"You know better," Father tells.
I flinch. "I'm sorry, Father. I thought—"
"You thought. That's the issue. Don't think. Do as I tell you. You are a stupid child. You don't have the capacity to think."
I sigh. "Yes Father."
He scoffs. "Tidy yourself up and go see your fiancée."
"Yes Father," I whisper. I put on my makeup, and in my vanity, I see my mother looking through the crack in the door.
She looks so sad. I look away. I'm not...angry at her. What can she do? But still...even knowing, I wish she would scream for me. Fight for me.
I get dressed, and go downstairs. I get into the car. I'm going to see Benjamin today.
Father said...to do whatever he wants. Because this marriage is important to his career. But I don't really want this.
I know what Benjamin wants. He doesn't want to pressure me, or so he says. But my father knows. So the pressure is on.
Remain pure, but make sure you do whatever it takes to keep him. That's he wants.
I pull up to his family's home. The door opens and I get it. Looks like he's having a party.
Great. I hate his friends. They're...
I step in, quietly. He's talking to them. Those friends of his. I don't want to be around them.
He catches sight of me, and smiles. "You're here, honey?"
My cheeks heat. "Yeah. I'm here."
He comes over to me, taking my hands. "I'm sure you remember Connor, John and Chad."
I nod, smiling courteously. "Hello again."
"What are you up to?" He asked. "I thought you wouldn't visit until Thursday?"
I smile. "Well, I missed you." It's mostly true. I do miss him.
He makes me happy. When I'm with him, I forget that I'm a pawn. I feel like a human. Having my own will.
I take his hand. "Can we go up to your room?"
His friends whoop and holler. We hang out in his room all the time. As we got older, they do this.
Did you bang her yet? They like asking that question, even when they know I can hear them.
But I don't want to think about them. I want to talk to Benji.
"Yeah. Of course. Come on," he takes my hand, and we walk up the stairs together:
I sit on his bed, and he brings me tea. "Is everything okay?"
I nod. "I just missed you."
He frowned. "Your dad yelled at you again, didn't it? Damn it."
He kissed my head. "When we get married, Honey, I promise you'll never have to talk to him again. I'll protect you."
I smile, hugging him. That's what I'm waiting for. The day we leave this behind.
"I can't wait, Benji."
"Soon. We'll be eighteen in three years."
Lately, he's been pulling away. He listens to his friends more than anyone. Those friends of his.
"Do you promise? You won't change your mind?" I ask.
"Of course not, Honey." He hugs me tightly. "You and I...we'll be happy. And we'll get away from your dad."
I nod. "Okay."
He pulls back. "Cheer up, Honey. It's not too far away."
His friends start calling him back down. He looks in the direction of their voices. "Honey..."
I clench my jaw.
"I won't be long. I'll just see what they want."
I nod. "Yeah," I smile. "I'm fine here."
He leaves me too quickly, down to those people. He's a different person with them. A worse person. Not that Benji I know. I don't like who he is around them. How he treats me around them.
I wrap my arms around myself, sitting on his bed with sigh. We've both been changing. Lately, I don't feel much. And he doesn't either toward me.
I've been this way for a while. It's been getting worse. I feel more and more alone. And I feel less and less like a human even with Benji.
It feels like pot boiling. I want to turn off the heat before it boils over, but I don't know how.
I want to stop, before something inside me breaks that can't be fixed.
But there's nothing I can really do. I smile. Even if we're not as close as we used to be, Benji is my person.
He'll be there for me. I know he will. So I won't boil over. And I won't break. Because I have him.
• • •
A year later...
"I love you, Honey. Can we...can I show you I love you?" He whispers in my ear, his hands in mine.
"You don't have to. But I love you—"
"Yes," I blurt. It's the closest he's been to me in a while.
He smiles, kissing my head. "Thank you."
I nod. "Wait...what about protection."
"Your father is always watching. He'll know. Don't worry. I love you. Besides, we're engaged. We're not doing anything wrong."
"But what if?" I whisper.
He kissed me. "Trust me, honey?"
I smile and nod. "I trust you, Benji."
We make love, at the tender age of 16 for the first time. I was...happy in that moment. Because Benjamin and I had drifted.
We were almost strangers. I thought...I thought it would make him love me again.
But the next morning, he was with someone else. Another woman.
"It's not a big deal. We're not married yet. I need to have fun before I settle down."
I left that place. And I didn't come back. Not until I found out I was pregnant.
I went to tell him. But his friends were there. I waited, like I normally did for him to see me.
"What about your fiancée," they joked.
"Who her? She's not important," he chuckled. "She just likes me because he dads a jerk."
"You sure about that?" They prod, looking at me.
He follows their gaze looking at me.
And so I lost my person. And as it turns out...that's what it took. Something inside me broke that couldn't be fixed that day.
He was all I had. All I had left. And I was nothing.
But I realized...that was the problem. Believing in things like a special person. Letting them be that important to you.
So my heart froze over. Every breath felt like ice. And the child I was carrying, was frozen out too.
Because I didn't want to be broken any more than I already was.