Once and again it happened. And then once and again, over and over. For three years her innocence chipped away at. And she buried it in a place deep within herself. In an absence of light, where nothing grows. And she forgot. And she didn’t tell anyone. She became extra shy and extra kind. Because she wasn’t innocent and didn’t want anyone to know.
Once is all it takes to make a secret. She’s still an excellent secret keeper. A habit she cannot break.
Once, or twice at least he, this man in her neighborhood, told her she was special. Those were not the times he threatened to kill her if she told.
Once in a while, he touched her differently. These times it didn’t hurt, maybe even felt good. She didn’t understand. Was that all right? Was that why she went back? Was she too afraid to not go back? Because he said she had to come back. Did their secret make her feel special? A girl of nine? Well, just a little bit, yes.
Once a happy girl, she became withdrawn. And although she didn’t tell, it showed in pictures didn’t it? Her school pictures, her eyes growing distant, her young face, older now. She buried it, in that place deep within. In her thoughts. In her heart. All this, for a girl of nine.
Once he shared their secret, and her, with his friend. Then it was a secret of three, not two. And still, she didn’t tell. She was a good secret keeper.
Once, after turning twelve, she didn’t feel well – had cramps. Her first “woman” time, for this girl no longer nine, and a when he realized, he ended their time, but not their secret. The earlier threat became very strong then.
Once it was over, she went on. What else would a girl of twelve do? She was shy, she was kind and she could bury a secret in a place deep within herself. An absence of light, where nothing grows.
Once she began to remember, as an adult, it nearly broke her. How had she buried it in that dark place? One day at a time? One meeting at a time? All at once when it was done?
Once known, things are always there, her therapist told her. She hadn’t “forgotten”. She’d repressed the memories. Buried them, to protect herself, the best way a child knew how. Why remember now, she asked? Twenty years later? Touches, feelings, sights and smells, long better left buried? You’re strong enough to handle it now, he’d said. To grow past the girl stuck at nine.
Once upon a time there was a girl of nine. And she was shy, and she was kind, and she protected herself the best way she knew how.