“He fuck you here?” he demanded, pul ing me up, slamming me against a wal , pushing his body against mine. “Did he fuck you?” he repeated, pushing my face to the side, pressing my bleeding cheek against the wal . “Did he make you come? How many times did he fuck you?” He pul ed me away from the wal and slammed me against it again. “How many times did he fuck you!” he screamed.
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He was out of control, completely.
“Bil y,” I whispered.
He hit me again, so hard my head and body flew to the side and I went down on my hands and knees. Then he kicked me in the ribs, his boot slamming into my body so hard, it pul ed me off the floor. Then he dropped down and rol ed me over, tore the remains of the sweater off me and forced his thigh between my legs until his hips fel between them, his groin pressing against me.
“I should fuck you, right here, in his bed. Leave a present for him on his sheets.”
God, no. Please, God, no,
I started struggling again, my ribs were burning where he kicked me, my face aching, I could feel the blood there. Bil y didn’t notice my struggles.
“I should do it but we don’t have time,” he said and I had just a second to thank God before Bil y said, “Get dressed.” He got up, jerking me up with him.
” he screamed.
Shaking and scared, I got dressed.
* * * * *
He took me to his car, parked out in the street behind Hank’s 4Runner. He drove, at first, like a madman, silent, crazy.
I left him to his thoughts. Mine were of survival, then escape.
Once we left Denver, he seemed to calm.
I decided it was time to try to speak, maybe reason with him, maybe talk him around. “Bil y, I have to go to the bathroom,” I said.
“Shut your fuckin’ mouth.”
Okay, so I was wrong about him being calm.
He drove, fast.
Close to the Colorado-Nebraska border, we stopped at a gas station.
“Bil y, I have to go to the bathroom, see to my face,” I said quietly.
He turned to me. He didn’t look like my handsome, sweet, dreamer Bil y anymore. I didn’t even know this man.
“You run, I’l catch you. Make no mistake.” I nodded, I believed him. Stil , I was going to try.
He got me the key and I went to the bathroom. There were other cars at the station and the people in them stared at me but gave us a wide berth.
I looked at my face in the cloudy, pocked, gas station mirror. There was blood running down my left cheek and it was smeared along my face. The cuts weren’t bad but they were there bleeding a lot and the bruising and swel ing had already started.
I felt my nostrils burn and I took deep breaths to stop the tears from coming. Tears would leak energy and I needed everything I could get. I forced back the tears, washed my face and stayed in the bathroom as long as I could, hoping someone would cal the cops. Hoping I’d hear sirens.
A fist pounded on the door.
“Get your ass out here!” Bil y yel ed.
I tilted my head back, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Then I pushed open the door with al my strength and ran, straight by Bil y, hel bent for leather, no destination in mind, I just wanted attention, to get someone to help. So I ran, screaming at the top of my lungs.
I saw the surprised stares turn to shock, people fil ing up their cars or waiting in them, stunned immobile at the sight of Bil y chasing me. Then, he caught me, dragged me kicking and screaming to the car, shoved me in the driver’s side, got in with me and, somehow, we rocketed from the station even as I was fighting him.
I saw a man run toward us, but he was too late.
Bil y drove wild, fighting me as he drove. I didn’t care if we wrecked, I’d take the damage of an accident to my body far easier than I’d take any more damage from Bil y.
He pul ed over and turned, giving me his ful attention.
He hit me again, so hard, my mind went blank and I slowed to let my brain settle. When I blinked away the unconsciousness that wanted to envelope me, Bil y was tying my hands together with nylon rope.
When he was done, he yanked me across the emergency brake, until his face was an inch from mine.
“You gotta learn, Roxie. You gotta learn.” I didn’t know what he was talking about and didn’t want to know.
“You’l learn,” he finished, then he pushed me off him, put the car in gear and we took off.
* * * * *
He tied my hands to the steering wheel when he went in to pay. He brought back cheese puffs and a diet drink and I ate with my hands tied. I noticed his wal et was ful of bil s, bulging with them and I was too scared of what was happening to be even more scared of how he got so much money.
I didn’t think of anything, kept my mind blank, tried to sleep so my body would be rested, ready to fight, but sleep wouldn’t come.
We headed into Kansas, went west for a while and, deep in the night, stopped at a hotel. Bil y tied me to the steering wheel again while he checked in. He didn’t untie my hands al night, even stood over me while I went to the bathroom.
Lying on my back in the bed, Bil y pressed into me, half his body over me, keeping me from breathing, my ribs stil hurt and they hurt worse with his arm tight around me.
He whispered, “You can’t leave me Roxie. You’re the only good thing I got. You’re the only good thing I ever had. I can’t lose you. Don’t you understand?”
I didn’t understand.
“Bil y, you have to talk to me. What are you running from?”
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“We gotta stay clear for a few days. I struck it this time, Roxie. Right before you left, I hit it. Now, I can take you to France. Now, we can go anywhere. We can go to Italy, Bermuda. You can live in a bikini.”
“Bil y,” I whispered. “What have you done?”
“It’s al for you, Roxie. Everything I’ve done is for you.” I felt the tears crawl up my throat, my nostrils quivering but I fought it down and laid there, awake al night, Bil y sleeping beside me.
I was lying in the bed I’d made for myself.
* * * * *
The next day, more of the same, the only difference was I didn’t try to escape and I got a tube of chips with my diet drink.
We headed back east, then north, cut back and then south, then north again.
We didn’t talk, Bil y was beyond fast-talk now, even Bil y was smart enough to know he’d have to talk three miles a minute to bring me back around.
We were at the Nebraska-Iowa state line when the clock on the dash turned to midnight and we stopped at a filthy motel.
The manager looked at me tied to the steering wheel while Bil y checked in. I didn’t make a move, didn’t try to communicate my dilemma. Thoughts of escape were gone, for now.
Like my Mom said, I needed to be smart. To escape, I needed people, I needed a place to run, a police station, a fire station, a hospital, an al -night café. Something. I had to bide my time, not fight; maybe make Bil y think I’d given up.
Bil y would have to fuck up somewhere along the line and I was waiting.
That’s when I’d go, escape, find my way home, get my stuff from Annette and disappear. I’d have to leave the country, maybe go to Canada, Mexico, disappear and stay gone for a good long time, maybe forever.
I was my generation’s Uncle Tex; I had to cut myself loose. I understood Uncle Tex now. I understood how it felt to feel dirty even though it wasn’t you who jumped in the mud, instead, you’d been pushed, but you were soiled al the same.
I hadn’t taken a shower in three days, my hair was filthy, my face and body stil ached from the fight, especial y my ribs and I feared they’d been cracked when Bil y kicked me.
I hurt from being cooped in the car, my hands hurt from being tied together for two days. I lay in bed, Bil y beside me again, and my thoughts drifted to Hank.
I’d succeeded in not thinking about him until then, but I was tired, so fucking tired, I couldn’t push the thoughts away.
I wondered what he thought when he came home from his run, thinking to find me asleep in his bed, to wake me, shower with me, take me to breakfast, like normal people, like a couple starting out. Instead, he came home to find his house wide open and trashed, me gone.
One date and he said there was a him and me. He was so sure about it. He was so fucking sure he’d made me sure. For twenty minutes, I’d felt good and clean and
God, how I wished that could be true.
It didn’t last,
Here I was, unshowered, in a stinking motel, on the run with a criminal, my pretty, designer clothes dirty, no longer my armor. Hank would take one look at me and wonder what in the hel he was thinking. I wasn’t what he thought I was.
didn’t even know who I was anymore.
I felt a single tear slide down the side of my eye when the door splintered and crashed open.
Bil y jerked awake and came away from the bed and I rol ed the other way as the lights went on.
rol ed the other way as the lights went on.
“Fuck, Roxie, run!” Bil y shouted but I had no time to run.
There was nowhere
run. They were in the door, cutting off the only escape route.
There were two men, with guns. I felt momentarily stunned. I didn’t think I’d ever seen a gun, except in a holster carried by a uniformed cop.
Bil y charged, I shook free of my daze and tried to make a dash. One went after Bil y but I didn’t see what happened because the other one came after me.
Thanks to my fucking, shithead, so-very ex-boyfriend, I was hindered by tied hands, wrists rubbed raw by being bound for two days.
I fought al the same.
He easily overpowered me and forced me into the bathroom, cuffing me by one wrist to the pipes under the sink. I was shouting and he shoved his handkerchief in my mouth, tying it in place with a cord he ripped from a lamp in the bedroom. This al took him less than a minute, he was a practiced hand at this crap.
Then, without looking back, he entered the grunting, scary scuffle I heard in the other room. No one outside heard me scream before I was gagged, or, it was the kind of place where they ignored it. The scuffle stopped or moved but one way or another, the bedroom went completely silent.
I sat under the sink, tense and waiting but minutes ticked by and no one came back for me.
* * * * *
So, there I was, my worst fears had come true.
Bil y’s stink had settled on me.
I could even smel it.
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I heard movement in the other room, barely, just a rustling.
I knew someone was there, maybe someone who wasn’t supposed to be there.
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I kept quiet and held my breath, unsure of what to do. I didn’t want the men who took Bil y to come back and get me. I didn’t think they were good people who were there to explain that Bil y had won some magazine’s mil ion dol ar sweepstakes and just got real y carried away with the excitement of it al .
I saw the shadow when it hit the doorway and, without thinking, I scooted further under the sink.
“Fuck,” the shadow muttered.
Then the bathroom light flipped on.
Vance stood there; Lee’s bounty hunter.
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I blinked up at him, my eyes adjusting to the light.
It immediately hit me that Vance was a different sort than Hank. He didn’t have control over his reactions, maybe didn’t want to and he didn’t try to hide his expression from me. Vance’s dark eyes were blazing angry and his mouth was tight.
He pul ed some keys from his pocket and crouched beside me, his eyes never leaving my face even as his hands went to the cuffs. He freed me from the sink within a few seconds, then he went to work on the cord wrapped around my head, al the while looking at me.
After he pul ed the handkerchief gently from my mouth, his hands went back to mine and he worked on the nylon rope while he asked, “You okay?”
I wanted to laugh and ask him how many girls he found beaten up, gagged and cuffed to sinks in sleazy hotels that answered, “Yeah, sure, peachy.” But it was anything but funny and both Vance and I knew it.
Instead, I said, “I think he cracked a couple ribs.” His eyes flared and, again, he didn’t try to hide it.
He helped me up from the floor, helped me out of the hotel and then helped me into a black Ford Explorer.
Once I was inside, he skirted the car and swung behind the wheel. Without delay, he started the truck, hitting some buttons on the sat nav after he hit a button on the phone, making it ring inside the truck.
“Yeah?” A voice answered before the second ring.
“Got her, do you have a lock on my position?” Vance asked, stil fiddling with the sat nav.
“Yeah. She okay?” the voice asked back.
“I need the nearest hospital,” Vance replied.
Vance stopped fiddling with the sat nav, reversed the Explorer out of the spot and started driving.
“When you hear the zip code, enter it into the sat nav.
Can you do that?” Vance asked me.
“Yes,” I whispered, then cleared my throat. “Yes,” I said louder.
The male voice gave me the zip code and I entered it.
“To hel with him, darlin’,” Uncle Tex wrote with his usual brutal honesty, “He sounds no good. Cut him loose and find yourself a real man.”
* * * * *
We’d rented a loft that I loved. I was close to Wrigley Field (what can I say, I’m a Cubs fan) and I was only four hours away from family.
No way was I going anywhere.
So, I told Bil y he could go but I was staying.
We got in a big, old fight that ended in tears; my tears, I was a crier, I cried al the time. I’d cry at a card with a picture of a cute, little kitty on it and I didn’t even have to look at what the card said, and we stayed.
This happened a lot. Bil y would want to go, I’d want to stay, we’d have a rip roarin’ fight, I’d cry, and then we’d stay.
Then Bil y came home late one night and said we
to go. I could tel by the way he was acting that things I didn’t understand, things I’d closed my eyes to al those years, were bad as in real y bad.
I didn’t care. I dug in my heels. It hadn’t been the same between us since the first time I refused to go. We’d been in a slow decline and I hated it. I wanted Bil y to be a good guy and do right by me (and himself) but I was beginning to realize this wasn’t going to happen. It broke my heart because we’d had good times, no, great times, and I’d miss him. But there was only so much a girl could take. I hated it that everyone was right about Bil y but when you fuck up, you have to admit it, deal with it and move on.
I was ready to take Uncle Tex’s advice and cut him loose.
When I told him this, Bil y backed me up against a wal , his forearm against my throat, his pretty-boy face contorted and ugly with a rage I’d never seen before. He hissed at me, “Where I go, you go. You belong to me. We’re never going to be apart, you’re fuckin’ mine… forever.” Needless to say, this scared me. Bil y had never acted like this. I didn’t like to be scared. I never watched horror movies, ever. I didn’t
I knew at that point it was over. Any residual hope I had for Bil y and me was gone in a blink. Firstly, I didn’t like his arm at my throat, it hurt. Secondly, I didn’t like the look on his face; it freaked me out. Lastly, I wasn’t anyone’s, but my own.
In other words, fuck… that.
Somehow, we stayed in Chicago and whatever it was that had Bil y in a panic calmed down.
I didn’t. I packed his shit, put it in the hal and changed the locks.
This did not go over wel . He broke down the door with a sledgehammer.
This did not go over wel either. I had a conniption fit.
We had another rip roarin’ fight and he talked me into taking him back.
Don’t think I was stupid or weak. I had no intention of real y taking him back. I had long since realized that Bil y was exactly what Bil y was and I didn’t want any part of it. I’d loved him, yes, it was true, but he wasn’t what I thought he was (or what I tried to convince myself he was). I was beginning to fear the stink I sensed on him would start to transfer itself to me.
But a sledgehammer was serious business.
I was going to have to be smart (final y).
Therefore, I was building what I liked to cal my
with the Enemy
I started to save money in a new account Bil y didn’t know about. I stashed newly purchased clothes Bil y had never seen and would never miss at Annette’s place and I left.
First, I went to my folks’ house.
Bil y came and brought me back.
I expected this. I was stil stashing money and clothes at Annette’s, biding my time.
Then I went to a girlfriend’s in Atlanta.
Bil y found me and brought me back.
Again, I waited.
Then I went to a hotel in Dal as.
Bil y found me and brought me back.
This plan took a long time and this was unusual for me. I wasn’t the most patient of people and I felt, acutely, that my life was ebbing away day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year. I had to see it through though, and I’m kind of stubborn so I kept at it.
It was the last time to leave Bil y, a two-part end of the plan. I was going to go to the last place he thought I thought he wouldn’t look, knowing (like al the others, when I’d left breadcrumbs) he’d eventual y look. Then, after he brought me back, I’d go there again, having set up the plan beforehand and getting help (I hoped) while I was at it.
Though things got kind of fucked up, mainly because Bil y’s stink had settled on me, just like I’d feared.
See, it was then that I went to Denver.
I went to Uncle Tex
And, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you looked at it, I looked at it both ways; fortunately, because I’d remember it with bittersweet clarity for the rest of my life and unfortunately, because it would never last) it was then that I met Hank and my plan got total y fucked.
* * * * *
He deserves better than me.
I just hope I can figure out a way to make Hank agree.
This is how it began.
* * * * *
My Uncle Tex had been incarcerated for hunting down and then nearly beating a drug dealer to death. Now, several decades later, he was making fancy schmancy coffee.
How weird was
He seemed to like it and his letters were fil ed with stories about al the people that worked there and the regulars who came in, especial y the lady who owned it, India Savage (but, according to Uncle Tex, folks cal ed her Indy).
In his letters, I could tel that Uncle Tex liked everyone, especial y Indy (and, lately, another girl named Jet). He said Indy had “spunk” and Uncle Tex liked spunk. He also liked mettle, which he told me Jet had, even though (he said) she didn’t know it. Lastly, he liked sass which he said another girl he worked with, Al y, had (apparently, in abundance). In his letters, I could also tel that this Indy person had kind of adopted Uncle Tex and that it was changing him, for the good.
So, I worked Denver into my plan, thinking maybe this Indy had performed some magic and Uncle Tex wouldn’t close the door in my face (like he did with my Grams when she tried to visit al those times, and with my Mom, when she and my aunts went with Grams al those times).
Therefore, I decided to add a second agenda item to my plan, getting Uncle Tex back to the family: kil ing two birds with one stone.
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* * * * *
I arrived early in the morning, got a hotel room (with cash, I didn’t want Bil y to find me just yet), showered and did myself up. It was, to my thinking, a special occasion, meeting Uncle Tex for the first time and furthermore, I loved clothes (wel , I loved designer clothes). Mom said I wore my designer threads like armor. Dad said if they were armor, they weren’t working because they acted more like a magnet.
I wore my hair to just above my shoulders and got it cut at a place that cost a fortune so that it was al soft waves and little flippies at the ends. I did up my face and put on a charcoal gray wool, to-the-knee skirt that fit like a second skin, cupped my ass, straight at the front and flicked out in kick-pleats at the backs of my knees. I wore this with a black, figure-skimming, wool turtleneck sweater and a pair of gorgeous, spike-heeled black boots that cost so much money that I feared Bil y was going to have a seizure when he saw the price on the side of the box. At my ears, I put in a pair of diamond studs that Bil y bought me, likely with dirty money but they
diamonds and he didn’t often help with the rent, so I kept them. On my wrist, I put on my silver Raymond Weil watch with its mother-of-pearl face and finished the ensemble with my black, Lalique glass ring.
I couldn’t afford al this, not with taking care of Bil y and me. To feed my passion for labels, I saved and trol ed for al my treasures, careful y hoarding money or trawling nearly new shops (not to mention, I was addicted to online auction sites) for other people’s glamorous cast-offs. I did it as a hobby. I did it because I loved nice things and lately, I did it to remind myself of the life I’d left behind when I let myself fal in love with Bil y. This also served as a reminder of why I had to find a way to get rid of him.
I spritzed with Boucheron, threw my little Fendi bag over my shoulder (bought for a third of its retail price, never used, from a soon-to-be divorcee at her pre-divorce yard sale), programmed the address in the sat nav and headed to Uncle Tex’s house.
He wasn’t home.
I was surprised, it was Sunday and, for years, Uncle Tex had never left his block. Now he had a job but I didn’t reckon he was to the point of gal ivanting around Denver.
Though, in his latest letters, it sounded like he was doing a fair amount of gal ivanting.
I waited for a while and he didn’t come home. So, I went to a phone booth, looked up Fortnum’s bookstore and programmed the address in my sat nav.
I found a parking spot on Broadway and walked up to the door, which opened at the corner of Bayaud and Broadway.
It looked like a cool store, hip but not in a trendy way, in the way that only long-standing, cool-ass establishments could be hip, that is to say, natural y.
Then, I walked into the store.
And I loved it immediately. It smel ed musty from what looked like acres of disorganized books shelved, from what I could see, wil y-nil y at the back of the store.
I loved to read, loved books, libraries and bookstores and this, I could tel right away, was one of the best.
The front of the store was made up of the book counter to the left, on the right was a big espresso counter and al through the middle were tables and chairs, armchairs and comfy couches with low tables on which to set coffees.
I’d stopped when I’d entered and then my breath left me when I scanned the couches.
Sitting on the couches, al drinking coffee, were a bunch of men. Not just any men. It looked like
was having a convention and al the best looking guys had decided to have a coffee at Fortnum’s before going to seminars on how to cope with being real y, unbelievably, fucking gorgeous.
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There were five of them; two looked a lot alike, like they were brothers. But, of the lot, it was only the one with the whisky-colored eyes that got my attention. They were al looking at me, but the minute my eyes hit Whisky, I felt light-headed and had to stand stock stil or I’d have fal en over in a dead faint.
I knew what it was, it had happened before when I saw Bil y, that fatal attraction. But either it had been a long time or I didn’t remember how huge the feeling was because it hit me like a freight train and I was thrown for a loop.
To cover this, I looked away and tried to walk calmly up to the espresso counter where a female version of Whisky was serving and was her own, feminine brand of gorgeous.
She was watching the guys then she looked at me, grinning like something was deeply amusing.
“Can I help?” she asked.
I’d forgotten why I was there, looking for my Uncle Tex, so I did what anyone would do when confronted with an espresso machine, I ordered a skinny latte with caramel syrup.
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“Gotcha,” she said then went to work on my drink and I realized I was holding on to the counter for dear life and utilizing al the powers I had not to look back toward the couches to see if Whisky was stil checking me out.
Please, God, let Whisky still be checking me out,
Then I gave my head a firm shake to get rid of my idiot thoughts. I needed Whisky to be checking me out like I needed someone to dril a hole in my head, which was to say, not at al .
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A fantastic redheaded woman, who I knew from Uncle Tex’s descriptions had to be Indy, walked behind the counter.
She smiled at me.
I smiled back, and, as Whisky was no longer in my line of sight (although I could actual y feel him in the room), I remembered why I was there. I opened my mouth to say something to her when the bel over the door went.
“I’m not speaking to you,” a woman said in a voice that was both angry and obviously ful of shit and I turned to see who had come in.
It was like Fortnum’s was For Gorgeous People Only.
They needed a sign so normal people wouldn’t wander in unwittingly and develop immediate inferiority complexes.