was when I met him. I think he was funny, or maybe it was just the tequila. Lick the salt, suck the lime, have a good time... I don’t know why I left the club but I think it was for air. He came with me and pulled back my hair

while

I

was

sick.

I

remember

feeling

embarrassed, and that he was so nice. Did I want to rest at his? He lived just up there in those flats and I could meet up with my friends when I was feeling better. I had three missed calls by then but I wasn’t looking at my phone, I was

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looking at the pavement trying not to throw up on it again. I liked his place. It was clean and I was a mess. He let me use his bathroom, drink some water, recover. I remember I couldn’t stop shaking and when I talked it came out like, ‘Th-Thank you. Th-Thanks, Nate.’ I got his name wrong. Probably the music had been too loud when he’d told me, or I thought he looked sexier as a Nate. When I was feeling better, and my head was clear, I thought I would go back to the club. The stamp was a bit faded on my hand but it was still there. I asked him if he thought I’d get in again. He never answered. After the interview was done, Nathan asked if they wanted to stay for a drink. There were more beers in the fridge and it was late enough that if they only stayed for an hour, they’d be in good time to grab something to eat before heading to the club. ‘Can I use your bathroom?’ Karl hadn’t packed away the equipment yet, just putting the 13


camera to charge and taking something from his bag. ‘Sure, it’s an en-suite, just through the door there,’ Nathan said. ‘Great. Don’t think we can stay for a drink though. I want to get the footage back to campus and pick up some more tapes. Jamie, can you load everything up?’ he asked. Karl had been in AF news longer than Jamie and was the senior of the two. Jamie shrugged. ‘Another time, guys. Thanks for today. We’ll give you a rough cut next week.’ The queue outside Rox Beat started to get heavy around 11pm. Karl had the handheld camera out, while Jamie stood on the other side of the partition asking the crowd questions. What are your thoughts about women walking home alone at night? Probably they shouldn’t? I mean there’s Uber, if they don’t have cash on them – Sam, 19. . 14


Yeah, or they could just crash at a mate’s. I know some girls that live ridiculous far – Jared, 20. What are some tactics of yours when you see a girl you like? (laughing) What’s my game? – Hugh, 22. We don’t have game. Ask Matt when he comes. He’ll be here, like, half an hour before it closes to pick up the girl trying for another drink, or the one still dancing after the lights come on – Lee, 22. What kind of attention do you not like on nights out? Slapping my arse. Or, that dancing behind me and then just grabbing me – Rachel, 19. The dancing behind thing is so annoying and weird. Like, seriously, do you guys just not know to give eye contact? – Elle, 18. Yeah, why don’t you drop all that bullshit and buy me a drink? – Nicole, 19. What kind of circumstances do you think could provoke rape?

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That’s a tough one, man. I don’t think it’s, uh, provokable, is that a thing? But, then, if you’re both absolutely smashed, you probably can’t make the right call... So maybe that could be when some could, you know, think it was rape? Because you’re having sex without the thinking part? – Evan, 20. Guys just don’t listen and think every girl is the same. We’re all in dresses, wearing heels and drinking so that makes us all sluts. They just need to talk to the girl. If she says fuck off, he should respect that – Lucy, 21. Well, I think some girls like to flirt a lot. They do things for attention. Don’t get me wrong, I respect women so if she’s not into me, I’m good at telling that. I just think, you know, like, a lot of my mates are bad at telling when to back off. So, when there are mixed signals, from both sides, you know? I mean, no guy comes out wanting to piss a girl off – Mike, 20.

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Nathan could see the line outside Rox Beat. Pete wanted to go out, some of their mates were already in town, but Nathan was still deciding. ‘We can go Wild-O or Matchbox?’ Pete suggested. ‘Yeah, maybe. I’ll grab a shower first anyway. You head out, I might catch-up later, yeah?’ ‘Alright, man. Hey, that interview was pretty dope. You’ll send me a link to the copy when you get it?’ Nathan laughed. It had been no coincidence Pete had showed up today with his hair gelled back and in a new Ted Baker shirt. ‘Sure. See you in a bit.’ Pete let himself out. Nathan swung back the last of his beer and cleared up the table. He wasn’t as sure about the interview as Pete. Jamie had seemed like a pretty solid guy but you could never tell how they’d edit things. He’d only agreed to do the interview on that account: that he would see the final version before it was released. He didn’t need more bad press.

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Nathan drew the curtains and switched the hallway light on. He wasn’t in the mood for a night out but maybe it was just what he needed. He headed to his bedroom to freshen up. Just before switching the light, he noticed something strange. He felt a cold panic as he looked around his room. Not a thing had been moved but there was a message. It was everywhere, staring back at him in glowing letters. That bastard. He remembered the cameraman had used his loo. He must have brought some neon fucking marker. It was there on his wardrobe. Over the headboard of his bed. God, on his laptop. His fucking gaming laptop. This was a violation. He was innocent. The court had declared him not guilty. It was just sex for godsake! He’d looked after her that night, he’d even waited for her to feel better before making his move…

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He stood in the dark room, the only real light coming from the streetlamp outside. The longer he stayed still, the darker everything became, until just the green blazing letters remained. Guilty Rapist She said no. Karl sat in the editing room the next day. There was plenty of footage to get through, but he ignored the new clips and opened up the file he’d shot a week before Nathan’s interview. Sarah Mitchum filled the frame. No make-up, her hair pulled back and wearing a baggy university hoodie. She’d had her sister there with her, fussing and telling Karl what he should and shouldn’t ask, but Sarah had wanted to do the interview alone. Really alone, just her in front of the camera. He hadn’t been sure what to make of that. It had seemed like an act to him. Knowing it was better to have something than nothing, he’d set up things up in her room and gave 19


her the list of questions, then he’d closed the door behind him. Even after the first viewing of the full two-hour footage she’d given him, he still hadn’t known who to believe. That was before. Since interviewing Nathan there was no longer any doubt in his mind, but he wanted to hear it again. He pressed play in the middle section: ‘…pulled back my hair while I was sick. I remember feeling embarrassed, and that he was so nice.’ It wasn’t the bit he was looking for. He skipped ahead. ‘…go out every night. Who cares if you’re hungover at your 9am lecture the next day? Then lunch at the pub, and out again in the evening. It’s a bubble. When he stopped me from leaving the room, I laughed. Of course he didn’t mean it. He was just being funny. Then he pushed me on the bed and I still didn’t believe what was happening. I’d never been stopped from doing anything. I remember 20


thinking that this wasn’t cool, that when he got off me, I would call him out for being a dick, but I didn’t really believe anything bad was going to happen. We were both drunk, he couldn’t know that I wasn’t playing along or how much he was hurting me. If he knew, he would stop. That’s what I thought, in my little bubble. It’s a head game when you realise you really can’t stop what’s happening. Something breaks inside. Maybe it was just shock but it was like there was this explosion in my head and I wasn’t me. When I accepted what was happening, and that it was going to last a long time, I remember staring down at the carpet. My chin was pressed hard on the mattress and I could see this stain, this greenish smudge that looked like it had been cleaned before - you could see this whole area, no bigger than a fist, was so much paler than the rest of the floor. Like it had been washed out from all the chemicals but the stain stuck in the fabric. Looking at it, I could hear that carpet sound of a brush being scrubbed over and over it. His place was so clean, 21


you know? But there was this spot that wouldn’t go away. I stared at it for I don’t know how long. Each time he moved me, I closed my eyes and I could still see it. It was so ugly.’ Karl paused the video. He hadn’t wanted to interview Nathan because he hadn’t been sure. Noone could be sure. She was drunk, by all accounts, and dressed up for attention that night. Who goes to some guy’s place if they don’t want it? He’d had to see for himself. Getting the fresher to interview him had been a good idea, it had put Nathan instantly at ease. They were welcomed and Karl had been able to look in the bedroom where he’d found the stain, exactly as she’d described, at the edge of the bed. Like dried vomit. He’d imagined staring down at it as she had done. For hours. He hadn’t planned on really using the marker, a part of him had still held judgement – a court had found him not guilty, after all… but being in that room, he knew.

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About the author Helen lives in Lincoln and is studying for a Masters in Creative Writing. She has a previous degree in Film with a background in script-writing. One of her shorts is available for hire from the Playmakers Script Company, and she is currently working on a YA fantasy novel. Previous shorts that have made it to publication, include a supernatural taking a satirical look at life after death, as well as a tale of regret with horror and surrealist tones. For these, and more of her stories, see her website: hjreynolds3.wixsite.com/freshpage

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That Skirt's A Whore  

A short story inspired by a news headline that "One third of Britons blame drunk women and short skirts for assaults".

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