The man was still screaming as he threw himself on top of Caleb. He was beating his head into the floor.
I forced myself to move. I scrambled toward the bed, frantically running my hands underneath and feeling for the bag. It was there! I pulled it out and dumped it out on the floor. The gun came toppling out and I gripped it. It went off. I hit myself in the face with the back of my hand.
“Livvie!” Caleb yelled. The sound was a wet gurgle.
I regrouped quickly and held the gun in both hands. I pulled the hammer back and my hands trembled as I pointed it at the man on top of Caleb. “Get off him! Now!”
He turned to look at me, the flap of skin on his face just hanging there as blood gushed out, one heavy spurt after another. He rushed me and I squeezed the trigger. The force toppled me. My vision blurred for a couple of seconds. I scrambled backward on my hands, searching for the gun behind me.
I’d shot him. Our attacker lay on the ground, his body twitching and shuddering. His hands clawed at his chest. There was blood everywhere.
“What did I do?!” I screamed.
“What did I do?!”
“What did I do?!”
“Caleb, Livvie! Focus. Focus on Caleb. Where’s Caleb?” Ruthless said.
Somehow, I registered the situation. I looked toward the bathroom. Caleb wasn’t moving. No. No, no, no, no, no! I saw red. Nothing but red! I found the gun and picked it back up. I crawled over and put the barrel on our attacker’s chest. He tried to fight me while I pulled back the hammer, but he was weak, and my rage made me strong. I screamed as I pulled the trigger and blood sprayed my face, neck, and body. When I opened my eyes, I stared directly into his wide open chest.
“Caleb!” I yelled. When he didn’t answer, I crawled toward him, terrified of what I might find when I reached him. He wasn’t moving. He was covered in blood and he wasn’t moving! I pulled his head into my lap and tapped the side of his face, “Caleb? Wake up, baby. Wake up! We have to go.” There was no reaction. “Please. Please, God!” I put my hand on his chest. He was breathing.
I could hear shouting from outside. People running and squealing tires leaving the parking lot. Cops would be here soon. I put Caleb’s head down and grabbed his shirt to sit him up. “Wake up! Please!” I shook him. His head fell forward and he coughed blood onto my pants. “Oh! Oh! Thank you!” I pulled him to my chest, running my hands all over him.
“Livvie,” he said. And then he really woke up, “Livvie!” He pulled back and stared at me in shock. He pushed me to one side and looked behind me, then back to my face. “Are you okay?” he said frantically.
I nodded, tears streaming down my face.
“We have to go,” he said. “Now. Get up.” He pushed me up and I helped him stand. He grabbed my hand and stooped down to scoop up the gun.
I ran to the pile of things next to the bed and found the keys. I shoved everything else inside in one huge ball.
“Get to the truck, Livvie,” Caleb said. He seemed much too calm.
I ran across the parking lot, surprised to discover there were no people out there anymore. I managed to get the key into the lock and open the door. I scrambled inside and slammed it shut.
I heard another gunshot and ducked. Nothing happened for several seconds, but then the truck shook and I heard a loud thud. I squeezed my eyes shut. The cab door opened.
“It’s me, Livvie. It’s me,” Caleb whispered. He found the keys in my hand and pried them loose. He peeled out of the parking lot as I shivered and cried on the seat next to him. After a while, I felt his fingers in my hair, gently stroking my head.
I had killed a man. I was covered in his blood.
I had to do it. I’m not sorry.
And I wasn’t. I wasn’t sorry the son of a bitch was dead. I’d known he was dead after I shot him the first time. There was no way he could have survived the wound I’d given him. I had shot him the second time because…I wanted to. He had tried to kill me, but it was seeing Caleb’s motionless body, that had ultimately filled me with rage. Caleb was mine. I was through letting people take things from me.
We drove for a few hours. I had no idea where we were and I didn’t care. I kept my head on Caleb’s lap and let him touch me. Everything in my world made sense if Caleb kept touching me.
Eventually, Caleb stopped the truck, but he asked me to stay put while he took care of the body in the bed. The final shot I had heard was Caleb shooting the guy in the face. He didn’t want him identified. The guy in question had been Jair’s cousin, Khalid.
I wanted to ask about Rafiq and the others, but then I remembered the way Caleb had come back to the room, shell-shocked and devoid of life. Some things were better left unsaid. Caleb and I were alive. We were together. Everything else? I didn’t need to know.
Caleb got back in the truck faster than I would have expected. “It’s done,” he said.
“You buried him?” I asked doubtfully.
“No need. The animals can have him,” he said. He reached across the seat and pulled my forehead toward his lips. “I killed that man, Livvie. Do you understand?” he whispered.
“Livvie! Listen to what I’m telling you!” He looked me dead in my eyes. His expression was hard and cold. “I killed him.” He nodded his head until I mimicked him.
“Okay,” I whispered.
“Good girl,” he whispered and kissed me. Our agreement was sealed.
I should have known what Caleb was planning. There had been plenty of signs. I should have questioned him more about what had traumatized him back at Felipe’s mansion. I should have demanded to know the plan when I kept seeing signs for Texas. At the very least, I should have asked more questions about the piece of paper Caleb demanded I memorize. He said anyone with the pass codes and account information could gain access and it was important only he and I knew the information. I had felt so special. I thought he trusted me. I had felt like a spy when I burned the piece of paper and threw the ashes out the window.
I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t demand answers. Instead, I had been completely blindsided when Caleb stopped the truck and shattered my entire world by saying our time together had come to an end.
We were both silent for a long time. I didn’t want to be the first to speak, I was afraid I couldn’t. Caleb finally cleared his throat and broke the silence, “The border is just a few kilometers up the road. I can’t go any closer.” He gestured to the blood all over him.
“What makes you think I can? I killed –”
“You didn’t kill anyone!” He shouted. “You were kidnapped. You’ve been trying to escape and for months…I’ve…I kept you prisoner. I raped you,” he said.
His words were a knife in my heart and I slapped him. Hard. “Don’t say that! I know how we started out, Caleb. I know! But, please,” I begged. “I love you.”
Caleb’s eyes welled up with tears, but he smiled and rubbed his face, “You slapped me,” he laughed. “Again!”
“Why are you doing this, Caleb?” I asked as calmly as I could, but already, my throat was thick with the sobs I was trying to hold inside.
He looked at me and I could see the faintest trace of something resembling the pain on my own face. “Because…it’s the right thing to do.”
“Why can’t you let me decide for myself what the right thing is? I want to stay with you.” I choked out. My heart raced, and I could no longer hold back my tears. He was giving me my chance to go home, to go back to my life, to go back to everything I said I wanted – but all I could think was none of it mattered if it meant I’d never see him again.
He gripped the steering wheel tightly and pressed his forehead against it, “You don’t know what you want, Livvie, and what you think you want, you’ve been brainwashed into wanting.” I immediately took a breath in order to protest; he held up his hand to stop me.
“I’ve been doing this a long time – manipulating people to get my way. That’s why you think you love me! Because I’ve broken you down and built you back up to believe it. It wasn’t an accident! Once you leave this behind…you’ll see that.”
I could barely see him through the mist of tears clouding my vision. Caleb believed everything he said. I could hear it in his voice – but he was wrong. He hadn’t manipulated me into loving him. He’d tried to do the very opposite.
“So, that’s it? You think I’m just some idiot that fell for your bullshit! Well you’re wrong! I fell in love with you, Caleb. I fell in love with your sick sense of humor. I fell in love with the way you protected me. You saved my life!”
“I went to collect my property, Livvie,” he said solemnly.
“I’m not Livvie anymore! I’m yours! Isn’t that what you said? Isn’t it what you promised? What we swore!” I wept.
“I don’t want to own you. I want you to be free and as long as you’re with me…I’ll always see you as my slave,” he whispered.
I couldn’t stand the sight of Caleb’s head bowed in shame. He was much too proud a person. “I was never your slave, Caleb. You tried, I’ll give you that, but we both know you belong to me, as much as I, belong to you. If you’d really been able to break me down, and build me back up, neither of us would be here. No matter how fucked up the circumstances, I genuinely fell in love with you…and…and believe it or not…you love me too.”
“Kitten,” he said, “monsters can’t love.” He swiped at his eyes, “Now, get out of the truck. Walk toward the border, and don’t ever look back.”
Unable to control myself any longer I wrapped my arms around him as tightly as I could. “I love you, Caleb. I love you! If you care for me at all…please, don’t do this! Please, don’t leave me. I don’t know how to live without you. Don’t make me go back to trying to be someone I don’t know how to be anymore.”
His arms gently guided me back, and when our eyes met, I finally saw the emotions he tried so hard to keep hidden, and the resolve with which he said, “Live for me, Kitten. Be all those things you’d never be with me. Go to school. Meet a normal boy and fall in love. Forget me. It’s time for you to go, Kitten. Time for us both, to go.”
“Where will you go?”
“It’s best you don’t know.”
My heart sank, but I knew I had lost the argument and there was no stopping this goodbye. I wanted to kiss him then, just one last kiss to remember him by, but I knew kissing him would only be torture. I wanted to remember our last kiss as being one of passion and connection, not one of sadness and regret.
I let him go and opened the door.
“Take this,” he whispered and pushed the gun toward me. “It’s how you escaped.”
I stared at the gun for a long time. I even contemplated taking Caleb hostage with it and forcing him to drive us somewhere else. But he’d hurt me. His rejection stung more than anyone’s and my pride wouldn’t let me beg him anymore.
I picked up the gun and stared at his perfect profile as he stared out the windshield without a glance in my direction. He’d made his choice and it wasn’t me. I stepped out of the truck, slammed the door and started my trek toward the border.
As I walked, I could feel his eyes on me, the way I could always feel his eyes on me. Tears ran down my face unabashed, but I didn’t move to wipe them away. I had earned those tears, and I would wear them as a symbol of everything I had been through. They represented all the pain I had suffered, the love I felt, and the ocean of loss sweeping through my soul. I had finally learned to obey and never looked back.
I was covered in blood and bruised when I arrived at the border. In shock over everything that had happened with Caleb, I didn’t respond well to the border patrol officers screaming at me with raised weapons. I had a weapon of my own and I wasn’t afraid to fucking use it. And if I died? Who the fuck cared?