I take Bennett for a walk today without my feet giving me too much grief. It’s only been a couple days since I spoke with Frank, but I’m getting anxious. I figured a walk with my dog might help lower the blood pressure and I’m right. We meander around the neighborhood, taking backstreets we’ve never been on and admiring all the wonderful houses of El Granada.
It’s a crisp day and I can see my breath as we huff up a particularly steep street. Bennett seems unaffected by the trek. He just glances back at me occasionally, his blue face lighting up with pleasure as he sees me wheezing.
“Laugh it up, sweetie,” I puff out.
“You’re turning into Keith, you know that, right? All cocky.”
I bark out a laugh. I guess he likes being compared to Keith.
Bennett isn’t one for eating out-of-character foods, but I’ve noticed him taking nips at blades of grass as we walk. He does so now and I gently tug on his leash to ease him away from the salad bar, but he keeps going back. I read somewhere that dogs eat grass when their stomachs are upset. Something about the grass makes them throw up. This concerns me.
I slow down our walk and gently pull Bennett towards me.
“Are you feeling okay, sweetie? Why are you eating grass?” I stroke his scruff as he leans into my hand and smiles. “You don’t seem sick…”
“Woof. Woof.” He just looks back at me, all smiles.
“Okay, sweetie, lets head home.”
We turn around and start heading back down the steep street when my phone starts ringing from my pocket.
I ease it out and see that it’s Kim.
“Hey, babe. What’s happening?”
“Hi, Fu. I just wanted to see if we’re still on for tonight,” I can hear a kid scream in the background. If you ever want to see Kim blow a fuse just stick a kid in her store throwing a tantrum. “Hold on a second, Fu,” she growls. All I hear are muffles as she covers the phone, no doubt admonishing the parents.
“Well I never!” Some woman says.
I can’t help the laughter that starts up.
“Okay, where was I?” Kim says cheerfully.
“You’re begging for a bad Yelp review if you keep that shit up,” I say between snorts.
“It’s not my fault the youth of today are over-privileged crap-bags. Since when should a three year old have a freaking phone anyways? They can’t even talk!”
“They can talk, Kim.”
“Not well…but we’re getting off topic here. So tonight…you’re still coming over, yes?”
“Absolutely,” I glance at Bennett’s huge form lumbering in front of me, “Probably not for very long though. Bennett’s been eating grass and I’m worried he’s not feeling well.”
“Just bring him with you,” she suggests.
“I don’t want him puking all over your house. And if Drew is coming over I don’t want to stuff him in the backyard where he can eat more grass.”
“Ah, crap, right…Drew,” she huffs, “Okay, fair enough. So what are you doing?”
“Taking Bennett for a walk.”
“Alone?” Her tone makes me wish I’d kept my mouth shut.
“I’m almost home, stop worrying,” I say, “So, can I bring anything tonight?”
“Nice change in topic, babe,” she snorts, “And no…just bring that fine ass.”
I laugh, “Okay, will do.”
“I’m going to talk on the phone with you until you get home, you know that right?”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” I laugh.
As anticipated, later in the afternoon Bennett starts puking up slimy piles of grass. I find one in the studio, which he graciously laid out on the tarp for easy clean-up. He must have done that while I was showering.
I hear hacking from the kitchen. I toss down my book and run over to see Bennett’s face almost to the floor, his body heaving as he tries to get the grass up. I kneel down next to him and stoke his fur as a rather large clump of mucus streams out of his mouth.
“Oh, sweetie,” I coo, “You poor thing.” I sit with him until he’s done.
As if it was any other day, he trots over to his water bowl, takes a few good slurps, trots back over to me and starts making an attempt at sticking his tongue up my nose.
“Bennett! You silly boy!” I laugh, “Are you sure you want me going over to Kim’s today? I can stay home with you.”
He “woofs” and nudges my shoulder with his nose. He’s so big now the motion almost knocks me to my back. “Stop being the over-protective parent,” is my interpretation.
“Okay, okay…but I’m coming home early to make sure you’re okay.”
It’s just getting dark as I head over to Kim’s. She’ll be pissed to know I’m walking but since it’s only a few blocks and I have pepper spray in my purse I figure the rampage won’t be too harsh.
I walk up the driveway, noticing Sal and Megan’s cars are already parked.
I open the door to see the girls sitting around the living room, cartons of Chinese food and pizza boxes decorating the tabletops.
“Hey, ladies,” I say.
“Fu! Yay, you made it,” Sal comes over and pulls me into a hug.
“Of course. We gotta have girl time, don’t we?”
Megan and Kim are standing like sentinels, wearing scowls like I’m the party crasher. I’m tempted to step outside and crawl under a bush.
“Why didn’t we see any headlights?” Megan asks, suspicion lacing her voice.
I clear my throat and look around sheepishly. “I walked over.” I try to make my eyes as big and Fu-ish as possible. Maybe my charms will get me a four-out-of-ten tongue-lashing.
“Are you bat-shit crazy, Fu?!” Kim roars. I guess not. “There’s a lunatic out to get you and you go waltzing around in the dark like it’s no big deal?”
“Give her a break, Kim,” Sal laughs, “She’s here to have some girl time, not to be berated by her best friend.” Good old, Sal…ever the peacekeeper.
Kim deflates, “You’re right. Sorry, Fu. It’s just,” she pauses, “Your stupidity is such a new development I’m having a hard time getting used to it,” she finishes with a smile.
I laugh, “At least I had the foresight to bring pepper spray with me.”
“You’re going to be the death of us,” Megan growls.
I flop onto the couch with a giggle. “This is an interesting mix of food,” I say as I survey the table.
“We couldn’t agree,” Megan says.
“Then it’s a good thing I’m starving,” I reach for a slice of pizza as Kim hands me a glass of wine.
“Any news from Frank?” she asks.
“No,” I say around a huge bite, “He called to say he has nothing yet,” a crumb flies out of my mouth as I belch loudly.
Sal laughs, “It’s a good thing you’re pretty, Fu.”
I roll my eyes and shrug my shoulders, “You’d be surprised how well that works.”
“What? Spewing food out your mouth? Or burping like a man?” Megan giggles.
“Both,” I take another huge bite of pizza.
“It’s true,” Kim has a carton of fried rice she’s eating with a fork, “I don’t know how it works, but it does. Fu’s picked up more guys being disgusting then I have being slutty.”
This gets a hefty amount of laughter.
“Well, it’s a talent I can put to rest,” I say with a sip of wine, “I’ve got Keith now and that’s all I want.”
This gets us talking about our respective men and, I swear, it’s like hens cackling in the hen house. If Keith knew half the information I divulged to these girls he’d never want to be in the same room with them ever again.
But that’s what we do. Girls share.
“Speaking of, is Keith coming over tonight?” Kim asks.
“Yeah, but not until later. Because he left work early the other day, he’s working late tonight. Tax season, and all,” I add.
They all nod.
“What about Drew?” I ask with a waggle of my eyebrows.
Kim blushes, “Yes, he’s coming over. I told him I’d text him when you guys leave.”
“How’s it going with him?” Sal munches on her pizza.
“Really well…I can see this going somewhere,” rarely does Kim get starry-eyed, but she is now and that makes me ecstatic.
“Who knew a corporate bulldog could be so sensitive,” Megan says as she twirls her chopsticks between her fingers.
We spend the next hour bantering and misbehaving. There’s something about hanging out with friends that makes the time fly. I don’t even realize it’s after eight o’clock until my phone dings at me. It’s a text from Keith.
- Working just alil longer…c u soon ;)
- Can’t wait <3
“Okay ladies, I’m off,” I say as I slip off the couch and head for the door.
“Just like that? You’re so whipped,” Megan teases.
I laugh, “Yes, I am…but I also wanna get home and check on Bennett. He wasn’t feeling well today.”
This makes Sal frown, “What do you mean?”
“He ate a bunch of grass and then started throwing it up this afternoon. He seems okay, but I don’t want to leave him for too long in case it’s something more serious.”
“Totally understand. Get your ass home to your dog.” Sal and I have an interesting camaraderie when it comes to our doggos. Boone saved her as much as Bennett has saved me, and for that Sal and I have a mutual respect for the eccentric ways of pet owners.
Kim walks me to the door.
“I should walk you home,” she says softly.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You have company.”
“They wouldn’t care.”
She opens the door just as Drew’s car is pulling up to the curb. Her face breaks into a breathtakingly beautiful smile. Yeah, and I’m the one that’s whipped.
He gets out of the car, carrying a duffle bag and sporting one of the cutest grins I’ve ever seen.
“Good evening, ladies,” he says as he walks up the walkway.
“Hey there, handsome,” Kim tilts her head up and is rewarded with a kiss that makes even me blush. She breaks away suddenly and says, “Lightbulb moment! Drew, would you mind walking Fu home? The girls are still here and I don’t want her walking home alone.”
“Oh, for Christ sake, Kim…is that necessary?” I huff, one step away from stomping my foot.
“Yes,” is all she says.
“Of course, I’d be happy to,” Drew smiles at me and gives Kim another lingering kiss. “Would you mind taking my bag?”
“Sure,” she places his bag on the floor, “See you in a few, handsome,” the look she gives him makes my blush run hotter.
He playfully swats her butt as she closes the door, giving me a playful wink.
“Shall we?” He offers me his arm like an old-fashioned gentleman.
“Thank you, sir,” I laugh, looping my arm through his.
“No Bennett tonight?”
“No. Poor guy wasn’t feeling well today.”
“Well that sucks. I wish I wasn’t so allergic to dogs. I feel like a douche having to stash him outside every time you come to Kim’s.”
“It’s no biggie. He’s such a big boy he appreciates the cold air. He’s always trapped inside with me, anyways.”
We walk in comfortable silence for a few minutes, my mind drifting to Bennett and, no doubt, Drew’s mind drifting to Kim.
“Hey Drew, can I say something?” I stop walking and he looks at me expectantly. “I just wanted to tell you how happy I am you found Kim. You seem to really make her happy and if anyone deserves to be happy, it’s that girl.”
He smiles, “Yes, being with Kim has made this whole thing a lot easier.”
“What whole thing?”
His smile falls from his face, “This whole thing of getting you the fuck alone and out of that goddamn house.”
My body freezes. “What did you say?” I barely hear my own voice.
“You heard what I said,” his fingers brush a stray hair out of my face, “It’s a shame to waste something so pretty but,” he pauses, “You took everything from me,” I think I’m going to be sick, “Now I’m going to take everything from you.”
Like a viper striking, his hand wraps around my arm, “If you don’t fight me, I’ll kill you quickly,” he whispers in my ear.
“Wh…wh…what are you talking about?” I squeak. I’m ineffectively trying to pull away, my body still too shocked to do anything useful.
“What the fuck do you think,” his eyes blaze green. I latently notice he’s tugging me down the street. My house is getting farther and farther away with each step. “I was set for life, Cindy. For life!” he hisses, “And then you had to come along and fuck it all up. My father didn’t deserve what you did to him. He’s a good man. One fucking night of stupidity and you had to hobble in all broken and beaten and take away his money, his career, everything he stood for.”
“You’re…you’re Ed’s son?” I couldn’t be more shocked if I stuck my finger in a light-socket.
Drew stops in his tracks, grabs both my arms and shakes me so hard my neck cracks, “Don’t you dare fucking say his name! You can drop the innocent act, Cindy. You’re nothing but a whoring bitch who found a way to get some easy money.” He’s literally snarling in my face. I turn my head away but he grabs my chin and forces me to look at him, “You’ll look at me when I’m fucking talking to you!” Another shake, “You ruined him! You ruined everything I stood to inherit. Now I’m fucked!”
I don’t even see his hand strike out and wham me across the face. I instantly taste blood in my mouth and it feels like my eye is about to fall out of its socket.
“I thought it would be easy. I thought I could just get in, get it done and go home. But no,” he looks at me with disgust, “I couldn’t! It was like hitting a brick wall every time I tried to walk onto your property! It didn’t make any sense until Kim told me about some fucking protective spell on your house,” he backhands me again, like it’s somehow my fault. I think I see stars. “I had to plan,” his laugh sounds like Lucifer’s mating call.
“It’s a good thing your friends’er just as slutty as you,” he says with distain. I see red. “It sure wasn’t hard to get into Kim’s pants. Which, I’ll admit, was fun.” The grin he gives me is sadistic. “Then all I had to do was make nice and wait.” Anger like no other spreads through my body like poison.
I find my voice, “Are you really allergic to dogs?” I know the answer but I want to keep him talking as I try to figure out what the hell I’m going to do.
“You really are stupid. Of course I’m not allergic to dogs. But I couldn’t risk your fucking mutt picking up my scent.”
“How did you know to come tonight?”
He leans down and draws his tongue up the length of my jaw, “I just knew,” he whispers. I fight the bile in my throat.
“So why did you taunt me all those months? Why didn’t you just take a shot when you had the chance? Like the night I chased you into the woods, you fucking pussy?” Don’t tease the bear. Don’t tease the bear. My rational mind is working but I don’t want to listen to her. You can mess with me all you want, but not my family.
His fist finds my ribs. I gasp and bend at the waist. I try to breathe but it’s damn hard. He leans down so his disgusting mouth is right against my ear again, “Because it was fun to watch you squirm,” he bites my earlobe, “Now I’ll finally take what I came for.”
I don’t even think as my head strikes out and I hear a satisfying crunch as my forehead connects with his nose.
And then I’m running. I can barely breathe but I don’t let that stop me. I’m running like my life depends on it…which, I guess, it really does. I can hear his footsteps behind me. If he catches me it’s all over so I make my legs run faster. I’m pumping my arms because I read somewhere that will increase my speed. I can hear his breathing and it only spurs me on. He will not get me.
My feet are pounding the pavement. Get home. Get home. Get home. My lungs feel like they may burst but I don’t care.
I see my house a block away, the tarp over the front window my beacon. Just. A little. Bit. Longer.
I feel his breath on my neck a second before his hand slams down on my shoulder.
A scream tears from my throat.
I’m falling to the pavement and the crash is enough to jar my bones. My arm lands awkwardly underneath me, this crunch not so satisfying. Pain explodes up into my shoulder and down to my fingertips. Great…another broken arm.
“You’re mine now, bitch,” Drew’s breath is hot on my cheek. He’s crushing my face into the pavement, his body heavy on mine. I feel his hands start to grab at my clothes, my shirt, my pants. Panic like no other erupts through me. No no no no no. He won’t take me like that! He can kill me all he wants but he won’t take me.
I’ve never been in a fight in my entire life but I don’t let that stop me from using everything at my disposal, which isn’t much considering he has me facedown on the ground. Still, I squirm and wiggle and kick, ignoring the searing pain in my crushed arm. It doesn’t do much good and I can tell my panic is only motivating him, judging by the erection pressing into my lower back. GROSS! GET OFF GET OFF GET OFF!
I scream with every breath left in my lungs.
“Shut it, whore!” He grabs me by the hair and slams the side of my face back into the pavement. Stars swarm as more blood fills my mouth, effectively cutting off my scream.
“Looks like I’ll be taking my time with you,” he growls in my ear, “And when I’m done I’m going to take my time with Kim.” There’s no guessing what he’s insinuating. White hot rage floods my vision.
A guttural snarl comes from deep in my chest and suddenly I’m…free.