Beaten but NOT defeated

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Chapter 9

My breath was stolen away as we walked into the ballroom. We were standing on a landing at the top of the stairs. There were two stairways that led down to the dance floor and they were decorated with gold and black flowers. There were black and glittering gold balloons against the ceiling and the tables were also decorated with black and gold décor. The whole place looked magical as fairy lights lit up the room and illuminated everything. The gold sparkled against the black in the room and it looked like glitter was flying through in the air. The room looked magical! I looked over to Josh as he snapped me out of my moment. ‘What the fuck’ he said looking down at all the people. The music was playing but everyone had stopped dancing and was looking up at us. My eyes went wide behind my mask and I turned my head to see if there was anyone behind me but there was no one, only us standing at the top of the stairs. Everyone in the room was wearing black and white except for Josh and me. I had my short blue dress on and he was wearing a black suit with a blue tie. We were standing out from the crowd like a sore thumb. ‘Did you read the invitation correctly’? I asked him softly and he snorted at me. ‘Of course I did, it said to wear blue and black’ he said obviously feeling insecure. We started descending the stairs toward the crowd of faces below us and then Josh suddenly said ‘maybe we are dressed differently because I am more important than all these people’ and he looked proud of himself smirking as though he was something special. I rolled my eyes at him behind my mask and still thought that Josh had read the card wrong.

Maybe if he had shown me the card or even told me about the party we could have been dressed appropriately but it was too late now. ‘We were making spectacles of ourselves because he can’t read’ I thought to myself. Everyone was staring at us like we were aliens in room full of humans and Josh steered us over to the bar and ordered himself a drink. I decided that I also wanted one and asked him if I may also have something to drink. ‘Something light, don’t want you embarrassing me tonight’ he said with a subtle undertone of sarcasm. A masked barman walked over to us and Josh ordered our drinks. ‘Double gin and tonic for me and something light for her’ he said and the barman just nodded. I turned to look at the sea of people in front of us, wondering how people didn’t lose their partners between all the people. I was in the middle of my thought when the barman slammed Josh’s drink down in front of him splashing his drink on the counter. I saw anger flash in Josh’s eyes but he collected himself and took his drink, turning to look at the crowd. ‘Bet he’s looking for his secret admirer’ I thought to myself. I looked over at the barman who was busy putting my drink down in front of me. He was wearing a black mask with a suit pants with a button down black shirt and tie and his sleeves were rolled up half way. I looked down as he gave me my drink and it felt like my heart stopped as my breath left me. The barman had a tattoo on his left forearm with the letters WTF written under each other, exactly like I had seen in my dream! My eyes went wide and I looked up at him in surprise. His dark eyes held mine for a moment and he offered me a sly smile and walked away to serve other customers.

I stood staring at him, taking him in. His dark hair, his mysteriously deep eyes, his well-built body and his scent all filled my head. I heard his voice in my ear from my dream which gave me goose bumps and I felt even more confused by him. He was not only in my dream he was really here, standing a few feet away from me. He stood on the other side of the counter pouring a drink and he made eye contact with me, staring into my soul. A chill ran down my spine and my heart fluttered. It was as though I knew him, not only from my dream. I really knew him, although I couldn’t put my finger on it from where I knew him but he felt important to me.

Josh interrupted my staring contest as he took me by the arm and led me over to our table and sat down. I had my drink in my hand and remembered I had to take a sip and not just sit there staring. I looked over to the bar but was unable to see it from where we were sitting and I felt deeply disappointed. My heart was burning to see the handsome, mysterious stranger and maybe talk to him when Josh was not with me. My thoughts were interrupted when a woman in a white dress came up to our table and asked Josh to dance with her. He smiled proudly and pushed his chest out as he accepted her invitation. ‘Typical’ I said to myself as he walked her over to the dance floor looking like real gentleman. I sat watching him for a while as he fawned over the beautiful woman he was dancing with. They disappeared into the sea of people after a few moments and I was left alone, sitting at our table. The song finished and I still wasn’t able to see Josh anywhere and knew he was occupying himself with his hostess. She was probably the woman who invited him to the party. But why did he even bring me with him in the first place if he was planning on abandoning me for another woman and then show no shame about it. ‘She told him to wear blue and black to single him out of the crowd so he would be easy for her to spot’ I thought to myself. I swung back the contents of my glass and decided I needed another drink. As I stood up, a man came and stood in front of me with slight stubble on his face and deep, dark eyes that bore into my soul. My heart felt like it skipped a beat and I gasped at the look in his eyes. His head was slightly tilted down toward me and his lips had that same smile on them as before. My pulse betrayed me as I was sure this handsome stranger could see my heart beating in my throat. He held his hand out to me and in a daze I accepted. It was the same mysterious stranger from my dream and from the bar. His tattoos looked exactly like the ones I saw in my dream and drew in my book. I felt mesmerized by him and the fairytale place around us. He wrapped one arm around my waist and pulled me close to him while holding the other in his hand. His scent filled my head and I closed my eyes, it felt like I could float away right then and there. He had a woody smell on him mixed with a faint tint of citrus. I felt lost in his arms as we danced in silence like there were no other people around us. I couldn’t help but wonder why he felt so familiar to me and why I felt so safe dancing with him, being so close to him.

As the song finished I wanted to head back to our table as surely Josh would be waiting there for me by now but this stranger took my hand in his and led me out to the garden. ‘Walk with me’ he whispered in my ear with his deep rugged voice that sent goose bumps all over my body. As we walked out I realized his voice sounded so familiar, I had to know this guy somehow but I came up with nothing which frustrated me deeply. Once outside and away from all the people I stopped dead and pulled his hand and told him to stop. ‘Who are you’? I asked him as I could no longer take another step without knowing. He took a step closer to me and looked straight into my eyes and said ‘do you really not know’? ‘Ugh that voice’ I thought to myself. It was the sexiest voice I had ever heard in my life. I frowned as I could not pull him from my memory and asked him to remove his mask. ‘I can’t do that, we are at a masquerade party love’ he said and tugged on my hand as he started walking again. I walked with him in silence for a few steps and asked him ‘where are we going’? ‘You’ll see’ he said as he kept walking and I started feeling even more frustrated. I stopped and pulled my hand out of his as I started feeling afraid and confused. I turned around to walk back to the ballroom as Josh would be looking for me and he would be upset if he was not able to find me. But he grabbed me by the arm and swung me around to face him and smashed his lips into mine. He kissed me with an intense hunger and he moaned as his lips were exploring mine. His arms were wrapped around my waist as he held me so close to him that I could not escape. His kiss sent butterflies raging through my whole body threatening to lift my feet off the ground at any moment. At first I tried pulling away from him but he held even tighter and kissed me even deeper. My thoughts went blank at first and then all of a sudden my memories of him came crashing into me like a wave capsizing a boat. ‘Caleb’ I whispered out of breath through our kiss. I remembered him and everything about him at that moment. I sank my nails into his back with the pure pleasure from our kiss. My whole body reacted to his in a way that I never thought possible. After a while Caleb broke the kiss and whispered into my ear ‘I’ve missed you’ and nibbled the lobe of my ear softly which earned him a smile from me. ‘Walk with me’ he said softly as he held my hand on his arm.

I followed him eagerly as I wanted more of him in any way I could get him. We walked over to a bench and sat down and Caleb turned to me and stroked my face with his fingertips. ‘I thought I’d lost you’ he said with genuine concern in his eyes. ‘What happened to you’? I asked him still feeling out of breath. ‘You don’t remember’? He asked me curiously. ‘No, I don’t’ I replied feeling annoyed at myself and he leaned in and kissed my nose. ‘I’m not going to bother you with the details right now’ he said. ‘I’ve been watching you’ he said. He caught me completely off guard and my response was less than accommodating. ‘What’ I said with a look of confusion on my face. ‘I’ve been watching you since you returned from your holiday’ he said. I snorted and said ‘you call going insane a holiday’? ‘You are not insane love’ he said in a low tone. ‘You really don’t remember anything do you’? I shook my head no and looked at the ground. He took my chin in his hand and tilted my head up to his and kissed me passionately. ‘At least you remember me’ he growled as he kissed me more intensely. I said nothing further as my head was spinning, caught up in the moment.

I broke free from him and flew up remembering again that I had left Josh inside. I felt afraid that if he looked for me and was unable to find me that he would become worried. Caleb took me by the hand and asked ‘What is it’? ‘Josh, I have to go’ but Caleb took my hand and turned me toward him and said ‘Josh is busy, he won’t be looking for you any time soon, don’t worry’. ‘How do you know’? I asked him feeling half panicked. ‘I made sure that he would be entertained the whole night and that he wouldn’t miss you at all’ he said self-confident. ‘Well thanks, that I feel great now! Wait, what do you mean’? I asked him more curious now. Caleb smirked at me and said ‘This is my party. I arranged it and arranged for Josh’s type of woman to keep him busy tonight so I can spend some time with you’. ‘Why on earth would you do that’? I asked him half upset. ‘Is it not bad enough that my husband is cheating on me with my friend and now you hook him up with some whore? How is that even remotely ok’? I snapped at him getting up from my seat clearly upset. Caleb grabbed me by the hand and stood in front of me so fast I barely saw him move. ‘I was worried about you and this was the only way I could pry you away from him. He thinks the party is about him and that Cassie is an admirer’ he said but I didn’t want to hear anything he said. ‘Liz please let me explain, there is so much I need to tell you’ he pleaded but I ripped my hand out of his and slapped him through the face. I felt angry at myself for losing myself with him and for being no better than Josh at that moment. I looked at him for a second with mixed emotions and turned around running back to the ballroom. I needed to find Josh and explain to him where I had been and be the good wife he expected me to be. I was not supposed to be with Caleb, I was married and he was an unwelcome distraction even if he was the sexiest distraction I have ever seen.

Once inside I searched for Josh everywhere but was unable to find him. I ran around looking for someone with blue on his tie but all the masked faces and black suits melted into each other creating a dark blur swimming around me. I finally found the stairs and ran up them unaware that Caleb had followed me inside, tailing me from behind. At the top of the stairs I saw a corridor with doors on both sides so I started searching through the rooms one by one. The corridor was empty and silent and I doubted that Josh would be in any of the rooms, but I searched anyway. When I got to the fourth door I heard a woman laughing and proceeded with caution. I put my ear against the door and my hand on the door knob but it was silent again. I stood frozen for a moment hearing nothing but the sound of my breath and I was hoping with everything in me that I would not find Josh up there at all but I had a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. My heart was racing as I was waiting to hear something, anything when I heard Josh moaning. I opened the door without hesitation or thinking and found Josh in bed with a blond haired woman. Cassie, if I remember correctly what Caleb said her name was. She was sitting on top of Josh naked, and he was blind folded and tied to the bed, obviously enjoying himself with her. It felt like my world was spinning and my heart wanted to burst out of my chest. The heartache I felt at that moment was something I had never experienced before. Cassie turned around and smiled at me before she continued what she was doing with Josh. I didn’t know how to react at that moment so I stepped backward and closed the door behind me. I stood staring at the door feeling utterly sick to my stomach. My thoughts were a horrible mess as all sorts of things went through my mind at once leaving me unable to grab on to one. My instinct told me to turn around and run, run as far away from all that as possible and that’s exactly what I did.

I ran back down the corridor the same way as I came, down the stairs and tried to get through the sea of black and white around me. I tried pushing past people as I was looking for the door but I was so upset that all the colors started swirling around me sweeping me away in a confusing jumble of black and white. I started panicking as I did not know which way was out and my heart started beating even faster. My head started pounding and my eyes started blurring. Everything started spinning around me and my eyes started making black spots in front of them. Just when I thought I was going to pass out I felt an arm around me. I looked up to see Caleb’s face, he was moving through the crowd with ease, leading me to the door and once I was outside I immediately felt better and started running again. I ran till I doubled over, gasping for air. I was unsure of how I was feeling and before I could stop myself I threw my head back and let out a scream. I screamed until my voice gave in and I let my emotions take over. I burst out in tears and dropped down to the grass I was standing on but Caleb caught me and held me tightly without saying a word. I was crying uncontrollably while he held me and then it occurred to me, ‘this was his fault’! He had arranged for the woman to seduce Josh. If it wasn’t for him, Josh would still be with me at the party instead of being up in a room with Cassie! I flew out of Caleb’s arms and turned on him shouting ‘It’s your fault! You orchestrated the whole thing, it’s your fault my husband is up there banging your whore’! I was sobbing while I was yelling and Caleb tried to step closer to me to console me but I did not allow him. For every step he took toward me I took one back away from him. He held his hands up in surrender and said ‘Liz, please allow me to explain. There is much you don’t know and clearly can’t remember. Please give me a chance’. He was pleading with me but I didn’t want anything to do with him. ‘I hate you’ I yelled at him and stormed off away from him. I didn’t want to go back through the sea of people inside so I went around the building. It was so dark I was unable to see where I was going but I didn’t care, I just wanted to get away from Josh and Caleb and go home. I wanted to wake up tomorrow and pretend that none of it had ever happened. I heard Caleb calling my name as heard that he was running after me. ‘Liz, you can’t go around that way’ he yelled but I just wanted to escape from him and I started running through the darkness hoping to see a light somewhere so I knew where I was running to. I had to come out at the front of the building at some point so I just kept running. Little did I know I was running in the wrong direction completely and that I was running away from the building instead of around it. I stopped when I no longer heard Caleb’s voice and looked around me for any lights. In the distance I saw the lights of the building and I realized I had run in the wrong direction. I felt so annoyed at myself and I let out a grunt as I had to walk back all the way I had come. I couldn’t believe I was this dumb. I knew Josh was cheating on me with Chloe but I never thought he would go so far as to cheat on me at a party and just leave me alone.

I stood still for a moment and looked up, appreciating the stars, realizing just how peaceful it was out there. I took off my shoes as I figured that I was on a golf course as I felt short grass under my feet as far as I was walking. I felt extremely dumb for running in the wrong direction and decided to start walking back. Fortunately I had lost Caleb so I could get to the car undetected. I was star gazing as I was walking as the night sky was open and the stars were glittering like diamonds in the sky. I had no idea what the course I was walking on looked like as I had no light with me and could barely make out the shadows around me. I heard something sounding like a stick breaking under someone’s foot and I came to a complete stand still. I stood listening for a moment as my heart slowly started picking up pace and fear gripped me. I heard it again and knew I had to run. I couldn’t see anything in the darkness and I didn’t want to find out what was out there with me. I looked around me but was unable to see anything so I started running. I heard heavy footsteps behind me and I knew I was in trouble. I picked up the pace and ran faster but the sound was closing in and the grass I was running on became thicker and harder under my feet. I screamed as I tramped in a hole and fell to the ground. I hit my head against something hard, knocking myself unconscious, leaving me to the mercy of whatever was out there with me.

I woke up seeing blurry lights bouncing in the distance and groaned as the darkness would engulf me again. Then I heard muffled voices talking so I couldn’t hear them and again the darkness caved in on me. Finally I awoke laying somewhere that smelled really good. I felt someone stroking the side of my face saying something I couldn’t quite make out. Then I felt my ankle and foot hurting, wondering what happened to it. I tried opening my eyes but they felt so heavy and blurry that I closed them again. The voice next to me cleared up and I heard Caleb’s deep voice talking to someone. He sounded agitated as he was talking softly saying ‘Well, you should have done a better job then none of this would have happened’. I frowned as I opened my eyes and tried turning my head to him. I wanted to see who he was talking to and what was going on but my head hurt so badly when I tried turning it. My eyes were still a bit blurry but Caleb’s face was starting to come into focus. I looked up at him and said ‘My head hurts’. He looked concerned and put a wet cloth on my head. ‘What happened’ I asked him in a raspy voice trying not to scream from the pain. ‘You fell and hit your head. You tramped in a hole and almost broke your ankle’ he said. He took my hand in his and kissed my fingers while softly saying ‘I thought I lost you again. Don’t ever do that to me again’! I frowned at him and thought to myself ‘You never had me’. I started sitting up and Caleb helped me the rest of the way. He gave me some water and asked me to tell him the level of pain I was in on a scale of one to ten. ‘Twelve’ I said as I tried to move my ankle that was bandaged. ‘Take it easy’ Caleb said. ‘I’ll get you something for the pain’.

All I wanted was to go home and forget everything. Although I remembered Caleb I wished I had never met him as he had made my night even worse than it was. He got up and told me to sit tight, he’ll be right back. As soon as he disappeared around the corner I threw my legs off the side of the bed and attempted to get up. I was unsure of where in the retreat I was as I could no longer hear the music from the party but I had to leave. I set my sore ankle down on the floor and stood up straight. Neither my head nor my ankle was forgiving and I flew to the floor with both my head and ankle feeling like they were caught in a vice grip. I threw out my hands in front of me to soften my fall and landed on all fours. The impact jolted through my head feeling like a hammer was hitting inside my head. I closed my eyes and it felt like a wave was crashing into me. All my memories came crashing back all at once, flash after horrifying flash overwhelmed me, pinning me down in the position I was in rendering me unable to move. I started screaming, trying to make it stop but it was unrelenting and just kept coming for me. I dropped down into a fetal position throwing my arms over my head as if it would shield my mind from what I was seeing. My body was convulsing from shock from the flashes and the trauma that I just went through. My screaming had died down to loud moaning as it felt like the horrors would never stop. I felt arms around me and heard far off panicked screaming that wasn’t mine but I was barely conscious in the present as I was swept away by the past.

My heart was beating louder in my head until it sounded like one solid humming sound and my eyes were rolling in their sockets when suddenly the flashes just stopped. It felt like I was catapulted back into reality with a massive speed with no way to stop. I could still feel the arms around me and slowly heard Caleb’s voice become clearer in my ears. I was completely out of breath and felt sticky from all the sweat on my body as I turned my head to look at Caleb and said ‘I remember everything’.

I saw emotions stir in Caleb’s eyes as I burst out in tears. He pulled me closer into him and started rocking with me in his arms. He held me close until I stopped crying and wiped away my tears. When I had finally calmed down he helped me sit up against the head board and handed me the pain medication he had gotten for me earlier. I took it from him gratefully and swallowed it down. I looked at him through teary eyes and saw tissues on the bedside table. I took a handful and blew my nose quite audibly and un-ladylike. I could see the anticipation on Caleb’s face, waiting patiently for me to tell him what I remembered. I felt unsure of where to begin and started stuttering. Caleb stroked my face with the back of his hand and told me to ‘breathe Liz, just breathe and take it slow’. I wanted to tell him everything all at once but knew it was impossible and tried to focus on where to begin. ‘I remember everything’ I said feeling insecure as the fear I felt for Josh started creeping in. ‘I remember every time Josh hit me. I remember when I was almost ran over by Chloe and what’s his face’ I said feeling like my world was turning. My head and ankle were hurting so badly I would cry but I wanted Caleb to know everything so I continued. ‘I remember Mindy and that Josh was cheating me with her. He. He’ I said and started crying. ‘Shh, it’s ok’ Caleb said trying to console me but I pushed him away and said ‘He killed her. Josh killed Mindy right next to me and I couldn’t do anything. I was just lying there unconscious and unable to stop him from killer her’ I almost yelled as I was becoming more and more hysterical. ‘I need to go home before Josh gets there before me and I’m in trouble’! Panic overwhelmed me and I felt sick to my stomach again.

I tried to fight Caleb to get off of the bed but he held on to me, refusing to let me leave. I was halfway up when I looked in his deep eyes. ‘He shot you’ I said with sudden realization and my eyes went wide. ‘Yes he did quite a poor job’ he said with a slight smirk on his face like he had a private joke on the go. ‘How did you survive’? I asked remembering the shot ringing in my ears. ‘He shot like his ass’ Caleb said still trying to make me stay. ‘I’m ok and that’s all that matters. Look at me, I’m here, you are safe with me’ he said trying to get me to sit on the bed again. ‘I have to go, please let me leave’ I begged but Caleb didn’t budge. ‘I don’t want him hurting you again’ he said in a stern voice but I knew I couldn’t stay there as Josh’s temper would not allow it. I remembered how afraid of Josh I was because of all he had put me through. My thoughts couldn’t help but wander back to Mindy and how I had let her die. Caleb shook my shoulders slightly as I was staring off into the distance caught up in the memory of her. ‘Josh strangled Mindy to death and just left her lying in bed next to me so I could find her in the morning. He showed no remorse when he came in with those two guys to take her away’ I said deep in memory, recalling everything like it happened yesterday. ‘What guys’? Caleb asked sounding interested in my memory. ‘Josh came in with two guys who wrapped Mindy up and carried her out like she was a carpet. Then they came back in and cleaned up the rest of the mess. The matrass and sheets were defecated on so they replaced it like nothing serious had happened’ I continued. I finally snapped out of my memory and focused on Caleb who was now frowning at me. I frowned back at him and he said ‘I think I know who took your friend away’. He caught me completely off guard as I was expecting him to console me in some way. He described the two men to me and his description fit the men who took Mindy’s body away. Caleb flew to his feet with a frown and said ‘I have to go. Don’t worry, you’ll be safe here. Please don’t go back home. I beg of you, please stay here. I promise I’ll explain everything as soon as I get back’. He bent down and kissed me softly on the lips before turning around and walking out of the room.

I sat there feeling confused with what had just happened. I knew I couldn’t stay there even if I wanted to as Josh would be looking for me and he would be very angry if I was not home when he was. I knew he wouldn’t be looking for me at the party as he was pre occupied but at home was a whole different story. I took a moment to rub my ankle and reflect on Josh’s behavior the past few weeks since I had been back home. He treated me like he loved me and wanted to be a good husband to me. I thought back to the welcome home party Josh threw and remembered the way he was subtly looking at Chloe and the smile she supposedly offered the other friends but it was actually meant for Josh. Their faces were dancing in front of me in my mind and it struck me like a bolt of lightning. ‘They are being nice to me because they are afraid that I will remember that Josh murdered Mindy and tell someone again. He is afraid that I will remember the people he had in our house taking Mindy away and replacing the matrass and bedding. They are afraid of the truth’ I thought to myself. My thoughts felt clearer than they have in a long time and I knew I had to find the company or people that took Mindy. ‘If I can prove what Josh did he can pay for his sins’ I thought out loud. I had to get back home and pretend that I knew nothing and that nothing has changed between Josh and me. I felt determined to prove to the world that I was not crazy and that what I had said before was the truth. Just this time I wasn’t going to trust Chloe with what I knew. I had a new friend that already knew everything about my past. I would talk to Ann about everything and tell her that I got my memories back.

I stood up slowly and put pressure on my ankle. It hurt so badly and my leg protested for me not to stand on it but I had a mission to fulfill and I couldn’t let my ankle get in the way. I hopped to the door on one leg and it felt like my head was going to bust open. I hit my head against a tree when I fell and possibly cracked my ankle but I wasn’t going to allow that to stop me. There was an umbrella by the door so I picked it up and used it as a make shift walking stick. I limped down the never ending hall until I saw an elevator. I did not know where I was or on which floor so I just pressed floor one and hoped it took me where I needed to go. When the doors opened on the bottom floor the elevator was flooded with music from the party that was still ongoing. I limped down against the wall past all the people to find the door. Luckily finding my way out was easier this time and I made it out in no time. The valet came up to me and said they would bring my car around immediately but I asked him to call me a cab. He said there were taxi’s waiting for guests already and that I could get a ride home with one of them. He waved his arm in the air and I saw a cab pulling around and up to where I was standing. I thanked the valet and got in the cab that drove me home while I was emerged in pain. I saw the driver look at me in the mirror a time or two but he didn’t say anything and frankly I was grateful for the silence. He pulled up to the house which was dark and I hesitated to get out as I suddenly hated the place I called home. The cab driver got out and opened my door for me like a real gentleman and I was unaware that they did that. He helped me out and asked me if I would be ok on my own. I said yes and thanked him for bringing me home. I felt relieved when I left the party knowing that Josh was still there and not waiting at home for me but in the same breath I was so angry at him for cheating on me and not even caring that he had left me alone.

I limped to the door and let myself in. I changed into my pajamas and as I was about to get on the bed I froze as I saw Mindy laying there. I closed my eyes and thought it best to rather lie on the couch in front of the TV. I got out a blanket and limped to the couch dragging the blanket behind me. I turned the TV on and lay down on the couch feeling exhausted. I was reflecting on the evening I had and all that had happened. Josh lying tied up to a bed kept replaying itself in my head. The feelings I felt were gone and now I just felt numb. I had to get evidence without giving myself away that I had all my memories back. If Josh knew I remembered everything he would most certainly kill me like he did Mindy. I had a mission now even though I felt afraid for my own life I couldn’t just let Josh get away with murder. I would deal with Chloe at a later stage but for now I must keep up the façade. ‘Josh must not know that I am on to him’ I thought to myself. ‘I am going to make him pay for Mindy and everything he has done to me. I will kill you Josh. I will kill you for the hell you have put me through’.

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