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A Game I Never Should Have Played

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1.
Come on. I want to show you something.

I’m not stupid. I know what it means when a boy whispers those words in your ear. But I was curious. And maybe a little bit proud. Proud that Trevor had chosen me—a girl who was only in eighth grade. And black—real black. Not one of those mixed chicks with blue eyes and barely tanned skin.

Besides, I’d fooled around with boys before. On my own terms, of course. I like to be the one calling the shots. Maybe that’s what made Trevor so appealing. He wasn’t used to taking orders from a girl. I figured I could teach him a thing or two.

Pride goes before a fall. That’s what Gran used to say. I’m glad she’s not here to see me now.

We met by the lockers half an hour before the dance was supposed to end. Trevor waited until the chaperones were looking the other way, then he took my hand and led me down the dim hallway. I told myself to play it cool. Treat him like any other boy. The door was locked but Trevor had a key. He unlocked the classroom and turned on the lights. I easily eluded his grabbing hands and went straight up to the board. I took a piece of chalk and started doodling, knowing that Trevor was watching me. Slightly amused. Mildly intrigued. Mostly impatient.

Let him wait.

“Want to play hangman?” I glanced over my shoulder and saw Trevor standing by the door, a mischievous grin on his face. I turned back to the board and drew a hasty gallows. I needed a provocative word. Then I heard Gran’s voice and drew five blanks for the word Trevor would have to guess: L-Y-N-C-H. In another time and place those boys would be lynched for chasing after all these white women.

Whenever Gran used to talk like that, Daddy would just chuckle and say, “It’s a new day, Mama. And this ain’t the South. Besides, sisters are in short supply here in Germany.” It’s true—aside from those of us on base, there aren’t many black folks in Kaiserslautern. To the locals we’re strange and exotic, but Trevor was American—and white. Somehow that mattered to me.

I turned around and told Trevor to guess a letter. He made a sound that wasn’t quite a laugh and said, “I know a game we can play that’s a lot more fun.” Then the lights went out.

That made my heart speed up a bit. With the door closed and the hallway lights dimmed, the classroom was pitch dark.

“Say something.”

“Why?”

“How else am I going to find you?” he asked innocently. “Say my name.” That was a command.

He couldn’t see me rolling my eyes so I just said, “No.”

Trevor took a few steps forward and banged into the sharp corner of a desk. “Ow—shit! Come on—help me out, Nyla.”

“Not much of a soldier, are you? You’d be useless in battle.” I silently moved across the front of the room, keeping the blackboard at my back. I stopped when I felt sure the teacher’s wide desk was between us.

“Don’t you want me to find you? You must be lonely way over there.”

“Hardly.”

There was a loud crash as Trevor knocked over a chair. He cursed again and I laughed, then drew in my breath as I sensed him approaching. He’d found an aisle between the desks that led straight up to the board.

“Ready to play?” It was a question that sounded more like an order.

I should have stayed silent. I should have backed away from him and fumbled my way back to the door. But I went there to put that cocky boy in his place. I couldn’t back down. So I took a deepbreath and said, “Ready when you are.”

His fingertips touched my bare arms. I shivered as his hands slid over my skin and found their way down to mine. Trevor held my hands gently and leaned in for a soft, tentative kiss. I relaxed a bit then, which was a mistake. Within seconds I fell into him and before I knew what he was doing, Trevor had my hands pinned behind my back. When I tried to tug them free he only tightened his grip. I knew I was in trouble then. Turned out Trevor wasn’t like any other boy I’d been with before.

When I think back on it now, what I hate myself for most is the way I kept asking, how could this be happening to me? Trevor’s free hand was up my shirt, inside my bra, digging past the waist of my skinny jeans. But instead of figuring out a way to break free I wasted time wondering if the attack—and my fear—was even real. Was he actually hurting me? Would he stop once he copped a feel? I couldn’t understand how he knew how to do this. I shouldn’t have cared. I shouldn’t have tried to make it make sense.

I knew I should act—I needed to kick, scream, dig my teeth into his flesh. I knew I should do something but his mouth was all over mine. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to push back, press myself off the wall, but that only made him throw all his weight against me. I felt his hard-on and gagged at what was coming.

NO. That won’t ever happen. Not to me. Not to me.

“Trevor?”

My eyes slammed open and searched for the dull blade of light cutting through the darkness. I groaned, tried to speak, but Trevor’s tongue was choking me.

“Trevor!”

I gasped and sucked in air as his mouth finally tore away from mine.

“Get out of here!” he yelled over his shoulder. “Just get the fuck out!”

There was a pause, then I heard the angry flick of the light switch. The room exploded in fluorescent white glare.

“What are you guys doing in here?”

Trevor spun around to face down Allie’s jealous, accusing stare. “What’s it look like, stupid?”

Allie’s green eyes traveled over our bodies but Trevor made no effort to zip up his pants. He just stood there leering at Allie, daring her to stay and watch him finish what she’d interrupted. Then Trevor laughed and his grasp on my wrists loosened just a bit, and suddenly my body did what it should have done five minutes ago. I reached for the desk and grabbed hold of the heaviest object I could find: a black metal three-hole punch.

Allie screamed as Trevor crumpled to the floor, blood spilling from the gash on his scalp. I wanted to swing again but I was frozen by the scream, the sound that should have come from my throat. So instead I dropped the three-hole punch and stood there watching Trevor’s blond hair clot with warm, sticky blood.
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This piece was excerpted with permission from Zetta Elliott from her novel The Deep. Purchase the book here

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