KarMel Scholarship 2008


Honorable Mention:

Best Overcoming Obstacle

 “…And I Never Looked Back”

By Toni Palermo - FL



Desciption of Submission: “After falling victim to rape, an emotionally unstable teen discovers her light at the end of the tunnel and the love of her life.  True Story” - Toni


Why Karen and Melody Liked It:  We appreciated that she was able to share herr personal story of being a rape victim and how she overcame it and moved on to find her true love.  



When Monica muttered the words, “I love you,” the first thought that surfaced in my mind was that night five months ago. When finally looked up, I didn’t see Monica; I saw Garrett. When I looked down at my feet, as I had done that night, I didn’t see my black boots or Monica’s immaculate, white Adidas, I saw my dilapidated beige flip flops and Garrett’s bare toes peeking out from his lengthy, red, pajama pants.

I didn’t see the gray cement of the courtyard, reflecting the cool January day’s seemingly eternal sunshine. Instead, I saw the blacktop, below a dark sky surrounding a full moon, above our heads. I didn’t even see my hand in hers; I saw my hand on the door of the navy blue mustang which was gleaming in the overhanging streetlight. I didn’t see myself fidget with her hands as I comprehended this expression; I saw myself fiddle with the keys as I jammed them into the ignition and drove away, leaving Garrett at the end of the block, inadvertently sealing my fate to never see him again.

Monica. There was nothing more I could do than to nod and eventually look up at her face which was searching somewhere for an answer that might never come. I could not bring myself to say it. I could not pay forward the lie that was once told to me. I would not be so naïve to be lied to again. I could not and would not let these words past my lips, knowing their full potential. I could not let things escalate to the degree that things such as this begin to.

I had experienced the lasting effects of the phrase first hand and I knew the sound of them now was like a fire alarm in my ear and the taste is sour like month old milk. I knew that in the right context, such a confession could send me falling to my weakened knees, causing the world to spin dizzily with elation. I knew the part of the story all too well, where the avid admirer turns out to be a fraud. I knew what it was like for the merry-go-round of emotions to suddenly come to a squeaky halt and for the world to be transformed into a colorless, emotionless void that holds no way out.

I didn’t know what to feel any longer and you can’t exactly ask another how you should feel. I was living in a world beside reality; simultaneously, in Eastern Standard Time, and that one night, which was to be relived for many more months.

Each time it begins with a spark… a tiny, ingenuous spark, which evolves into a tiny flame, which flickers in the part of the human psyche that harbors impractical plans and ideas. The flame then, begins to destruct my inhibitions, my sense of reasoning, and my boundaries. It is then, when I am forced to repeat the most heart-wrenching piece of that night all because of a neatly compacted three word sentence that I had succumbed to twice within a four hour span of time.

My parents were just as absent from our home, as they would be in my life following this night because they never found out about what I was about to do. They were gone on some vacation for the weekend, leaving my sister, baby brother, and I trusted and alone. Striving for something to pass the time of this uneventful Friday night, I scanned my myspace for a willing friend to converse with. Garrett was the lucky candidate. The distinct dialogue of the conversation remains a blur but the hint of promiscuity can still be detected. While at the time, I categorized his outward verbal advances as a big, playful joke, I would soon learn that behind every minuscule “ha-ha” or “just kidding” there is a lifetime of truth.

I remember that he wanted me to come over. I remember that he said he loved me and that he missed me because we haven’t seen much of each other since middle school. I remember I said okay and I remember that’s when I shut down my computer, took out my mother’s Mustang and drove five blocks away, at one in the morning, with no license.

I arrived about ten minutes later, nine minutes longer than it would have taken any other normal person to drive there. I was afraid that I would attract a slew of police officers in such a flashy car and no legal form of identification to keep a joy riding fifteen year old, like myself, from being arrested for violating Florida State curfew laws. He met me at the edge of his driveway and motioned for me to stay quiet. With that, he lead me around the back of his house, through the screen door of a ordinarily tiled pool deck, and into the back bathroom that most homes in the area have, which can be accessed by either the pool area or by a door in the house.

He shut the door slyly behind me as he put his sneakers in the cabinet under the sink and indicated that I do the same. I did, and then we crept out of the bathroom, across the house and into his bedroom, hand in hand. I had been over his house once but I had yet to see his bedroom, which was small, dark and cluttered. There were blankets stretched out across the floor and pillows laid out on his black twin bed that was pushed against the wall. There was a faint glow emanating from both the heavily decorated desktop computer and the television which was tuned in to the Fresh Prince of Bell Air.

Band posters and paraphernalia plastered every inch of his stone gray walls, signifying to anyone who saw them that he enjoyed music of the rock ‘n roll persuasion. I guessed it was a general requirement for a person like him. He was the bad-boy whom no one could ever quite catch. I’m sure that the same considerations were made when he styled his hair in the mornings, which was usually constructed into a brown and blood red mohawk.  He was not skinny, or obese; he was not particularly muscular or flabby; he was more of an average build, height, and weight. He donned a Detroit Redwings jersey, which he kept on for the duration of the night.

We sat on his bed for a few minutes, watching TV, speechless. He moved his hand to my hand, to my back, to the nape of my neck and kissed me tenderly. He slowly repositioned us on the blanket covering the floor as we continued to keep rhythm of our lips at the same tempo. A wandering hand made its way for my chest. I pulled away. He asked me what was wrong. I told him to keep his hands to himself. He said that he had never felt this way about another girl before and that he loved me. He said I was different in so many ways. He said I was special. I liked him a lot too, and because of that, I really thought he meant it.

 That night I succumbed to a lie. I had succumbed to him. I let down my guard. I think I realized this about half way through when I began to cry and he didn’t notice. He just continued with what he was doing. I tried to pull myself out this situation that I so credulously put my self into but I couldn’t move. I was pinned. I told him to stop for just one second, hoping it would come to a standstill long enough for me to leave. He didn’t.

The next thing I remember is not saying a word as we both slunk out of the back bathroom door and around to the front of the house where the Mustang was parked. I went to get in. I didn’t even want to look at him. He called my name and I stood motionless, parallel to his slightly longer stature. I refused to look him in the eye, choosing, instead, to study my feet.  “I love you,” he said.  And with that, I left.

I was unable to tell anyone because of the compromising position I had put myself in, and unable to forget it because the scene revisits me on such a frequent basis.

Every time some dramatized soap star speaks those three words, or a Valentines Day display is erected, I am reminded that at any given moment, another smitten teenager could surrender to a person who resembles someone I thought I knew.

            I struggled for a very long time with who I was after what had occurred and I began to slink into a deep depression. I had lost all sense of self-esteem and felt unworthy of normal human interaction. That is, until Monica came into my life. She took down my barbed wire fences and helped me regain my outgoing personality. She took the fear out of my eyes every time I would fall witness to that prevailing, torturous, scene that seems to return less and less, now. It was then when I realized that she was my beautiful rescue.

“I love you, too,” I said in reply…and I never looked back.