“You lose, Princess. You gon’ be mine forever,” he slurred.
I gasped, sitting up. I was slick with sweat and I had a firm grip on the blanket in front of me.
“What’s wrong?” Evan mumbled, groggily. He turned over in the bed, looking at me in the darkness. I wiped my face and took a few deep breaths. I touched my hand against the cool wall. I rubbed the soft blanket between my fingers. I was safe, I had to make sure that it was true.
“N-nothing,” I choked out. He sighed and rolled back over. I couldn’t tell if it was because I woke him up for no reason or if he thought I wasn’t talking to him on purpose. I didn’t want to keep him up because I had the same dreams I’ve been having for months. I wish I could stop, I really did. They aren’t something I wanted to happen. I only got them once every other night at that point, which my therapist commended me for. She said I was getting better, but I wasn’t entirely sure I was.
I was always paranoid when Evan had to go to work. It wasn’t as bad during the day as it was at night. If Evan was ever late, I would worry about him. I would also worry about myself. What if someone knew his routine, hurt him and then was coming for me?
After I had calmed down from my nightmare, I noticed the sunrise coming through the window. I slipped out of bed and into the sitting area. I didn’t really want to call it a ‘living room’ because it wasn’t used any longer than for sitting. There was a couch, and a side table all facing an averagely sized television. There was a window I frequented after nightmares that looked over the trees outside the sitting room. There was even a little river that ran between them that I would follow with my eyes into the sun.
I would watch the pinks blend with purple and slowly turn into the sky blue of the morning. Then Evan would sniffle himself awake, and make himself a cup of coffee. I would be there for hours trying to take pictures of the twisting opal sky, but they never did it justice.
“Whatcha looking at?” Evan asked, kissing the back of my neck. He wrapped an arm around my waist, placing a hand on my hip bone. “Maybe when I get out of work we can go to Nichols, pick some apples,” he whispered in my ear.
“No,” I said, pulling away.
“Why not? You like apples,” he said and I sighed. I turned to him and I saw him walk into the kitchen.
“I don’t like farms,” I said, following him. He was looking at the calendar pinned to the fridge by a magnet.
“Why? BecAUse they tALk lIKe thIS?” Evan mocked, caricaturing southern accents.
“Knock it off,” I said, walking back into the living room. Evan came up behind me, touching my thigh moving up slowly. He wrapped his other arm around my waist and kissed the tender skin behind my ear.
“I didn’t mean to upset ‘chu, Pretty Darlin’,” he said.
“Get off!” I shouted, pushing him away. In my struggle, I knocked myself back and fell into the wall. His accent, the way he said that, it made me sick. The way I used to feel sick.
“See what happens when you overreact? I understand that you didn’t get a lot of sleep but you don’t have to be nasty,” he said. I felt a burning in my chest. I remember sitting on the floor in my sleeping pants, and wishing I was eight times smaller. I wanted to disappear.
I crawled up onto my couch at one point and rested my head on the arm, staring out the window. Before Evan left, he planted a kiss on my head. I sat up and rubbed my eyes when I heard the door close and the lock click.
I liked to stay busy while Evan was at work. My therapist told me to try everything, and to write things down. I was finally allowed to write about my experience with Highroller. After the trial was over, Evan said it was alright to begin inscribing what happened. I couldn’t remember a lot of it because of the time separating the events. I got the important parts down, the ones I did remember, and the ones I didn’t, I would annoy Evan into reminding me.
So, for a couple hours, I’d procrastinate by walking around the house. I would get distracted by things I needed to do that I forgot about like taking my vitamins in the morning or doing laundry. After I had run out of excuses, I would sit down with my laptop and orchestral music or rain sounds that would assist me in writing. I would only have a few pages written by the time that Evan came home. I would take several breaks, not really because I needed them, but more so because I wanted them. I had no drive to write it down, because the trial brought me all the peace that I needed.
Most nights Evan and I would spend time away from each other. I would stay in the bedroom and type, gaining better traction as the night progressed. Evan would play video games and watch movies on his own, preparing and having his dinner alone. I would rarely eat dinner when I was writing so intently. I figured if I wanted something, then I would get it, but at the time writing was all I felt like doing.
Other nights, I would give up on my literary focus and watch some new show with him. But I never enjoyed it, I always wanted to do something that Evan was too tired for. I understand the want to cuddle, but to do it every time we were together was becoming a stale idea.
The problem that I found was that if he did ask me to do something, I would tell him I didn’t want to. He would tell me that he would take me anywhere I wanted, but still I insisted I didn’t want to do anything. I knew that was entirely my fault, I just didn’t know how to fix it.
One evening that I was slumped over my laptop turned into an early morning writing session. Those nights Evan would kick me out of our room so he could sleep. I remember falling asleep on the couch, laptop resting on the floor with my fingers dangling over it. I was abruptly shaken awake by Evan, groggily blinking the sleep out of my eyes.
“What?” I asked, sitting up and rubbing my eyes. He clicked on the lamp and I saw blurry images of large men in black suits. I blinked quickly, hoping they were only figments of my restless brain.
“Listen Honey, they’re going to take you somewhere safe,” Evan said, holding my shoulders. He had me stand up, pushing me into our room. It all happened so fast. “I need you to pack a bag,” he said, slinging my suitcase out from the closet.
“W-where are we going?” I asked, tears welling up in my eyes. I hadn’t been without him since the trial ended, or at least a couple months afterwards. When I didn’t have him, I had my mother. I didn’t want to be alone.
“Not we, Baby,” he whispered, “I- I don’t know, but you gotta go. Somewhere safe, they said,” Evan whined. He sounded just as upset as me. At his request, I tossed my favorite articles of clothing into the suitcase and toiletries I knew I would need. I didn’t know how long I would be gone, and I had no idea where I was going. I was so afraid. I ran out into the living room to get my laptop and quickly slipped it into my case.
I looked at Evan with soaked eyes, my lip quivering. I wrapped him tightly in my arms and he kissed the top of my head, squeezing me back.
“You’re gonna be okay,” he whispered. I wish he had said that before, then maybe I’d believe him.
Just that morning, I was driven through highways with illuminated lights onto dirt roads surrounded by deep woods. The air was damp and my stomach was churning. Headlights shot past as the world changed color. My orange home of Las Cruces turned more green. I rolled down the window and smelt the cool air. Pine. Fresh water. Amber street lights went dark as the day reared into the sky and the dawn turned to light. My head pounded; I was so tired.
I had rolled up my window long before we reached the safe destination because the more we drove, the colder it got. At one point, I saw little flakes of snow falling from the grey sky above. I trembled, if I had known that Colorado was where we were headed, I would’ve dressed warmer.
One of the frighteningly stiff federal agents turned quickly, sneaking a look at me. He pointed under his seat, reaching behind him.
“I think there’s a blanket under the seat,” he said. I sat up and grabbed it, wrapping it around me as I leaned against the car door.
“Thank you,” I said, and he nodded. It was stiff, and the wooliness scratched against my skin, but I was grateful to be wrapped up by something. I wanted nothing more than to just wake up, as if it were all just a dream.