Dave had coached Grace’s 10-year old sister’s lacrosse team that spring and the team party was to be at our other neighbor’s home, as Gloria’s best friend was also on the team. (This is the family whom we’d been particularly close, as mentioned earlier. Let’s call them family’A’.) When it came time for us to go, Grace’s friend from family B was  playing  at our house and I invited the two girls to walk over with us as siblings often attended and I was  bringing plenty of hot dogs. Sometime during the gathering, Grace’s friend open a bottle of flavored  rum which was on the counter and poured a little bit in a cup.  She tasted it and offered some to Grace to try and they discussed trying it again some day.

Fast forward to the last week of school that year.

Like us, family B has four children of similar ages.  Their oldest son,- who is a great kid- and our Megan  were both graduating that year.  Their party for their son was on Friday night and all the neighbors and their children were there, minus the vacationing  family A.    While at the graduation party,  the friend and her  brother from family B told Grace she should ‘go get the key’ so they could try the rum again. (For  almost 20 years we had taken care of family A’s  house, animals and mail while they were away, and a key hung on a peg in our kitchen.)

Grace refused.

The next night, Saturday, June 18th, 2011 was the evening of our graduation celebration for Megan.  We had a big family gathering and again many neighbors were in attendance.  Bored at our party, she made an error in judgment and chose to experiment with alcohol in the absent neighbor’s (A)  home next door with her best friend from outside the neighborhood. They used the  key to go in and drink some of the flavored rum. When that friend  needed  to go home , she came back to our house looking for her friend next door, but found out from her brother  that she was at a softball tournament.  Grace told the brother about the rum and they went back to family A’s home together and drank some more. This time he pulled multiple  bottles out of the cabinet and  told her to ‘get over the taste’ and tried to tip them up again when she’d  finished a sip.  He asked her about her tolerance (none) and she reminded him she’d  recently started on an anti-depressant (for some  sadness linked to the loss of her grandfather) (You are not supposed to drink when taking these drugs).

She soon found she could hardly get up and didn’t really want to.  He decided they should go swimming, and he pulled her to her feet. She was afraid to given her state, but he sat on the step in the pool and told her she was safe, he was a lifeguard, and she should sit on his lap. (He was in fact a lifeguard and dive coach at our local pool).  He kissed her. Only her second kiss ever. She was 14 and not yet allowed to date.

After this, he decided that he really wanted  ‘something to smoke’ and went looking for something. What he found in the bathroom  medicine cabinet was oxycontin, which is prescription opiate pain killer similar to heroin. He showed them to Grace, and said he could get ‘good money’ for them and put some into his pocket.  He then proceeded to crush one and told her she should try it and that it wouldn’t hurt her. He told her how to snort it, and she did. (smh sadly) She told me later that it made her head feel like it was going to explode and that she didn’t want any more, but he told her that she had to finish it or someone would find out.

At this point he took advantage of her.  A  young, 14 year-old virgin, intoxicated and drugged, who’d only had her first kiss earlier that year.

The next day was Father’s Day and she said she didn’t want to ruin it, but the following day she ended up telling us everything  that she could remember at that point, but she did not at that time call his actions ‘rape’. She knew she’d made mistakes and didn’t want anyone to be mad at her  and she didn’t want to harm any of the close relationships between families. She’d known these people for her entire life and the young man’s mom was like a second mother to her.

We immediately called his parents to come over and talk about what happened.

We sat down together and shared the story.  At the oxycontin part, the father said “That sounds like ____.”(their son), to which the mother mildly protested. The father went on to tell us of the problems they’d had with him (they’d been considering military school or something similar) and how the young man could never seem to see how his actions affected others or how he was complicit in matters which affected him negatively. He said he expected that when their child turned 18 he’d ‘head west’, and they’d never hear from him again. (We found this a startling and sad thing for him to say). We touched on the delicacy of the situation and asked that the issue not be discussed publicly by their son.

Alarmingly, the next day as soon as Grace got on the school bus, she heard the young man sit down with his friend and say something like… “well, I’ve done it now. I’ll probably be charged with near rape”. (This is something we never said at the time. We’d never used the ‘r’ word) Likewise, the sister, who had been confiding in a teacher at school said something which triggered her to go to the counseling office and report.( Our counselor played phone tag with us and then went on vacation and never followed up… much later, our new counselor, who was in charge of the whole office, told us she remembered the incident.)

That evening the young man’s parents called back and asked to meet again so we did. The first thing the mother(family B) said was   “Poor ____ (the son’s name).  He feels he’s being maligned”, and proceeded to tell me that he said that it was all Grace’s idea and he denied most of it:  the drugs, the sex, and even going upstairs. (Physical evidence disproved this)

At this point I’d heard enough. Grace had absolutely nothing to gain by making this all up, and an awful lot to lose….

Which she eventually  did, but not before a LOT more pain and confusion.

For you my sweet Grace. Never again.

For you my sweet Grace.
         Never again.