His words play out in my head. He’s given me no reason not to trust him, but of course I’m a little on edge already. Rightfully so, but I also know I can’t constantly live my life not trusting men and perpetually hating them. My vibrator is great and all, but nothing beats the real thing when it’s right and something about this guy feels right.
Although just because he drives me home doesn’t mean I’m going to invite him in and sleep with him. Quite the opposite actually. I have zero plans to sleep with him after one sort of date because I’ve trained myself to be guarded, and with this guy, I kind of want it to work out, to turn into something more.
“Okay, here’s the deal,” I start, and Matt immediately laughs. He has this infectious laugh, and there’s something about it that makes me feel like I’ve known him my whole life. I find him strangely comforting, something that hasn’t happened to me in years. I usually avoid even interacting with a guy because eventually I have to tell them my backstory and that usually just leads to them staring at me with wide eyes and backing away like I’ve just told them I have herpes.
“What’s the deal, Madison?” he asks, smirking at me. That same smirk that got me to give him money for his laundry, the same smirk that made me have dinner with him and now once again, I find myself drawn to him by his perfectly simple smile.
“The deal is that I’ll let you drive me home, but I have something to tell you first.” I let out a slow breath. “And there’s a possibility that you won’t want to drive me home afterward, too.”
“Doubt that,” Matt replies, an air of confidence to what he says.
“Yeah, well, don’t be so confident. Plenty of men have come before you who have bailed the second the words come out of my mouth.”
“Those guys are fucking idiots,” Matt says, and now it’s me giggling nervously. He seems so certain he wants to get to know me. His confidence in himself makes me think he’s being truthful. No guy would spend this much time with a girl only to decide he’s not interested, right?
“I would agree,” I reply. “Hopefully you’re not one of those idiots.”
“I’m not. Truthfully, I’m not really comfortable with you walking home alone in the dark, so even if you don’t let me drive you home, I’m either going to creepily follow you home by driving really slow behind you or I’m going to walk you home,” Matt now says, and it’s like he’s passed the first test.
What he says doesn’t feel forced or like he’s saying it just to get me to agree. It’s not over the top and he stops talking right there, letting me process what he’s just said. There’s no push to convince me he’s a good guy or more talking out his ass to make me believe he has control over the situation.
He’s letting me decide.
“You’ve given me no reason not to trust you,” I tell him, and he smiles in a way that makes my stomach flutter. He’s good, damn good and as much as I want to trust my gut on this one, my brain is still telling me to be cautious. “So here’s the deal. I’m not a big fan of men because in the past, I’ve had a few too many run-ins with shitty ones.”
“Okay,” he replies, nodding a little. Again, he doesn’t come right out and tell me he’s not a shitty one. There’s no defending himself or his gender. He’s just listening.
Most of the men I’ve dealt with in the past immediately start talking over me, telling me how they’re not that kind of guy and I don’t have to worry. They never let me tell my story and when I finally get the words out, they’ve spent so much time convincing me of their greatness, that they instantly fall short. But I’ve always viewed that as a good thing, because the guy they led me to believe they were, was never who they were. They were always some douchebag trying to cover up the fact that they’re a douchebag.
I lean back against the car with Matt following suit, crossing his feet at the ankles in way that makes me wonder if he has any idea of what I’m about to say. It’s normally not this easy, but he’s making me feel like it’s okay to tell him the truth.
“I transferred to Hawthorn just over a year ago after I was raped by a guy I went to a party with. It was a guy I knew, someone I trusted, so I hope you understand my hesitation now,” I say, the words coming out quick and less shaky than they used to.
I don’t worry so much about what people think of me. I’ve told the story so many times that I feel like there’s power in numbers now, and with the help of my therapist and the support group, I’ve stopped making excuses.
Take it or leave it. This is who I am.
Matt doesn’t say anything for a few seconds and when I turn to look at him, his jaw is clenched and his face is pinched in anger.
“How about instead of driving you home, I find this guy and beat the shit out of him?” Matt now says, a bite to his words.
“You’ll have to get in line. I think my dad would like to be the first to get a punch in,” I reply, injecting a little humor because really, I’ve learned to laugh when I can. I open the car door and sit down in the passenger’s seat. “So, you going to drive me home?”
I pull the door closed and Matt walks over to the driver’s side and climbs in, letting out a hard sigh as he sits down.
“You okay?” I ask, not because I’m worried about his reaction, but because it is a lot to process. I’ve spent the better part of the last couple of years trying to process it and I’m still not fully there.
“Can I ask you some questions?” he says, starting the car as he quickly glances over at me.
“Of course. Ask away.”
I don’t ever want anyone to feel like they can’t ask me anything about what happened. It’s the secrets and the curiosity that tend to eat at people. It’s the assumptions without the facts that can lead to problems.
“When…how…” Matt starts, but I can tell he’s not even sure what to ask. If anything, his thoughts are going a mile a minute. I remember after I told my parents, my dad could never quite form anything he wanted to ask me into a coherent thought. He was so angry and hurt and sad and confused.
“How about I start and you can stop me at any time with questions?” I prompt and again Matt nods, his silence filling the car as he pulls away from the curb.
“I was a freshman at Arizona State, and I had been there for about six months or so. There was a guy who lived in my dorm and we saw each other often. In the elevator, on the way to class, out at the bar, whatever,” I start. It really is a simple story, one that probably sounds like the normal boy meets girl, and up until that night, it really was. “One night he asked me to go to a party with him and I said yes.”
“Did you get a weird vibe from him?” Matt asks and this is an interesting question. It’s one that no one has ever asked me before.
“So looking back now, I think I did, but I couldn’t separate it from the feeling you get when you like someone. Now I realize there’s a difference between being nervous around someone you like and your gut telling you to get the fuck out of there.”
“What made you stay?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. There’s a lot that I don’t know and I’m still trying to process it all, but I think I stayed because I couldn’t come up with a good excuse to leave.” I stop talking for a second, realizing this is the most honest discussion I’ve had about this outside of my therapist. “I had too much to drink and that’s when it happened. He took advantage of me and my inability to truly give consent.”
“I’m sorry that happened to you,” Matt replies. And again, he doesn’t try to convince me that he’s some amazing guy who would never do that to a woman. By not saying it, by not defending himself, he lets me know he’s not ever going to be the type of guy to take advantage of a woman.
“Thanks. I found out I was pregnant shortly after I was raped. Obviously, he was the only guy I had slept with. I didn’t even bother to tell him. I had an abortion because I knew he didn’t care about what happened to me. He ignored me like he didn’t even know me when I would see him. It was then that I transferred to Hawthorn.”
“Fuck, that must have been a really hard decision,” Matt says, running a hand through his hair. I’m sure he’s overwhelmed by all of this. It’s a lot.
“It wasn’t. I was just glad I was able to do it. I have zero regrets when it comes to the decisions I made after it happened. I was just trying to survive.”
“Did he get arrested for what he did to you?” Matt asks, and I love the sincerity I hear in his voice, the hope that justice was served.
“No, I was given a settlement from the university and my civil suit was also settled out of court. Everyone likes to keep rape hush-hush, especially on college campuses.”
“That’s fucked up.”
“It is, but I’ve learned to use my voice now. I work at the counseling center, and I volunteer at a support group for sexual assault survivors. I feel like helping other people has helped me more than anything.”
“I think you’re pretty fucking badass, Madison,” Matt states, looking over at me, and I smile at him, reaching over to take his hand.
“Thanks,” I reply, weaving my fingers into his and he doesn’t stop me.
We drive in silence for the next few minutes, every once in a while, Matt squeezes my hand and looks over at me. There’s so much simplicity in his gesture that I can’t help but be attracted to his effortless acceptance.
He’s not at all like what I thought when he first walked into that laundromat. I expected him to be arrogant and conceited and waiting for the women to swoon over him, but he’s far from it. I don’t doubt he uses his good looks and his charm to convince women to go out with him; it worked for me, but he knows his place. He was raised well.
I give him a few directions on how to get to my house and within ten minutes he’s pulling up out front. He puts the car in park, his hand still entwined with mine as he brings it to his lips and presses a kiss to the inside of my wrist.
“Thanks for helping with my laundry and having dinner with me, and for letting me drive you home and for sharing your story,” he says, his words quiet, but sweet.
“Thanks for buying me dinner. I had a good time.”
I lean closer to him, and he meets me, leaning closer too. His fingers tuck a few stands of hair behind my ear. I don’t know who makes the first move or which one of us kisses the other, but the second our lips touch, something between us changes.
The car sparks with electricity, a charge that rushes through both of us and Matt wraps a hand around the back of my neck pulling me closer.
“Is this okay?” he whispers against my mouth, his words breathless, almost as if he’s begging me to say yes.
“Yes,” I breathe out, my hands cupping his face and pulling him closer, as I practically climb onto his lap.
“Thank fuck,” he mutters, making me laugh, my head falling back, my breathing ragged. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this way about a guy, and I miss it. I love the nervous, giddy feeling of lust that comes when you first meet someone and feel that instant connection.
With Matt it was there the moment I saw him walk through the door of that laundromat, all confused and uncertain, but trying his best to look like he knew what he was doing. It was even cuter when he admitted his mother still did his laundry when he visits home.
His lips connect with my neck, softly kissing me and there’s something so simple about what is happening between us. It feels natural and unforced and comfortable.
So comfortable in fact that I find myself asking, “Do you want to come inside?”
Voting has now closed but if you want to find out if Matt goes inside, click on the button below!