Happy coupledom. Somehow it just happens and before you know it it’s a normalcy you didn’t realize you’d been missing. It’s movie night on the couch or Sunday dinners with his family. The lazy Saturday brunch with his sister-in-laws that you didn’t know would leave you feeling so included. Even the little fights you have about the way you forget, still, that the way you squeeze the toothpaste is wrong, are enjoyable.
It isn’t like I don’t have family, I do, I have Dave and his wife. I just don’t have the family that Elliot has. We had something similar once, but that’s gone now. Now it’s just us, has been for a while now. We’ve gotten used to just depending on each other over the years and until I get those glimpses of Elliots mom and dad looking over at their brood I don’t really miss it. But in those moments I feel the pang of loss. The incredible feeling of if they could see us now sometimes rages inside me like the crashing waves during a storm, unsettling and unending. I’ve talked to Elliot about my parents a little bit here and there, that they are gone, that it was a long time ago, but I’ve never really gone into detail. Just like I haven’t really told him about Nathan either. I know why I’ve been having that dream now…I can’t believe I didn’t put it together. My birthday is coming up. I should have put it together, but with all the good that I’d been enjoying I was distracted, I guess. I’m going to have to tell him soon, though. I’ve been putting it off for too long and now that it’s coming up I have to.
I got the letter two weeks ago and while I’ve been busy shoving it from my mind my lawyer has been calling, filling out all the necessary paperwork to try and stop his parole. It’s been almost three years and still on my birthday I just hide myself away, no parties, no excitement, just me locked up in my apartment waiting for it to be over. I’ll be thirty-two this year, and I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time, but still as this hearing hangs over my head I can’t shake the thought that something is going to go wrong and I’ll be looking over my shoulder until he finds me and finishes what he started. Elliots been asking me what I want to do for the big day and I brush him off every time. He’s been around when the lawyer calls too, and I try so hard not to let him know what’s going on. I have to tell him.
“Something isn’t right Jenna, she’s acting strange…” I say as we enter the mall.
“What do you mean? She seemed fine yesterday,” she asks.
“She won’t tell me what she wants to do for her birthday, she keeps telling me it’s no big deal. She’s been taking these calls from someone and if she even thinks I’m nearby she uses one-word answers but every time she hangs up it’s like someone kicked her puppy. I’ve tried to ask her about it but she just won’t give me anything. Nothing,” I answer as we approach Taylor’s favorite store.
“Maybe she isn’t ready to share it with you yet, I mean you of all people should understand that…” she says.
Our trip to the mall was very successful, I’ve managed to pick up every item I wanted to get her except one thing, which I’ll have to pick up tomorrow. Jenna tried to reassure me that my girl would tell me when she’s ready but still I can’t help but feel helpless when I part ways with her. I’m driving home when I see her car in front of a law office by Davy’s. So many thoughts race through my mind then, is she in some kind of trouble, is Dave in trouble, is the bar going under, what is going on? I have to force myself not to stop. I don’t want to push her, but if something is going on I want to be there for her. I don’t want her to ever have to go through anything alone so this is driving me crazy. In our family birthdays are huge, big deals with cake the whole gang and lots of presents. It’s always been that way and from what I can tell it hasn’t been that way for Taylor. Not this year, though, I’m working on making it the best birthday she’s ever had, if she would just let me.
I’ve secretly been stashing her birthday presents away for almost two weeks now and when I add these final things I’m so excited I can barely contain myself. I can’t wait to give them to her. Her final present I’ll pick up tomorrow from the antique store we visited on our first date. Betty had been looking for one for me for almost a month until she finally found one, a rare vintage Beacon 225 in turquoise. Taylor has been looking for one for over a year now she said and while she had Betty looking too, I beat her to the chase. I told Betty that it didn’t matter what it cost, my girl was worth it, and she is. That stellar little old lady came up with a gem too, it’s in near mint condition, and turquoise to boot. Taylor had been telling me that during the production in the 50’s instead of molding colors to form the body, the company painted a few thousand in rainbow colors that modeled the era. I’ve spent the better part of the last three months listening to her talk about what she would give to find one of those rainbow-colored gems to add to her collection. As I’m backing out of the understair storage I hear the front door open and quickly make it look like I’ve been in the garage.
“Elliot, where are you?” she calls out softly.
“I was in the garage…” I lie through my teeth coming into the kitchen as she enters at the same time.
“Huh, anything good happening out there?” she laughs, looking at me strange.
“Nah, just wanted to start up the bike, it’s been a while. How was your day, cupcake?” I ask.
“Same old same old, ya know. Answer the phones, transfer the calls, take the messages…” she says.
“Ah, I win then, I gave sixteen flu shots, and cleaned out an infected toe,” I say proudly, making her grimace.
“Yeah you win, El,” she says not even remotely looking happy.
“Taylor, what’s wrong?” I ask before I can stop myself, “Something is going on, I can tell, something isn’t right.”
Without a word she moves towards me and takes her perch on my lap, wrapping her arms around my neck as I pull her in closer. She nuzzles my neck until I feel the sob come out of her.
“What’s the matter pretty girl?” I ask softly squeezing her tighter.
“I… I have to tell you something…” she hiccups between words.
“Okay, I’m listening,” I answer, not knowing if I want to hear what she has to say or not.
It’s real. It’s really happening. He’s up for parole and my lawyer says he’s probably going to win his case. I left the office and headed straight there terrified of what he was going to say. I’ve had three years of not looking over my shoulder, three years of some kind of peace and now with one letter it’s all going to crumble. I drove to Elliots on autopilot wondering how I was going to tell him. How do you tell the person you have come to love, more than anyone you’ve ever loved before that your life isn’t always peaches and cream. That what kept you safe is going to disappear. That you are going to turn into a lunatic watching and waiting for him to find you. How do you do that? I took one look at him and while I wanted to be this strong person, that resolve just shattered. I climbed into his lap and crumpled like a child, the sobs starting almost instantly. I couldn’t hold it together because here I am in his arms and I’m terrified that he is going to try and take that away from me. I’ve been waiting for Elliot my whole life and now that I have him, that I have that love I’ve dreamed about I can’t imagine it being gone.
I pull back from him and look at him, really taking in the brown worried eyes staring back at me, the creases in his forehead at his worry about what I’m going to say next and it breaks me.
“The scar… he is getting out. He’s up for parole and my lawyer says it’s more than likely going to happen. I… he…. I….” I can’t even finish.
“It’s okay, Taylor, Look at me,” he says softly lifting my chin with his hand.
“It isn’t okay Elliot. He terrorized me for almost a year before… and then… he almost killed me…” I blurt out wildly.
“What can I do? What do we need to do to keep him there?” he asks, his hands stilling with my face between them.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do,” I reply with a shudder.
“How is he up for parole?” he asks.
“He got a five-year sentence with a minimum of three years served and two probation. His behavior was excellent so he’s up. He managed to get the stalking and kidnapping charges dropped before he was ever tried. Or he would have been in longer.” I answer.
I see his expression change, harden at my words and I can only imagine what is going on in his mind. I know he’s going to have questions, a lot of them, and I know I’ll have to answer them. But this look on his face, this is scary. I’ve never seen it before and I can’t predict what is going to come out of his mouth next. He drops his hands from my face, turning us towards the kitchen table and picks up his phone. I watch as he slides it on and presses a few buttons before holding it up to his ear.
“Hey Dad, yeah… I was wondering if you and Mom could come over this evening, I’m fine, but I need your help with something… yeah, that works, thanks,” he finishes.
“Elliot, there’s probably nothing they can do, and I don’t want to drag all of you into this,” I start before he holds his hand up.
“We don’t know that there is nothing that can be done, and I want to be a part of this, I care about you Taylor, I… I love you…” he says his finger stroking my cheek.
“But…” I start and stop, realizing that he just told me he loved me, for the first time.
“Listen, you need to call Dave and have him come over too…we are going to figure this out, no matter what happens we are going to do this together,” he says softly, though the tension in his body is tight under mine.
I take my phone out after climbing from his lap and call Dave, who I haven’t even told yet and he agrees to come over. He’s angry from the moment I tell him why. As we sit and wait for everyone to arrive I watch Elliot, his fists clenching and then unclenching, rubbing his thigh, I can tell he’s working it through in his mind. He’s trying to process the little I’ve told him and I wait nervously for his questions to start.
“When did it happen?” he asks softly after coming to rest beside the couch.
“Four years ago… almost to the day,” I answer.
“He did that?” he asks pointing to my side.
“Yeah, and more. We’d been together for a long time, nine years. I broke it off when he started to get physical, before that it was just mentally abusing me, secluding me… then he started stalking me, six months I dealt with that before it happened,” I offer, trying to get it out.
“I’m so sorry you had to go through that… god, I can’t even imagine…” he says softly taking my shaking hand.
I don’t know what to say at that, his face finally softening some as he watches me so I sit there silent.
“I won’t…he won’t…” he says the anger returning to his eyes.
“I love you too…” I whisper.