Monica heard a strange sound while preparing for her grade 11 history class. She was
sitting in her classroom, the students’ desks still empty. There was a clattering, an
incessant tapping, at the bay of windows to her right. She looked over but saw
Outside, a man was tossing pebbles at the class window, trying to attract the teacher’s
attention. He was of average height and rather hefty and looked a little scruffy. No
students were in the classroom yet, it was early. The man wanted to speak with
She finally located the noise and opened the window. She peered out and saw the
man, recognizing him with great surprise.
“What are you doing here, Lenny?” she said. “What do you want?”
“I want my money. I need it now,” he said.
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
“The money for the abortion, the $400 I lent you,” he said.
Monica was stunned.
“That was over twenty years ago,” she said. “Go away, my students will arrive any
“Not until you promise to meet me,” he said. “I need that money. Pay up or else!”
“Get away from me,” she said, and slammed down the window.
The students were now trickling into the classroom, taking their seats and opening their
books. Monica walked back to the front of the room. She was a slim, good-looking
woman in her mid-forties, with jet -black hair and just a touch of grey at the temples.
She was quite shaken by seeing the man from her past. She felt all stirred up and even
afraid. Still, she tried to conduct her class as if this was just any normal day.
Monica finished the lesson, though not with her usual flourish. As the students filed
noisily out of the classroom, she realized just how dead tired she felt.
It seemed she never had much energy left these days after meeting her young
students. At home she had two teenage children and was separated from their father.
Money was tight and it all weighed on her. And now, she had Lenny to contend with.
Lenny, meanwhile, went back to his car. He was disappointed but not defeated. He
would find a way to get his money back. He was staying at a sketchy motel on the
highway and went there to regroup and plan his next interaction with Monica.
They had been lovers in their early twenties. When she got pregnant everything had
shifted. He started drinking heavily and she doubted he would make a good father. He
gave her the money for the abortion, but never really agreed with her decision to
terminate the pregnancy. Now, especially, he felt it had been a mistake. Never again
had he had the opportunity to become a father and he regretted it. Surely, she should
be made to pay for his sense of loss.
Monica, on the other hand, fully accepted the abortion. Although difficult, it had been
the right decision for her. She had continued her career, and eventually met a man with
whom she could plan a future and start a family. She never told her husband about the
abortion. Their difficulties in the last few years were nothing she could solve, but they’d
dealt with them with the fewest possible negative consequences for the children.
That night, her husband Dave picked up the kids for their swimming lessons. They
were standing just inside the door of the apartment, in the foyer. In the dim light, he
noticed that she seemed to be upset. When he asked her about it, she said it was
nothing and shooed them out the door.
The next morning Lenny was at the entrance of the school when Monica arrived. She
tried to avoid him but he pushed up close to her.
“We had something good back then,” he said. “I’m single now and so are you. We
could try again.”
“Are you out of your mind?” she said. “And besides, I’m not single, just separated. It’s
not the same thing.”
He leaned against her, pushing her away from the door she was trying to enter. With
his greater weight, it was easy to push her off course.
“I want my money,” he said. “And I won’t be leaving town until I get it.”
Monica swerved deftly around him and reached the door. She was breathless. She
said nothing more and continued to her classroom where she tried to keep it together
while teaching American history classes for the rest of the day.
Later, when she had a free moment, she re-lived the incident in the morning and felt
frightened. He had tried to assault her and she felt angry and fearful. Worrying, she
wondered if she was going to have to call the police to keep Lenny away. But in her
exhaustion, she didn’t do anything.
On the weekend when her husband Dave came to pick up the kids, he again noticed
that she was a bit off. They were standing in the driveway when he asked her again
what was going on. She decided to fill him in, he seemed to know her so well. “A man I used to know is bothering me”, she told him. “He says I owe him $400, and I
don’t have that kind of money.”
Dave looked puzzled and asked what the money was for.
Monica sighed.“Well, we were an item in our early twenties. I got pregnant and he paid for the abortion,” she explained. “It seems he’s never forgiven me. And now he wants his
Dave looked away. “Why did you never tell me about this?”
“I’m not sure,” she said. “It was in the past and I wanted to keep it there.”
“Were you afraid I would judge you?” he asked.
Dave looked at her, his eyes full of understanding. He said he didn’t judge her but
would rather have known about the situation.
“It’s not your fault,” he said. “These things happen, especially when we’re young.”
“I never thought I’d have to see him again.”
“Let me give you the money and let’s get rid of him, once and for all,” Dave said. He
was hoping to draw her closer and maybe heal their six-month separation. He’d found
it brutal to be on his own and he still loved Monica. The separation had never been his
Monica said she wasn’t sure that Dave paying him off was a good plan. She said she
wanted to think about it for a day or two.
“Let’s talk again when you bring back the kids on Sunday,” she said. “And not a word
to them about this, okay?”
“Yes, fine. See you on Sunday. But if he tries to contact you again,” said Dave,
brandishing a fist, “make sure to call me.”
She nodded and stepped back into the house.
Later that night she heard a knock at her door. She was not expecting anyone,
especially after 10 pm. She went to the front door and looked through the peephole. It
was Lenny. Oh crap, she thought, this is all I need. She felt some trepidation at seeing
She considered not opening the door, but he was insistent, banging loudly. She
wondered if he was drunk.
“Go away, Lenny,” she said through the door.
“No! I’m not leaving until you pay up.”
“I don’t have that kind of money,” she said. “Leave me alone.”
He pounded on the door, making a racket. Monica was afraid it would disturb the
neighbors. She opened the door just an inch. Lenny pushed hard, broke the latch and
Monica was knocked off-balance. He slithered through the open crack and grabbed
her by the shoulders. Before she knew it, he was pressing hard against her, trying to
feel her body all over.
“Stop it!” she cried.
But he continued to take advantage of her, licking at her ears and grabbing her crotch
aggressively. He groped at her as she tried to push him off.
She reached for the heavy ceramic bookend on the shelving unit by the door and
knocked him hard on the side of the head. Lenny slumped to the floor.
Monica was shaking, and crying. Lenny was writhing at her feet, blood trickling from
She ran to the kitchen and called the police.
Lenny was still unconscious when they arrived. Tearfully, she described the attack and
his demand for money. The police told her she had been smart to call them and they
heaved Lenny out the door and into the back of the squad car. Monica was left alone
on her front porch, under a dimly lit sky.
She was angry at herself for not calling the police from school the other day. She felt
ashamed that Lenny’s intense desperation hadn’t fully registered with her. There had
been reason to feel afraid and she’d missed the clues.
It wasn’t until about midnight that she finally called Dave to tell him what had
happened. She’d had a brandy and a bath to try and calm herself down but was still
very upset. Dave was livid when she told him about Lenny.
“Who does he think he is?” said Dave. “He was trying to rape you, damnit!”
“I know,” said Monica. “It was terribly frightening.”
“Are the police going to keep him?” asked Dave.
“I don’t know,” she said.
“Well I don’t like the fact that you’re alone in the house,” said Dave. “I’m bringing the
kids home and I’ll sleep on the couch downstairs for tonight.”
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” said Monica. She wondered why he was so insistent.
Was he trying to show that he was indispensable, that they needed to get back
together for her safety?
But Dave wouldn’t take no for an answer and hung up the phone.
When he arrived about thirty minutes later, the sleepy kids in tow, he found Monica
sitting in the living room. She was still visibly shaken.
After he had settled the kids in their bedrooms, Dave came downstairs and sat next to
Monica on the couch. He tried to cozy up to her but she demurred.
“Dave, that’s not what I want or need,” she said. “Thank you for coming over, but we’re
not starting up again over this.”
He was disappointed and retreated to the other side of the sofa.
“You can’t go on like this,” he said. “You were already burning out at school and now
with this…it’s too much. What are you going to do?”
“You’re right. I can’t take much more of this,” she said. “I’ll call the police station
tomorrow morning to find out what they are doing with Lenny,” she said. “I’ll charge him
with attempted rape if I have to. Hopefully they’ve kept him overnight.”
Dave finally agreed to that course of action. Monica brought him some sheets and a
blanket and they said goodnight.
In the morning, Monica asked Dave if he still thought paying Lenny off would get rid of
him. Dave said he wasn’t sure, but that it was worth a try. After the kids left for school,
they headed down to the police station together.
Across town at the municipal building where the police were stationed, things were just
humming. Monica and Dave found a long line-up at reception. They took a number and
sat off to the side with other community residents. After an hour or so, they were seen
by an intake officer.
Monica explained the events of the last few days, highlighting the attempted rape the
night before. She asked if Lenny was being held in custody. The officer listened but
appeared somewhat distracted. Finally, he looked at the computer and told them that
Lenny had been discharged that morning.
“We didn’t have enough to go on,” said the officer. “So we let him go.”
Monica was enraged. She could hardly contain her anger. Dave stepped in to ask why
the police hadn’t called Monica for more information before letting Lenny leave. But the
officer didn’t have much to add and instead asked for the next person to come
Monica had to be at work for her first class at 11:00 am so they hurried to the parking
lot and agreed to speak later that evening.
She was at the school in no time. She picked up her mail in the office and went to her
classroom where she continued her lesson about slavery during the American Civil
Later, she realized that inside she felt like a soldier in her own war drama. What would
she do now that Lenny was out and about? Who could tell what his next step might be?
She did not feel safe or reassured by the officer she’d spoken with that morning. She
decided that she needed to go and confide in her boss, the principal, and then take a
few days off.
Principal Herman listened carefully and agreed Monica should take the remainder of
the week off, to try and settle the situation. He was aware that student safety could be
at risk if a dangerous man was allowed to lurk near the school.
That night she spoke to Dave on the phone. He offered to track Lenny down and pay
him off in the hope that it would push him to leave town. Monica agreed, and said she
would pay him back the $400 when she could. Although she didn’t want to have to rely
on Dave for anything, it just wasn’t worth living in fear of Lenny’s arrival at her door
step. She thanked him and said goodbye.
Just then, the doorbell rang.
Monica stood by the door for a moment, listening. She worried that it might be Lenny,
looking for more trouble. Never in her life had she felt in this much danger, but she
would not succumb. She felt her strength, through the fear. She sighed and turned off
the porch light before making her way up the stairs.
Miriam Edelson is a neurodivergent social activist, settler, writer and mother living in Toronto, Canada. Her literary non-fiction, personal essays and commentaries have appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, various literary journals including Dreamers Magazine, Collective Unrest, Writing Disorder, Palabras, Wilderness House Literary Review and on CBC Radio. She was a finalist in both the Pen 2 Paper nonfiction contest and the Women on Writing contest. Her first book, My Journey with Jake: A Memoir of Parenting and Disability was published in April 2000. Battle Cries: Justice for Kids with Special Needs appeared in late 2005. She completed a doctorate in 2016 at University of Toronto focused upon Mental Health in the Workplace. The Swirl in my Burl, her collection of essays, is forthcoming in June 2022. She lives with and manages the mental health challenges related to bipolar disorder.