"PLEASE, LET ME GO . . ."
She heard their harsh laughter and knew her desperate pleas were falling on deaf ears. Why were they doing this to her? Didn't they know she recognized them, could point a finger at them when it was all over? Did they honestly think she was going to be quiet about what they were doing to her after it was all said and done?
"Take off her pants," one of them said. "I want to get into it."
"Didn't think Chloe was your type," another one said. "Isn't she too prissy for you?"
"Yeah, but I've got to try it just once. C'mon, take off her pants so I can stick it to her."
Only ten minutes ago, Chloe had been walking quickly across the sports field at Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain. She didn't normally take the shortcut, but was in a hurry after attending a tutoring session with her math teacher. As she neared the edge of the field, she was struck on the back of the head. She went blank after that, only to find herself lying on her back under the concrete bleachers when she came to.
The ground was soft underneath her head. Days of snow melted into vast puddles, each one oozing with slippery, cold mud. The vast eave under the bleachers was a known hangout of the seamier crowd, a private haven for those who smoked cigarettes and hardcore students who liked to take a hit of one substance or another between classes.
She felt someone touching the zipper of her black jeans. Chloe tried to squirm away, but the pounding in her head took her breath away. She heard quiet laughter as the zipper came down, exposing her flesh to the cold elements. Someone held both her legs in the air while another pulled off her jeans, followed by the removal of her lacy, pink underwear.
"Look at that, will you. She shaves down there. Kind of looks ugly, doesn't it?"
"Please, let me go . . ." she repeated, the whimper in her voice causing more laughter.
Someone spread her legs apart, leaving her bare feet planted in the mud. She felt a finger push its way inside her, forcing her entire body to go rigid with shock. She opened her eyes then, her gaze taking in the grinning face of Robbie Barrington.
Robbie was a well-known troublemaker at Curley K-8 Middle School. Although highly intelligent, he rarely applied himself. His grades were barely passable, just adequate to keep him in school. Short and stocky, he was not physically imposing but possessed an intense personality that intimidated most of his classmates. Although his character was questionable, Robbie did have the ability to read people, giving him insight into their insecurities, which he used to full advantage. He was particularly contemptuous of female students, regarding them as nothing more than ineffectual entities to be used for sexual pleasure and little else. He was extroverted and flashy, with long, dyed-purple hair and twelve gold rings pinned to his left earlobe. He typically wore a black leather jacket and tight blue jeans, which hugged his torso and thighs amidst a bicycle chain looped from his belt to pants pocket.
"I want to be the first," Robbie said thickly, his telltale watery eyes and slurred speech telling her he was stoned. "Then the rest of you can have a piece of it."
"No," Chloe cried weakly. "Please, Robbie, don't do this."
He ignored her as he pushed his finger in and out of her unwilling, dry flesh. He soon clambered on top of her inert form, taking off his pants and sinking himself inside her. He rammed back and forth, his breath coming jagged in her ear. "I thought you Goth chicks were supposed to be lively in bed," he gasped. "C'mon, bitch, help me out here."
Chloe closed her eyes, not knowing what else to do but endure the ordeal. Her head was swimming from the blow, and she was helpless against the animal pounding into her body. She felt each painful thrust, and heard cheers from the others who exhorted Robbie to greater heights.
He pushed aside the lapels of her black leather jacket, and then ripped her pink blouse down the front. He pinched her bare nipples as he rammed in and out of her, causing her to cry out in pain.
Then Robbie was off her, to be replaced by someone else. Chloe opened her eyes again, looking in horror upon Caleb Forster. The eighth-grader was thin and pimply with greasy black hair. His brown eyes were alight with excitement as he slid into her, his tiny member causing scant discomfort as he moved back and forth. He finished quickly.
Then she saw Ryan Reese, a hugely fat seventh-grader with thin blond hair and puckered pink lips. He loomed overhead, a sloppy leer on his repulsive face. Before he could slide into her, Chloe heard a female voice boom underneath the bleachers:
"Make one more move, Reese, and I'll chop your tiny little dick into minuscule pieces."
Chloe's mind was in a fog as Ryan moved away from her. She glanced toward the other end of the bleachers and saw the source of the threatening voice. She was deflated when she saw Kate Grady staring them down, the angelic face framed by long, blonde hair. Kate's head was slightly lowered, but her blazing blue eyes were leveled at the three teenage boys who bravely returned her glare.
"Get the hell out of here," Robbie snarled, although he took no steps toward Kate.
"This is none of your business. Unless you want to join Chloe in the mud, I suggest you move along."
Kate did not respond. Instead, she continued to stand and stare, her head lowered but her eyes level, glowering with a simmering rage. The three boys went quiet, their recess highs suddenly dissipating as they began to openly regard her with fear.
"Push me and see what it gets you," Kate said in a near-whisper. Her hands clenched at her sides, flexing open and closed as she kept her eyes level on the boys, never flinching.
Caleb was the first to relent, fleeing to the opposite side of the bleachers and disappearing around the bend. Ryan quickly followed him, his tubby form slipping and sliding in the mud.
Only Robbie stood his ground. "I'm not afraid of you," he challenged, although the bravado did not quite reach the tone of his voice. "Go ahead, you dumb bitch, make my day."
"Push me and see what it gets you," Kate repeated without changing her tenor.
The silence underneath the bleachers continued for another minute before Robbie stepped back, eyes wide and his face pinched with fear.
"Who do you think you are?" he spat out angrily.
"I can guarantee I'm no friend to you," the soft voice came again. "Now get out of here before you push me too far."
With one last defiant glare, Robbie made a beeline for the other end of the bleachers and vanished.
Chloe sat up in the mud, tears flowing freely from her eyes. She looked to Kate, her voice a broken whisper. "Thank you, thank you . . ."
Kate came to her, kneeling in the mud to gather Chloe's jeans and blouse. She helped Chloe shrug into her blouse.
"How did you manage to scare them off like that?" Chloe continued as Kate began pulling on her jeans.
"You need to tell the police what happened," Kate murmured without answering the question. "I'll be more than happy to be a witness. Those little bastards shouldn't be allowed to get away with hurting you."
Chloe stared at Kate. "How can I ever thank you? If you hadn't come along, God only knows what would have happened."
"You can thank me by telling your story to the police," Kate replied evenly as she stood. She held out her hand to help Chloe to her feet. "Promise me, you won't let them get away with this."
Chloe nodded dumbly, still in shock. "Yes, I'll tell the police. You'll help me? Be a witness?"
Kate hesitated briefly, meeting Chloe's eyes. "I'll be a witness," she agreed. "You know where to find me."
Before Chloe could utter another word, Kate turned and hurried away. She disappeared around the end of the bleachers, leaving Chloe open-mouthed with shock.