October 23, 2014

Elizabeth's Story

by Jessica Knoll

I made a dash toward Campbell's car. The rain had held a steady, patient pace, it was the wind that had picked up, Turquoise House braced for an all night tantrum behind me.

"Whew!" I gasped when I finally slammed Campbell's door shut. My hair hung limply on my forehead, and I jabbed my fingers in it, trying to fluff it up, push it back, give it some style. I knew it was the least of my concerns, but, really, is there anything worse than the growing in stage after a brutal haircut? I would be going home for Thanksgiving in a few weeks, and I was already steeling myself for a gasp of horror from my mother; a crude comment from my father. "I'm not paying 50k a year for you to turn into a box-muncher, Elizabeth!" My father could charm the pants off the pope, but he can't even look at me without revealing sneering disdain.

It was nasty outside, but I didn't mind the rain. In fact, I'd used it to my advantage.

"I hate when I'm so busy that I don't have time to zip up my coat," Campbell flicked a handle, and his windshield wipers thwacked back and forth aggressively. "Or wear a bra," he added, as he pushed the gearstick into drive and maneuvered into the street.

I didn't have to glance down to know that my white tee was wet, and clinging to me in all the right places. "36B?" I guessed.

Campbell's jaw did that thing that made my skin prickle. A sort of quick clench, like he was battling something down. "I thought I said no talking."

"I'm happy to shut up if you can tell me what the fuck Bridget's sister was doing at the vigil," I said.

"Maybe Abby got an early release for good behavior," Campbell shrugged. He made a turn that lead me to believe we were headed to his pretty little house. "I was just as surprised as you were to see her."

"Liar," I said.

There was a light ahead of us, yellow, that split second where you think you can make it, the next split second where you realize you can't, and Campbell slammed the breaks so hard we both swung forward and back, our heads snapping around like bobble head dolls.

Campbell turned to look at me. "Let's get one thing straight. I have never lied to you. Not once." He held up a finger, inches from my my lips. We both stared at his hand as it changed shape, cupped my chin, drew one thumb over my mouth. I took a noisy breath, everything in me working on overtime, as he said,  "Can you say the same?"

Now was the time to tell him. If anyone could understand, Campbell could. It was an accident. Bridget came for me. It was self defense. I was drugged and out of it and I wasn't in my right mind. And now her body is gone and Abby is back and Abby was the mastermind of this whole plan to destroy me. She was the one giving orders to Bridget, and I'm scared and confused and in over my head. Did she move Bridget? Was Bridget alive? Would they come for me again?

But then the light changed, and Campbell's hand fell away from my face and found the wheel. "That's what I thought," he said, his voice low and disappointed, and I felt a mourning for the moment I could have told. He pressed down on the gas harder, and the wheels spun on the leaves plastered to the slick surface of the road. "No more talking now."

We pulled into his driveway, both of us seeming to count down in our heads before opening the door on the rabid outside. I couldn't tell you what Campbell was thinking because I couldn't ask, because no talking.

We made it to the front stoop and Campbell unlocked the door. It was so dark inside I couldn't even make out the silhouette of all the fine objects that populated the foyer, and Campbell groaned, frustrated, when he hit the light switch and nothing happened. The storm must have knocked out the power.

"What the fuck?" He muttered. I closed the door shut with my foot and reached out for him, finding the tail of his scarf, dangling over his shoulder. I pulled him to me and told him to just shut up already.

God, he could fuck. My coat was off and his hands were under my shirt, the only place on my body that was clammy and cold, from resting beneath that wet tee for the last twenty minutes. I had just come out in pajamas, basically. Old sweats, and I kicked off my shoes so they could just fall off me, nothing on underneath them, either. Campbell growled something about me being so obvious, and that was when I slapped him. The noise—my hand stinging his cheek—stopped us both in our tracks, had us breathing hard, Campbell trying to decide what he was going to do about that and me wondering the same thing.

Campbell just started laughing, quietly. My eyes had adjusted, and I saw him bring his hand to his face, to test out how much damage I had done. It couldn't have been much. He was a hulking presence in the dark house, lean and challenging.

I got my face in the door for it, Campbell's hand between my legs, spreading them wide, stroking me, rubbing me, to get me ready for him (not that I wasn't already). He was inside me, and his teeth found that same spot in the crook of my neck, the one that was just starting to heal, and bruised it, again. Against that door, sealed tight, as Christmas red on the inside as it was on the out, I could only hear the ruckus of outside as though it was the echo of the echo, and that must have been the case on the stoop too. Just the faintest of my cries, the beat of Campbell's hand, slamming against the door with every thrust, as though we were somewhere very, very far away.

We ended up in his bed, eventually. Our first time in a bed! It was a real step forward in our relationship, let me tell you.

Campbell smoked. Not cigarettes, either. We passed the sloppily rolled joint (the best he could do in the pitch black) back and forth, and then when my senses blurred—as though the dark had sounds and the wind took on a shape—he rolled on top of me again.

This time was more concerning. Because this time, it felt like it meant something. I tried to wiggle out from under him, get onto my hands and knees, which would automatically change the tenor of the whole thing, but Campbell pressed down on me harder so I couldn't. "I know what you're doing," he said, softly, touching his forehead to mine, "so don't." He stroked my face, kissed my neck, moved slowly, gratingly sweet, and I hated myself even more for lying to him.

- -

On the way back to Turquoise House, we didn't speak. And I dot think it was because we were still upholding our deal. I wasn't, at least. I was just exhausted by the prospect of how wrong this could all go, what a long road there must be ahead of us. All the chips were in their places, ready to fall. Because Bridget was going to turn up, one way or another, and I would be exposed, and maybe Campbell too, and Biz, and there was just so much to dread that my eyes fluttered, sleepily.

Campbell avoided the driveway of my house, just pulled over to the side of the road. "Well," I sighed, "good night then."

I started to go, but Campbell actually grabbed my hand. My hand. I was in trouble. "Elizabeth," he said, and there was a pause in which he considered how to word whatever it was he wanted to say. "Just," he started, "be safe."

I glared at his hand on my hand. "Profound," I said, meanly. Because that's what I do when I don't get what I want. I punish.

But what did I even want from Campbell? I considered, as I climbed out of the car and closed the door behind me, heard his car amble off. To promise me he could make this all go away? I knew he couldn't. And I knew that's why I could never tell.

I opened the door to Turq and stepped inside, thinking, we should probably start locking this place up, when Biz appeared in front of me, her face creased with worry in a way it wouldn't be able to do in just a few short years. Biz may have never really adapted to an urban style of dress, but she needed no convincing to hop on the injectables bandwagon, and well before her 30th birthday, at that.

"Elizabeth," she whispered, darting her eyes left. Left was the living room, and left was where I found Abby, sitting on our beer stained couch, waiting for me.

Abby stood and took a few tentative steps toward me. Her hair was tied into a high bun on her head, and though there was not a mark on her white skin, there was a thinness to her face that made her seem so much older than she was now. 24? 25? "I've been waiting for this for a long time," she said.

Biz was watching me, nervously. I gathered up all my strength, all my viper, and sneered, "Oh, I've heard you have." I took a step toward her, so she knew I wasn't intimidated. "Listen, Abby, I'm sorry about your sister, but you need to get the hell out of here before I call the cops."

"What?" Abby said, confused, looking around as though someone would pop out of a corner to explain what I meant. "Why? I'll go if you want me to, but I just thought, I mean you seemed to not agree with your parents' agenda, we had always been so close"—

"What are you babbling about, Abby?" I snapped, now confused too. I was in no mood.

To my utter amazement, Abby's voice started to tremble and her eyes blinked bright with tears. "I've missed you. I miss Thayer. Everyday I thought about him, and you. I always thought, once I got out, that you and I could start afresh. I have no one else to talk to about him."

She came at me then, aiming for my neck. When she wrapped her arms around me, I was so shocked, I actually hugged her back.