It’s an agonizing twenty-four minutes later when my phone lights up.
I scramble to my feet and swing open the door. Arms wrap around me and my face is pressed against something soft. I just start crying and crying and shaking and crying.
“Lily,” he whispers. I’ve never heard my name spoken so sadly. He urges me to look up at him. His blue eyes scroll over my face, and I see it happen. I watch the concern vanish as he darts his head up to the apartment door. “Is he still in there?”
I can feel the rage come off of him and he starts to step toward the apartment door. I grab his jacket in my fists. “No. Please, Atlas. I just want to leave.”
I see the pain roll over him as he pauses, struggling to decide whether to listen to me or bust through the door. He eventually turns away from the door and wraps his arms around me. He helps me to the elevator and then through the lobby. By some miracle, we only run into one person and he’s on his phone and facing the other direction.
By the time we make it to the parking garage, I start to feel dizzy again. I tell him to slow down, and then I feel his arm wrap under my knees as he picks me up. Then we’re in the car. Then the car is moving.
I know I need stitches.
I know he’s taking me to the hospital.
But I have no idea why the next words out of my mouth are, “Don’t take me to Mass General. Take me somewhere else.”
For whatever reason, I don’t want to risk the chance of running into any of Ryle’s colleagues. I hate him. I hate him in this moment more than I’ve ever hated my father. But concern for his career still somehow breaks through the hatred.
When I realize this, I hate myself just as much as I hate him.
Atlas is standing on the other side of the room. He hasn’t taken his eyes off me the entire time the nurse has been helping me. After taking a blood sample, she immediately returned and began to attend to my cut. She hasn’t asked me very many questions yet, but it’s obvious my injuries are the result of an attack. I can see the pitying look on her face as she cleans up blood from the bite mark left on my shoulder.
When she’s finished, she glances back at Atlas. She steps to the right, blocking his view of me as she turns and faces me again. “I need to ask you some personal questions. I’m going to ask him to leave the room, okay?”
It’s in that moment that I realize she thinks Atlas is the one who did these things to me. I immediately start to shake my head. “It wasn’t him,” I tell her. “Please don’t make him leave.”
Relief washes over her face. She nods her head and then pulls up a chair. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
I shake my head, because she can’t fix all the parts of me Ryle broke on the inside.
“Lily?” Her voice is gentle. “Were you raped?”
Tears fill my eyes and I see Atlas roll across the wall, pressing his forehead against it.
The nurse waits until I make eye contact with her again to continue speaking. “We have a certain examination for these situations. It’s called a SANE exam. It’s optional, of course, but I highly encourage it in your situation.”
“I wasn’t raped,” I say. “He didn’t . . .”
“Are you sure, Lily?” the nurse asks.
I nod. “I don’t want one.”
Atlas faces me again and I can see the pain in his expression as he steps forward. “Lily. You need this.” His eyes are pleading.
I shake my head again. “Atlas, I swear . . .” I squeeze my eyes shut and lower my head. “I’m not covering for him this time,” I whisper. “He tried, but then he stopped.”
“If you choose to press charges, you’ll need—”
“I don’t want the exam,” I say again, my voice firm.
There’s a knock on the door and a doctor enters, sparing me from more pleading looks from Atlas. The nurse gives the doctor a brief rundown of my injuries. She then steps aside as he examines my head and shoulder. He flashes a light into both of my eyes. He looks down at the paperwork again and says, “I’d like to rule out a concussion, but given your situation, I don’t want to administer a CT. We’d like to keep you for observation, instead.”
“Why don’t you want to administer a CT?” I ask him.
The doctor stands up. “We don’t like to perform X-rays on pregnant women unless it’s vital. We’ll monitor you for complications and if there are no further concerns, you’ll be free to go.”
I don’t hear anything beyond that.
The pressure begins to build in my head. My heart. My stomach. I grip the edges of the exam table I’m sitting on and I stare at the floor until they both leave the room.
When the door closes behind them, I sit, suspended in frozen silence. I see Atlas move closer. His feet are almost touching mine. His fingers brush lightly over my back. “Did you know?”
I release a quick breath, and then drag in more air. I start shaking my head, and when his arms come down around me, I cry harder than I knew my body was even capable of. He holds me the entire time I cry. He holds me through my hatred.
I did this to myself.
I allowed this to happen to me.
I am my mother.
“I want to leave,” I whisper.
Atlas pulls back. “They want to monitor you, Lily. I think you should stay.”
I look up at him and shake my head. “I need to get out of here. Please. I want to leave.”