The Exit Plan

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Chapter sixteen

Chantel stood shivering in my front porch with a black eye distorting her face. Icy water dripped from her soaked hair to her willowy figure and onto our welcome rug. A million shades of sorrow entangled themselves in her gaze.

“What happened?” I said, pulling her into my arms. The tremors that escaped her body sent ripples to my heart. “Chantel who did this to you?”

She didn’t reply. Her eyes moved from me to the faux fur rug my parents got for Christmas and suddenly I knew the answer to my question. I knew it before she even opened her lips.

“I’ll kill him,” I screamed, feeling my hands curl into fists.

I pictured the smug look on Tristan’s face as he boasted about starting a fist fight. I pictured the sneer when he humiliated Natalie in front of the whole school. I even pictured the disappointment on his face when he knows that he needn’t have started a fight. I was going to start it for him and this time it was his soul that would be torn to bits. “I’ll rip him apart until every inch of him regrets what he has done. I’ll…”

“Don’t,” she sobbed as her splashed onto my chest. “You don’t need to do anything.”

“Chantel, he hit you. He beat you up like his personal punching bag,” I said, imagining the look of purple and blue scars on Tristan’s face. It would suit his rugged appearance. “He hurt you and I’ll hurt him.”

“Don’t hurt him. Please don’t. My life is a mess, but it’s a mess that Tristan and I are both caught up in.”

“It doesn’t have to be a mess,” I whispered, watching Bastian abandon his dinner and leap into her arms. She smiled as she embraced him. Yes, Chantel was lay amidst my faux fur rug with Bastian welcoming her. She was home. “Chantel, it really doesn’t. Listen, why don’t I fix you a bath and cook something nice for you? There’s meatloaf but you don’t need to eat it if you don’t want to. I can grill something up for you and….”

“Don’t bother,” she whispered as her cold hand found mine. “I wouldn’t have come here but I didn’t know where else to go.”

“This is your home Chantel,” I whispered, dropping a kiss in her soft, soaked carnation-scented hair. It was as fine as the first time I felt through it. “This will always be your home. If my parents feel differently, well, let’s say they’d have to answer to me.”

“You’d go against your parents for me? You love your parents,” she said as she looked at me with a blazing look in her eyes. Her tears seemed to vanish by themselves.

“I love you more. I’d do anything for you, you know that don't you?” I asked as my face moved inches away from hers. “I love you. And I’m done loving you selfishly. I don’t care if your heart is with somebody else because it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if you’ve got a giant rock on your finger. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is if he loves you more than the pieces of his very soul.”

I pressed my lips to her forehead feeling the tears I shed this morning reproduce with rapid intensity. I didn’t care. I didn’t care that she was someone else’s or if she had a massive pink sapphire wedding ring on her finger. I just wanted her crooked smile right where it belonged. I wanted the bruises to abandon her face. I wanted her happy.

“Chantel?” I whispered, as her face was mere inches from hers. I saw every minute curve of her lashes flutter as she looked at me. I wanted to tell her she was beautiful. I wanted tell her that I loved her. I didn’t get to say any more since her lips met mine. The taste of her blackberry flavoured lip-gloss and Pinotage exploded as my lips flirted with hers.

“I love you,” I whispered before she collapsed; hurt and exhausted, into my arms.

“Chantel,” I said as I nudged her awake. “I’m going to take you upstairs. You can sleep while I cook you something nice.”

“No,” she said, her voice barely a shadow. “Mustang.”

“What?” I didn’t think I heard her correctly. Was she trying to get to her car and leave? Did she think that kissing me was one giant mistake? I shivered at the possibility of losing Chantel.

“My car,” she said, as she pointed to the gleaming crimson Mustang that she had parked crooked in my garage. “Take me to it. There’s something in there that I need to show you.”

As I carried her up to the car and settled down on the white leather seat, she pulled out the dullest looking papers I had ever seen in my life. And this looked duller than the wartime poetry Mr. De Villiers forced us to read in the ninth grade.

“I’m filing for divorce,” she told me, showing me some documents that mentioned the local ma I felt my heart soar. “I know we got married a week ago and went off to Tuscany, but this –this feels so pure. Like it’s the right thing.”

“Tuscany?” I said. “So this is where you’ve disappeared to. Everyone was curious to know.”

“Yeah, Tristan and I both agreed that Italy was somewhere far away that nobody would ever find us. We were wrong. Someone did find us and it wasn’t a happy experience,” she said as rage found a home in her voice.

“Who was it?” I asked.

“Elizabeth,” she said with a ferocious expression. “That heartless woman Elizabeth Burnham. She came to tell him that she had disinherited him; that he was no longer welcome at her place. I tried to tell him that he wasn’t lost and he didn’t believe me. That was when we first fought. He tried reaching out to my dad but my dad refused to help. And I’m proud of him for refusing. The only help Tristan needs is some sensitivity knocked into him.”

I couldn’t help but admire her courage. She was the girl who didn’t let falling off a train or dying of a car crash scare her. Maybe the rumors of her were true? Fear is yet to touch Chantel.

“I know,” I said, tracing the sharp outline of her jaw. “You’re brave. That’s one of the things I love about you.”

“Oh my God,” she said as her eyes glittered with unrestrained emotion. “You have a whole list of things you love about me? Well, I’m sure Natalie wouldn’t like that.”

“You’re brave and intense and intelligent and emotional and generous and I could go on forever and Natalie wouldn’t like it,” I said the clean, new car aroma of Chantel’s Mustang filled my lungs. “Natalie wouldn’t also like this,” I said as I kissed her.

“No, she wouldn’t,” she laughed as she reached into the cubby and held a bottle right in front of my face.

“You know what this is?” she asked, cradling the bottle as if it were her only child.

“Let me guess, another bottle of Pinotage,” I said but she just shook her head.

“Constantia. They say Napoleon drank this before Waterloo.”

“No wonder he fought a losing battle,” I scoffed as she uncorked the bottle and poured the contents into her mouth. “He was trashed drunk.”

“Yeah, he was,” she said, edging the bottle even closer to me until it was the only thing that was closer to me than she was. “Just like you’ll be in a few seconds. Drink.” I didn’t hesitate. I snatched the bottle and poured the wine down my throat, pausing to taste the heady sweetness each drop possessed.

“It’s warm,” I said, referring to the wine that slid down my throat.

The warmth swam into me warming every stiff part of my soul. The heat and the sugar and the rush of invincibility that came with it made me feel like Tristan never existed. That Chantel was never committed to any other man. It was as if we were back in that parking lot as eighth-graders without any insecurity parting us. It was almost like all our heartbreak never existed leaving only two souls; pure and sensitive.

We kissed once more as I felt my hands tease her dark hair. We didn’t stop as my hands continued to travel down her back, past her flat but seriously toned stomach to her breasts. If this is what Napoleon felt before being exiled to St. Helena, he wouldn’t have been too disappointed.

“You ready?” she said, raising one highly arched eyebrow up. I felt a smile creep up at her expression. It was easy to forget how spectacular she was until she unleashed her dimpled smile. It was a smile my heart had long fallen victim too.

“Definitely,” I smirked with my hand cupping her face. “Will Tristan claim adultery as grounds for divorce?”

“Trust me, between sleeping with someone else when you’re married and beating your significant other up, I think he will look significantly guiltier than I do,” she said as she unbuttoned my shirt and tossed it to the floor.

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