MISS MOOX + time


Nearby the house that my family lived in between the years I was four and eight, there lived a family called the Bakers*. Their backyard adjoined onto the same orchard property that ours did, so by slipping along the treeline at the edge of the orchard, my brothers and I could quite handily arrive at the back entrance to their house.

The Bakers had a son who was considerably older than us, fourteen to my eight, with whom we often met up to play. His name was Lyle. Tall and skinny, with glasses and a mop of streaky-blond hair, he had a loud mouth and a definite antithesis to authority. His parents, both his very fat, loud mother, and his fat, bald, passive father, tried to keep him under control by screaming at him. Lyle would simply mouth off and do as he pleased. He had an older sister who was overweight and painfully shy, to whom he was unmercifully cruel; and a much quieter, better-behaved younger brother who sometimes joined our games.

My brothers and I, at that age, were not very choosy about our friends; especially as we didn't have many in the neighbourhood. We welcomed anyone who would play with us, no matter how unsavoury their character.

So we'd play baseball in Lyle's backyard; or legoes in his house (jeopardized by his family's constant fighting); or roam the orchard; or swing at our house. All was very fine and innocent until Lyle's friendship took an unexpected and unpleasant turn.

Lyle announced to us very suddenly one day that I was to be his girlfriend. What this meant was that I was now expected to hold his hand as we walked through the orchard.

I, having little choice in the matter, found holding his hand repulsive and would take the first opportunity to drop it, seemingly artlessly, as we walked along. I most certainly did not want to be Lyle's girlfriend but as long as his designs on me were so innocent I compromised, as children do, to continue the friendship.

However, Lyle's desires soon intensified. At the back of our house, conveniently out of sight of the windows, was an old carriage shed which was seldom if ever used. He began pressuring me to accompany him into the shed for extended periods of hugging and kissing. After all, I was his "girlfriend"; and it was his "right".

I did not want any part of this and I refused. But I hadn't counted on Lyle's personality. He would not take "no" for an answer and began using physical force to bend me to his will.

Thus began one of the most frightening periods of my life. To this day I cannot recall exactly how long it lasted. It might have been a couple of weeks; almost certainly it was no longer than a month. To a child time stretches forever so I am sure it stands in my mind as more than it was.

Going outside became hell. Once venturing outside the safety of my front door, I became helpless prey for a very capable predator.

Lyle would inevitably turn up soon after my brothers and I had gone out to play, swooping down on me like a hawk on a mouse. My brothers, God bless them, would try to defend me by throwing their bicycles into his path. But they were smaller than I and I was an eight-year-old girl and Lyle was a tall, long-legged and very strong teenager. He would run me down no matter how hard I fled, grab me, and physically drag me into the shed, despite my protests.

You might ask why my parents didn't notice something like this going on in their own backyard? I don't know the answer. Most of the time my parents were incredibly naive about our whereabouts. I think my mother was depressed for much of the time I was growing up and she was certainly never very well apprised of what was happening out of her sight.

I'm thankful that this period of time lasted so little as it did. If not, I am certain Lyle would have advanced well beyond what he did. Once inside the shed, he would force me to hold and to kiss him for long periods of time, probably imitating what he had seen on TV and in movies. Once, he wanted me to press my bare stomach against his as we kissed. I fought like fury at this but I well recall him overpowering me, pinning me down, unzipping my jacket, pulling up my shirt, and forcing me to do as he asked. I don't like to think what would have happened had he been allowed more time. Thankfully he wasn't.

One day I could stand no more of the terror and I told my mother. "Lyle makes me go into the shed with him and hug and kiss him," I complained. She asked few questions but the next time Lyle came over she confronted him. I well remember standing on our front porch between her in the doorway and him standing on the steps as she reiterated my charges. Loudly and vociferously he denied it all: absolutely untrue and unfair, gesturing in angry protest at such a travesty of justice: him, charged with what?! Something he would never think of!

"Well, OK, just see that nothing like that ever happens," said my mother, and retreated into the house and closed the door.

I was angry: furious and disappointed that he had lied; that she seemed to believe him rather than me; and that he had gotten off the hook. That was the end of the matter. My mother never mentioned it to me again but thankfully after that Lyle left me alone. We moved soon after that and as I recall that incident spelled the end of our friendship anyway.

Years later I learned that Lyle had died unexpectedly in his sleep of heart failure, at the age of 20. He had grown grossly fat and was a social outcast. I bear him no ill will but I do not necessarily mourn his death; I am afraid of what he might have done allowed to live longer. He was a bad combination of a complete lack of discipline and social ill-adjustment, who even at a young age seemed not to have a conscience. I wish that I could have extended him forgiveness, but I never had the chance.

*names changed

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