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“You are nothing but a fucking cock tease, Ray. The only time I succeeded in fucking you was when I was a dying fifteen-year-old. I thought that us having a kid would tie us together, bring us closer. I thought at least then you would let me into your fucking pussy on a regular basis. That’s why I made sure I put holes in the condom we used that day. Shocked the hell out of me when it actually worked too. And I guess that makes you the lucky one. You were the only one special enough to carry my baby…because I’d made Nikki get ours cut out of her.” Tanner had the audacity to wink. “But even then, with my kid in your belly, you wouldn’t wear my ring. Wouldn’t wear it after either. Said you had plans. Plans you…” Tanner used his fingers to make quotation marks in the air. “Didn’t know if they would include me as more than your best friend and the father of your kid,” he said, using a high-pitched voice, mockingly swaying his head back and forth, from side to side. “Well, golly-gee Ray, sign me up, that sounds fucking swell.”

“Fuck you,” I spat. “Get off of me! You’re a fucking monster!”

“Now you get it! It’s about fucking time, too! Do you even know how exhausting it is pretending to be something I’m not? The fucking all-American kid next door? Your father even liked me, and that asshole doesn’t like anyone! He wasn’t even fucking pissed when I knocked you up! Do you know how hard that was to fucking pull off?”

“Do your parents know what a fucking freak you are?” I asked, struggling underneath him. I looked around on the ground but there wasn’t anything I could use as a weapon.

“You know better than that. They’re more oblivious to me than the senator is to you.”

Tanner pulled the hem of my tank top up over my breasts and I kicked my feet out to push him off of me but he pushed my knees together and straddled me, paralyzing the use of my legs. “But that’s why I had Nikki. She let me fill every fucking hole of hers since we were twelve. And when she started experimenting with drugs it was like winning the lottery, because in exchange for a taste, the bitch would let me do anything. Cut her, burn her, choke her, tie her up until her wrists fucking bled.”

Nikki.

I remembered. All the times she’d shown up to my house with marks all over her body. She’d always made excuses. She cut herself on a nail on the houseboat. She walked into a door. She got bucked off of her cousin’s horse. Nikki had always been clumsy. She didn’t ever have a boyfriend to be suspicious of. And her parents were the modern day Cleavers.

There was nothing to make me question that her excuses were lies, but every single sign that something was very wrong was there.

I’d failed her.

I’d failed her because I was too busy with my perfect little life to even think about the fact that something was far from perfect in hers. I cringed when I thought about all the times I’d bragged about Tanner. About how attentive he was to me. About how great he was with Sammy. She’s the only person I could talk to about being nervous to commit my life to someone when I was still just a kid myself.

“You should thank Nikki, really, she was the only reason I let you have your space. The reason why I was the perfect patient boyfriend. She took every single thing I wanted to give to you. But that fucking slut had to go and fuck it all up. When I dragged you into that alley, she had to go call for help.” Tanner rolled his eyes. “And when they didn’t find your body, and she stopped coming back for dope, I knew you were alive and that cunt was with you. That the two of you were hiding from me.” Tanner smiled a vicious and evil smile again he clasped his hands around my throat and squeezed, playing yet another round of his sick choking game. “But eventually I caught up to Nikki, in that shitty motel room, and when she wouldn’t tell me where you were…” Tanner looked off to the side, lost in a memory. His face reddening. His forehead creasing as he grew angrier. His neck bursting with thick pulsing veins. He refocused his attention on me, tightened his grip around my throat, pressing harder, until I was no longer able to draw in a breath. Tanner pressed his lips against my ear. “…I killed the whore.” He released my throat suddenly. I gasped for air as my windpipe opened back up at an agonizingly slow pace as I tried to fill my lungs.

“Fuck. You,” I said, as soon as I had enough air to say it. Tanner killed Nikki. She didn’t overdose by accident. She didn’t overdose on purpose. My father didn’t kill her. No, the boy next door killed her.

My boy next door.

“I think I like it when you’re afraid of me, makes my fucking dick hard.” Tanner grabbed my wrist and pressed my hand to his hardening erection pressing against his shorts. “Maybe I was wrong all this time. Maybe it should have been you instead of Nikki taking it up the ass,” Tanner said, grabbing a hold of my breast and digging his nails into the tender flesh. I tried not to react. I tried not to scream. I didn’t want to waste my energy on something that wouldn’t get me any results.

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