Angeline winced as she reached into the dishwasher. Her sides ached from the solid beating Nathan had dished out the night before.
She pulled out a cup from the top rack and tried to place it back in its place in the cupboard, but a jolt of pain stopped her from going any farther.
“Okay, that’s it.” Veronica shut the door to the commercial dishwasher with a bang and turned to her.
Angeline stared back at her, confused. “What?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Angeline,” she said. “I know something is going on between you and Nathan. Don’t think for a second I haven’t noticed the bruising on your body. Why haven’t you reported this to the authorities?”
“We shouldn’t be talking about this, Veronica.” Angeline mumbled.
“Yes, we should.” She said matter-of-factly. “Since when do we keep secrets from each other, Angeline?”
“It has nothing to do with you, so mind your own business.”
“It has everything to do with me!” Veronica cried. “You’re my best friend. It’s like I don’t even recognize you anymore. You don’t talk, you don’t smile. Hell, I haven’t even heard you laugh in months.”
Angeline slammed the cup down with more force than necessary. “Then tell me what I should do then?” She said. “I can’t go to the police, he is the police. They wouldn’t believe a damn word I had to say, not one word.”
Veronica said softly, “You run.”
Angeline was shaking uncontrollably and quickly began to undo her apron. “Are you insane? I can’t do that.” She said. “Nathan’s watching my every move. He’ll kill me if I run and beat me if I don’t. It’s a no win situation with him.” She threw her apron onto the counter and quickly turned to leave.
“Angeline, hold on a sec. I’m sorry, okay? Just relax.” She said, taking her hand. “I’m just saying that if you continue on like this more than likely you won’t live to see tomorrow. Is that what you want? Are you prepared to go home within the next hour and have Nathan beat the living crap out of you again? Because I sure as hell don’t want that for you. I don’t want to bury my best friend not before she’s had a chance to live, to be happy and have children of her own. Please, Angeline, please consider what I have to say and get the hell out of that house, out of that relationship.”
Angeline bit her lip, contemplating on what she should do. She knew Veronica was right. She didn’t want to live the rest of her days in fear. She closed her eyes, reliving happier times. She wondered what she did wrong, wondered what she said to make him hate her so much.
If she was going to leave, everything she’d worked so hard for would no longer exist, but it was a price she was willing to pay for freedom. She nodded, tears forming in the corners of her eyes. Veronica gave her a faint smile and pulled her into a hug, reassuring her everything would be okay.
“Wait right here, I have something for you.” Veronica said.
Veronica pulled away from their embracement and left the room. When she came back, she was carrying her Coach purse and pulled out a small manila envelope. She handed the envelope over to Angeline. “I was really hoping you would talk to me about this sooner. I’ve been keeping this aside for you when you were ready.” She explained. “It’s not much, but it will get you where you need to go and some.”
Angeline opened the envelope and gaped. She assumed there was over six grand in her hand not to mention what was left in the envelope. She shoved the money back into the envelope and tried to hand it back to Veronica. “I can’t accept this,” She said. “it’s too much.”
Veronica held up a hand and shook her head. “I insist. There’s a business card inside. He’s a friend of a friend. He’ll take you wherever you want to go and more.”
An uneasy knot formed in her stomach. “Um…”
“You can trust him. You have my word.” She reassured her. “No one will know where he’s taking you. Not even me.”
“Thank you,” She said, squeezing Veronica’s hand. This time, she couldn’t swallow away the tears that fell free down her face.
“Take this,” She pulled out a taser from the side pocket of her purse. “When you get the chance you shock the living shit out of him. I guarantee you the son of a bitch will drop down onto his knees.”
After years of living in this hellish nightmare, a faint smile formed on the corners of Angeline’s lips. “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”
“Me too,” Veronica said.
“More than that…” Angeline’s voice trailed away. She had been about to say, You’re the only friend I’ve ever had, but that made her seem so lame and, besides, was still an inadequate expression of what she felt for this girl. They were, indeed, in one sense sisters.
Veronica crossed the distance between them and hugged her hard. “I know.”
A tear slid down her face and she immediately wiped it away. “I wish I didn’t have to go, but I want you to know that I couldn’t have made it this far without you. You’ve always been there when I needed you.”
She pulled away and held Angeline’s face in her hands. “I want you to be happy, and I know you will be.”
Later that evening, Chavez was parked in his usual spot waiting for her. Angeline noticed Nathan’s suburban pulling up behind Chavez’ patrol unit. He stepped out and walked over to the parked unit. The two men turned their heads and looked over in her direction. Her fear was beginning to rise. Nathan nodded and motioned Chavez to leave for the evening. As soon as he drove off, Nathan headed over towards the bakery.
The bell sounded throughout the small bakery as he walked in, “You had me worried,” he said. “I couldn’t reach you today.”
“I’m sorry baby. We got flooded with customers this afternoon,” she lied, draping her purse over her shoulder. “I didn’t have a chance to return your calls. It won’t happen again.”
In a flash, Nathan was on her, pinning her by the throat to the counter. “You’re a lying bitch,” he snarled. “Chavez said you weren’t busy at all this afternoon.”
“Nathan,” She gasped. She began to struggle anew, thrashing and kicking beneath him but nothing she did could throw him off.
“Then you had to go and cry to Veronica,” he said, squeezing her tighter. “What did you tell her?”
She tried to scream, but no sound escaped. Her hands were at his hands, clawing, trying to pry them loose.
Nathan’s face, a twisted mass of raging fury and evil, froze Angeline’s blood.
“Please,” She grunted between clenched teeth.
Angeline tried to fight him but her strength was nothing compared to Nathan’s. Eventually her limbs were beginning to grow heavy, the room fading and even Nathan’s constant yelling sounded like it came from a great distance.
Suddenly, she remembered the taser.
With her last remaining strength, Angeline reached into her back pocket for the taser Veronica had given her earlier. Her hand gripped tightly around the taser. If she wanted to survive, if she wanted out of this nightmare, now would be the time to do it.
When Nathan looked down, Angeline was withdrawing what looked to be a taser out of her back pocket. Before he could react, Angeline pressed the stun gun against his neck. He cried out as a surge of electricity passed through his body causing him to fall onto the floor momentarily incapacitated.
Freed from his grasp, Angeline was coughing and gasping as she filled her lungs with needed oxygen. But she couldn’t stay there. She had to move quickly.
Angeline sprinted towards the door. Somewhere behind her she knew Nathan was pulling himself up on his feet, anger etched on his face.
Confused looks were given as she blasted through civilians. She could feel the cold cement slamming into her feet through the thin canvas soles of her Gucci Flats as if she were barefoot, but she didn’t care.
Her calves were coiled springs, propelling her forward with every step. In the distance behind her, Angeline could hear someone calling her name. If she’d stopped to think about it, she would have known it was Nathan, probably to kill her if he caught up with her. But she wasn’t going to stop for anyone, especially for him.
Her lungs screamed in pain as she gasped for breath. She glanced fearfully over her shoulder and noticed Nathan was quickly catching up to her. No matter how fast she moved, how cunningly she changed directions, he was always there. Suddenly a unit wheeled around the corner flashing his lights and siren. It was Chavez, with a smug look on his face as he pounded the brakes.
“LAPD, stop that woman!” Nathan shouted behind her.
People stepped forward, trying to grab at her so they could detain her until Nathan arrived. But she would not let that happen without a fight. She felt sorry for the poor bastard she ended up tasing in the neck, but she refused to give up. She turned down an alleyway where she was met with a nine foot fence blocking her path.
“Angeline, stop!” Nathan was shouting somewhere in the far distance. Angeline ignored him. She climbed over the chain link fence with determination she never thought she had. Once she landed on her feet, she made a mad dash down the dark alley. Her eyes skimmed around her surroundings frantically trying to find a place to hide. Her eyes came to a stop at a small window leading to an abandoned warehouse, just big enough for her small frame to squeeze through.
She lifted her leg and kicked the window in. She quickly got onto her knees and threw her purse first down into the dark room. Angeline gasped as she heard Nathan’s voice once again.
Swallowing her fear, she crawled through the small window as quickly as she could with no thought to cuts and scrapes. She fell free and hit the ground with a slap.
Angeline could hear Nathan’s footsteps quickly approaching down the alleyway. She got to feet beneath her and hid behind a large wooden crate, placing a hand over her mouth to cover her frantic breathing.
Sitting on her haunches, she trembled in fear as he slowed by the broken window, praying frantically for invisibility.
He seemed to stand by the broken window for an eternity. But then he turned away from her hiding place and kept moving.
She removed her hand from her mouth and let out a shaky breath.
Just then, she heard the cell phone ring.
Shit, shit, shit.
She quickly felt around her purse until she found her phone. Nathan. She knew he was trying to track her down by it, and quickly turned off the power.
Nathan’s booted feet reappeared and approached the broken window.
He was going to drop to one knee beside the window.
Oh God, he’ll find me cowering like a child, choking on my own stifled scream, in a cold sweat, all dignity lost in the desperate struggle to stay alive.
She worked herself into such a state of distress that tears welled.
He stood motionless. Listening. Watchful.
She couldn’t risk crying. Not while she was in the dark room. Nathan would hear her, and she couldn’t release the tears that threatened until she was safely out of there and until he was gone.
But then his blurred boots turned away from her and kept moving. He walked past the window to the middle of the alley. Whatever he’d thought he heard was no longer there.
She blinked furiously, clearing her tear-blurred vision.
He stopped and turned, evidently studying the alleyway one last time.
Lest he hear her child-shallow exhalations, Angeline held her breath.
His footsteps moved off the way he had come. His tread swiftly faded, cloaked by the fierce pounding of her heart.
She exhaled explosively with relief. She was still safe.
After discarding her phone in the trash, she headed straight for the nearest payphone. She needed to stay in crowded areas, blend in with the other people. She had to get the hell out of Los Angeles. Away from him. If all went the way she hoped, he would never see or hit her ever again.
Rummaging through her purse, she pulled out the business card from inside the manilla envelope and deposited two coins into the coin slot. With shaking hands she dialed the number on the card. He picked up after the third ring.
Her lip trembled as she searched for the words to explain what had just happened. Then the tears began to fall.
“Is this Angeline?”
She suppressed a sob. “I need to get out of Los Angeles. Can you help me?”
He was silent for a moment. “Yes.”