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--"Izzy, how did you start dancing?"

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--"What kind of dancer/martial artist/writer are you?

--"How do you deal with brain damage, bodily injury and 

     C-PTSD, yet still dance, write, train, live the way you do?"

--"How do you still find joy and beauty amidst pain and loss?"

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  • Bella Dancer

CLOVEN FRUIT: Dodging Devils in the Pale Moonlight

Updated: Sep 20

This is NOT a safe space. If you're new around here, please take note of the titles. Because we don't pull punches and use coded metaphors on this ship.


Continued from:

"YOU OWE ME" - Sexual Coercion, Expectation and Assault

FAWN, FREEZE, FIGHT, FLEE - How I Escaped That Rape Threat

I AM NOT AN OBJECT: More Rape & Death Threats

“…people in our society have this preconception of what traumatized people look like. Trauma is often calm, unpleasant — because people who’ve been traumatized have a good reason to keep others at bay or at arms’ length…{they can be} unfriendly…sometimes hilarious. …people who experience rape aren’t believed if they aren’t behaving a particular way — shaking, crying, freaking out. And the truth of the matter is that trauma doesn’t normally look like what we think it dramatically does. You know, what we see in the movies and what we see of trauma in entertainment is not what it really looks like in life. In a lot of cases, people who’ve come from backgrounds of abuse or torture present in this completely calm or measured way. They are controlled. They have good reasons to need control in their lives…We hear stories about police or judges not believing in rape or other kinds of trauma victims because they seem so controlled, so visibly, outwardly safe and together. But it’s important to understand that that’s how trauma frequently presents itself. ~N.K. Jemisen, counseling psychologist and author.


June 1995

22 years old

As soon as I get home from this SCA event, I absolutely have to get my own tent. Last night, Maghnuis and I arrived late enough that, as soon as we got his tent set up, we went directly to sleep. There was no one still awake in our camp, and we were both exhausted, so he started sawing logs within minutes of our heads hitting pillows.


He’s very awake tonight though. “Let me know when you’re ready to retire for the eve and I’ll escort you back.” When we arrived at this party, that’s what he said with his genteel bow and warm smile.

I returned the smile and the bow. (I’m still not used to this curtseying thing.) “Thank you,” I answered, and I meant it. It’s a kind offer, but now whenever he says things like that, all I hear is a warning ping. It’s the words he doesn’t say. I hear them anyway.


You shouldn’t go wandering off in the dark alone. It’s dangerous.


I used to love that. Wandering alone. Walking in the dark. Looking up at the silhouetted outlines of the pines against the starry sky. We’re up in Canada for this event. I haven’t been here since I was about ten. My parents and I made a trip up here with Uncle Charlie and his family. It was one of my favorite family trips with my closest cousins.


Now the woods loom over me in creepy sentinel lines. As a child, the northland boonies surrounding my home were one of the places that adults warned kids about the most. You just don’t wander back country roads alone, especially at night. Why? Predators. The four-legged and especially the two-legged kind.


Tonight, there are countless trees between this campfire and any sort of significant road, and really? If I ever needed to blunder through the woods in search of a road back to civilization, how can I trust whoever might pull over for a damsel flagging them down in a weird dress out of time? I might fish-flop myself out of the frying pan into the fire.


Maghnuis is sitting on the other side of this one. They’ve got a really nice blaze going. I’ve been invited to curl up on the cushions of the oversized, wooden chair Lady Elise vacated when she and her husband went off to bed. With my cloak wrapped around me and the hood pulled up, I watch my friend through the flames. Maghnuis chats with his elegant gestures. He sips Irish whiskey from his gorgeous flask. It’s really good whiskey—or so he says. It could be horse-piss for all I know. I’ve never drunk anything that hard before, but I tried it a bit ago. It was too harsh for me. I’m more of a wine coolers or amaretto-and-cranberry-juice girl. As he speaks to the people beside him, he nods, smiles, replies, smiles. His sonorous baritone laughter rolls through the camp like jovial thunder.


Is it genuine? Is he? Is his kindness real? Is all this generosity he heaps upon me as altruistic as he says?

I don’t know how to tell anymore. It seems like it is. So does everyone else’s, but I’d thought the same thing about Satyr.


Until I didn’t.


He’s here, too. Sitting three people down from Maghnuis. He flopped his arm around me on the road this morning. He was heading down to the battlefield so he wasn’t sweaty yet. Didn’t matter.


The feel of that arm was all liquid-press. It dribbled down the back of my neck like ice water. Dribbled down the back of his smile, too. It tasted like chewing old shoes. I wanted to fling his arm off me. I smiled instead. My too-big smile. Couldn’t help its size. Its tension. Did anyone notice? He chatted me up. Made his familiar gestures. His are more animated than Maghnuis’. The not-quite-broken yearling and the older, regal stallion.


There is only one other female besides me still awake in this encampment. When Lady Elise went to bed, she left me in her chair alone with all these men and a sour-lipped, forty-some woman standing at the edge of the light from the fire, talking to her husband and their friends. There aren’t many females at this event, period, and nearly every one has her arm hooked around her lord’s elbow. I am one of the only young females here, unless you count a couple little girls swinging from their mothers’ apron strings.

Thankfully, I’ve got Maghnuis’ apron strings and his sheltering arm to guide me through the newbie blundering at my second event. I watched the fighting again today, because I’ve only just acquired a helmet and a wooden shield-blank, but the guys haven’t had time yet to show me how to pad and outfit them properly. The helm is one of those typical steel buckets, shot through with breathing holes. I can tell already how hard it’s going to be to suck in any air.

Pretty much the way I feel around this campfire.


Tonight, Hal's absence doesn’t only gouge for the pain of his untimely death. It is like a thunderhead looming over everything, slowly gaining mass and charge. If I would have been able to build my armor at one of his regaled parties, I wouldn’t be sitting here like this, waiting for the lightning in that cloud to strike my rickety lean-to. In fact, I’d probably be chatting a mile a minute with Maghnuis and Halfdan Leadfoot at this very minute.


There wasn’t an official tournament today, just a few casual melees and a bunch of pickup fights. No Sir Saerik either. But the guys did introduce me to His Excellency, Baron Sir Vettorio, and he was more than happy to pick up where Saerik left off. Nobody put me in armor today. Instead, the Baron and I concentrated on striking technique, blocking technique, and the footwork to combine the two. We worked slowly, which was awesome and quite preferred. It meant I wasn’t overwhelmed and could concentrate on one skill at a time until I had it down.


My second instructor is just as thorough and patient as the first. He’s equally daunting in his fancy livery, knight’s belt, and charismatic smile. Tonight, he’s changed out his armor for a knight’s chain and his baronial coronet--the one with the six balls. He still wears his thigh-high boots and his knightly white belt around a black-and-white slash-and-puff coat. He kept the spurs on, too. Another sign of his knighthood. No bulging codpiece tonight. Just tights. Now that his head isn’t encased in his shining-armor helmet, I see that his fair hair is long with Sir Gallant waves that match his beard.


I wonder what he does for a living, and if he wears it in a ponytail at work. I wonder if he tells anybody about all this Sir Gallivanting business.


I got to meet Her Excellency today, Baronness Deirdre, that elegant noble lady I always want to gawk after as she floats down roads with her train a-sweep and her coronet a twinkle. Grace flows down the length of her smooth, white veil. Poise radiates from her fingertips with her every gesture. She is a human-swan, and I’d love to spend an entire event following her around like a burr on her train just to learn how to walk like that, talk like that, move like that.

But there was fighting to learn so…


When I complimented her gown at the edge of the fighting field, she called it a "cotehardie." Fitted torso and sleeves, sweeping, curved neckline, a gazillion buttons and a waterfall of skirting that tumbles off the hips. I have the right frame for something like that. Her Excellency must have noticed that, because she flicked a glance at her husband. Something silent passed between them and she said, “If you’re ever in the area, you’re more than welcome to come by our place. I’ll teach you how to make one.”


Thrilled, I answered with my best curtsey-hack and tried to keep my grin from spanning the entire field of combat.


Alas, Baronness Deirdre must have already retired for the evening, because she is nowhere to be seen. His Excellency is still here though, chatting up some older men over by the tree line.


I wish there was belly dancing tonight. That would take my mind off of everything and ensconce me inside the music and the safety of other women. Alas, Maghnuis told me that I wouldn’t need to bring my new Ghawazee coat here unless I wanted to wear it just because. I could tell in his voice that this wouldn’t be the best garb decision. Apparently this region is the birthplace of, “Belly dance? We’ll have none of that here!” So I’ll have to wait for Pennsic to wear the coat.


After watching Lady Maya dance at my first event, I went straight to the thrift store in the hopes of finding heavy striped fabric like she wore. Lucky me, some old 70s curtains in goldenrod, rust and avocado did the trick. But for tonight, I’m back in my raspberry sheet-tent, which actually feels lovely. It covers my shape. It allows me to hide, especially with this cloak and its oversized hood.


There was a little court dancing earlier. Somebody brought “bards in a box” so we could partner up and promenade around the barn, which was fun, but it just hammered home everything I feel as I sit at this campfire surrounded by men. I felt it as I walked down Merchant’s Row and eyes tracked me, telling me how beautiful I am. Mostly male eyes. The few female eyes that said it (with appreciation instead of malice) were like a gust of air blowing out the reek from a too-cramped tent.


Or my bedroom, trapped against the wall by Satyr.


It was even worse when I lingered at the battlefield after all the melees were done. The same excitement coursed through me as I asked umpteen more questions. A few of the same faces whirled around me, just as enthusiastic as they were at Castle Fever. Our loud, laughing antics and my shield-maiden novelty attracted new playmates like a snowball collecting more mass with every revolution down the hill.


Collecting sharp twigs and shrapnel from fallen boughs as well.


Satyr boldly strutted into the fray this time, now that we’re “friends.” Does he believe me? I’m such a liar. Does anybody have a clue what happened when he came up to help me make my armor? Has he told anybody? I’m suddenly glad that there is no belly dancing tonight, because I don’t want anybody looking at me. I don’t want him looking at me. I especially don’t want anyone to watch me shake my ass in the firelight.


Because everybody knows that only sluts belly dance.


That is so not true.


Are you sure about that?


YES.


Humph. Well, countless people around you aren’t. That’s why there’s such a stigma about it up here. And female fighters have just as a bad of a reputation. No doubt they all see you as double-slutty. Nasty. Dirty. You fucking asked for it, you know. Spending an entire day with a man who is not your fiancé, laughing, smiling, eating up all his expertise that he so generously poured out for you.

Unfortunately, I’m out of ammunition for this fight. I've been out of ammo for days so I have no means with which to return fire against my cruelest self. I’m pure burnt out. Numb. Hollow with a pleasant smile spackled onto my face, laughing when everybody else does, cracking my own outrageous jokes so I don’t stand out as someone who deserves to be booted off to the fringes. Alone.

I’m alone anyway. I hunker farther down in the chair, inside my hood, pretending to make myself cozy. What had I expected to happen when Satyr’s bill came due? Because it always comes due.


I could just take it anyway.

Anyway…

Anyway…


My gaze is drawn to the magnet of Satyr’s. He’s staring at me through the flames. The second our eyes lock, he smiles and gets up to come talk to me. My heart gives a hard thump. I haven’t ever taken a thrusting tip to the gut yet, but I imagine that’s what it feels like as he settles himself above me. All over again, I’m trapped between him and my bedroom wall. This time, it's the crackling fire that hems me in. His smile and his words shower me with the facade. It’s the incense cones pumping out sweet fragrance to cover up the stench of the arena sands.

I could just rape you.

Rape you…

Rape you…


My spine twinges. I quickly mask it by adjusting my cloak hood. Satyr flaps his lips. I can’t hear a word. All I can hear is the growl of his threats and the discordant hum of his presence, not nearly as far off as I’d like them to be. The Tigress growls, too. I pet her and we curl up together on the chair, our eyes narrowed, our ears flat. But Satyr hasn’t done anything out here, so to let her off the chain now—I would be seen as a psycho-bitch gone rabid out of nowhere and then I’d have to explain why.


Fuck that.


Satyr keeps chatting. Keeps laughing. I tune my voice correctly and echo him in all the right places. But there is a big hand on the back of my neck. Clamping. Slamming. Grinding hard. My shoulders twitch. I want to jump up from this chair and launch myself at him to get him out of my space. I want to thrash and lash and pound my way free from his looming aura. He is all grin and shining eyes in the flickery shadows. Reptile eyes behind a blinding gleam of “friendliness.”


I keep chirping back with the corners of my mouth toothpicked into an upward position.


But I can’t hold his gaze. All I can see is that dark specter lurking behind his eyes, and the way it twisted his face when the mask came down


The moment there’s an opening in the conversation, I strike. Bounding up, I plaster a bigger smile onto my face and squeeze between Satyr and the fire. I quick whisk my cloak close to me so it doesn't catch ablaze. “Hey," I say, grinning my grin. "I need to go make sure that I get a message to Baroness Deirdre. I don’t want to take the chance of missing them in the morning. She’s promised to teach me how to make a cotehardie. I want one so badly. Hers are so beautiful. So elegant. So graceful.”


Chirp-fawn-chirp.


Have I vomited enough excuses yet?


Apparently.


Satyr doesn’t follow me, but his eyes flick in the direction I’m heading. There's a sour lemon within the frosting of his smile. It confirms my suspicions about his relations with the good Baron. They are not friendly. Excellent. I guess I did learn something about timing, footwork, openings and strikes on the fighting field today.


I decide it would be a good idea to tack myself onto Sir Vettorio for a bit, so I meander my way over to the clump of men standing in the shadows of the trees. When the Baron sees me, he flashes a welcoming smile. “There she is, my newest protege.”


“Ah,” another man says, nodding his approval. “A new shield-maiden.”


“She’ll get there,” Vettorio says with utmost confidence.


My cheeks and my heart glow to have already earned confidence from such a prominent knight. He introduces me to the other men. A Pelican and an Honorable Lord. The former is the service equivalent of Sir Vettorio’s knighthood, whereas His Lordship is one step down from them on the awards pecking order. Amidst all this shiny livery and the titles and insignia and the men’s comfortable ease with our surroundings, I once again feel like the guppy amidst the sharks.


There are other eyes on me. My hackles raise. I make a seemingly innocent shift of position to look. The eyes are not Satyr’s. He’s joined the other clump of gentles sporting that one other female. Nope, Maghnuis is watching me. Before his affectionate smile breaks across his face, I catch a glimpse of hardened concern.

I glance back at the older men of my group, glance across the way. Now Satyr is looking at me. Yup. No doubt Maghnuis has seen this coming down the pipe since before he brought me to Castle Fever.


Twenty-two-year-old shark bait.


But can I even trust my noble chaperone or my other shire-brothers? Can I trust any of these guys? God, I despise Satyr for shattering my faith in this more experienced man I had once trusted to drive me to and from an event, to escort me through the dark, and even to platonically, respectfully share a tent with. Now I’m on constant high alert. Not just with Maghnuis. He’s the one I’m most comfortable with. As for the rest of them…


I was sitting on the ground today, eating my lunch when I glanced up and came eye-to-crotch with a man’s naked genitals. That image is seared into my mind now, too. Emerald green tunic. White trim with black-and-gold embroidery. Cracked, brown belt. Big tankard hanging off his hips, as well as a chevron-shaped badge with red embroidery. Ankle-high brown boots. Hairy calves. Smooth knees. Hairy thighs. Broad, bulging testicles smashed against the chair. Fat, bulbous dick flopped over them. Wrinkly skin. Spongey bulge. Wiry hair—


Ka-BLAM!


A solid blow cracked down on the top of my crown to blast the memory between my eyes: Trent’s nasty, flaccid penis. His vice grip on my wrist. The rage in his face. I could just rape you. Crowding me against the wall. Shrinking me back.


Ka-WHAM!


The back of my skull cracking against the pole. Shane’s crushing grip around my throat. Fuck you! You fuckin’ bitch. Psycho-bitch. Fuckin' slut. Fuckin' whore. And that homeless guy with the long, broken toenails backing me into the corner of the bus station. His beer breath. And rot. Internal. Like Satyr’s.


My shoulders twitch up again. Can’t stop it.


In that instant when my eyes slammed shut against the lunching lord’s exposed junk, the memories rolled through me like an avalanche. Another snowball picking up debris. Ice ball. Dirty ice. Late Minnesota springtime ice. Frozen and thawed. Frozen and thawed. Cutting all my barest flesh. Like that mirror I shattered at my parents' house.


It is perfectly period and perfectly acceptable to walk around in all this garb sans underwear. Without the convenience of modern toilets, relieving one’s self was more of a “wherever you can” type thing. Without the convenience of central heating, layers of clothing were plentiful and bulky. Panties and whitey-tighties are not your friends when maneuvering all that fabric, but trying to not befoul your garments in the porto-castle.


I know this.


I’ve studied history and it has already been reiterated here in the Society.


It’s a perfectly reasonable thing, and genitals are really no big deal. You’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. The majority of people we encounter are going to have one type or the other. My days in the theater put a crack into the foundation of my squeamishness over nudity. Belly dancing has sloughed off great slabs of it, and now the SCA promises to crumble that edifice completely.


But having genitals forced on you does something to a person. Even the threat of them works dark magic. It makes all accidental and incidental genitals instruments of revulsion. An assault upon your vision. A punch to the gut. A blow cracking you between the eyes so it can hack into your skull and bludgeon you with memories that have nothing to do with these new, perfectly innocent genitals.


As I survey this campsite, I can’t help wondering how many of these men are going commando at this very moment. Here they call it “regimental.” I, on the other hand, am still wearing my cotton panties underneath my leggings and gown.


Another image hits me. Porto-potties. Woods. Shadows. That hand on the back of my neck. All this fabric being hoisted up the backs of my legs. Leggings being yanked down. They’re so easy to pull down. Stretchy dancer pants. Breeze. Exposure. Spreading. Slamming. Testicles slapping—


I force myself back to the campsite. That’s not going to happen.


I grit my teeth together, smiling. Calm. No big deal. Oh yeah? How do you know?

Actually, I don’t.


No. You don’t.


No guarantees out here in the night woods.


Not a one.

I continue to chirp at the appropriate moments, nod in all the right spots. Otherwise, I am an opaque mask of serenity, joviality, and interest in whatever everyone is saying. Doesn’t matter that I can’t actually hear them over the thunder from that ever-looming, ever-grinning, ever-growing cloud of memories and anxieties.



 

Welcome to Sexual Trauma 101. (3-5)


Now, before anybody gets their panties or their regimentals in a bunge, please don't make the mistake of thinking that I'm exposing some sort of problem with the SCA. I'm not. The problem is that the SCA is full of humans, and I was who I was. This corner of society just happens to have an extraordinary propaganda machine, built upon fantasy, glamourie, and that most potent weapon in its predators' arsenal: the genuine smiles and generous hearts of people who truly mean it when they say, "One big family."


Makes it easier to get a clueless damsel's guard down when you masquerade as Family.


So in the aftermath of sexual trauma, lots of interesting things can happen. It might leave your body coated with the slime of everything that’s touched you in a nonconsensual way. It might sear the imagery into your mind’s eye and put it on repeat. Might sear it into your nose, tongue and ears, too, whether or not your conscious mind can call up the memories. Anything that grabbed you, yanked you, held you down—those energetic shackles become cinched around whatever they grabbed. If they cornered you, trapped you, smothered you with their weight, that becomes imprinted on your body. Your psyche. Your heart. (5)


You hear them everywhere.


You smell them in everything.


You see them in everyone.


You feel them in everything you do--correction. Everything you try to pull off like normal and it just can’t happen because you’re glitching too hard, too often.


And holy flaming shitballs! This was the fallout from the “mere” threats of rape and death, “only” compounded by adolescent molestation and sexual harassment. (Okay, okay, and repressed memories from toddler assaults, college rape, and domestic violence running their viruses in the background of the hard drive).


See why I call this shit a pandemic? Because my experience isn't uncommon, and it's not remotely as bad as it gets. Frequently.

Merry fuckin’ Christmas to me. Merry Christmas to #YouToo.

Four-and-a-half minutes later…


I am going to have to pee soon. The porto-castles are stationed out there in the dark woods. Out there where I have been advised against traipsing alone at night. I’ll have to find an escort. Joyest of joys.


I do not know the one female who is left in this camp tonight. She gave me the sharp eye and nudged up closer to her husband when I smiled at her earlier. I’ve been gouged by that sort of bristling prickle countless times since I stopped being The Dog. It underlies her reflexive return-smile that ensures her adherence to social politeness, yet shouts from her eyes, “Keep your grubby paws off my husband, harlot. Don’t flash your twenty-two-year-old tushie and your cute-young-thing smile at either one of us. I saw you today. Your kind is not welcome over here.”


So I’ve steered clear of her all night.


Nothing new there.


Since my bladder isn’t yet screaming for attention, I do what I came over here to do. Okay, I do one of the things I came over here to do. I’ve already accomplished my escape from Satyr, so when there’s a break in the men’s conversation, I remind Baron Vettorio that his wife invited me to come sew with her. “Tomorrow before we all leave, can I get you guys’ number so we can arrange that?”

“Oh, I can give you that right now.” He reaches into his leather pouch and pulls out a garishly modern business card. Well, modern, except for the olde-tyme script, the medieval name, his Scadian ranks, and his castle-on-the-sea heraldry.


I tuck it into the brocade pouch that I’ve hung from the scarf that keeps my raspberry ghost-dress tied around my waist. “Thank you, Excellency.” I hope I got his title right.


The conversation resumes, so I must have. I glance around. The obvious choice of pee-escort should be Maghnuis. But I already owe him so much. Rides. A place to camp. Shared food. All these hours and hours of mentorship. He wouldn’t hand me a receipt for it out there at the porto-castle, would he? His invoice would be so much more substantial than Satyr’s.


I have to get my own tent!

Yeah, and that’s gonna be great. So then you’ll have to worry about every lurking creep busting in, and you’ll never get another night’s sleep at an event again.


Nothing new there either. It’ll be a variation on my night terrors about 6’7” Theo booting down my apartment door with his big biker buddies. Here at an SCA event, it would be the surreptitious sound of a zipper in the night.

So soft.


So serpentine.


Just a little zzzzzhhp.


Think you’ll wake in time?


“Milady?” A man’s voice startles me out of my thoughts. He’s older, just a hair taller than I am. Long gray hair, short gray beard, twinkling blue eyes. He holds out an orange in the palm of his hand. A couple dozen cloves have been poked into the rind. It makes a pretty pattern of swirls and stars.


I know what this is. I was introduced to the tradition at my first event. They call it Cloven Fruit, a game of courtly love. It was not only an exotic way to demonstrate one's wealth (citrus was seasonal and expensive, while spices were wealth), but it was also a way to gauge reception while flirting and wooing at court.


When the fruit is offered to you, the way you remove one of the cloves indicates your response to the one offering it. If you remove it with your fingers, it indicates that you prefer a kiss on the hand. If you pluck it out and put it in your mouth, you’re asking for a kiss on the cheek, whereas if you remove it directly with your mouth, it says that you’d prefer to lock lips.


Since the clove possesses numbing power inside one’s mouth, this was apparently the way to insulate one’s self from the sin of kissing out of wedlock. The manner in which you remove that clove with your mouth describes how deep of a dive you want to make.


I don’t want any of it. I don’t even want strangers kissing my hand, but to reject the game says something, too, and that’s the last thing I want to say. (1, 6) Especially to this elderly gentleman who is simply engaging in one of the many ice breaker customs of this foreign Society.


Plucking a clove with my fingertips, I raise the corners of my lips, dip my head in reserved gratitude, blink my eyes into a brighter rendition of themselves, and leave it at that. He shrugs off my almost-but-not-quite rejection. I offer my hand, palm down. His fingertips grasp mine and he bows over them. But then he flips my hand over and presses his lips to the pulse-point of my wrist.


His kiss jabs me in the artery with a syringe of YUCK. My sharp inhalation blasts my lungs open against my ribcage. My smile freezes there. Fractures. My lips press tight and I snatch my hand out of his grasp.


As he slips away, he tosses a smile back at me and this time his eyes aren’t twinkling. They’re glinting in triumph. His expression tells me that he is perfectly aware of everything he just did to me.

Taking what he wants because I refused to offer it.


I could just take it anyway.

Anyway…

Anyway…


And what the fuck can I do about it? He was “just being friendly.” So very, very NICE. They’re always so fucking nice to me and you can’t complain about people being nice to you. If you do, you get labeled as paranoid. Unfriendly. Over-sensitive. Crazy. A hissing, frigid bitch, and then you’re out on your own.


I glance around, wondering if anybody has seen it. Wondering if anybody has a clue what just—


My eyes meet Sam’s. He’s sitting with Maghnuis. He glances at the retreating man and the clove in my hand, flashes a smile of, “Oh, hey. A cloven fruit. That was nice.”

Yeah. Really nice.

Sam cannot begin to wrap his mind around how nice it was.


His eyes return to mine. They stay there. His smile warms.


I look away and drop the clove. Would he offer me one of those fruit if he came across one? Maghnuis’ watchful eyes bore down on me again. And Satyr is right over there. I don’t even let myself face him, because it would only take the slightest movement and we would lock eyes.


I turn back to the clump of men that I’ve tacked myself onto. Standing at the fringes, I’m not quite part of the circle, which is fine with me. I have no idea what they’re talking about. Midrealm politics. Northshield? I think it’s something about our impending elevation to a principality, but I have no idea what that really means, and I don’t want to ask right now.


I don’t want them to turn all their attention onto me. Neither do I want to interrupt their conversation and be treated as a newbie nuisance. Worse would be to find myself in another circle of men vying to take me by the hand with their oh-so-nice intentions.


Another man strolls up to our group. Offers a flask around the circle. My hand takes it from the man next to me. Reflexive lift. This is a party, right? Swallow. Rum this time. I pass it on.


I miss Hal. I miss feeling comfortable with Maghnuis. I’m sad that all the camaraderie I felt starting to blossom with the other fighters is now strained by my wariness, and I hate Satyr for driving that wedge in there. I hate Theo for pounding it into the core of me. Most of all, I hate these fractures spiderwebbing through me and weakening everything I am. I hate these stains on my hands from all the ways that I’ve brought it on myself. Even the beauty I’ve been blessed with after praying and praying and praying for it--it’s a double-edged sword and I'm starting to bleed out from it.


I am no Helen of Troy, but I keep gleaning tastes of it. Although I have become accustomed to people calling me pretty, or even beautiful instead of ugly and disgusting like they did when I was young, there are many times that I don’t know what to do with it. Most of the time, I don’t want to do anything with it. Sometimes I don’t even want it to exist.

Like when I’m trapped against a wall and he says, “I could just take it anyway.” And again at this party, surrounded by men who pretend that they’re not staring at me—until they want me to know that they are.


It happens as I stand on the sidelines of the combat field, and it happens as I pass through the crowd. It happens in the cat-narrowed eyes of wives or in the way that men look at me when their girlfriends aren’t looking at them. It happens when they all circle around me to pile advice or armor on top of me. It happens at suppertime and it happens at court. I constantly catch them shifting their eyes away from me.

Except when they don’t.

I'm not the person to ask for advice about this subject. These people are:


RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) - Including the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE


 


CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE

--UP NEXT: DROWNING - When the Rum Runs Through

--OR: You can find five decades worth of tales about being a female learning the Arts of Self-Defense HERE.

--THE NAVIGATION TABLE OF CONTENTS

MORE LINKS


1) Medieval Garb and Games

--Cotehardie

--Cotehardie Patterning

--Courtly Love --The Exotic and Decadent Game of Cloven Fruit - Including some suggestions on how to NOT use this game for coercive, heavy-handed feats of douchebaggery or outright theft of physical contact. They're so beautiful, so playful. And I so wanted to adore them. (I make them for myself now. Because I can.)


2) Northshield History


3) Effects of Sexual Violence

--More Effects



In case you missed these previously:


4) Women, Sex & Violence

When Women Refuse - a collection of stories about violence inflicted upon women who refuse sexual advances. Even a mere scan is appalling.

Male sex entitlement is killing women

Sexual Violence Myths & Misconceptions

--Violence against women: Where are the solutions?

Did you know your phone has a PANIC Emergency Button?

5) Trauma - Sexual and Otherwise

Fawning is not consent. It's a trauma response like Fight, Flight & Freeze.

The Freeze Response

Complex PTSD - how prolonged and repeated childhood trauma rewires the nervous system and manifests in personality, self-esteem, and behaviors

8 Signs You Might Be Traumatized

How Trauma & Dissociation interrupt the ability to form memories

—One of the best books I have ever read in my life: The Body Keeps the Score - Brain, Mind & Body in the Healing of Trauma

—Don't want to read the book? Here's the basic premise of what trauma does to the body and why talking about it, even in therapy, so often doesn't solve the problems: Short Version. Or Long Version by the author himself

—A few of the myriad healing techniques discussed in the book: EMDR, Yoga, Mindfulness & Support Network. These are only a few the book covers.

EMDR: The technique that has given me the most success, both for immediate single-incident trauma (my big car wreck) and for C-PTSD.

6) Boundaries, Instincts, Self-Defense

—Another one of the best books I’ve ever read - The Gift of Fear - Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin DeBecker

Gavin De Becker

Why your boundaries are not welcome in an abusive relationship - the mindset that I was drowning in after escaping a violent and head-fucky relationship the year before I got engaged. And a few thoughts on how to rectify that.

Setting healthy boundaries after an abusive relationship

A full episode on Oprah with Gavin DeBecker

7) Coercive Control & Psychological Abuse

--The Tactics

“NO” is a complete sentence. Full Stop.

Additionally.

—🖕Lawnmowers.🖕


**It should be noted that I’ve never known anyone who was nicknamed Satyr. That makes this tale a work of fiction.


Based on the pieces of my life that aren’t.