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by Sally Doherty

The first time hardly counted. Your hands guided my fingers, the bow sliding across the strings. My flat notes caressed into a rich, vibrating melody under your touch. It was probably my imagination — the strength of your clasp, the lingering note.

The second time was brief. My school skirt was too short. I realised that afterwards. What was a skirt for school to me was a skirt asking for attention to you. Your hand brushed my thigh. My music faltered but I laughed at our mistake. You were being friendly; a teacher to a pupil.

The third time I blamed myself. You smirked at my trousers but I’d forgotten my newly formed breasts, my tight blouse. Leaning over the cello with my buttons gaping was a request to be stroked. Groped. You gave me that look, the snakelike smile, the “this is our secret” wink. The room was empty, nobody to hear your tune reach its crescendo.

I stopped going to practice.

“But you love it!” said Mum.

“I can’t be bothered.” I shrugged.

I drag my cello case from the darkest depths of the attic. Always hidden, but never forgotten. It takes more than dust to erase you.

“Me too.” My whisper pulses under the heat of shame. Your tobacco breath on my neck. Those probing hands.

“Me too.” I raise my eyes from the ground. My voice quavers, my tempo quickens. I snap open the clasp and brandish the bow in the air.

“#MeToo,” I shout to the sky, spurred by the chorus of others.

Clenched teeth, arms flexed — the wood splinters in two. The strings break loose, wild and free. I hoick up my long skirt, place my fingers on the instrument and start to play. This is my song. Not yours.

Sally Doherty lives in leafy Surrey with her two-legged husband, three-legged Labrador and four-legged Jack Russell Terror. She recently started dabbling in flash fiction with her first piece published in Reflex Fiction in January 2019. Primarily, Sally writes middle grade novels. Her debut book Toby and the Silver Blood Witches will be published by March Hamilton.