I stood at her coffin and looked down at her, my heart breaking all over again. Rather than choose a beautiful dress to be laid to rest in her sister had chosen her favorite pair of Pooh Bear pajamas. Indeed, she looked to be asleep, as if any minute she would stir, stretch, and then sit up.
All through the funeral and the graveside service I felt pulled in two directions. Sadness was there, yes. Sadness at losing a friend I had known since grade school.
That loss felt like a black hole in my heart and soul. But as the service wore on, something else joined it. As the pastor spoke about her life, something crept into my consciousness on silent little cat feet. I was slightly relieved as well! At first the mere thought of that horrified me, and I started to kick myself.
Throughout the service and the gathering afterwards I tried to figure out where this new, and very unwelcome, feeling had come from. It wasn’t until late that night while I was sitting alone, thinking about her, that I finally understood it. I wasn’t relieved for myself, it was for her. Finally she was out of the pain she had been in for so long. She was finally free. That was when I finally put my face in my hands and wept.
I wept not only for my pain and loss, but for her and the pain she must have been in to do this to herself. I didn’t sleep much that night, just sat there and thought about my friend. I had known her since we were eight or so, both scabby-kneed kids, always on the lookout for an adventure. She had been a tomboy and thought nothing of getting dirty or hurt. The best companion a boy could have. It didn’t matter that she was a girl, she was fun! Then came Junior High and she bloomed. No, that isn’t entirely accurate; Eden became one of the most breathtakingly beautiful women I had ever seen. Overnight, it seemed, she had gone from a short, skinny kid to a tall, leggy woman, with curves in all the right places. Suddenly she went from my companion in adventure to the object of every boy’s fantasy. But still, she was my best friend, my confidant, my partner in crime.
By our second year in high school, Eden had started to change. Gone was her sunny disposition and easy smile. In its place was a person who had a haunted, pained look, no laughter, and an increasingly bleak outlook. She went from the normal teenage dress of a never-ending supply of jeans and t-shirts to a wardrobe of all black, baggy clothes that covered her completely. It was about then I started to notice the cuts that appeared frequently on her arms. When asked about them she would change the subject. She was losing weight as well, her face taking on a thin, haunted look. Then a week before our graduation she cut off her waist-length, beautiful, buttery-blonde hair. No, cut is too nice a word; it was shorn shorter than mine. She had changed so much, my friend had. It seemed Eden has left and this person had taken her place.
We had that summer together, and then Eden was gone – off to California to go to school. Over the years she kept in touch with me, but it wasn’t the same. It was as if she had closed herself off.
A few years after that, I moved out close to her and we picked up again. By this time she was a bit famous for her paintings. There was no denying the talent she had, but even I could see the pain in her dark and brooding works. I didn’t know where that pain came from and didn’t know how to ask about it. Eden chose not to enlighten me either. But she did seem to value the friendship we had. As a matter of fact, she told me that – many, many times. I did the best I could for her with what I knew. I wish I had known more so I could have tried to help.
The call from Stacey rocked my world and shook my foundations. I couldn’t believe it and didn’t understand why. If I had found the funeral hard, what came after was worse. Stacey had me help pack up Eden’s things because there was some stuff she wanted me to have. Eden’s computer sat on my desk for a week before I could bring myself to turn it on. On the desktop was a text file with my name on it. In it was a name and password. That’s it. No explanation. No directions. No nothing.
Curious, I started hunting. It took time but I found the hidden file and opened it. I almost wish I hadn’t. In it contained more pain than I knew how to handle. Her journals from Junior High and High School were there, chronicling her abuse at the hands of Terry in detail that almost made me vomit. I shook with rage and revulsion as I read them, mentally kicking myself for not seeing the signs. Then on to the journals from college, detailing affair after affair where she was used and abused then discarded. Then came her discovery of online chat rooms and BDSM. The lies and cheating of people she thought were friends, the betrayals of trust. It wasn’t enough that she was hurting herself at this point, now she was having other people do it for her. It seemed as if she felt she deserved to be hurt, demeaned and humiliated.
Tears ran down my face as I read her decent into hell. It seemed the further into depression she sunk, the less inhibitions she had, and the more deviance she craved. These so-called doms introduced her to edge-play, scat, water sports, infantilism, age play, breath control and on and on.
If it had stayed online, I could have almost understood it, but she met with a lot of them and all those things they did to my friend online they did to her offline as well, then dumped her and moved on. For an hour it seemed, I stared at the final picture of her, tied on all fours, cut, bleeding, and bruised from being whipped and having her own excrement smeared all over her. The haunted look on her face burned itself into my brain. I could only imagine the pain and self-torture she was going through to allow this to happen.
There was a letter in there from Terry, vowing to drag her through every mud puddle he could find if she testified against him. That was dated a week before her suicide. Her journal ended there. Finally, there was a letter to Stacey and me. With trepidation, I opened mine. It was short, less than a page, thanking me for always being there for her and never taking like others did. Finally closing with the fact that she knew what I saw was painful, but now she knew I would understand. I did. I didn’t want to, but I did.
I printed out Stacey’s letter and took it to her the next day, then held her as she cried. From the other plane, Eden herself gave me the words to comfort Stacey. “Finally, Eden is at peace.” I muttered to her and she seemed to understand. Understanding doesn’t end pain but it helps you move on. Thanks to Eden I can move on, but can never forget…
Stacey went home to her family the next day and I threw myself back into my life but I was different. So different. That was 15 years ago. Eden’s death affected me more than I knew. I noticed all the newspaper articles about sexual abuse after that. And I learned. Then I acted. Five years ago I opened Eden’s Place, a safe haven for survivors of sexual abuse and assault. We offer not only counseling, but other kinds of support. We have a toll-free number for those that just need someone to talk to. We lobby nationwide for laws to keep and protect victims. All because I could not forget the lesson my best friend taught me after her death. Her artwork covers the walls, and her picture hangs prominently so people can see who started this.
Stacey helped me co-found it and spends her time lecturing. She tells them all about her sister, then about what needs to done to prevent another death. No matter how many times I hear her, I am still moved to tears.
We both feel that wherever Eden is, she is looking at us and smiling. I lost my best friend and Stacey lost her sister, but from all that pain came so much good. We can’t take Eden’s pain back or bring her back to us, but we can make what she went through mean something and hopefully with that knowledge prevent someone else from going through it.
You see, Stacey and I didn’t want Eden’s legacy to be Terry’s conviction for child molestation. We remember her love and caring. So we took that and created a place designed around that.
In your memory we try to make sure no one has to suffer like you did, that is your legacy, Eden. There isn’t a day that goes by that Stacey and I don’t miss and think of you. To us you are not gone, but a bright and shining presence with us, and most of all, an inspiration.
Through your pain and suffering came a lot of good, Eden, so your suffering was not for nothing. But I’m sure you know that by now. Your legacy lives on, Eden. And finally, may you have the peace denied you in this life.
From the author: I’m sorry I couldn’t walk away and leave this story the way it was. Something in me cried out to give it an ending. The more that worked at me the more I knew it wasn’t a happy one. But I rather ignored it. One day while reading the paper, that harbinger of so much bad news, the idea came to me after reading three very depressing stories. While outside walking around, mulling over the idea, I saw the coffin. When I looked inside, it was Eden. Of all the characters I’ve ever written, Eden touched me the most. Not because she was so tragic. No, I’ve toyed with many of those, it was her deep pain that touched me – and angered me.
I’ve seen and heard stories like hers so may times. Some mild, some worse. But each time they anger and sadden me. But somewhere in me, I carry part of all of them. From each of those stories Eden was born.
As an author of incest stories I’ve gotten a lot of e-mails over my time. It runs the gamut from “you’re sick” to “you are a true artist”. But the worst come from people for whom the line between reality and fantasy is blurred and who see works of fiction as a green light to hurt a child. I’ve talked to several authors who have had the same problem. Each handles in it their own way. Some quit writing, some give it straight back to them and some merely remove their e-mail address. But I’ve also learned other things from them, a lot of them grapple with the same problems as Eden and for them, and yes myself as well, writing becomes a catharsis – a way to cope and deal. Somehow, no matter the genre or form used, it eases the pain.
When I started writing this series I intended for it to end at the first one. It was an idea that I got that seemed good and I liked the statement that it made. So I went with it. I got the point across, well I thought, that no adult has the right to introduce a child to sex and that there are consequences to it if done. It wasn’t until I got an e-mail from a woman asking me to please allow Eden to get some justice that part two came.
Again, I thought this was the end…but it wasn’t. Eden needed an end so I gave it to her. Now comes a little bit from me on some of the subjects I touched. As I get my soap box out I warn you that this is a part you may not like so feel free to skip over it. If you are still with me, hang on…
First. I write many different types of stories under a few names but by far the ones that get the most hits are the incest stories. That makes me scratch my head and wonder. These are entirely fiction from my own dementia, not reality. Reality is that incest is horrifying and damaging beyond measure. No one has the right to do that, NO ONE! It is the adult’s place to say no if the child offers, and the adult’s place to help maintain the child’s innocence, not to take it away.
Second point: Online for a lot of us is a great pastime and an escape from our reality. BUT if you get attached to someone you become part of their REALITY. That person has feelings and can be hurt, so something you see as harmless playing, or it is what it is, may not be to them, especially when you lie about fundamental things and promise them something you have no way of delivering or no intention of fulfilling. Creating a serious illness or faking a death, yup in my time online seen a lot of both of ’em, causes REAL pain to those who have been close to you.
Third point: Online BDSM, for those just discovering that lifestyle or those who don’t feel safe indulging in reality, can be a wonderful thing. But there are as many dangers as in reality. Online is a universe where ANYONE can call themselves a dom/domme. That doesn’t mean they are. Same goes for subs. You are allowed to question them. If they don’t like it, run the other way. As in reality, there are plenty of people online that get off on being emotionally abusive. Tread lightly and listen to your gut. Even online there are rules to it. Learn them before diving into the deep end of the pool. That will save you pain later.
…And my blather has come to an end. Thank you for allowing me my indulgence. But most of all, thank you for taking your time to let me into your universe by reading my labors.