I stared at the note for ages, he wanted me to stay.. Here. I’d promised him this would end today the night before, and I’d promised myself that I’d stick to it. But despite the constant confusion about where I stood, I didn’t want to close the door completely on something that could quite possibly be love.
I got out of bed and dressed in what little clothing of mine was strewn around the room before I walked into the living room. My bag was on the kitchen island. I fished out my phone and glanced at it. 3 missed calls, all from Tobias. I called him back and waited for him to pick up.
“Ruby?” he exclaimed darkly.
“Tobias? You called me.”
“I stumbled upon the package on your desk when I was grabbing a file. I went to put it in the drawer to keep it safe, but a photo and note fell out. Is this him? Ben?”
Shit. I’d forgotten about the package and it’s contents. I paced over to the window by the balcony and bit my lip. “It’s nothing.” I lied.
“Nothing?! Ruby, the guy’s stalking you.” he replied dryly.
“I think maybe that’s a bit of an over the top statement Tobias.”
“What part of photos of you outside your new apartment and a note saying I see you makes my statement over the top? Are those behaviors normal in the world of dating and breakups?”
He had a point. For a guy who’d never had a girlfriend he sure had a good grasp on appropriate behavior.
“Fine.” I mumbled. “I forgot about it, Jimmy took me to lunch and then… well when I came back into the office you and I… we…” i stopped unable to verbalise exactly what had happened between us in his office.
“You went to lunch with Jimmy?” He replied, his voice was suddenly dull, he sounded void of all emotion.
“He could see I was down, I guess he wanted to cheer me up.”
“I see.” He said slowly.
“It’s nothing.” I assured him, although I wasn’t really sure why I was doing it. Who I chose to spend time with had nothing to do with Tobias Clarke.
“Mmm.” He hummed. “Anyway, In regard to this ex of yours. Contact the police. The security guard at the apartment can stop him from getting in, but the police can keep an eye out for the sick son of a bitch too.”
“Okay Tobias. I’ll call the police.” I replied.
“Are you going to stay at my place?” he sounded desperate, I didn’t want to read into why.
“I meant what I said last night Tobias. I can’t pretend that being your booty call is enough for me. Because it isn’t. I wasted too much of my time with a man who proclaimed to love me, but treated me like absolute shit… I can’t settle for anything less than real love. I’m not a one night stand type of girl, I can’t freeze out the emotion.”
I hoped that Tobias would turn around and say that he felt something, anything… another slither of the man that was Tobias Clarke. But I was sorely rebuffed.
“So you’ll be gone when I come home?” he whispered.
“I think it’s best.”
Tobias sighed heavily. “You should at least have the cops come to mine before you leave. You’ll need to give them the note and the photos anyway.”
“Are you trying to get me to stay?” I smiled ruefully.
“I just want to ensure you’re safe. I’ll be back soon with the package. Call the cops.”
“Okay. I’ll do that now.” I replied. I walked over to the kitchen and sat down at the breakfast bar. “Thank You Tobias.”
“Alright.” He said before ending the call.
I called the police like I’d promised. They said they were sending someone around to take a statement. Tobias returned before the officers showed up. He placed the package I’d received a few days earlier on the benchtop.
“Did you call?”
I nodded as I folded my arms across my chest. I was wearing my clothes from the day before, and in comparison to Tobias in his designer suit, I felt a mess. I pulled at my pencil skirt and looked down. “Good. Well, once they’ve been I’ll take you back to your apartment.”
Tobias nodded and walked passed me, down the hall and into his bedroom. He closed the door behind him. He walked out a few minutes later dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge.
“Have you eaten?”
I shook my head, I was slightly hungry, but I had felt weird about helping myself to food. Tobias pulled out bacon and eggs and a large bottle of orange juice.
“You don’t have to do that.” I said. “The cops will be here soon, and I can make food at home.”
Tobias looked up and shook his head. “I’m feeding you. Accept it.”
“Thank you.” I whispered.
Tobias was frying up bacon when the doorbell rung. He placed his spatula down and walked over to the door. He looked through the spy hole before opening it.
“Good morning officers.” He exclaimed holding his hand out. The officers shook his hand before he welcomed them in. Tobias offered the men coffee, while he finished cooking breakfast. Once he placed the breakfast down in front of me, I picked at the bacon, but now the police were here my appetite was gone.
“Ms Moritz, could you start from the very beginning?”
“Of?” I whispered.
“Your relationship with Mr Grant.”
I nodded, my relationship with Ben wasn’t something I wanted to go over in great detail, but I appreciated the need to disclose.
“I met him in my second year of college. I was lonely, I hadn’t really made any friends.” I began. I looked around the room for something to focus on while I spoke. To somehow make pouring the last few years of my life easier… I looked at Tobias, who was leaning against the kitchen countertop. I shot my eyes away, settling them on the glass of juice in front of me instead.
“He was nice at first, took me on dates. It wasn’t until he invited me to move in with him after three months that things changed.” I stopped talking. I rued the day I’d let my financial situation make a decision I should have made with my heart. I was drowning in the cost of my student debt, and moving in with someone, sharing the burden, seemed like a good idea.
“He wasn’t nice anymore. I tried to end things the first time he hurt me, but he responded to that by taking my keys and wallet. He wore me down, until I slowly began to give up.”
I frowned and closed my eyes. I didn’t want to share it all, but I knew I had too.
“He made me do things, have sex with him against my will.” I swallowed back nausea. “I thought he’d kill me if I denied him, he’d instilled such a fear inside me.”
“Did he hit you Ms Moritz?”
Tears filled the lining of my eyes. I wanted to weep for the girl who hadn’t felt strong enough to leave. I wanted to weep because now I knew I had been strong enough all along.
“Yes. but never where anyone could see. In the stomach most times, though sometimes I blocked myself and my arms took the brunt.” I sounded weak. For a year I’d let him hurt me like I was his personal punching bag. “Then I found a video.” I swallowed back a ball of nausea, I had blocked the reason for our last fight from my mind since the day it had happened. It had made me so sick I’d lost it at him, the only time I’d ever bit back.
I nodded. “Of me, and him.”
“What was happening in the video Ruby?”
“He was taking advantage of me.” I replied, stone faced. “I deleted it from his phone, but I have no idea if he made copies. I screamed at him, threw a vase, I tried to leave the apartment. But he tackled me and told me I’d always be his and said no one would love me like he did.”
I shook my head. “He let me up, and I made up a story about having a class. He let me leave the apartment I ran away and I blocked his memory and everything that had happened… resolving to start again… but I guess life doesn’t work that way. The past always has a way of coming back.”
I hadn’t really faced up to what Ben had done to me, I hadn’t wanted to, but now I was being forced too. Tobias officially knew more about me than I’d ever know about him. Surely the want he said he had for me would disappear now he knew how messed up I truly was. I’d done a good job hiding it, but now I’d popped the seal, shoving it all back inside was going to be impossible.
“Now he’s found you?”
I looked up at the cop who was taking notes. “He showed up at the office and manhandled me. Mr Clarke stepped in to help, and scared him off I thought he’d steer clear, at least for a while. But then I received the package in the mail. He’s following me.”
The policemen nodded and spoke between one another. The older one pulled out a card from his pocket and slid it across the table.
“Ruby if you see or hear from him again please call me direct.” I nodded and picked the card up.
“That’s it?!” Tobias exclaimed, the frustration was evident in his voice. “You’re going to give her a card.”
“Mr Clarke, we don’t have an address or contact details for this man, we can put an APB out on him, but to be honest the only evidence we have of stalking is this package. It’ll be enough to bring him in for questioning, but we need to find him first.” The officer smiled apologetically at Tobias. “I know it isn’t ideal sir. But right now we have limited options. Due to his behavior soon or later he will show up. Scumbags like him always do.”
The officer looked back at me. “And you just make sure you call when it happens. Okay?”
“Understood Officer.” I smiled. “Thank you.”
The policemen stood up and Tobias walked them to the door. He returned to the table once they were gone and sat down. “You’ve been through a lot.” He exclaimed.
“I try not to think about it.” I admitted. “I spent a year and a bit wasted with him, I don’t want to let him waste the rest of my life.”
“I admire you.” He said softly.
I placed my hand over his and smiled. “Why do I get the feeling you want to do the same.”
“What do you mean.” He replied.
“Move on, not let your past control the rest of your life.”
Tobias pulled his hand from mine and stood up. He walked into the kitchen with the empty coffee cups. I frowned, he couldn’t let me in. I stood up and took my plate and half empty glass of juice into the kitchen.
“I should head home.”
“Yeah, I’ll uh just grab a jacket.” He turned and walked out of the kitchen and into his room. I let out a deep breath once he was out of sight. I’d opened my mind and shared my worst nightmare, Tobias officially knew more about me than i would ever know about him.
We were both silent on the way home. Tobias used the parking garage instead of dropping me outside the main entrance, I didn’t have to ask why. We pulled into a park and turned the car off.
Although I could sense that he wanted to say something he didn’t so I opened the passenger door and unclipped my seatbelt. I was about to climb out of the car when he grasped my hand. I turned to look at him.
“Does it really have to be all or nothing?” he whispered like a lost little boy. “I can’t give you explanations and details, but I don’t want to let you go either.”
“I told you, I can’t… Tobias, I have feelings for you. Deep ones, ones like love.” I sunk into the seat. “I can’t be with someone who doesn’t share those feelings. I’d be selling myself short.”
“I’m not used to not getting my own way.” He whispered. “I don’t like it.”
“I noticed.” I said softly. I leaned across my seat and pressed my lips against his cheek. “These last couple of weeks working with you, they’ve been something. Something i’ll never forget.”
I climbed out of the car and went to close the door. “I hope you find peace someday Tobias.”
“Why does it feel like you’re saying goodbye.” He whispered.
Because I was. I had some money saved. Enough to get out of town and find another dingy apartment. Enough to escape from Ben’s attentions again for as long as it lasted.
“Thank you for the ride.”
Tobias shook his head as I closed the door and turned to walk to the interior elevator. That would take me to the lobby. I heard his door open and he called out after me. I was already by the elevator waiting when he got to me.
“You’re not leaving town are you?” He asked.
“Why does it matter?”
“Because until we find that piece of shit who’s following you, you’re never going to be completely relaxed.”
He had a point, but that didn’t change the fact that working with him now, while my feelings were so raw, was going to be pretty much impossible. The elevator doors opened.
“Ruby, please. Just wait until we’ve got him. I’ll help you move wherever once that happens. I need to know your safe or I’ll never rest either.”
I looked up at him, his eyes were dull and lifeless, I was hurting him, which meant he cared about me. It may not have been love, maybe he wasn’t capable of returning my feelings, but he shared elements of them. I nodded, the situation was impossible for us both.
“Okay.” I replied. “I’ll stay until the police find him.”
“Thank you. Ruby.”
“I’ll see you at work tomorrow then Tobias.”
I stepped into the elevator and watched him as the doors closed. Once he was out of sight I let out a tight restrained breath. The elevator stopped in the lobby and the guard nodded in my direction. I took the building elevator up to my floor and unlocked my door. I spent the rest of the day sleeping. Still emotionally and physically exhausted.
The next morning I woke early. I still wasn’t sure how I was going to handle working with Tobias after everything that had happened. I showered and dressed, forcing myself to go to work, even though I wanted to stay wrapped up in bed. When I walked into the office I half expected to feel a wave of awkwardness to hit me. It didn’t.
I walked to my desk and sat down, booting up my computer as I went through my in tray. I had been there less than five minutes when Tobias walked out of his office.
“Cancel my meetings for the day.” He mumbled.
“Okay Mr Clarke.” I replied dutifully. His head shot up and he gave me a look of confusion.
“It’s okay to call me Tobias. I think we’re a bit past the formal names Ruby.”
“I don’t want to cross the boundaries between professional and personal Sir.”
“So I can’t even consider us… friends?” He sounded sad, like I’d pushed him over in the playground and laughed at him. He stepped back.
“Tobias.” I whispered back. “We’re friends.”
“Cancel my meetings.” He repeated coldly, before turning and walking back into his office.
After I canceled his meetings, I spent the morning drafting an email apologising for my abruptness. Except it ended up being the modern day version of balls of screwed up paper everywhere. I’d type a sentence, then delete it out of frustration. Eventually I gave up and focused on work.
It stayed that way for two weeks. I’d go to work, write reports, make appointments and receive mail from Jimmy. Tobias avoided me, and I didn’t do anything to convince him to do otherwise. It was painful, but I told myself it was necessary until finally, I’d actually begun to believe it myself.