This is the darkest chapter. It pretty much has what I warned about at the start, so just letting you know that this chapter is definitely PG13.
It had been four full days since Doug had run off and we were out of food. I didn’t know what to do since apparently I didn’t have access to our so-called joint bank account anymore. For the best, Doug had said when I had talked to him the night before.
He had called very late, just as I had fallen asleep. He apologized for leaving and couldn’t tell me why. He said that something had happened and he needed to go see his parents. Were they okay, I asked. He promised they were fine, apologized again for just running off, and said he’d be home as soon as he could.
I had to call the police after that and let them know. It was humiliating and I had the feeling they were snickering about it. Which is paranoid of me, I thought, trying to shake the feeling.
I waited to hear from Doug again but the fourth day went by and the fifth one dawned with nothing from him. We were completely, officially, out of food except for a bit of something for Duncan. I searched the house for any scrap of money and managed to collect enough that could buy another day’s worth of formula.
What do I do after that? I thought as my stomach growled. There wasn’t even an olive, a crumb of cheese, or even the heel of bread. Nothing. I had to do something.
I couldn’t go to my parents, that would be furious. Everyone would be. If my family knew he had just run off, leaving me with no means of getting money (which I was sure was an accident. Doug probably forgot that he hadn’t left any money in the house) then everything would be a huge mess when Doug returned.
Maybe I should go to Hal’s, I thought as I rubbed my belly. I needed some food for the sake of the growing baby. Hal already hated Doug, so it wouldn’t matter if he despised Doug even more for this. And he wouldn’t cause trouble whenever Doug came back. I hope. Of course, that was presuming Hal would be willing to help…
As it turned out, Hal was more than willing to help out. I had asked if I could borrow a bit of money and when he came by the house to hand it over, he got it out of me why I needed the money. He was furious, as I expected, and then did something that I didn’t expect.
He asked me to come stay at his house. I tried to turn him down, but he was very persistent and pointed out that I had no clue when Doug would be back. “And what about bills?” he asked, looking rather triumphant.
“I can’t just abandon the house,” I mumbled.
But the more Hal talked, the more it made sense so I wound up calling City Hall to have the electricity and water shut off, and called the owner of the duplex to let her know the situation and promising to pay off any rent. She explained that Doug had paid for months in advance, and there wouldn’t be any rent until the following autumn.
“That’s that,” Hal said when I told him, and he helped me pack up the essentials. Some clothes, and all of Duncan’s things. We even took the crib apart and put it in the back of Hal’s car. As he got Duncan put safely in the car, I left a note for Doug on the counter by the door so he’d see it when he came in, and I also texted him to let him know.
It’s just until you get back, Doug. I love you.
At first I was terrified. I wasn’t sure how things would go, staying in Hal’s house but I soon started to relax. He got the guest bedroom set up for me and Duncan and offered to keep Calliope locked up for the duration of our visit.
“Don’t be silly,” I said, snuggling his cat who purred contently in my arms. Hal was holding Duncan, looking sickeningly natural at it. I tried not to look over at them and just stared down at Calliope’s fur.
“You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need to,” he said, rocking Duncan gently in his arms. “Are you going to look for a job?”
“Why would I do that?” I inquired, looking up at him finally. “Oh! No, when Doug gets back I can pay you back for everything–“
“That’s not what I meant,” he said, rolling his eyes a bit. “I meant for you to have your own life. Away from Doug.”
I let go of Calliope and stood up, reaching over for my baby. Hal just stared at me as I pulled Duncan closer, putting my hand carefully on the back of his head. “I’ll be right back,” I said and took him to the guest room. He whimpered when I put him into his crib but didn’t complain. I returned to the living room and planted myself in front of Hal with my arms folded.
“Did I say something wrong?” he asked innocently, knowing perfectly well he had.
“I don’t care if you say stuff like that to me but don’t say it in front of Duncan!” I snapped. “Doug is his father. Or mother. Or–whatever. Father, okay? He shouldn’t be hearing that sort of thing.”
Hal stepped forward quickly and I backed away from him immediately, and completely unintentionally. He raised both his eyebrows and I bit my bottom lip, knowing that fear had flushed across my face in that second. “Seb…”
“Don’t.” I turned away, rubbing my temple. “Please don’t.”
“Watcher! Can’t you see yourself? You’re practically shaking in your boots. Were you thinking I was gonna hit you?”
“No!” I snapped, but I winced at the memory of Doug hitting me after he had said pretty much the same thing. I didn’t mean to wince, and hoped Hal hadn’t noticed but of course he did. “Just don’t,” I said when he came closer.
“How many times has he hit you since when I found you in your basement?” he asked, sounding firm but somehow gentle at the same time. “And now he’s abandoned you.”
“He hasn’t!” I said, risking glancing up at him. His brown eyes were full of concern, and I shifted my glance. “He just had an emergency. With his parents.”
“Are they hurt?”
“Why didn’t he ask you to go with him?” Hal asked and I had nothing to say to that. “Sebastian, why do you love him?”
“I do love him!” I cried out.
Hal just kept looking at me patiently. “I asked why, not if you did. I know you do. But why do you? Or can you even answer that question?”
“Because!” I snapped, throwing my hands up. “Because he–and I–because–” I kept stammering, not reaching an answer which was so infuriating. “You wouldn’t understand!”
“He–” But he had me. I couldn’t answer, and he knew it. My hands dropped, my shoulders sagged, and I gave up. “I don’t know. Okay? I don’t know. He’s so… there’s just something about him. He draws me in. I need him.”
“You don’t need him, Sebastian,” Hal practically whispered. “You need someone better.”
“No! He’s the one who should have someone better!” I covered my face. “I mean I’m just so pathetic and weak, and he should have someone better.”
“You are better than him,” Hal hissed out. “But if that’s the way you feel then leave him.”
I glared out from behind my fingers. “I’m selfish. I’m pathetic, weak, and selfish. And I need him, I want him. I need him.”
I tried to go past him to the guest room, but he grabbed my arm, spinning me around, our faces close. “Sounds more like a drug,” Hal said carefully. I narrowed my eyes, but he had a tight grip. “Don’t go back to him, Sebastian. He’s bad for you. Please… don’t…”
His grip loosened and I shook his hand off. “Without him, I’m nothing,” I said and headed to the guest bedroom.
“You’re not nothing,” Hal said but I just ignored him, shutting the door to the guest room and going over to the crib, feeling on the verge of tears.
I had been at Hal’s for six days before Doug showed up and Hal and I didn’t have another fight like the first day. We acted like we used to, as friends. But there was always that lingering feeling…
I did go back to him, when he came back. I had to. Hal didn’t understand… I didn’t expect him to. He was angry, which I did expect, but he didn’t stop me. He just gave me sad looks when Doug helped me get all of Duncan’s stuff in the car. Doug had been very cheerful the whole time but as soon as we got home and got Duncan settled into his old room, Doug took me to our room and hit me so hard that I was thrown back onto the bed.
“How dare you go to him?!” Doug growled, reaching over to grab my shirt and pull me back to my feet. “I see how it is! As soon as my back is turned, you go running off to that–that–that fat bastard!”
I gasped in pain as his fingers dug into my arm. My nose felt like it was on fire and I could feel blood dripping down, but I couldn’t reach up to stop it. “There wasn’t any food left,” I whimpered. “Or any money. Duncan needed to eat. I needed to eat, for our baby–“
He hit me again, his hand smacking across my cheek. I would have fallen again, if he wasn’t holding me up with his other hand. “You little backstabbing brat!” he snarled, his eyes flashing with more anger than I had ever seen. I suddenly felt afraid for my life. “What, I can’t take care of my own family? Hmmm? Is that it? I’m such a failure that I can’t even feed my own son?”
“No… Doug, please stop–you’re hurting me!”
He shoved me back onto the bed and pinned me there, his nails digging into my arms once more. “You should have stayed here. You’re mine. Understand? Understand?!”
“Y-yes, please stop–please–I’m sorry!”
“I don’t think you do understand, Sebastian,” he said in a low voice. “But you’re going to.”
I begged for him to stop, but he didn’t. He ignored my pleas until finally I stopped pleading and just sobbed as he made me ‘understand’.