Content Warning: Portrayal of domestic violence, some swearing, slight nudity (nothing too shocking).
Dear Diary, after more long days in the dark as to what was going on at the dig site, I couldn’t take it any longer. So, I did what any anthropologist would do… I went there anyway.
As I approached, an unfamiliar woman saw me and decided to head me off before I could get too close.
“Hi there. Is there something I can help you with?”
At least she seemed friendly.
“Yes, I’m actually looking for Dr. Sprague. Is he here?”
“He is but he’s extremely busy at the moment. Why don’t you give me your message and I will be sure to relay it to him.”
Normally, this sort of him-hawing would get on my nerves quick but the entire time she spoke, she remained pleasant. I got a real sense from her that she was just simply telling the truth and not trying to keep me out. Xalen’s work must be very important.
“My name is Martha Larochette. Dr. Larochette – ”
” – You’re Marty!” she exclaimed with an enthusiastic smile. “Dr. Sprague’s Marty! Oh please forgive the familiarity with which I address you. It’s just that he’s spoken so highly of you, I feel as if we’re already friends.”
Xalen must have talked about me quite a bit to have gotten this reaction from one of his colleague’s. But why had he? Did he miss me as much as I missed him? I gave myself a mental shake because I was too timid to let my mind go down that road of thought.
Grinning from ear to ear, I said, “There’s nothing to forgive. I prefer being called Marty.”
“I’m Shelly Bingham.”
My heart jumped when I heard his voice and realized he was walking toward us now.
“Xalen!” I shouted back, still grinning like crazy.
“It’s so wonderful to see you!” we both said at the same time as he joined us. Then we laughed and hugged.
It felt so good to have his strong arms around me. There was something about him that always put me at ease and made me feel safe. I’m ashamed to write now that even though I’m with Beckett, I don’t think I will ever be able to forget my feelings for Xalen. He would forever be the one who first captured my heart.
I know I once said similar things about Theo. Yet, when I look back now, I realize how young and isolated I’d been. He was the only boy I knew or felt close to up to that point in my life. So when I moved to Longview to live with Aunt Ruby all those years ago, he was a piece of home for me that gave me a sense of security. Theo was a little girl’s crush.
When I gazed now at Xalen, it was suddenly clear to me I loved him wholeheartedly and without a doubt. This was no little girl crush but much deeper. It was all at once so obvious, it shook me to my core and left me feeling breathless.
“Are you all right?” he asked, taking my shoulders in his hands and meeting my eyes with his. I must have looked a mess but he couldn’t have had any idea the turmoil that was thundering through me.
For if I was in love with Xalen, why in the world was I with Beckett? Was he just someone to fill the void since Xalen didn’t feel the same way about me? Whatever it was, I knew then I needed to break up with Beckett. Being in a relationship with him was a lie. I didn’t love him as he professed to love me. Plus he was getting on my very last nerve! I would have to talk to him soon even though I dreaded his reaction.
“Marty? I can tell you’re nervous. What is going on? You don’t seem yourself.”
“What do you mean?”
He studied me closely again, then said, “For one thing, you hate it when your hair is in your face. You never wear it down like this. Your nails are painted… it does not seem like you. And although you have never come right out and said this, you only wear these boots when you are homesick or nervous about something. Am I right?”
Of course, he was. He knew me so much better than anyone else. His gentle voice with that slight funny accent was so familiar and pleasing to me, I could have cried.
“I’m all right,” I said softly even though it wasn’t true. “It was a new me, I guess.”
When I shyly looked away from him, he lifted my chin so he could gaze into my eyes. I could tell he didn’t know what to make of my response. “Well, I am not complaining. You are beautiful as ever. I just want you to be happy.”
All I wanted to do right then was sob. Instead, I forced a smile. “I’m happy.” Taking a deep breath, I changed gears. “What’s going on here? You know you can trust me.”
“I do,” he said although his expression became more solemn.
It looked to me like he wanted to tell me everything yet there was something holding him back. That’s when I noticed how tired he seemed, with dark circles under his eyes. Why would this case out of so many bother him that much?
“You look exhausted.”
Still looking into my eyes, he nodded. “This has been very draining. You see, Marty, this is a family matter.”
To hear him say that not only confused me, it filled me with such a feeling of alarm, my pulse quickened uncomfortably and my throat began to tighten. “What do you mean?”
“A bracelet was found with the remains that could only have belonged to one person. I know this because I am the one who commissioned the piece in order to give it to her.”
Her. He said her. With a furrowed brow, I began to wonder if this was a long lost love. I didn’t have to wonder for long, though, because he continued his explanation.
“It was a gift I gave her when she graduated from university. I’m still waiting for the DNA results to be confirmed, but I already feel in my heart that it is her.”
“Who?” I whispered.
“My niece Aria.”
Slowly, I wrapped my arms around him, pulling him into a tight embrace. I felt him shudder against me as he hugged me back and I realized then how deeply this was affecting him.
As we held one another, my mind jogged back to the first time I’d met him. He was buying candy for his niece who’d just had her tonsils taken out. Was this the same girl?
“I know you have questions,” he whispered into my ear, his voice heavy with anguish. “Now is not the time, though. I have to get back to work and find out once and for all what happened to her and who caused this.”
“I understand. Please, let me know if I can help in any way.”
All the way back to Beckett’s house, I felt a heavy cloud hanging over me like a blanket. I was so sad for Xalen. And there was the other matter, too, with Beckett. With every step taken toward the house, I knew it was a step toward a different future without him.
To my shock, he was waiting for me when I came inside and began to yell immediately as if I’d done something wrong.
“Where have you been? You went to see him, didn’t you? The guy from the phone calls you’ve been getting?”
“It’s really none of your business where I was. You seem to forget that a lot.”
“It is very much my business! How do you think that looks to people when you go sneaking off to see your old boyfriend like that?”
“So you’re not really angry I went to see him, you’re just pissed about how it looks.”
“You know, for a doctor, you’re really not very smart! Of course, I don’t like you seeing him! It’s not just about how it looks, but that is part of it! I won’t have you making me look bad!”
“You’re going to show me some respect,” he continued, pointing at me and screaming. I cringed as the smell of stale alcohol drifted toward me, assaulting my nose.
I wanted to race out of there as fast as I could, but my feet felt planted on the floor and all I could do was cower. I know that doesn’t sound like how I used to be. Something in me has changed. I don’t know when that happened, I only know it was because of him.
“I’m sorry,” I meekly said, hoping he’d calm down.
His face was still red from yelling, however, my apology, as fake as it was, did seem to do the job. If I brought up the fact I wanted out of the relationship now, how far would he let his anger take him? Especially since he’d been drinking, which he seemed to do a lot of.
I decided then, I didn’t want to know. Breaking up with Beckett would have to wait until I was sure I was safe.
“Where are you going?”
“To take a shower. Alone.”
Later that night, I was startled awake. At first, I didn’t know what had caused me to wake up with such a start. Glancing beside me, I noticed I was alone which meant Beckett was probably nose deep in another bottle of wild turkey.
Then I heard the reason I was awake in the middle of the night. The sobbing woman. Getting out of bed, I strained against the darkness to listen for more. If only I could tell where it was coming from.
It was then I decided to look for her the last place in which I’d seen her. This time, I would be brave. I wouldn’t drop my flashlight and run away screaming like a mad woman.
As I crept up the cold staircase, the crying became louder. My heart was beating against my chest but the further I went, the more determined I became to find out what was going on.
Once I reached the top of the stairs I gasped and held my thumping heart. My mouth went dry and I shivered hard. It was so strangely cold, I could almost see my ragged breath as it left my lungs and escaped my mouth.
The ghost’s wailing was so forlorn, it broke my heart and sent shivers through me at the same time.
I dared to step a little closer and with a tight, shaky voice, said, “What’s wrong?”
It seemed a reasonable question.
Her hollow eyes seemed to stare right through me and I couldn’t really tell if she could see me or not. She definitely heard me, though.
“Where is she?” she moaned as she continued weeping.
Goosebumps popped up all over my arms and legs. And just like with Beckett, my feet didn’t want to move even though her speaking to me was enough to make my mind want to move out of there!
“Where is she?”
“Lost! All is lost!” she sobbed as if the entire world was crashing down around her.
Her weeping was so intense, so heartbreaking, I found myself covering my own face and sobbing along with her. I hadn’t ever seen a ghost before but besides that, I’d never heard anyone so bereaved in my life. It was so distressing to me, it was almost as if it was happening to me. The anguish in my heart, the total misery of a loss so great… I experienced it all.
After a few moments, I began to feel a little warmer. The suffocating feel of the room began to lift, too. Slowly, I uncovered my face and looked about.
She was gone.
My face still wet with tears, I haltingly made my way back downstairs, my hand gripping the stair railing so tightly, my knuckles turned white.
My mind must still have been foggy because instead of going back to bed, I found myself face to face with Beckett in the game room. Once again, my heart sped up and alarm ran through me.
“Baby, c’mere,” he said with a lot of slurring as he tried to put his arms around me and pull me into an embrace.
Holding my palms up against him, I pushed him back a little and gingerly stepped away from him.
“You’re drunk.” I’d always had a keen grasp of the obvious.
Laughing a little, he slurred, “Let’s get married, baby. Let’s go now.”
At last, I’d had enough of this. “I’m leaving, Beckett. We’re like oil and water, you and I.”
He laughed again as if he didn’t believe me. “Aww… c’mon. I’m sorry for everything.”
“I couldn’t be more serious right now. I don’t love you, I never did and I’m leaving.”
As I started toward the staircase, he managed to grab hold of my wrist, bending my arm painfully, until he had me on my knees and could get hold of my other wrist, too.
“You’re hurting me! Let go!”
“I’m hurting you?” he screamed, his alcohol-laden breath invading my nostrils. “You’re the one who’s always causing problems where there aren’t any! I’m so sick of the way you treat me, Marty! Do you hear me?” He began to shake me as I struggled to get free.
“You’re not making any sense! You’re drunk! Now let go of me!”
“You know why I drink? Because you’re so unbearable to be around! You refuse to take care of me! You cheat on me! After everything I’ve done for you, you ungrateful bitch!”
Leaning forward, his awful words echoing in my ears, I sank my teeth deeply into one of his hands until I tasted iron and his blood ran over my lips.
“You f’ing bitch!”
As he let go of me, I sprang up, ready to scramble out of there. Just as I reached the stairs, he was able to grasp a handful of my hair and yank me back around to him. As I gasped and tried to remain on my feet, he continued cursing at me. Without warning, his closed fist collided with my face, knocking me to the floor.
My ears were ringing and the room was spinning. I’d never been hit like that before. Tears welled up in my eyes as I struggled to regain my bearings. Every time I managed to get back up to my knees, the spinning room caused me to collapse again.
Suddenly, Beckett was on top of me, pinning me to the cold tile floor. I struggled as hard as I could against him, but I was only wearing myself out.
He continued screaming at me, his spittle flying crazily through the air, landing on my face.
“Now do you see what happens? Look what you made me do! I won’t have you cheating on me!”
“Beckett, please,” I moaned.
“Oh, now you wanna work things out? You’re such a bitch! Who is he anyway? Who is he?”
“I haven’t cheated on you, please, Beckett…”
“You’re such a tramp! You wear your hair like a whore! Is that why he likes you? When I’m done with you, he’ll never look at you again!”
He must have hit me again because I think I blacked out.
Everything was dark. Gradually, I became aware of the cold floor beneath my sore body. Strangely, I also realized my eyes were closed. As I opened them, I was exactly where I was when I’d passed out.
Only, everything had changed.
My face throbbed and my head was no better. At least I wasn’t dizzy any more, though.
Not seeing my attacker anywhere, I slowly got to my feet, my body swaying at first, then gaining better balance. I was staring at my toes, willing my body to remain strong and alert when I saw the hair. It was scattered all over the floor and a pair of scissors were lying nearby.
Touching a clump of hair with my toe, I belatedly realized it was mine. The bastard had cut my hair!
Even though I was sore from head to toe and I was missing a great deal of hair, I told myself this could have been much worse. He could be here now, still terrorizing me.
Then I heard a loud snore which brought me back to the present. Beckett was passed out on the loveseat. Standing over him, I began to think about what I should do.
Run out of there and get away as fast as I could?
Tentatively, I nudged his shoulder. He didn’t wake up or even stir. Closing my fist and gritting my teeth, I hauled off and punched him in the shoulder as hard as I could. He groaned a little but was apparently passed out cold.
Thoughts started whirling around in my head. Really bad thoughts about what I could do to him.
Run away as fast as I could. No.
I’ll admit that I briefly toyed with the idea of what I could do with the scissors he’d so carelessly left on the floor next to my hair.
Just as quickly, I dismissed those thoughts.
But I did have an idea for the bastard. Right or wrong, I was going to do it, too.
Reaching forward, I shoved him hard. He rolled off the couch and fell with a dull thump to the floor below.
It wasn’t easy to undress a guy when he wasn’t helping you. It was even harder dragging his ass across the room and out the front door.
But once he was positioned in front of the pole, it was really easy to tie him there. Just before I left him, I kicked him especially hard.
Then, I ran out of there as fast as I could. It was daylight and I must have looked a fright when I ran into the hotel lobby. My nose was bleeding and my cheeks were red where I’d been hit.
Xalen was just coming from the dining room when he saw me. As soon as our eyes met, he yelled my name.
I ran to him, pushing my face into his shoulder as he held me and stroked what was left of my hair.
“I’ve ruined your shirt,” I managed to say through my sobs.
“Shh… it’s all right,” he said as he whisked me to the elevator, his arms never leaving me.
I continued to cry as we stepped on and the doors closed behind us. Luckily, we were alone.
“Who has done this to you?” he asked, his eyes full of anger and concern.
I shook my head in response. If I told him what’d happened, what would he do? There was no need to involve him.
Xalen didn’t press me with any other questions. He brought me to his room and tucked me into his bed.
“I’m scared. Please don’t leave me,” I said through chattering teeth.
Still in his clothes, he stretched out next to me and rested his hand on my hip.
“I won’t leave you, I promise.”
It was late when I woke up. Xalen was still next to me, watching me closely.
“I need a bath,” I said groggily, sitting up.
“Take it easy.”
Ignoring him, I stepped into the bathroom. It was large and cold. What if Beckett came here? I was such a mess, anyone who’d been in the lobby would know it was me he was looking for.
I suppose because I hadn’t moved, Xalen started the water in the tub and made sure I had a towel and robe.
Bending in front of me and taking my shoulders, he said, “I’ll just be in the next room.”
As tears rolled down my face, I shivered again. “No, please don’t leave me. What if he finds me?”
Xalen’s eyes narrowed and I could tell he wanted to know who ‘he’ was. “He will not hurt you, Marty. He will have to get past me first and that will never happen. Do you understand?”
That made me feel a little better.
“You must tell me what happened.”
“I – I don’t want to.”
Sighing, I could see it was taking all of his patience to deal with me. Looking deeply into my eyes, he said, “Did he – force himself on you?”
“No, he didn’t.”
Xalen’s eyes registered relief, but I could still detect the underlying anger.
“I took care of him.”
“What does that mean?”
Suddenly, I felt ashamed. “He was drinking and passed out. I stripped him naked and I ….. well… I tied him to a lamp post by the road.”
His eyes grew huge with surprise and his jaw dropped a little. “You didn’t.”
Laughing a little despite everything, I nodded. “Yeah, I totally did. I may have kicked him a couple times, too.”
I never knew you could laugh and cry at the same time.
Pulling me into his arms again, his hands caressing me, he shook his head in wonder. “Oh, Marty, what am I going to do with you?”
Author’s Note: Thank you, Lil, for the great ghost gif! I appreciate it! Thank you, Bee, for your superior poses! She did the fight scene for me. 🙂 You can find her poses at her site: Poses by Bee. You can find the Couple Fighting Pose Pack HERE!
Because this post deals with Domestic Violence and because this is something that can affect anyone (myself included), I am posting the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224). If you are experiencing abuse, please call or go to this site: HOTLINE.
Not sure if what you are experiencing is abusive? Take a look at this diagram. You may be surprised.