BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Ava Stevens slowly sat up in bed as she heard her alarm loudly go off. She reached over to turn it off and glanced at the empty space beside her. She silently climbed out of bed and walked across the hall to the bathroom so she could start getting ready. She slowly stripped out of her clothes and reached into the shower to turn the water on. She stood naked in front of the mirror and turned sideways to see if there was any change yet. She involuntarily moved her hand to reach up and touch it to her still-flat stomach. She seemed to be doing that a lot lately.
“Are you almost done in there?” She heard pounding on the door as she finally stepped into the shower and stood under the spray.
“I just got up!” she called as she quickly started to wash herself.
“Hurry up. We’re going to be late for school.” she rolled her eyes as she stepped out of the shower and began to dress.
As if Zane Roberts cared that much about school. He only attended to be able to play sports because he thought that being an awesome team player meant he could get a scholarship to any college he wanted and get him out of this town. She wanted to tell him that the colleges looked at your academics as well, and he wasn’t faring that great in that department. He skipped all the time and was constantly getting into verbal fights with the teachers. How he managed to stay on his teams with the grades he had, she’ll never know.
Why was she with Zane, you might ask? That’s a very good question. It all started with a breakup and then her family got too involved. She had dated Colin Jeffreys since the beginning of freshman year. They had grown up as best friends since preschool. They started getting closer until finally he surprised her by asking her to the back-to-school dance at the beginning of freshman year.
Her parents were ecstatic when they found out; they had been expecting it really. Ava and Colin were closer than they had ever been. Then it all came crashing down all around them. She helped him through his dad’s sudden death and when his mom started to spiral as a result of his dad’s death.
But then it just got to be too much for Colin. He started pushing everyone away until Ava just decided that she couldn’t be his verbal punching bag. She made the hardest decision that she ever had.
She walked away from Colin and a few days later, she met Zane. She had seen him hanging around school, but never saw him coming to any classes. He introduced himself to her and listened as she told him her story. Or maybe he pretended to listen so that he could get what he wanted. Either way, they became close very fast. Much to the chagrin of her family.
To say that her father was overprotective was a complete understatement. When she started getting an interest in boys, her police officer father kept telling her horror stories of dating and teenagers gone wrong. He eased up somewhat when she was dating Colin. But once they broke up and he found out about Zane, he was practically breathing down her neck to get information about them.
She refused to talk to any of her family about her relationship with Zane. It all came to a head when she found out that not only her dad and older brother, Trent were trying to follow her when ever she wasn’t at home, but she also figured out rather quickly that her father was having some of the officers from the force try to do it as well.
After a very vocal debate with her parents about Zane, she packed some of her belongings and snuck out to be with him after everyone had gone off to bed. Not long after, she decided to move in with him. She thought it was a little strange that a sophomore had his own place, but he explained that his family life was messed up. After a very vague description, she just accepted it and welcomed her new life.
Her parents tried to bring her back home, but every time they did she just ended up running back to him a few days later. Her parents finally took the hint and just let them be, though she did catch squad cars patrolling outside their apartment several times a day.
The truth was that she didn’t like living with Zane, but she felt that she had nowhere else to go. She didn’t trust Zane completely. He was always gone for long periods of time, sometimes overnight. He would often come back saying that he had lost track of time hanging out with his buddies, but she knew better. She often times could smell the scent of perfume coming from his clothes. Voicing her suspicions was a bad move though. That would just result in a lengthy argument where the end result would be her waking up with more bumps and bruises. She was tired of making up excuses to her friends and frankly, she was running out of believable cover stories.
It wasn’t totally bad living with Zane. What other sophomore could say that they were living on their own and away from their overprotective and overbearing parents? Even though they were close to losing the apartment, she was still glad to be away from her family.
She did miss some of her family though. Her mom had always felt like another friend to her whenever she wasn’t siding with her dad. She could always tell her anything without a risk of her dad knowing about it unless there was a risk to her safety.
She also missed her younger brother and sister. Twelve-year-old Allie was just starting to get to that point where she was starting to notice boys. Ava tried to meet up with her to talk girl stuff, but it was always hard. Especially with Zane wanting to know her every move and her parents refusing to let Allie meet with Ava at her apartment.
Eight-year-old Tucker was just confused about the whole situation. All he knew was that Ava wasn’t at home anymore and his family barely talked to her. She so badly wanted to pack her things and go back to the house that she spent her whole life growing up in.
She was too scared of Zane though. Whenever they had an argument and she told him that she wanted to leave, he would tell her that if she tried, he would hurt not only her but her little brother and sister as well. That always stopped her from going through with it. She would always protect Allie and Tucker, no matter what the cost to her.
She started to blow dry her hair as she glanced at the small cabinet on the wall. Where she had hidden the little white stick under the pile of towels. What kind of reaction would he have when she told him that she was carrying his child? Every scenario that she ran through her head always had the same result. She was so scared of it actually happening that she always put it off.
“Come on!” the pounding on the door started again so she mentally prepared herself before she opened the door.
Ava opened the door and saw Zane’s stern face as she walked out. She plastered a smile on her face as she hoped that there wouldn’t be a big blowout.
“What the hell took you so long?” he demanded.
“I just wanted to fix my hair the way you like it. You said that you wanted me to wear it like that more often.”
“I do love it like that,” his featured softened into a smile. “But you don’t have enough time to fix it like that.”
“I guess not,” she sighed as they made their way down the narrow hallway of their small apartment.
They grabbed their books for school and locked up as they started the walk to school. Since Ava wasn’t even sixteen yet and Zane had lost his license for getting too many speeding tickets, they were forced to walk everywhere or get rides from friends when they needed to go long distances.
“Maybe we could go out on a date night tonight and you can fix your hair like that.” Zane suggested.
“We both have to work tonight.” she reminded him.
“Yeah, right.” Zane mumbled and Ava didn’t miss the somewhat guilty look on his face. “Maybe sometime this weekend then?”
“I don’t have to work Saturday,” she told him.
“Then maybe we could go out to dinner and see a movie.” he took her hand. “Just like we did on our first date.”
“I’d like that,” she smiled at him. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” he kissed her as they walked into the school.
“Hey kid,” some of Zane’s football teammates came up to them. “How’s it going?”
“Great,” he greeted them with fist pumps.
“Ready for the game this weekend?”
“You know it. As long as my baby’s there cheering me on.” he wrapped his arms around Ava’s waist.
“Of course I’ll be there,” she smiled as they all heard the bell rang.
Zane and Ava parted ways and went off to their classes. Rather, Ava went off to her class. She saw Zane heading back outside, no doubt planning on going to the park across the street to smoke.
“Your brother was asking about you again.” her best friend Teresa, told her as she slid into her seat in her history class.
“So what else is new?” she grumbled. “I think the only reason he’s going out with you is because he thinks you’ll spy on me for him and give him intel.”
“I’m aware of that. But it’s been so much fun toying with him.” Teresa smiled at her friend.
“You are so bad.” Ava giggled.
“So how are things with you and Zane?” Teresa glanced over at her.
“Perfect,” she smiled as the teacher came in and started the class.
Teresa made up an excuse, telling Ava that she would be a little late getting to the cafeteria for lunch. She snuck into the abandoned classroom that they had agreed to meet in and smiled when she saw that he had already arrived.
“Hey,” he whispered.
“We don’t need to whisper. No one knows we’re meeting here like this.”
“And why are we meeting like this Trent?” she looked at him. “Everyone already knows that we’re dating.”
“I don’t want Zane or Ava getting suspicious. Then she’ll clam up around you and won’t share anything with you.”
“She barely shares anything with me as it is,”
“So you don’t have anything new?”
“Just that she’s wearing an outfit that’s not very appropriate for the weather we’re having right now,”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you see the jeans and long-sleeved shirt she was wearing? It’s almost ninety degrees outside. Almost everyone else is wearing shorts and a t-shirt.”
“You think she’s hiding marks?”
“You know it wouldn’t be the first time,”
“I need to tell my parents,”
“You have no proof,” she reminded him. “If you approach your parents with this, your dad will most likely confront her, she’ll start screaming at him, and you’ll be back where you started.”
“All right,” Trent sighed deeply. “This is just killing me. I miss my sister. She needs to be home with all of us.”
“We are making progress,” she assured him. “It’s just….slow.”
“I hate that I have to deceive my friend,” Teresa told him. “She thinks that the only reason I’m dating you is to toy with your head.”
“I know this is killing you too,” he took her hand and placed a gentle kiss to her forehead.
“I better go,” she slowly pulled away from him. “I told her I’d sit with her at lunch. We’ll meet up this weekend though.”
“It’s a date,” he smiled at her as she slipped out of the room and he did the same five minutes later.
Ava walked through the door of the apartment and looked for any sign of Zane being home. Usually he would be camped out in front of the TV and watching some kind of game.
“Zane?” she called as she folded up her waitressing apron and draped it over one of the chairs.
After getting no response and thoroughly searching the apartment for any sign of him, she reached into her back pocket and pulled out all her tips from that night. She opened the pantry and reached for the unlabeled aluminum can on the top shelf and pulled it down. She took half of her earnings from that night and shoved it into the can before hiding it in the back on the top shelf again.
She walked down the hall to change out of her work clothes and to get ready for bed. She walked into their bedroom and opened the top drawer of the dresser to find some pajamas to wear. She noticed it when she was pulling out some flannel bottoms; a condom wrapper sticking out of one of Zane’s pants pockets. It wasn’t there that morning, so something must’ve happened while she was at work.
“No more,” she whispered as she pulled an overnight bag out from under the bed.
She started filling it with a few days worth of clothes and all her necessities before she stopped abruptly. She didn’t even know if she had anywhere to go. Her parents were so mad at her. If they weren’t, why hadn’t they tried to get her away from Zane for the last several months.
“What are you doing?” Ava turned abruptly at the stern voice coming from the doorway.
Ava slowly blinked her eyes open and squinted from the bright sunlight streaming in through the window. She looked at the clock and saw that it was nearly five o’clock. She slowly sat up and tried to piece together the events of the previous night. How could she not remember almost a whole day? She slowly hobbled to the bathroom as she realized how sore she was.
She gasped as she caught sight of herself in the mirror. There were several dark bruises forming on one side of her face. She carefully lifted up her shirt and saw dark splotches going up her sides. She very slowly took off her clothes and stepped in to take a hot shower. The heat seemed to help all her bruises and sore muscles. Once she had finished with her shower, she stepped out and wrapped a towel around her.
She slowly walked back into the bedroom to find something to wear. That’s when she spotted it. There was a small bouquet of flowers sitting on the night stand. It was the standard bouquet that was always waiting for her after one of their fights. There was also a piece of paper propped up against the flower vase with her name written on it. She picked up the piece of paper and opened it to find Zane’s lazy scrawl.
I’m sorry that our discussion last night got out of hand. You know that I don’t like doing that to you. You must realize that you bring this upon yourself. I’m hanging out at Rick’s today so that we can go over some plays for the next game. I’ll be back around six so that I can take you on that date that I promised you. Pick out something eye-catching and fix your hair the way I like it.
It suddenly all came flooding back to her. Last night after Zane got home and found her packing her things, things got ugly. She remembered the verbal insults, the threatening of hurting her little brother and sister, then she was thrown into a wall. She must’ve blacked out not long after that because she had no memory of anything after that.
She glanced at the clock and saw that it was nearly five-fifteen. She had forty-five minutes before Zane would be home. She opened her nightstand drawer and rooted around until she found what she was looking for. She opened up the cell phone and searched her contacts before typing a message.
‘T, are you there? I need your help.’
She hardly ever used her cell phone anymore. She didn’t find much need for it. Plus Zane always looked through her phone. So she told him that she lost it a few months ago, but told him that she didn’t need another one.
She didn’t have to wait long for a response.
‘I need you to meet me at the apartment in 20 minutes.’
‘If I don’t come out after 5 minutes, call the police.’
‘What’s going on?’
‘Just park where Zane wouldn’t be able to see you.’
‘You’re scaring me, A.’
‘Just promise me that you’ll do it.’
‘Promise. Be there in a bit.’
Ava took her overnight bag out again and started filling it up again. This time there would be no hesitation. She was getting out of there. She would be leaving Zane behind. Even if her family didn’t want her back, she would find some other place to stay.
“Babe, are you ready?” she heard the voice call down the hallway.
Ava’s heart started to race as she glanced at the clock. It was only five-thirty; he was early. When he walked into the bedroom and found her packing up her things again, he would lose it.
“What the hell is going on here?” Zane demanded.
“I’m leaving,” she told him.
“I’m going to Teresa’s. I need to be with my friend.”
“We have a date planned.”
“We can reschedule,” she finished packing up her bag.
“If this is about last night-”
“Of course it’s about last night,” she zipped up her bag and turned to face him again. “This relationship isn’t healthy for me.”
“I made a mistake,” Zane tried to take her hand, but she pulled away.
“There’s been a lot of these mistakes lately,”
“I can change,”
“You’ve been saying that. I’m tired of being your punching bag while waiting around for you to change your ways.”
“Clearly, I’ve been too easy on you.” Ava saw the flash of anger on Zane’s face before he started undoing his belt.
“No,” she tried to shove him away, but he didn’t budge.
“Just remember what I can do to your precious little brother and sister.”
“You won’t get near them,” she tried to pry his fingers from her wrists as he forced her towards the bed. “My dad will make sure of it.”
“Your dad can’t be around them all the time,” he held her down as he managed to get her pants off her with one hand. “Remember what I always tell you. If I can’t have you, then no one will.”
Ava struggled to get out of his death grip before she felt a stabbing pain as he moved into her. She managed to cry out before the feeling of complete pain erupted on the side of her head before she blacked out.
Teresa sat parked around the corner from the apartment that Ava and Zane shared. She glanced at the time flashing on her cell phone hoping that her friend would be coming out soon.
“Come on Ava,” she glanced at the time again before dialing a number.
“Detroit Metro Police Department. How can I help you?”
“Yes, I need help. My friend-I think her boyfriend is attacking her. She asked me to come get her, but she’s not outside yet and-”
“Ma’am, calm down. What is your location?”
Teresa relayed all the information to the dispatcher and answered all her questions as she continued to watch the apartment. She hung up with the dispatcher and got out of her car as she saw two squad cars pull up.
“Teresa?” one of the officers spotted her. “You reported the domestic disturbance?”
“Officer Hannigan,” she recognized the officer. “Something is really wrong,”
“So it’s Ava?”
“She texted me and asked me to come get her. She said that if she wasn’t out here five minutes after I arrived, to call you guys.”
“All right,” the officer sighed as he glanced at the other officers. “Stay out here while we check it out.”
Teresa nodded as she watched the officers slowly and quietly make their way into the building. She wrapped her arms around her middle as she willed her friend to be all right. She took out her phone and pressed a button.
“Trent?” the tears started streaming down her face.
Ava became aware of her surroundings again as she heard a loud noise. She slowly turned her head to scan the room and saw no sign of Zane. She turned to look at the other side as a group of figures came into the room.
“Police!” several voices rang out.
“Ava?” the bed dipped as she felt hands on her.
“No,” she struggled weakly.
“Ava, it’s Officer Hannigan.”
“Arty,” Ava said softly.
“That’s right, Uncle Arty.”
“I want my mom and dad.”
“We’re going to get you back to them.”
“I want to go home,”
“Ambulance is on its way,” Ava heard a different voice. “We need to find who did this to her.”
“Ava, do you know where Zane is?”
“Passed out….just woke up….”
“We need to send someone to Mitch’s place and tell him what happened.”
“Ava, stay with us….”
Ava slipped back into unconsciousness, but could feel herself being lifted onto something. She tried to push the hands off her, but something stopped her from doing so.
“They’re just trying to help, Ava.”
“Want my mom….”
“We’re going to get her,”
“Ava!” she heard a familiar voice.
“You need to stay back,”
“Screw you! She’s my best friend!”
“T,” Ava managed to get out. “You came.”
“Of course I did,” she felt someone grasp her hand tightly.
“T, stay with me.”
“I’m riding with her.” Ava felt herself being lowered before being lifted up onto something.
“Stay with her Teresa,” Officer Hannigan told her. “I’ll meet you in the ER with her parents.”
“They know you’re coming. I just got done talking to Trent.” Teresa told them before the ambulance doors slammed shut and they sped off.