I’m going to go to jail. I’ll never see her again. I won’t be there as my parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. I won’t get to finally have this grand love that sits across from me, I think, stumbling through my own thoughts. I won’t watch my nephews grow up… I’m going to kill this son of a bitch. It’s something that I decided the minute I saw the terror on her face as she broke down and told us about what happened and I haven’t questioned it. Now I’m no momma’s boy, running to my parents for every little thing but this is big. I need their guidance here, their wisdom in how we need to proceed. My father has testified many times in cases kind of like hers, so he has knowledge of it and right now while I sit here thinking of all the ways I’m going to watch the life slip out of this miserable person, I need him to keep me sane. I see the way my mother is looking at me and she’s scared. I can see it in her eyes that she knows exactly what I’m thinking about. Taylor though, sitting to her left, is not even looking up, her eyes have been shifted down the entire time. Dave is red from his hairline to his fingertips with anger, not at Taylor but with the situation. He’s been here for two hours now and as we come to the end of her story I wonder why he never killed him.
My father the thinker has been listening and asking her questions, making notes, jotting down important pieces of information. Yet my blood is boiling so much so that I can barely keep my hands still. Finally, she catches my eye, her eyes red and rimmed with tears, my mother’s arms have now circled her shaking form, comforting her. I can barely look at her, the pain in my chest is so immense with rage. It took nearly everything I have inside not to slam my fists against the table many times as she told us.
“Elliot, please stop grinding your teeth together it isn’t helping,” my father says patting my arm, making me jump.
I only nod as he begins to formulate a plan. It’s nearly nine and while everyone looks tired and uncomfortable he is neither weary or angry.
“We will meet with Bill Schmidt tomorrow. Call Mark and tell him to clear our schedules. David whatever you need to do to be there, you must do. Taylor, get a hold of your lawyer first thing and tell him he is welcome to attend. I’m sure Bill will want everything from the case so instruct your counsel to have it ready,” my father pauses, reaching out for Taylor’s hands, “sweetie, listen to me, we will get through this, okay? Anything you need we are here.”
She nods silently, still in my mother’s embrace and I can feel the tension lift a little. After Dave leaves and I take my parents out, my father pulls me aside, “Elliot, I know what you are thinking, I know. There is nothing you can do now but be there for her. This is why you called me, right? To talk you down, to keep your head on straight because you knew you were in over your head and it scared you. Think about that poor girl in there and what she needs right now. She’s come to mean a lot to us these past few months and I won’t hesitate to do anything I can to keep this asshole in prison. I can practically feel the anger and rage vibrating off of you and trust me, son, I’m right there with you, but you need to be there for her right now and let that anger subside,” he pauses.
“I love her… I don’t know what…” he puts his hand up to stop me so he can continue.
“I know, I’ve known since the day you met her, which is why you have to be there for her…” he says leaning in to hug me.
It’s the first time in years that he’s done that and I didn’t realize just how badly I needed it. I wave as they pull away, trying to compose myself before I go inside. For me it’s hard to compartmentalize what’s happened to her, all I know is how lucky I am to have her sitting on my couch and how angry I am that someone hurt her. I have to keep telling myself that I can’t change what’s been done but I can be the person who loves her and supports her no matter what. I can’t imagine how someone could do those things to her, to the gorgeous girl who broke down all my walls and hands me my ass on a platter daily, to the woman I love.
She’s fast asleep when I come back in, but it’s not a restful sleep, her mouth is turned down and her forehead is creased with worry and every few breaths she whimpers. It’s breaking my heart to see her like this. I come to a stop only a few inches from the couch, wishing that I could make those memories disappear. I’d give anything to try and keep her from what she’s going through right now. As I watch her fitful sleep I’m amazed by her and how she has, for the most part, moved past what happened to her.
“Cupcake, wake up Tay, c’mon beautiful girl lets go to bed,” I say laying my hand on her arm gently as she nearly knocks me out at the contact.
Her eyes widen and she stops her hand just before her fist makes contact, “Oh my god, Elliot, I’m sorry…”
“It’s fine pretty girl, let’s head to bed…” I answer softly.
She lets out a long sigh before taking my hand finally and getting up. I reluctantly release her hand and follow behind her turning off the lights as we go, watching as she ducks into my bathroom and closes the door. Waiting for her I toss the pillows on the floor and turn down the bed, thinking about how I can’t wait to just climb in and hold her all night long. This is one of those moments where the “I wish I could just stand up, go to her and wrap my arms around her” thoughts start creeping in and I have to remind myself that it just can’t be that way. I have to make her feel safe in other ways.
Her hand on my shoulder startles me out of my thoughts, “all yours.”
It’s very real now. It hasn’t seemed real in a very long time. I’ve had this false sense of security for a long time and now I’ve told not only Elliot what happened but now his parents and Dave know the whole story, every grim detail. They know about the stalking, the way he pulled me from my car, and how he tried to kill me. At least what I remember of those few days anyways. Some of it is still a blur but other parts are as crisp as if it were yesterday. The pain is what I remember the clearest and his face as I screamed. It was weeks after I woke up in the hospital before I could even look at myself in the mirror. Dave had barely recognized me when someone finally found me beaten and bloody behind a flower shop.
Sometimes it feels like it happened to someone else, but then I catch a glimpse of that scar and I realize that I had the starring role in that horror movie. Right now as Elliot is transferring into bed I’m wondering what he’s thinking. I mean it isn’t like this is a normal thing. It’s not every day you tell your boyfriend and his parents that you were almost killed. His arms come around me and pull me in close after he gets settled and I can feel myself relax a little at the safety I feel in those strong arms. The only thing keeping me from calming completely is his silence. He’s barely spoken a word since his parents arrived hours ago.
“Elliot?” I whisper, feeling him jump a little at the sound of my voice.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
“Are you?” I question him.
“I am if you are…” he answers honestly.
“Just hold me?” I ask softly, rolling over to face him.
I’m surprised by what I see when I look at him in the shadows of the darkened bedroom. He’s frowning and the concern and heartbreak there is overwhelming. Those brown eyes are dark, as he watches me for a few moments before blinking.
“Taylor, I don’t know what to say here, I don’t know how to make it better or any easier but I want you to know I’m here…and I’m not going anywhere,” he says, his voice cracking mid-sentence.
“Good cause you make a great pillow…” I answer after a few minutes trying to ease his worry.
The next two weeks are a blur of meetings and worrying. At this point, we’ve met with four different lawyers, all of which will be working to keep Nathan in prison. I’m amazed most days when we leave and I feel even a little bit of hope that he won’t be released. While they can’t tell me that he will stay in prison, they have been very adamant that his sentence should have been a lot longer and that somehow my case fell through the cracks. Elliot has been with me every time, holding my hand, assuring me that everything will be fine. I couldn’t have asked to be with a better man.
“Hey baby,” he says as I climb into his truck, his smile wide.
“Hey yourself, handsome, how was your day?” I ask, taking him in.
“Nothing too exciting. Yours?” he says leaning in close.
“Better now,” I say, letting my lips meet his.
He breaks the kiss a little before I’m ready and I frown in response, “Hey I wasn’t done yet?”
Reaching back into the backseat he pulls out a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers. He hands them to me, letting his hand linger on mine as we make the exchange. “I know you’ve had a rough few weeks,” he says softly.
“Thank you, they’re beautiful,” I say trying to hold back my emotion as this simple act nearly brings me to tears.
“I’m taking you out tonight. So when we get home, get busy getting ready. Something fancy,” he smirks.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
“Hmm, I seem to remember a time where you surprised me, well it’s my turn,” he says with a chuckle.
I make him swing past my place so I can pick up my little black dress, if he wants fancy, I’ll give him fancy. As I dash inside promising to only be a few minutes I stop and pause at the large box still in my living room. Last time he was over I told him it was camera equipment that I had to send back. I have been looking for a good opportunity to give it to him, though I want it to be special. I don’t want to just hand it over, it’s meaningful and I want him to remember it that way. I hurry to the closet and pull out the stunning little dress, a shrug and a clutch. Grabbing my red pumps I toss them into a bag, along with the shrug and clutch and my dress and hope it doesn’t wrinkle between now and when I put it on. When I get back to the truck I find him on his phone, presumably talking to his mom from what I can tell.
He looks at me as I hoist up into the truck and winks, god I love it when he does that. I’ve come to realize that he doesn’t hand those out that often but usually it’s at the most inopportune moments, the rarest ones are in moments like this, plain, normal. As he tries to talk her off the phone his hand comes to rest on my leg squeezing gently as I buckle my seatbelt. He lets it traipse up to the ticklish spot nearing my inner thigh before I catch it and entwine my fingers with his. They fit together perfectly, our hands, and while I love the way it feels it doesn’t happen often. It isn’t as though we can walk down the street hand in hand and at times I miss that, I wonder if he does too.
“What are you thinking about, cupcake?” he asks pulling me from my thoughts when he is finished on the phone.
“Nothing important,” I answer.
“You do realize I’ve known you long enough now to know when something is bothering you right? Your mouth turns down at the corners, and your right leg bounces a little while you pick at anything close enough to mess with…spill,” he says with a chuckle pointing to the fingers of my right hand which pull at a thread in my skirt.
“I was just wondering if you miss holding hands…” I answer honestly.
“I do,” he says, not losing the smile on his face.
“You asked…” I say squeezing his hand in mine.
“I know, do you, you know, miss it?” he asks
“Sometimes, I guess…” I say softly.
For the briefest second his face flashes dark, but quickly he recovers, “Wait till you see where we are going.”
“I can’t wait,” I say as he pulls our hands up and kisses my fingers.
I realize that with everything going on I need this distraction he’s planned as I watch his hands now manipulating the gadgets he needs to drive his truck. For the first time in a long time, I realize as we pull into his driveway that I am right where I need to be, and with who I need to be there with. It’s amazing what that feels like, and I hope with everything that the next few weeks don’t end in taking it away.