That year we spent a lot of time over at my Nanny’s. We lived next door to her now, so why shouldn’t we? Our family was close and I guess the adults figured that it was good for us kids all to be close with one another. If only they knew how “close” Clay was getting to me.
After the lake incident, I tried to stay away from Clay as much as possible. I tried to make sure that there was always an adult around us, but it was of no use. My family trusted him. He was supposed to be one of my protectors. Someone who would never in a million years hurt his own family. But, how can you escape someone who lives next door to you and is part of your family?
That December of 1996 we spent our Christmas at my Nanny’s. Everyone was so happy and joyful. My parents had told my brother and me that we we’re going to be getting something very special from “Santa” that year. As we all opened up our presents and the holiday spirit filled the room, I momentarily found an escape from my own mind even though Clay was in the same room with me once again. He was to busy opening up his presents to care about messing with me at the time, or so that’s what I believed.
The time came for my parents to bring out “Santa’s” gift. They told my brother and I to both close our eyes, but before I had a chance to, Clay came up behind me and said, “no peaking,” as he put his hands over my eyes. A cold chill ran down my spine, knowing he was right behind me. So close that I could feel his breath on the back of my neck. None the less, I kept the smile on my face. I had to put up that front.
My parents, seeing how Clay was now “helping” me from peaking, instructed him to bring me to the front door. I felt my entire body tense up as we moved together. Still, I kept my smile.
“Okay kids, on the count of three, open your eyes. One, two, three!” As Clay removed his hands from my eyes, there before my brother and I was our very first bicycles. Mine was pink and white. The very one I had asked for the first time I had seen it. My brother had also gotten the bicycle he wanted. We both yelled with joy! We were so excited to have our own bicycles and were ready to test them out. I had all but forgotten that Clay had just put his hands on me once again.
When we asked our parents if we could go ahead and ride our new bikes, they were hesitate at first. It was cold outside and it was starting to get dark. Just when we thought they were going to say no, Clay popped up and said, “Ill stay out there with them and help them.”
Do you think it’s possible to love someone but hate them at the same time? I was starting to believe that this was true. I knew I was supposed to love my cousin, but I felt I was starting to hate him too. I knew that was wrong, but I also felt what had been happening was wrong too. He was my protector. He was supposed to love me and shelter me from anyone who would try and hurt me. He had been more like my older brother than anything.
So, I began thinking, is he really hurting me? Is this my fault? Am I doing something to provoke him to want to do these things that felt wrong to me? Was it a test of some sort? Was I just blowing things out of proportion?
I looked at my cousin as he helped push me down the road. He was smiling. The look that I would come to fear showed no trace on his face. Maybe, the lake had been an isolated incident I thought to myself. Maybe, for just a second, Clay made a mistake and it wouldn’t happen again. Or then again, maybe he just knew my parents were keeping a watchful eye over us from the driveway as we rode our bikes up and down the street that Christmas evening.
It felt like it had been hours when we finally returned inside. All of our cheeks were flushed red from the cold air as we had ridden our bikes up and down the street. The winter sun had set, and it was becoming a chilly Christmas night. The adults sat in the living room and warmed by the heater. Clay decided he wanted to play tag with me. Seemed harmless enough right? I mean, our family was right there in the living room.
My brother had passed out from all the days activities, but I was still wide awake. I should have followed suit with my brother and went to sleep, but I still had so much energy. The adults talked around the heater as Clay started to chase me through the house. I laughed as he tried to get me. Remember, my six year old brain had started to believe that he had made a mistake. He wasn’t going to hurt me. He was just my good ol’ cousin who wanted to play.
He rounded the corner of the entertainment room as you first entered the house and I jumped on his back from the step leading up to the kitchen. He caught me. I didn’t know it, but this was a mistake. He began to act like a horse and ran around the house with me on his back. The adults thought we were being to loud, so Clay decided to take me into the long dark hallway leading to his room.
Once right outside the door to his room, Clay pulled me around from his back and placed me on the floor. I was still laughing and giggling at this time. He began to tickle my sides and the smile was still across his face. I felt I had nothing to fear. He placed his hands on my sides and began to tickle me. He just tickled and tickled me until I felt I was about to wet myself. He looked back to the dimly lit living room. Then, his face changed. That look I keep telling you about. The look that over the years I would come to fear. I knew what that look meant.
He moved his hands down to the opening of my skirt, and moved my panties aside. He was still smiling, as I was still laughing, when I said out loud, “that tickles!” he placed a finger over his mouth with his other hand to tell me to be quiet. He whispered, “keep laughing, I know you like this.”
In my mind I was screaming! “Somebody help! Somebody, just look down the hallway. Somebody, anybody?! Why is this happening to me?” But, the words never escaped my mouth. I kept laughing as my body betrayed me. As I began to feel warm all over. What was this feeling? What was happening to me? Why was I reacting this way?
After what felt like an eternity, movement from the living room made him stop. He put both hands on either side of me, leaned down, and kissed me on the cheek. “Now wasn’t that fun?” he whispered. He got to his feet and helped me up. I felt dirty as I walked back into the living room. What was happening to me?
After a few minutes, I told my mom and dad I was beginning to get tired. With my brother already passed out, my parents decided it was time to take us home. I laid in the bed that night wide awake. What was I supposed to do? Clay said this was my fault. I slowly drifted into a restless sleep that night, but I found no peace there. That’s when the nightmares began.
My life, my dreams, they had all became one giant nightmare.