Leon stood in utter shock from
Maria’s proclamation. The words she spoke repeatedly resonated in his head, but still he was mind boggled by confusion.
Staring down at Maria, he swallowed, seeing the devastated state she was in. He gritted his teeth,thinking of who would dare to harm her.
“Maria, who did this to you? Who are you talking about?” Leon asked,in a desperate plea for answers.
She spared a glance at him, her body still trembling from the tears. “S-Sam”, she choked out brokenly.
Leon’s eyes widened at her reply. He found it hard to believe that what she was saying was the truth.
“Sam?” he asked, just to make sure he had heard correctly.
She nodded and Leon clenched his teeth, feeling the fire fueling within his veins.
“Come with me,” he exclaimed softly, holding her by the shoulders to usher her towards his car.
“No!” she expelled fearfully, stiffening her body. “I c-cant,” she cried, looking around her as she hugged her shoulders.
Leon’s heart tightened as he watched the fear and shock that consumed her. She was possibly traumatized.
“Maria honey, it will be OK. I won’t harm you. I just want to help you,” he exclaimed soothingly, placing a reassuring hand on her tensed shoulders.
She flinched, but she did not brush him off. Slowly, Leon held her hands and led her to his car.
“What happened?” he asked urgently, as soon as they were both seated inside.
She looked straight ahead, unblinkingly and Leon knew she was reliving the moment. “H-He found out I was at the hotel with you…I- I don’t know how he did..” she exclaimed shakily, trailing off as she tightly closed her eyes. “He accused me of having an affair with you and then he h-hit me”, she sniffed. “I think he was trying to kill me, but I couldn’t - I had to fight so when I got the opportunity, I hit him in the head with a lamp..and then I ran,” she explained before breaking down in tears.
Leon gritted his teeth in anger towards Sam. He had thought the man was a sophisticated nerd, but he seemed to be mistaken. Reaching for Maria, Leon held her in his arms and allowed her to sob against his chest. As she sobbed, he was reminded of the times when her menstrual pains were too strong for her to bear, and so he’d always hold her into his arms while she cried herself to sleep.
In that moment, Leon had long forgotten the hatred he held in himself for the woman. He had long forgotten his blackmail, because comforting Maria was currently his number one priority.
When her sobbing subsided, and Leon’s shoulder was soaked with her tears, Maria eased up and used her hand to wipe her face.
“I don’t know what to do,” she sniffed, staring at Leon through puffy eyes.
“We’re going to call the police,” he stated firmly.
“Wh-what if I killed him? I might go to jail,” she exclaimed shakily.
“That won’t happen. Stay here, I’m going up to see if the bastard’s really dead, if he’s not…I just might kill him myself,” he bit out ruefully. Maria paled.
Just as Leon was about to open the door to do what he set out to do, Maria grabbed his hand. “No…please just …” she trailed off. “I’ll follow you,” she said.
Leon shook his head. “Stay here”.
“I won’t,” she replied firmly, trying to match up to his tone of voice.
Leon glared intently into her eyes, identifying the desperation and sorrow that was evident in them.
He sighed. “Okay”.
She led the way to her apartment room, and when they arrived Maria stiffened as her hands reached for the knob. She feared her worst fear would be confirmed if she opened the door and she was also hesitant because she didn’t want to have to relive what happened…again.
Seeing her hesitance, Leon moved in front of her and opened the door himself. He paused, carefully examining the place, while rage consumed him. The longer he stared at the smashed ornaments and disheveled furniture, the more he wished Samuel was dead. Maria had certainly been having a struggle with him, Leon thought. She was even lucky to make it out.
“Where’s he?” Maria gasped from behind, reminding Leon that a body was what he was really looking for.
He turned to face her, noting the moonlight paleness on her face, as her eyes roamed the entire room.
“He was right there”, Maria pointed to the spot, inches away from Leon. “He’s gone!” she gasped, using her trembling hand to cover her mouth.
Leon immediately pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed a number before placing it to his ear.
“What are you doing?” Maria asked shakily.
“I’m calling the police. In the mean time, go pack some clothes,” he demanded smoothly.
Maria shook her head to rid herself of the confusion. “What? Why?” she questioned.
“You’re coming with me. That crazy fiancé of yours may come back to finish where he left off. Go,” he exclaimed.
“I will not leave my house-” she was cut off when Leon rose an index finger in her direction as an indication for her to hold on to what she was about to say.
Maria listened as he spoke to the police but from what she was able to comprehend, the person was more of a friend to Leon than a stranger.
Disconnecting the call, he turned to her. “My buddy and his partner are coming by to ask you a few questions. It would be best if you go pack, as I told you earlier. Don’t say you won’t because we both know its the right and safest thing to do. He will come back, but it’s best if you’re not here when he does,” he explained quickly, taking no break to catch his breath.
Maria swallowed, thinking of how messed up things were. She was hurt by Sam’s behavior and her heart was still tight from what happened between her and Leon. She felt emotionally drained and sad and so a cluster of thoughts floated around in he head, leaving her confused and emotionally defenseless.
Without a word, she walked towards her room to do what Leon had told her to. Maria knew that he was somewhat right, but she couldn’t quite shake the feeling of why he wanted to protect her. Maria knew that he hated her guts and so she was left confused by his actions.
As she packed, she found a few things that belonged to Sam in her closet. Maria’s lips trembled as she tightly held his shirt in his hand, while the material darkened with drops of her tears. Swiping her hand across her nose, she continued with the task, now feeling desperate to leave the God forsaken place.
Taking one last glance at her room, she bit her lips and left with a huff. Leon was still in the living room, pacing with hands tucked into his pockets. Maria cleared her throat, indicating her presence. Leon was about to talk when a knock sounded at the door.
“NYPD, open up,” someone called from the outside, Maria swallowed hard.
“Everything will be fine,” he reassured her and Maria stiffly nodded, feeling as if her life had gone out of control.
“Do you know what might have caused him to hit you?” the policeman asked. Maria guiltily glanced at Leon before clearing her throat.
“I lied to him about my whereabouts,” she answered.
Leon sighed, raking a hand across her face. “Can you guys just please work on finding the bastard,” he exclaimed prickly. “In the mean time, Maria will be out of here and at my place where she will be safe”, Leon provided, not wanting to add further heartache to Maria by having her answer ridiculous questions.
The officers nodded as they stood. “As soon as we find Samuel, we’ll have him answer a few questions, but sure, leaving this place may be the best thing right now”, one officer, maria would presume to be Leon’s friend, provided.
Leon nodded, as he pulled Maria’s small suitcase from the sofa. They all left the room, Maria feeling like she was leaving a piece of her life behind. Leon, seeming to notice how far gone she had become, placed his hand around the small of her back.
“You’ll be fine,” he reassured with a smile.
Maria was so confused by his actions, she kept her mouth shut as she continued to drag herself out of the apartment, feeling like a puppet - no longer in control of her own life.
“Well, I’ll be in contact Leon,” the officer said once they were all outside the building. “It was nice seeing you after all this time, man,” he smiled as he patted his old friend on the shoulders.
Leon nodded with a genuine smile. “Likewise. Please keep me updated,” he announced, as he began to move to his car.
He froze when he saw Maria frozen at one spot, with her widened eyes glued to her cell phone and mouth slightly agape. Curious to know what had caused her to be so appalled, Leon moved closer and placed a hand on her stiff shoulders.
“Maria, are you alright?” he questioned concernedly. “What’s wrong?”
She visibly swallowed and casted her misty eyes towards Leon. With only a blink the dam would overflow and flood her face.
“I- It’s him,” she choked. “It’s S-Sam.” The tears finally fell, trailing a line of sadness down her bruised cheeks.
Seeing that the source of her declaration was directed at the phone, Leon immediately snatched it from her hand.
The text read:
I’ve got my eyes on you sweetheart ;). How does it feel to know that your betrayal will lead to your ultimate ruin?
Leon gritted his teeth firmly, seeing that the message was sent by Sam. Taking a quick glance at Maria, he realized that she was still spaced out.
He stood there for some passing seconds, contemplating on the decision he was about to make. When all the happenings of the past days came rushing back to him, he knew that a decision had to be made and so he turned to Maria with determination set in his features.
“You’re coming to California with me.”