“Hospital canteens!” Janet prodded her fork at an unappetising-looking piece of fried fish.

“They don't improve, do they?” “This one doesn't, for sure” Lily answered. “It's certainly not the food that's making you glow.” “Whatever do you mean?” “Oh, come off it, Janet! You've met somebody. You've just got that faraway blissful look about you. Everyone's noticed.” The tall brunette smiled. “I hoped it didn't show.” “No rule again being happy. So what's he like? Anyone I know?” “No. He doesn't work at the hospital.” Janet looked flustered. “He's younger than me. A dish. And he just...he makes me so happy. After I split with Jeff, I forgot what it was like to be wanted. This boy just came along and.. I don't know where it's going, he's younger as I said, but it's so good I don't care! I feel like some soppy teenager saying this, but I can't stop thinking about him, and when we're together, it's like I'm so excited I'm going to burst.” She stopped, reached across the table, and grabbed Lily's hand. “I'm so sorry, Lil. I'm going on and on about myself, and you're..I mean what happened...” The staff nurse smiled. “It's OK. I'm pleased for you. You're a good person, you deserve happiness. I was raped and the little bastard got away with it. I've dealt with it as best I can. It doesn't mean everyone else's life ends.” “Nor yours, Lily! Why don't you think about having some counselling?” “What, have some middle class poser with a beard tell me how I should feel? No, I'm coming through it. I've got my friends and family. Now I just need more time. It's been a year, nearly. I'm getting my life back on track.” “Yeah, of course. Look, I've got to get back to the ward. Catch you later. How are you liking A and E by the way?” “It's interesting. But my secondment there ends next week, so tell the girls on the ward to get those “Welcome Back” cards ready!” As Janet walked away, Lily frowned. Her friend's new happiness had reminded her of Paul. Their love had seemed strong. But then Martin Bromley had exploded a bomb of sex inside her, and her relationship had collapsed in the blast as if it were made of playing cards. Paul had tried to be supportive, but it was hopeless. Their lovemaking, so good before, was now a fiasco which he could not even complete. She had been taken by another, and the giving of her body could never be the same. That the taking had been accomplished not by wooing, but by trickery and force, somehow only made Paul's affection more meaningless. An arrogant young demigod had ravished her, and then decided to keep her as his possession. It was sheer luck, not Paul or Lily, that prevented him. And her flesh had responded, rebelliously, betraying both her and the man she had loved.

Hard pointed nipples and a wet vagina were the Quisling, the Benedict Arnold, of her love for Paul. Two months after the trial, he had moved back down south. They had agreed it would be better if he didn't write. There had been nobody since. Celibacy seemed a belated assertion of self-determination. But increasingly, her body was again rebelling against her principles. She threw herself into her work, but was aware of being sexually frustrated. She'd thought of moving down south herself, making a fresh start. But then Martin Bromley would have driven her away from her home town, scored another victory. For a time she lived back at home with her parents and sisters, but the house was too small, and seeing her every day just reminded her parents – especially her father - of what had happened. Stress was the last thing he needed with his ruined lungs. So she had found a tiny apartment that she could just afford on one wage. It was the opposite side of the hospital to the college, so as a rule she had no occasion to ride through the college grounds. She had considered doing so, out of defiance, but grim realism had prevailed. The five youths had overpowered her once already, and they would not have grown weaker. The thought of again falling into his hands was one that threatened her sanity. And she imagined a Pemberton at a second trial. Despite your alleged outrage at previous events, Miss Harris, you insisted on trespassing onto the college property yet again! At best your action was ill-advised, at worse provocative. But perhaps that was your intention. Perhaps Martin was not alone in feeling aggrieved that your abduction – or perhaps I should say elopement – was interrupted? In the weeks after the trial, she had imagined killing both Pemberton and Martin. But slowly, her fury had given way to a sullen, pragmatic acceptance of reality. The law would not spare her as it had Martin. Taking action herself would be difficult, and again there was the all-too-real risk of capture. One could hire people who would hurt or maim or even kill for a fee, but she couldn't afford those fees, and anyway she would be an obvious suspect if any harm befell her ravisher or his defender. For a time she became a cause celebre among the townspeople, a focus for their constant resentment of the college. One night, a gang of local youths had actually invaded the school grounds to seek revenge. But they had been defeated in a savage brawl – Martin fighting effectively, in the thick of it – and over time, the mood in the town reverted to its usual vague, unfocused grumbling. In the hospital, despite her concentration on work, her career had stalled. She was no longer spoken of as a rising star; she had been passed over for promotion. A year earlier, managers had said she was assertive but popular and fair; now it was

agreed that her attitude wasn't quite right. She was well aware that some of her colleagues had little sympathy for her. The public believed that nurses were unselfish people who enjoyed total comradeship. The truth was often different: many nurses gossiped and schemed against their colleagues. Lily's honesty and straightforwardness had ruffled some feathers, and she knew there were those who believed that she had merely received her come-comeuppance, been put in her place. As she walked from the canteen, faces turned to look at her, and not all of them were friendly. She stared back challengingly, and they looked away.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful