Early in the morning Vidanja stepped out of a cell and closed the door behind her. Her face was wet with tears and her body trembled slightly. She was so tired, physically and emotionally, and drained. Pablo Sanal, condemned by the nation of Karagad, was dead for his crimes against La Nacion. Those crimes included rape and made it especially difficult for Vidanja to deal with this reconciliation which was precisely why they had assigned her to this man. No testamiento was shielded from the horrors people could perpetrate on one another. Still somewhat dizzy from la torsion, she made her way to her apartment in what she thought of as the cloisters.
On the way home she reflected on what had happened. This was her first time following through with an execution alone and would be her first testimony tattoo that had text only she would wear. To this point she had been apprenticing and had always accompanied or been accompanied by another testamiento. When she’d finally been determined to have passed her apprenticeship and ready to become a full-fledged testamiento she was assigned to Sanal’s case. Ayudante Baron, who was still quite visible in Vidanja’s life, was pleased at her progress.
“You will do a fine job with Senor Sanal. He has forced himself on two women and threatened them. He is obviously not a threat now, but I realize it will be hard for you to feel compassion for him. This is why I chose you for him. You must learn to weep for every horror of a person who is in danger of having his name forgotten. No matter what anyone has done, even rape, your role is to bring them back to reconciliation with Karagad.”
Vidanja hadn’t realized at the time what a difficulty she would have. Pablo Sanal was a polite, well-spoken man who took her by surprise with his concern for her comfort. She had been lured by his manner into thinking that perhaps he had been mistaken for a much worse man than he was. She thought maybe he just wasn’t that bad.
She was wrong. He’d been reluctant to confess on her first few visits, perhaps out of some sense that she was an authority or that she was too delicate, unlike the women he’d raped. The women, he’d confessed (though she already knew) were young women who had volunteered to serve as prostitutes for a year. It was baffling to Vidanja how this man, a citizen of Karagad all his life, could honestly look down on these women as if they were somehow less than himself. His vehemence frightened her sometimes, along with his insistence that “they wanted it because they were offering themselves to everyone as if their bodies are worth nothing.”
“That’s their job, Pablo. Their bodies belong to La Nacion for the term of their servitude. They’re serving the people.”
“If they wanted to truly serve and be honored they would become an Ayudante like you, not a receptacle for the pleasures of every man who chooses to use them.”
She shook her head at the memory. Even to her it made perfect sense. For a term of a year at a time, young people of Karagad, male and female, could choose to become state prostitutes. They were true servants of the nation, servicing all who came to them. In this way every adult citizen could find comfort and companionship, whether they were simply lonely and needed release or disfigured from the increasingly hostile skirmishes with the Cari. All who served bodily in this way were rewarded well, with a guaranteed home and land in the city’s walls and anyone who bore a child and gave it to Karagad was given even more status. Those could hope to become Orgullosos.
With all of this still in her mind Vidanja stepped into her apartment and shut the door behind her, heading for her bedroom to remove the oppressive red robe that signified her station. Just as she was hanging it on a peg she heard a noise which frightened her and the robe fell to the floor when she jump-turned.
“Delfin! What are you doing here?” Her heart thumped hard in her chest and she glared at him. “What are you doing in my bed?”
“I just came to be with you, Vidanja. I knew that today would be your first reconciliation alone and I’ve seen how hard it is on some people. There was really no way for me to get a message to you that I would be here so I just waited. I didn’t realize it would be so late so I just stretched out for a moment and it turned into a few hours.” On the bed was one of the books she kept for writing in. She had developed, over the years, a habit for telling Delfin stories as a means of practicing for her job, and he’d encouraged her to write them down. A flush of embarrassment and irritation came over her when she realized that he was reading the book where she’d written the stories she never told Delfin. The ones where she revealed her feelings for him. Her fatigue was instantly forgotten and she rushed over to snatch up the book.
Delfin got to it first and held it out of her reach, grinning maniacally. “Oh this has been very interesting reading, Vidanja. Why haven’t you ever told me these stories? Don’t you think I’ll like them?”
Unsure how to respond she stood there mutely, face burning and eyes tearing. She swallowed hard and stared at the book, unable to look at him. “Can I please have it back?”
“Have what back?”
“Oh this book here? Only if you tell me what’s in it.”
“Delfin I’ve had a really hard day and I just want my book, please. I can’t believe you just came in here and read it without my permission!” She still didn’t look him in the face.
“And I can’t believe you’ve been writing stories like this and not telling me. Little Vidanja’s all grown up and has womanly thoughts now. Very womanly if this book is anything to go by.” He snickered softly and Vidanja clenched her teeth to avoid bursting into tears in front of him. For a moment Delfin seemed to hold his cruel, arrogant pose but he suddenly softened. He took her hand and pulled her to a seat next to him on the bed, placing the book in her lap and wrapping an arm around her. Offering no resistance, she leaned against him, her head on his shoulder. His fingers slipped through her hair and he began to massage the back of her neck. This small measure of kindness broke down her defenses and she finally wept.
Delfin took the book from her and sat it aside, drawing both his arms around her and holding her as she cried and told him about the execution of Pablo Sanal. Delfin’s gentle hands rubbed her back and arm, occasionally taking one of her own hands. She felt safe and relieved, and found that she was glad he’d waited for her because she did need the company. At last she sighed and looked up at him, grateful.
“Thank you” she said softly, resting her head on his chest. His hand made its way up her back to the back of her neck again, massaging once more.
“You’re always welcome, Vidanja.” His voice was calm and kind. Feeling once again like she might be able to go to sleep, she began to sit up so she could wish him a good night and prepare for bed. Instead, the hand on the back of her neck tightened.
“Ow, you’re squeezing too hard.”
His other hand found its way from her arm to her breasts and she was taken aback by his brazen groping. “Stop!”
“Don’t pretend you don’t want this. I read what you wrote.” Shame overtook Vidanja and she froze for a moment, unable to respond.
“I didn’t write this!” She tried again to push away from him but his fingers made their way into her hair, curling into the tendrils while his other hand insinuated itself underneath her clothing and against her naked skin. She blinked hard and tried to push his hand away only to feel his fingers tighten in her hair.
“I came to be here for you, Vidanja. Then I read your stories and I realized how much you need me.” He brushed his nose against hers and a wave of warmth went through her. She shook her head weakly, remembering the event two years before in his room at the creche.
“Not like this, Delfin. Those are just stories. I didn’t mean for…this…” she trailed off because she was caught up in sensations she had never quite experienced before and she didn’t know what to do. She whimpered.
Delfin kissed the corner of her mouth and peered into her eyes, his guileless face at odds with what he was doing to her. “You need this. You need someone to be with you in the closest way, Vidanja. Don’t you want someone to show you that it doesn’t have to be like it was for those women? I can…” his lips traveled to the sensitive skin below her jaw “give you release. You’ll feel so much better. Look how worked up you are. Let me help you.”
It just didn’t feel like he was helping her, but his hands kept moving and so did his lips and while she was feebly protesting her clothing was coming off her body. She was so scared of what would happen but she didn’t want to push him away because she did need somebody right now and if she had to be comforted by someone she would want it to be him. His hands left her and, dazed, she looked about vaguely, hearing the slip of clothing from skin that wasn’t hers. She had lifted her head when her returned to the bed, his knees pressing her own apart. Afraid of what was happening, she raised her hands to his arms to pull herself up but she only succeeded in pulling him down atop her. The next moments were staccato: she felt heat and hardness at her thighs and his teeth and breath on her neck and she couldn’t get comfortable but it didn’t matter because the next thing she felt was pain so sharp that her cry would have pierced the night had he not covered her mouth with his.
When it was all over Delfin sat on the edge of the bed in silence. Vidanja was curled behind him, staring at his back and wondering what to say. The pain had subsided into a dull ache in her center and she kept a forearm pressed to her belly as if that would ease the pain. She felt awkward and didn’t know what to say, and she opened her mouth a few times before actually speaking.
“Is it supposed to hurt like that?”
“It didn’t hurt for me. You’ll get used to it.” He rose and began putting on his clothes. Through the window the first signs of dawn made themselves apparent. “I’ve got to get home.” He departed, leaving the naked girl to blow out the candle on her nightstand. Despite her earlier exhaustion, it took her a long time to get to sleep.