“I can’t deal with it, okay? I –” his words sounded stuck in his throat.
“Okay,” I whispered and held him in my arms for just a few more seconds.
“We have to go,” he said.
Slowly, we reclaimed our bodies from one another. Tears stung the backs of my eyes, but I wouldn’t let them free. Caleb needed me strong and I was determined to give him everything he needed.
Silently, we went about prioritizing. Caleb pulled up his pants with a grimace and started barricading the door. I made myself useful by finding a bag and tossing in anything I thought we might need: the gun, clothes, a first-aid kit I found in the bathroom. It wasn’t much, but it was something.
Caleb walked into the bathroom and turned the shower on. I didn’t think we had time for it, but I knew better than to ask questions. With shaking hands, he removed his pants and stepped beneath the water. Blood and dirt quickly coated everything.
I thought about stepping in, but one look at Caleb and I knew he needed time alone. The water was steaming hot, clouding the bathroom. I turned on the fan, but remained an otherwise unobtrusive presence. At one point, I heard him sob, but I remained on the floor, keeping silent vigil.
He’d been in the shower less than ten minutes before he turned the temperature down and stepped out. He silently grabbed a towel and walked out into the bedroom. My shower didn’t last nearly as long, but by the time I stepped into the room, Caleb was more like himself.
“Time to go, Livvie,” he said and gave me a smile. It was feigned, but I appreciated the effort. I tried to make my smile more convincing.
The house felt empty, eerily empty. No Felipe. No Celia. No Rafiq. Caleb offered no answers and I asked no questions.
It was hot outside, even early in the morning. I realized it had been a long time since I’d walked outside, beneath a glaring sun. I was wearing clothes. I was…free. My steps faltered as the realization hit me. FREE!
“The truck isn’t far, keep moving,” Caleb said numbly.
I could feel myself getting choked up, excited laughter bubbled out of me, “Where are we going?” I said with joyful tears in my eyes.
“Please don’t ask. Just come with me.”
I looked at him, the pain on his face palpable. This was not the time to argue with him. Whatever he was doing, it was a very big deal. It would change everything between us, but he’d asked me to come with him, and when the man you love asks you to go with him – you go.
We walked for less than a mile, but I marveled at the sheer size of Felipe’s estate. Whatever he was into, it was certainly profitable. Finally, we found the old truck we had arrived in. I was surprised it started right up.
Caleb hadn’t said much and though he seemed in much better control of himself, I knew whatever had happened still weighed heavily on him. I reached for his hand across the seat and to my surprise, he not only held my hand, but squeezed it. As we left Felipe’s house, I stared at the gravel road in the side view mirror. It was really happening. We were leaving – together. I wiped tears from my eyes for nearly twenty minutes.
We traveled for several hours before I forced Caleb to break his silence. “I’m hungry, Caleb.” I looked at him and rubbed my stomach.
“We can get some food and water when we stop for gas. I want to keep moving for now,” he said. His eyes never left the road, but his thumb moved back and forth over my hand.
“Okay,” I said. “Will we…be driving long? You know, before we get wherever we’re going?”
Caleb squeezed my hand and closed his eyes for a second, “We’ll be on the road for about sixteen hours, maybe less. We can stop for the night once we’re close.”
I didn’t like his tone. It was too…sad and distant. “Where are we –?”
“Kitten!” he admonished. He shook his head, “I mean…Livvie. Please. Stop.”
Anxiety churned in my stomach. I didn’t like this at all. I squeezed his hand, “You don’t have to call me Livvie if you don’t want to, Caleb. To be honest, it’s kinda scaring me. You’re scaring me.”
Caleb’s face seemed to crack for a second and I caught a glimpse of his sadness before he relaxed his features. “Don’t be scared, Kitten. Everything’s going to be fine, I promise. You won’t ever have to be scared of me again.”
“What do you mean, Caleb?” I whispered.
“It means I’ll take care of you,” he said.
“We’ll take care of each other. I’m stronger now, Caleb. Whatever happens…whatever happened, we can handle it together. Okay?”
He was quiet for a long time before he replied. “Okay.”
“I love you,” I said.
We didn’t make any unnecessary stops. We went to the bathroom and picked up food whenever we needed gas. Getting Caleb to talk was a bit of a chore, but he seemed very interested in my life before we met. I avoided talking about my family – my brothers and sisters, my mom. I knew I’d never see any of them again and thinking about it hurt too much to talk about. I had Caleb now and he needed me.
I talked about my favorite books and movies. I mentioned my dream of writing a book I would later adapt into a screenplay and direct myself. I was going to be a triple threat. Caleb smiled and said he’d love to read anything I wrote. I suddenly felt a lot more optimistic about mine and Caleb’s future, but I kept seeing signs for Laredo, Texas.
“What’s in Texas?” I asked.
“Besides cowboys?” Caleb said. I glared at him. “I have business there, Kitten. Okay?” He was suddenly very serious again.
“Okay,” I relented.
We’d been driving for close to ten hours when fatigue finally caught up with Caleb. He could barely keep his eyes open and I convinced him we needed to stop because I didn’t know how to drive. Caleb laughed at me, but pulled into a motel for the night. The place wasn’t much to look at, and quite honestly, the people in the parking lot were scary. This was definitely not a tourist destination.
“They’re probably going to steal the truck. You know that, right?” I said.
Caleb shrugged, “I’ll steal another one in the morning.” I laughed; Caleb didn’t.
I wanted to make love, but Caleb had fallen asleep while I was in the shower. I didn’t have the heart to wake him. In the middle of the night, he reached for me. I barely knew what was happening before I felt his mouth on my sore pussy. I propped myself up on my elbows and watched him lick me until I came on his tongue.
By the time he entered me, I had forgotten about how sore I was. I was too full of Caleb’s cock to care. I moaned my pleasure to the rafters, uncaring if anyone heard me. Caleb didn’t seem to care either as he came inside me with a yell. There was a fleeting thought about protection, but then all I thought about was Caleb and the tiny thrusts he was making into my pussy as he rode out the aftershocks of his pleasure.
After we managed to clean up, we slept with the windows open. I slept in his arms, safe, secure, and content beyond belief. I didn’t care where we were going, as long as he was with me.
I had just finished buttoning my shirt when it happened. There was a loud bang and something hit me in the face. I reached up to touch my cheek. My breath left me in the span of a heartbeat. Caleb was on top of me, shouting, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I couldn’t seem to hear anything.
My head hurt. I’d smacked it on the ground when Caleb tackled me. Debris was flying everywhere.
“Livvie!” Caleb yelled and shook me. It penetrated the silence in my head.
BOOM! Another torrent of debris flew toward us. Caleb lay on top of me, shielding my face with his arms as he tucked his head near my shoulder.
Someone was fucking shooting at us. My eyes cut to the door and I could see large gaping holes where wood used to be.
We rolled behind the bed. My entire body was shaking and I had no idea what was going on. Caleb was shoving me and I cried out in pain.
“Get in the tub!” He shouted. He shoved me again.
I managed to get on my hands and knees. I crawled the few feet to the bathroom and scrambled into the tub. I realized Caleb wasn’t with me.
“Caleb!” I screamed. The bathroom door slammed shut. I was too scared to move.
“He’s going to die out there, you stupid bitch! Do something!” Ruthless Me, screamed.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t, fucking, move. My entire world was moving in slow motion and there was nothing I could do to speed it back up. I felt something wet on my face. My hand came away bloody when I touched it.
“Caleb!” I screamed again.
A loud bang rattled the bathroom door and I threw myself back in the tub. I couldn’t stop screaming or crying.
“You fucking coward, Livvie! I’ll never forgive you,” Ruthless said.
I slapped my hands over my ears, willing the voice to go away. I could still hear her screaming, begging me to do something. I could hear yelling just outside the door; a struggle. The door shook repeatedly as something was slammed against it.
“What do you want me to do?!” I screamed out loud.
“Stay down!” I heard Caleb yell.
Hearing Caleb’s voice, knowing he was fighting to stay alive only a few feet away seemed to clear some of my panic.
“The gun, Livvie. The gun. Where is it?” Ruthless said.
I took several deep breaths, frantic breaths, as I tried to remember. Where was the gun? Where was the gun? In the bag!
“Good, Livvie. Where’s the bag?”
I sobbed loudly, “I don’t know.”
A string of loud and angry shouting came through the door. I didn’t understand it, but I knew it was Arabic. They’d come for us. Rafiq was here to kill us.
“The bag!” Ruthless screamed.
Images. They flashed through my mind’s eye in rapid succession: I brought the bag in. I set it down on the table. Caleb picked it up and took it into the bathroom. He needed a butterfly stitch for his head. It was in there when I showered.
I looked around the bathroom, but I didn’t see it.
It was there when I went to bed. Caleb and I had sex and after, he wanted clean underwear. Next to the bed on Caleb’s side.
“Get there, Livvie. Get to the gun,” Ruthless said.
I shook my head back and forth as I sobbed. I didn’t know what was out there. If I opened the door…
“They already know you’re in here! You’re going to die. Caleb is going to die. Please!”
I scrambled out of the tub. The bathroom was tiny, my foot still touched the edge of the tub as I put my hand against the door. I could still hear Caleb fighting someone on the other side.
“I’m coming out!” I screamed.
“No!” Caleb yelled and there was a loud crash.
I gripped the handle of the door and pulled it open. The clothing rack was directly across from the bathroom, creating a little square alcove to the side of the bedroom. I could see Caleb on the floor, grappling with someone.
I stood up and tried to run past them and get on the bed. A hand reached out and grabbed my ankle. I fell, face first onto the floor, but the pain didn’t register. I kicked with my legs, blind to what or whom I was hitting. The hand let go.
I looked back and saw blood. Caleb’s head was down. There was a loud, panicked scream and the person under Caleb pulled at his hair to wrench him backward. Caleb’s mouth opened on a scream and blood came spurting out.
The screams continued, one after the other.
I froze. The screaming. I couldn’t take the screaming.
Caleb’s body was suddenly thrown toward the alcove. I didn’t recognize our attacker. His face gushed with blood and a flap of skin hung from his cheek.