I spun around, jaw dropping. My hands trembled so much I dropped the picture.
“Um, hi, Gary?” I managed to whisper.
“That’s the day you f**ked me over,” he said, tilting his chin toward our wedding picture. His face was bright red and I saw the vein in his forehead start to pulse. He was angry. Really angry. “I could have been anything, but you needed a wedding ring and now I’m stuck in this cow town with nothing. Great f**king plan, Marie. Hope you’re proud of yourself.”
I watched him warily as he stalked toward me, trying not to give in to panic. The last time I’d seen him was when he backhanded me across our kitchen. I wasn’t prepared for the terror and sense of helplessness that hit me at the memory, paralyzing my body. I forced myself to think. Could I make it past him and through the front door? He laughed.
“You here to f**k me over again, cunt?”
The words were slurred. Gary was drunk. Seriously drunk. Maybe even blackout drunk.
I needed to get out of here. Now.
I made a break for it but he lunged at me, tackling me to the floor with the same strength and speed that made him our high school quarterback. My head slammed into the hardwood I’d been so excited to discover last year when we’d pulled out the carpet, pain exploding through me. Gary sat up, straddling me and grabbing the front of my shirt, pulling me up.
Then he started punching me.
Details are fuzzy after that.
I spent a long time on the floor, moaning. Misty walked through the door at some point and started screaming. Gary lay passed out on the couch, oblivious as she helped me get up and walked me into the kitchen. She wanted to call the cops but I begged her not to—I couldn’t handle the humiliation of facing them, all the questions and pitying looks.
I also didn’t want to like Misty.
I’d felt devastated and betrayed when I learned she was sleeping with my husband—the fight we’d had about her led to him hitting me in the first place. But her touch was soft and gentle, the horror in her eyes genuine. She forced me to take some Tylenol when I refused to go to the emergency room. Then she went and threw everything of hers into three suitcases, crying big, silent tears the entire time. The Tylenol kicked in pretty fast, and while I couldn’t help her haul out her things, I held the door for her. We locked it behind us and I watched as she loaded her car. Then she took my arm, walking me over to mine.
“Are you sure you won’t let me call the cops?” she asked. “He needs to pay for this. I knew he drank and his temper is kind of crazy, but I had no idea…”
“I just want to go home,” I whispered. She took me in her arms, hugging me gently, and a small, detached part of my psyche marveled that my savior turned out to be a woman I’d hated so much. Life is weird.
“Don’t come back here,” she whispered back. “A man who can do that, he might kill you next time. I’m going to stay with my brother for a while, I think. He’s a cop. I’ll be safe, but Gary talks about you all the time, how much he hates you, how pissed off he is that you guys got married and he never did anything with his life. Please don’t come back.”
“I won’t be back,” I said, and I meant it.
It was after three in the morning when I pulled up to the trailer. I must have the shittiest luck on earth, because there were five bikes parked outside, loaded down with saddlebags and bedrolls. I sat in the car just looking at them, exhausted. Every light in the trailer was turned on and I saw a flickering orange glow around the east corner.
They’d built a bonfire. Apparently Jeff had sobered up enough to light up something besides more weed. I didn’t have the energy for this. My body had stiffened during the drive, which made climbing out a challenge. I shuffled over to the door, hoping against hope that they were all out back by the fire so I could sneak in and collapse into bed.
No such luck.
I opened the door and walked in to find Horse, Max, Bam Bam and Jeff. I stood there for a minute, holding on to the frame to keep myself upright.
“Holy f**k,” Bam Bam said, and I nodded sagely.
Holy f**k indeed.
Jeff just sat on the couch, opening and shutting his mouth like a fish. I didn’t bother talking to him or any of them, just walked painfully toward my bedroom. Then Horse was next to me, very carefully picking me up, kicking open my cracked bedroom door and laying me down on the bed. He turned on the little bedside lamp with a click, washing the room with soft light.
I collapsed back against the pillow, tears of relief welling up in my eyes as I sank into the soft bedding.
Home. I’d made it.
“Who did this?” Horse asked, his voice colder than I’d ever heard it. He sat next to me on the bed, eyes dead and face blank. I didn’t want to look at him, couldn’t handle the reality of him seeing me like this. I closed my eyes, blocking out his face.
“Gary,” I muttered. “My husband. I went to get my stuff. He wasn’t supposed to be there.”
“You need a doctor,” he stated. “You call the cops?”
I shook my head against the pillow.
“No, and I don’t want to talk to anyone about it,” I muttered. “Nobody. I’m not going to the ER, he didn’t break anything. I’m just beat up, nothing serious.”
Horse didn’t say anything for a minute.
“I gotta ask, babe. Did he rape you?”
Fuck. A harsh, short bark of near-hysterical laughter burst out of my mouth. I hadn’t even thought of that—guess it could have been a lot worse. Thanks for that, Gary. Thanks for not raping me, douchebag.
“Babe. Look me in the eyes and answer the question.”
I opened my eyes to find him leaning over me, his face filled with terrible tension and a horrible, burning anger I didn’t want to think about. I didn’t have the energy to manage my own emotions, let alone worry about his.
“No, he didn’t rape me,” I said shortly, then closed my eyes again, letting myself drift away from the pain. After a time I heard footsteps enter the room, heard the low rumble of Picnic’s voice, but I couldn’t make out the words at first. He repeated them, coming closer.
“Any witnesses?” Picnic asked. I ignored him.
“Babe, we need to know if there were any witnesses,” Horse said, his voice insistent. “Anyone see what he did to you? Have you told anyone at all?”
“Um, Misty,” I whispered after a pause. “Misty found me. She helped me get into my car. She wanted to call the cops but I wouldn’t let her.”