27 | Lesson Learned
He’s going to kill me.
I tremble beneath him, fettered by his hands, unable to move my own. I’m sobbing, terrified, knowing that there is only one way for this to end and it is not well. I have never regretted something so much in my life. If only I could turn back time and stop myself from sleeping with Spencer. Even now I have no idea what Terrence wants to do, or will do, with me.
“I should have known,” Terrence says to himself. He sounds disappointed. “How long has this been going on for?”
“I-It only happened once,” he jostles me and I scream. It feels like he’s going to break my wrists. “I swear, oh my God, I swear! Please! It only happened once!”
“I have never once seen you as naïve until now,” he hovers over me and I bury my nose into the counter, clenching my eyes shut. The tears are hot streams on my face. “You fucked up, Blythe, and you fucked up bad. I warned you so many times. What were you thinking? That you would get away with it forever? That I wouldn’t find out?”
His index finger sweeps over the bruises gingerly as if Terrence is afraid that by pressing any harder he’ll remove the bruises and won’t have a reason to be enraged anymore. I hear myself sobbing but I hear it from a distance. My knees are weak. I’m not sure I will make it out of the kitchen in one piece.
“Do you think Spencer wants to fuck you because he loves you, is that what it is? You think he’s fallen head over heels? You think he wants to take you away from all of this and run into the sunset with you?” he laughs maliciously. “Spencer is shallow. He only likes what he sees. He likes having you around because you’re new here—you’re exciting to him. He does not have your best interest at heart otherwise you’d be on the run and I’d be in hot pursuit. But alas here you are, still stuck, still cornered, still playing games.”
“It’s nothing like that,” I cry desperately. “It just happened. It wasn’t out of love and it wasn’t out of spite. I—I—I hadn’t anticipated that it would happen. It wasn’t premeditated. It—it just happened and I am sorry for it. I am so sorry. Please don’t hurt him—"
Terrence barks a grating, boisterous laugh that comes en route from his belly. He transfers my wrists to one hand and uses the other to smack the counter repeatedly right beside my head, busting his gut with laughter. I whimper at every interaction. Terrence really does play to the beat of his own drum.
“Him? What about you? Look at where you are right now. If I wanted to hurt you, which I do, who’s going to stop me? Do you think Spencer would consider you the same way you’re considering him right now?” he fists my hair, lifting me off the counter. It doesn’t hurt—Terrence doesn’t want it to yet. Still, I shriek. “Come on, Blythe, you are smarter than this. You’re letting Spencer take you for a fool. I wouldn’t like to think you’re a fool but it’s a bit difficult in light of recent events.”
“I am no fool,” I grit through my teeth, facing straight ahead at the cabinet. I know what I say next is a death wish but I cannot bite my tongue. “I may not have anticipated it but you better believe I wanted it.”
“Oh, is that right?” Terrence coos. “Spare me the details, Sunshine. You wouldn’t know what you wanted if it was standing right in front of you. Spencer took advantage of you and you’re too callow to see it. Whatever personality of his has won you over, it’s all an act. It’s not who he is. He’s whatever character he needs to be at the time he needs to be it. I could kill him for deceiving you, and I could kill you for falling for it.”
“Then do it. Kill me then kill him because ladies first, right? And I’m already here,” my voice comes out strong but inside I’m a mess. I don’t know much about what Terrence wants to do with me but I cannot envision it being something I’d be glad to survive. I don’t know how much jealousy it takes to completely blind his rationale. “At least with Spencer I have choice. You do not give me that option. You don’t care how miserable I am as long as I’m miserable with you.”
Terrence drags me away from the counter and at first I don’t resist until autopilot kicks in. He lets go of my hair, returning his hand to my wrists. My arms are useless like this and all I have are my feet which I keep tripping over with Terrence behind me walking me to his bedroom as fast as he is. He’s taking me into the lion’s den. I feel like I’m being marched to my death and there is nothing I can do about it. I twist, writhe, beg. I know he enjoys my begging after my brief moments of fearlessness. It restores the power dynamic to its rightful owner.
Once inside Terrence’s room he kicks the door shut but does not release my wrists. He tramps me over to the bed and I would almost collapse to my knees if it weren’t for the grip he has on me. It’s pitch black, no lamps or moonlight to break the inkiness of the night. All I can make out are delineations and I almost forget where I am. It’s all so disorienting, so malevolent. I feel like I’m in a forest; everywhere I turn I feel more and more astray.
I want Spencer. I miss Spencer. I feel homesick for him for the first time. He’s become my security blanket. My sobs come back with a fury as I realize this. Without Spencer here Terrence is uninhibited. Chances are Terrence knows I’ll keep tonight private out of shame.
He lets me go and pushes me onto the bed. Before I can collect myself he grabs me and flips me over onto my back, eliciting a sharp yelp as I bring my arms to cover my face. I curl into a ball, realizing he is either going to force himself onto me or kill me and there is nothing I can do to stop it.
“It didn’t mean anything,” I blurt in a tizzy, unsure of what is truth and what are lies. “I don’t love him. I never have and I never will. It was a mistake. It won’t happen again.”
Hands on my knees, lowering them. I shake my head rapidly, trying to fend him off but he collects my wrists again, pinning them beside my head. He asserts himself between my legs, a phantom leaning over me. I snap my face to the side and squeeze my eyes shut. My heart throbs against my chest the same way Terrence throbs against me. I have butterflies, too many of them. I feel like I’m going to throw up.
“Was it like this?” Terrence asks, guiding my wrists near my thighs, palms to the sky. I’m briefly taken back to Spencer going down on me; the sensation, the release, the freedom. It had been thrilling when Spencer had done it, keeping a part of me still while the rest of me spasmed.
It’s nothing like that now. I feel like I’m handcuffed.
“Or like this?” Terrence continues, lifting my wrists up so they form an archway over my head. I shudder from terror. I had liked it when Spencer had done it. I won’t deny our rendezvous had occupied my mind throughout the day. But this memory with Terrence, even if it goes no further, will forever taint the encounter. I won’t be able to think of Spencer without thinking of this.
I rub my lips together, weeping loudly, hoarsely. I hiccup over my tears.
“Just kill me,” I say. “If you’re going to rape me, I don’t want to live.”
“I’m not—" he goes to say but then sighs instead. He squeezes my wrists and lets me go against his will. He’s calmer now, more in control of himself. “I won’t do that to you.”
But still I know better than to make a run for it. I sit up, prepared to scoot back an inch or two, but Terrence does not approve even of that. He grabs the collar of my sweater and yanks me toward him. I falter against his chest, clasping onto his shoulders for support. I meet his void-like eyes, swallowed whole by them. I gulp.
“Not so fast,” Terrence smirks. “I’m not letting you off the hook that easily.”
“What are you going to do,” I breathe, vision blurry from more brimming tears. “And what are you going to do to Spencer?”
“I’ll do nothing with him as long as you comply with me,” Terrence says. I see the glint in his eyes. He is not done punishing me yet. I rue last night with Spencer.
He wraps an arm around my waist, laying sideways until his head hits the pillow, taking me with him. He gets comfortable, settling in instantly. His other palm is on my cheek, fingers tangled in my hair. I stiffen, uncertain of where this is going. Goosebumps litter my flesh everywhere.
“I want you to kiss me like you mean it,” Terrence demands. My eyes widen, crying ceasing. “I know you don’t love me but I want you to kiss me like you do. I want to be convinced. I want to feel like I’m your world. If you succeed, I will forget any of this ever happened. Spencer will never know that I know what happened between you two.”
My breathing picks up. Surely he can’t be serious—
“But,” his eyes are intense, scrutinizing. “If you fuck my brother again I won’t be so generous with my next sentencing. I will let you get away with this once because I love you and I know you’re confused, and I know you’re angry, and I know you haven’t accepted your position here yet. I will be patient with you. You seem to care about Spencer so I’ll keep my mouth shut because I know if I don’t play my cards right I’ll keep driving you to him regardless of the consequences. I think you realize at this point you cannot keep secrets from me, a lesson you had to learn the hard way, so if you make the same mistake twice I will really make sure you regret it. Do you understand me, Blythe?”
I wipe the remnants of wetness from my face and stare at Terrence for the longest time. My chin wobbles, my stubbornness making me reluctant to agree to his terms, but I nod slowly knowing I could be dealing with much worse. Much, much worse. I suppose beggars can’t be choosers.
“I understand,” I whisper, defeated.
“Good,” he sits up and I sit back. He removes all his hands from me, allowing me to take the reins. My fingers shake and my breathing is labored. “You only get one chance to audition. Don’t waste it.”
I nod again, rubbing the base of my throat, eyes downcast. I’m no stranger to kissing but suddenly I’ve forgotten how to do it. The pressure is on and I’m crumbling. I’m pedantic, overthinking, nervous, clammy. I rub my palms against my thighs. I cannot spoil this.
I have to dissociate from myself. I look up at him, stoic, brushing my hair over my shoulders. I know what Terrence wants from me and I will only give it to him tonight. I have to be believable even if I don’t believe it myself. I exhale, wiping stray makeup from my bottom lashes, and then I go in.
I take Terrence’s face in my hands, straddling him, tracing my gaze up and down his face, breathing against his lips for a few seconds before making contact. We’re kissing. I close my eyes, my mouth working expertly with his. My humiliation washes over me like dirty water and as much as I want to stop, I want to protect Spencer more. I’m coming in fast, aggressive, determined. Zealous.
I deepen the kiss, thumbs straying to the area near his nose. I cup the back of his head with one hand, elongating myself, thrusting my chest into his. Terrence moans against me, gripping my hips, returning my affection because he simply cannot help himself anymore. He wants to treat this like it’s real. To him it is. His fingers creep under my sweater, tracing my bare flesh, gripping the loose skin he manages to find.
I furrow my brows with focus, hands roaming him, stomach doing somersaults. His calloused hands are all over my back, sending shivers up my spine. I wrap my arms around his neck, drooping my head to the side, fingers carving a line up and down his nape. A shaky breath exits his mouth. This is all he has wanted to experience all along. I move my hips against him. Bonus marks. Extra credit.
And then I stop kissing him. Time is up. Our foreheads are touching, breathing heavy. I go limp, repulsed, drained. It’s the best I can do and I hope it’s enough. I can’t fake that twice.
“You pass,” Terrence gasps, kissing me again. I groan in protest, hands on his chest, but none of it matters now.
He wants more. So he’ll take more.
He’s covering every inch of me with his touch. It sets me on fire, burns me alive. I sweat with anxiousness. If I cooperate he’ll let me go sooner. He knows when to stop. I don’t return his fervency but I submit to him. After all, this night will be surreptitious between us.
He grazes the sides of my breasts and I twitch. He lowers his hands quickly, fingers smoothing my ribcage. I don’t know when I start gripping his shirt but I do at some point, holding onto him for dear life. I’m not enjoying this yet my body responds like it is. I feel trapped in my own head. The more conflict that splinters my mind, the more unyielding I become with Terrence. Tears are rolling down my cheeks again. They follow a valley into the corner of my mouth. I taste salt.
A tear must reach Terrence too because he retracts, tapping a finger to his lips before meeting my eyes. He discards the wetness with his thumbs, pressing chaste kisses to my eyelids then taking my cheeks in his hands. I begin ugly crying, face twisted, emotions rampant. I resent the evening. It has been a dreadful evening.
I bury my face in his chest, sobbing, and Terrence comforts me. I don’t know what I feel. I’m exhausted, small, overwhelmed. I’m deluged by remorse, disgust, shame. So much shame. I am so ashamed of myself. If I had made the right decision last night I wouldn’t be where I am. I never want to do that with Spencer again. Never in a million years. The reward is not worth the cost. I will take the secrets of tonight to my grave. Lesson learned.
Terrence lifts my face up and kisses the corner of my mouth then my forehead.
“Go,” he says.
I get off of Terrence instantly, stumbling to the door. My tears impede my vision and I feel intoxicated. Just as I grasp the doorknob he calls out to me and I wince. If he calls me back to the bed I might just die. Or, at least, I’ll pretend. I do not want to be anywhere near him. Even now, being across the room, it seems too close.
“Why Spencer?” he asks. “Why Spencer before me?”
I gulp at the loaded question. I already have an answer waiting for me in my back pocket. It feels like I’ve been waiting for Terrence to ask me this for a while now.
“Two fundamental reasons: proximity in age and we’re both the youngest siblings cast aside by the older ones.”
I don’t wait for his response. I just flee.
I had went straight to the spare room and laid in the dark. I did not cry or think, just stared at the ceiling until my eyes stung and I could not keep them open anymore. I dream of the night of the ambush except this time Beth and I both manage to get away. I don’t know how we managed it, that part is a blur, but it was nice to see Terrence left in the dust instead of her.
I wake up to the door creaking open; carefully as if not to wake me but it’s too late—I’m wired for sound. I face away from the door and my eyes are wide as I tense. Terrence didn’t knock. He shouldn’t be in here. He isn’t finished from earlier and panic sets in quickly. He must have been contemplating for a while if my punishment was severe enough. He said himself that he was being generous. Maybe he isn’t feeling as generous anymore.
He shouldn’t be in here.
I decide that I’m going to guard my post. Terrence can’t just walk in here like this in the middle of the night—well, he can, but he shouldn’t. I take a deep breath and sit up, spinning to face him. My resolution is final and I’m more irritated than I am alarmed.
“What are you—" I snap, and then blood rushes from my face.
There is, indeed, a man in the room with me but it is, indeed, not Terrence. Or Spencer. Or Lawrence. His face is not shrouded by any fabric but since it’s the dead of a rainy night I still cannot make out his features. All I know is that he is a stranger.
My jaw drops from shock but the intruder thinks I’m going to scream. I’ve lost the ability to. I don’t know how to make noise. Terrence is only meters away yet it feels like miles. The man could kill me now and there is nothing Terrence can do to stop it.
The man pulls a knife from his pocket. I’m glad there’s no moonlight for it to glint off of. But why a knife? Why not a gun? It elicits what I imagine would be the same reaction when he points the tip at me menacingly. A knife is almost worse than a gun. He can drag this out if he so wants. He can torture me, carve me, dismember me...all in near silence.
“Scream and I’ll slit your throat,” he mumbles, just audible enough for me to hear.