My phone rang as I walked out of the office. I looked down at the screen. It was Tobias.
We had barely spoken since that moment in the office two weeks prior so the fact he was even calling surprised me. Although my feelings hadn’t changed, It seemed I was no longer a distraction to him. My heart skipped a beat at the sight of his name and I frowned disappointed by my one sided infatuation. After a slight hesitation I swiped to answer the call. I stopped walking, and look down at the cobblestone pavement as I took a deep breath to prepare myself.
“Tobias? Did I forget to do something?” I exclaimed, jumping in first to save the awkwardness. Tobias had left the office early, However he’d left a list of things for me to attend to before I finished for the day. I was sure I’d done it all, but still I mentally checked the list off in my head.
Tobias sighed deeply “No.” He drawled.
“Oh, okay, What’s up.”
He clicked his tongue. “I don’t know.” He mumbled. “I just…” He stopped and for a moment I wondered if he was even going to finish his sentence. Finally though he spoke again. “I just wanted to hear your voice I guess.”
I ignored the flutter in my stomach, wanting to hear my voice didn’t mean he had romantic feelings for me.
“Are you okay?” I whispered.
“Yeah. Are you?” He replied, his voice was unusually soft.
“Yes.” I replied, unsure if it was even true. I hadn’t been okay since he’d dropped me home two weeks ago. There was a void, one I didn’t know how to fill.
“Well, that’s good. Um… I should go.” He murmured. “See you tomorrow.”
I didn’t want the call to end, but begging for it to continue was off the cards.
“Bye Tobias.” I replied, unable to stop the hopeful smile that crossed my face.
Once the call ended I switched the phone to silent and slid it into my skirt pocket before I continued walking down the pavement toward home. It had been a long day and truth be told, I was looking forward to climbing into bed with a book. I looked up absorbing the sights of city at dusk. The setting sun had already passed the skyline, and the streets were becoming increasingly dark. But my apartment was only a block away, soon I’d be home. I crossed the road at the next crossing, but before I could begin walking again, a hand grabbed my elbow and yanked hard.
“Better keep walking baby.” a voice whispered with malice. I placed it right away, my blood went cold… Ben “I’m armed, and I will shoot.”
Armed? My stomach churned and I looked around helplessly at the people around me, begging with my eyes for one of them to notice that something wasn’t quite right.
“Ben.” I replied desperately. “Please, don’t do this.”
“Shut it and walk.” As his words spilled out, something dug into my lower back.
I tensed immediately. He wasn’t bluffing. I resisted the urge to scream out, afraid he’d stay true to his word and shoot. I walked, as calmly as I could toward my apartment complex. I walked inside with Ben still behind me. The guard’s eyes narrowed at us both and I gave him a cautious nod, despite wanting to scream for my life. He nodded back and let us walked through the main doors. I pressed the elevator button and we waited together for it to descend to the ground floor.
It was the longest thirty seconds of my life, and the entire time I’d stood there hoping the guard would realise something was off and tackle Ben to the ground. But it didn’t happen. My moment of opportunity had passed and I had done nothing to stop it. The elevator doors opened and Ben nudged me inside. I turned around, facing out to the lobby. The guard looked at me, he put his hand in his pocket and as the doors closed, pulled out a phone. Please.
“You don’t have to do this Ben.” I whispered.
“You’re mine Rubes. That try hard might have got you fooled, but he’s not me.”
“Try hard?” I croaked.
“Your boss, the one you’ve been sleeping with.” he muttered. “But it’s okay, he tricked you. You’d never hurt me on purpose would you baby.”
I swallowed back disgust and clenched my teeth so hard against one another I was surprised they didn’t break from the tension.
How long had he been following me?
The elevator doors opened on my floor and slowly we walked through the corridor toward my apartment. I stood in front of the door and closed my eyes. Maybe, if I was quick I could get through the door and close it before he tried to shoot. But then every possibility ran through my mind, what if he shot through the door, what if he went on a rampage. I didn’t want to be responsible for the deaths of anyone else.
“Don’t get any funny ideas petal.” Ben said as I pushed the key into the lock. “I’m in control here…”
With no other option I turned the key and pushed the door open. I walked inside, while Ben closed the door behind me and locked it again.
“Wow, nice digs. Clearly the rich man has a thing for you.” He laughed pushing me toward the sofa. I collapsed onto it and I closed my eyes, Ben’s obvious distaste for Tobias worried me, I didn’t want him going after him.
“It came with the job.” I whispered.
“Did the overnight stays at his apartment come with the job too?” He scathed.
He’d been watching us for a while. Too long, I shuddered at the realization that my privacy had been so grossly encroached upon. Then a cold fear hit me, he’d be out for revenge on Tobias… This wasn’t just about me now.
“Ben.” I shook my head. “Please, promise me you won’t hurt him?”
Tobias didn’t deserve to be messed up by my failed relationship. Ben hovered over me. His face was contorted and he looked like he was about to snap. He pulled his hand out of his hoodie pocket and grabbed my chin.
“Who says I haven’t already.” He cackled.
Tobias was still safe, I’d just spoke to him. Even if the call had been weird, he’d sounded almost relaxed.
“Because he called me a minute before you accosted me in the street.” I replied.
“You’re right. I haven’t hurt him, and I won’t… not until we’ve bleed him dry of every dime he’s got.”
“W-w-why.” My voice shook while I asked the question I already knew the answer to. Tobias’ voice filled my head “No one loves me Ruby, They only love what they can get from me.” To so many others he was a giant dollar sign, but to me… to me he was so much more.
“Big businessman, forcing his secretary to sleep with him… sexually harassing her.” He laughed and flopped down onto the couch beside me. “He’d do just about anything to stop that reputation of him getting out there.”
I shook my head. Ben had Tobias so wrong that in any other situation it would have been almost laughable.
“That’s where you’re wrong.” I replied, my voice meek. “He doesn’t want people to like him.”
Tobias would revel in the bad press as he always had done, it would make more people dislike him more, only sufficing to strengthen the barrier he kept around himself.
“Well then I guess, he really does have no use to us.” He mumbled dryly. I almost hurled at the way he said us. There was no us anymore. I wasn’t sure there ever really had been.
Ben stood up and pointed down the hall. “Your room this way?”
I swallowed a ball of fear down my throat. I knew where this was headed, and now more than ever I wanted to make a run for the door. Almost as if he knew what I was thinking, Ben pat the pocket of his jacket where his gun sat and shook his head. “I wouldn’t if I were you baby.”
I sighed and blinked back tears.
“Come on, baby. I’ve missed you.” Ben’s voice dripped with want, and it made me sick to my stomach. He walked over to the couch and leaned over me again. “Get the fuck up now. Or so help me…” His voice tapered off as he pulled me to my feet.
Reluctantly I shuffled through the hallway and into my room, trying in vain to delay the inevitable.
“Take your clothes off.” He ordered pushing me through the room.
“Can I shower first.?” I begged. “It’s been a long day.”
Ben sat down on my bed and pulled his boots off. He looked up and me and tilted his head.
“You think I’m going to fall for that? I’m not an idiot Ruby.”
“I’m not saying you are, I just… I need to shower.” I pleaded.
Ben rolled his eyes and shrugged. “Fine, if it’ll get you into that bed without a fight. Then fine.”
I bit back the urge to vomit and nodded. But I was never going to stop fighting him, he’d never have me ever again. I’d rather die first.
“But only if I’m in the room too.”
I nodded, it wasn’t ideal, but if it meant I could get into the bathroom, where my nail file was, then it was a risk I was prepared to take.
We walked into the room together. I put my hands into my skirt pocket and almost died from shock. My phone was in there. I’d put it in there after Tobias had called. I slipped it out, and as I took off my shirt, I slipped it under my armpit. I undressed facing away from Ben and stepped into the shower a moment later. I pulled my nail kit from the shower caddy and placed it down on the shelf. Slowly I reached under my arm and pulled out the phone, moving it behind the steady stream of water, careful not to get it wet. I’d already had three missed calls from Tobias, thankfully though my phone had been on silent.
“Oh come on Rubes, give me a show.” Ben’s voice taunted from behind me. I ignored him and pressed return call via video and waited for Tobias to answer. Almost immediately he did. His eyes were wide, but he didn’t speak. Almost like he knew what was happening. He just nodded.
At that moment the shower door opened, and I barely had time to reach for the nail file before Ben yanked me from the cubicle. The phone slipped out of my hand, falling onto the wet shower floor. I looked down at Tobias face, and wondered as Ben pulled me from the room if I’d ever see him again.
“You fucking slut!” Ben yelled, pushing me on to the bed. “You’re supposed to love me!”
“Ben. I don’t love you. I never did.” I yelled back. I stood up, pulling the duvet cover up with me wrapping it around my body.
“You don’t mean that.” He replied. His eyes filled with tears as he dragged his hands through his hair. “You don’t mean that.”
“Yes I do.” I spat back. I’d never meant anything more in my life.
Ben pulled the gun from his pocket and lifted it up, I dropped the nail file. I was no match for a gun. “Ben, please. Don’t shoot me.”
“You don’t love me. But I love you.” His voice shook. “I can’t let you love someone else Ruby.”
“Please.” I begged. “Don’t.”
Ben wiped tears from his eyes and took a step closer to me. “You just had to love me. You just had to come back to me Ruby. We could have been happy.”
He was obviously unhinged, a warped sense of reality had led him to believe we had been something we weren’t.
“No, Ben. You hurt me… You raped me.” I exclaimed. “You held me prisoner. Our relationship wasn’t one of love. It was one of control.”
Ben shook his head and lifted the gun up and away from me. He ran his fingers over his head and walked closer toward me.
“You’re lying.” He shouted. “Why are you lying.”
“Because I know what love is now and I would rather die fighting for that, then live your lie for another second of my life.”
“The rich man? Your boss. You love him?” Ben croaked.
“It’s none of your business Ben.” I exclaimed. “Nothing about my life is any of your business anymore.”
Ben’s brow furrowed, he took his aim at me again and cocked his gun. His eyes turned dark and cold as he shot me a demonic smile “Well, I guess at least the die fighting part of of your statement can come true tonight.”
I looked into the barrel of the pistol and closed my eyes, waiting for the bullet to come, to end my life and throw darkness over me.