Josh stops and stands there. It’s like he wants to come over, but won’t be the first one to step forward. I sigh, drop my arms, and walk toward him. When I’m close enough, he asks, “Are you all right?”
Nodding, I answer, “Yeah, I’m fine. I take it you saw that whole mess?”
“Unfortunately. I’m sorry, Kerry.”
“Yeah, well, don’t be. He’s not worth it. You were right all along.”
Josh hesitates and then asks, “Did you do what I asked? Do you know about me, about what I did?” His lips thin as he presses them tightly and stuffs his hands in his pockets. His gaze shifts so that it’s clear he doesn’t want to look me in the eye at the moment.
“I don’t believe it. There had to be a reason, or a misunderstanding, right?” My voice raises an octave and comes out like a whisper. “I just can’t believe you raped a girl.”
Josh’s face twists into disgust. “Are you serious? Even after reading all that, you think there’s no way I did it? Kerry, I did it—”
Shaking my head, I step back. “It’s not possible. You’re too—“
“You’re not listening. There was no mistake, no misunderstanding. There was nothing to misunderstand.” His green eyes bore into me as his lips curl in disgust. “How could you even think?” He pauses and then a moment later, adds, “You didn’t read the report. Someone told you and you didn’t bother reading anything about it.”
“No, I didn’t read anything. There’s no way that you did something like that. You’re not that kind of guy.” Before I can finish my thoughts, Josh pulls out his phone, navigates to an article and hands it to me.
“This is the truth and it’s something you need to know if you care about me in any way, shape, or form. Read it.”
My heart rises up into my throat and thumps there for a moment. I can’t swallow it back down, and I don’t want to see what he’s showing me. I take his phone and look down at a police report. An intoxicated Joshua Gallub sexually assaulted a co-ed at a party on Halloween his freshman year. There are pictures, a torn Cleopatra costume, bruises on her thighs and wrists. My lower lip trembles as I read in graphic detail the events of that night and what he did to that woman.
When I finish, I’m shaking, unable to hide it. Tears sting my eyes, but don’t fall. There’s only one word in my mind, one relentless question that won’t be still. “Why?”
His eyes avoid mine as he turns from me, and stares at a point on the horizon. “There was no reason. I did it. I wanted her, and when she said no, I didn’t stop. I lost everything important to me that night, but she lost so much more. I was horrified the next day when I realized what I did. I went to find her, to apologize, but there’s no way to make amends for something like that. Kerry, I killed part of her. She’ll never be the same because of me. No matter what I do, I can’t fix that.”
“She reported it to the campus police that night and they blew her off.”
“They didn’t believe her. She was dancing with me that night, and a lot of people saw us making out. They blamed her, said she must have sent mixed signals to a drunk guy and that she needed to get her story straight before she comes in crying wolf.”
“Oh my god. What happened? How did the police hear about this, then?”
He looks up at me. “I told them.”
“What?” I stare at his face, dually shocked. “You reported it?”
“There’s no way to fix it, but I didn’t want her thinking that it was her fault. It wasn’t. I reported it. There was no trial, no questioning. I put her through enough. I had my lawyer ask her what she wanted, how I should pay for what I did. She asked for leniency in exchange for a promise. I had to give my word that I would tell every woman who I had any interest in about that night. I agreed and kept my promise.”
No wonder why he’s a pariah. It’s something no one talks about, but Josh is isolated most of the time. “Was this Carter’s girlfriend?”
“Yes.” He says the word looking directly into my eyes. “People say I stole her, that we dated for a while. We didn’t. That’s just a nicer story to hear. Carter never forgave me, and I can’t blame him.”
“And the gay jibes at Carter? He said you started that.”
“I didn’t start it, but I didn’t stop it either. I may have added to it and made sure it stuck.” He sighs deeply. “Kerry, I fucked up. I ruined someone. I broke her.” Remorse fills his features and he continues, “I like you a lot, but I don’t trust myself anymore and you shouldn’t trust me either.”
I nod, finally understanding the pain in his eyes. Grief never released him and there’s no penance that can make up for what he did. I don’t know if I’m disgusted, disappointed, or just drained, but I want to cry. Josh wasn’t supposed to be the bad guy. I hand him back his phone and stare into space, not knowing what to say.
“You don’t have to pretend with me, Kerry. I was a bad person. Now, I don’t know what I am, but I don’t deserve your compassion.”
“Did you go to jail?”
“I can’t talk about it beyond what I’ve said. It was part of the agreement.”