“I am sorry, baby. I lost my temper. I’m sorry. But you just made me so mad… You know you shouldn’t have done that…” Doug sighed heavily. “You hate me now. Don’t you?”
“You still love me?”
“Yes, Doug, I promise.”
He pulled me against him, his hand stroking my back gently. It hurt, but I said nothing. “I was wrong to do that last night. I guess there’s something wrong with me. Maybe I should get help. Maybe I’m insane. So you think I’m insane?”
“And you do love me?”
“Yes, I love you.”
“I love you too.” He kissed me, but I didn’t kiss back. He noticed and pulled away, looking sad. Not angry. Oh, thankfully not angry. “I’m going to get help. I’m going to see a doctor. No, I’ll check myself into a hospital again.”
“Again?” I couldn’t help but ask.
He stared at me sideways and then shrugged one shoulder. “Remember how I told you I had heart problems and that was why I left Sunset Valley?”
“I lied,” he said simply. “I was having problems so when I turned eighteen, I went to a hospital. I got better. I thought I did. But I guess I still have anger issues… Do you think I have anger issues?”
“You’re lying,” he accused and I managed to stop myself from flinching. “I don’t blame you though. I’m horrible… simply horrible!” He buried his face in his hands and stayed that way for a moment. I didn’t dare move. “I’m going to go,” he said into his hands. “I’m going to the hospital and getting help.”
When I said nothing, he looked up and stared rather despairingly at me. “You’d be happy if I did, wouldn’t you?”
“I want you to be happy, Doug.”
“I’ll think about it, then.”
Over the next few days I went through a lot of conflict. I took care of Duncan, cleaned the house, cooked the meals, and gave Doug what he wanted. I barely spoke, figuring that what I had to say wasn’t important. Doug didn’t seem to care, though he did continue to apologize.
It was hard to tell if he really felt bad for what he did that night, since he continued doing it–not that I offered any fight. I was too tired. And I knew even if I did fight him, it wouldn’t matter–he’d get what he wanted.
Sometimes I justified it. I had made him mad. I deserved it. He didn’t mean it. He did care about me. I loved him. It wasn’t rape, because I loved him.
Other days, I couldn’t justify it and faced the truth for what it was–and those days I’d break down into tears, wondering where I had gone wrong, why I had gotten myself into this situation. But even then, I blamed myself. It was my fault I had let myself be led into this life. It was my fault.
But through it all, part of me still wanted Doug. I felt sick. I hated it. I didn’t want to want him, but I did. The thought of him just leaving me made me feel all shriveled up inside. The thought of me leaving him made me feel worse.
I tried justifying that, too. After all I was pregnant. Doug did care for Duncan. He never, ever raised his voice to Duncan and always treated him with nothing but love. After Duncan went through his birthday, Doug seemed even more like a father. Sometimes the two of them would go out to the park, sometimes they’d watch movies together, and sometimes they’d just play silly little games. Peek-a-boo. Patty cake. Tickle monster.
He doesn’t mistreat Duncan, I thought, watching them one day and then rubbing my belly which was starting to swell. He won’t mistreat this little one.
I was seven months pregnant when Doug left. This time I knew he was leaving. He was going to go to a mental facility for a couple months. The reason? He was still losing his temper towards me and hurting me, and he knew that was dangerous for the baby. Not because he was hurting me, but because he could hurt the baby.
He gave me access to our bank account, so I wouldn’t have to worry. He made me promise to send him pictures of our baby when it was born. “I’m doing this for you, little one,” he whispered to my stomach the evening before he left. “Daddy loves you. He just needs some help.” Then he looked up at me and fiercely kissed me, almost desperately. “I love you too,” he said, waiting for my response.
I forced a smile. “And I love you.”
He still wanted to be together that night, but he was careful. And he didn’t hit me, like he had been. In the morning I woke up with barely a new bruise on me, but I just made Doug some breakfast and then walked him to his car.
“I love you so much, Sebastian,” he said, staring into my eyes.
“I love you too, Douglas.”
He didn’t get into the car and then suddenly he was kissing me again, crying. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry for all this!”
“It’s okay, Doug, I understand.”
“You’ll be here when I get back, right?” He grabbed my hands, holding them tightly. “Promise me.”
“You’re lying!” he suddenly yelled but I knew he wouldn’t strike me as we were outside. “You’re going to leave me!”
“I won’t leave you,” I said and he looked suspiciously at me. “I promise.”
After what felt like forever of us standing there, he kissed me again then got into the car and left. I watched him drive off and then waddled back into the house. Duncan was playing with a stuffed animal but when he saw me, he raised his arms.
I bent down and with some effort managed to pick him up. “Let’s go,” I told him, and set him on the bed while I started packing our things.
When Hal opened the door and saw us on his doorstep, he didn’t ask what we were doing there. He just stepped aside to let us in, taking the suitcases from me as I walked inside. He shut the door and took the suitcases to the guest room, still without a word.
“Unna, awoo,” Duncan babbled, pointing to Calliope who meowed back. Duncan looked surprised at that.
Hal emerged from the guest room and came over, offering to take Duncan. I gladly handed him over, my entire body aching from the walk. “Do you need anything to eat?” he asked.
“No,” I mumbled.
“How about you?” he asked Duncan who blew a raspberry. “Has he eaten?”
“Yes,” I replied.
Hal looked at me then hitched Duncan around to his other side. “Why don’t you go lay down, Seb. You look like you could use a nap.”
I opened my mouth, and then closed it. “Okay,” I said and then went to the guest room. I slid onto the bed and lay there, staring at the wall. My last thought before I fell into a deep sleep was how angry Doug was going to be when he came back.
When I woke up the first thing I saw was a strange crib and Duncan asleep in it. Rubbing my eyes, I got out of bed and padded into the living room. Hal was sitting on the couch watching some TV. He heard me, though, and pushed the ‘mute’ button. “Hey,” he said, patting the couch.
I rubbed my eyes again and went over, sitting down. “How long was I asleep? Where did the crib come from?” I asked. The most words I had spoken together in weeks, I realized.
“I bought the crib,” he replied nonchalantly. “Duncan needed a place to sleep, right? And you were out of it for five hours annnnd…” He checked his watch. “Twelve minutes.”
“You didn’t need to buy a crib,” I whispered, feeling dizzy.
“Too late,” he said with a smile. “So, do you feel any better? Do you need some food now?”
“I–I guess I’m hungry…” I admitted and he got up, going to the kitchen. I followed him, staying silent as he put together a sandwich and cut up some fruit. The question was there but he wasn’t going to ask, so I answered it. “He’s at a mental hospital.”
Hal snorted. “Not quite as good as jail, but I’ll take it. Here.” He handed the plate over and I tore a piece of bread off, putting it my mouth. As soon as I swallowed it I discovered how famished I was–after all, I hadn’t eaten at all that day. I tried not to shove all the food into my mouth at once, pacing myself.
“Let’s go back into the living room and sit down,” he said and I just followed him back in, still trying not to take too big of bites. “So, what happened?”
“He decided he was crazy and checked himself into a mental hospital,” I said, grateful that Hal handed me a bottle of water. I had forgotten to ask for something to drink.
“Does he know you were going to come here?” Hal asked.
I shook my head. “I promised him I’d stay at the house. As soon as he left, I got some of our things and left.”
“So he’s not there?” Hal rubbed his chin. “That means we can get Duncan’s other stuff without any trouble.”
“I can’t stay here!” I said, staring down at plate. “I should go back.”
“Why did you come here, then?” he asked softly.
I closed my eyes tightly. “I couldn’t stay there. I had to leave–I had to leave him.” Everything came rushing at me at once. The past few months, everything Doug had done and said. All the bruises, mostly faded now. I began crying and the plate fell to the floor, the pieces of fruit getting in the carpet. “I’m s-sorry!” I started to reach down but Hal stopped, me, holding my wrists very carefully.
“Forget the carpet, Sebastian,” he whispered, pulling me against him. I cried into his chest, feeling so scared and so lost.
“I had to, I had to leave him–I left him, I left him…” I repeated it over and over, but Hal just held me, not saying anything. Finally my words died and all I could do was cry. He rubbed my back, rather carefully as if he knew what was there.
“You did right, Seb. You did right. It’s okay, you did the right thing,” he began saying, his mouth close to my ear.
My body began relaxing as I slumped against him on the couch. I wasn’t taught with fear for the first time in ages. There was a flutter of something… relief? Joy? Worry about what might happen? Whatever it was, it wasn’t fear. And despite my five hours of sleep, I felt exhausted still. As my tears slowed, I began to get very drowsy until I finally fell asleep in his arms.
Because there wasn’t a close up of him in the chapter, here’s a bonus picture!