“Your boyfriend’s coming,” Max teased
Serenity’s whole body tensed. She had the table in a death-like grip that made her knuckles turn white. She felt the blood rush to her head making her dizzy. Her stomach clenched and threatened to heave if she didn’t do something fast. Suddenly her temper flared. Stomach and dizziness long forgotten, Serenity felt ready to rumble. Rage and hurt thrashed inside like an angry, untamed bull.
‘No,’ she thought to herself, ‘No more running. Fight or Flight and my wings are tired so its time to take this head on.’ She was through with being scared; she was through with his crap. A small sad moment passed in her mind as she flashed back to their past. It hadn’t always been like this, had it? They had been happy, they had been free…
Serenity was a sophomore and Joe was a junior. They had met through mutual friends and started hanging out. He had a girlfriend and Serenity had just gotten out of a long relationship and was learning to spread her independent wings. Serenity could still remember that night at the party when she saw Joe alone and walked over.
“Hey Joe, where’s Kat? I thought you two always went to parties like this.”
“We broke up. I’m in this thing alone.” He moped
“That’s ok, we can be in it alone, ‘kay?” Serenity said good naturedly
That’s how it all began. First, it was parties, then movies; finally they officially hooked up and became a couple. Serenity’s friends didn’t like him and her family said something was up with him but they all agreed that Joe made her happy and that was enough for them.
Maybe it was too many broken dates or too many nights alone, but Joe began to change. He became more controlling and more demanding. He wanted to know where Serenity was 24/7, who she was with and when she’d be back. At first she thought that he was just being protective but then her family became more insistent that he was trying to control her.
Max, her long time friend, nudged her and brought her back to the present. Her problem was getting closer and her rage was building. Serenity knew a confrontation was inevitable. She told Max to get the rent-a-cop that stayed at the school. She didn’t know how bad it would get but she knew with Joe, it would probably get really bad.
Serenity knew from the minute Joe got close enough that something bad was going to go down. She thought back to the self defense classes she had taken in gym. Her coach’s words played over and over in her mind, “Sure he’s stronger but you’re quicker. Dodge, dodge dodge. Keep a cool head.” Serenity cracked her neck and readied herself for the storm.
“Babe!” he called out, “It’s time to talk now.” He commanded
Serenity gritted her teeth as she stood up and watched him walk over. People around her saw the fire in her eyes and the whispers began. By the time Joe got to her the circle had formed, the stage was set. Joe, of course, ignored all of this and set his eyes on hers. As far as he was concerned he was going to get what he wanted and leave Serenity to clean up his mess. ‘Not this time, Joe’ she thought.
“Babe, give me your Jeep for a couple hours.” He said smoothly
“Yeah, that’s not going to happen.” Serenity bit out
Joe looked around at the crowd and gave them that isn’t-she-funny look. He flashed them a smile trying to win them over and said to her, “Seriously, Ren, I need the car.”
“No, Joe, it’s mine and I reserve the right to say no.” Serenity tried to keep her tone and voice in check.
Serenity saw a flash of temper as he took her arm in his hand and squeezed. “Don’t do this now, Ren, you’ll regret it.” He said under his breath.
“The only thing I regret is going out with you.” She said coldly and yanked her arm out of his grasp. The crowd gasped at the blue bruises forming where Joe had grabbed her. That was the last straw, Joe’s temper got the better of him and he lunged for Serenity.
She side stepped him just in time, and he skidded to a stop just before hitting the crowd. Guys from inside the crowd began to shout at Joe about hitting girls and this fueled his temper even more. He lunged at Serenity again, this time hitting her side with his fist. Serenity never even flinched and balled her fist and quickly jabbed him in the chin and dodged his fist. A flurry of movement caught her off guard and with this momentary lapse Joe pushed her to the ground and began to pound his fists into Serenity’s body. Guys from the crowd tried to pull him off, but Joe locked his knees around Serenity’s small waist and kept pounding.
The pain became too much for Serenity and blackness took her world over and the pain finally subsided.
It wasn’t like what the movies made it out to be. Once Serenity was in the darkness it took her to her past. She saw her first steps, heard her first word and experienced her first kiss all over again. ‘I guess I’m dieing,’ she thought.
Just when she thought it was all over, she felt something. She opened her eyes to the darkness and saw something coming towards her. A light, a bluish light. When the light got to her it paused, as if unsure, then went into her body. Serenity felt tingly all over and a sharp pain in her head and then fell back asleep.
Another thing that wasn’t like the movies was how she woke up. It wasn’t slow and gradual, one minute she was out the next she was wide awake. She looked around and didn’t say anything for a little bit. She just looked to see who was around her. Her parents, her two brothers and her sister were all here. After a minute her brother, Adam, sent everyone out and walked to her bed.
They had the same coloring. Same dirty blonde hair, same polish heritage. The only difference was their eyes. His were a smoky green, while hers were a vibrant shade of green with hazel spikes by the pupils. Now the smoke was replaced with tears that threatened to spill over.
“Oh, Nifty, I’m so sorry. What did he do to you?” his deep voice cracked
“It’s ok Adam, really I don’t feel anything that much.” She tried to cheer him up
“I’ll kill him Nifty, I will.” He said fiercely
“Adam, don’t say that. Just behave until they ship you out. You can kill whoever you want when you’re in the Marines, I promise.” She smiled
The silly comment earned her a deep chuckle and a heart warming smile. Adam looked down at her with a mixture of respect and love and Serenity’s heart swelled. This is where she belonged; with her family, where she was loved and treated with respect. ‘This is right where I need to be’ she thought and closed her eyes.
~Three months later~
Serenity picked up yet another box of Tastee Freeze popsicles and sighed as she looked and saw that she still had at least twenty-five more to stock. She much rather work the register and see what people were buying and make polite conversation with the customers but her friend and coworker, Janie, was pregnant and couldn’t lift the heavy boxes. A job was a job and serenity took her work seriously; even if she was just stocking Tastee Freeze boxes.
After a half hour she finished those and brought out Spaghetti O’s cans and began putting them on the shelves. She let her mind drift to her Jeep. It was her pride and joy. When she first bought it, it was no more than a pile of metal with wheels, but she had put in time and money and now it shone like a bright new penny. She had taken mechanic classes in her free time from a friend and learned the basics of her car.
With new tires, new paint, and a new engine, the Jeep was rearing and ready to go on the cross country road trip Serenity had planned for after graduation. While Serenity dreamt about her trip she failed to notice a guy walking towards her. It wasn’t until his shadow darkened her light that Serenity relied he was there. Before she could turn around a dark voice began talking.
“Hey, baby, how’s my favorite girl?”
“Restraining order, Joe. Don’t you have community service or something?” she asked curtly, still stocking the shelves. It still nagged her that Joe had only gotten fifty hours of community service just because he was legally a minor.
“Don’t be like that, Renie, I just need a favor.”
“No, Joe. No more favors, no more excuses, and just no more you. Peroid.”
“Oh, Renie,” he said with a fake sigh, “I think you will do this favor or else I’ll get to tell those parents of yours about a certain party we went to.”
“What do you want, Joe? What could be so important that you have to violate your restraining order just to see me? Please do tell.”
“I need you to pick something up for me in New Orleans.” Joe said easily
Serenity knew where this was going. He wouldn’t even beg or plead; he’d demand and command. Life with Joe had always been one big power trip. Everything always had to be in his control or else it would pay a stiff price. Serenity grimaced inwardly as she remembered the prices she paid whenever she had gotten out of Joe’s control.
Serenity let out a laugh that held no humor. “I don’t think so Joe. First I have work and second my car still needs a new transmission before I can take any long trips. How do you expect me to get there?”
“Easy, I’ll give you the money for the transmission and talk to your boss. I know his son, he’ll let you off and you get to keep your job. Face facts, Ren, you’re going.” He said easily like it was no big deal.
Serenity sighed, knowing she was trapped. Well she had a couple tricks up her sleeve, but unlike Joe she wasn’t going to show all her cards in the first round.
“Fine, Joe, but I’m bringing someone along.” She said and left no room for argument. When she saw him open his mouth to protest, she spread her arms. “I’ve no longer got anything to lose, Joe, so you just lost the upper hand. Take it or leave it.”
Joe walked away grumbling and Serenity smiled. She was now 500 dollars richer for a transmission that didn’t need to be fixed. She pulled out her new cell phone and gave her friend, Jamie, a call and told of this new development. By the time Serenity got home she felt she had a pretty productive day and went to sleep smiling for the first time in months.
“No, Dad, I can’t do that to her.” Jamie
“You don’t have a choice, son, we have to make sure she isn’t involved in any of this drug trafficking. This is going to either make or break my case.” Of course his father wasn’t going to let up so after hours of arguing and bargaining, Jamie knew he was trapped. He was going to have to use the girl he was in love with to help his dad bring down her ex-boyfriend. Jamie only prayed that she would never find out of the horrible way he was deceiving her.
At eighteen, Jamie was six foot two with a muscular build. With all of the training programs and boot camps he went through Jamie had seen a lot for being just eighteen and had inherited his father’s six sense for danger, but that was all he had inherited. Jamie was soft hearted, and unlike his father, had a bad habit of getting his heart broke by the female population which is why he hadn’t dated any girl since he had graduated in the past June. Jamie and his dad hardly looked related, because where his dad was an all American looking guy; Jamie had jet black hair and piercing blue eyes that saw everything then looked for more.
After talking to his father, Jamie settled down in bed and wondered how he was going to deal with being in a car with serenity for the two day drive. He sighed and allowed his eyes to drop and prayed for strength.
“Are you going like that?” Serenity asked when Jamie jumped into her black Jeep Wrangler Sport Edition
Jamie looked at his clothes confused. “What wrong with my clothes?” he asked befuddled
“Nothing, but why black? Why not red or blue?” she asked pulling the car onto the street
“I like black.” He said simply checking out what she was wearing. A simple pale green top and jean cutoffs gave her the typical country girl look. ”How about you? You look like you’re about to play in the hay in your dad’s barn, ya hillbilly.”
“Hey, I’m a proud hillbilly and you know you love it so pipe down.” Serenity turned the radio to her favorite country station.
“Yeah, yeah. Do we have to listen to that stuff?” Jamie pointed to the radio.
“Yes, sir, we do. So long as I’m driving we listen to my music. When you drive you can turn on your noise.”
“Hey, NickelBack is not noise. Plus don’t you have a few of their CD’s?” a smile played on Jamie’s lips and he saw her frown and turn onto the expressway.
“Hmp.” Was all he got before she set the cruise control to sixty miles an hour and started tapping out the beat for a fast paced country song. Serenity sat back in her seat and relaxed her shoulders; settling in for the long drive ahead. Just for a second she pretended that Jamie and she were headed on a road trip together, instead of the illegal shipment that was intended for her. She let the bliss run through her for just a moment before she killed the feeling and forced herself to think in the present and not the hope-filled future.
After driving for an hour in comfortable silence, Jamie began to shift. Deep in her own thoughts Serenity didn’t see or hear Jamie until finally Jamie tapped her shoulder. Serenity jumped and tightened her grip on the steering wheel.
“Sorry, I was just asking if you wanted to switch spots. You know, let you rest and have me take over the wheel.” Jamie inquired
“Thanks, Jamie, but I like driving. It keeps me busy.” Again Serenity grew silent and slipped back into her thoughts.
“Hey Shadow, “ Jamie started, using the old nickname he’d given her ages ago, “Can I ask you a question?”
“‘Course you can, Jay. What’s on your mind?”
“What would you say if I told you I know this guy who really liked you and wanted to go out with you?”
“I’d say that your friend needs to get his head checked.”
“Seriously, would you date him?” Jamie asked trying not to give himself away
“How well do you know this guy?”
Jamie smiled, “Pretty well.”
“Who is he?” Serenity asked now very interested
“Uh, me.” Jamie said trying to read her expression
“You?” Serenity said incredulously, “R-really?”
Now embarrassed, “Yeah, me.” Jamie sighed knowing her answer.
Collecting herself, “Well I’d guess I’d have to say of course I’ll go out with you.”
Jamie opened his mouth to speak then closed it. Leaning back in his seat, he merely let out a “huh” and allowed himself to indulge in a satisfied smile. He couldn’t believe it, after loving this girl for months all he had, had to do was ask her. He shook his head at the lost months and all the pain that could have been avoided on both their parts. Had he only asked Serenity would have never gotten beat by the scum-of-the-earth now ex-boyfriend of hers. Anger boiled up in him as he thought of Joe. He had been going towards the circle when Joe had thrown the first punch and it had been his fault she had gotten distracted. He was trying to stop Joe when Serenity looked in his direction and had been dealt the deadly blow. It had only taken him seconds to get to Joe, but by the time he had fully gotten behind him Joe had been on top of Serenity and beating her. Shaking himself into the present, Jamie noticed Serenity had pulled the car over and was now studying him. He sighed and realized that his reaction to her confirmation was probably not one she had hoped for.
“Are you okay?” she asked looking him over
“I’m good. Great, in fact. Thank you, Serenity.”
She laughed as she just looked at him. “You know the funny thing is, I’ve had a crush on you since the first time I saw you. Then I met Joe and well…” she trailed off, not wanting to finish the thought.
“I know, honey, I know” Jamie tried not to punch the dashboard in front of him. His temper rose and he quickly snuffed it out and smiled.
“Jay would you mind driving for a while; I really want to try and get some drawing done.” She unbuckled her seat belt and opened her door not waiting for his reply and he quickly got out of the car, too.
“You draw? I didn’t know that.” He said not bothering to hide his surprise.
“I started after Joe-“ she stopped herself; in fear of going further
They both got behind the car at about the same time and Jamie put his hands on her shoulders.
“After Joe what, baby doll?” he asked gently
Serenity jerked herself out of his reach. Fury quickly replaced fear and it showed. “Never call me that again, Jamie Raven. Never again, you hear me?” she said fiercely
“Why, Serenity? I refuse to be told to do something without good reason.”
“Fine! You want a good reason? Here it is. Joe drugged and then raped me and all he called me throughout the entire thing was ‘babydoll’. I never want you to utter that word again. Is that a good enough reason for you Jamie?” Serenity ended the sentence coldly and didn’t bother to wait for his reply. She turned away from him and quickly strode towards the open field they had pulled over next to. Before she knew it tears were streaming down her cheeks and she was running like she had never run before. Serenity barely heard Jamie’s shout after her. She ran from him, from her past and, most of all from, all the things that reminded her of Joe.
Her tears clouded her vision and made the beautiful field into a blurry mesh of greenery. When she was sure she couldn’t run anymore she aloud herself to collapse into the tall grass. Within seconds she was sleeping very deeply.
At first Joe had wanted to run after her and couldn’t hold back the shout that thundered out of him. He realized she wouldn’t stop, he decided to walk calmly after her, in hopes that she would run herself out. When he saw her fall he felt a panic he had never experienced before and nothing could have stopped his legs from running at her full force. While he ran he thought back to her angry confession of being drugged and raped. He felt like the worse human being on the face of the earth. He vowed to himself that Joe would never get a second chance at hurting Serenity; not if there was a breath in his body.
By the time he got to her he saw that she was sleeping deeply and quietly picked her up in his arms and started back towards the car. She shifted in his arms, snuggling deep into his chest.