Containing a fair amount of emotional strength and too much whiskey.

"At least Daphne had the presence of mind not to take a shower right away," Roxana was saying as she poured three glasses of whiskey. Her hands were shaking ever so slightly. Deborah wondered how she'd made it down I-5 in one piece.

"It was the first thing she wanted to do, of course," Roxana continued, "but she was smart enough to take the advice of the folks at the rape crisis center. They persuaded her that revenge was out of the question if she did anything of the kind. So she didn't." Deborah shook her head and shuddered. Lyssa still seemed in almost more of a state of shock than Roxana.

It was a great setting for drama. Everything in Roxana's apartment was starkly black and white, the black leather furniture pushed up against white walls hung with black and white photographs. It was too dramatic for Deborah. The whole business was too dramatic. It took up too much time and nerves. At least she was between novels.

"Cheers," Roxana said mirthlessly, raising her glass. The other two followed suit without a word. "It did surprise me that Daphne went to the authorities immediately. That she had the determination to go through with the whole business and insist on prosecution. The physical must have been pretty humiliating."

"What did you expect her to do?" Deborah asked. She was beginning to feel grateful she didn't have a daughter. Lyssa was beginning to look green.

"Well, I don't know if I would have expected her to do that," Roxana replied. "I didn't know she had it in her."

Lyssa looked at her friend with an expression of shock. "Hannah didn't go to the police," she said.

"Hannah?" Deborah turned to Lyssa, her blue eyes wide. "What about Hannah?" She was more grateful every minute for her lack of daughters.

Roxana shook her head and leaned back in the overstuffed leather chair, folding her arms in front of her. "You never said anything about Hannah."

"I didn't know anything for a long time. She didn't tell me until Christmas."

"That was months ago," Roxana pointed out.

"I know. And it was months before that when she was apparently raped. I couldn't do anything."

Roxana nodded thoughtfully. "Uh, huh," she said. "Now I understand."

Deborah, however, didn't. "Apparently?" she asked.

"Well, she never said he raped her. He was her boyfriend at the time. All she said was that they had a fight and he wouldn't let her go home when she wanted to, that he kept her in his room...." Lyssa shook her head shortly as if to clear it.

"Daphne could hardly avoid realizing what going on. She had no problems finding the right word," Roxana said dryly. "There were three of them, all rather drunk. In fact, the first one was so drunk he couldn't get it up, so he's only faced with a charge of attempted rape. That apparently has damaged his reputation more than a rape charge, however." Roxana lifted her plucked eyebrows cynically.

Lyssa stared at Roxana with an expression of disbelief, but Deborah wasn't fooled. Roxana was already pouring herself a second glass of whiskey, none too steadily. She looked at Deborah and laughed shortly and humorlessly. "It's just like life."

"What is?" Lyssa asked.

"Daphne's rape."

"I hope not," Deborah said.

"But look at it this way," Roxana insisted and took another sip of whiskey. Straight. "Just when she thought she'd gotten lucky, just when she thought her potential rapist was a fortunate failure, they gang-banged her."

"And why is that just like life?" Lyssa asked.

"Just when you think it was all just a lucky miss, they spring the booby trap on you."

"Who's 'they'?" Deborah asked.

Roxana refused to be drilled. "Whoever. I don't care. You don't have a chance." Roxana had always been an expert at side-stepping the border of bitterness, but now she'd gone over the edge. No longer just flirting with despair, she was embracing totally. She would have murdered gladly, but Daphne didn't need her support. Or at least that's what her father said.

Lyssa and Deborah watched silently as Roxana downed her second glass of whiskey and poured herself a third. She would soon drown her troubles, all right.

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