I don’t want to open my eyes. What if he’s still there? I remember it all, but the more I think about it the more it fucking rips me apart.
Steve... was that real?
Was any of it real?
Maybe it was all just a nightmare. A really vivid fucking nightmare.
Feeling a hand stroke my back I freeze, my whole body shuddering as I force my eyes to stay shut.
He’s still here... he’s going to pick up where he left off...
“Brie?” The tears fall down my face as I recognise the sound of her voice. I want to open my eyes now but the fear running through me is still paralysing my ability to control myself. Please be real... “Brie, it’s okay. It’s just me. Babe, please open your eyes. I swear to you, you’re safe.” The pain in her words is clear, despite how she’s trying to hold back.
Open them Brie. It’s going to be okay. She won’t let anything happen to you.
Forcing my heavy lids to peel open, my skin feels like it scratches at my dry eyeballs with every tiny movement. I’m raw, my clothes are still damp from my tears and I can feel them sticking to me as I try to move my limbs.
Everything hurts so fucking much, my head pounds. It’s like I’m suffering with a killer hangover after a three week bender... which I guess I kind of am.
My eyes take a second to adjust to the light, the blurred waves of white and yellow eventually clearing up until I see Aleah on a chair by my side, her face coated with tears as she looks at me.
I can’t hold it back, the memory of what I did to her earlier today hitting me like a bus and tears start to trickle down my face in streams as I look on at that beautiful bump of hers.
“I-I’m..” My throat is so dry but when she leans away to get water for me I try to reach out and pull her back, I want her to know. My sobs muffle my words but I force them out anyway. “I’m... sorry.... I love... you...”
Her sobs come full force, wrapping her arms around my head and holding me against her as she trembles with emotion.
“Don’t say sorry babe. I don’t care, I don’t care about any of it. I love you, I forgave you the second it happened. I love you Brie... I’m so fucking sorry this happened to you...”
She can’t stop crying and neither can I. Pushing her way onto the bed, she holds my head to her chest as she feeds me some water through a straw. I lean my head against her bump and I truly realise now how far along she is. This little princess is coming so quickly.
I hadn’t realised where I was until it hits me that someone is still stroking my back but it can’t be Al. Turning slightly, my head still feels heavy as I take in the tear soaked blue eyes at my side. I’m in Al’s old room at the Manor, I don’t remember shit about getting here though...
He stands and rests his head against my own.
He chuckles. “You have to stop calling me that... Brie, are you okay?”
No. I’m not.
My head won’t stop spinning. I try to sit up only to fall straight back when I try to bare my weight through my wrists. It feels like every muscle in my body has been sapped of all their energy and my bones are so brittle that one wrong move would result in them splintering like glass.
Jayce attempts to help me sit up but I still feel numb.
“Hannah said you’re going to be weak for a few hours but it will pass, it’s just the drugs working their way through your system. You’ll need bloodwork to confirm the type but she seemed pretty positive about what he gave you.” Jayce is trying to sound calm, he doesn’t want me to freak out, but he can’t cover up how he’s feeling. I know he’s ready to kill.
The last thing I really remember was Steve, he just kept hitting him, he wouldn’t stop. Is he dead?
“Steve? Is he?”
Jayce nods. “He’s here. He’s just down with Hannah giving a formal statement, she said it wasn’t safe to do it at the station yet. She wants to talk to you too, when you’re ready. Sonya had to go but she wants Lee to call her with updates. Do you remember anything?”
Sonya was here? “I do, but bits are hazy... I don’t know if he... did he...”
Al sobs drown out the fact that I can’t even say the words, I don’t know if he raped me, and that sense of not knowing is more terrifying than the memories themselves. Jayce’s jaw clenches as he moves to sit back in the chair next to me in an attempt to keep his cool. She strokes my cheek as I turn to face her.
“We don’t know... Hannah said they can do an examination that will tell them if he managed to... Oh Brie, I’m so fucking sorry. I should’ve made you stay. I should never have left you in the car like that, I-”
I stop her, pulling her head down to meet my own as we both begin to cry. This isn’t her fault, it’s nobody but his fault. He did it, nobody else.
There’s no soreness, nothing that makes me feel like he completed his goal. I don’t think he did, I remember feeling him against me, flooded by fear, then the doors opening to reveal the one person I prayed for in that moment. Then the weight was gone, the air was finally reaching my lungs again and I could see the blood splattering out of that creatures face as Steve caved it in. I’d remember if he had, wouldn’t I?
After that it becomes more clouded, I remember a sweet voice telling me I’d be okay, I remember smelling Sonya’s perfume now I think about it. Then it was more a feeling, a feeling that everything was going to be okay.
There was a gentle knock at the door before Tara and Hannah walked in. It was clear Tara had already been crying, her make up non-existent and her skin completely red. She’s always been so sensitive, it’s because she cares so much about everybody. I’ve been bloody awful to her lately but I bet the second I turned up here in this state she didn’t hesitate to bring me into her home immediately. It’s who she is.
Hannah approaches me and Aleah slips off the bed and moves to sit with Jayce so Hannah can sit next to where I lay.
“Hi Brie, how are you feeling? It’s okay of you aren’t ready to talk yet. I just wanted to check how you are.”
I shake my head. “I’m okay to talk. I just.. I’m not entirely sure of what happened to be able to tell you.”
She nods at me with a comforting smile. “That’s very normal in these types of cases Brie, the drugs mixed with the trauma can leave blank patches in your memory. Do you want to tell me what you do remember?” I nod. “Do you want everyone to leave so we can be alone?”
I look around the room. In all honesty, it’ll probably be less painful to not have to repeat this so it’ll be easier for them to stay.
“No, they can stay. Where’s Steve?”
Tara looks towards the door. “He wasn’t sure you’d want to see him dear but he’s still downstairs with Josh. Should I get them? Kallie and Drew have just taken the kids out for some ice cream to give us a few hours so there’s just the two of them now.”
“Yes please.” Tara leaves and Hannah pulls out a voice recorder along with her note pad, setting it up on the edge of the bed. There’s a shake to her hands as she puts everything together, although it seems to be more from adrenaline rather than fear or anger. She’s fidgety. “Are you okay Hannah?”
She smiles but it’s so small I know it’s just for my benefit. “You don’t need to be worrying about anyone else right now Brie. Just start at the beginning for me, don’t leave anything out, no matter how insignificant it could appear to be.”
I should be scared right now, shouldn’t I? I should be terrified about reliving this but in all honesty, I’m not. It doesn’t feel real anymore, like I watched the whole thing happen from the back row of a cinema rather than actually lived it.
I’m sure it’s all going to hit me at some point but right now I feel nothing.
That was, until Steve stepped into the room and every memory hit me like a fucking tidal wave I couldn’t stop drowning in. He’d been crying, he’d really been crying, his face looked sore from all the times he’d rubbed it raw. I just want to hold him right now.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been out, it could’ve been hours for him to just keep playing what he saw over and over again in his head.
Josh came to my side first, not giving a fuck that he almost knocked Hannah over as he crawled into the bed next to me. I didn’t mean to, but when he wrapped his arms around me to pull me into a hug, I flinched.
He jumped back immediately. “Oh Brie, fuck I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have touched you. Fuck, I wasn’t thinking, I just-”
Cutting him off, I forced all that fear aside and immediately pulled him back into a hug. I would not let this define me, I will not let it control me.
It’s my body you cunt, I won’t let what you did to it decide what I can do with it now. It’s mine.
Josh didn’t get up from the bed, instead shuffling his way to the bottom when he realised my arms were practically dead weights around him from my exhaustion.
Steve just stood against the doorframe, I wasn’t sure how to word to him that I really just wanted to thank him for coming for me. He didn’t have to, with everything that’s happened between us he could’ve easily just ignored me and carried on with his life, but he didn’t. He always says ‘I got you’ and today he proved it.
“How did you know where I was?” I asked him quietly, there were pins and needles developing in my toes as the feeling began to return to my legs but I was trying to ignore it for the time being.
I watched him take a deep breath, his eyes glued to me. Suddenly it felt like there were too many eyes in the room as we looked on at each other.
“You thought you left the voicemail for Sonya but you must’ve accidently dialled me. I came as soon as I heard it.” His hands were fucked. As he stood there with his arms crossed over his chest I could see the swelling on his knuckles.
I’m not sure I could actually ever put into words what I felt for him right now. He saved me, I’ve never felt like someone that ever needed saving before but in that elevator I couldn’t save myself, but he could. I’ll never be able to explain how grateful I am to him for that.
“Thank you.” It seemed such a tiny thing to say in comparison with what he did, but there were no other words I could think of.
Steve nodded but I could see the emotions running behind his eyes as he tried to keep it together in front of everyone. We’d talk later, alone. Hannah turned on the voice recorder.
“Okay Brie, what’s the first thing you remember?”
I told her everything; the bar, the drinks, I told her about Tommy’s charm and the things he said the night of the engagement party. I even went back to the time he tried to ‘save’ me from Antonio, and also mentioned the weird way his wife behaved at the party. She was afraid of him, I see that now. God only knows what he’s capable of doing to that poor woman when they’re alone. Hannah made me pause when I recanted the story Tommy had told me about the maid, her hands vibrating and fire in her eyes as she took down every tiny detail. I tried not to cry as I spoke, I nearly fucking made it too, until I got to the point when the elevator doors closed.
Al hadn’t let go of my hand, Jayce was feeding me water every time I started to stumble over my words, whilst Josh just cried along with Tara. Steve didn’t say a word, he was frozen solid as I explained the moment Tommy slipped the belt around my neck.
“You said he saw you and that’s how he came up with the idea for the belt, what do you mean? When?” Hannah asked, still frantically taking down notes.
Oh fuck... I really don’t want to explain this right now... fuck.
Al sees the dilemma, looking around the room at the present company. “Okay, any person in this room with a dick, cover your ears right now and keep chanting the pledge of allegiance until I tell you to stop.”
None of them argue with her, Josh choosing to sing it along to a tune that I swear resembled the theme song to Hannah Montana.
I turned to Hannah. “I was... Fuck, okay. So, you know I’ve kind of been fucking Clarisse’s fiancé.” Hannah nods, I had to explain this all to her with the whole brakes cut thing. “Well the night of the engagement party I kind of slipped up and did it again. He’s... rough. Tommy saw him using his belt on me, we were in a room he’d used to get ready for the event but I didn’t know he saw us. What happened with me and Antonio was different though, it was consensual.”
Hannah let’s out a deep breath. “Brie, this could really complicate things. If you decide to go ahead with the charges and Tommy can convince his step-father to write a statement saying you consent to that kind of activity sexually, it could be used against you.”
Aleah shakes her head and responds before I even get a chance. “Antonio would never do that to her, and Tommy would never ask him. I’m pretty sure if Antonio ever finds out what happened here... there won’t be anyone left to bring charges against anyway.”
She’s right, Antonio would never do that to me. Although I think she overestimates how much he cares about me, you have to truly love someone to be willing to kill for them. I’m not sure his care for me outweighs his need for Clarisse.
Hannah asks me to go on and Aleah let’s the boys know it’s safe.
I cry getting to the point where Steve found me, the fear I felt laying on that floor begins to haunt me once more and I just can’t stop it. I don’t want to be afraid but I don’t seem to have a way to control it.
Once I get to where Steve beat the shit out of the guy, I don’t know what to say. I don’t want Steve getting charges brought against him for something he did protecting me, so I stay quiet.
“I don’t need anymore, Steve filled me in on the rest but I think I’ll be leaving that particular part out of the official report for now.” Hannah says with a small smirk on her face. “Is there anything else? Anything you missed out?”
I shake my head, before something quickly springs back into my mind.
Hannah drops her pen, her whole body becomes stiffer than rock and out of nowhere Tara races to her side while she just stares at me.
“How do you know that name Brie?”