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.I fall to the ground and before I can even understand what is happening to me, she jumps on top of me and starts thumping at my chest, my arms and my head.I can feel her hitting me, but nothing hurts so I think she can’t be hitting me very hard.I don’t try to hit her back, I just put my arms up to protect myself.I can hear her growling and grunting as her arms flay.Finally, she stops and I push up on one elbow to see Andrew holding her off the floor while she is still kicking and screaming.Though she struggles hard, Andrew holds her easily, and he looks at me and laughs like this is the funniest thing he has ever seen.‘Are you okay?’ I hear Harm say, and I feel him putting his hands into my armpits and lifting me onto my feet.Though I felt strangely calm during the attack, as soon as I feel Harm’s hands on me I get this great rush of grief and anger.The feeling seems to start in my chest and gather in my arms and when I push Harm away he falls back heavily and looks at me stunned.‘Don’t touch me,’ I say, and there are tears coming out of my eyes and I know my nose is frothing with snot but I don’t care.‘Don’t anyone fucking touch me,’ I say again and run through the house and down the street and past the oldies party and further still, until my face starts to ache, until my chest starts to ache and until my arms start to ache so much that I have to sit down.I lean up against a big tree trunk and slip into a hollow.I cry like a baby.***By the time Via arrives to pick me up, the oldies party has finished.There’s a dim light coming from one of the windows of the house.I imagine the old couple that live here are probably sipping hot chocolate in their pyjamas and discussing the highlights of their lovely party, oblivious to the angry Italian woman trying to crash down their gate and demanding to know who has left her niece standing alone on the road.Down the street, Harm’s party is still in full swing and I can see people milling around on the footpath laughing, clinking beer cans and sharing smokes.‘Don’t they have any sense?’ she says trying to push me aside to get through the gates.‘Look at those criminals down there,’ she says pointing back to Harm’s house.‘Imagine what could have happened to you!’‘Forget it, Via.Let’s just go home.’‘Rich bastards.They wouldn’t treat their own children like this.’‘It’s my fault.I left without telling anyone.’‘They should have been watching you! What is wrong with these people? You’d think old people like that would have more sense.’‘Please, Via.Can we just go home?’‘I am not letting them get away with this.’‘Please, Via.I’m hungry.’She stops pushing and looks at me.I try to keep my eyes hidden behind my fringe, as I am sure they must be swollen and red with crying.‘What’s wrong with your face?’ she says.‘Is this another one of your ugly jokes?’‘No,’ she says, gripping my chin and turning my face back and forth like she is seeing something new there.Her eyes narrow as she examines my features carefully and I wait nervously for her to notice a bruise or a scratch or something that will make her ask me more questions.She pulls my eyelids up to see inside.‘Are you on drugs?’‘What? No!’ I say, pulling her hand away.‘Are you feeling sick?’ she says, feeling my forehead for a temperature.‘I’m fine, Via.’‘No you’re not.Something is wrong with you, I can see it.’Her eyes fix on mine and I feel naked.Usually I would just look away, but there is something about how she is looking at me, and there is something about how I need her to be looking at me right now that makes me stay there and take it.After a moment, her expression softens and she takes my cheek gently in her palm.‘It can be hard to be young,’ she says.‘I’m just tired,’ I say but I can feel the tears welling.Via runs her fingers across my cheek so that my tears spill.She smiles sympathetically and slips her arms around my shoulders.‘You are a strong girl, just like your mother.Understand?’ She waits until I nod my head, then she squeezes me against her side and leads me back to the car.‘Let’s go home.I think you’ve had enough for one night.I’ll come back and deal with those bastards later.’ But when I look up at her in horror she smiles to let me know she is joking.Mum is waiting for us when we get home.It’s close to midnight but there’s a fresh pot of coffee and a selection of pastries on the table for our arrival.I want to go straight to bed but she looks so sad about this that I sit down at the table with her to make her happy.Having spent most of the night in the dark crying, I have to squint against the bright fluorescent light burning above us.‘How was the party? Was it lovely, Mira?’ she says, pushing the tray towards me and resting her head in her hands.She has her dreamy face on again, and I know what she wants to hear but I can’t give it to her.She is expecting wistful tales of easy laughter, budding romances and warm friendships.She is thinking about the day that photo was taken, with her friends at the seaside: her carefree youth, the best days of her life [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]