It was now or never. I began to violently open my dresser drawers as I pulled all of my contents out and shoved them into a large duffel bag. My heart was pounding so hard that I thought it might burst, and my thoughts were all jumbled with everything that could go wrong if I didn’t hurry up. I had no idea what I was throwing into this bag and I didn’t care either. As long as I had some type of clothes and a plan I would be fine.
I never expected my life to turn out this way, but nobody in their right mind would have. I was stuck in a relationship with a guy who had a heart made of ice and lived in a house that should be condemned according to state laws, but never was. Every day was a living nightmare for me and I was done with all of it. I couldn’t do this anymore.
I only had a small window of time to escape and I was going to take it, even if my life was on the line. I couldn’t stay here any longer and I wasn’t going to. I’d kill the bastard before I stayed here any longer. Prison would be better than this place. Well, it was a nice thought, but I can’t actually bring myself to kill him, no matter how much I hated that son-of-a-bitch.
I heard the sound I dreaded most as Karl’s rumbling truck pipes echoed through the thin walls and the blood in my body ran cold. He wasn’t supposed to be home yet. He wasn’t even supposed to be in town.
I froze, looking at the half-full duffel bag in my hands as I tried to think about what I was going to say. How I was going to explain myself. It wasn’t going to look good when he walked in and saw me with a duffel bag full of clothes in my hands and a startled look on my face. I could never lie to him, he always knew what I was thinking before I even knew what I was thinking. And that always made it impossible to get away.
The front door flew open and slammed shut with a bang as I jumped, listening to Karl’s heavy boot steps coming closer and closer. The pounding of his boots matched the racing of my heart thumping against my chest.
“Adrena! Where the fuck you at?” His voice was filled with venom and I felt my eyes swim with tears. I quickly blinked them back, not wanting him to see me this way.
I didn’t know what kind of mood he would be in, as I never did, and waited for him to come into the bedroom where I stood stiff as a board, still debating on what to say. He was going to be beyond angry and I knew he’d lose his mind if he knew what I was really up to.
Then he was there, standing in the doorway. His demeanor was filled with anger as he glared at me. Karl was the kind of guy that girls looked at and drooled over while he grinned at them. He was beyond sexy in a bad-boy kind of way. His dirty blonde hair sat messed up on the top of a perfect face with a sculpted jaw and mesmerizing green eyes. Tattoos lined his arms, courtesy of my work, which only made him more good looking. But as I stood there and stared at him, knowing who he was underneath all those handsome features, he was now the ugliest person on the planet.
“What the fuck is this?” He nodded toward the bag in my hands.
I was shaking and still stood frozen, unsure of what to say or do. My throat was dry and I wasn’t sure if I could speak.
“I was... c-cleaning out my drawers,” I lied, hoping he’d just drop the questions and tell me why he was home so early. “You’re home early,” I added softly, lifting an eyebrow at him.
His eyes clouded over and he stepped into the room. “That’s none of your business.” He stared down at the bag and asked again, “What is this, Adrena?”
“I-I was just cleaning out some old clothes for Sabrina. She got kicked out last night and doesn’t have anything, so I was just... just going to give her some old clothes of mine.” My heart was pounding so hard in my chest that I swore he could hear it. When he looked down, my eyes looked heavenward and I prayed to whoever might be listening to get me out of this.
Karl sized me up before he stepped forward and grabbed the duffel bag, tossing it onto the bed behind me. He stood so close to me that I could feel his breathing on my neck, sending a wave of shivers throughout my entire body.
“I paid for those fucking clothes, so you aren’t giving them to that crack-head. She can walk around naked for all I care.” He grabbed my chin then and forced me to look at him. “I’m expecting someone to stop by in a little while who owes me some money. I need you to stick around until he gets here, got it?”
I nodded, not looking into his eyes even though he was forcing my chin toward him. “Are you leaving again?”
His grip on my chin tightened as I flinched. He stared into my face, not saying a word for the longest time before he finally kissed my lips forcibly and made me want to gag.
“I have some business to take care of.” He finally released my chin and walked into the closet where he pulled a shoebox down from the top shelf and turned his back so I couldn’t see what he was doing. “The guy will be here soon. Just take the money, kick him out, and wait for me to return. Am I clear?” He shoved the box back up onto its shelf and turned back to me with a questioning glare.
I nodded. “I got it. A guy is coming over. Take the money. Kick him out.”
He laughed, walking up to me. “Good girl.”
He turned on his heel then and left the bedroom as I let out a sigh of relief. Emotion filled my throat and I was seconds away from sobbing like a small child.
I wished I had never met Karl Deckert those five long years ago when my life changed forever. He had promised me a beautiful future that involved my dream of owning my own tattoo parlor. There were other empty promises, and he charmed me into falling in love with him. I had never claimed to be the smartest person in the world, but I was feisty and didn’t take shit from anyone. Well, until Karl Deckert walked into the restaurant I worked at five years ago.
I heard his truck start back up and a moment later he was driving away. I grabbed my duffel bag and finished shoving clothes into it before I zipped it up and tossed it onto the bed. I spun and stared into the closet at the shoe box. Karl would kill me if he knew what I was about to do, but if he couldn’t find me, he couldn’t hurt me. And after everything he has done to me, I think I deserved what I was about to take.
I slowly made my way into the closet, grabbed the shoebox, and opened the lid. I stared down at several wads of cash wrapped in rubber bands and grabbed a few bundles for myself, shoving them in my back pockets. But looking at all this cash in the box made me sick to my stomach. He had made me do less than honorable actions recently because we were desperate for money, desperate to keep this decrepit roof over our heads. I did all those horrible things all while Karl had this cash all along.
Karl Deckert was dead to me.
I considered this back pay for the life he stole from me, for what he’s made me do.
After putting the box back on the shelf, I went back to grab my duffel bag and ran from the room, across the living room, and out the back door.
I didn’t want the neighbors to see me leaving through the front door, knowing they’d rat me out in a heartbeat, and took the safer route out the back door. The tall privacy fence blocked the neighbors from seeing into the back yard as I pushed through the garage and slipped into my old, trusted Toyota Camry I’ve had since high school and backed out of the rickety garage.
As I drove down the alley, I watched the garage and fence disappear in my rearview mirror and kicked it down when I turned left onto the highway, leaving El Paso, Texas, and Karl Deckert in the dust.
With no destination in mind, I drove East, knowing Karl would have a harder time finding me if I drove in the opposite direction of where he did all of his work. I would just keep driving East until I felt safe; wherever that would be. But before I actually picked a destination in my head, I was going to ditch the car and take a bus the rest of the way. I didn’t want Karl to track me using my car or having someone find me. I may not know everything there is to know about running away, but that much I did know. The more cognitive I remained, the less likely he was to find me.