My phone rang and I looked down to see Brandt's name light up the screen. Smiling, I answered, excited to hear from him. “Hello.”
“Hey, Angel.” I grinned at his nickname for me.
“You are up early.” His concert ran late last night and I didn’t expect him to call so early.
“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep. Anyway, I thought I would call. My plane lands five minutes after ten this morning. I thought it would save us some time if you could meet me at the airport.” My face dropped, making me glad he was on the phone and couldn’t see it.
Brandt and I planned to go see my parents and tell them the news. I tried to hide my anxiety over the fact it was the second time I would have to tell my religious father I got pregnant out of wedlock. The second time I would be a huge disappointment to him. I broke one of God’s laws according to him. Not once, but twice.
“We made it!” He alluded to us being officially over the first trimester. My nervousness about losing the child slowly going by the wayside, the pregnancy suddenly became more real. I was going to have a baby. Not any baby, but Brandt’s child and I couldn’t be happier. I only wished my father could be just as proud and I wondered about his reaction to the news.
“Yeah, we did.” Unsettled as I was, I didn’t want him to know how anxious telling my parents made me. They were old-fashioned and even though Brandt was nothing but committed to me in all other ways, he lived a playboy rock star lifestyle and not the ideal living situation they wanted for me. What would they say? Would they be happy for me or would their misguided disillusionment be evident with my return?
He described our itinerary and the flight to not only Wisconsin but New Hampshire to tell his parents. He worked this trip into his downtime on this tour schedule, and I really needed to be more supportive. “Brandt, this is a big step. Are you sure you are ready?”
He didn’t hesitate. “Of course, I am ready. I wanted to tell everyone as soon as we found out.” He shouted it out to the world as soon as I told him. I was so lucky to have him want this child even though we didn’t plan it. It would be a strain on his touring schedule, but he still stood by me, and it made me love him all the more.
My airplane ticket had been purchased several months ago with the intention of me helping during baling season. Not only help but have some time to visit and see the family. My last trip in April gave me some much-needed family time while Brandt toured the Midwest. That was before we knew of the pregnancy.
Brandt tried to work some time off touring to help with the baling also, and I thought it would help sway my father’s judgment of him. To think, last year around this time, we were just getting to know each other, and now a child was on the way.
We finalized the plans as I hung up with him and made my way to the kitchen. My nausea at bay, I found myself hungry all the time and had gained back some weight I’d lost in the first trimester. It wasn’t so much weird food as in cravings, but I ate more than usual. I kept the junk food to a minimum, only wanting to eat healthy food for my growing child, but the only thing on my mind right now was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Setting my cell phone on the kitchen counter, I grabbed the peanut butter and jam, as well as a plate and bread, and worked at putting a sandwich together. The sun shone brightly through the patio doors by my side and I hoped to enjoy my sandwich outside by the view of the ocean at the back of the property. I couldn’t help thinking of the upcoming trip to Wisconsin, working my overactive mind into a frenzy of worry. I knew better than to get worked up over the unknown. It wasn’t good for the baby but old habits died hard.
As I bit into my sandwich, there was a loud crashing sound behind me. The glass patio doors splintered and startled me as I felt the sting from the shards sprayed into the kitchen land on the back of my legs. Our patio chair was flung through the glass sending fragments to cut the back of my legs. Shocked, I turned to see a man staring at me through the broken doorway. Not just any man, but Dan. The mirage I encountered this past week at the farmer’s market materialized in human form in front of my eyes. His hair might be shorter but I remembered his deep, dark eyes staring down at me. They looked ominous and seeing him so out of place in California was hard to comprehend.
Dan looked at me with his jaw clenched and his crazed expression sent a shiver down my spine. I screamed at the sight of him, knowing at that moment he wasn’t the same person I knew years ago. It scared me to see the steely look in his gaze and the way he lunged at me from the broken doorway. Another scream worked its way out of my throat, jarring me from my paralyzed state. I threw down my sandwich on the counter, knocking my cell phone off it and to the ground. I turned and ran away from him with fear so intense I could hardly see straight. Panic flared inside of me, and I ran through the doorway to the hallway, knowing I needed to get away. Get away from him and fast.
As I rounded the doorway to the hall, he grabbed me by the hair, which sent me backward into his tense chest. I cried out and tried to fight him but met with his resistance. My heart pounded in my rib cage, and I had a hard time breathing. His hand wound tighter in my hair as he shouted out. “Come here you little bitch.” His voice turned rough as he pulled me back into the kitchen. The pain to my scalp was excruciating, and I tried to scratch at his hand to get away although the effort was futile. With one tug of his strong arm he could pull it all out. I screamed and grabbed at him but it was virtually ineffective because no one could hear me as secluded as the house was surrounded by cliffs and ocean.
He dragged me back into the kitchen and threw me against the counter. I turned to fight him, but then I saw his gun.
Black metal reflected the incoming light and stared back at me. I held my breath and waited in shock for him to end my life. Instead, he grabbed my arm and told me to go out of the broken patio door. My hands were shaking and my mind fought to contemplate why he would be in my presence since I hadn’t seen him in years.
"Wh... where are we going?”
He ignored my query and shoved me out of the broken patio door. “Walk!” He was in command, and my anxiety rose to the point it made ambulation difficult. My legs were numb underneath me forcing me to catch myself as I stumbled. My two worlds had collided, and it made little sense to me. Dan was in my past. He left me years ago. He left me.
Certain now I had seen Dan last week, I memorized his features as he looked different from my past. He had the short hair of someone in the armed forces. In high school, he had long hair that almost touched his shoulders, but now it was the same black color in a buzz cut, showing small streaks of scalp depending on how it caught the sun. He had a dark tan, so different from the paler Wisconsin skin of our past. And of course, his dark brown, beady eyes which bore into my back as we walked along the deck that circled the pool as we moved to the staircase. The rumors of him being in the army must have been true. Even the faded green clothes, the olive-green shirt, and the camouflage cargo pants indicated his recent military service. He had subtle wrinkles along his eyes caused by the hard, harsh rays of the sun for long periods of time. It gave him a scary look. It made it seem to me like he was not all with it frightening me.
I knew better than to go with an assailant. The chances of coming back alive weren’t good. This was no stranger though. This was Dan. We dated once. He would never hurt me, right? The more I looked at him, the more I was not so convinced.
He led me down the deck steps and headed across the sandy beach to the cliffs to the left of Brandt’s estate. A path snaked up the cliff that I had frequented, and as I started upon it, I got increasingly anxious. “Where are you taking me?” My voice shook with uncertainty.
He shoved me hard in my back, forcing me along the path, “Just keep going.”
“Dan, where are you taking me?” My voice increased an octave with fear.
“Just shut the fuck up and walk!” His voice, commanding and loud, made known his irritation. I feared what he would do if I kept talking, so I kept quiet and tried to think of a solution. As we walked up the side of the cliff, I looked for a way out of this mess, but with a gun on my back, I didn’t think it was possible. Although I had little time to watch television, I was addicted to crime novels. They weren’t helping me with the situation though. Contrarily, they told me I was doomed.
At the top of the cliff path, a clearing formed. It was a lookout spot that showed a historical site with a plaque. Brandt and I stopped there once to see it. Evidently, the founders of California perched at this spot at one time and saw the Pacific. I wasn’t concerned about the founding fathers right now but more about the green jeep parked there.
Don’t get in the jeep. I kept thinking that if I went in it, I would be dead. The murder mysteries I read said the hostage was more likely to be killed if she went with the murderer. Would Dan murder me? What were his intentions? Already it was evident this Dan changed from the one I knew back in Wisconsin. What happened? Why would he be doing this to me? We broke up over six years ago. Our lives had moved on, right?
“Get in the jeep.” He looked around nervously at the possibility of us being spotted at the historic site.
Shakily, I came to terms with what he asked. “No,” I spurned his request knowing it could be deadly.
“Get in the fucking jeep!” He shoved the gun in my side, and I winced. He couldn’t possibly shoot me out in the open like this, could he? There was no one here to witness it, so he could easily get away with it. Caving in, I opened the door to the jeep and slowly stepped in. He had the gun pointed at me as he worked his way to the other side. Run away! I screamed at myself but fear kept me glued to the seat.
Run. I told myself. Get away. Being in the car increased my chances of getting killed, but my subconscious said that it would be okay if I just listened to him. Do what he says, and it will be okay. Do what he says, and he will let you go.
Walking to the other side of the jeep, he entered through the driver’s side door. He still had the gun trained on me, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of doom. Starting the jeep, we headed out on the road. I kept thinking that it must be a dream -or a nightmare. Why was he doing this? How did he find me and what caused him to be like this?
Cowardly, I looked at the car doorknob. Could I open it and get free? No, not at the speed we were going. Would I be able to get away? What if I just listened to him? I could reason with him. There must be a reason he was doing this.
Observing him, I took in the way he had the wheel by his right hand and his left hand had the gun pointed at me. Why the gun if he didn’t intend to kill me? What the hell could I do to gain my freedom? Getting into a car with a guy poised to kill almost surely sealed my doom.
My mind went to Brandt on his way home. I was supposed to meet him at the airport. If I didn’t show up, he would know something happened. He would try to call me. My phone! Absently I reached for my back pocket, but I already could see the place it laid on the kitchen floor from when I tried to run away.
Would Brandt go to the house? If he did, he would see it in shambles and know for certain something had happened. But when? His plane didn’t land for another ninety minutes. By then, it might be too late.
But Dan wouldn’t kill me. We had a history. We had a relationship at one time. I couldn’t help but ask these same questions. “Why are you doing this to me?” He didn’t answer, choosing to look over his shoulder to the road, seemingly not paying any attention to me. Again, I inquired but this time louder, “Dan, why are you doing this?”
He snapped. “Shut up, bitch!” The harshness of his words made me sit back and wait. He had a quick temper, always had. Don’t rock the boat, Chelsea. Wait. Wait your turn.
After we left the confines of the city, my panic escalated. We were going along an unfamiliar countryside road. I might have traveled on them before, but I couldn’t be sure being how scared I was. We passed through small town after small town, and I felt the possibility of escape dwindling away with each change in scenery.
My mind kept traveling to the fact we had a history together. Dan and I were intimate at one time. Why was he doing this to me?
I found my tongue after about an hour on the road. After concentrating on his face, I blurted out, “Why? Why are you doing this?”
He didn’t acknowledge me at first, driving and looking sporadically around at the passersby on the street. Finally, he answered, “Why?” His laugh cruel, “Why? You can’t even fathom why, can you? You fucking bitch! You ruined my life. Fucking goody two shoes. You got knocked up, and my dad said I had to marry you, or I was cut out from the inheritance. You fucking did that to me. You!” His lip curled in a snarl as he shook his head, relating my past acts towards him as if I did it on purpose.
He had it all wrong. He came after me. I was his acquisition. His challenge. The one that said no to him, and he couldn’t wrap his head around it. He couldn’t fathom being rejected by me as his ego wouldn’t take the blow. He didn’t like it that I didn’t want him, so he pursued me until I gave in confusing his perseverance as true love.
Dan went on now that his verbal dam had burst. “You were nothing to me. You were a conquest and an easy one at that.” My eyes teared up at the slight. Was I that easy? His face turned red, and he chanced a look at me. A sinister smile spread across his face at the pain he caused me with his words.
“You fucking had to get pregnant, didn’t you? That pissed off my old man. The bastard. He couldn’t let it rest either. Big fucking deal. So what if you had my little bastard running around? Your own fault really. You are the one who couldn’t keep your legs closed. All I had to do was whisper the right things in your ear, and you couldn’t wait to get me to fill your cunt, you fucking slut.” I sucked in a breath, shocked at his nonchalant cruelty. I realized later he viewed me as a conquest. How could I not? He left me pregnant and wanting a life he would never have given me, but now it was just as hard to hear how he did it on purpose.
“My fucking old man just couldn’t let it rest. He wanted to be a senator, and I was his Achilles heel. He told me that if I didn’t marry you and do right by you, he would cut me off. Can you believe it? I wouldn’t get any money!” His face turned red, and I feared him more now knowing he lost all rationality. He waved the gun at me, and I tried to keep calm. Losing my mind right now wouldn’t help. I needed to keep a level head. There had to be a way out of this.
“Can you believe it? He wanted me to choose between you and Tammy.” I remembered the name. The girl he had cheated on me with. Tammy had left with him after he told me he would marry me. “How could he expect me to choose the girl of my dreams for the frigid bitch.” He laughed as if he made a joke and I felt my spirits sink. Whatever happened since then had been twisted in his delusional mind, and he seemed to think it was all my fault.
“I decided that I would rather spend my life poor than with such a dead cunt like you even if you had my little bastard. It was a wonder I could even get it up around you. Serves you right too. You never ended up being much of a challenge, anyway.” The words rang in my ears. He never even liked me and sought out to ruin my life from the beginning, and I was an eager participant. All those times I avoided dating and saving myself for marriage turned out to be for nothing. I believed his lies, and it hurt to know just how easy he manipulated me. Tears formed in my eyes for the first time, and they weren’t entirely for fear of being hurt. Now I felt foolish as well.
He started laughing then. “You couldn’t even keep the baby, could you? What the hell is wrong with you? Even your own body knew you would be a fucking bitch of a mother.” His words bit at me as tears escaped my eyes to travel down my cheek. His baby no longer lived in my body but there was another one in me, and I feared for it. What would he say if he knew of my current situation?
“I missed out on the money for nothing. Nothing! He disowned me after I left. Maybe if you could have kept the little bastard, I wouldn’t be in the shape I am in now. He would have taken me back. He would have had to when word got out. My father always worried about his public image. Well, he didn’t care if they knew he kicked me out, that was for sure!” He half chuckled, and half yelled. I disappointed him, and somehow, he would not let me forget it.
The miscarriage wasn’t my fault. I wanted to shout it at him, but I knew better. I didn’t want to lose the baby. Even after I knew about him leaving with another woman. I wanted that child, and I would have done anything to keep it.
My fate felt cursed. What was I supposed to do? Plead with him? Cower to him? Reason with him? I swallowed and tried my best. “Why now? It all happened so long ago.”
He grew angry. His dark eyes grew darker, and he seemed infuriated just by me talking. “You ruined my life you fucking bitch. Haven’t you been listening? Because of you, I have no money. My old man disowned me. I had to fend for myself. I went into the army to support Tammy but it wasn’t enough for her.” His words trailed off as if he said too much. And then in a fit of rage, he banged on the steering wheel and focused his beady eyes on me, “She ended up leaving me for a higher up. She left me, all because of you!” His words were escalating in volume, but he couldn’t possibly think it was all my fault. I hadn’t even seen him for seven years.
“Dan, how could you think I had anything to do with it?” In a fit of rage, his hand struck out at me. The punch happened so fast and seemed to come out of nowhere. His right hand connected with my left cheek and I felt my jaw flare up in pain. My teeth felt loose as I held my face with my hands. My mouth closed and tears fell from my eyes. He hit me. He hit me, and I now knew how serious he was. Whatever happened to him in his past, he thought I’d caused it.
As the pain slowly subsided, the jeep grew silent once again. I didn’t dare say another word. I watched the countryside hoping we weren’t headed to my death. In Dan’s twisted mind, I was in the way of him having the life he wanted to live. Now I knew, and a new fear cropped up. One that I couldn’t dismiss.
A long time stretched out before I could talk again. Part of me was too scared to make waves, and another part of me thought I had nothing to lose although I didn’t want to lose hope.
“How did you find me?” I had to know. I didn’t even care if he hit me again. He didn’t answer at first contemplating the answer as if it might incriminate him further.
Finally, he answered, “Your boyfriend.” He didn’t speak for a little while and thoughts were running rampant in my head. Did he know Brandt? No, of course he didn’t, but how did Brandt cause him to find me?
“I was let go from the army, and when I returned to the states, there you were, all over the media sites. You and that guy. It seems you aren’t the frigid bitch I thought you were.” The way he said it sent shivers down my back. Dan saw the pictures taken by money-hungry paparazzi and the constant bombardment of my image lorded down on him, flipping some sort of switch in his head. He saw me with Brandt and followed me out to California. How long did he follow me? The thought made me shudder.
His jeep grew quiet for the rest of the trip as I tried to pay attention to each town we passed. The longer the excursion lasted, the more I knew I felt doomed. We were no longer passing through towns. Now we were in the countryside. The paved roads led to the dirt and gravel woodlands. The paths became more rustic, and as the day wore on, I saw fewer people and more wildlife. An eagle here and a deer there. We were deep in the mountainside and with each advancing mile, my despondency deepened.
We were winding up a steep incline, and I noticed we had made it to the mountains where an occasional lingering pile of snow along the path made my body grow cold. The button-down shirt and shorts I put on today in the heat of the California sun was no match for the chill of the mountains. I couldn’t tell exactly where we were, but with each mile driven the belief that someone would rescue me fled.
The barren road we pulled down left little hope someone would find me. Traveling for hours we encountered one dirt path after another. The track itself looked used recently despite the snow cover and I hoped we weren’t as hidden as I thought. Along the end of the secluded tree-lined path, I saw a cabin in a clearing. Little more than a rustic hunting shack, the tin roof, and weathered boards looked dilapidated as well as falling in places. The long-forgotten hunting cabin placed fear in me, seizing my chest and making it hard to breathe.
The thought of dying here struck me suddenly, and I froze in the passenger’s seat of the jeep as we pulled up to the area. “Here is your mansion, my lady.” He laughed as he stopped the vehicle and turned off the engine. I tried to tear myself away from my death chamber but the only other thing to look at was Dan, and he was just as foreboding.
He got out of the jeep and quickly walked around to my side. He opened the door and gestured with his gun for me to get out of the car. I did not want to, but I had a feeling I had no choice.
We walked up the creaky, old steps of the porch with me in the lead and a gun pointed at the small of my back. Dan stopped to open the door for me without unlocking it. It led me to believe he had been here recently. He used forethought. This was something he took time to plan and it caused my hope to dwindle further.
Inside the cabin, I took notice of the area surrounding me. A small living space with a wood fireplace flanked my left while a small kitchen was on my right. To my dismay, I noticed the outhouse through a small window on the other side of the cabin. He hustled me through the living area to a room off it. The door looked flimsy, an old-fashioned lock, the kind you would need a skeleton key to open, brandished the wooden door. The small room came into focus as he pushed me harshly inside it. Catching my balance, I managed to stay upright, but before I turned around to face him, he had slammed the door.
I ran to the only window in the room. It was a regular-sized window, dirty from neglect. As I moved closer, my spirits fell as I noticed the chicken wire on the outside. Even if I could open it, there was no escaping. Despite knowing the results, I tried the window anyway, only to find my guess correct. He nailed it shut.
Turning back to the room, I took in my surroundings. A small table made of logs and old wood sat in the far corner. It had to have been here since the dawn of time. The one chair looked just as old, made from timeworn, creaky wood barely stable enough to use. An old, stained mattress covered the floor to my right and a bucket sat next to it. It wasn’t until I studied the bucket I realized its intent. It was my latrine. My future being bleak, I let myself drift to despair. My body went numb, and I slid down the wall closest to the window. Frozen with fear and panic-stricken, I knew I was going to die.