Cassie plans to escape an abusive relationship
|“Shawn! I thought you were going to the YMCA after work?” Twisting to face him, I struggled to contain the panic rising in my throat as I pulled the apartment door shut behind me.
His pale gray eyes narrowed and his lips tightened. “I changed my mind. I can’t get enough of your love, baby.” He licked his lips. “I thought we could have a little celebration tonight. Do you realize that today is our fifth anniversary? It doesn’t seem possible that we’ve only known each other for five months.”
“Uh, I can’t right now.” The words emerged as a whisper, not the strong refusal I wanted them to be. I mentally kicked myself for allowing his presence to unnerve me. A nerve twitched near his clenched jaw. I managed to avoid his hypnotic stare by fixing my eyes on it.
He persisted, pushing his large muscular chest closer, and I retreated, flattening my trembling limbs against the door like a pancake. His minty breath filled my nostrils and his large hands squeezed my shoulders as he mumbled words into my hair. “Don’t leave me this way.”
I couldn’t let him into my apartment. There were moving boxes everywhere. Closing my eyes, I slumped into his embrace and massaged the tight cords below the nape of his neck. I quelled the shiver of revulsion climbing my spine. Mind over matter, I told myself. You can get through this. Just stay cool and focused. One more day and you will be gone, and he won’t have a clue where. Tilting my head back, I looked directly into his silvery eyes. “Baby, you’re hot stuff, but I promised Belinda I would come over tonight. She had to put down her Pomeranian today. She’s had bad luck with her pets lately. It’s only been a year since her lab died. She needs me.”
“I need you, too. Is Belinda more important than me? Does Belinda think about you a hundred and ten percent of the time, like I do? I bought you something. It’s lacey and hot. Like you.” His husky voice lowered and he squeezed me tighter. I could feel the hardness of his erection against my belly.
“No one treats me like you do,” I whispered, knowing he would not appreciate the irony. Shawn viewed himself as a man no woman could resist. “I just need to be there for her. Let’s get together tomorrow –then you can give it to me, baby.” I forced my lower lip out into a pouty smile. Maintain eye contact, breathe easy. Everything will be fine.
“OK, but I want to spend the night tomorrow, and you might have to call in sick Wednesday because this time, baby, I’m going to teach you some new moves.” His white teeth flashed in the dimly lit hallway. He kissed me, his tongue snaking into my mouth, before abruptly shoving me backward so hard I almost fell down.
“Tomorrow,” he said, placing one hand on the spire at the top of the iron circular staircase. “I think I want to spank you.” His soft laughter drifted upward as he clambered down the steps. I crossed my arms, shivering, and waited until I heard the front door slam shut.
I surveyed the mess in my tiny apartment. Boxes were stacked in the living room and half filled totes crowded the small dining area. I needed to finish wrapping dishes and box up my summer clothes but I called my best friend first. “I told him your dog died. Sorry. It was the first thing that popped into my head.”
“Jesus, Cassie! I don’t need another dog to die after what I went through with Blackie last year.”
“I know! But he showed up and I had to have a reason why he couldn’t come in. If he saw the boxes he would know. I gave my notice at the café this morning and I’ve been packing all day. The movers are coming tomorrow at noon.”
“Are you sure you just don’t want to go to the police?” Belinda didn’t know Shawn. I hadn’t told her everything. A few weeks ago, he casually mentioned that his last girlfriend was a paraplegic. She had missed a turn on a winding road near her home when her brakes failed. And the girlfriend before her had died in a scuba diving accident in Florida where they had been vacationing. When he told me about their deaths he had sobbed, but oddly, he had shed no tears.
My boyfriend, I was sure, had some issues, and they didn’t stop with the rough sex, which had become kinkier by the day. Two months ago, he started calling me at work at odd hours ‘just so he could hear my voice.’ It was his way of checking up on me to make sure I was where I said I would be. If I turned my phone off, he showed up within an hour or so just to ‘say hi’. A pharmaceutical salesman, his job was to visit doctors and hospitals in the tri-county area. He could literally be anywhere at any time of the day.
When I called him out on his behavior he apologized and sent flowers, bought me jewelry and became a sugar pie guy--for a couple of weeks. Then he started calling and texting me again, all the time, and showing up at my apartment without calling first. The cautionary tales of his ex-girlfriends’ tragic lives were whispered in my ear after hot and increasingly violent sex.
I have no idea how I let myself become so involved with this narcissist, but I know he is not someone you mess with. My instincts kept warning me. Then last week I snooped though his bedroom when he was taking a shower and found a high school yearbook in his closet. Flipping through the pages, I came across photos of two girls whose faces had been crossed out with a Sharpie. Underneath one of the pictures, someone had written ‘last dance’ in bold black letters. ‘Night fever’ was scrawled beneath the other picture. I pulled a bank envelope from my purse and wrote down the girls’ names. That night I Googled Billie Jean Crowder and Sara Lewandowski on the internet and coupled the names with the high school Shawn had attended in Brighton.
Shuddering, I remember the cold shock I experienced when the girls’ youthful faces popped up on my screen alongside their obituaries. Neither had died on a road or in a scuba diving accident. Billie Jean had been found dead at the bottom of a ravine the night of her senior homecoming dance. Sara, a blonde with wholesome cheeks and sky blue eyes, who resembled me more than a little, had died of an overdose a few days after graduation. Coincidence? The more I thought about it, the more afraid I became, but without evidence I couldn’t approach the police. The yearbook was nothing. Shawn could have crossed their faces out after they died, maybe as a macabre method of tracking who had died in his high school class. But I don’t think that was the reason. I think he killed them and he crossed them off like anyone else would cross off an item they purchased at the grocery store.
The next day I make a decision. I contact a distant aunt on my dad’s side who lives in Seattle and ask her if I can stay with her for a few weeks. I don’t really ask. I beg, and she agrees. “How is your dad by the way? I never hear from him. Not even a Christmas card.”
“He’s fine,” I say, letting my breath out all at once. He wasn’t fine, but Aunt Jess didn’t need to know that my dad spent his days drinking and fishing at his cottage, mourning the loss of my mother from diabetes a few years ago.
I slept fitfully and wasn’t surprised by the blue smudges under my eyes the next morning.
I packed a small suitcase with essentials I would need for my cross country trip. Seattle was almost 3,000 miles and over 40 hours from Norfolk. If I drank lots of coffee and stayed focused I could be there in three days.
The movers, two burly men in their twenties who wanted to flirt, arrived early. They quickly discovered I wasn’t in the mood. “Just load it up as fast as you can and follow me to the storage unit,” I said, draining the last of the coffee from my travel mug.
Tapping my foot nervously, I checked my phone. What if he called and wondered why I wasn’t at work. I typed a message: Good morning, baby. Busy lunch hour here. Looking forward to some good times tonight.
His reply comes a few minutes later. In a meeting until 6. Babe we're gonna love tonight. He was in a meeting all day! I almost whoop with joy.
I text back: I’m so excited.
I return to the apartment at 2 o’clock to retrieve my bags and hand in the keys. My steps are light and hopeful as I round the final curve of the staircase. Lifting my eyes, I freeze at the top of the stairs. Shawn stands in front of the open door of my empty apartment. He is gripping a large black handgun and the white lines beside his mouth tell me everything I need to know.
“I will survive!” The words die on my lips as I feel the bullet’s white heat explode into my chest.
This story was created for a contest. The word limit is 1600 words and you have to include at least 20 disco songs. Here is the list of the ones I used and the year they topped the chart.
I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor - 1978
YMCA - Village People - 1978
Billie Jean - Michael Jackson - 1982
I'm So Excited - Pointer Sisters - 1982
Babe We're Gonna Love Tonight - Lime - 1982
Night Fever - Bee Gees - 1977
Last Dance - Donna Summer - 1978
Don't Leave Me This Way - Thelma Houston - 1976
Celebration - Kool & the Gang - 1980
Hot Stuff - Donna Summer - 1979
This Time Baby - Jackie Moore - 1979
Spank - Jimmy "Bo" Horne - 1978
White Lines - Grandmaster Flash - 1983
Can't Get Enough Of Your Love - Barry White - 1974
Bad Luck - Harold Melvin & Bluenotes - 1975
Give It To Me Baby - Rick James -1981
Sugar Pie Guy - Joneses - 1974
Contact - Edwin Starr - 1978
Good Times - Chic - 1979
Ten Percent - Double Exposure - 1976