Author's Note: Normally, I'd have a brand new short story for you here. When I wrote the short story "Innocence Lost", it was essentially the story that should go here, but I really wanted to upload it when I finished it. Now I was stuck without an appropriate story to place here. On the other hand, I know there are those who haven't read the short story for whatever reason. In that case I present "Innocence Lost" in the official storyline. It has been edited slightly for content and continuity.
I've only cried three times in my life. Each time was when I lost something important to me. The first was when I lost my parents. The third was when I lost my lover. This is the story of how I lost my innocence.
November 22, 2170
Leanna Shepard, age 16, sat in the corner of a small room, clutching her legs. The tears felt like they would never stop flowing.
It had been just over seven months since she'd left the orphanage to join the Reds, and in that time, she done many things she wasn't proud of to keep herself alive, but this day, she had done the worst thing yet. She'd done something she swore she would never do, and she hated herself for it.
She could almost hear the Nuns that raised her scolding her. They would say she committed a mortal sin. That was indeed what it felt like, and all done for a warm bed and a meal.
The tears still flowed, but she knew she could not continue in what she was wearing. She began to peel the blood-stained clothes off of her body.
The blood… She hadn't been prepared for the blood. She had seen blood before it was true, but never like this. She recalled her horror when she first saw it. She wanted to forget the whole thing.
She tossed the clothes in a pile on the floor, then rummaged through her rucksack, in which she carried everything she owned. She pulled out a clean set of clothes and placed them on the cot that had been hastily shoved in the room. She knew she couldn't put it on while she was still dirty, but she didn't want to leave the solitude of her small room.
Besides, she could hear that he was still out there.
Leanna grabbed a stained pillow off the ground and sat on the cot. She rested the pillow on her lap and placed her head upon it. Even as she drifted to sleep, she continued to cry.
No more than a few hours later, she awoke to a loud noise. She straightened herself up to listen. Could it be the man was coming back?
After a few minutes, she heard snoring. The man was sleeping. She breathed a sigh of relief.
She swung her legs off the bed and stood up. She dug through her rucksack again, this time pulling out a towel. She wrapped it around herself and stepped out into the hall.
The hallway was dark, but she dared not turn on a light. Though he was snoring, she knew the man was not a deep sleeper. That was the one rule she had been given, do not wake him up.
A minute later, her eyes had grown accustomed enough to the darkness to begin walking. She kept her footsteps quiet by not raising her feet more than half an inch off the ground. It was a trick she had learned trying to sneak around in what she was increasingly considering to be better days at the orphanage.
Moments later, she felt her foot contact with a wall. She had reached the end of the hallway. To her left was the bathroom; to her right was the room where the man stepped. Carefully, trying not to make a sound, she opened the bathroom door and crossed the threshold. The door closed behind her as she fumbled for the light switch.
The florescent light flickered on with a hum. The bathroom was old. The toilet was missing its seat, the tile was chipped and yellowed, and the mirror above the sink was cracked. The tub had an unsightly brown ring around it and the walls that surrounded it were covered in mildew.
She turned on the faucet and, after five minutes of waiting, discovered that there wasn't any hot water. She was desperate enough though. She scraped the mold off the bar of soap and stepped into the icy cold shower.
The cold water felt surprisingly good. She rubbed the bar of soap on her skin. It didn't amount to anything approaching a lather but she felt cleaner just the same. As she moved the soap down her body, she discovered that she was peeing. She'd been too numb from pain to even notice. She figured it was alright though, seeing as how she had no intention of squatting over the seatless toilet.
Without warning, she remembered the screaming. It had happened during the event. She remembered the screaming coming out of his mouth and hers. The tears that had almost stopped swelled up again as she nearly collapsed in the shower. Only through sheer force of will did she manage not to hit her head on the rim.
She stayed hunched over, holding her knees as the water cascaded on her naked back. She wondered if she could go back. Would she be welcome back? Would the nuns accept her, even after all that she'd done? After what she'd done last night?
She rose, unsure of what to do next but no longer able to endure the cold of the water. After drying off the best she could, she wrapped the towel around herself and stepped back into the hallway.
The door shut behind her much louder than it had earlier. She stood in horror, listening for any sound that the man had heard her. All seemed quiet. She began to make her way to the small room, stepping as lightly as she could.
A floorboard shifted under her foot. Again she froze, listening for the slightest sound that she'd been heard.
Dread crept over her. He had heard her.
"Izzat you Le-Le? Wudd I say 'bout wakin me?"
Leanna panicked. She knew what he'd do if she woke him, and she did not want to go through with that. She ran as fast as she could to the small room and shut the door behind her. She barricaded the cot against the door and leaned against it, clutching the pillow.
"Please don't let him come for me," she whispered. "Please don't let him come for me, Please don't let him come for me."
She opened her eyes. Morning had come and she hadn't moved from her spot. She listened intently. All was quiet. The man must have already left.
Slowly, she stood up and began to pull the clothes off the cot. She tossed the damp towel onto the heap of clothes in the corner and dressed herself. She then moved the cot away from the door and stepped back into the hallway.
She looked back down the hallway to the end. Both the bathroom and bedroom door were wide open. She was sure the man had left now. Deliberately, she stepped the other direction, towards the kitchen of the small apartment.
It wasn't much of a kitchen. It was a few counter tops with half a refrigerator built into one of them. The stove consisted of three burners arranged so close together you'd never be able to fit more than a single pan, and the stove was only about twelve inches wide and a bit over half as deep.
A note sat on the counter next to a small piece of plastic. She pocketed the plastic before reading the note.
No food. Here's a 20 credit chit, buy it yourself. Come back anytime, long as you're willing to pay up like yesterday.
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving
She ran back into the small room, crumpling the note and tossing it on the pile. It was one thing to take food and shelter for what she'd done, but money? It made her feel dirty. She tried to cry again, but tears wouldn't come. It seemed she was all out.
She searched through her rucksack for something, anything that could make her feel better. She pulled out three things, a pearl-handled switchblade, a red lighter, and a silver ring.
She stared at the ring. It had belonged to her mother; that much she remembered. It was the last thing she had of her mothers, and she had let it sit at the bottom of a sack! How could she be so thoughtless!
She clenched her fist around the ring, grabbed the blade and headed to the bathroom. The mirror, though cracked, was clean enough to see through properly. She threaded her hair through the ring into a ponytail. It held her hair in place surprisingly well. She then brought the blade up to her hair and cut it. The fine edge of the blade made a clean cut.
She pocketed the blade and walked back to the kitchen. There was an unlabeled bottle on the counter that she knew to be filled with alcohol.
She brought it back to the small room and stood in front of the pile. She opened the bottle and began pouring the strong-smelling alcohol over it. As she did so, she made an oath to herself.
"I, Leanna Shepard, promise to never give up and never give in. Though the world tries to break me, I will not break. I promise never to cry again. If I feel I need to cry, I will remember last night, and that I already cried for this. I will find my way out of this hell somehow."
With the bottle emptied, she picked up the lighter, flicked the switch, and lit the pile. The flames rose in an instant.
She grabbed her rucksack and went to the front door of the apartment. She carved something on it then left the scene behind her.
Later that day, Brent Paine returned to his small apartment. The small room where he'd let Leanna sleep had burned for nearly half an hour before the automated fire suppressors kicked in, but it was more or less intact.
Brent scratched his head as he walked back into his main room. Then he saw the door. Carved into it were Leanna's parting words to him.
I'm Not Your Whore!
Leanna sat bolt upright in her bed. She was dripping with sweat. She felt a hand on her shoulder.
"It is alright Leanna. You are not there anymore."
She turned to the blue face next to her. "You… you saw that?"
"I'm sorry. I didn't want you to have to live through that… like I did."
Liara shook her head. "You have nothing to apologize for. I love every part of you, both the good and the bad. This is just part of what makes you who you are: the woman I love."
Leanna smiled. "You always know just what to say."
Leanna slept peacefully for the rest of the night.