Chapter 3. The Battle
Tired of Alex and Brandon’s meddling in my life, I decided to skip my afternoon run to end my relationship with Randy since I had about enough of his games. Someone had to end this, and it would be me, regardless of Alex’s order that I stay at the estate and telling Anna to keep an eye on me until Mike or Brandon arrived. As I closed down the office, I listened for the dryer’s alarm to sound and waited to see how long it would take Anna to shut it off, which would mean what part of the house she was in at the moment. Right away she stopped it, so she was in the kitchen after all.
With a quick check of my face in my compact, I pulled a ponytail holder and brush from the desk and quickly put my hair in a ponytail high on my head so that the ends touched my middle back and not my waist. As soon as I took care of business with Randy, I’d need a run.
About ten minutes later, I heard Anna slowly stepping up the front staircase like she did when she carried a basket of freshly folded laundry upstairs. Realizing this was my opportunity for escape, I rushed out of the house through the kitchen door and then sprinted across the lawn to the garages where I quickly punched in my code so my garage door opened. I keyed the ignition and left through the servant’s exit before Anna knew I was gone.
What’s more, even Brandon didn’t arrive in time to stop me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Brandon like I did Billy, my brother, but sometimes he got on my nerves with this over-protective big brother attitude. Alex was far worse. The last time I talked back to Randy, I ended up with a cut lip and a bruised cheek, which infuriated Alex, who treated me like a teenager grounded to her room, and he demanded to have words with Randy before I could go out with him again.
It didn’t even matter to Alex that the next day Randy sent me a bouquet of roses to apologize for his errant behavior. While I found them simply gorgeous and thought it was a sweet gesture on his part, Alex didn’t agree and left the office soon after with his bodyguard, Mike, who accompanied him to Randy’s office for a discussion.
According to Randy, who called me moments after they left his office that day, Alex threatened him and warned Randy never to touch me in a vile way again. Last night’s date was the first we had since then, and I think it will be the last after he accused me of sleeping with Alex.
Don’t get me wrong, if I even thought I had a chance to be Alex’s woman, I’d audition for the part, but I know that I am just his employee. It was hard enough working for him and keeping my secret, that I was a huge fan of his from when he was the front man of Heartbeat, a defunct eighties band. When I came to work for him, I was so worried that he had those silly letters I wrote him when I was in high school, only to find out months later that he never read a single one, that the label had tossed them. I must have spent my first week here locked in the office. It took forever for me to learn how to be around him without having to force my mind to stay on work and not on the fact that his bedroom was down the hall from my own, or how good he smelled when he walked into the office first thing in the morning.
Just when I had gotten used to him and realized he wasn’t the same twenty-year-old I had a teenage crush on, but a middle-aged man who made me close to crazy sometimes, his girlfriend showed up at the house and started in on me during one of her drunken rampages. With as much as she drinks it’s a wonder, she stays balanced on her toe shoes. Either that, or she’s floating before she steps out onto the stage.
One thing about Alex: he’s always dressed to the nines. During the first month there, I felt a bit strange about him, always clad in my 10K charity runs and marathon T-shirts and faded straight-legged jeans. I had one dress, basic black, besides the business suit I wore to my interview. Then Brandon invaded my closet and reported to Alex about it. I was so embarrassed when he confronted me. When he asked me where my salary went, I had no choice but to tell him, although he gave me an out that I refused on the basis of our new found friendship. Shocked that Alex understood, he explained that he was worried that I didn’t have enough of a salary, and he didn’t want me to leave because he didn’t pay me well enough.
The next day, I met Brandon for lunch, and I was so upset. I didn’t want Alex to know that I paid for my sister’s care in the home. I didn’t want him to know how fricking poor I was, and still am after being out of Vermont for fifteen years. Brandon told me that Alex meant no harm, but I thought that Alex knew what my wardrobe looked like. Anna had probably already reported it to him if he hadn’t been in there yet. After all, it’s his house, why wouldn’t he snoop?
I just hoped he didn’t find my Heartbeat CDs. The rest of the stuff I hid away in my secret spot in Vermont, but I couldn’t part with the CDs. If I get in a bad way and need them, I don’t want them far from me. Last night was the first time I listened to one since I arrived a year ago. So upset from the fight with Randy, I couldn’t sleep until I put “Sound Off” in the player, the headphones in my ears, and set the player on repeat so it played all night long. At least I didn’t have to wake up and flip the tape like I did when I was a teenager.
Brandon and Alex tap-danced about the issue of my wardrobe until Brandon finally gave up and told me over a hot fudge sundae one afternoon that Alex, who had left for California that morning, had given him marching orders to take me to the mall and get me some clothes. I wasn’t allowed to be upset or vain about this.
“Just let him do it, Megan,” argued Brandon as I dug into the hot fudge sundae, still pushing tears from my face with the back of my hand. “Just let him do this and don’t fuss about it.”
My next direct deposit for my paycheck was more too, and I called the bank thinking it was an error, doing the math and realizing he had replenished the amount of Maggie’s care into the account. Alex had no idea how upset I was when I discovered it, so I vented about it to Brandon when he called me that morning. I was rather upset; I didn’t want to be a charity case, and I would pack up and leave if he kept treating me like one. Brandon calmed me down though, told me to be gracious about it, that while I get under Alex’s skin, I was valuable to him as an employee, and he was determined to keep me. His motives weren’t to hurt my feelings, but to help out, knowing I needed it.
The shopping spree, and now the posture that Alex took in defense of me with Randy, really got under Bianca’s skin, and we hadn’t had a pleasant conversation since then. It was always bickering and flaming insults, but the bitch was such an easy target.
At a stoplight, I dialed Randy on my cell phone.
“I’ll be there in two minutes,” I said to him.
“I thought Daddy Corwynn grounded you.”
“I snuck out, all right?”
“Do I really mean that much to you?” he asked. I laughed at him and hung up the phone.
“You wish,” I replied, turning onto his street. He stood there near his SUV, leaning against it in the open garage and motioning me to park my car inside. I should have shut it off in the driveway because locking myself inside his house was not wise, but sometimes I just don’t think. Some days I’m just stupid, and today was one of those days. Immediately, he came over to my side of the car and opened my car door before I could put it into park and shut it off.
Reaching into the window and shutting off the ignition for me, he bent down and looked me in the eye.
“What in the hell do you think you were doing? Going out with another man? And without my permission?”
“Who died and made you my father?”
“I’m not your daddy, Megan, I’m your boyfriend. Remember? In order to do anything, you ask me first.”
“You’re so full of shit, Randy,” I replied, pushing him out of my car and turned the key in the ignition, restarting the car. I almost had it in reverse when he opened the door, yanking me out, he immediately threw me to the cement floor. Randy shut it off while I collected myself, then stood over me. I was in way over my head this time.
“What an impetuous little child you are, Megan Beal,” he said dangling the car keys in front of my face as I stood up and caught them in my hand and reached to open the car door.
“Fuck you, Randy,” I pulled on my car door to open it again. He had locked it. In my haste to reopen it, I fumbled my keys and dropped them on the floor. He laughed at my clumsiness then scooped them up and slid my keys into the front pocket of his tight jeans.
As I tried to escape through the garage door and was ready to abandon my car there, he grabbed me by the forearm and pulled me back inside. As the automatic garage door shut, I wriggled from his grasp and tried to get out under the closing door, but as I tried to duck under the door and rush out, he grabbed me by the ponytail and yanked me back inside, making me fall to the hard cold floor. My cell phone rang as it fell off the clip. Randy pushed it into his back jeans pocket then grabbed me by the ponytail and forced me to my feet.
“Downstairs, now,” he said, directing me to the basement steps. I put on the brakes at the top of the stairs as he went down the first couple steps, turning to me.
“I said, downstairs, now!” he bellowed, his face getting red and his eyebrows connecting across the wrinkled bridge of his nose.
“No, it’s over. I’m not going out with you ever again.”
“We’ll see about that.”
With that, he draped me over his shoulder, immobilized my legs with his strong arm and carried me down the steps. As my legs fought for release, I kicked him in the groin, infuriating him. My hands raked his back, tugging his polo shirt out of his jeans, wishing he wasn’t so built that I could bite him in the back, so I just kept hitting him with my fists, kicking his front with my feet, and not giving up without a fight.
As we neared the bottom of the stairs, my nails finally drew blood. With that, he dropped me in a heap at the bottom of the stairs then stepped off the final step and grabbed me up again by the forearms, slamming me against the concrete block wall.
“You little bitch. It’s not over until I say it’s over.” My ears rang at the growl in his voice, already my body ached, but I knew better than to give into the pain.
“Let me go! Now!” I screamed, grabbing onto the front of the polo and not releasing it as I fought, ripping the shirt and then raking from his left shoulder to his chest with my nails, leaving his blood and skin on my fingers and nails. As he pushed me against the concrete wall again, he hurt my head and my back, as I raised a knee to maim him, I got my first punch in the face. With that, he released me, and I fell in a heap on the floor.
Instinctively, my mind’s eye began looking for my closet door. Tinted yellow from years of cigarette smoke in that household, the once white door was too far away yet for me to reach, but I knew it was there. I knew when necessary, I’d open the door and lock myself inside, impervious to the pain my body would be experiencing outside of the closet where I shut myself. He pulled me across the basement, and when I realized where he was going with me, I began to fight again. This time my nails caught his bleeding shoulder and scraped it again, only for his fist to make contact with my face and knock me to the floor. Before I could collect myself and wipe the blood falling from my nose, he began to kick me. I huddled my head and stomach beneath me, balling myself up to protect whatever I could. His foot, clad in hiking boots, landed on my neck, forcing my forehead against the cement floor as he undid his belt and I could smell my own blood on the pavement.
I began begging--not knowing what he could be capable of. Alex was right. This man couldn’t be trusted. Why hadn’t I listened to Alex? I should have done what he told me: break up with Randy, and bring him, Mike, or both of them with me when I did, but I was too hardheaded, too stupid, and I could lose my life because of it. The sting of the leather against my slender waist made me jump forward, trying to avoid the blows to follow as his foot rested on the back of my neck restraining me.
My mind’s eye focused my thoughts on that closet door, while my ears were flooded with the voices of my parents yelling at each other, making me feel safer in the familiarity of their battles than the position I was in at the moment. Instead of hearing the whipping of the leather against my flesh, I heard my mother’s obscenities abound, glass shattering, and my father pushing over furniture that she hid behind like a make-shift fort, which would soon be tossed over and reveal her to his fists.
I made it to the bedroom door, seeing the bed, which separated me from the closet. I had to get around it. Where was my Walkman? Where did I put it? My eyes searched the room. There it was, on the dresser.
Drawn back to reality by Randy pulling me to my feet by my ponytail, his hot breath felt close to my neck. I begged him, “Please, let me go! Please, Randy! Stop hurting me, please, just please let me go!”
He pushed me against the cement wall, making my ears ring as the back of my head hit it, and the room spun about as he raised the front of the crop top to expose the belly ring that was attached to that thin piece of skin at the top of my navel. Randy tugged on it. I begged him, I pleaded, trying to push his hands away from it but he just laughed, that sick deep laugh of his, the one that said, “I won, and you let me.” Randy batted my hands away, and deep into the laugh, his hand grabbed my chin and forced me to look into his eyes when he jerked hard on the ring, pulling it through the skin. The heat of the pain shot through me, and I screamed out, stamping my feet, while tears streamed down my cheeks.
“Let me go! Stop this! Stop hurting me!”
Blood ran down my belly to the top of my sex, matting in the soft fur of it. The warmth of its rip stung me and burned with each movement as the blood coagulated. He shoved my jeans down to my ankles, and the sound of his pants opening and being pushed off him was muffled by the sound of the opening chords to Heartbeat’s Final Album in my mind. I shut out what my body endured with my mind. I imagined opening the door and quickly sat on the closet floor, shutting and locking the door from the inside, hearing nothing but Heartbeat in my ears.
As my eyes stared forward in their blank stare, Randy used my body like a blow-up doll, calling me a whore, as his voice sounded so distant to me. No tears fell any longer from my eyes. No begging came from my mouth. I was in my closet. Hiding. Blocking. Obscuring the pain that I would feel later...the pain I shut out now.