“Can you keep a secret?” She looked up from where her head nestled in the crook of his arm, nothing above them but blue sky and fluffy, white clouds.
“Of course I can” he snorted in reply, “you can tell me anything”. He brushed a stray hair of hers from his stubble and stretched out on the blanket, adjusting his legs, crossed at the ankle.
“I mean, like a proper secret. Not like, oh I’m scared of the dark or I once stole pic n’ mix from the shop as a kid.” She bit her lip but kept her head bowed.
“Alright, I’ll bite. Go on. You have to tell me now.” He sat up, propped up on his elbows with a bemused smile on his face. She sat up to face him, long legs curled to one side, and looped her hair behind her ear. Suddenly looking serious, she fiddled with the hem of her dress.
“It’s just that, I’ve done something, well, something happened. It was an accident and I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt, of course I didn’t, you know I’m a massive Jessie and I hate the thought of pain or anyone being upset.” The words tumbled out in a torrent, she looked at him with pleading eyes, knowing she had to go through with it now.
“What do you mean, what happened?” He sat upright, looking puzzled. “You can tell me anything, Nat, tell me what happened. Are you in trouble?” He reached out for her hand, she let his fingers entwine with hers. An act of solidarity, which she was certain would vanish once he knew what she was capable of.
“It happened last night. I was running late and I had to get back for Emma watching the kids. I’d been chatting to Clare after the class and time got away. It was dark but I was still pumped from the class but I knew I could jog back through the park and make up the lost time. It was stupid I know. I know it’s not safe.”
“What the hell happened Nat, are you okay?” He moved closer, holding both her hands now. “Jesus, just tell me.”
Tears came thick and fast now. Rolling down her cheeks as she choked out the details of the attack. “I saw him leaning against a bench by the lake, just up from the play park. I must have been huffing because he saw me jogging right into his path before I was close.
“It was dark but I knew he’d seen me.” She lowered her head again. Not able to look Ben in the eye.
“Oh God Nat, did he touch you? I swear to god if I find out he laid a fucking finger on you again, I’ll kill him. I’ll tear him apart.” Ben, her dependable Ben, was up on his knees, holding her shoulders now. Pulling her into his arms and against his chest.
“He didn’t touch me, Ben. He didn’t get the chance.” She whispered.
“I know you shouldn’t have to avoid certain places Nat, it’s not fair to live your life like that, but avoiding the park in the pitch-black would be a good start. You’re only just building up your confidence again and…” She cut off his exasperated pleas.
“He didn’t get chance to hurt me, Ben, because I got to him first.”